Ring out the new, ring in the old.
No, hang on, that should be the other way around, shouldn’t it? Not as far as 2011 was concerned. The year began with a tea-powered Republican caucus taking control of the House of Representatives and pledging to rein in spendaholic government. It ended with President Obama making a pro forma request for a mere $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling. This will raise government debt to $16.4 trillion — a new world record! If only until he demands the next debt-ceiling increase in three months’ time.
At the end of 2011, America, like much of the rest of the Western world, has dug deeper into a cocoon of denial. Tens of millions of Americans remain unaware that this nation is broke — broker than any nation has ever been. A few days before Christmas, we sailed across the psychological Rubicon and joined the club of nations whose government debt now exceeds their total GDP. It barely raised a murmur — and those who took the trouble to address the issue noted complacently that our 100 percent debt-to-GDP ratio is a mere two-thirds of Greece’s. That’s true, but at a certain point per capita comparisons are less relevant than the sheer hard dollar sums: Greece owes a few rinky-dink billions; America owes more money than anyone has ever owed anybody ever.
If this does not worry you, then you are definitely in that "cocoon of denial." The US is playing a game of "let's pretend" and almost everyone in political power is happily closing their eyes to reality.
Because America has finally reached the point where telling the truth--even suggesting that we talk about the truth-- about our financial situation is political suicide.
Look at how quickly Paul Ryan was demonized after he made some fairly reasonable suggestions about Medicare.
Old people are up in arms at the thought (even though Ryan did not suggest it) that their entitlements might be cut. Young people are camping out in public parks, aimlessly demanding even more entitlements and free stuff.
Middle aged people are mostly going to work every day trying to make ends meet. Some of them believe the hype about the "99% vs 1%" when they aren't dreaming of becoming one of the 1%.
But it isn't really 99% vs 1%. It's come down to the 50% vs 50%.
50% of this country works hard and produces. The other 50% are what Ayn Rand called "looters"-- these are people who basically believe the idea that their “economic self-interest” means voting yourself a share of your neighbor’s earnings.
Those who have resisted entering the warm and comforting cocoon of denial understand that real "economic self-interest" dictates behavior quite different from the entitled, childish and destructive looter mentality.
The absolute last thing that those in the cocoon of denial are concerned about is economic self-interest. Rather, they always see economics as a zero-sum game:
In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth weren't really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to the magical combination of individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law. And then get the hell out of the way.
And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the "boom or bust" cycle [oops!], to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity are the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional envy....
In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, a focus on the future instead of the present, and an understanding that economic exchange isn't a zero-sum game....
For the vast majority of human beings, liberty is not a particularly important value, much less the most important one. They would just as soon barter it away for security, as they have done in western Europe.
Once you understand this, then much about the left begins to make sense. In Europe, we can see how the welfare state puts in place a system of incentives that creates a new kind of enfeebled man, but that's not exactly correct. In reality, it simply reveals man for what he is -- a lazy, frightened, selfish, superstitious, instinct-loving and lowdown rascal. Leftism aims low and always reaches its target.
Not only does the left "aim low", their fundamental economic assumption is that the only way to get wealth is to steal it from someone else because they cannot imagine how to create it.
The looter simply cannot imagine running out of other peoples' money. For them, "hope and change" means finding newer, more improved ways of stealing it.
Thus, all their political policies are imbued with an infantile economic primitivism. Like modern cavemen (whose cave is the cocoon they have created with their denial of reality) their only real strategy is brute force in the old days it was easy: Ug hits Grog over the head with his big club to get his "rightful" share of nuts and berries. In our modern progressive society, Ug elects people like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank and Barack Obama who will disguise the force and pass laws to force Grog to give Ug his "rightful" share of nuts and berries.
Unlimited nuts and berries for all! All the time! Forever!
This is the the looter mentality. It is the mentality of the parasite who wants the benefits of wealth without the effort of having to create any; who is always demanding "his 'fair' share" of wealth without the necessity of providing any value to anyone. Looters are people who think that wealth just appears out of nothingness and that it is perfectly justifiable to steal it from someone else, since it is a zero-sum game; and therefore it is a matter of "social justice" to redistribute it according to their whim.
Their redistribution plans have become more sophisticated and "progressive" than Ug's, but follow the same basic principle.
This is why the political left's economic policies (and not a few on the political right have bought into it) almost always end up enabling and exposing the worse and most brutish aspects of human nature.
Curiously, or perhaps not so much, these are almost always the same people who are always coming up with some new, improved utopian scheme that promises a veritable paradise of human love, compassion, kindness and brotherhood; along with free medical care, free food, free houses, free education, free everything!
Perhaps, the best answer to that question is that, when it comes to themselves, the looters of both the left and the right are constitutionally unable to understand or accept the dark side of their own natures with any degree of clarity, let alone honesty.
That's why I found this column of interest this morning--about how to deal honestly with one's self.
The squalid utopian fantasies of socialism, communism and the "redistribution of wealth" (a fancy way of saying to someone, "give me what you've got", while pointing a gun at them) appeals to people who refuse to acknowledge their own human imperfections, and hence their own capacity for evil.
We've reached a tipping point in our society where about 50% of the population are so firmly wrapped in that cocoon of denial, they are entirely capable of inflicting great evil on others.
They don't want to admit it too openly, but these deniers tend to see themselves as superior; above all those boring, ordinary human beings around them-- you know, the presumed neanderthals who "cling" to their guns and religion? The 50% who want to redistribute the other 50%'s wealth see themselves as more virtuous, more compassionate, more intelligent; and of course, much better qualified to decide what's best for lesser beings like you and me.
In essence, the psychological denial so rampant in our culture today is extremely psychologically attractive and amazingly comforting to those who embrace it. But the only "hope and change" it spawns is envy, entitlement, and a host of other negative and sadistic human traits. And, along the way,it promotes a cult of victimhood and generates the identity politics with which we are now very familiar.
Contrary to leftist dogma, economic self-interest is not a matter of race or gender or age victimhood--or victimhood pimping of any kind. It is not a matter of "oppressor" versus "oppressed"; nor of "social justice"--it is a matter of supporting the freedom of the individual mind the fountainhead from which all wealth is created.
The wealth of any individual not only benefits him or her, but also ultimately benefit everyone else in a free society because it slowly and inexorably pulls all up to a higher standard of living.
In a free society, wealth is never a zero-sum game; it is constantly created and exchanged; but in the Looter Utopia of Obama, where the looter mentality reigns, whatever wealth is created by those able to produce it is confiscated by brute force.
Ultimately, this process is able to continue only until all those who are able to produce are prevented (for the sake of society! for the children!) from producing. Then, the creation of wealth ceases, since the very process has been killed by the looters.
Ultimately, the Looter Utopia ends up enshrining and enabling human barbarism, ensuring that we all return to the cave--or, in our present situation, the comforting cocoon of denial.
As Steyn says, "The sooner we recognize the 20th-century entitlement state is over, the sooner we can ring in something new. The longer we delay ringing out the old, the worse it will be. Happy New Year?"
What will your choice be in 2012?