Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Living The American Dream

As the last of the votes are counted tonight, it appears clear that we awake Wednesday, to an historic new era in America.

It is a truly cool thing to see it proven true (as I've always believed so) that race doesn't matter in America. Obama's election is resounding proof of this, and that's very heartening.

On that historic achievement of his election, I'd just like to cheer up the fact that Obama achieved this victory by his own merits and by winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. He did not have help from a contrived, government-sponsored multicultural initiative. He was not assisted through policies of affirmative-action, nor minority preference.

He got here on his own merits, his own effort, his own belief in our unique American ideal that this nation affords the same opportunities for all its citizens. We care more about what you're about and what you want to do, than what you look like or what life situation you've come from. He took that ideal and set about convincing enough of you that his ideas for leadership were what our government needed, and he achieved.

This is laudable and sweet, and that he now stands as proof of this ideal's reality cheers me up about the enduring promise of America.

I hope now too, that it's instructive to us to look to his example and others like him, and realize that we don't need crutches. People of parts of American society and culture can and do stand on their own. If we, their fellow Americans, like what they're about, we let them show us what they can do, we elect them, we hire them, we accept them on their merits. It's not about race or ethnicity or anything like that. Do not stand for any such mind pollution from here forward. It does not matter. And we can each embrace the freedom of that delicious realization. No crutches.


Well if you've read my other posts or internet detritus or encountered me in real life, you know that my personal politics do not mesh with those of our new President-elect, or most progressive Democrats or even a number of popular Republicans.

I've been on my own journey of self-discovery, and am a student of history. The more I absorb and experience, the more refined my views become. I am a Libertarian with some conservative sentiments. My philosophy holds that individuals should succeed or fail on their own merits; that our nation's framers struggled mightily to grant us enormous freedom, and a duty to ourselves and our nation to learn about and protect them, accepting the solemn responsibilities upon which those freedoms rest, and without which they would evaporate.

In keeping with that, my philosophy holds that our government ought to mostly act as referee, handing down standards and enforcing a rule of law so that the free market can work and we can be held to account for our promises to one another.

We are about to take a striking turn, now, to the left in this nation. America is redefining herself. I think we've been down some of these roads before, but we're going to take them again, and this time perhaps travel further along them.

Our culture has been shifting. I am not sure we any longer support the notions of personal achievement and self-reliance as we once have. We were founded on those principles. The emphasis now is on the community; that no one may stand alone. We used to trust one another, with government as arbiter. We now mistrust one another, and see government as provider.

In this culture, we desire to be unburdened. We are willing to exchange freedom for leisure. Responsibility is exchanged for a calmed mind. Freedom means choice and making the best choices require effort, responsibility, education, and critical thinking. I think many of us would just like a rest, to be absolved from the heavy responsibilities and consequences that stem therefrom. Let someone else (government) shoulder the burden. Designate and delegate and set your mind at ease that your hard problems will be solved for you.

I think also that we've grown a (to me surreal) trust and faith in our government, begrudging as it seems to be. We lament it nostalgically on the one had, but then turn round a look to it in the next moment. We trust and have faith in our government to protect us from harms (real, imagined, large, small, practical, individual or societal), establish the solutions to our problems, because we don't trust each other through markets anymore.

In my philosophy, government is not the answer. It can be severely malicious and impersonal, but even when well-intentioned, its actions always have unintended consequences which often make matters worse, or create a new and separate problem elsewhere. But it seems our culture would rather roll the dice on an imperfect government, than hang on to its freedoms and free choice and place trust in ourselves and in individuals around us.

I believe that this way be dragons. My reading of history informs me that such is the easy choice. In our worldwide experience, more pain and less of everything is the result. America and the freedoms her citizens yet enjoy are a precious and unique thing, known scarcely to any other population and then only in fragments.

The culture will go where it thinks best, and it feels as though, whether the majority of individuals within the culture realize it, socialism and relying on society instead of onesself is the proper path.

If we try this path and realize we've made a mistake, will we have the power to go back? Will the institutions of government to which we abdicated and delegated our liberty, allow us to resume it?

I believe the Democrat philosophy in this country is once of progressivism a/k/a socialism (semantics are important to socialists as they must always battle to win your heart over from the natural order of things). The individual and her desires or needs are subordinate to the state and society as a whole, as viewed from the perspective of the government, not from the perspective of the people governed.

