The Bear’s Lair: A Free Society Looks Unattainable on Earth

The admirable Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R.-Ga.), my favorite Congressperson, this week called for a “national divorce” by which “blue states” and “red states” would separate, thereby allowing the “red states” to form a smaller union of the like-minded: Christian, capitalist and economically vibrant. It’s a lovely idea, but the new Red America, increasingly wealthy yet ideologically alone in the world, would be immediately subject to attack, possibly by direct military action, certainly by massive subversion. Freedom cannot now be established in a universally hostile world; it requires a new home of its own, attainable only through space exploration.

Greene is admirable because she floats original proposals and is not afraid to be called a madwoman by the usual suspects. By doing so, she broadens the “Overton Window” of acceptable political discourse, generally in the direction this column would favor. Less determined Congresspersons, more concerned about retaining corporate media respect, are correspondingly much less useful.

Greene’s “national divorce” idea however suffers from the defect that any attempt to break up the United States would be met with furious resistance from the central government apparatus in Washington, as it was in 1861. Greene emphasizes that she is talking only of an amicable divorce, certainly nothing that might lead to a civil war, but the dependency of the Federal bureaucracy and military machine on revenues from the “red states” means that it is almost inconceivable that a divorce would be amicable.

Greene also suggests a partial divorce, in which certain functions remain in Washington as part of a much smaller Federal government, while the “red states” could fulfil their own free-market anti-woke destiny as part of a looser federation – essentially reverting the structure of the United States back to that before the progressives of the Woodrow Wilson administration began to bloat the Federal government’s powers after 1912. Such a partial roll-back was achieved under Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, during which period Federal spending halved and the top rate of income tax was reduced from 77% to 25%. However, the structures of centralism were then much weaker than they are now and the resistance to shrinkage correspondingly less.

It is notable that, once a President less fully committed to small government arrived in Herbert Hoover, the stock market downturn was used as an excuse for Federal government aggrandizement, with endless crony-capitalist programs of loans to politically favored businesses and draconian tax rises. The economic effect of this was disastrous, but that disaster was seized on eagerly by the ideologues under Franklin Roosevelt to grow the Federal government irretrievably. There might have been a possibility of another roll-back in the 1950s, when World War II and its aftermath had demonstrated clearly the disadvantages of centralist bloat but alas, the Republican President elected by a landslide was the unimaginative big-government Dwight Eisenhower instead of Robert Taft, so the opportunity was missed.

The level of resistance Washington would offer to a Greene-style breakup would depend on the threat to its existence such a breakup might pose. A single state (the obvious examples are Texas or in different circumstances California) might be able to break away without the Washington blob feeling existentially threatened (it would clearly be more threatened by a California breakaway than a Texas one, because of the resulting “tilt” in Congress and the Electoral College).

Since Texas, in terms of both land area and population, is easily big enough to form an independent country, and large enough to defend itself if relations with the remaining United States were reasonably amicable, an independent Texas is a plausible if unlikely possibility. However, such an entity would have great difficulty maintaining its current living standards. The break-up of Austria-Hungary in 1918 made the successor states of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia impoverished throughout the inter-war period, because the rise of trade barriers where none had previously existed broke up existing trade patterns and greatly impeded the local economy. The same would be true of Texas, though not necessarily of the remaining United States; after nearly two centuries of full integration Texas is much more dependent on the other 49 states than appears at first sight and would suffer correspondingly in a break-up.

If Rep. Greene’s free-market socially conservative Nirvana cannot be created by splitting the United States, it is beginning to appear that, contrary to our naïve belief in the 1990s, it cannot be created on Earth. No European country is now reliably possessed of freedom of speech, and all have excessively high levels of taxation that make small business formation abominably difficult. In Asia, even Singapore, once a shining beacon of free market prosperity, is showing alarming signs of backsliding as excessive immigration warps its political culture. In any case, a single country dedicated to freedom, social conservatism and capitalism and achieving economic success thereby would today face intolerable pressure from the immigration cartels as well as aggression on every front by its impoverished and jealous neighbors.

The central problem is that global population has been allowed to grow excessively, from 1 billion in 1800 and 2.5 billion in 1950 to 8 billion today. The strain on resources and the global environment from attempting to provide those 8 billion with modern “Western” standards of living is insupportable. The wealthier countries, seeing their living standards begin to slip back, have taken to imposing all kinds of dozy regulations and requirements on their economy, most in the name of the “climate change” chimaera, and are also rapidly blocking trade from their poorer neighbors through protectionism. Those neighbors, in turn, are sending an ever-increasing flood of mostly impoverished and often hostile immigrants to overwhelm the rich nations’ bloated and corrupt welfare systems. In such an environment, nowhere on Earth can be free and prosperous; we are doomed to accelerating decline, at least for the next few decades.

The solution, and it is a very difficult and expensive one, lies in space exploration. The remaining planets of this solar system appear able to support only small colonies of people, clinging at vast cost to the surfaces of their planets in climatically very hostile conditions. While Elon Musk’s dream of a Martian colony is technically feasible, it would be a grim place, without the oxygen to support sufficient agriculture to allow a population of more than a few thousand. Were such a colony to be cut off from Earth, it would die; if it were not cut off from Earth, it would inevitably be subject to Earth’s many political and social pathologies. However, Musk’s efforts are worthwhile, for they will enable us to solve the problem of long-term colonist survival in non-Earth environments or in space, without which solution no longer-distance expedition is feasible.

Beyond the Solar System, there is more hope. We now know that there are at least a limited number of Earth-like exoplanets within around 100 light years of Earth. We have at present no way of getting to them. Current rocketry technology is far too inefficient to generate the near-light speeds at which a trans-stellar voyage might be possible. Recent advances in hydrogen fusion give us hope, however. A fusion motor, with its unparalleled power to weight ratio, is the only way a rocket might be accelerated to close to the speed of light, necessary to reach other solar systems, even close ones. (Solar power, often touted by liberal arts majors as a possibility, will not work in the vast empty depths of interstellar space.)

A mission to colonize an Earth-like exoplanet would take many decades, even centuries in terms of elapsed time on Earth, but through relativistic time dilation, perhaps only a decade for the voyagers. When they arrive, if they have chosen their destination well, they will have a population that is tiny compared with the carrying capacity of the planet. They will thus have a task facing them similar to that of the settlers in the U.S. West, albeit with more advanced technology to help them. Accordingly, with no political opposition, they should settle naturally into the kind of free small-unit capitalist society that maximizes human potential and happiness.

Only when the population of the new planet approaches 1 billion, the level reached by Earth’s population at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, will they have to take steps to restrain further population growth. Even then, if those steps are taken, the tendency towards centralized control, environmental micro-regulation and wokery should be easily resisted. Thus on a new planet if not on our own, a satisfactory society can be built. Needless to say, once such a society has been established, further missions to other habitable planets can be undertaken, and humanity can spread itself among the stars.

The fact that we have seen no signs of other interstellar civilizations, when the potential for organic life exists in such a myriad of places, indicates however that this transition is very difficult to pull off. For the vast majority of species, including probably ourselves, civilization blooms briefly into industrialization, then ends in either a planetary war or in the despair of perpetual wokery, socialism and environmental wittering.

It’s a tough universe!


(The Bear’s Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of “sell” recommendations put out by Wall Street houses remains far below that of “buy” recommendations. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)