I recently read The Sun Is Still Rising (2018) by Scott W. Rasmussen. The basic premise is that voting will not fix our problems, but community can.
Politics doesn’t work. Politicians are too spineless to act when there is a divided electorate and the regulatory bureaucrats that actually run things are unelected. This is a driving force in the rise of partisan conflict, as a quote from page 66 makes clear:
“Partisanship doesn’t matter so much when the formal government is a distant abstraction and we are generally free to live our lives as we see fit. It matters a lot when the change of government from one party to the other impacts our day-to-day life. It matters even more when nothing can be done to prevent the bureaucrats from imposing their own hand-book for redemption. The more that government assumes sole responsibility for governing, the more polarization will increase.”
The lessons of the book are that the public sector can be just as greedy as the private sector and that the private sector also regulates (governs) society through a network of clubs, businesses, and informal relationships. Rasmussen believes that the culture of America is basically good and that politics flows from culture. He has great hope that the politicians will eventually follow the changing attitudes of the people, but in the meantime we must solve our problems without government aid.
What are these problems and what are the solutions? It is never fully spelled out. Rasmussen hints that the poor can find food, shelter, and jobs through the actions of businesses, charities, new technology, and simply by being more connected and fostering community. He also mentions that the increased ability to move our home address creates competition between states for our business. Beyond this, there are only platitudes and vague assurances.
Of all the problems I care about and that make the news, ninety percent of them necessarily involve the government because the problem is that government won’t allow the private sector to do what needs to be done. Unless we get the government fixed first, there will never be any community solutions.
Furthermore, I don’t have the faith in the citizenry that Rasmussen has. I agree that politics flows from culture. That’s why I think our problems are only going to get worse. There are millions of people that demand it.
I also find it borderline comical how at his late stage in life he seems to have suddenly discovered what libertarians have known all along and he thinks it is something new. Of course the public sector is greedy! That’s why it was created. Of course the private sector regulates society! That’s called the invisible hand of the free market. The whole book reads like its author is an 18-year-old that has just discovered politics and thinks he knows everything. It’s not necessarily wrong, but there is no depth of insight. Even though women do it too, some would call it mansplaining.
Of all the chapters, chapter 11 was the most irksome, so I feel like I have to single it out for special criticism. It was a sloppy mess that only muddied the water around the conversation over states’ rights and the trouble with Trump. It was borderline dishonest.
Though I understand the terminology is problematic, there is a such thing as states’ rights and it has next to nothing to do with racism or slavery. The concept has been invoked in debates over gay marriage, abortion, immigration, the drawing of voting districts, the electoral college, prohibition, health insurance, taxes, and education. Just because at one point in history there were some that attempted to use the argument to protect slavery doesn’t mean we should do away with the term any more than we should ban cars worldwide because one guy once rode over a dog.
The idea that modern blacks distrust rolling back federal power because they think it means an increase in state power and they don’t trust the states not to revert to racism without federal checks is silly. The federal government is the sum of the people from all the states. They are no more trustworthy. Furthermore, the idea that blacks dislike Trump because he wanted to reign in federal power clashes both with the facts that blacks supported Trump more than any Republican since the sixties, and that Trump in some small ways wanted to increase federal power, even while shrinking it in other ways that would be beneficial to blacks (and everyone else).
The words in this book fed into the narrative the Democrats have been pushing that Trump is racist, without clearly saying it one way or the other. It’s irresponsible.
It’s not a bad book overall; it’s just disappointing.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.