Patrick Buchanan has warned for years that America is on a highway to Hell. In The Great Betrayal he spoke up about the perils of free trade and globalization. A Republic, Not an Empire tackled our long history of meddling foreign policy. Now, he is urgently waving a red flag: The West is facing oblivion, in imminent danger of being wiped out.
The crisis is threefold. Uncontrolled immigration threatens to Balkanize America and Europe. A culture of Western self-hatred has displaced the West's old heroes and religion. Worst of all, the West is literally dying. "Its nations have ceased to reproduce, and their populations have begun to shrink."
Buchanan paints a grim, convincing picture of the West's demographic implosion. In 1960, European (i.e. white) people were one-fourth of the world's population; by 2000, their share had fallen to one-sixth, as European birthrates collapsed, while non-European ones remained high. The fertility rate -- number of lifetime births per woman -- needed to replace an existing population is 2.1. Having fallen for decades, all European countries' fertility rates are below replacement 1.3 in Germany, 1.2 in Italy, 1.07 in Spain, 1.17 in Russia, 1.66 in Britain, and so on. At these birthrates, the United Nations projects, Europe's population will shrink from 728 million in 2000 to 600 million by 2050. In seventeen European countries, burials outnumber births. Europeans are on the horns of a ghastly dilemma: admit tens of millions of non-European immigrants to provide the tax base needed to preserve entitlements for aging populations, and thus become a Third World continent -- or raise taxes and slash benefits. Japan, too, is aging rapidly.
Likewise, after 1965 American fertility rates fell below replacement, and some 1.4 million abortions occur yearly. This, coupled with admitting over a million legal and half a million illegal immigrants annually, means that European Americans will become an aging minority by mid-century, and Americans, black and white, will be gradually displaced by immigrants. Moreover, if American women keep shunning motherhood, "America either accepts mass immigration or the fate of Japan and Europe."
False alarm, some might reply. After all, many doom-crying predictions, such as world Communism, global famine, and nuclear war, never eventuated. This time it's different, Buchanan insists, because it's already happening. Europeans are dying off faster than they're being replaced. The longer this continues, the harder reversing it will be. Demography has a mathematical inexorability. For example, there cannot be more Italians of childbearing age in 2020 than there are young Italians now. The West's disappearance can be averted only by "mass reconversion of Western women to an idea that they seem to have given up -- that the good life lies in bearing and raising children.
Why the flight from motherhood? Availability and legalization of contraception and abortion, Buchanan rightly argues, are an inadequate explanation. Western women are free to have children. The real explanation is a "revolutionary trans-formation" in beliefs in the Sixties, when many Americans were converted to a libertine world-view and lifestyle.
In addition, "powerful collateral forces" were operating. Women went to work en masse and, enthralled by careers and affluence, opted for childlessness. Finding that they could prosper without men, they had less incentive to marry. Millions of Americans valued affluence over babies. The consensus that fathers should receive a "family wage" collapsed. Buchanan adds (shades of this author!) that "Many conservatives have succumbed to the heresy of Economism [original italics], a mirror-Marxism that holds that man is an economic animal." Many Americans were spooked by "population bomb" talk. Rabidly hostile to men, marriage and motherhood, touting contraception and abortion as liberating, feminism, influencing millions of Western women, was another powerful factor in the West's biological suicide. Popular culture glorifies promiscuity and downplays motherhood. Finally, a secular libertinism, epitomized by the normalization of homosexuality, has displaced Christian morality. The evidence clearly supports Buchanan on this.
He is also right that the dominant Western worldview is militantly secular, deems all lifestyles equally valid, and forbids being "judgmental." It uses schools to foment secular humanist cultural revolution, and demonizes whites. Bravely facing the left's racial McCarthyism, Buchanan exposes their hypocrisy on "hate crimes," whereby crimes committed by whites against blacks are given national media attention and condemned, but black crimes against whites -- the overwhelming bulk of interracial crimes -- go unnoticed.
