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Monday, January 19, 2009

Hope for the kiddies?

This was forwarded to me from my 26 year old daughter from one of her friends.

I thought it so very very goood that I wanted a venue to post it.

One of the most amusing trends in the last few weeks is the tacky hipster cottage industry that has grown up around Barack Obama's coming inauguration. Music videos, movies, children's books and even Spider Man comics are being devoted to a middle aged guy who likes aregula, or however you spell it. This is the sort of faddish, teenage behavior usually reserved for American Idol stars or the protagonists in vampire films, not a guy whose main job will include speeches at General Mills about how the nation needs more fiber in its diet, and receiving briefings on monetary policy. If these are considered "cool" nowadays, then cool has really changed since I graduated high school, when just the RUMOR that you could read the Periodic Table was a guaranteed pounding – I bet Obama could get all the way to Nitrogen. But sure enough, artists, college kids and rappers – the very bedrock of society – swear by Obama's anti-authority, nonconformity, and novelty. Which shows how easy it will always be to fool people so young that to them, 10th helpings looks like fresh produce.

First lets tackle anti-authority. I often get lectures from Chapel Hill's finest minds about the dreadful effect of Christianity/talk radio/Fox News on the free-thinking of its adherents, listeners and viewers. The idea behind these articulations often seems to boil down to the notion that people who like government growth are go against the flow, nuanced, and original, but that people who disdain government growth are sheepish, chaw-spitting followers who probably haven't even seen Supersize Me. Basically, anyone standing in the way of Obama's desire to ratify more spending on one of several programs that already get 500 billion dollars must be a boring corporate fascist. This is really funny stuff, because there are few things more authoritarian than the ideas which construct the worldview of supporters of government growth.

First, the idea that vocally supporting the growth of the largest, most well-armed, surveillance-capable, bureaucratic entity in literally the history of time is somehow fighting the man is so wrong that new words would be needed to properly explain how wrong it is. It's zagongic, or even crumptilian. People who think they're being edgy or somehow fighting corporations by enabling (one might say embiggening) the growth and empowering of an entity that's much larger than any industry (let alone corporation) in the nation isn't radical – it's radically ignorant. Fueled by visions of mom and dad making them dress up to go to the Olive Garden, people my age have this bizarre idea that corporations and economists and the free market hold them in a stall, and that only the blessed and noble touch of government, a.k.a. coercion and force, can fight back against their wicked overlords. Wrong wrong wrong. The biggest corporation in America can't lift a finger against me if I refuse to buy its goods, or even if I start a campaign calling them fascists, murderers, or worse. How far do you think a citizen would get if they said those things about a high-ranking government official (particularly if they lived in Chicago)? Government can use force, government can take your wealth away, government is the man – not Walmart (unless the government bails it out), which sells you delicious pez by the bucketload. See that thing called a standing army? See that IRS? See those smoking and fireworks bans? If supporting the growth of these things makes you a revolutionary, then the 1960's are officially dead, and I will personally give a wedgie to the next teenager who campaigns in my doorway. He'll probably cry all over his Che shirt. Growing the government is authoritarian, growing the responsibility of citizens is anti-authority. Obama is not anti-authority.

Some of my favorite morons were the people telling me in 2004 how Bush and Cheney would take over and never give up power, aided by their evil…guns and tax cuts. That's brilliant; Bush and Cheney are fascists who are going to take over with…their shrunken government and armed populace? If you want to run an authoritarian state, you need huge bureaucracies, high taxes, and a monopoly on guns – the very opposite of what Bush promised (ironically, many people still think Bush, who grew government faster than anyone except LBJ, is a shining model of a conservative/libertarian – these are people who DO know how to spell aregula, but tend not to know what the Z in the Nazi acronym stands for). Obama appears to be one of these people.

A second amusing tidbit is the idea that Obama is promoting nonconformity. Let's say that you asked a bunch of Tobacco scientists whether smoking was deadly and they denied it. Would you take them at face value? No, because their pay depends on them agreeing with Philip Morris and toeing the line. Now, say you take a bunch of free citizens who supposedly value freedom and independent-mindedness, and make them dependent on the government for public education, social…er, universal health care, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies, bailouts, license plates, zoning documents, and restaurant sanitation scores. These are our paragons of freedom and rebelliousness? You take 300 million individuals with their own dreams and goals and hopes and you give them all the same state-run monopolies to solve problems, and that's diverse and nonconformist? Intriguing. Far from promoting individuality, the government tends to promote dependence on a uniform, one-size-fits-all mentality. Taken too far, the government is a pusher and people who want it to grow are its loyal junkies, who need its product daily to function. "Steal this Book" should be reprinted in a new edition as "Filing Form 1240A while Saving a Bundle." Anti-corporation types love to accuse the rich of being under the sway of private sector money, but seem oblivious to the fact that once the government controls your medicine, your guns, and your income, you're a bought and paid for man or woman – you'll follow orders, or you'll pay. Just ask the Cubans.

