Comparisons to Europe: Where this comes up in any discussion, I always want to ask, Why? Why do we try to compare to Europe? For one thing America was primarily populated by the English first, and then a great many other Europeans who wanted a different way of life. A whole book (Reid) was written last year or so on the health care debate citing all manner of European systems of health care and how it works for them over there. Well, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t really. But, evidently THEY think it does because that’s what they’ve chosen to have. But, they have not chosen their systems independent of everything else in their society, in their economies. They’ve chosen what they have because of fundamental philosophies, because of history, because of patterns of thinking established countless generations ago. America is only some less than 300 years old. It began as a country wanting changes. It wanted religious change, it wanted economic change, and it wanted governmental change. These were not unreasonable desires.
Comparing to Europe may have some usefulness, but the automatic assumption that Europe has somehow been better derives from some logical fallacy, I have come to think. Firstly, looking at their woes over there, how successful have they been lately? Or even in the last century? Great portions of Europe could not even defend itself, and America stepped in for two world wars, and later wars to protect not only its own interests (although there is nothing wrong in that in itself) but the interests of the countries over there whether they realized they needed the backup or not! Europe is rapidly becoming something other than what it has always been because it cannot even sustain its culture. Mark Steyn, a gentleman of considerable intellect, wrote a book, America Alone, several years ago which I read and which widely opened my eyes. In it, among other discussions, he point out that Europe is rapidly losing its culture through attrition. Birth rates among native Europeans is rapidly declining and is below the 2.1 children per family (I believe that’s the number he used) to sustain itself without growth. Meanwhile, there has been a huge migration of Muslim peoples populating Europe and their birth rate is many times that of the native Europeans. So, very quickly, Europe is not going to look anything like it used to, as the new culture moving in is not acculturating to that of Europe but is simply expanding its own culture within Europe’s boundaries. And, like the frog in the slowly boiling pot, the Europeans haven’t been taking notice because they’ve gone complacent. There’s much more in the book, but of course, it is just Mr. Steyn’s take. He’s a Brit, incidentally, who now lives here.
I’m no great historian, and may even a poor one, although I am making it my business to pick up that area of my education that I was deprived of so many years ago. The thoughts I am expressing here are therefore, derived from the questions of an ignorant student. But, what good is a student without her questions? She’d not be a student at all.
Economic Philosophies: As above, America was founded upon certain ideals, among them the concept of a free market economy. That some other place does not entertain such a philosophy does not automatically make a Free Market Economy bad or wrong. Economists are all over the map, the spectrum, in principles and ideals, any one of which might work so long as there is agreement among the majority. But, there’s the rub. I can think immediately of five large sub-populations within this country who have great impact on our economy and what style of economy we favor or employ. Three big ones have been “nurtured” into antipathy to the free market system. Here’s the groupings as I see it, roughly:
1) Corporations, institutions, and small businesses: These are the entities which employ the people and provide goods and services needed by everyone. Without them, what country could survive at all? We’d all be foraging for food or planting and growing, and weaving our own clothing, and everything else we depend on industry comprised of corporations, institutions, and small businesses to provide more for all.
2) The employees of all of those companies and businesses, and the employees’ families.
Within #2 we have at least three groups who exist from historical major flubs engendered by the greater country over its lifespan to date:
a) Those who came from slavery, moved into inner cities, were unrecognized for many decades as equals to whites, and mostly lived in poverty with little assistance to come on par with their former masters. The transition was exceedingly too slow and our government was ill prepared to integrate them properly. Part of the preparation was, of course, the attitude toward them by the whites. The mentality of the three fifths vote, back of the bus, etc. Part of the problem had to have involved the lack of infrastructure to employ these people once emancipated. And, I am sure there is more that it takes little imagination to contemplate.
b) The Amerinds: We dumped them on “reservations.” We did this for two reasons I can speculate. First is that they themselves wanted to preserve their cultures. Well, truthfully, it would have been a gigantic learning curve for folks who’d never before even had the wheel, to leap to assimilation in a society that had known the thing for thousands of years. Another reason is that we probably didn’t want to assimilate these “savages.” So, we dumped them on our worst lands, the least utile lands, and gave them a pittance to subsist. While some assimilation has obviously occurred over the last 150 years or so, taking a drive through any reservation will show you that they still live in primitive conditions or squalor that rivals Soweto, South Africa.
c) Mexican immigration: Here we have the debacle of the century for this country. These folks came here in droves for employment and to better their existences and that of their families. (Neverminding for the moment, what we have now in drug and people smuggling as well.) They were given Amnesty when it was realized that the influx had got out of control and America was somewhat dependent on their presence. No one in government has confronted the immigration situation. They don’t know how to reconcile the needs of corporations, businesses, agriculture, and wherever else these folks have found their niche.
There is obviously, overlap among the groups. And very obviously, I have vastly simplified conditions and their vicissitudes for the sake of brevity. The three sub-groups, however, have been the most problematic in that we have not found ways to truly bring them out of indigence and into full assimilation. But, they VOTE! And some smart politicians have realized this such that gradually, over the decades, they have engendered programs that support a welfare economic state for these peoples, and also their own continued employment as politicians; they’ve done so whether through their own altruism, or knowingly for the power they reap.
