“Where there’s no solution,” James Burnham used to remark, “there’s no problem.”
That’s easy for him to say, the modern populist conservative replies. Burnham died while Reagan was still in office! What did he know about problems?
Ah, the Golden Age of the 1980’s, when life was good. At least until we compare it with the Golden Age of the 1950’s, which is darn near perfect until we compare it with the Golden Age of the 1920’s, not to mention . . . Hey, you kids! Get the hell off my lawn!
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” The writer of Ecclesiastes, it is true, was divinely inspired, but Burnham’s saying channels the same spirit (and perhaps the same Spirit). Time and tide rise and fall together, and dust returns to dust; and our vanity of vanities leads us to suppose that our problems are uniquely ours, not to mention that we are uniquely qualified to discover solutions that men for millennia have failed to find.
Empires rise, and empires fall, as they have since man left Eden. Men grasp for the One Ring, confident that they will be able to resist its temptations, and use it only for good, because no one else in the history of mankind has understood...