Sunday, June 7, 2015

A QUESTIONABLE INTERVENTION INTO AMERICA’S SUICIDE















America’s Suicide, by Michael H. Davison. Dapa Publishing LLC, 2014 v + 199 pp., Amazon price $27.00 hardcover Prime; $15.30 paperback Prime; $7.00 Kindle.


America is an idea, but for many its idea has differing interpretations.  The American idea to some is defined as a providentially divined society constituted solely to express God’s natural laws.  Protecting humankind’s natural rights manifests these natural laws consequentially resulting in an America that presents order, opportunity, freedom, and justice for all its inhabitants.  Arguably that interpretation of the American idea is grounded in America’s Declaration of Independence, which in many respects highlights America’s raison d'être. 

But for many other Americans the American idea is quite different.  Some will contend that America’s idea is a social contract between and amongst its inhabitants. This social contract not only protects humankind’s natural rights, but guarantees any and all human-made entitlements under the guise of social justice, manifested through an arbitrary process of wealth transfer commonly known as redistribution.

As late as mid-twentieth century Americans were aligned around certain core fundamentals that defined America’s purpose.  Prudent legislation was a staple on Capitol Hill and American patriotism was the norm. Government intervention into the individual’s life was a slippery slope that had to be weighed against the disruption of natural rights and the organics of America’s superb free-market system.   And who would debate that America’s greatest generation who fought the deprivations of the Great Depression and the German fascists and Japanese imperialists in World War Two didn’t inhabit America’s spirit of rugged individualism and proud patriotism?  The fringe factions on the left and right were relegated to the baseboards of America, regarded at best inane and irrational crackpots, if not traitorous or fascist renegades. 

But in a post-modern America the tide has turned.  The diametrically opposed ideas of America that prevail today, although not wholly mutually exclusive, are certainly at great odds with each other from a socio, political and economic perspective.  These polarized ideas have contributed greatly to the deep chasm of conflict that divides the American polity.  It is a divide that catalyzes one faction to proudly march to the mantra “take back America”, while the other end of the spectrum grumbles chants to “transform America”. 

So what is one to make of this great fissure?  Will Americans as a whole eventually return to embracing the idea mandated in America’s Declaration, or will it drift further towards a social democracy akin to Western Europe?  The other inevitable is that America will lose all prospects for anyone to achieve the time honored “American Dream”, a dream where every American had an equal opportunity to maximize their potential and realize their dreams for success and happiness.  If that is America’s fate then it will also be its demise. Author Michael Davison envisions such an outcome for America, and he diagnoses the symptoms, causes and offers up some potential cures in his book America’s Suicide. 

Author Michael Davison is a retired engineer and freelance writer who penned America’s Suicide ostensibly out of downright concern for the future of America. His book’s premise proffers that the twin evils of government and religion work in tandem to poison the American well of freedom and opportunity. According to Mr. Davison these forces are two sides of the same corrupt coin of control and dependence, vying for power over the polity under the devious guise of virtue, benevolence, and altruistic offerings.

America’s Suicide is reminiscent of Thomas Paine’s infamous pamphlet Common Sense. Paine’s book was a brusque shove to the colonial psychic that the colonist’s future would be a dismal and bleak one without independence from the mother country. America’s Suicide takes a similar tact as Paine’s pamphlet with a rallying cry to a sleeping America that if it continues with business as usual the ideals that caused America to flourish will forever cease to exist.

On one side America’s Suicide argues that America’s system of government veered off our founding father’s path advocating limited government years ago and strayed onto the road of socialism. Davison contends that socialism’s path promises a utopia filled with personal economic opportunity and individual freedom, but instead is riddled with lies, deceit, and ultimately gruesome government dependence. The author deconstructs the true nature of socialism as a “parental state” rooted in the lie that government can create jobs and denying that capitalism, the greatest threat to socialism, in and of itself is the sole source of economic growth and employment opportunity.  According to Mr. Davison capitalism and socialism cannot co-exist, but the unholy alliance between the socialist state and the statist corporatocracies work well together to control the passions and ambitions of the masses. Davison goes on to condemn socialism as an ideology anchored in the past and throughout history, albeit Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, has spawned oppressive, tyrannical, and deceitful regimes that crush any opposing thought or potential for strong national economics.

Religious control and socialism, according to Mr. Davison, are the optical isomers of America’s downfall. If socialism promises Americans a false utopia via governmental control over our lives, religion achieves the same result by compelling its followers to adhere to a given religious-based morality and ignore the advances of science as ethical guideposts. Perhaps it’s the engineer in Mr. Davison, but he vehemently asserts that religion is anathema to science and cultivates ignorance and intellectual stagnation. Although the author doesn’t condemn religion or advocate a national atheism, he certainly asserts that religion imposes a silly and false morality based on myths and legends, and scientific knowledge is more than capable to provide an empiricist based-morality. Mr. Davison’s sentiment towards an American society that fancies itself as astute is reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s infamous comment to William F. Buckley, Jr. upon meeting him for the first time saying, “You are too intelligent to believe in Gott [sic].”

Just as it is not too far fetched to assume that Mr. Davison would not only concur with Ms. Rand’s sentiments on religion, it is safe to assume he would also be in total agreement with her self-conceived ideology of Objectivism.  Objectivism, a reality-based ideology that encourages society to face existence in its raw and starkest form, rejects all notions of the mystical and the supernatural, including the notion of a God. According to Rand we must learn to survive within the confines of a reality that inevitably forces us to face the facts at all times, and no wanting for spiritual deliverance will allow us to escape their existence nor forestall their impact on our lives.  Therefore humankind must choose the path within the confines of reality that best serves their interests, and no authority, albeit government or God, can decide that for us.

