Your life is filled with many needs and desires. Subsistence requires meeting your basic needs. Prosperity grows from the fulfillment of desire.
You could survive with very minimal housing and food. You don’t really “need” the computer and Internet access you’re using to read this. Tonight you will retire to a home that is much larger and nicer than what you require to survive, eat a meal more tasty and filling than your essential dietary requirements, and enjoy entertainment that you could live without.
Our mutual ambition to do better than the minimum, for ourselves and our families, leads to the hard work and innovation which become the fertile soil of prosperity.
How will you go about meeting your needs, and fulfilling your desires? Free people earn both what they need, and what they want. Totalitarians dismiss the desires of their captive populations, and allocate essential needs through force.
Modern socialism promises a mixed solution: the State will allocate needs, to “eliminate poverty” and promote “social justice,” while establishing a game preserve of economic freedom where citizens can pursue government-approved desires.
This is commonly sold to the public with promises that they’ll be more capable of chasing their dreams, once the State has assumed control of the grubbier aspects of life for them. They are promised many “free” benefits, such as health care, education, guaranteed wages, and a generous welfare safety net. All of these things will be financed through money taken from the wealthy, who can easily afford to shoulder the expense. Whatever money the State doesn’t need can be kept by the people, with a greater percentage “given” to those with less income, to fulfill their desires.
This never works. The amount of energy and innovation required to achieve true prosperity is far greater than statists imagine. The government itself produces nothing. When it tries to raise money by selling services, in the manner of a free market corporation, the result is usually abject failure. (Have you checked up on the U.S. Postal Service lately?)
The only resource of the State is power, which it uses to compel obedience. Political control of the economy inevitably boils down to making promises that other people have to keep.
The State and its clients always see a little more that could be taken away from those who pay taxes. Even with much of their income confiscated, they’re still doing better than the dependency class. On the day this is no longer true, socialism ends and communism begins. The transition is invariably violent.
Austerity is difficult and painful. Envy is easy, and politically nourishing. The political class can actually benefit from terrible problems it causes, provided its ability to point fingers of blame is sufficiently well-developed. You will find few examples of a combined government and private-sector disaster in which the government “partners” willingly shouldered most, or even half, of the blame.
Every socialist government in the Western world has made promises that far outstrip its ability to pay. That’s what a “deficit” is. You may recall that toward the end of the American debt ceiling debate, President Obama let a very large cat slip out of the bag, by desperately insisting that much of the new deficit money he wanted had already been spent. The debt ceiling could not be left in place, because federal spending had already soared far past $14.3 trillion. In this manner, the demands of the dependency class hone government irresponsibility into a weapon. Yesterday’s outrageous spending is cited as an argument against today’s spending cuts.
This momentum is natural, inevitable, and universal. The State amasses power by making promises and compelling certain citizens to fund them. The number of citizens providing the funding dwindles, making it increasingly easy to overwhelm them with political demands from an expanding dependency class. The more a redistributionist State fails at its basic promise to allocate prosperity, the more powerful it becomes.
There comes a moment when this system crashes. It is doing so right now, all around the world… and this is a global phenomenon, because the American taxpayer has been propping up Europe’s more degenerate welfare states since World War II. Among other things, America has paid countless billions to shoulder the needs of European defense. Much of the money from our big 2008 bank bailouts went to European banks. America’s credit downgrade is part of a rapidly developing endgame for the dominant political philosophy of the entire Western world.
In this moment, the dependency class – which, under the careful tending of class-warfare experts, has reached well into the formerly independent middle class – looks at its neighbors and sees, not competitors, but enemies.
The benefits doled out by socialist governments are not described as charity. Instead, they’re “entitlements.” Entire generations have been told they are entitled to the things their class enemies don’t want to pay for. Those government benefits are their property. Refusing to provide them is theft. Refusing to increase their quality is tantamount to crushing the little guy’s dreams, to satisfy the greed of fat cats. Refusing to finance the unfunded promises of past congresses and parliaments is unthinkable – the debt ceiling must go up, and any proposal for deficit control must be “balanced” with higher taxes.
The London riots have been marked by widespread looting. Some of those looters are common criminals taking advantage of the chaos, but many would indignantly insist they are “entitled” to everything they’re taking, because “the system” has failed them.
There are only two ways to justify government dependency, after all: you can either tell people they’re helpless and cannot survive without the maternal protection of government, or convince them the free market is filled with predators that only a paternal government can repel. The paternal approach is a much easier sell, because it doesn’t require the populace to think badly of itself. Unfortunately, it raises the pressure level of anger and resentment in society, until there is a detonation.
We can get off this road, before American cities burn like London, but it is the deadliest fantasy to imagine we can change where the road leads. Its final destination is Enemy Nation, where citizens turn violently against each other, because they can’t admit they were fools for trusting promises the ruling class never should have been allowed to make.