Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beyond Tea Parties and UKIPs

It's jolly good fun to see that UKIP and its pubbable leader Nigel Farage tearing up the pavement in Britain over the weekend. Farage is a poster boy for the old working class man who said: "I like a drink and I like a smoke." But UKIP is rather like the Tea Party.  It's mad as hell, but don't touch its Medicare (or its NHS).

Look, I get it.  People work their entire lives paying those unjust payroll taxes; they see drifters and grifters playing the system for all the freebies they can get and they are damned if they are going to give their share up to some iffy reform of Social Security that tosses them to the mercies of the Wall Street casino.

(Only isn't it interesting that the S&P has practically doubled and the NASDAQ has practically tripled on Obama's watch while the ordinary working stiff can barely find a job. Yea the 1%, Barack!)

But Social Security and Medicare and the NHS are the problem, people.  Not the banksters or the frackers or the special interests or even the welfare moms and the idle single males.

The problem is as old as Eve.  The Serpent tempted me, and I did eat.  The politicians dangled free stuff before me, and I did vote.

Back in the dawn of the modern age, when the feudal system was breaking up in England in the 13th century, almost everyone kicked their kids out of the house at puberty.  They went into an apprenticeship or they went into "service".  They had to find a way to contribute, to earn a living wage; they were, to coin a phrase, "on their own."

We now know that a similar, but harsher, system obtained in China where the feudal system broke down in about 500 AD.  The Chinese owned their own land and distributed their land among their sons, so if you had more than one son the next generation ended up with less land per head.  If you didn't work hard and acquire more land your sons ended up without enough land to marry on.  Then they became hired laborers and never married and your seed died out.

It's the system I call responsible individualism.  Lefties call it Social Darwinism.  But in truth all human society, as all nature, is a form of Darwinism. Only the adaptable survive.  It might be social adaptation; it might be genetic adaptation.  But the rule of life is: adapt or die.

So the responsible individual has to grasp the nettle.  He has to say, first thing every morning: how can I contribute?  He cannot say, first thing: I got my rights!  The point about social cooperation is social cooperation, not social distribution.

Now, in his Capitalism in the Twenty-first Century Thomas Piketty proudly rehearses the intergenerational solidarity of the welfare state, which he calls the "social state" or the European Social Model.  In his social state the young generation pay for the benefits of the old generation, and this is wonderful.

No it isn't, because this social solidarity is based on force, on the votes of the elderly to force the young 'uns to pay brutal taxes.  It says: I got my rights; I got mine coming.  You call it social solidarity?  If you ask me, it isn't social, and it isn't solid.

Here is my idea of intergenerational solidarity.  The middle-aged work.  And they work until they have saved enough of a pile to provide a retirement income. (OK some people just cannot do that and we help them.)  This means, on a societal level, that you cannot retire until you have created enough jobs for young people to support you in your old age.  If there's a war or there's a recession, and the stock market is in the tank, then you have to put off your retirement for a few years.  That is what I call intergenerational solidarity; that's what I call generational justice.  People work to contribute; they don't march for their "rights."

So long as we continue in our politics to emphasize rights, and so long as we Eves allow the political serpents to tempt us, so long will our nation lurch from crisis to crisis.

The current "free stuff" political model is a primitive throwback to the age of agriculture and the hunter gatherers before the industrial revolution where land was wealth, and rape and pillage was the way to get a leg up in a zero-sum world.  But today people are wealth: human ingenuity and cooperation.  In Britain they began to really see this at the end of the 17th century in the Glorious Revolution where Whigs and Tories divided over the source of national wealth.  Tories thought in terms of land and its limits; Whigs thought that the new manufacturing and trade was a source of perhaps unlimited wealth.  Guess who was right?

We are still having that argument today.  Do we divide out a fixed pie in political programs and benefits?  Or do we work together as free and independent individuals to create new and bigger pies of perhaps unlimited size?

The good thing about the Obama administration is that you probably couldn't imagine a better way to demonstrate the utter bankruptcy of the fixed pie paradigm.

But don't think that rights and benefits politics will just go Poof! in 2016.  The story of the dog in the manger wasn't written as a joke.  The world is full of manger dogs, blindly barring the way to prosperity, because.  People will not give up their free stuff until ruin is staring them in the face.

But at least in 2016 the American people will be thinking: It's Time for a Change.

No comments:

Post a Comment