#gobacktoafrica Make America Great again scrawled in white-out pen on a toilet roll dispenser.

“#Go back to africa Make America Great again” A sample of graffiti discovered the morning of November the 10th – following the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US Presidential election.

The American Experiment is over. It was a grand one, founded on a bed of pure philosophical theory, and conducted with great rigour, over the past 240 years —- but the result is now in: it has failed.

The core philosophy of the great experiment was that of individual liberty. Jefferson’s original draft of the declaration of independence (viewable at the Library of Congress, where it is on exhibit) reads:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness

You can see the hypothesis clearly laid out there, from the moment of its first statement: That the best possible government can be derived by granting every individual within the nation the greatest possible freedom, at every level of social mechanism.

That’s why there is no compulsory voting in the United States of America. (Australians tend to find it weird that other developed-world democracies don’t have compulsory voting, but in fact only about a score of nations on earth do – and only half of them enforce the law. Australia is unusual in its enthusiastic embrace of this civic duty.) In fact, there isn’t even a unified national voting system in the U.S; each state is in charge of its own process for selecting Electoral College members. That decentralised state-by-state approach is founded on individual liberalism, as a check to the power of the government over its populace, tied directly back to the founding philosophy. The hypothesis which the Great Experiment sought to prove.

It’s also the philosophy behind every citizen being able to own a firearm, built out of the same reasoning. The 2nd amendment grants each citizen the right to bear arms in “a well regulated militia” as a safeguard for each state against a military takeover by the federal government. Let each individual own a gun, and they could form a local para-military group to defend the security of their State. Leaning hard on the language, and on the stated intent in the experimental hypothesis Declaration, this has been reduced to the principal of individual liberty: let everyone own whatever guns they want, and the security of the nation will be somehow assured, not destabilised.

The same ideology underpins the slow and incomplete introduction of even simple things like: seat-belt laws (with 15 states having only secondary enforcement); statewide smoking bans in public places (only 28 out of the 50 have statewide bans —- many of those with a variety of exceptions for certain venues or locales, and 13 have no bans whatsoever); why socialised health insurance is railed against as infringing on civil liberties.

And look, we didn’t know whether it would work or not. Hence the need for the experiment. At the start of “The Enlightenment” it seemed like a pretty interesting and likely proposition. A whole bunch of thinkers were coming out and putting forward theories that seemed to dovetail. Darwin’s bloody-in-tooth-and-claw process of elimination leads to the best possible species fitted for its individual ecological niche; Smith’s market unfettered from legislative restriction would produce companies that produced the greatest possible wealth; grant every private individual the liberte, egalite, and fraternite to select who they wanted to rule them, and you will get the best possible government.

America was the apotheosis of all those ideologies. It was an entire nation, springing forth with its institutions, its rhetoric, its economy, and its culture welling from them. Every ripple of the United States of America has its font in those waters. The experiment was focused, and pure. Interference in experimental results was achieved by isolation —- its sovereignty and the waters surrounding it an effective containment. The experiment was run without disruption, with many stalwarts rigorously defending the founding tenets of individual liberalism, limiting dilution by societal constraints as much as possible.

So now we have the result. After 240 years we have the proof, and the hypothesis has failed.

Results: You cannot form a fair, just, or cohesive society based solely on the ideology of freedom for the individual.

A red toilet door, with messages scrawled on the back of it in white-out, partially scrubbed out: "n-----s" "#f---all-------" "#Whitesonly" "#whiteamerica" "Trump" "Troin" "Blacks (circled and crossed out)"Oh, America did well enough for quite some time: but frankly that can be put down to an abundance of natural wealth, the room to expand within its own territory (by ignoring the right to life and liberty of the native Americans), and exploitation of the labour of imported African slaves (by the same mechanism). Using those techniques during the Industrial revolution is a great aid to build a giant, world spanning economy, and provide your citizens with individual wealth. And individual wealth is a pretty good stabiliser for a society, especially when you wield the potential for it as an incentive for those who don’t have as much as others. The American Dream: you can achieve riches. Anyone can become President.

Donald Trump’s victory is not an aberration. It is not the violent eruption of a clot of bile, released from the deepest pits of the American backwaters. It is not the lingering poison of those original sins of genocide and slavery. It is not the angry outcry of disenfranchised men, refusing to accept further perceived emasculation by suborning themselves to a female leader. While all of those factors weigh, the result last Tuesday is symptomatic of the largest problem with America.

When individual liberty is prized above all else, then every other citizen is not a partner, but a rival. Competition for your successful place in society is reduced to a Smithian battle for supremacy, and not a collective striving for some greater goal. It turns out that a society built so entirely on the principle of rugged individualism does not produce a sense of unity, but one of division. A land of haves and have nots. Of polarisation and partisanship. One that celebrates selfishness, and the winner-takes-all mentality. Where singers and beauty queens and would-be-entrepreneurs and are thrown up on television screens to tear strips off each other in atmospheres of contrived stress and high stakes ruthlessness, in a facile attempt to distract the growing under-class from the swelling awareness that they have not been invited to the party by reiterating the fiction of every American’s rags-to -riches potential. You could be the next reality television sensation.

Such a society is doomed to fail from its inception. With no guiding principle more noble than “every one for themselves, and the devil take the hindmost”, every facet of society starts to resemble the jungle in its savage pragmatism. Means cease to matter, because the only yard-stick to judge on is the one of results. Corruption flourishes. A cadre of super-rich emerges, each working to ensure that the money which circulates in the society is contained within their grasp. So does a cabal of ultra-influential, working together to retain the political reins within their class. With money and influence so completely constrained and the vast majority left on the outside, all the while being told by every myth and narrative of their society that the corrupt, nepotistic few they see parading before them are the ones that were brash enough to seize the American Dream, you inevitably end up with this. With a nation that doesn’t care about policy. That isn’t bothered by invective or hyperbole. That doesn’t demand truth, or punish indiscretion. A society where so many are so disenfranchised, and so aware of the hopelessness of their plight, that they no longer hope for any redress to their hardships, but only want to have their wild howls reflected back at them in a tumult of noise and fury, signifying nothing.

It turns out that to form a successful, stable society, there must be some collective principals that underpin it. Some social ethos, not a purely personal one. Some level on which it is agreed by all participating that in some ways, yes: the society is more important than the individual.

The American Experiment is over. Abandon it. Let’s see what the alternatives are.

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