Wednesday 12 June 2013

2008 - We were warned but it did no good. We did not repent.


I was thinking about the 2008 economic crisis, which I now regard as less of a profound international crisis and more of a warning.

It was a warning that we in the West were spending more than we were producing, that apparent 'economic growth' was an illusory mixture of borrowing and inflation, and we were living off capital not income.  


What should have happened was a recognition and repentance, followed by reform - first to cut consumption, then to decide whether or how much to increase production.

But 2008 was a warning which has not been heeded.


There was no recognition, and no repentance - but instead there has been denial, lying and wishful thinking.

Consequently there has been more of the same: corrupt spending; frivolous and harmful consumption, reckless squandering of resources; raids on property and the productive population; mass immigration of economic dependents and continued channelling of resources to economic dependents: in sum, a continued destruction of productivity and all that sustains it.

There has been not just zero but negative significant remedial change since 2008 - whatever were the mechanisms that led to the 2008 crisis are in place and in operation, taking us towards another and inevitably far more severe crisis.


We were warned, and did nothing. 

But how could it be otherwise?

As a society we utterly lack motivational resources - and lacking these, there is no incentive to recognize reality and take personal responsibility.

(If you already know there is not going to be any effective action - you might as well blind yourself to dangers and live by soothing lies - for as long as possible.)


We are morally bankrupt, and the 2008 crisis has revealed this bankruptcy.

Instead of recognizing the problem, we lied; instead of doing something helpful, we prevent any helpful responses and amplify the destruction on all fronts.


The non-response, the anti-response to 2008 reveals that knowledge is irrelevant in a world without motivation.

In a world without motivation, nothing else matters - because motivation is an aspect of courage, without motivation there can be no courage because there is no reason for it; and without courage there can be no virtue.

Nothing motivates but religion, and for us - who lack  it - nothing matters but getting religion; yet nothing seem less likely in the West than repentance of secular Leftism and a Christian revival.

But that is our choice. The consequences will follow.



Matias F. said...

It was hard for me to digest, how irrelevant knowledge can be. I had read about the 2008 economic crisis a year before it happened (on the Austrian economists' webpage, and after the crisis, for a few years tried to figure ways to get the message across. I was hoping to effect change by spreading knowledge.

But I wasn't really able to get the message across even to close friends, with whom I was ready to spend hours explaining these things. They had no incentive to heed the warning because they did not want to take personal responsibility for anything. It is easier to remain ignorant.

For an intellectual, it was frustrating to realize how little knowledge mattered, but of course it is also good not to live in delusion that one's opinions are very valuable. Immersion in politics, even the advocacy of "economic sanity", would probably be ruinous to one's soul in this day and age.

George Goerlich said...

I think this is part of the engineered mystique of the baking and finance industry. The thought is propagated that economics are far too difficult to understand for those uninitiated in the ways of professional financiers. That's why blatantly treasonous actions, like giving billions in free money to your friends who run a large bank so they don't have to suffer any losses, can be passed off as somehow helping the average voter - because it is simply too complex for any of us to understand! Also, what looks like nothing more than fraud, back-room dealings, and manipulation is actually a very complex way of saving us from ourselves and for our own good. Finance is the "religion", the liars are the "priests". You're supposed to have faith in the men stealing from you because they are on TV and wear suits, instead of standing in an alley with a knife.

Kristor said...

Not all sectors of society did the wrong things after 2008. It was only the public sector that, in general, doubled down on the sorts of policies that got us into hot water then. Households and enterprises have been steadily improving their balance sheets ever since, so that the private sector is actually in much better shape now than it was in 2007, financially. There is still a long way to go, but balance sheets keep improving as families and businesses pay down debt so as to reduce their exposure to another crash.

Further, investors all over the world now understand the risk in stocks, bonds and accounts of banks that have loaned to public entities.

What's happening is that all public sector organizations are headed for another immense crash. The private sector will be far less affected this time than last, by comparison. It will still be dire, of course.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

My comment on this, at my own blog:

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - Thanks, I took a look.

To me Spengler claims to perceive a pattern, but does not offer a causal explanation for this pattern.

I see the explanation (as does the Old Testament and much traditional wisdom) in terms of apostasy, abandonment of God.

Therefore decline is, in principle, reversible (temporarily, of course) by repentance followed by reform - and I think there are several examples of this.

John said...

Bruce, you keep on saying that we need Christianity, but what about the fact that Asian societies don't believe in God and have very un-Christian beliefs and have not fallen prey to the ills that afflict Western society?