Once you depend on the government (i.e. your neighbors) for your most important provisions, you have practically zero scope to talk about being hip and deviant – essentially, you're in an early nursing home, but with fewer transfats to choose from. This is what makes our university's abundance of "free-thinking" big-government supporting youngsters so gleefully amusing – by demanding that everyone in the U.S. get the same medicine, more similar salaries, the same education, they're supporting the ultimate conformity. C'mon guys, let's listen to our college professors and all deviate – the same exact way. At least our parents wrote some good music when they went through their "phase". Could this be the first time in history that parents (who nowadays actually are worried about getting enough fiber in their diets) are cooler than their kids? Obama seems to be counting on it. Sounding hip on The Daily Show doesn't make you a rebel, letting people choose their lives like adults and tolerating them when they choose poorly makes you a rebel, at least in this day and age.

The most incredible positive trait linked to Obama is that he is a novel agent in politics, a notion based, as best I can tell, on the fact that he is young and has a change-themed campaign slogan which he purloined from someone else (I'll be generous here and assume that no one voted for him because of his new skin color, which would be properly described as "racism"). I assume the above, because his policy proposals, which in their simplest form become, "the man in charge takes your things by force and uses them to maintain political power" are as old as the first tribal chieftain. Autocrats, both kind and wicked, petty and powerful, have been using taxes and the power over people they can buy to hold power since there were people, sometimes by trading in soldiers and sometimes by trading in universal health care. But the result is the same – you can get enough of the people to support you by fear or by reliance to keep yourself and your buddies in charge. In its most grisly incarnations, we call this tyranny. But even in its kinder form, which we call democracy, it is leadership based on force and taking. A man who grabs in 4 year intervals grabs just as surely as one who does it for life. Obama is just one in a great lineage of grabbers; there is nothing new here.

The real tragedy of democracy as practiced by men like Obama is that because the threats and the force come from 51% of the people, they are obscured as such. Even if Obama and his pals (who probably by and large drink their own soup, and mean well) benefit greatly from reallocations, this will be obscured in the good that comes of the trillions of dollars that will be taken from some and given to others. But the fact that it DID get taken from some, the fact that each dollar taken destroyed more than a dollar somewhere else (because it had to go through the government bureaucracies), means that in the aggregate, damage and not good was done. Some poor were helped, more were hurt. And the help was paid for with blood money of sorts, taken involuntarily from funds that might have gone to retirement, or college tuitions for kids…no amount of description can adequately deride the shell and ball game that is government redistribution, which can be new only in form, not content.

So Obama isn't all he's cracked up to be, despite Marvel Comics' attempt to cash in on his inauguration. Should we cry about it? No, because it's actually great news. The minute one realizes that the government can't really help you (or if it does only in an erratic, corrupt, and dependency-inducing fashion), then you revert to being a private citizen instead of a zombie. All the things the government claims it can do for you or for the poor people you care about, you can do better.

Because you live in a (mostly) free market, you are free to do the one thing that has ever helped the poor without making people poor somewhere else: create jobs. Not by government fiat, but via some new idea – a novel semiconductor, a new food, a new book, a new social networking site. By figuring out a way to do more with less, you increase what is called productivity – you make the pie itself larger, rather than simply changing the relative size of the slices. These things, not Obama's policies, are what is fresh and new in America, except these things are always fresh and new. We don't need an election for the free market to function – it's simply a codephrase for free people, and they're always making life better for us behind the scenes, regardless of what your professor told you.

You can do charity better than the government too, because you can decide who gets it and who doesn't, who needs it truly and who is simply gaming the system. You will do microfinance, you will do faith-based recovery programs, you will do secular dressed-for-success programs, you will give no charity because you're too busy working 80 hour weeks as an inventor and advancing technology, which has done more to help the material state of the needy than all the good intentions and charitable organizations the stout-hearted ever dreamed up – and that's no insult, because functionally you want both to exist. By solving problems that government zombies said couldn't be done without force and threats from above, you will be showing yourself to be a greater nonconformer than Obama and his gaggle of dunderheads ever will, and you didn't even have to spend half your life getting elected to do it.

The greatest finger into the eye of authority in our time is found almost entirely outside of politics – it is the life of the citizen who is content to enjoy the blessings of freedom while being unenvious of the rich, unsupportive of entitlement yet gracious in private givings, steadfast in private principles and religion yet tolerant of deviation, and free to enjoy God, family, and countless constructive pursuits. Reliance on government is the great corrosive to this way of thriving, and pity, not anger, is due to those not yet amongst its detractors

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