We have become a nation of wimps.
We're like the little boy or girl in school who's getting picked on and runs to mommy and daddy for comfort.
Except in this case, "mommy and daddy" is big government. So, what are we afraid of? Who's picking on us?
- Unemployment and the specter of unemployment scares us. Therefore we have unemployment insurance. Our employers have funded the insurance as a cost of doing business. The funds have long run out. Now big government funds it. Their funds have also run out. So, in effect, we are covering it with the wages of future generations. All because unemployment scares us.
- Illness and injury scares us, especially the Big C, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and countless autoimmune diseases. Therefore we have health insurance. We used to cover our medical expenses ourselves, and medical costs increased at the same rate as everything else in the economy. Then, during World War II, when big government stepped in with wage and price controls (because inflation scared people), employers got the bright idea of offering to pay for health insurance as a way to attract skilled workers. This alleviated employees from the responsibility of being good shoppers, and consequently began the spiral of rising healthcare costs. Today, healthcare costs exceed 1/6th of the economy. Lo and behold, big government has the solution to the problem.
- Market swings, booms and busts, scare us. Therefore we gave the Federal Reserve the power and authority to smooth out the economy by regulating the money supply. In down times, like the present, that means the Fed has the power to "print money" (which is done digitally, these days - no actual currency is "printed"). Injecting extra cash into the system stimulates the economy of the first receivers of the cash, and they "pass it on" through "trickle down" economics. As the extra cash begins to overwhelm the limited supply of goods, you get inflation. Today, after two bouts of quantitative easing, we have rising prices in basic goods like food, clothing, and energy. Those rising prices of commodities will eventually spread to higher prices in every other sector of the economy. Naturally, that will put us back to square one, except there will be new winners and losers. The biggest losers will be those on fixed incomes.
- Global warming scares us. Erratic weather scares us. Pollution scares us. Therefore, environmentalists have been crying wolf for decades. We have given big government more and more power over the production and use of energy in the economy, greatly increasing its costs. Rising gas prices scared us, so Nixon instituted price controls. Then gas lines scared us and the price controls were lifted. All of a sudden, new sources showed up and there was plenty of gas and prices actually dropped. Oil spills scared us, so we pushed drilling out further and further from the shore line. That made drilling much more hazardous and increased the catastrophic scope of spills. Now we're so afraid of drilling we increasingly outsource it to other countries that aren't afraid of it.
- Our dependence on foreign sources for energy, rare earth metals and God knows what else has increased our strategic vulnerability. Our vulnerability to embargoes of strategic resources has increased our paranoia over what foreign countries can do to us. Therefore we have increasingly intervened in foreign conflicts. We have maintained foreign bases long past their useful lifetimes, just in case. We have maintained a huge military budget even though no ten nations on earth, combined, could hope to challenge us and survive. We have become like the proverbial elephant afraid of mice. Therefore, we have a military-industrial complex because we are afraid of missing opportunities to develop the next strategically decisive weapon, or we are afraid that important sectors of the developmental infrastructure will wither away due to lack of investment, etc., etc., etc.
- Unwanted pregnancy scares us. Therefore we have twisted our Constitution into knots in order to justify wresting the regulation of abortions from state control. Many of us are so afraid of losing the option to abort that we will protect the most extreme cases of abortion against all encroachments. Others of us have become so angry and frightened over abortions that we insist only the federal government is powerful enough to protect the unborn in our culture of death.
- Unfulfilled pregnancy also scares us. Therefore we have twisted the natural family into knots to ensure that every couple, or every single, desirous of reproducing themselves, can do so with the aid of technology. The war on infertility has, unfortunately, had its collateral damage in surplus embryos, embryos we were afraid to discard, so now we have huge frozen embryo banks. Others of us are so afraid of the subsequent objectification of human beings we are turning to the federal government for solutions like the human life amendment.
- Obesity scares us. Bullying scares us. Second hand smoke scares us. Salt scares us. Junk food scares us. Kids going hungry in school scares us. Johnny getting left behind scares us. IQ testing and tracking scare us. Competition scares us. Therefore, our schools, our restaurants and other public places have become laboratories for every Utopian social experimentation scheme imaginable, and only the federal government has the wisdom to regulate it all.
- Economic inequality scares us. Poverty scares us. Therefore we have welfare programs. Therefore we have state and federal funding and control of local schools. Therefore we have affirmative action programs with proportion-based goals. Therefore the bottom 50% don't pay federal taxes (except for F.I.C.A.) and income tax rates rise with income level. Therefore we have food, housing and energy subsidies. Only the federal government can manage it all. Charity no longer has a fundamental role to play.
- Name calling scares us. Even the truth scares us. Therefore we have a culture of political correctness. Therefore we are perpetually on the verge of criminalizing hate speech. Therefore we are perpetually on the verge of putting the public media in straight jackets.
- Political marginalization scares us. Therefore we insist prudent measures to avoid fraud automatically endanger voter participation. Therefore when members of minorities adopt atypical positions they are attacked as heretics. Therefore an open marketplace of ideas scares us because we want to make certain all voices are given a fair hearing.
- Business failure scares us, especially when it could mean the loss of savings or the loss of a job. Therefore we have bailouts. Therefore we have FDIC, FSLIC and NCUA. Therefore we have Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank. Therefore, we have relieved investors of the need for prudence, because now everything imaginable is regulated and "safe." Therefore, ironically, we have increased the likelihood of risky business behavior and systemic failure, while robbing the future of the capital needed to support technological innovation in order to finance increasingly onerous federal regulations.
- We are afraid that important investment opportunities in the economy will be neglected. Therefore government has become a major investor. Therefore we have targeted tax credits and other tax incentives. Therefore we have crony capitalism. Therefore we have a flourishing lobby business. Therefore we have revolving doors between government and industry.
Quite frankly, there isn't much in the above list that scares me. Even the possible loss of Social Security income doesn't scare me. What scares me, increasingly, is big government. What scares me, increasingly, is an economic and political system so paralyzed by "insurance" costs that no growth is possible, and, in fact, moral, economic and political collapse is inevitable.
Although these things scare me, I'm not paralyzed with fear. Rather than being an elephant afraid of a mouse, I'm like a mouse afraid of a drunken elephant. I just want to avoid being in the wrong place when the elephant inevitably comes crashing down to earth. And, I'm afraid for my fellow mice, especially the ones who can't see the drunken elephant.