Saturday, November 1, 2008

Where is the tipping point?

I survived this morning's ideological battle of me and Sam against Jas in pretty good spirits. When they left I was in a hopeful moment. In my hopeful moments I trust that our country will survive Barack Obama the way it survived Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon and Warren Harding, or at worst the way it survived the Civil War. In less hopeful moments I take solace that at worst our country will survive The One the way China survived its Great Helmsman.

You have to keep these contemporary events in perspective. What, after all, do fifty or a hundred lost years of relative poverty and despair matter in the great scheme of history. What difference does it make in the long run if the next miracle drug is discovered in 2010 or in 2110. Even the great wars and ideological cataclysms of the 20th century set back human progress by at most thirty or forty or fifty years.

Every system has a tipping point, a tipping point beyond which recovery is impossible in the short term. Like the tipping point in our cities which made the teacher's unions and the lawyers invulnerable and has thus condemned generations of kids in the inner cities to terrible schools and inability to compete in the general economy. It's no longer possible to repair the inner city schools because the interests of all the leaches and vultures feeding on the system outweigh the interests of the kids by so much that no politician can address the issue. Perspective helps as a curative to despair in recognizing that those bad educational systems in our cities have only destroyed the lives of a few million kids out of a couple of billion born in the world since our inner city schools became cesspools of interest group politics.

Somewhere out there is a tipping point where the interests and voting strength of those who depend on government for their bread and circuses and welfare outweigh the interests and voting strength of those who actually create the wealth by such a margin that the whole system spirals toward naked interest group politics. Liberals often rail at the selfishness of the rich; but they conveniently ignore the fact that the productive rich already contribute almost all of the taxes with which politicians buy votes, and the productive middle class contributes the rest. We are already at a point where half of the population contributes no taxes at all except to their own social security accounts, and most of the members of the lower half of the income distribution curve don't even fully support their own social security entitlement. More than half of our population is already on welfare to some extent.

And, having reached this situation, we have in Barack Obama a presidential candidate who wants to, as he says, "share the wealth;" even though our current system already shares the wealth to an extent unparalleled in history. Even though the productive half of the population already partly supports the third most productive quarter of the population and fully supports the least productive quarter, about half of which actually deserve welfare and about half of which are useless layabouts, able to work but too lazy to work.

At best Obama thinks the tipping point is out beyond the new taxes and entitlements he plans to implement. At worst he knows the tipping point is close and wants to drive the country over that tipping point in order to lead it into a new age of, who knows? Revolutionaries rarely have had a full understanding of where they want to lead their revolutions. This last is a harsh charge to believe, but it is fully consistent with his voting record since he joined the senate. And it is even more consistent with the sort of radical friends and supporters with which he surrounded himself before he began running for president.

Either way, regardless of what Obama believes; the tipping point is out there. I don't think he can lead the country over it, the system is pretty robust; but I don't know for sure except to say that I've never been more concerned.

What I mean by a tipping point is that at some point more and more of the productive can decide that creating more wealth, earning more income, is not worthwhile. Even worse, they can come to the point of view that the system is all about what you can get from government rather than about what you can create. The productive are not stupid. They can see which side of the bread is buttered and they're smart enough to create their own little pipelines to the government honeypot if they so choose.

Why work hard and earn and pay taxes when your neighbor works less and collects? Why work hard and pay your mortgage when your neighbor borrows and spends and then sees his mortgage paid for by the government? Why work hard and start a productive business that depends on real customers with choices when you can get a subsidy from the government and convert your business into a parasite that depends on government subsidies and customers who have no choices?

If you doubt this last think about all the farm state leaches and Washington political whores of both parties who have clamped their suckers onto the ethanol production and sales subsidies. That tipping point has already been passed. The interests of the ethanol leaches is now overwhelming, and the subsidies and mandates will never stop, even though the environmentalists who originally fostered ethanol subsidies now recognize that it was a bad path to go down. Every time you buy gasoline you're paying a little subsidy to some conglomerate that ought to be processing corm for food but instead is turning it into a poor additive for fuel.

Both parties are telling you that this election is the most important one in a generation. I'm not sure that's the case. But it just may be.

If you think I'm alarmist about this you may want to read Thomas Sowell's column to which I've linked below. Sowell has been an economist all his life, and he has made judicious good sense in every one of his columns that I've read, even if I haven't agreed with every single one of them.

Update: 77 84 79 ;<)


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more on that, it's reminiscent of one of my favorite books... Odd though, since I recall you having a foul opinion of Ayn Rand.

I'm not really sure still if I'll vote for Obama... if I still can't decide by tommorow, maybe I'll write you in instead.

Sully said...

Wow, you must have caught me on an odd day if I was negative about Ayn Rand. I liked both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged although I thought the latter could have used a tougher editor to make her cut down on some of the philosophizing. But, in retrospect I read it the first time in one long go siege of all-nighters back in college so it couldn't have been too tedious on first reading.

Contrary to having a foul opinion of Ayn Rand, I think Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for mid-teen alphas and betas, along with some of Heinlein, such as Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Interstingly, my wife and I were just talking about Atlas Shrugged the other evening. Something about Obama's rhetoric had brought out thoughts of it.

Anonymous said...

oh, so funny, I know quite a few persons that appreciate Ayn Rand, also Sowell

the frog