There is yet another group to consider that is shaping our future, and that is government itself. It is expanding beyond comprehension. Somehow, government produces nothing yet expands itself exponentially. For every mandate it issues, government at local and state levels grows. And those employed in government live outside the rules it sets for everyone else, and they also vote.
Welfare, the wrong solution: Over the past century or so, our government has sought to deal with these latter three sub-groups (not including the government group) through welfare programs. And, those groups are growing, and at a much faster rate than those who support them. Our original culture of America is going the way of Europe and is only barely sustaining its birth rate to keep up, so in fact the supporter group (the majority tax-payers) is rapidly being overburdened. Welfare programs will, in my view, inevitably bring the death of any free market economy. I should add that I include in the general concept of welfare state any such programs as nationalized healthcare here, in this country. I do so because it seems to me that had we not mishandled the integration of these populations, they would not require nationalized healthcare, or healthcare paid for by others any more than I ever have, or you ever have.
So, when I see a discussion on equity in taxation or like matters, where people argue what percentage the “wealthy” should pay vs. the amount the poor should contribute to their own welfare . . . I tend to want to look more at the broader situation, because we’re never going to come to an agreement on those percentages. As long as a welfare continuum is being entertained, there will never be enough from the wealthy because the non-wealthy will always “need” more. They will think they need more because they do not have what the wealthy have, never thinking that a good many of those wealthy got what they have on their own blood, sweat and tears, or by their own ingenuity and hard work. I am not being crass or uncaring or uncompassionate here; I’m being practical. It’s not as though I think people are directly thinking this way, though there may be some who are. There are probably some who believe that anyone having come to wealth has necessarily come to it dishonestly or by greed. Or that they have come to their position of wealth only by having taken away from others. I am not wealthy, but do I believe that Bill Gates came to his wealth by taking from me? Of course not. I’m no Bill Gates, and I don’t have it in me to do whatever he did to come by his wealth. I am considering human nature. I am considering conditioning and indoctrination. A fair bit of human nature demonstrates to us that people, when done for by others will continue to expect this to continue. I have never been done for by others, never received any form of welfare, and was not raised to think that I deserved more than I myself have earned. Add generations of this pattern that has been developing in this country, and the concept of what are human rights balloons all out of proportion and all human needs are now considered human rights.
It is a condition that is unsustainable.
In effect, we are simply re-enslaving these people, and also now enslaving everyone else! To me, there must be a better way. One that truly brings these populations into parity with the rest, WITHOUT dragging down the infrastructure that made America what it was.
On compassion: I think true compassion requires taking the biggest, broadest view of our circumstances. To explain what I mean, I’ll cite this example . . . several years ago a horrible tragedy struck the gulf states. Hurricane Katrina came in and devastated a huge swatch of our southern states. They are still reeling from it there while now faced with a new disaster. Images of the devastation were all over the news for weeks and months. No one with a heart could help but feel sympathy and compassion for the victims of the disaster. Network reporters went over there and quickly became part of the disaster and ceased to be reporters. They were reporting THEIR own emotions in large part. Similarly, sometime last year or so, some bigshot insurance company executive went into some poverty stricken area in some southern state where a healthcare clinic function was being conducted. He saw long, long lines of people seeking care for whatever was ailing them and their children. His conscience gripped him like a vise and he suddenly decided that everything his company had been doing to remain in business (I think it was Aetna) and be profitable was unethical! He suddenly “got religion.” Meanwhile, in reality, his company may not have been representative of all the insurance industry; HE may not have been representative of all insurance company executives. So, he went into whistle-blower mode to alleviate his new-found conscience which in effect threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
Compassion, to my mind, means if you’re going to take on a problem, you have to analyze it, find root causes and systematically eradicate them. You can’t just go in flapping and making noise or “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” over and over because very shortly Paul will have run out of money!
A very small-scale personal level, though it was big for me, I once was assistant manager of a unit in the hospital in which I worked. The unit was poorly run by the manager and I observed patients suffering for lack of adequate care because of it. After some while of trying to pick up the slack myself, working my tail off, extra hours and at great sacrifice to my own health and costing my family my presence during what should have been my own time for them, I saw that what I was doing was insane and would never fix anything. I spent a weekend writing all my observations, in a comprehensive analysis and evaluating the situation from my intimate knowledge of the scene, and wrote it all up with recommendations in 40 pages which I submitted to the Director. As a result, the manager was canned, a committee was formed as a stop-gap measure until a new one could be found, equipment was obtained, errant support staff were gotten under control, and systems were implemented to provide better care to our patients.
From this little experience I learned that one does not effectively deal with a situation by becoming part of it, under the guise of compassion. One has to take the larger view from the outside, and above. A bird’s eye view, if you will. And one cannot piece-meal solve problems by just saying “Oh, that shouldn’t be! Let’s enact a new law that….” And continually take from those who apparently have to give to those who apparently do not, while never helping those who apparently do not, become more able to be one of those who apparently do.
I’ll leave it there for now.