Historical Background -- It's Later than You Think
Buchanan traces the West's cultural poisoning to World War I. "The proletariat has no fatherland," Marx declared, and his disciples predicted that the workers could repudiate the war. They didn't. Postwar Communist coups in central Europe failed, too. Marxist Georg Lukacs explained Marxism's failure by arguing that Christianity and traditional Western civilization had blinded the working class to its true interest; for Marxism to succeed, these had to be destroyed. Similarly, Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci argues that Marxists must make a "long march through the institutions" and transform them into agents of revolution. So Lukacs and some friends founded the Frankfurt School in 1923. After Hitler's takeover, Frankfurt intellectuals Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, and Herbert Marcuse fled to America and spread their subversive ideas here. Advocating sexual liberation, Marcuse became a guru to Sixties campus radicals. Buchanan dubs Lukacs, Adorno, Gramsci, and Marcuse "four who made a revolution" and the Frankfurt School "a prime suspect and principal accomplice" in the West's demise. They succeeded because other American intellectuals were doing similar things; they had a huge, spoiled, and naďve captive audience of "Baby Boomers;" television disseminated their message and reinforced it with powerful images; Vietnam increased their appeal, and ruined the American Establishment's prestige.
This is the book's one weakness. The pernicious Frankfurt School was only one squad in an army of subversives. Focusing on them makes Buchanan's account lopsided. The terrible truth is that the Western mind has contained a streak of hatred for existing civilization, nihilism, and destructionism for centuries, traceable to the French Enlightenment, when, for the first time in history, atheism and antitheism became intellectually respectable, and, when alienated, adversarial intellectuals first began making careers out of attacking their own societies and civilization itself. Baron d'Holbach churned out anti-Christian literature, matching in virulence most of what the modern left is emitting. Multiculturalism first reared its evil head then, when Montesquieu, Voltaire and others used such devices as fictional non-Europeans, e.g., Persians, to revile their own civilization. Reduction of people to purely material entities was central to the writings of d'Holbach, Julien La Mettrie, and Claude Adrien Helvétius. Helvétius, incidentally, preached that nature endows all people with equal ability and that man is completely determined by his environment and infinitely malleable. Therefore education, which has the power to mold man, is the key to building a better social order. France, he argued, should replace education by the Church with compulsory public schools. John Dewey (who was familiar with Helvétius's philosophy of education) and his disciples, and today's leftist "PC" ideology-ridden "educators" are all faithful followers of Helvétius. (Yet probably not one "conservative" critic of modern education in a hundred has heard of him.) In the three decades before the French Revolution, pamphleteers relentlessly attacked the regime, mixing politics with smutty scurrility targeting Louis XV and his mistresses and, later, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This vast literary assault, from the philosophes at the top to the Grub Street guttersnipes at the bottom, worked powerfully to delegitimize the Church and the monarchy; by 1789 these institutions had few defenders left. The parallel between the subversive intellectuals and writers of eighteenth century France and modern America is frightening.
The greatest nihilist of them all, the Marquis de Sade, propounded in his pornographic novels a comprehensive nihilist philosophy of godless Nature, complete determinism, moral relativism, unfettered sexuality and avarice, and egoism beyond good and evil. In this he took the arguments of the philosophes, which he knew well, to their logical conclusion. Sade's mouthpiece characters endlessly rationalized murder and advocated contraception, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and argued that the obliteration of the human race would be a positive good. His hedonists found fulfillment in nothing, and ended up frustrated at their inability to commit sufficiently vast crimes, wishing they could destroy the universe, and longing for their own deaths. In all of this, Sade epitomized modernity.
The collapse of birth rates didn't start in the Sixties. The flight from motherhood, prompted by industrialization, a preference for affluence, fear of death in childbirth, and cultural and spiritual causes, has been going on in the West for centuries. French fertility stagnated through the nineteenth century, and was a major factor in France's defeat in 1940. European nations debated the threat of depopulation with dread in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There was a temporary upturn in some European countries in the 1940s (see Allan Carlson, Family Questions, 1988, ch. 5). The American "baby boom" itself was only a brief hiccup in a long fertility decline; the American fertility rate had fallen from over 7.0 in 1800 to 2.53 in 1930 (see Peter G. Peterson and Neil Howe, On Borrowed Time, 1988, ch. 4, especially Figure 4-11).
