Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Happiness doesn't come from equality of outcomes... Nor does prosperity

For years we’ve been hearing stories of schools scrapping dodge-ball, sports leagues eliminating scoring and schools passing students despite their lack of academic achievement. The reason, we’re told, is to protect the self esteem of students who might otherwise be harmed by coming up on the short end of a competitive stick.

Of course none of this is a surprise to anyone who has watched as liberals have transformed the United States economy from a dynamic prosperity creating machine to a middling debt addict where the middle class finds itself on its knees as the government takes care of those at the top and the bottom of the economic spectrum.

Tangentially… I occasionally play the lottery. If the jackpot posted on the sign on the road from downtown flashes over $200 million I’ll consider plunking down a dollar or two for a ticket. Of course I’ve never won but I find it entertaining to wonder for a brief moment what I might do with my windfall.

At the same time I’ve often wondered, if I actually did win the lottery, would I really be happy? Sure, I’d no doubt have lots of fun spending my millions, but would I really be happy? I’m not so sure. That might sound strange, but the history of many lottery winners seems to indicate that lottery money doesn’t bring happiness.

Here’s how these two tangential things are related. Happiness can’t be given to someone. Nor can self esteem. Yes, someone can give you money, and it can ameliorate some problems, but that doesn’t buy happiness. In a similar way, a parent or a school can tell a child they are wonderful, that grades or scores don’t matter… but the kids know better.

Happiness doesn’t come from having, it comes from earning. That’s the fundamental problem liberals don’t understand, whether it’s telling kids there are no winners or losers in sports, or the government giving people money and food stamps and phones and housing vouchers. Liberals focus on outcomes rather than opportunities. They seek a de jure egalitarian society rather than one governed by effort and innovation. It’s not enough for everyone to have the same chance at success based on some test or competition. No, the resulting output, whether it’s bank loans, jobs or college acceptance letters, has to reflect the hue and composition of the larger population or the test is by definition racist or sexist or some other ist. (While such a framework is supposed to apply in boardrooms and law enforcement, for some reason it never seems to apply in the NBA or the NFL…)

Liberals think that if they somehow make everyone equal, everyone will be happy. Once again they’re wrong. The Soviet Union and modern North Korea might be the best examples of “egalitarian” societies in modern history. And in both cases the people were indeed equal… but that equality was / is an equality of poverty, of desperation, of despair.

Just as there’s a difference between “equality” of outcomes and equality of opportunity, there’s a fundamental difference between earning something and being given it. Compare the way tenants of housing projects take care of their homes with the care shown by those who pay mortgages, or compare the level of pride expressed by a kid at winning a bronze medal to that of a kid being issued a participation medal. It’s natural to value something more when it’s earned, rather than when it’s given. Hard work doesn’t guarantee happiness, but it can instill pride, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of having done something of value, all things which are important elements of happiness.

It’s no coincidence then that as the government has become more generous in its gifts to citizens and its regulatory framework – intended to “protect” citizens from the verities of the marketplace – has become a leviathan akin to a straitjacket, the economic dynamo that was once the United States has become has become a lumbering husk of an economy that is kept alive via stratospheric levels of debt? The result is a workforce participation rate at levels not seen since the 1970’s, skyrocketing welfare rolls all while the percentage of people actually paying income taxes has fallen off a cliff.

At the end of the day, liberals claim they seek widespread prosperity and happiness. In reality however, whether it’s a participation trophy or a nanny state that “protects” the citizenry from virtually anything, they accomplish neither. From kids ill equipped to handle failure in life to millions of Americans who have simply stopped bothering to look for work, to the tens of millions who are on government assistance, liberals talk a game of prosperity but never actually realize it. Sadly, they're not the only ones paying the price for their failures. The entire country is.

