The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Falling Down and Falling Apart

Posted on | May 12, 2021 | Comments Off on Falling Down and Falling Apart

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I watched the 1993 movie Falling Down on YouTube, and was struck by the final line: “I’m the bad guy? How’d that happen? I did everything they told me to.”

William Foster is a guy who believed in the system. He followed the rules, and yet lost everything. His wife divorced him. He lost his job. His wife has a restraining order against him so he’s not even allowed to attend his daughter’s birthday party. The world has ceased to make sense.

Falling Down is a classic — some of the scenes are funny as hell, in a dark way — and what is the message? It’s about incentives.

Why should we play by the rules, if the rules don’t work? What is the incentive to be a good citizen — an honest, hard-working taxpayer — if the system does not reward you for compliance with the rules?

There are two kinds of incentives — the carrots of reward and the sticks of punishment. What has happened to William Foster in Falling Down is that he finds himself being punished (divorce, unemployment and a thousand other tiny humiliations) despite having followed the rules.

We have heard a lot of rhetoric about “social justice” lately, by which liberals mean a redistribution of rewards and punishments in the system, for the benefit of those allegedly suffering oppression. In reality, however, oppression is not neatly distributed according to the identity-politics formulae of the Left. Everybody has their own grievances, and attempts to explain human frustrations by such simplistic labels as “systemic racism” — or “patriarchy” — fail to capture this reality.

The lessons of Falling Down were on my mind as I watched Tucker Carlson’s opening monologue for his Tuesday program:

There are a lot of unprecedented things happening, but not all of them are shocking. For example, it probably shouldn’t surprise you that, once they got their hands on real power, the same lunatics who don’t believe in human biology immediately made a serious mess of our economy. It took them less than six months to do it.
First, they acted like the U.S. dollar had no value. They spent money like they’d just printed it for the occasion, which, needless to say, they had. Predictably, we wound up with frightening levels of inflation, which for the record they still deny exists. But inflation does exist, as you well know if you live here.
Corn prices, to name just one example of a staple commodity that’s now out of control, have risen by 50 percent just since January. But that wasn’t bad enough. The lunatics decided to make it worse. They paid millions of Americans more than they make at work, to stay home and do nothing. To justify doing this, they used the word “COVID” quite a bit, but it had nothing to do with the pandemic. They just wanted to break the system. And so they did. And the rest of us immediately wound up with a bewildering combination of rising unemployment in the middle of a severe labor shortage.
So, at the very same time, we found ourselves with too many workers, and also too few workers. That doesn’t even make sense, but thanks to their policies, that’s now exactly what we have. And then, finally, in case 2021 didn’t remind you enough of a grimmer version of the 1970s, we now have serious gas shortages, in a country that just recently was energy independent. All along the east coast of the country today, people couldn’t fill up their cars. The footage looks like Venezuela.

And so forth. The real point — why it reminded me of Falling Down — is that ordinary citizens are powerless to fix this manmade disaster. The people in charge don’t give a damn about ordinary citizens, because if they did, they wouldn’t have done what they’ve done. We find ourselves in a broken system, where the incentives have gone haywire, and the world has stopped making sense. We’re all like William Foster, stuck in that L.A. traffic jam with a broken air conditioner. Everything seems to be falling apart, and we find ourselves helplessly falling down.

Things are likely to go from bad to worse, and the only question is just how much worse the situation will get. We cannot expect Joe Biden (or the people who are running the government in his name) to experience a sudden insight as to the cause of their failures. There will be no sudden reversal of their “progressive” agenda, and it is far more likely they will just double-down on the bad policies they’ve embraced.

Probably a lot of people aren’t going to be able to cope. We’re going to see more and more people going berserk — seemingly random massacres, “suicide by cop,” acts of domestic terrorism — because what do you expect people to do when the rules don’t work anymore?

“I’m the bad guy? How’d that happen? I did everything they told me to.”



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