The Failure of Big Government — Reason for Concern or Great Opportunity?

Fjordman points out an intriguing post at Samizdata, and has this to say about it:

An interesting thread here. Will the increasingly obvious failure of Western elites cause ordinary people to turn to a Great Leader who will “fix” the problems by even more government and state intervention, or will the crisis turn out to be an opportunity for more liberty, a blessing in disguise? My one fear with the optimistic scenario is that we have a large bunch of Muslims as well, at least in Europe, and that the internal ethnic tensions in the Western world caused by mass immigration could lead to further chaos.

The post is entitled “A quick question”, and was written by James Waterton:
– – – – – – – –

Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now. From what I can see, governments are walking down the path of their complete moral and financial bankruptcy far more quickly than I ever imagined they would. I thought that it would take our overmighty governments several slow, demoralising decades of decline and eventual collapse to completely discredit their authority and control in the eyes of the people. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now and I suspect they will burn themselves out over a few painful and tumultuous years — destroying a great deal of wealth in the process, no doubt. However, as worrying as that prospect is, it was always going to be that way. And in spite of that, I feel particularly upbeat about the longer term future. Those who know nothing more (and expect nothing less) than widespread government authority and control over all aspects of our lives will have their imbecile — sorry, umbilical — cords to the State cut sooner than expected, thanks to the overwhelmingly reckless (but entirely predictable) government response to the current financial crisis. I really do believe that future historians will pinpoint this crisis as marking the beginning of the end of the big-government era.

19 thoughts on “The Failure of Big Government — Reason for Concern or Great Opportunity?

  1. Samizdata is a pretentiously named typical liberal website. It espouses typical liberal gnostic politics, that all problems are simply caused by “the state”. That the state is regarded as synonymous with transcendent order is an error that has crept in since Hobbes, reaching it’s first demented extreme with the French revolution. The Libertarian responds with an either an anarchist demand for the end of the state, or perhaps simply a state more to their personal liking (“small government”, further reading – “Popper Paradox” and George Soros). Hardly an alternative, but hardly surprising given that neither the anarchist nor the liberal have nous, or are even aware of it’s existence having cauterized their souls with “I think therefore I am” – thought is reality. Witness the proliferation of ism’s in modern political discourse, spurious parodies of thought.

    I could go on and on.

  2. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now.

    It would appear so, with the massive amounts of debt they’re sucking up.

    I could go on and on.

    Thank you very much for not doing so.

  3. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to save the state systems of western Europe, and we have to find another way to organise ourselves.

    Welfare democracy will go the way of Sovietism. I think the primary reason will be the bankruptcy of the state authorities, but the breakdown will also be ushered along by the habit of dependence of its populations, and a deep and fast-growing separation between European-Islamic populations. (The idea of ethnic division is especially worrying given Europe’s history of vicious ethnic conflict.)

    I deal with this, and the reasons why, and the possible remedy, at my little blog:

    I don’t think that collapse is imminent. I give it another 15 to 20 years at least before the boat starts going over the waterfall. The current financial crisis and bailout push the boat lower into the water and make it impossible to pull for the shore.

    If you want to find a remedy, you have to forget about remedies that involve the state: it will not be there, except in some areas that resort to dictatorship. And, given the welfare dependence of so much of Europe’s population, insofar as people want to revive the state it will be because they want to revive state welfare. It is unrealistic to expect people to react to this, or worse crises in future by agreeing to give up free pensions and healthcare.

    Cranky as it may seem, you have to consider ways of organising society that don’t involve the state. I deal with what seems to me to be the best method at my blog.

    Best wishes,


  4. “Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now.”

    If we are talking about the distant future then I agree. But as for us and our children, and maybe our grandchildren I fear the near future will be filled with war’s, hunger, disease, mass movements of people and all the chaos that comes with big change. Sorry to throw cold water on the optimism but WE who are alive now are screwed.

  5. Hi Spackle,

    I disagree.

    The people who will undoubtedly be in terrible trouble are the people who have become accustomed to state provision, and have dismantled their self-support mechanisms as a result. They will be vulnerable, and angry that the god of welfare democracy has abandoned them. And will probably flip out as a consequence. I expect to see quite a few of those who label GoV readers as fascist themselves resorting to shocking ethnic (and other forms of) hatred.

    But the people who are able to find ways of living together without a state – they will have all to live for: order, prosperity, freedom and autonomy.

    I agree with you that the breakdown of state authority will mean a breakdown in civil order, giving way to variations of warlordism and dictatorship.

    But given that the main concern of the modern social democratic state is forced welfare spending, the end of state authority is not a bad thing for people who are able to live without it. Their income doubles overnight, to say nothing of its growth over time, and the cultural and civil benefits of autonomy. The question is whether enough people can get their heads around the unfamiliar idea of state-free self-government in order to make it work.

    I think such arrangements will take the form of voluntary, mutual self-government. They may seem weird now, but have all to offer those with the intelligence understand them. Not least of which is safety from the violence and chaos following democracy’s breakdown.

    Best wishes,


  6. One of our Czech antiislamic webs – – describes in detail Siv Jensen and his FrP and maintains he has strong words to denounce creeping islamization of Norway and gets Norwegians to support him plus other non-socialist parties.

    Jensen says it is as much important to fight islamics now as it was in the past to fight nazis or communists. At least according to this article. The events in Malmö seem to play a huge role in Norwegian ideas how to secure the future of Norway. Anyone to comment on this?

  7. The events in Malmö, where the neo-Nazis joined cause (at least verbally) with the Antifa crowd, is interesting. I’ve been debating it with “Boycott Israel” people in Denmark, and they are having a hard time explaining away that the nazis are supporting their activities. That’s ‘support’ from the nether realms.

  8. Free Hal

    I like your snapshot of the future. It would be nice indeed. Obviously we are guessing, as the future is unknown territory. As you stated, the generations of those spoon fed on the welfare teet and the “I deserve everything merely because I breath” crowd will go apes**t when the tap gets turned off. Not a small number of people. The ones that worry me the most are the under 35 demo.

    I think the chaos will simply be too much to have any sustained form (large or small) of self government (that would last long enough to be meaningful) for quite some time. They would undoubtably thrive which would make them a magnet for every armed gang out there. Unless you had a professional army protecting that society I just dont see it happening any time soon.

    Which is why I am talking about the immediate aftermath of a collapse. Within the first 5-10 years. During that time those small groups you described may be viable,but would have to be nomadic.

  9. Hi Spackle,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. My response is threefold: that defending since a system will be easy, that it will be profitable even if short-lived, and what choice is there?

    First, a system like this will be easy to defend against its potential enemies because, being a tax-free country, it will attract a lot of money quickly, and rich depositors who rush to stash cash in a tax free province of the UK will be prepared to pay to make sure the place is secure – it’s cheaper than paying tax. And the enemies ranged up against them (gangsters, bankrupt dictators, rump parliaments) won’t be so imtimidating, and will have much less to gain by invading than depositors have to gain by keeping the system going. Ordered societies are generally much better at deploying organised force than gangs.

    Second, even if a self-government region got invaded, it would be profitable while it lasted – if only as a brief respite from the horrific violence that European warlords and dictators have historically indulged in.

    Third, what other choice is there? If Europe’s future is a cross between 1990’s Yugoslavia with a dash of 1980’s Lebanon (with a touch of anytime Somalia thrown in) then what should people do? A few weeks of poverty, chaos, and lack of basic utilities, and the prospect of safety and commerce will make a system of self-government look very attractive.

    I don’t think commentators, even those at GoV, have given anything like sufficient thought to what to do if democratic society collapses. My take is that it’s too late to curse Islam, or profligate governments – we have to work out what to do when the breakdown comes. If so, then I can’t help thinking the reassertion of western civilisation and its values will be easy.

    Best wishes,


  10. I would point that, in the WW2 the population movements happen in a few years, not in decades.
    i would add to this, the current economic setting is interesting:
    for example given the different distribution in IQ of the European population and in the immigrant population, any disruption of the governments, civil war and civil unrest between racial / ethnic / religious lines will cause a very unequal distribution of skills.

    This imply that the immigrant faction would be without a large part of the health industry workers (and they have an higher rate of health problems), without the skilled people able to run an advanced industry (engineers, scientists, specialized workers) and use advanced tools, weapons and organizations.
    The Islamics will not be able to take over the power of the governments in an orderly and efficient manner in a short time. They will find resistance and will probably split in different groups with different agendas (Sunni / Shiite, different ethnicities, more or less “moderate” or pragmatist policies and simple power grabbing).
    This imply that the war will be long. How much long. Years for sure, but not many years. Because food, drugs, fuel, tools, infrastructures need to be maintained, rebuilt, designed anew. And they don’t have the manpower, the skills and the resources to do all of it and also combat.
    We have these abilities. If in a war we will be forced to scrap much of the welfare state, we can in a little time generate an incredible overproduction. Not only the wealth generated will double compared with today, but probably will be much greater, as people working and combating for their personal future and welfare is much more productive and creative.

    I’m confident that, if properly organized, there would be not a problem to organize a private entrepreneurial reconquest of the lost land. Let the people conquering the Muslim’s lands the right to own the conquered land, use it, sell it to the higher bidder and so on, and they will organize, finance the war and conquer and vanquish the enemy.
    “For God and the Profit” as stated in many Medieval books of merchants.

  11. Hi extropolitica,

    I agree with the gist of what you say, which is why a form of self-government (or some form of civil organisation without the state) seems to me to offer the best prospect for (a) peacefully resolving the ethnic tension which welfare multiculturalism is creating, and (b) reasserting the towering western civilisation in European societies.

    The point I disagree with you on is that a form of self-government would require ‘conquering’. I think any such ‘reconquest’ could be done in a more orderly way through voluntary sale of land and properties. This is particularly true if, as I think you’re saying, muslim enclaves descend into poverty without western state provision, whilst ethnic European areas rise in prosperity once freed of the burden of the taxman.

    Best wishes,


  12. I support what Free Hal wrote.
    Historically, Europe was able to overcome the Moorish economically when it started to develop the capitalism (that started in the monasteries in the XI-XII century A.C.). The Muslims fleets holding the Gibraltar were destroyed by the Genoa’s navy to clear the route to England. This helped the Reconquista of Spain.

    The other point is Somalia.
    Without a central government the Somalis were able to become more affluent, build and use more public services like cellphones. The cellphone is a stark example, because the price in Somalia of a cellphone line is/was lower than the rest of Africa.
    The limiting factor is the IQ of the population that, with their culture and lack of resources, let the place to be an easy prey for external forces. The UN meddling with the pretense of a national government is probably the main cause of the civil war.
    In the same setting, an European population (mean IQ 100 and a different culture) would be able to reorganize itself faster and would be much more difficult to push around. Probably, as the history show, they would push someone else around.

  13. Thank you extropolitca,

    Yes, capitalism and trade have been good for the flourishing of European civilisation – from when Venice got going until the postwar period when the welfare states started to metastasize.

    The intelligence and energy of European populations, or their wish to trade, aren’t the problem. The problem is the baffling effect of the welfare and regulation imposed by incompetent state authorities. In fact it beats me why so many of us still have the will to create under such conditions – the Soviet Union wasn’t known for its entrepreneurs, under a comparable-sized government.

    There is plenty of evidence that European companies still do well abroad. They just can’t profit at home, unsurprisingly.

    Which leads me to conclude that European people will not be prepared to accept the post democratic chaos because such chaos is incompatible with trade and commerce. Europeans will want to find a way to organise which allows them to continue to make money.

    And once they find it, the hornets nest of creative energy will come out again.

    Re-establishing western civilisation is easy. You just have to be prepared to think beyond the state setup which is killing it.

    Best wishes.


  14. Yes, there is reason for hope. In America, the States, which formerly were more responsible than the Federal Government, have exploded with “services” and state workers, who in some cases vote themselves legislatures (California, 2.3 million state workers). Municipalities are going bankrupt, California alone is 41 billion in deficit, and state and local worker pensions are often unfunded.

    Inertia is so thick that nothing will be addressed without collapse. We are close to that, and determined to head in the wrong direction. Works for me.

    A strong leader will do nothing but extend the collapse. Liberty is the only cure, and still men seem to dread it.

  15. Hi xlbrl,

    I agree with your observation about the cause of the problem, but I have to disagree with your response to it.

    Pretty much everyone, including watchers of mainstream media documentaries, will come out with vague gestures about how awful it all is, ‘liberty’, and that we should do something. Such talk may prelude the Strong Leader, but it won’t even delay the collapse.

    Do you think that references to ‘liberty’ will get any of those 2.3 million to stop thinking of themselves absolutely vital to Californians’ wellbeing?

    Very, very, few people come up with specific measures, and those that do, including brilliant writers like Mark Steyn, Melanie Phillips, and Christopher Hitchens, come up with proposals that, in Europe at least, would amount to mere tinkering.

    If you can find a way to prevent a majority of voters voting themselves ever more benefits, or to prevent bureaucrats trying to increase their numbers while creating scarcity in the thing they’re providing, please let me know. I see no way.

    You then have to consider what to do once the system breaks down. Do you live with the breakdown or make a new system, and if so what kind of system?

    That is a lot harder than cheering about liberty!

    Best wishes,


  16. I’m trying to find time to read up on economical theory, and the battle stands between the ‘Neo-Classical’ and ‘Austrian’ Schools of economics. The Zimbabwe School I don’t need to read books about – it’s all over the newspapers, and we’ll see the results of ZSoE soon. Britain first.

    Most people prefer the Neo-Classical (that’s Keynes), for there we can have the state spend extra money to fix a crisis.

    However, I believe that in most Western countries, the already existing debt makes that approach prohibitive, as that would increase the risk of states going bankrupt and currencies failing.

    We may have to fall back to the austere Austrian School, which denounces National Banks as evil, predicted the current crisis, and points to the return of the gold standard as a necessity to restore confidence in the financial system from the meltdown.

    A key quote:
    We are told that “low interest rates” led to excessive borrowing, but we are not told how these low interest rates came about. They were a deliberate policy of the Federal Reserve. As always, artificially low interest rates distort the market.

    That has been my (independent) suspicion for a while, and the Austrians confirm that. I have an unread copy of The Austrian School just in, more books on the way.

  17. Hal–

    I must not have been clear. I would be very surprised if anything of value could begin to evolve until the collapse is already here, and continues on until such point as different levels of illusion have been cleared away.
    Like the Great Depression, there are those who are unsupecting and only wish the best, there are believers, and there are true believers. The line of public critical mass did not begin to recross until 1938.
    I do not offer liberty as the solution; it is the only solution. In practice, it would not be called that, but would merely be the collection of innumerable solutions to personal and businness challenges, because by nature every actual solution involves liberty.
    Don’t color me hopeful, but I remind myself we can see more clearly how a thing will fail rather than how it might succeed.

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