But at least we can take solace in the fact that their self esteem won’t be hurt because success isn’t measured by actual results, but only by intentions…

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why Culture Matters: The Natural State of Man is One of Poverty, Scarcity and Conflict

One of my favorite teachers in high school was Mr. Kelly. Ostensibly he was a reading teacher, but his interests were far more inclined towards history and cultures. We once got into a discussion about the great cultures throughout history. The obvious names came up… the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Romans, Aztecs, ancient China etc. Then he asked the question about what determines a great culture. My answer was something like: “A great culture leaves something tangible behind.” My reasoning was simply that whether the Parthenon, the Coliseum, various pyramids or the Great Wall of China, all of these cultures left tangible representations of their greatness. Mr. Kelly then posited that maybe that was the wrong measure. Maybe instead we should measure a culture’s greatness by the vibrancy of life enjoyed by its people during its heyday. In particular he mentioned two cultures in western Africa who left nary a trace of their existence, but apparently had a vibrant society centuries ago. He suggested that it was possible that they were every bit as great as the cultures as those we usually mention when discussing history. I was skeptical but it was an interesting discussion.

Sadly, after 30 years I don’t remember the cultures he mentioned. But I do remember the question itself of how we go about measuring great cultures. That question is very much relevant today. Since then I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard various professors or pundits or pontificators suggest something like “All cultures are equal and deserve the same level of respect”. I’m as skeptical about that today as when I first heard it. Yesterday’s New York Times provided a perfect example of that exact thing. In it was a story titled: U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies. The various Marines and soldiers who became aware of the abuse were told by higher ups that they could not intervene because it was “their culture”. Indeed, a number of American servicemembers who took steps to stop the rampant pederasty were disciplined and even kicked out of the military.

This story comes on the heels of two other events that bring up the question of cultures. Europe is being invaded by millions of Muslims. The United States is being invaded by millions of Mexicans and others from Latin Americans.

Today we find ourselves in a situation where the West, home to the greatest accomplishments of mankind, are under siege by “migrants” from cultures and nations that are abject failures. The West in general, and the United States in particular, are the home of the greatest advances in human history – or in some cases harnessing innovations from elsewhere: Computers. Man on the moon. Mapping of the Human Genome. Flight. Nuclear power. The Mechanical Reaper. Air conditioning. The automobile. Plastic. Electricity. Add to those things that are essential to Western, or at least American culture: Representative government. Limited government. The outlawing of slavery. Freedom of speech and the press. Freedom of worship. Individual rights. Private property. Together these things have allowed the West to create nations where more people have enjoyed more prosperity, more freedom, and longer lives than any people in history.

Prosperity, freedom and longevity may not be the best measures of a culture’s greatness, but they are probably pretty close. Of course that doesn’t mean that either the United State or the West are perfect. They are not, not by a long shot. But for all of their failures they are by and large exponentially better places to live than the rest of the world.

It’s thus strange then that many of the beneficiaries of these advanced cultures seek to diminish them and draw an equivalency with other cultures, regardless of the reality. In much of the Muslim world women are 2nd class citizens… at best. Homosexuals are murdered. The freedoms of speech or the press or religion are virtually nonexistent. Most of the population lives in poverty, or not far above it. And of course there is the near constant threat of terrorism or war, as more than half of the ongoing conflicts on the planet involve Muslims.

Then there is Mexico and Latin America where the economies are in constant turmoil, where corruption is a way of life, where governments know few if any limits and where drug cartels reign supreme via bribes and brutality.

None of those things create a foundation for prosperity or freedom or longevity. But somehow not only are Americans and Westerners supposed to respect these dystopian cultures as equals, at the same time we are supposed to welcome the masses escaping them into our communities. It would be one thing if the vast majority of these “migrants” were seeking to assimilate into their new locales and contribute to their prosperity. They’re not. In Europe Muslims are seeking to apply “sharia law” in enclaves across the continent - UK - France and trying to bend the locals to their mores... including outlawing Octoberfest in Germany!.  Ninety percent of Middle Eastern “refugees” are on food stamps and “Asian” rape gangs proliferate, seemingly without fear. In the United States illegal immigrants receive government assistance at twice the rate of the native population while in some places they are responsible for over 1/3 of the murders and other violent crimes.