Darwin's theory of evolution had weakened Christianity's hold on intellectuals before the twentieth century began. College curricula began disintegrating when Harvard's president, Charles Eliot, introduced the elective system (1869). Ideologically driven Progressive education emerged with John Dewey's My Pedagogic Creed (1897), in which Dewey affirmed his belief in education as "the fundamental method of social progress and reform." Dewey's disciples were explicit about using education to indoctrinate the young and thereby drag America leftward into democratic socialism -- see George Counts's Dare the School Build a New Social Order? (1932) and The Schools Can Teach Democracy (1939). Sexology, largely the self-serving work of perverts such as Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis, was well launched before World War I. So was radical feminism, which already advocated lesbianism, contraception, "free love," and career equality, and asserted that the genders were equal and interchangeable. America's first sexual revolution occurred in the Twenties, pushed by a galaxy of libertine scribblers. The sexologists and sexual revolutionaries denounced Christianity as a killjoy, and called for rejection of the idea of sin so as to permit a libertine brave new world -- see e.g., Edward Carpenter (Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure, 1891), Dora Russell (The Right to be Happy, 1928), V. F. Calverton (The Bankruptcy of Marriage, 1929) and Robert Briffault (Sin and Sex, 1931). Liberal writers were already heaping scorn and mockery on the bulk of the American population as uncultured, backwards, superstitious boobs in the Twenties (see Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven, 1991, ch. 10, "The Politics of the Civilized Minority"). Communist infiltration of American education and cultural life was quite widespread in the Thirties, as Eugene Lyons showed in The Red Decade.
The Fifties, far from being the placid Arcadia of conservative myth, were a time of rising juvenile delinquency, rebellion, and crumbling sexual mores. Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male appeared in 1948, with the hidden agenda of normalizing extramarital sex, homosexuality and other perversions. Playboy appeared in December, 1953; the much-bewailed illegitimacy rate more than tripled between 1940 and 1960, from 7.1 per thousand unmarried females of childbearing age to 21.8; Elvis was lewdly bucking his hips against his guitar before adoring middle-class audiences; and federal obscenity cases were already multiplying.
The Sixties, then, were only the culmination of a long process of dissolution. The crisis of the West has been going on not for three decades but for three centuries. It's later than you think.
Great Migrations and Their Consequences
But in reporting on contemporary reality, Buchanan excels. He is chillingly informative about Russia's projected population decline, as China's population swells and population in the Central Asian Islamic countries is projected to surge from 78.6 million in 2000 to 117.3 million in 2025. Meanwhile Europe, a "dead man walking," no longer breeds enough manpower to defend itself. Buchanan warns of "coming great migrations;" China retaking lands lost to Tsarist Russia, and Muslim immigrants swamping Europe. Already, the European Union has 12-15 million Muslims; France alone has five million.
To anyone whose capacity to learn from history, perceive reality and think has not been destroyed by the crackbrained utopian dogmas of liberals, economites, and libertarians, these great migrations spell the doom of nations invertebrate enough to permit them. Populations which reproduce require more geographic space, spread out, and crowd out and overwhelm populations which don't. The growth of European populations was a major factor in the settlement of this country and the acquisition of overseas colonial empires. As Thomas Fleming observed, "It was the Völkerwanderungen of the Germans and Huns that brought the Roman Empire down." Floods, whether of water or of humans, have a way of overwhelming and washing away whatever is in their path. In some cases the flood may be impossible to prevent. Should the Chinese start crossing the border in large numbers, it will be impossible for Russia to keep them out short of rushing its entire army to the border (where Chinese superiority in numbers would eventually tell) or using nuclear bombs (which would poison the territory Russia would be trying to keep Russian.)
In one of his most haunting passages, Buchanan describes Israel as "a metaphor and microcosm of the West." Israel's population growth is projected to grow far more slowly than that of its Muslim neighbors. The Israelis' offer of land for peace may be perceived by the Arabs as a sign of weakness. "Here is the analogy with the West. Is it in the nature of things that nations and civilizations rise, expand, dominate, and rule, only to recede and offer equality to their subject peoples -- an offer accepted, until those subject peoples acquire the power to rise, expand and dominate themselves?" Are we really experiencing the end of history, or a sham peace, a transition from Western dominance to Western inferiority?
