Leftists Disconnected From How Things Work Are Destroying Everything
I’ve always been a fan of the prosperity created by Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. Indeed, I even created a website called Gratitude for America, where I write about American entrepreneurs who invented things like barbed wire and standardized shipping containers. But maybe there’s a downside to this prosperity because we’ve created a class of people (especially in government) completely disconnected from how the world actually works.
Cyrus McCormick, who invented the mechanical reaper, is the most important entrepreneur in human history. He basically untethered mankind from farming, one of the most dangerous occupations on earth. In 1831, when he invented the mechanical reaper, approximately 80% of the American population was involved in agriculture, and, in most places in the world, it was higher—in some cases, 95%.
Back then, farming’s efficiency hadn’t changed much since the time of the pyramids. A man, using a scythe, could harvest approximately one acre of grain a day. Fifty years later, McCormick guaranteed that, by using his machine, a farmer could harvest 15 acres a day. With today’s machines, a farmer can harvest up to 100 acres in a day. Small wonder that only 3% of the US population today farms.
The reason McCormick is so important is not because of farming, per se, but because he freed up most of the population to go out and do other, less dangerous things. With that shift, work-life expectancies began to skyrocket in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1800, the average life expectancy was approximately 30 years, with Europe averaging 33 and the US close behind. By 1900, the world average had increased to 32, but in Europe it had jumped to 43 and in the US to 47.
Image: McCormick reaper and twine binder (1884). Public domain.
Since they didn’t have to be on farms, people became inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovators. During the late 19th century, countless inventions (e.g., usable electricity, automobiles, and the telegraph) and innovations (e.g., drilling for oil, railroad expansion, and the widespread adoption of the assembly line) changed the Western world. Food became more abundant, transportation became easier and safer, housing became cheaper, and medicine began to improve.
In the 20th century, things really took off. Today, a quarter of the way through the 21st century, world life expectancy is 72 years, while in the US, it’s 78, and in Western Europe, it’s above 80.
Not only are we living longer, but we’re also prosperous beyond anything in human history. Our food is more varied, dependable, and plentiful than ever. We have transportation, hospitalization, housing, employment, clothing, education, sanitation, entertainment, and leisure opportunities exponentially beyond anything in all of human history.
Contrast all of that with what humanity endured through most of our history. Poverty and scarcity were the norm. Food availability was always an issue. War was almost constant. Work was dangerous. Slavery was everywhere. Many worked seven days a week, changing clothes was rare if at all, people rarely bathed, virtually everyone was illiterate, plumbing didn’t exist, disease was rampant, shelter was overcrowded, heating in the winter was from burning wood or dung if either could be found, infant mortality was stratospheric, and leisure was a luxury only the elites could afford.
The average Westerner’s life is far superior to any experienced by 99.999% of the people who ever lived, but, somehow, everyone today is a victim—and we know that everyone is a victim because the elites tell us so. Through schools, media, and government, we’re told that Western culture is racist, sexist, fascist, or somehow otherwise oppressive. Basically, the better things get, the worse they get.
America today reminds me of a Jetsons episode I saw as a child. George Jetson, the father of the “Space-aged family,” came home one day exhausted from working at Spacely Sprockets and said, “Jane, these one-hour-a-week workweeks are brutal.” No doubt we’d be told he’s still a victim.
The reason those elites, the ones who seek to manipulate the public, get away with it is because a significant portion of the population believes them. And they believe them because of the division of labor-driven prosperity that McCormick unleashed.
Virtually the entire left in this country has zero connection with anything having to do with creating anything, growing anything, building anything, or risking anything. They spend their days pushing paper in offices or selling cappuccinos, if they work at all. Not only are few of them farmers, but few are truckers, lumberjacks, steel workers, plumbers, electricians, or entrepreneurs. Few have ever had to balance paying a credit card bill versus making payroll. Few ever risked their money and invested sweat equity to start a business.
The left today is largely government employees, students, college-educated white women working inside large corporations, Wall Street, academia, the cabal of NGOs, the media, the 40 million who suckle on the government teat through programs like SNAP, and the 47% of the country who either pay no tax or get “refundable tax credits”.
Few of those people do anything remotely productive for the economy. Few understand that the government doesn’t have money beyond what it takes from taxpayers or prints via taxpayer IOUs. They have no appreciation for Capitalism, the thing that gave us our prosperity. They flush the toilets and expect them to work, flip the light switch and expect the room to illuminate, and go to the store to pick up a pound of beef without knowing how it gets there. Few of them have any real connection to the basic functionality of life.
The result of this societal bifurcation is that half of our population has little understanding of or vested interest in the country’s or the economy’s continued functioning. More regulations and higher taxes are always the answer because none of them are affected. Regulations make it harder to open a business or keep one running, but they’re easy promises for politicians to offer as the solution to every problem because their voters never pay the price for the consequences.
We’re living in the world Ayn Rand envisioned in Atlas Shrugged. Everything we see going on in our cities, on our streets, and on our border is so because the division of labor has allowed so many people to bask in prosperity without having a clue about how it’s actually created or what’s necessary to maintain it. Their checks come, their jobs are secure, and they don’t have to deal with the government’s suffocating regulations, so everything is good.
Of course, it’s not good, and things are getting worse. Thomas Jefferson understood the problem, saying in 1824: “I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” That is 2024 incarnate.
This needs to be fixed. How we do that, I’m not quite sure, but, at a minimum, we need to slash government spending and regulations at every level. Perhaps only those who pay taxes should vote. Perhaps government employees should not be allowed to vote. Maybe we make election day the day after Tax Day. Whatever the solution, until those voting have some vested interest in a well-run government and a functioning economy, things will only get worse, and they’re already pretty bad.
Follow Vince on Twitter at ImperfectUSA, or you can visit his new website Gratitude for America.