Without admitting as much Objectivism appears to be the religion Mr. Davison offers up to America, and it’s mortal sin is for humankind to abdicate personal responsibility. As Mr. Davison states, and an avowed Objectivist would agree, “no one is entitled to a subsidized life, with the exception of children.” This is the essence of Mr. Davison’s argument for America’s salvation. A community of individuals all fending for themselves without adhering to or recognizing any authority greater than their individual needs and wants in a society devoid of an orthodox morality universally applied to society at-large. This is not to say that Mr. Davison believes in total anarchy.  He does advocate a return to an originalist application of the U.S. Constitution as a means for an ordered society. But his insistence on a strict interpretation of the Constitution is also a call for the American Founders intent of a limited government. Again, Mr. Davison’s sentiments on how America’s government should be applied recalls another of Ayn Rand’s quotes, “The government was set to protect man from criminals, and the Constitution was written to protect man from the government.”  All in all the author cautions that a political remedy to America’s ills is actually the disease.  The true remedy is how voters change their perception of their government, their relationship to government, and coming to terms with the cold, hard facts of reality, ostensibly an adherence to the precepts of Objectivism.

Mr. Davison is not immune to the benefits of a virtuous society. He has a healthy respect for the virtues of wisdom, honesty, courage and the theological virtues faith, hope, and charity. He encourages us to be a good person, and love our family. But these behaviors must be applied in a society that is structurally dependent on self-sufficiency and independence, and not predicated on some pre-ordained morality emanating from religious or governmental coercion. 

Mr. Davison’s arguments will have wide appeal philosophically to the Randian disciples, and politically to the Ron and Rand Paul Libertarian factions. His “every man for him or her self” is a solution for America offering very little middle ground. Some may find the tone of Mr. Davison’s “tough love” witting style in America’s Suicide to be somewhat harsh and overly direct, but he has to be awarded merit for committing to his principles. However one wonders if the cold, calculating realist in Mr. Davison took pause to ever evaluate whether in fact his proposed solutions for America could actually work. His proposals are only a hypothesis with no laboratory that ever moved it to the theory stage.  This of course applies to the Objectivist school of thought, in general.

Additionally the author’s opinions, and they are opinions not grounded in fact, short sight the benefits of a properly arranged government and the healthy relationship between science and religion. Government is the arbiter of order, but properly organized with people of virtue it can be also be a tremendous partner with commerce. John F. Kennedy said as much in his 1962 Yale commencement speech advocating a prudent approach to government intervention into the free-market system stating, “Generalities in regard to federal expenditures, therefore, can be misleading—each case, science, urban renewal, education, agriculture, natural resources, each case must be determined on its merits if we are to profit from our unrivaled ability to combine the strength of public and private purpose.”  Mr. Davison’s dismissal of religion in general as an antiquated arbiter of morality without any regard for science’s place in society doesn’t hold up given the multitude of religious-based and funded primary, secondary, and university schools, hospitals, and medical clinics in America. The author incorrectly assumes that those who profess and abide by certain religious dogmas to define their morality do not recognize and appreciate the immense importance of scientific education and advancements.  Morality, as it is, can be both religious and scientific-based, and both approaches share commonalities.


For the objectivist looking to satiate their Randian appetite America’s Suicide is a delicious and delightful desert served cold and raw. However for others America’s Suicide will leave them still hungry for viable solutions since the America Mr. Davison labors to rescue was not, and never has been, predicated on his ideology of unadulterated self-sufficiency. American exceptionalism was achieved through a healthy balance of prudent and limited government, veneration for the Judeo-Christian tenants that inspired the Declaration, and rugged individualism with each knowing when to intercede into each other’s space to create that long forgotten symphony of happiness and prosperity that once permeated the American mainstream. It’s that very delicate balance that needs to be recalibrated to rescue America. Mr. Davison’s solutions detailed in America’s Suicide will, unfortunately, only sway the scales towards a self-serving individualism that will exacerbate America’s death spiral.

3 comments:

Michael H. Davison said...

Thank you, Mr. Gallagher for your thoughtful and extensive review of my book, America's Suicide. Your linking me with Ayn Rand's Objectivist movement was a bit off the mark. I agree with much of what she has written, but with considerable reservations. Her work missed an essential fundamental, a deep appreciation for why people think and believe what they do. Her anger, justified or not, smothered any insight into the human condition.

Michael H. Davison

Dennis Gallagher said...

Thanks for your clarification Mr. Davison. Your book is a “tough love” approach that is woefully needed in America. I can see in your book how you depart from Rand’s concepts to a greater or lesser degree. but the fundamentals between your's and her ideology does have eerie similarities.

Michael H. Davison said...

I have a deep respect for what Ayn Rand has left us. But her analysis did not probe deep enough. She did not seem to understand why people believe, think and act as they do. Attributing our harmful political trend to altruism is too superficial.
I do not write this as if it were a textbook recitation, but from personal exposure to the terrors and malice that induce so many people to believe and behave as they do.
Thank you again for your thoughtful review. You and I differ on our views of religion. More on that if you want it.