America is experiencing its own "great migration" -- the Southwest's inundation by Mexican immigrants who, as he points out, differ decisively from previous European immigrants. They have a historical grievance against this country; they are from another race, complicating assimilation. They are entering in huge numbers (in the 1990s, persons of Mexican ancestry dwelling here reached 21 million); many are illegals; their homeland is geographically adjacent; they are entering a country which, pickled in political correctness, encourages separation, not assimilation. Feeling their strength, Hispanics are increasingly truculent, violent, and racist, talking openly of repossessing the territory lost in the Mexican War and doing it by the numbers. Buchanan presents several incidents of violence in California. He ably expresses the danger:
"Perhaps our mutual love of the dollar can bridge the cultural chasm, and we shall all live happily together in what one author calls The First Universal Nation. But Uncle Sam is taking a hellish risk in importing ... tens of millions from a nation vastly different from our own. And if we are making a fatal blunder, it is not a decision we can ever revisit. Our children will live with the consequences, balkanization, the end of America as we know her. 'If assimilation fails,' writes [Samuel] Huntington, 'the United States will become a cleft country with all the potential for internal strife and disunion that entails.' Is that risk worth taking?"
Republicans' embrace of immigration is suicidal, because Hispanics are joining the Democrats, the party of the welfare benefits they use heavily. "If the GOP doesn't do something about mass immigration," Buchanan warns, "mass immigration will do something about the GOP -- turn it into a permanent minority that is home to America's newest minority, Euro-Americans." As Hispanics gain political clout, "their agenda will become America's agenda." This, he points out, is already beginning to happen, as the AFL-CIO, hungry for members, has reversed itself about immigration.
Buchanan is careful not to demonize immigrants. Getting this on the record is vital, because Buchanan's critics have been unscrupulous in tarring him as a nativist, racist, and xenophobe, and their reaction to this book is utterly predictable. Most immigrants, he writes, "are good, decent people," who seek a better life, just as our ancestors did. "They come to work; they obey our laws, they cherish our freedoms; they relish the opportunities the greatest nation on earth has to offer; most love America; many wish to become part of the American family." Trouble is, they are coming in such huge numbers that it "raises a different question: What is a nation?"
Deconstructing a Nation with a Holy War of Hate
This doesn't matter, some might retort, because America is not about ethnicity, but ideas: supposedly we are united by belief in a shared set of ideas and values. Not true, Buchanan replies. Thanks to decades-long leftist emissions of anti-American venom, which he ably presents, a substantial portion of our population is actually ashamed of our past, despises our country, and regards heroes such Columbus, Washington, and Andrew Jackson as criminals for owning slaves, fighting Indians, and so on. Leftists trash movies such as The Patriot for celebrating our forefathers; schools named after Washington are being renamed; public education in history is dominated by anti-American ideology. "Civil rights has become a racket," Buchanan notes, with "race racketeers such as Al Sharpton harping on, even confecting, grievances for gain. The left's holy war of hate extends to Christianity. Despite America's Christian identity (which, Buchanan reminds us, Republicans and Democrats alike had long affirmed), the American Civil Liberties Union and Supreme Court have largely purged Christianity from public life.
The churches have become suicidally appeasing and apologetic, neutering their language, gutting hymnals of anything offensive. "History teaches that it is the whimpering dog that gets kicked," Buchanan warns. "Who will convert to a religion whose priests or preachers go about ... doing expiation for the sins of centuries past?" Unsurprisingly, the churches have lost their grip on souls, too; majorities of Christians in surveys believe that all religions are equally true.
To his great credit, Buchanan realizes that the West's crisis is one of faith and beliefs. "Western Man has decided he can disobey God without consequence and become his own God." Yet "The new hedonism seems unable to give people a reason to go on living." Once, energized by its faith, the West believed in itself, and reproduced. Now it has lost its will and vitality and its elite is trying to destroy its own civilization. Most urgently, flight from God means a flight from life. Devout peoples have high birth rates. Again, Buchanan is right. Having children is a sign of faith in the future, and those who trust God and are confident that "He will work all things for good for those who love Him" are naturally the most inclined to confidence in the future and to see children as blessings, not burdens. As Allan Carlson observed in The New Agrarian Mind, the baby boom was largely a Catholic phenomenon, with the more devout and traditional Catholics having larger families.