It's a philosophy of personal choices and freedoms replaced with government dicta, impressed upon you for your own good, as the government sees you (not as you might see yourself), and for the good of all (not as we might see each other). It may be easier to let government handle the tough and sticky issues, to rely upon it for the things which require courage and self-determination from you. But, when it's left for government to decide, how can government thereafter keep itself in check.

In my opinion, such is a misguided philosophy doomed to fail. Proven to have failed time and again, but so outwardly temping, alluring, addictive. We seem destined to keep flirting with it, experimenting with it, convinced that this time it can be different. It never is, has been, or will be.

Freedom is not free. American liberty is very hard work. It's also the most unique and rewarding gift. You can exchange it for "free" things, but such things always have a hidden cost which you will pay somehow. That cost is always more expensive than had you held onto your freedom and choice and achieved what you wanted on your own.

For socialism to work, eventually dissenting voices and ideas must be eliminated. In a system contrived and apart from what arises natually, dissent is corrosive to the unity and harmony required to make the system turn. People who ultimately do not submit willingly will need to be punished or set apart for the good of the whole, as viewed by the government. After inception, you can't simply allow people to do what they want.

Isn't this the very sort of tyranny our framers sought to protect us from?


I believe in the simple truth of free markets. Restrictions, subsidies or other impediments or attempts to control the free market, by government or by other market participants, merely distort the outcomes generated by the market. Within that contrived structure, the market is still operating. It cannot be stopped, because it's not a thing to be accepted or rejected, but a law of nature, like gravity.

Apply the distortion of subsidy, and the free market will adjust to the new operating environment. Costs of various things will merely move about to positions they would not occupy had there been no external or contrived intervention.

As a quick example: if President-elect Obama's tax proposals he's campaigned on are enacted, the result will be new costs everyone will bear. To take what was earned by one group and give it to another, means the group which earned it has experienced a cost which didn't previously exist. If that's a successful small business now paying a higher income tax, it represents a cost which will be passed onto its customers in the form of higher prices. The business's customers will pay for the "wealth" which was taken and given to another group.

If that business was supplying a thing which served as an input to another business product or service, well, now its costs have increased (not to mention that that business itself may pay the same higher tax which the first business did)...the free market will continue to work with costs being passed along directly or indirectly toward the customers, the free market mechanisms natually finding a new equilibrium, and the thing which appeared to be "free" is still being purchased...but with less efficiency.

Take a look at your phone/cable bill (or utility bill in many locales) sometime. Study it carefully. These industries are rather heavily regulated. Government taxes them directly for the privilege of doing business or for certain regulatory services of the government, or indirectly by forcing them to operate in a manner which would not have come about in an unperturbed free market.

It may grant subsidy on certain firms at the expense of others. These all show up as increases in the costs for the firms to provide you with your services and are not eaten altruistically by the companies but passed on to you. So many special levies exist that many of them are called out directly on your bill, itemized in dollars and cents for you.

All business eventually comes down to the individual, no matter how large the business is, so one way or another, you will pay when companies are asked to.

Heck, even higher taxes on the wealthy are bourne mostly by you as individuals. The higher tax represents a higher cost on the part of the wealthy CEO to provide the work or services for which they are paid so highly. As a result of the tax, he will thus demand more from the business which employs him, increasing the cost of products and services to you or to other businesses, but ultimately...to you.

In conclusion, I ask all Americans to do me this favor: keep score. If you believe in the campaign ideals forwarded by President-elect Obama and supported him, so much the better. You folks keep score too. If, as his campaign suggests, and a new Democrat supermajority congress enables, we begin to implement socialist policies with expanded government services and new forms of tax and subsidy, everyone of us regardless of relative economic standing will become more impoverished. Everything else being equal, some may see themselves lifted into a higher class from a lower class, but my bet is that these folks will at the same time be able to afford less than before, or have fewer choices available than before.

America is about aspiring to be your best. Until you reach an arbitrary limit set upon you by your socialist government. Beyond this point, it declares that you did not earn the fruits of your hard work, and confiscates the excess to be distributed inefficiently and often corruptly (when has any subsidy not involved a dose of scandalous pork?) to someone who did nothing to earn it.

In the final analysis, socialism enslaves by defining limits to your success and achievement in life. It removes freedom and choices by fiat or by causing them to be artificially uneconomic. It serves by an iterative process to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

That's not change to hope for. Keep score.

For Americans to "wake-up" from the glittering promises of the campaign, it may first take a nightmare.

No comments: