Examining the fundamental problems of human existence — The Origin of Life, Ethics, Health, Governance — and the rational means for their solution. Without an understanding of where we came from, we cannot know where we are going. Without ethics, there is no hope for peace and security. Without health, a full life is not possible. Without liberty, human potential is but a wish.
Dr. Wysong's Blog - 9/30/2011
PONDERING THE ECONOMY (PART II)
The current fiscal crisis is not the result of the national debt, the collapsing housing market, wall street, the wealthy, tax cuts, the war on terror, illegal immigrants, insufficient unemployment benefits, the Fed, too low of a minimum wage, China, Europe, outsourcing, or natural disasters.
These are not true causes; they are symptoms of something more fundamental. Bad results always find their beginning in bad ideas. The underlying bad idea is that people should be able to get something for nothing.
The heady success of America in two world wars led the public and political leaders to a can-do belief that government could do anything. If we could win battles on the other side of the globe and put men on the moon, then we must be able to do more mundane things like eliminate poverty, cure disease, and fine tune the economy. So the government experts began the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer, the war on illiteracy…and every other war they could think of to cure all human ills and needs. Utopia was surely just around the corner and government was the talisman to make that happen.
But other than building and fixing artifacts and machines, experts always seem to fail, particularly those in government. After decades and untold billions of dollars, cancer is alive and well, drugs are rampant, the family is crumbling, education is failing…and the economy is on the brink of collapse. But that has not prevented politicians from continuing to exercise their hubris by interfering in the free market and arrogating to themselves the role of Santa Claus.
The excuse for government intervention is the supposed unfairness of financial disparity among citizens. Favorite words used to conjure guilt and sympathy are “poverty” and “poor.” The poor are now defined as having only one car, only two televisions, not enough cell phones, and they must endure the torture of dial-up Internet. You may have seen the congressional hearing wherein a mother tearfully pleaded for the government to provide high speed Internet service for her children. She just couldn’t bear watching them suffer as they had to wait for websites to pop up on their computers. What spoiled brats we have become.
Obviously, “poorness” is relative. Take a moment to view the photos in the link that follows. They were taken by Prokudin-Gorsky and give an interesting window into Russia at about 1900. He did this using black and white film and three color filters. He was way ahead of his time. Their beauty using this crude technology is astonishing.
More importantly, note the life of the people and times. Even the wealthiest among them had no electricity, refrigerators, tvs, video games, toilets, running water, Internet, etc., etc. Today we would consider such people poor and in desperate need of government aid.
Also consider these photos of America in the 1930’s and 40’s.
When I was a young boy, not really that long ago (in my mind anyway), I would spend time on my grandparents' farm here in Michigan. There was no running water, we heated by splitting wood, drank milk straight from the barn, used an outhouse and pages torn from a Sears catalog for toilet paper, and would chip ice that had formed in the sink in the morning. There was not a thought by me or my grandparents of being poor, or needing government assistance. Want or need meant doing something about it. These were some of the most delightful times of my youth. Today, these circumstances would be classified as being desperately poor.
So, when you hear about the “poor class” in America today, think not of true need, like starvation, no clothes, or no shelter. Yes, there may be some of this (actually where, I do not know), but not like politicians would like us to imagine when they talk about the “poor class” to justify more taxing, spending, money printing (surreptitious devaluation of currency, the most politically benign way to create government income), and borrowing.
Government would like us to believe that children are poor and starving in America. A news report in Sept. of 2011 declared that one in four American children are poor, in spite of free education, food, housing, medical… This is what starvation and poorness in American children often looks like.
This is what real starvation looks like. It is unthinkable, particularly when the cause is not lack of food but rather, almost always, bad government.
And while we’re on the subject of “class,” consider that there really are no classes in America in the sense that someone is bound to a particular station in life, like in the Indian caste system. Instead, in a free society, which, after all is what we are all about, there are simply levels of success, and levels of sloth. Being poor is not the result of other people being wealthy, as is being chanted today. Even if all the assets of the wealthiest in America were confiscated with taxes, it would barely make a dent in curing the financial crisis. (Also keep in mind that the top 10% of earners pay 73% of all federal tax; the bottom 51% pay none.) And, frankly, its none of our business how much wealth someone has in a free society. We have no claim to it nor do we have the right to tell them what to do with it. Their trove of money is their problem.
Those who by their actions (actually lack of) choose to have less, enviously imagine that wealth falls out of the sky to a lucky few. Rather, for the vast majority who are non-bluebloods, it is the result of taking risks, using their minds, finding needs to fulfill…and working really really hard. Given liberty, poverty is not bad luck, but usually bad habits, unwillingness to save and think about the future, and lack of self respect. Think about people who choose addiction to alcohol and drugs, or who choose debilitating obesity, food stamps, and unemployment benefits as lifestyles.
