Burn It All Down

You hear it frequently from angry voters, many of whom did, and continue to, support Trump. Burn it all down. They are disgusted with both sides, they feel the American Dream has passed them by, and they think government is the problem. Burn it all down. Since the government hasn’t fixed the problem, we’d be better off without them. Burn it all down.

The frustration is real, and understandable. The American Dream remains a largely unfulfilled promise to millions of citizens. However, for most of these folks, giving in to the emotional satisfaction of a scorched-earth solution is predicated on a fireproof-floor view of the world.

The fireproof-floor view supposes that a state of completely non-functional government is one in which basic services that have long sense faded into the background remain a given. It posits there is a floor below which even anarchy will not fall. That the cleansing flames of the American phoenix cannot damage this base platform as it is consumed and born anew.

Baby Boomers and those who came after have always lived in a society where seniors get Social Security and Medicare. Kids go to public schools. 24×7 electricity and fresh water are available to any home. Food is plentiful and safe to eat. Roads are paved and bridges kept in good repair. Overtime is paid. Workplaces have an obligation toward the safety of employees. And it’s safe to walk the streets. This is the floor onto which we were born, and the floor which it’s hard to fathom falling beneath.

It’s easy to overlook how unusual this floor is in the history of the world. Or in how many places on the planet today it doesn’t yet exist. It’s easy to forget how many people struggled and even died to build this floor. And there is absolutely no reason to assume it’s fireproof.

Before you join this modern-day Nero, dancing to his lyre as the flames ravage Rome, be mindful that fire has no conscience. Once lit, it consumes indiscriminately. It burns all of us, and the floor we are standing on. You may feel like there’s nowhere to fall… but that is a failure of imagination.

5 thoughts on “Burn It All Down

  1. Of course your view assumes that it wasn’t on fire already, which isn’t exactly clear. Also, the people in Flint might question your views on clean water.

  2. Quite honestly I’m not sure we can even agree on what the fire is. We have many of the things you write about, because of the success of capitalism. Trump’s nationalist ideas are idiotic, but so were Bernie’s. Free markets and property rights are the support structure that our lifestyle is built on. The federal government could go away tomorrow and it would have less impact than losing those.

  3. This seems to proceed from a false choice–that you have to choose gov’t or capitalism. Either one, as the only choice, would be horrible for the vast majority of us. Yes, capitalism created the prosperity that afforded the opportunity to create the infrastructure “floor” we enjoy. But unfettered capitalism would not have built the floor. Nor would gov’t controlled industry have created the prosperity. It’s all about balance, which is the core point. I’m not advocating that we’re at the optimal balance point, just that nuking one side of the scale doesn’t get us there.

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