05 September 2005

Up is Down, Down is Up

Doug Saunders has a day job writing for the Globe and Mail based in Toronto, which is a good thing because he clearly doesn't understand the United States.
(H)istorians point to a constant threat of self-destructive breakdowns that seem to dot U.S. history, belying the thin veneer of civility that sits between entrepreneurial prosperity and mass chaos. The individualistic, egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values that have made the United States succeed have always been accompanied by an every-man-for-himself ethos that can destroy the system itself.
Contrary to Saunders' point, the every-man-for-himself model he demonizes is actually a positive. There is nothing more valuable or cherished than reaping the benefits of what you make for yourself. How does the house get painted? How is the child educated? How are the bills paid after retirement? Not from or because of the state, or a political party that feels your pain, but from individuals who know that the good things in life come from individual involvement. I'm in it for me, that's how it works, and I'm not apologizing to anyone.

This recent natural disaster in the form of a hurricane reveals the man-made disaster of the welfare state that's been among us for quite a while now. The nominal human reaction to crisis is to respond to the situation by doing all possible to mitigate and overcome both immediate and long-term adversity. The problems that arise from chronic dependence are many; disregard for potential consequences, blaming others for mutual grief, and using the occurrence of disaster to take criminal advantage of your fellow man.

There are significant numbers of Americans who rely completely on the government on an otherwise sunny day. In the wake of a disaster, are they concerned about their homes and possessions? 'Course not, they maintain nothing of their own, nor do they have any stake in the collective fortress that is society. A life of dependence has seemingly relieved them from caring about their neighbors, local businesses and employers, or who has to foot the ultimate bill for their decision to live solely on handouts, with no insurance, 10 feet under sea level, right next door to the Gulf of Storm Manufacture. "Not my fault, man; Bush did this to me."

An entire class of people who are willing to settle for the very least from life, who perpetually gripe about others not doing enough for them, and then shoot at those who come to help is not a product of W, FEMA, Wal-Mart, Ashcroft, Lott, et al. It's a product of the Welfare Industrial Complex that has been a tumor growing on society for over 40 years.

From the perspective the Kool Aid drinkers in semi-socialist states like Canada, it's easy to demonize the freedom and individual pursuit of happiness enjoyed south of International Falls. The truth is that the downside of the hardships we must endure are a passive product of all the possibilities when the upside is so vast and accommodating.


Anonymous said...

One of New Orleans' source of income is tourism. People that earn their living in this industry learn how to take advantage of those they serve. Unfortunately, weaker mores and a lack of education make taking advantage of the "sucker" seem acceptable. Believe me the tourist is willing to allow others to take advantage of him and usually he can well afford to do so.
It is easy to transfer this behavior to other people or institutions that are unwilling to stand up for their rights. So how do you propose to change the behavior of you Uncle Sam?

OctaneBoy said...

My very general sense is that with any service or offering, there should be an element of ownership on the part of the recipient.

Examples: The government creates benefits like the deduction of mortgage interest, building roads and bridges, or allowing tax-free savings for college. In turn, the ownership components come from the individual maintaining that home, driving with civility, and saving for college. The ownership components create value for the recipient of the benefit.

The missing component in many welfare programs is that they do not ask much from the recipient; there are very few conditions for continuing the staus quo. The Great Society has had over 40 years to demonsrtae how it moves people up and out of poverty (a very relative term in the US), but I see much of it as an enabler, and a dubious reward for staying put.