Mark Levin was on cracking form the other day on the superiority of certain cultures and what he calls "the decomposition of this society". This passage will strike a chord with SteynOnline readers:
They're putting in place laws and programs and bureaucracies to smother us, so the social engineers can manipulate. Come this fall many of you with young children going to public schools, you're going to see a change in the bake sales at your schools because the federal government, the First Lady has determined that your kids shouldn't be selling cupcakes. And your kid should be eating cupcakes.
Now, I've said this before: a government that has the power to dictate whether or not your kids can sell or eat cupcakes as a result of late local bake sale is a tyranny. It is a government way, way out of power, out of sync. And it's gonna get worse. It's not gonna get better.
I'm with the Great One on this. We reported here recently on a modest victory against the Cupcake Comissars, but it was an exception that proves the rule. I've got a whole section on bake sales et al in After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc, etc, he pleads pitifully with an eye to his current lawsuit) - because, as Mark says, it's not a small thing. Page 89 of my book:
No matter how you slice it, this is tyranny. When I first came to my corner of New Hampshire, one of the small pleasures I took in my new state were the frequent bake sales â€“ the Ladies' Aid, the nursery school, the church rummage sale. Most of the muffins and cookies were good; some were exceptional; a few went down to sit in the stomach like overloaded barges at the bottom of the Suez Canal. But even then you admired if not the cooking then certainly the civic engagement. In a small but tangible way, a person who submits to a state pie regime is a subject, not a citizen â€“ because participation is the essence of citizenship, and thus barriers to participation crowd out citizenship. A couple of kids with a lemonade stand are learning the rudiments not just of economic self-reliance but of civic identity.
I mentioned one of these stories on Rush a year or two back and some guy responded, "Why are you talking about this? It's not important." That's why I'm talking about it. Because if you won't push back against the small-scale stuff, by the time they come for the big things you'll no longer know how to rouse yourself. In old, settled societies, tyranny starts at the edge and works its way inwards. And the essence of tyranny is its capriciousness. It's easy to say, "Well, I don't go to bake sales, so what do I care?"
Every day in this country tyranny's whimsy descends on some law-abiding person out of the blue. You buy an imported vintage car, and you wake up with Homeland Security agents surrounding your home and confiscating your property. This weekend it was two of my fellow Granite Staters - 17-year-old Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean, of Concord, New Hampshire.
Instead of enjoying meth and twerking like normal well-adjusted teens, they like bagpipes. Master Webster comes from a long line of bagpipers: his father Gordon was pipe-major for the 1st and 2nd Batallion the Scots Guards and personal piper to the Queen. So he passed on the 1936 family bagpipes to his son, and young Campbell uses them to play in pipe championships in North America and around the world. So this weekend he was returning to New Hampshire from a competition in Canada, which is how a newspaper story comes to open with a sentence never before written in the history of the English language:
BAGPIPERS have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend.
They can chisel that on the tombstone of the republic. On the northern border, bagpipers are "expressing their fear", while on the southern border gangbangers have no fear and stroll through the express check-in. Putin has no fear of American power, the mullahs have no fear of American power, the Chinese politburo has no fear of American power, ISIS has no fear of American power, but the world's bagpipers fear it, and with good reason.
The figleaf of a pretext for seizing Messrs Webster and Bean's bagpipes is what The Scotsman (as usual, any real news about America has to be gleaned from the foreign press) calls "new laws" introduced a month ago. By "laws", they don't mean something passed by the people's representatives in a legislature - there's not a lot of that going on these days - but a little bit of regulatory fine-tuning by some no-name bureaucrats at the Department of Paperwork. The upshot of which is that, if you own a vintage bagpipe containing ivory and you wish to take it to a competition in Montreal, you have to get a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Got that? You have to get your musical instrument approved by Fish & Wildlife.
Oh, but Messrs Webster and Bean were on top of that. They'd gone to Fish & Wildlife, gotten their CITES certificates, and presented them to the US Customs & Border Protection agent upon returning to the United States via a Vermont border crossing (presumably either Highgate or Derby Line, both of which I use frequently).
At which point the Commissar of Bagpipes said, "Ah, yes, the CITES certificate is valid but..."
Here it comes, boys and girls! Stand well back; it's the Bollocks of the Day from your friendly all-American Bureau of Compliance:
"The CITES certificate is valid but...it's only valid at 38 designated ports of entry." And this wasn't one of them. So he confiscated the bagpipes.
Why don't they just put a big sign up on the border? "US Government Paperwork Not Accepted At This US Government Border Post."
So Customs & Border Protection will wave through "unaccompanied minors", but if the minor's accompanied by a bagpipe the guy in the full Robocop will seize it and tell the kid he's "never going to see them again". And then the Robocop goes home having done a full and rewarding day of work.
Americans should be ashamed at what Mark Levin calls the "decomposition of the country". In all manner of areas from banking and health care to bake sales and bagpipes, US citizens now enjoy less freedom than those of countries they regard as socialist basket cases. When I've said as much before, I get emails from readers saying, "Ah, yes, but we have the First Amendment and the Second Amendment." But they're meant to be bulwarks against tyranny, so, if you never actually use them to defend liberty, eventually they have no more real-world meaning than all the theoretical freedoms listed in the Soviet constitution. It's easy to say, "I don't do home-baking. Or buy imported cars. Or play bagpipes" - or whatever next week's provocation is. But by the time they come for something you value, it will be too late. As Mark Levin says, "It's gonna get worse. It's not gonna get better." And then he adds a further point:
Have you heard a single Republican in leadership talk to you the way I'm talking to you? Have you heard a single Republican in leadership talk about the seriousness of what this nation is facing? Have you heard any guests for the most part on our favorite cable channel, FOX, discuss this in any logical way? Nope... The problem is Republican administrations participate in the deconstruction of the country, in the decomposition of the country. They're not ideological about it and in some ways they're unwitting about it. Very few tried to push back. Very few try to unravel this federal leviathan that's been created over the last century.
Have any of my somewhat unsatisfactory roster of New Hampshire Senate candidates said anything about their constituents' bagpipe seizure? America has a two-party system in which one party is committed to making things worse and the other party isn't committed to making things any better. And, like the Great One, I'd like a bit more of a choice than that.
To be sure, a lot of these things are kinda fringey activities. Why can't the vintage-car guy drive a Toyota Corolla like a normal person? Why can't the bagpiper get into rap like a regular kid? Increasingly in America any deviation from the norm is enough to attract the attention of the punitive bureaucracy. But a society that agrees to be that cowed and compliant will not be a dynamic or innovative one, and eventually will be in steep and terminal decline.
The degeneration of "law" into regulation is a problem. The post-constitutional order is, too. But something bigger is in play. To remain free, a people need something more basic - the spirit of liberty. Once you've lost that, there are no easy roads back.