Opinion

Cannibal culture: West devouring itself from within

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Opinion,Matt Patterson

Cannibals are everywhere these days. And not the long-ago, appease-the-sun-god type, a la the Aztecs. Nor are we talking the Donner Party-esque, survival-of-the-strongest-stomach type of cannibalism that occasionally strikes among the odd intrepid soccer team or Arctic expedition.

No, these cannibals are right here in good old modern-day North America. Over Memorial Day weekend, a man named Rudy Eugene was found naked on Miami's MacArthur Causeway, consuming the face of another man -- police had to shoot and kill him to interrupt the gruesome feast. A week later in a suburb of Baltimore, 21-year old Alex Kinyua "admitted using a knife to kill and carve up" his family's 37-year-old tenant "before eating his heart and parts of his brain," in the prosaic phrasing of the Associated Press.

Last but not least, up in our gentle giant of a northern neighbor, suspected cannibal Luka Magnotta filmed himself chopping up his lover before mailing the foot of said corpse to the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa and a hand to Canada's Liberal Party (at least he's a bipartisan cannibal). Seeing how the Canadians frown upon such impolite behavior, Magnotta fled to more-tolerant Europe, where he was nonetheless apprehended in an Internet cafe in Berlin.

These are shocking stories, to be sure. But there is another case of cannibalism that haunts our daily headlines and is, in a way, every bit as shocking -- the West's cannibalism of itself.

Governments of the developed world have been gorging themselves for decades, gorging on the resources of their citizens with punitive tax and redistribution policies. And when that isn't enough to satisfy the ravenous spending appetite of today's bureaucratic class, resources are pilfered from future generations with profligate borrowing.

Consider -- in the United States the federal government's debt has increased by about $1.59 trillion since 2010 alone. This with those allegedly austerity-mad, budget-slashing Republicans controlling the chamber of Congress that is in charge of the nation's purse strings.

Meanwhile, our other great political party at least has the integrity to wear its spending addiction on its sleeve. There is not an ailment in this world for which a Democratic politician won't prescribe a government program. Or two. Or a hundred.

To give just one example, President Obama and his Democratic allies tried to sell us, as a partial cure for our nation's dire fiscal woes, a new trillion-dollar health care entitlement program. For real.

With these two dysfunctional political parties trading off control of our federal government, it's no wonder we have amassed a mind-numbing $16 trillion in debt. The failure of our political class to stop this runaway debt train amounts to, in the words of Conrad Black, "the most colossal and prolonged failure of American federal-government leadership since the decade before the Civil War." Quite.

It's even worse in Europe, where the travails of the "social justice" experiment are compounded by the existential threat of plummeting birth rates. As the Europeans will soon discover, if you borrow from the future to pay for your cushy lifestyle, it helps to have a future to borrow from. Or as columnist Mark Steyn put it, "One hundred Greek grandparents have 42 Greek grandchildren. Is it likely that 42 Greeks can repay the debts run up by 100 Greeks?"

No, it isn't likely. What is likely is that the way of life that late-20th century Westerners have taken for granted is fading away, never to return. The wealth of the West was largely illusory, built on the evanescent foundations of heavy borrowing and happy historical circumstance. What is so amazing is that no one seemed to realize it at the time.

The West has feasted on itself for nearly half a century in a grotesque case of civilizational cannibalism. The feast is almost over, for the corpse is nearly picked clean.

Matt Patterson is the Warren T. Brookes fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and senior editor at the Capital Research Center. Mpatterson.column@gmail.com.

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