Pendulum Theory is a lie. It was introduced to me by one of my favorite college professors, back in 1989 or so. We were in his office; I was lamenting about the climate on campus where extreme liberal progressivism had run amok with everything. He told me to take heart, explaining how the course of history moved. Passions and ideas oscillated from one extreme to the other, he claimed, in almost Newtonian terms of actions and equal-and-opposite reactions. Only twenty years prior when he was my age at the time, the climate on campus was precisely the opposite. Conservatives ruled the faculties and the students struggled against that rubric. Plus, twenty years prior to that in the 1940s, liberals ruled the roost, and the conservatives were the “up and comers.” Given time, he assured me, this struggle would turn the opposite way and swing back, much like the swing of a pendulum. This oscillating interplay, from one extreme to the other, was by nature good! The inputs from each extreme contributed to compose a wiser middle course. The swing of the pendulum was the mechanism used by civilization to keep its bearings, this was the check and balance of wisdom. And thusly we move through time, ever upward, ever onward, regulated from excesses by the swing of the pendulum!
That sounds good, no? And this man’s life work was the study of history, so we have it on good authority, don’t we? But alas, it’s just not true. Or, at the minimum, you may die before the corrections occur. My professor witnessed a pendulum swing in his lifetime on campus, with a 20-year periodic interval. Oh but I haven’t. College campuses today are even nuttier, even more indefensible than they were back in 1989 when we thought we were witnessing Peak Insanity. No! The nuttery had not even really begun then!
I hear expressions of Pendulum Theory expressed all the time. Even today someone cited to me the fell movement of the avenging pendulum! Or more often someone expresses the hope that things will “even out” in the end because they must. Most often I hear this hope expressed in the context of our two-party political system in the USA. The Democrats win power, but they go too far. In response, the Republicans gain power and correct the excesses, but then they go too far. So, the Democrats win back power, but … ad infinitum. It’s a never-ending cycle of corrections. The boom-bust cycle of business is explained in this same way. First the exuberance of a boom spawns malinvestments. These leads to a bust, in which accounts are cleared, setting the stage for the next boom. Etc.
These cyclical appearances and manifestations are the great seduction of Pendulum Theory, for what is time on Earth but cycles? Everything occurs in cycles. God can make perfect cycles, but Man always tries to cheat them! Why didn’t sanity ever return to the college campus? I submit that in 1993 Bill Clinton pushed through a program that guaranteed $4,000 per year in student loans to everybody. Immediately all tuitions were suddenly at least $4,000 per year (mine was only $1000 all the years before), and this began a vicious cycle of its own with ever-expanding loan guarantees and tuitions. We blew a bubble in higher education right at the top of leftist insanity on campus, and this has only served to ensconce the wingnuts at the helm. You can forget all that talk about universitas, for they have the gavel and they will smash you with it. In business we blew a housing bubble in the 1990s, too. It popped in 2008 so we blew another! We’ve got a welfare state structured on Ponzi finance, and a Wall Street that’s built in the assumption of continual market growth forever, while whoops our people didn’t reproduce. So, the government imports additional populations, dooming our heritage culture. Man in his hubris is always fighting against that pendulum swing, with all his might.
Observers say don’t fear, that a Day of Judgment is coming. It’s very fashionable today to say, “What can’t last won’t!” and call that wisdom. Perhaps it is true. Yet when the corrections do come, I do not think they will come with the gentle action of a pendulum’s glide. No, it comes like Vesuvius erupting when bubbles pop. Things would have come like pendulums if we had let them, then things could take their natural course, but Man will not allow it!
But it gets worse. Pendulum Theory assumes that Man is moving somewhere towards something, meanwhile two equal and opposite forces vie to influence that direction. One force pulls always to the left, let’s say, and another always to the right. Through the addition of forces over time, Man should always remain roughly in the middle. But he hasn’t, has he? We move ever leftward. All forces that tug us are in fundamental agreement, they only differ about the velocity of our movement, not the direction. Each force, to our left and also to our right, accept the foundations of the Enlightenment and therefore the idea that man is trudging along through history progressively achieving perfection and justice through law. When Q Shaman and his Merry Men broke into the Well of Senate, they were warned that this was “the sacredest place” and what did they do there? They prayed to God, and this is seen on all sides as an outrageous sacrilege. Piety is made sacriligious! For it is misplaced. Laws. Not prayers, laws! That sacred Well of the Senate is where the laws that make men perfect are crafted. There, and at the Supreme Court — which by the way should not be making laws, oh but it is. It is making the holiest of laws, in fact, supreme ones conjuring justice and rights themselves! In the Declaration of Independence it was God endowing you with rights, now it’s nine crazed lawyers in committee. They come out to the court robed like priests, even, handing down their tablets like Moseses. These are the great engines of the Great Idea Nation, some kind of noble City of Man that we’re always told is up on a hill somewhere as a beacon guiding humanity itself towards justice and deliverance. What is this but Babel?
As an aside I’d like to point out this was never the plan, except for maybe John Winthrop’s plan, for our founders were never consumed with such hubris. But nevertheless, it has become the plan and this could not be avoided. Thanks to that damned pendulum, we have moved along with all forces pushing us along the path ordained by the Enlightenment. We are in an Enlightenment Bubble, we have been for hundreds of years, and we will, each of us, likely die in it.
As a further aside, what does that Latin say in the pendulum pic above? It says, starting from the 12 o’clock position and going around clockwise: “Time flies irreparably, while we are carried around as captives by narrow passion, but it flies —-” (the last word is blotted out by the sun! I think the word is ‘interea’, which would mean ‘meanwhile’)