"Wherever secularism triumphs," Buchanan observes, "populations begin to shrink and die." On the evidence, he's right about this, too. A great theme of Western history for the past three centuries and more has been a rebellious quest for liberation -- from God, Christianity, existing forms of governments, custom, tradition, and marriage; even from reality. People seeking liberation travel light and go it alone ("Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne, / He travels the fastest who travels alone," wrote Kipling), and nothing, absolutely nothing, is more encumbering and fettering than marriage and children. Contraception, abortion, and quickie divorce were all touted as liberators (it is no accident that divorce laws were relaxed during the French Revolution). Moreover -- and this is very important -- more and more people despair of the future as a secularized world becomes increasingly disordered and toxic. In many cases, childlessness is a vote of no confidence in the future.
How did this happen to us? The American majority, Buchanan maintains, has been intimidated into letting its enemies dominate culture and politics. Republicans reach out to hostiles who repay their crawling with kicks. President Eisenhower deported illegal aliens; politicians today lack such fortitude. Fearful of Hispanic retaliation, Congress does not insist on enforcement of immigration laws. "Such cowardice could cost us our country. There has been a terrible attrition of will to do what is necessary" to preserve America. Conservatives have barely resisted the cultural revolution, Buchanan speculates persuasively, because for decades they focused on the Cold War and taxes, neglecting social and cultural issues; the counterculture's grip on the young is too strong for conservatives to break; the left fights with a ferocity far beyond what naive Republicans are capable of; Christians are demoralized after their long bludgeoning, and respectful of even tyrannical authority; young Americans, raised in modern culture, regard it as normal; and conservatives lack the stomach to be counterrevolutionaries. He rightly warns that Americans who look on this Cultural Revolution as politics-as-usual do not understand it. It means to make an end of the country we love. It cannot be appeased. Its relentless, reckless use of terms like extremist, sexist, racist, homophobe, nativist, xenophobe, fascist and Nazi [original italics] testifies to how seriously it takes the struggle and how it views those who resist."
True as far as it goes, but economism (itself a consequence of secularization) has been another mighty factor in disarming us. The Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution presupposed a people resembling the population of the agrarian Roman Republic of strong and righteous character, stoical, courageous, proud of their heritage and their country, keenly interested in their governance, jealous of their liberties, quick to defend them against encroachments. This sturdy American yeoman has, alas, gone the way of the Founders' tricorn hats and snuffboxes. The engrossment of much of the population in consuming commodities and entertainment, a central feature of the national character by 1960, when Vance Packard's The Waste Makers appeared, has disastrously reduced the American public's vigilance over public affairs. Too many Americans just want to guzzle economism's goodies undisturbed. The average American, who squanders five hours in front of a television every day, is preoccupied by such pressing issues as whether Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa would hit more home runs, the end of Survivor, and Britney's belly button. When was the last time you saw crowds demonstrating deportation of illegal aliens and border control? Almost six months after September 11, Americans were back to normal, stuck in front of their TVs, engrossed in the Winter Olympics. Yes, they care about their country's future -- but not enough to do something about it.
In order to enjoy their all-important lifestyles in peace and quiet, Americans will let virtually everything else slide. They take action only when something disrupts their personal comfort zones -- by which time things have deteriorated so badly that the chips are far down. Consider the maleducation: which rightly alarms Buchanan. Informed observers have pointed out for over half a century that public schools were making young Americans artificially stupid, ill-informed, and incompetent, and indoctrinating them with leftist propaganda. See, for example, Mortimer Smith (And Madly Teach, 1949; The Diminished Mind, 1954), Arthur Bestor (Educational Wastelands, 1953), and Rudolph Flesch (Why Johnny Can't Read, 1955). Yet we allowed this madness to go on. As long as the kids kept out of trouble and got good marks, most parents were satisfied. Implicitly, they viewed education as important chiefly as a means to the careers that were means to the end of attaining the "good life" of affluence, comfort, convenience, and consumption. Educational collapse had to reach a crisis stage before Americans began deserting public schools in large numbers. Significantly, it is the Americans most at odds with the national engrossment in economism and hedonism -- serious, practicing traditional Christians -- who comprise the bulk of the practitioners of the most radical (and best) response to the public schools crisis home schooling. They are also the majority of those making the second best response sending their children to parochial or other private schools.
