The Black Friday Effect

Their eyes flashed with mindless rage under the glow of fluorescent lights as a store full of bargains on clothing and electronics lay before them.  Not content to wait until the opening of Walmart at 5 AM, the mob stormed the front doors, trampling store employees, as the locked doors buckled against the surge of people.  In the aftermath, a pregnant woman was hospitalized, and a man was killed.  This was the scene in Valley Stream, New York on the morning following Thanksgiving 2008.

If people could react this way to Black Friday sales, what awaits us at the hour of our economic reckoning?  With no intention in Washington of curbing deficit spending, the path has been paved for taxation and inflation.  A real national dialogue is needed to avert reliving the ongoing calamities of the European Union and the Icarian arrogance of its cradle-to-grave social policy.

If our politicians were honest with us, the discussions in town halls would focus on preserving liberty and economic solvency.  Instead the demagogues blame our woes on inequality, banks, and the rich.  The elderly are led to doubt the future of Social Security and Medicare.  With our fates tied so closely with government, we dangle on the ends of puppet strings.

We are dissuaded from the embrace of a common American interest, and many use our balkanization as the path to power.  Mobs are turned against mobs, fed lies, and fueled by fear and anger.  Our fight for plunder encourages the expansion of government.  A credit here, a benefit there, and the shadow of the federal specter grows.

These harmful promises have laid waste to our economy and corrupted the spirit of our great nation.  We've become accustomed to identifying with groups for their collective lobbying power.  We place our specific and divided visions above the rights of life, liberty, and property.  Our productive capacity has been progressively funneled into an ever-growing central authority.  Surely we can agree to shed the trappings of our political interests and end the dogpile on the taxpayer.

Unless, of course, you're ugly.  In his New York Times article "Ugly?  You May Have a Case," economics professor Daniel S. Hamermesh examines the consequences of being unattractive.  Backed by decades of research, he argues this "injustice" warrants financial relief and the establishment of a federally protected class.  He insists this "new legal frontier" is a forgone policy conclusion.

It has become a fool's errand for some economists to establish a theoretical utopia of equalized outcomes.  How long will our society continue to sever one head of the hydra before we realize the futility?  Instead of putting the brakes on social engineering, academics demand more impediments to this inflationary, slow-growth economy.  Their ideal is a system of central planners and scientists using redistribution schemes to "solve" any and all perceived inequities.  This unsustainable model ignores individuality and uses the coercive power of the state to herd us toward statistical averages.

When government grants protected status to groups of individuals, it makes them legal adversaries to free enterprise and saddles all business decisions with a burden of proof.  This ongoing trend has placed political goals and special interest above a legitimate function of government -- the protection of private property.

Should the policies of a business owner conflict with the views of society, the free market takes action.  If punishment comes slowly, or not at all, then consumers have given those policies a low priority.  But few have the patience for the speed of the market, and many don't trust that it works.  The instant impact of federal force is awfully seductive, and most observers have moved on before the consequences are truly seen.

Our national government engages in income and power redistribution, and ignores the concept of equality under the law.  It legalizes, even promotes a sense of entitlement, and creates a "Black Friday Effect."  Private property rights are ignored, mobs are promised resources, and incited to violent reprisal.  Force is concentrated upon segments of the economy, and the checks of a free market give way to the stampede of regulations and class actions.

The proponents of equalized outcomes are not satisfied to merely gain entry.  What's more, they are ignorant or unrepentant towards the economic destruction they have wrought.  These agitators move from cause to cause, shrouding themselves in "justice" and "progress" without truly understanding the meanings of the words.

Rescinding promises to the mob is out of the question; there is a legal precedent for their elevated status and a fear of their power.  We have conditioned individuals, groups, and businesses alike to demand privileges.  No dangers can ward off the hydra and its many heads, even those of impending economic ruin.

Armed with facts, we can arrest the affects of dependency and entitlement on our culture.  The truth is often uncomfortable, however, and doesn't win elections.  Instead of honesty from politicians, lies are compounded.  Instead of talking unity, they re-draw old battle lines.  Instead of voicing rescue plans, they shout from the lifeboats for us to stay with the ship.

Our representatives create false fears, false enemies for the mob.  They convince us that our spending and debt are not the real issue.  They say we need amorphic intangibles like justice, diversity, and equality.  We're told we can win the future if we value those above freedom of choice and private property.

The ears of the ruling class, however, are deaf to their own gospel.  The government touts itself as a crusader of equality and justice, but clearly believes the Animal Farm doctrine that certain groups are "more equal than others."  The political process discriminates in ways no federal law would permit in private industry.  Some groups are forced to pay taxes; some are not. Some receive subsidies, credits, and assistance; some do not.  Some are granted direct influence over policy decisions; some are neglected.

There is no surprise we've ended up here.  Washington has become a big pile of goodies, creating an American culture of outstretched hands.  Our society has accepted the faulty premise that an individual's labor is a public resource, and its value the property of bureaucrats.

Ultimately we must decide if government is a rights protector or an outcomes guarantor.  We erroneously invest hope that a small, distant enclave of politicians can rid the nation of all its problems.  When we look to government for solutions, and not inside ourselves, we cease to exist as a nation of free persons, and derive our identity from a mob.

America was never ugly, but our legacy of protected classes makes the implication.  Like Fleur de Lis in L.A. Confidential, progressives have attempted to transform America -- in their view a homely hooker -- into something that resembles a movie star on the surface.  They have shredded the Declaration of Independence and its "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," to replace it with a business card that promises, "Whatever you desire."  Shaky-handed politicians have taken her under the knife throughout our history, leaving her almost unrecognizable.  A return to principled, limited governance can restore the American character, one that views the "Black Friday Effect" with resounding condemnation.

Michael Hoag is a freelance writer.  He can be reached at

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