Rome once built aqueducts, and then it stopped building aqueducts, and then the aqueducts it had built started to decay. At the dawn of big government, in the 1930s, we built the Hoover Dam. Then we stopped building dams. In September, in the town of Port Angeles in the state of Washington, there commenced the destruction of two century-old dams in order to “liberate” the Elwha River. So now we’re dismantling dams.
You can see this at work—or rather, not at work—every time you’re on the isle of Manhattan. The Empire State Building was put up in one year and 45 days in the middle of a depression. Ground Zero is still a building site after a decade. 9/11 is something America’s enemies did to us. The 10-year hole in the ground is something we did to ourselves.
Now consider the people who went rampaging through the streets this summer in London. These are the children of dependency, people who have been marinated in stimulus within an inch of their lives, and they’re good for nothing but lobbing concrete through store windows so they can steal the latest models of electronic toys. They tore apart a city that, within living memory, governed a fifth of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. When you’re imperialist on that scale, you make a lot of mistakes. But nothing the British did to any of their subject peoples in far-flung corners of the globe compares with what they did post-imperially to their own population.
These are the great-grandchildren of a tiny island that stood alone against the Germans during the Blitz in that terrible year after the fall of France. If those Britons of mid-century were to come back, they would assume they had landed in some bizarro alternative universe—until, like Charlton Heston rounding the corner and seeing the shattered Statue of Liberty poking up out of the sands, they realize that the Planet of the Apes is their own. The evil of big government is not that it is a waste of money, but that it lays waste to people.