Asian societies, while not perfect, have motivation in scads, seem to have a strong sense of purpose and direction, and yet are either largely atheist or have quasi-religious belief systems like Confucianism and Zen Buddhism that have no supernatural element at all, and that can scarcely be called religions in the Western sense. Indeed, probably the primary basis for Asian society is Ancestor Worship, a sense of indebtedness to one's honorable ancestors.

I see the problems the West became afflicted with when it abandoned Christianity, and I marvel and puzzle over the fact that Asian societies remain incredibly motivated and filled with purpose and strength despite not being guided by any transcendent/supernatural belief system, and indeed in most cases being for the most part atheist.

It is a puzzle to me, and I am curious what you think.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...


I'm not sure that a causal explanation is necessary to prove that a pattern is valid. It helps, of course, but isn't a necessity. To my knowledge, for example, physics has still not proven conclusively what causes gravity to work, but this does not mean that I can't validly predict what will happen if I jump off the top of the Empire State Building.

I see the loss of religious faith in modernity as a symptom of the Spenglerian cycle, not the cause of it.

But, and I shall write a longer post on this later, the key is to remember that Christ's promise of redemption and immortality is personal and individual. With the possible exception of "Israel" (whatever that might mean - some say it is the modern Israeli state, others say it is the Catholic Church, still others believe that it is the entirety of the faithful and repentant Christian community), no nation, society, or culture has been promised immortality by God. You can't save yourself by simply having the right passport, but neither are you lost for having the wrong passport, or for living in a time of decline. Countries come and go; cultures advance and recede... it's sad to see one's own native culture decline, but it was never going to be eternal no matter what. It would have been easier and more pleasant living at the height of your culture, but God never promised that the life of the faithful and virtuous would be easy or pleasant, either.

People who worship their nation or culture (or race, if they're of European stock) will find what's coming to be more than they to bear (Mephisto remarked to Faust that such sour dough was impossible to digest, and indeed it is, without faith to see you through it), but they were always praying to the wrong God and putting their faith in the wrong place anyway.

Anyhow, keep up the good work. I'll be reading!

Bruce Charlton said...

@A-D-A - I don't think we disagree very much on this.

On the one hand, certainly, I do not equate Christianity with worldly or societal success.

But on the other hand, I think Godlessness intrinsically leads to demotivation, incoherence, self-loathing and suicide at a societal level.

I am thinking, too, of the Old Testament pattern in which the ancient Jews would prosper when they were Godly, this prosperity would lead to indifference-to, then rejection-of God and his Commandments and then disaster would ensue.

The Jews were not supposed to be devout in order to be peaceful and prosperous but because it was Good; however, the realism and honesty which came from devoutness tended to lead to worldly reward in a broad-brush kind of way (obviously not all the time and for every individual, and not immune to worldly accidents and demonic persecutions and the like - e.g. Job).

On that basis, our society's rise and fall is explicable in an Old Testament kind of fashion. And - given that we are free agents, the decline could and probably would be reversed - at least somewhat and for a while - if we were to repent and reform (like Ninevah).

On the other hand, from a Christian perspective, we are now into the End Times or Latter Days of the world, and this means that all possibilities are limited by that fact.

There is no timetable, however, and the end can be (and is meant to be) delayed as much as possible by counter-trends.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...


We are in the Christian End Times, you say? I am not convinced of this. We are certainly in the End Times of something. But just because we are in the End Times of the Western Culture does not mean that we are in the End Times of the world. Holy Constantinople fell on that terrible day in 1453, and the sun rose the next morning, and life went on. When Washington, London, and Paris fall, it will be the same.

It was not Oswald Spengler, but the faux-Spengler David Goldman who said of the decline of the west: "It's not the end of the world; it's just the end of you". For all his faults, I think Goldman has this one right.

But do not despair! The Mass will be celebrated centuries and millennia from now; in languages not yet invented, in grand cathedrals that will stand on what are today cow pastures, in the centers of cities not yet built.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - I didn't work out for myself that we are in the end times - it is what the people say whom I most trust as prophets (e.g. Fr Seraphim Rose and numerous Russian Orthodox Saints on the one hand, and Joseph Smith and the Mormon prophets on the other). Sorry - but I believe them rather than you!

"Holy Constantinople fell on that terrible day in 1453, and the sun rose the next morning, and life went on."

Yes, but that was, precisely, the *beginning* of the end times. And the next qualitative change was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 - when the Orthodox empire was extinguished, probably irreversibly.

Fortunately (by providence) by 1917 there had been the Mormon Restoration of the gospel, as a new focus of Christianity for these Latter Days.