The number of homeschooled children is rising. The amount of Americans seeking concealed carry licenses is exploding. The number of states moving to unlicensed concealed carry is increasing. The number of guns sold in America resembles an army preparing for war. Mainstream conservatives applaud these social trends under the narrative of the rugged individual making a comeback. What these pundits fail to see is that these trends are a symptom of the fading trust in the rule of law and withdrawal from the public sphere into private networks.
It is easy to make fun of the “Muh Constitution” crowd on the Right because of how meaningless the document has become. The meme foil is a picture of a single white child surrounded by Third Worlders with the phrase “at least I still have the Constitution” slapped on it. A paper is only as meaningful as the men who create and enforce it.
The American tradition, derived from its Anglo heritage, advances the concept of rule of law, which essentially implies a practical limit to entirely arbitrary decisions, else decision-makers run the risk of losing legitimacy and hence power. Rule of law boasts a long tradition that stems back to the formation of England itself, particularly through the Angles and Saxons barbarian warlords who invaded the Roman province of Brittania. After filling the vacuum of leadership and authority as the Romans departed, there was an obvious need to secure hold on the newly won fiefdoms, as well as build legitimacy. One could argue that the enforcement of papal anti-cousin marriage laws was a means for the new kings of the heptarchy to socially engineer loyalty not within the tribe or clan, but to the sovereign by breaking down the strong cousin marriage bonds within each clan.
As Henry Kissinger has argued, legitimacy comes from acceptance, not imposition.
The heptarchy did not simply import priests from the continent to ban cousin marriage. The church brought with it educated men, accomplished administrators, and a suite of laws. A way for the sovereigns attempting to gain legitimacy and move beyond being barbarian warlords would be to maintain appearance as a neutral sovereign above the fray, playing no favorite as disputes, arguments, and settlements came before the king’s courts. One would be more inclined to take disputes, trust the supposed sovereign, and believe that contracts would be enforced if the decision-maker had the appearance of a fair and neutral arbiter.
The strong enforcement of contracts, rule of law, and fair play was a strength of the Anglo and American system for centuries. While much is said about the Magna Carta, few comment how line after line details the formalization of the relations and rules between the king and barons, as opposed to ordinary people. This is the founding document for the Anglo tradition of written law, and it contains minutia restraining the king. This focus on rule of law would also mold society to not just trust in the decision of the outside arbiter over the tribal kinship channels, but even select for individuals more likely to adhere to it. Those who broke contracts and committed crimes would be removed from the gene pool, turned into an outlaw, or exiled.
Part of why London and New York became financial centers was this very foundation of fair and strong contract enforcement. Capital markets were and are incredibly deep and liquid, but there was a global belief of a fair hearing in courts that adhered to the rule of law. Today, the neutral sovereign and fair play approach to enforcement is far less present. The average American is likely to complain about the arbitrary nature of sentencing, bemoan prosecutors with no sense of intent, or drop their jaw at the armed robbers and rapists released from prison after eighteen months served.
Confusion over why the abuse of the good reputation of fair play or the enforcement of contracts has grown stems from a failure of America to admit that its empire has no competitors. Born after World War II, America had to fight with the Soviets over Third World scraps as the European empires receded. The collapse of Soviet-sponsored communism removed all competition. The American imperial courts, rules, and administrators have largely gone unchallenged, as there is no other system to defect to for other players. However, there have been tremors, and the bread and butter of the Anglo empire, the financial system, is slowly starting to see a potential challenger in the form of the BRICs Bank, the Russian-Chinese alternative to SWIFT.
On the domestic front, there is no frontier to escape to. Centralization and technology have driven the American priest class to seek any nonconformity. The eye of Soros sweeps the nation for heretics. The centralization and destruction of subsidiarity under FDR started a slow process of destroying the peculiar traits or habits of regions. Even the concept of regional economic powers funding purple politicians, rather than polarized red and blue, melted away as money and consolidated capital interests began to fund candidates for the possibility of steering the federal purse their way. This affects social, not just economic policy, and causes even the little people to seek an outlet.
The pushback is also manifesting itself in people who advocate for concealed carry, homeschooling, or the Benedict Option. The loss of trust does not simply apply to actual enforcement of the law, but also to its fair application. Civilians feel the need to carry a deadly weapon because they believe the government will not effectively police or guide citizens to adhere to laws.
There is no new space for exploration and creation. There is no outlet. People are cocooning and looking inward in response as a form of withdrawal from the anarcho-tyranny of the public sphere in favor of rules and norms in a private sphere.