Boots & Sabers

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1045, 06 Sep 19

The “Burn it Down” Mentality

Interesting stats in Paul Fanlund’s column.

The authors measured this “need for chaos” among those they describe as frustrated status seekers: “We show that chaotic motivations are surprisingly widespread within advanced democracies, having some hold in up to 40 percent of the American national population.”

Americans polled answered questions like these: “I think society should be burned to the ground.” Twenty-four percent said yes.

Or, “When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking, ‘Just let them all burn.’ ” Forty percent concurred.

Or, “We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.” Also 40 percent.

The authors termed those results “staggering.”

He doesn’t share any longitudinal data, so I don’t know if this sentiment is different than years past. But I would offer that there are two things going on.

First, many people in this country feel that the elite political institutions no longer serve the people’s interests. Call it the “swamp” or whatever, but many people just don’t think that government gives a dang about them anymore – if it ever did. This is a major fuel for the populist movement that put Trump in the White House.

Second, there is a long tradition in America, a nation born of revolution, that we must sometimes tear things down and rebuild them. It is the instinct of creative destruction that underpins capitalism as well as the one of the precepts of our national psyche.

I don’t take this poll as alarming or staggering. I take it as a sign that many of the people in our culture are not yet so cowed by institutional rigidity that we feel a need to preserve them when they are no longer beneficial or useful.


1045, 06 September 2019


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    When you have institutions like Social Security and Medicare we know are unsustainable, but liberals refuse to reform it, ever….we may have to burn it down…or end up with tin pot runaway inflation to make the unsustainable good.

    Some awful socialist ideas are so entrenched, and heading for disaster, so without any hope of reform…burning it down maybe the sensible choice on those programs.

    I can see the sentiment.

  2. Mar

    Call it the “Ronald Bartel” effect, from Backdraft.

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