The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Beast that is government

Last night I went to bed with thoughts of government being also put to bed. That is, thinking there would be a government shutdown. One side crying about how such a thing would put widows and orphans in the street, murder old people, and expand the ranks of the poor a thousand-fold. The other side crying that none of that is true and the country can no longer afford to provide the poor with filet mignon and truffles.

Somewhere, in between those two positions, is the truth. How you view the two positions (and the current fiscal situation) depends heavily on your political ideology and the amount of fervor with which you hold that ideology.

As I pumped $3.69 per gallon gas (cheapest I could find in my area) into my 5 year old car, I pondered what a government shutdown might mean to me, how it might affect my daily life. I don't make enough money anymore for taxes to impact me severely. I am on Social Security now but any delays in that will not impact me beyond mere inconvenience (because I do not live from SS check to SS check). I will be going on Medicare soon but not for months and things should be worked out by then. I am not planning a visit a national park or museum anytime soon. And so on. The fear mongering from one side, therefore, is not very effective. And it sounds like the old "Chicken Little" syndrome.

On the other side, I thought about those folks who are very dependent on the government functioning. A friend of mine back in Palm Beach County pretty much subsisted on his Social Security income. he had once been an almost wealthy man. He had owned some small apartment complexes, had a small construction firm, traveled far and wide on vacations, lived well, and easily put his son through college. But his wife came down with a brain cancer and all of their savings, and more, went for her care, vainly trying to keep her alive and rid her of the cancer. He was left broke and depressed. His son and he were estranged over his daughter-in-law's dislike for her mother-in-law. If he was alive today, a government shutdown might have been hard on him. Mostly because his pride would have prevented him from turning to his son for help.

On the outside, I am all calloused and hard. On the inside, I am mush. Like most of us, I try not to think of those struggling to get by. Not because I am indifferent to their plight but because I cannot do much to help them. I am not in a position of power, I have no political influence to speak of, and I am therefore limited.

Over the years, my life has been one of change. After leaving home as a teenager I had, at times, been poor and in need of help from family largess. From there I advanced to a position where I could help other family members. I see that journey as fairly typical. My charitable nature is tempered by a cynicism that is both inherent and learned. I knew a number of people in the 60's and early 70's that milked the system. They took advantage of it even as they decried it. I also knew sincere and honest people who believed in helping others and sacrificed to do so but these were a much smaller number.

As a student of history, I knew I lived in an America that was so much better off than even my parents' day that it sometimes amazed them. I knew that our poor were middle class by the standards of most of the world. I had traveled to poor countries, I had met people who lived day to day on what they could scrape from trash bins and lived in slapped together shacks. I was, and remain, grateful that I was born in this country.

I do not want it brought down. We cannot feed the world. We cannot be the world's police and we shouldn't want to be. The police are usually hated and feared once a crisis is past. And vilified for not preventing what they cannot prevent.

So do I think a government shutdown would have been bad, a horror, a misery we could not comprehend? No. It would have been an inconvenience. No one would have died because of it. And it might have given us a wake up call. We could use one. We teeter on the edge of chaos, of fiscal collapse, after all.

If America falls, or withdraws from the world stage, some other country would take its place. Think of who that might be.

1 comment:

Tony said...

we were just told on Friday that we would be funded for another six weeks so if there was a shut-down it would not affect us too much unless it went over the six weeks.