The Sharing of Miseries

On my birthday -- the real one in 1956, not the anniversaries of it which I try hard to miscount -- all government spending in this country (and I do mean all of it: federal, state, and local spending down to the meter maids ticketing 3400 lb. Chevy Bel Airs) was 26% of national income, mostly for national defense. Non-defense spending was 12% at all levels.

Importantly, 1956 was no beacon year for the limited role of government.  To get one of those liberty-loving, laissez faire kind of years you need to go back to Coolidge or perhaps even earlier, before mush-brained grand planners like Woodrow Wilson had their grip on the throttle of possibilities for good government. 1956 was, however, a year of prosperity, with a growing middle class and some very wealthy people, before the seeds of socialism sown decades earlier had grown into the choking weeds they are now.

Today, in the span of one man's life (mine has already exceeded the expectancy of anyone coming here from the Old World in the 17th century) we've seen nothing grow without restraint as much as Government.  Our nation spends an astonishing 43% of its output on government of all forms, only 4.3% of which is for defense--including the high cost of real wars we are now waging. That's a surge to near-serfdom in 5 short decades.   Government has become King in America, and we are its subjects. Government isn't finished with us yet, either.  The Government has made promises to spend even more of our treasure in future generations, committing us to helpful programs of retirement, medical care, and more that are worth many multiples of our national output.

When the colonists began arriving here from the old world they had no such promises. They met challenges that were frightful but natural, with horizons nearly unlimited. In a wild land where survival alone was daunting, there were few blessings to share, besides near-total freedom from the stifling monarchies across the waves to the east. With little but freedom to spur them on, they made of life what they wanted it to be. Brave souls to whom we owe all of our best heritage dug in, labored, and prospered.  Possessing a bounty of resources, and soon a republic committed to individual freedom, this new land became for our predecessors a wealth of opportunity, where the blessings and capabilities of mankind soared like never before.

Today a Chevy Malibu still weighs 3400 lbs., but the weight of government has assumed Mack Truck proportions.  Why did we do it? What existential threat was so dire that we, in the words of Dostoyevsky, laid our freedom at their feet and said to our rulers: feed us?

These man-made burdens heaped upon my children are loathsome.  Blessings in such feudal states as ours flow unequally to the favored, as is so much in evidence today. TARPS and bailouts, incentives and waivers, subsidies and protections--what rich veins to mine for government gold!  What treacherous sailing for men seeking the strong breezes of freedom! The generations entering this economy now will be destined for constant compromise with powerful governments (assuming we avoid cataclysmic default and societal collapse--not necessarily a given). Government will be all over them, in every form of their endeavors, to extract what is necessary to keep feeding its mouth, regardless of their chosen field of enterprise.

If the country's brightest producers choose to go John Galt, and leave this mess for better locales (as in the increasingly non-fictional Atlas Shrugged), may God help the remainder of us -- there will be much equality of misery to share.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."--Winston Churchill
On my birthday -- the real one in 1956, not the anniversaries of it which I try hard to miscount -- all government spending in this country (and I do mean all of it: federal, state, and local spending down to the meter maids ticketing 3400 lb. Chevy Bel Airs) was 26% of national income, mostly for national defense. Non-defense spending was 12% at all levels.

Importantly, 1956 was no beacon year for the limited role of government.  To get one of those liberty-loving, laissez faire kind of years you need to go back to Coolidge or perhaps even earlier, before mush-brained grand planners like Woodrow Wilson had their grip on the throttle of possibilities for good government. 1956 was, however, a year of prosperity, with a growing middle class and some very wealthy people, before the seeds of socialism sown decades earlier had grown into the choking weeds they are now.

Today, in the span of one man's life (mine has already exceeded the expectancy of anyone coming here from the Old World in the 17th century) we've seen nothing grow without restraint as much as Government.  Our nation spends an astonishing 43% of its output on government of all forms, only 4.3% of which is for defense--including the high cost of real wars we are now waging. That's a surge to near-serfdom in 5 short decades.   Government has become King in America, and we are its subjects. Government isn't finished with us yet, either.  The Government has made promises to spend even more of our treasure in future generations, committing us to helpful programs of retirement, medical care, and more that are worth many multiples of our national output.

When the colonists began arriving here from the old world they had no such promises. They met challenges that were frightful but natural, with horizons nearly unlimited. In a wild land where survival alone was daunting, there were few blessings to share, besides near-total freedom from the stifling monarchies across the waves to the east. With little but freedom to spur them on, they made of life what they wanted it to be. Brave souls to whom we owe all of our best heritage dug in, labored, and prospered.  Possessing a bounty of resources, and soon a republic committed to individual freedom, this new land became for our predecessors a wealth of opportunity, where the blessings and capabilities of mankind soared like never before.

Today a Chevy Malibu still weighs 3400 lbs., but the weight of government has assumed Mack Truck proportions.  Why did we do it? What existential threat was so dire that we, in the words of Dostoyevsky, laid our freedom at their feet and said to our rulers: feed us?

These man-made burdens heaped upon my children are loathsome.  Blessings in such feudal states as ours flow unequally to the favored, as is so much in evidence today. TARPS and bailouts, incentives and waivers, subsidies and protections--what rich veins to mine for government gold!  What treacherous sailing for men seeking the strong breezes of freedom! The generations entering this economy now will be destined for constant compromise with powerful governments (assuming we avoid cataclysmic default and societal collapse--not necessarily a given). Government will be all over them, in every form of their endeavors, to extract what is necessary to keep feeding its mouth, regardless of their chosen field of enterprise.

If the country's brightest producers choose to go John Galt, and leave this mess for better locales (as in the increasingly non-fictional Atlas Shrugged), may God help the remainder of us -- there will be much equality of misery to share.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."--Winston Churchill

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