The Government and Hollow Men
Observations from the American's for Prosperity Foundation's Defending the Dream Summit
The real threat to America is Huxley's vision of Brave New World. When government gives people their every desire it creates hollow men, or as C. S. Lewis called them, men without chests. - Jonah Goldberg
The capstone project for my humanities minor in college was a study on dystopian themes in western culture post World War II. So when AEI visiting fellow Jonah Goldberg alluded to both Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, I had an embarrassing squealing fan-girl moment. As no one else in the audience had a similar reaction, I turned to twitter. Mr. Goldberg tweeted back, expressing his desire to have better communicated the idea.
I would encourage Mr. Goldberg that his analogy was sound, and people should be familiar with these powerful works of social commentary. Lest we miss their dire warnings.
Government as the Sugar Daddy
When we have more dependents, more and more people viewing Uncle Sam as their sugar daddy, that is a crisis. - Daniel Mitchell
The idea that government can love you, can be your mommy and daddy, is what is driving this spending. - Jonah Goldberg
Huxley's Brave New World is such a powerful narrative, and it is distinctly different than other dystopian classics such as George Orwell's 1984, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Yevgeny Zamyatin's We. In these, government commands control by using force to take choices away from the people. The genius of Brave New World is that the government commands control by giving the people their every desire. The welfare state has reached not only from cradle to grave, but from conception to putting people in their graves. The government provides the people with all of the drugs, food, sex and entertainment that they could ever desire. The people are completely dependent upon the government to the point that they are no longer self-sufficient. More than that, these people are incapable of being self-sufficiency.
This is where Huxley meets Lewis.
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. - C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Lewis is making an argument against the intrusion of moral relativism into primary education. He speaks at length to the consequences of the atrophy of the "chest," where moral principles including "valour and good faith and justice" are fostered. While Lewis is speaking specifically to education, it is just as true that if the government diminishes the fostering of valour and good faith and justice, that it will hollow out society. Particularly since government operates the majority of primary education.
Jonah Goldberg and the Cato Institute's Daniel Mitchell addressed this in a breakout session on government spending during the American's for Prosperity Foundation's Defending the Dream Summit. Both pointed out that a large segment of the population are looking to the government to provide for them and their families. They point to the warnings of Aldous Huxley and C. S. Lewis in an effort to reverse the growing dependency upon the government.
If our social chests become irreversibly emaciated, we will lose the ability to be self-sufficient. We will lose our morals, and we will lose our identity as free individuals. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.