February 9, 2011
The Other Side Of Zeitgeist
For some time now I find it fascinating how Americans view their own society and how it should be improved. Things aren't going well at the moment, economy wise, so many people complain. American culture is quite remarkable since practically everyone hinges their arguments on the constitution and see the fallout of the current economic turmoil as an infraction on their rights. Naturally they fear increased taxation which is not totally unjustified. How else can the 14 trillion dollar public debt be repaid? Yet being against social programs which will acquire funds in the form of taxes will also diminish the accessibility of said programs and their effectiveness for society as a whole.
What it boils down to, and what seems to a typical American character trait, is that people don't want to pay for anything if it doesn't help them directly. They see paying taxes as a violation of their rights, in this case the right to happiness a.k.a. making lots of money. After all, the American Dream is based on collecting money and wealth, not giving it away. The latter is what permeates through American culture and what is at the core of the dissatisfaction with the government. Is adopting such a philosophy healthy in the long run? I sincerely doubt it, but lets delve more into the subject matter. On the internet I often see the same argument coming up and it goes something like this;
"True prosperity and freedom comes from individual liberties based on private property right upheld by voluntary contracts enforced by a small local government."
What's so fascinating is that practically all of the political flows in the U.S. advocate this ideology one way or another. The GOP, the Republican Party often speaks of small government, yet at the same time they are also strongly against regulating the market. (And what aspect of society caused the 2008 credit crisis?) Democrats only differ in that they want to tax a bit more for social programs such as healthcare. Libertarians such as Ron Paul use the phrase above as well but not many people seem to realize that he is a laissez-faire capitalist and for the free market, against minimum wage and for low taxation of corporations. (How's that trickle-down effect working for you?)
From an outsiders perspective there isn't much difference between those major political flows in the U.S. They more or less state the same thing with minor deviations. All of them flow towards the same core pillars; prosperity, freedom, individual liberties, private property and small government. Yet these pillars, whether you realize it or not, are strongly connected to something else entirely; capitalism and the free market system. When you dig really deep down, what causes the friction between what you consider infringement upon your rights? It's your own ideology and the free market system!
What causes the 'friction' are the 'big business interests.' Wall Street, which is a direct result of the free market system, has a tremendous influence on domestic policy. Yet Wall Street is based on the same pillars. Prosperity, that which generates a profit. Freedom, the freedom to invest and buy property or stock. Private property, that which you can buy and call your own or sell. Small government is what Wall Street wants as well. Less regulations the better. Knowing this and that there isn't much difference in ideology, something else must be at the cause of the friction.
It's selfism and protectionism. What Wall Street is doing right now is simply trying to make money any way they can and protecting their "property" at the same time. This is what collides with those less fortunate, who are preoccupied with the same mechanics - protecting their self interest - and find themselves at the short end of the stick. The irony here is that there isn't much difference between the mindset of an investment banker on Wall Street and a shop owner in small town U.S.A. Both are selfish and ignorant, and focused on making money. It's the people just like you that caused the credit crisis of 2008.
That's the ugly truth, and no small government or less taxation is ever going to change anything. Small businesses eventually grow into big businesses with massive wealth and big interests. Saying that true prosperity and freedom comes from the system is sticking your head in the sand because at one point you'll simply have conflicting interests by different layers of society. It's the mindset, the ideology itself that causes the problems. You live in a world that's basically a corporatocracy and where money comes first, and people are secondary. That is the root cause.