It is no accident that immigration's advocates sell it with economic arguments: it keeps goods and services cheap, propels technological progress, keeps us competitive internationally, etc., etc. These arguments presuppose that attaining and enjoying affluence are all we care about. The strategy is this: show that immigration helps bake a bigger and cheaper pie for Americans to consume, threaten them with the loss of that expanding pie if immigration is scaled back, and they'll accept it.
Unfortunately, this insidious strategy has worked. It will continue to work until significant numbers of Americans announce, loud and clear, that they value the continued identity, integrity and survival of their country, their culture, and their way of life above the empty promises of economite imimgrationists -- that say preventing the destruction of American middle class communities is more important than allowing corporations to move jobs to Mexico or Silicon Valley to get the last penny on the dollar with cheap immigrant software writers.
But Buchanan does grasp economism's role in our predicament for he points out bluntly that the battle to preserve the West "will define what it means to be a conservative." Moreover, "the transnational corporation is a natural antagonist of tradition ... the global capitalist and the true conservative are Cain and Abel." An apt rejoinder to the perennial and quixotic Republican attempt to blend corporate capitalism with social conservatism.
To avert catastrophe, Buchanan rightly calls for repudiating the left's ideology of national suicide. But he offers valuable specifics too. It may be too late for Europe to exit the highway, but America still can. Depopulation being the worse problem, we must encourage American women to have children, with pro-family tax relief such as raising the federal tax credit for each child, giving employers tax incentives to pay parents higher wages, and so on. "A free society cannot force women to have children, but a healthy society can reward those who preserve it by doing so." We should cut annual legal immigration to 250,000, deny amnesty, deport illegals, suspend the H-1B program, strengthen the Border Patrol, and prosecute businesses hiring illegals. We should uphold sovereignty by defunding the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, abolishing the World Trade Organization, opposing NATO expansion, and withdrawing our troops from Europe and Asia. The best answer to the culture is secession -- refusal to consume its evil output. Politics require confrontation defying the ideological judiciary, "open defiance of political correctness," telling the truth about history and hate crimes, enacting pro-life laws, boycotts, defunding cultural poison pumps such as the National Endowment for the Arts, and, yes, censorship.
Buchanan concedes that it may be too late to save the West, but closes by affirming that America is a beautiful country. "And that is why we must never stop trying to take her back." That call to undaunted perseverance is the right parting note. Defeatism risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Should enough Americans become sufficiently aware of the mortal danger their country and civilization are in, and become angry enough to act, we can yet avert the doom staring us in the face. We must not only get children out of public schools and climb out of the cultural cesspool, but start making adherence to economism, immigrationism and the left's ideology of Western suicide pay an economic and political price. We have the means at hand: our wallets and our ballots. As Casca pointed out (Julius Caesar, Act I, sc. iii), "every bondman in his own hand bears / The power to cancel his captivity." Corporations funding Hispanic radical groups, supporting affirmative action, or pushing for H-1B expansion should be boycotted -- and ideally, told why. Economite Republican candidates no less than leftist Democrats must be shunned. A third party dedicated to immigration control and breaking the twin strangleholds of liberalism and economism on our national life is the only one worth voting for. We need such a party desperately.
Having given much advice, Buchanan might be open to some Join Howard Phillips and the Constitution Party. Take the Buchanan brigades with you. Put out feelers to the Greens, immigration being the chief force driving urban sprawl and the over-consumption of water and energy in the Western states. The time is now, and your book might be the prod that finally rouses sane Americans to start recapturing their country,
In a time when denial, intellectual dishonesty, and hatred of our own are rampant, it is heartening, and long overdue, to read an author who unabashedly affirms that "The West has given the world the best that has been thought and taught. Western civilization and culture are superior [original italics]," and who has his priorities straight: "what is more important than the permanence of the American nation and its people?" One of the bravest and most important books I have ever read, The Death of the West is must reading for everyone who loves America and the West and cares about their future. Buchanan is saying things that simply have to be said. He deserves the gratitude of every patriotic American, especially those in the much-maligned white majority. Buchanan's proposals provide an exit ramp off the road to Hell. The question is: do we have the will to turn the wheel? We've been warned.