Note: I have a new post up at Taki this week. I think that will be a regular Monday thing for a while. I also have a SubscribeStar post on the #100 movie of all time, Yankee Doodle Dandy. I’ll be doing a few movie and TV posts there every week, just as a change of pace. I’m going to work on the top-100 list of great movies and the long list of terrible movies, plus other stuff.
It is an axiom of liberal democracy that the best way to distribute anything is through the mechanism of the marketplace. Everything from consumer electronics to pollution credits are subjected to the power of the market, under the belief that this is the best way to determine value. Of course, if everything is subjected to the marketplace it means everything has a price. That means something only has value if that thing can be turned into money in the marketplace.
While it may not seem like it at first, this is a very radical idea. For most of human history it was assumed that the most valuable things were those that could not be purchased at any price. Loyalty, honor, virtue, patriotism are just a few examples of things that have value, but you can’t put a price on them. You cannot put a price in your good name, for example, but you defend your good name, because it has value so dear that it cannot be purchased. It can only be given away.
The implication to this axiom of liberal democracy is that something only has value if you can put a price on it. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means those things that we used to assume you could not put a price on either lose all of their value or they get cheapened so they can be bought like any other item. This is the subtext to the Hunter Biden laptop from Hell. It’s not about the salacious material being dumped on the internet, but about what is says about the political class.
There’s no need to pretend there is a mystery here. Hunter Biden was selling influence and access to foreign players. He was hired into a no-show job by a Ukrainian oligarch so that oligarch could get special treatment from the Obama administration. He cut deals with Chinese Communist Party front men for the same reason. More important, there was nothing all that secret about his dealings. It was well known in Washington that he was trading on the family name. It was expected.
What the Biden story reveals, or maybe underscores, is that in Washington, everything has been for sale for a long time now. Those things that could not be sold to the Chinese or the Saudis or the Israelis simply had no value. This is something the Chinese have understood since Charlie Trie was a bagman for the Clintons. They have been buying up everything Washington has to sell ever since. This post on how the Chinese are buying up America details many of the lesser known deals.
The temptation is to write this off to normal human failings. After all, political corruption is the second oldest profession. That satisfies the need to reduce things to the personal and avoid looking at the larger picture. In this case, Hunter Biden is a degenerate grifter who traded on the family name and his father went along with it. If this were an isolated example, that may even be the right answer, but this is not an isolated case. It is just another example of a long running phenomenon.
For example, when Hillary Clinton was at the State Department, millions of foreign dollars flowed into the Clinton Foundation. No one ever asked about this or thought it was an odd thing. Even after she setup that e-mail server in the family toilet, no one questioned what was happening. It was just how things were done. Note that nothing happened to the Senators who made millions trading on Covid information that was not available to the public. It’s just the way Washington works.
Circling back to the Hunter Biden story, what has been revealed thus far is that the political class did not think it odd for the son of the Vice President to be cutting deals with shady Chinese nationals. That raises the question. Who else has been willing to make a deal with the Chinese? It’s quite obvious that Hollywood sold out to them and Silicon Valley, but what about Washington? If the Chinese will give crack head Biden millions, what will they give someone important?
Again, it is tempting to reduce this to personal corruption, but a guy like Joe Biden was not always this corrupt. He was a blowhard and a braggart, who often made a fool of himself, but he was not a crook. Nancy Pelosi, who is getting implicated in this Hunter Biden scandal, was not a crook. She was an ideological berserker, but not the sort to sell her office for a quick buck. Over the last three decades, even the ideologues have come to believe that everything should have a price, even them.
What is becoming clear is this is beyond personal corruption or even a culture of corruption in the political class. It is a new moral order that has arisen. Since the market decides value, that means everything has a price and those things that cannot be monetized no longer have value. All of those things that are required to make popular government work, like loyalty, honor, virtue, patriotism, have seen their stock collapse and they have no value to the political elite.
Montesquieu argued that the force that made aristocratic government possible was the love of honor. In despotic states, it was fear. In republics it was virtue. Modern theorists argue that morality is the spring of democracy. It may be that the driving force of liberal democracy is the absence of any moral code. The liberal democratic ruling class is one without scruples. The heart of the empire is an open air market where everything is for sale.
The question that naturally follows is how a society can function when it is rooted in perfidious treachery and the rule of knaves. What reason would anyone have in remaining loyal to a system where the people at the top of it are willing to sell your loyalty? Worse yet, they are willing to use their power to crush anyone that questions the propriety of putting everything on the auction block. Rule by knave quickly begins to look like the worst form of despotism.
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