Uncle Sam Wants You Happy, But It's None of His Business

Well, we seem to have drifted pretty far away from the debate of how much government is good government, have we not? After an incomprehensible election season in which the Democrats pretending to be Republicans defeated the Republicans pretending to be Democrats, gone is all sense of first principles. It might be useful right now, not apropos of any hot-button issue, to give ourselves a remedial primer on the role of Uncle Sam, properly constituted.

A piquant news item imported from sunny Brazil provides a perfect launching point. The village of Novo Santo Antonio has recently announced the results of the first year of an innovative program. The verdict is in; the glitches have been worked out and the operation is a success. The municipality will continue the practice until further notice.

It seems the town boasts a sizable elderly population. These superannuated types tended to be fine citizens, but there was a problem of moodiness. Gramps was grumpy, Gran was cranky, and before you knew it, you were surrounded by cantankerous curmudgeonly codgers and dolorous dour dowagers. Something had to be done to smooth out this wrinkle in the body politic. So the mayor and his sage councilors decreed that henceforth all members of the male geezer community would be dispensed free Viagra.

At first there was only an upside. The old men seemed chipper and perky. A smile was on the lips and a song was in the air. Octogenarians acted generously, septuagenarians were generously accepting, and sexagenarians … wait, those guys shouldn’t need help. Suddenly there was trouble in paradise. The wives came in wailing and weeping; turns out the oldsters were plying their newfound prowess on paramours to the neglect of their loyal brides. The mayor and his brain trust reconvened; their solution brought nirvana. The pills are still distributed, but directly into the wives’ custody.

Hilarity aside, the assumptions here about the place of government in the polity are horrific. (As a tangent, students of religious history will chuckle — or gasp — at the thought that the town’s name means New Saint Anthony. That gentleman, who lived to age 105, is generally considered the father of monasticism.) The initial premise is that government is tasked with the mission of making people feel cheerful. Uncle Sam must do more than protect your pursuit of happiness; he should actively facilitate the pursuit.

This opens a door into a zone without limits. Should an unmarried old man be given the pill to play the field? What if he says he needs some prompting from pornography; should that be provided as well? Let’s even eliminate the sexual element. We all know televisions help the aged and less mobile to cope, and none of us would flinch at a private charity donating TV sets to people in that condition. Yet, if government started taxing young workers to give televisions to old folks, it would be radically overstepping its bounds.

Then there’s the second step, where we send emissaries to track the satisfaction quotient. How happy are the people on a scale of one to ten? What are we aiming for, six, seven, or even higher? How do we judge their happiness? If a man was pondering his life, working on penitence for youthful excesses and making amends to those he hurt, but has now become distracted back into mining his life for the last scraps of sensuality, have we helped that man? In his new state he is giddier and raunchier; is that the same as being happier? These are definitions of the essence of life in an intellectual and spiritual realm where government’s technical function is alien at best, if not downright intrusive.

Then, instead of being chastened by the unintended consequence of subsidizing infidelity, the town council solves the cheating problem by awarding stewardship to the wives. The stew emerging from this should appall any reasonable person. We now have the government giving Adult A a pill to give Adult B at A’s discretion for the purpose of B making A and B happy when A is in the mood. Good grief! Katie, bar the door: the hand of government, extended in an effort to promote cheer, is poking and prodding its way into the psyche of the individual, his moral choices, his relationship with his wife and the timing of intimate moments within that relationship.

As long as our Democrats maintain the charade that they have become Reaganite acolytes and applaud the end of big government, we will have a reprieve. Beyond that, look to see happy pills distributed to lull us while they take over every aspect of our lives.