by Tom Donelson on July 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM
James Bennett and Michael Lotus in their book, America 3.0, see the end of the Bureaucratic State, or what they call the end of America 2.0, and return to a smaller and more decentralized America 3.0. Bennett and Lotus begin with a brief history of how we got to where we are at presently as we moved from being an agricultural America 1.0 to an industrial America 2.0.
Bennett and Lotus do something different, they trace our roots and our desire for liberty and individualism back beyond 1776 to the Anglo Saxon invaders after the fall of the Roman Empire. Our culture has two-thousand years of history, and our desire for liberty is inherited. One thing that scholars view as a building block of our progress is the nuclear family with individuals, not parents, selecting their spouse. The beginning of freedom for women began here, and children left their parents’ home and no longer belonged to extended families. From there, they made their own wealth and expanded the economic pie.
The nuclear family encouraged market economy and property ownership to go with common law that moved toward court cases that broke from a more rigid Roman model. America 1.0 had a decentralized government with new states left to pursue their policies. This model came apart during the Civil War and with the development of the industrial state after the war. Economic innovation fostered growth, big corporations rose and with it big government to counter the influence of those big corporations.
The two world wars and the Great Depression beget the formation of the bureaucratic state and the post-World War II was Americas 2.0 peak. Now America 2.0's development of the bureaucratic state has led to our present situation as we are witnessing bureaucratic governance on steroids. The 1980’s and 1990’s saw reform of the bureaucratic state which worked but this century saw bloated government and unsustainable debt putting the demise of America 2.0 within reach.
The question is whether we can move to an America 3.0 without a complete collapse, and the authors say yes, it can happen. They present a libertarian vision which includes the elimination of the federal income tax and dramatically reducing government power, but they still support a defensive posture that includes maintaining our present alliances, along with federal protection for civil rights. So while the authors questioned much of our foreign policy for the past decade, they don’t call for the non-interventionist policy of Ron Paul or his son, Rand Paul. (Maybe, Rand Paul might want to adopt their policy as his own.) America should continue to protect the trading routes, following a policy that Britain and America has done for three centuries.
On domestic policy, they see many of our social issues going back to the state and see many states either splitting or forming regional compacts on policies like health care. While many conservatives and libertarians may not agree with their vision, they present a confident vision for conservatives and libertarians to consider while putting together a governing vision that can unite the two groups. It is a vision that can form a basis to counter the leftist vision that is governing America today.
Kevin Williamson, in his book “The End is Near and It Is Going to Be Awesome,” covers a similar theme. The bureaucratic state is imploding and man, it could be great for us all. Williamson writes, “The real debate for the next 30 years is not how we go about paying our bills, but how we go about not paying them. What is most likely is a much smaller and more modest government, something closer to what Robert Nozick called the “nightwatchman state.” The reason for that is the fact that we have good substitutes for Social Security and the Department of Education but not for the army or the courts…. This all sounds painful and disruptive, and it surely will be, though exactly how painful and how disruptive will be in part a question of luck and in part a matter of how prudently and intelligently our policymakers proceed while we get from where we are to an economically sane position.”
Bennett, Lotus and Williamson's vision depends how intelligent policymakers will be and the last decade has shown that many of our policy makers still don’t have a clue. Williamson makes a similar case to Bennett and Lotus — how to move us from the bureaucratic state to decentralized America — and he added historical perspective of how we handled problems in the past, showing how a private welfare state can supplement a federally run welfare state.
Here is the crux of their argument: the end of the present circumstances can be a blessing in disguise and that America will come out of the present implosion of the bureaucratic state stronger and more prosperous. The authors are happy warriors who view America’s best days ahead of us.