Easy Choices, Weak Nation… Hard Choices, Strong Nation
The dire consequences of the government trying to make everything idiot-proof.
There’s a famous quote by Jerzy Gregorek that imparts an amazing amount of information about how to be successful in life in very few words:
So, what does this mean? It means the easier you try to make your life, the harder it’s going to be. For example, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a column on Reddit’s anti-work subreddit, which is mostly just lazy bums complaining about the fact that life is hard, and they’re expected to work. If you wanted to sum up their attitude in a single meme, this would do just fine:
Of course, that is the easy choice. Do just enough to get by, collect your paycheck, and take a “screw the boss” attitude. Let’s be honest, at one time or another in our lives, most of us have probably done that at a job. However, what are the long-term ramifications of that attitude? You end up stuck in a lousy job until you can’t stand it, quit, and move on to another crap job that will probably pay about the same.
On the other hand, if you make the hard choice and show up on time, work hard, and bust your butt, you have a good chance of getting a raise, learning new skills, or getting a promotion. Then, you’re in a much better spot in the job you’re at or if you move on to another job.
Most of life works this way. Think about hard choices and easy choices in regard to exercise, your marriage, your kids, saving money, what you eat, friendships, church, what you do with your free time, etc., etc., etc. The most worthwhile results usually take the most time, effort, and will. Not every good choice is extremely difficult, but it at least usually takes more effort than the alternative.
Think about something like sitting at home, ordering a pizza, and watching Netflix instead of going out with your friends. It’s a lot easier to veg out at home in sweatpants than it is to dress up, drive across town, and hang out with your friends. However, which one will probably be a better time? Which one will build your relationships with your friends? Which one is more likely to produce a memorable experience? Which one gives you the opportunity to meet new people who might make your life better?
One result will consistently produce better outcomes over time than the other one and it almost always ends up being the harder choice.
Life is full of decisions like this. Do you know where else we see decisions like this being made on a regular basis? In GOVERNMENT.
What’s right and good for the country isn’t the same thing as what’s simple, easy to do, or what sounds good. There are an endless number of examples of this, but one of the best recent ones is the 40 billion dollars we’re sending to Ukraine. Every man, woman, and child in the United States is going roughly $121 dollars into debt to send money to a country that isn’t going to pay us back and that isn’t our ally in any meaningful sense.
Given that Ukraine is a deeply corrupt country, we can be sure that a significant amount of that money will be stolen and wasted. It may be in America’s strategic interest to see Russia’s invasion fail, but is it worth 40 billion dollars? Many people would say “no” and it doesn’t even guarantee that Ukraine will win against Russia. It’s basically just, “Ukraine’s the hot current thing, 40 billion sounds like a nice, round number and it’s all Monopoly Money that no one in Congress will have to pay back personally, so why not?”
This is the result of decade after decade of “easy” choices being made by our government. Over the long haul, many of these easy choices have had lasting repercussions. For example, did you know national welfare programs started under FDR and Social Security didn’t begin until 1935? So, you may be wondering what people did before that. It was certainly a harder system:
A federal welfare system was a radical break from the past. Americans had always prided themselves on having a strong sense of individualism and self-reliance. Many believed that those who couldn't take care of themselves were to blame for their own misfortunes. During the 19th century, local and state governments as well as charities established institutions such as poorhouses and orphanages for destitute individuals and families. Conditions in these institutions were often deliberately harsh so that only the truly desperate would apply.
Local governments (usually counties) also provided relief in the form of food, fuel, and sometimes cash to poor residents. Those capable were required to work for the town or county, often at hard labor such as chopping wood and maintaining roads. But most on general relief were poor dependent persons not capable of working: widows, children, the elderly, and the disabled.
...By 1933, mother's pension programs were operating in all but two states. They varied greatly from state to state and even from county to county within a state. In 1934, the average state grant per child was $11 a month. Administered in most cases by state juvenile courts, mother's pensions mainly benefitted families headed by white widows.
…Few private and government retirement pensions existed in the United States before the Great Depression. The prevailing view was that individuals should save for their old age or be supported by their children. About 30 states provided some welfare aid to poor elderly persons without any source of income. Local officials generally decided who deserved old-age assistance in their community.
After decades of paying into and getting used to the easier system we live under, even the most diehard conservatives would be strongly against going back to a system like that. It’s too hard, it’s too tough, it’s too unforgiving. But what are the consequences of America’s choice to move to an easier system? Well, we’re going broke and Social Security along with Medicare (which is a product of similar thinking that started in 1965) is mostly responsible for it.
Although I doubt that Social Security and Medicare will ever be discontinued, over the next two or three decades, it seems highly likely that the payouts for both programs will drop so much by necessity that people won’t be able to live on them anymore. Additionally, a shocking 64% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck today. A big part of the reason for that is many Americans feel no pressure to save for their retirement because they errantly believe the government will take care of them when they’re old.
Certainly, the divorce rate in America is much higher because our government has stepped in to fill the role of provider for single mothers with kids, which flat out made husbands less necessary. That “strong sense of individualism and self-reliance” that served America so well in her history has also dramatically eroded.
Is our current system EASIER than it used to be? Unquestionably. Is it better? If your first concern is having a strong, healthy country, the answer is probably, “no.”
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