Measuring people by the amount of money they earn or are given, and then sticking them into classes, also assumes that money is the objective of life. Money is only a garnishment, and certainly not enough to quench body and soul. The meat and potatoes necessary for a fulfilled life is the liberty to chase a dream, gain a reward, sweat over lonely labor, to create, and to claim victory over suffering and want. The problem of unequal results in life and of people being in miserable poverty is solved by giving people the freedom to be miserable in their poverty. To provide for all human needs through gifts, is to rob people of their will, character, and the very spirit and challenge of life itself.
Government’s attempt to obliterate poorness that does not exist (in absolute terms) is a fundamental cause of the economic crisis. To accomplish this, government lives beyond its means by taxing (stealing), printing (counterfeiting), and borrowing money. (The debt ceiling, originally put in place to fund WWI, has been raised over 100 times.) This money is then given to people so they can live beyond their means and be beholden to the politician grantors.
Socialism/communism/liberalism/progressivism is the fancy name for the belief that people should get something for nothing. This ideology springs from noble emotions, like sympathy, empathy, and kindness. So we vote for politicians who make government a charity.
Government has now swelled out of control under the pretense of charity (“social justice”). But “social justice” through taxing and handouts is unhinged from reality. It violates fundamental principles of work, property rights, economics, and ethics. Stealing the fruits of one’s accomplishments ultimately creates resentment, destroys the spirit of individual charity, and diminishes the incentive to produce.
Nevertheless, JFK and other meddling early socialists like Woodrow Wilson and FDR tend to figure high on the list of great presidents. However, the truly great presidents are the ones who interfered as little as possible, leaving America's natural capitalist instincts and supply and demand forces free. It's presidents like Warren Harding (who got the United States swiftly out of a post-World War I depression) and Calvin Coolidge we should really celebrate. On their watch taxes fell, wages increased, working hours declined, and the United States enjoyed one of its greatest-ever booms. FDR and his New Deal, and later Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society, on the other hand, just made the Great Depression and our present woes even worse. Every economic crisis the country has ever faced can be traced to government policy, not private industry.
So how could such a virtuous concept, charity, get us into so much trouble? Like all good things, misdirection or too much of it can be a problem. Rescuing true victims and those whose survival is at risk is our duty. It is human nobility and virtue at its finest. But unnecessary charity can corrupt both parties in the transaction. It damages its recipients most by making them feel entitled. Quite simply, charity too often puts money into the hands of those who don’t deserve it.
Endowing those not in true need (defined as incapable of helping themselves) cements them in their current station in life, making their crisis a non-crisis by taking their incentive to improve away and removing their independent drive. Making mistakes in life, facing difficulties and hard times, is what forms us. Without this fire, there is no forging and no human strength can emerge. Problems, crises, disappointments, and wants unfulfilled followed by individual initiative to overcome, is the very breath of life, its very essence and joy. (See Why Life Is So Tough)
Misplaced charity can move money from those who show they can create it to those who have shown they can’t. The only way to fix poverty is by personal industry, which creates the monetary fuel to create more industry. For this reason, money can achieve the most if left in the hands of the producers. It takes large pools of capital to create the technology that improves lives and supplies jobs. Contrast this logic with that of politicians who have brain washed the public into believing the productive wealthy are an evil, greedy, and selfish lot (and yes, a few are) and that it is the duty of government to strip money from them and spread it around.
Given a free society with resources available, there will always be a disparity in outcomes. Differences in economic station are part and parcel of free will. Where there is freedom--which everyone will agree is our fundamental right--some people will choose to be lazy, unimaginative, and unmotivated to improve their lot in life. Others will have a fire in their belly to succeed and will.
We can’t have it both ways. We cannot steal from the productive, robbing them of their freedom to improve, succeed, and be charitable, and then give it to the unproductive, robbing them of their freedom to be unproductive, miserable, and uncharitable, concerned for only their own immediate selfish interests.
There will always be the few who are true victims and through no fault of their own are unable to lift themselves. Children, the handicapped, animals, the unjustly imprisoned, and the environment are examples of true victims. But helping them is best done personally, one on one, or by means of family, neighbors, or through private organizations we can closely scrutinize.
Charity, as it has become perverted by government and some shyster “non-profit” organizations, often does little more than dissipate money so it can no longer be put to productive use. The impending destruction of the economy in order to reward inferiority and mediocrity is now where we find ourselves. On the other hand, using resources for positive and creative actions, like helping people be self reliant, healthy (which requires being self reliant, not being given money to access medical care), informed, skilled at using reason, creating useful and sustainable technologies and jobs, can end up lifting the whole world.
Government’s continuing attempt to circumvent the fundamental truth of economics--you get what you earn and deserve what you get--has put us on the precipice. The best descriptor for doing the wrong thing over and over is insanity. We can either return to reason and demand it of our leaders, or wait for the unthinkable disaster of economic collapse to force rational change upon us.
Word: trove - \ˈtrōv\ (click for pronunciation) noun: discovery, find, a valuable collection: treasure
Quote: To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, 'the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.'"-- Abraham Lincoln
Videos and Links
1. Australian Answering Machine
2. Steve Jobs Commencement Speech
3. Meet Me at the Coffee Shop
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