Unfortunately, the subject of culture is no longer simply an academic question to be discussed in Social Studies class. Today the question implies real world consequences such as poverty and death. While Muslim or African or Hispanic cultures may have positive aspects about them, and may have been great at one time long ago in history, today they are largely dysfunctional and often abject failures where the citizenry suffer great calamity both economic and physical.

Liberals in the west would have us eliminate all borders and welcome in anyone who might want to escape their failed states as we are assured that “diversity” is the key to the West thriving. As usual, they are wrong. The Judeo Christian foundations of the West, the march of limited government begun with the Magna Carta, the individual freedoms hammered out in the US Constitution are all elements of a culture that has laid the foundation for the success the West currently enjoys. While adding various elements of far less successful cultures may make liberal elites swoon, it doesn’t do much for the society as a whole, and in terms of jobs, education and quality of life it usually has a decidedly negative impact on those at the bottom of the economic spectrum… but not so much for the elites behind their walled gardens.

As this is America and liberals see racism and hate around every corner, I'll state that this is not some clarion call for a whitebread America or West. On the contrary. It matters not whether someone's hue is that of milk or oil. It’s the culture that matters, not the skin. Charles Napier, the British Army's Commander-in-Chief in India in the 19th century understood this. When confronted by Hindu priests angry at the Brits prohibiting Sati – the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband – he said this:
"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."
Can anyone imagine a General in Barack Obama's Army saying something similar and keeping his job?

Customs matter. Culture matters. The natural state of man is one of poverty, scarcity and conflict. The West has greatly succeeded in diminishing all three. Western culture is indeed imperfect and leaves much room for improvement, but there’s a difference between introspection and cultural suicide. Western elites don’t seem to know the difference. Maybe they should be forced to endure life in some of those failed states before they are allowed to diversify our culture out of existence.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Invasions of the United States and Europe - Why Start A War When You Can Sign Up For Welfare?

Last Monday I wrote a piece about immigration here at home and a changing face of Europe abroad. It was inspired by a trip to Europe and Ann Coulter’s Adios America. With all of this on my mind I tuned into Rush’s show on Friday for my normal dose of Excellence in Broadcasting. And in a moment he crystallized exactly what was going on… both in Europe and here, although he was specifically talking about the refugee crisis / chaos in Europe. In a moment he completely changed my perception of the issue – or at least made sense out of what I am, and many others are, seeing. He was talking about the immigrants who were in Hungary and were trying to get to Austria and Germany. The papers are full of heart wrenching pieces of Syrians escaping persecution. Of dozens of Libyans drowning as their overcrowded boats seek out the Greek or Italian coasts. Of families not wanting to be sent to refugee camps. Of Iraqis seeking to escape the ruthless ISIS killers of men, women and children. All of those are true, and it is heartbreaking. The underlying current of all of this coverage is that if Europe doesn’t take in these people, they are heartless and probably racists.

Many of the people who are making up this refugee crisis are indeed escaping terror of one sort of another. But Rush points out something interesting. If it was just terror or repression these people are escaping… why don’t we see them stopping in Turkey, where, the leader may be an Islamist, they're not shooting people in the street. Or why aren’t they stopping in Greece where they would expected to be beyond the reach of most of the hated repressors they are escaping from? He points out that no, they are heading to Germany and Sweden where they can expect to receive generous benefits from the government. He puts it quite well: It’s not immigration, it’s an invasion.

If this was about helping refugees, Turkey and Greece could set up camps to provide food and shelter and the rest of Europe could fund them.  It would cost much less than new welfare recipients spread across the Continent.  But the refugees have no intention of staying in either of those countries or in camps in Hungary.  It's Germany or Bust!  I'm not familiar with many situations where refugees enter a place illegally and then demand where they want to stay and what kinds of accommodations they will accept.

Basically the Europeans are inviting Muslims to finish what Umayyads couldn’t accomplish in the 8th Century and the Ottomans couldn’t do in the 15th and 16th. Already Muslims make up between 5% and 10% of most major European countries – and upwards of 20% in many of the largest cities… and the numbers were expected to grow rapidly, even before this refugee problem.

This poses an interesting juxtaposition… and a bit of irony. For 50 years American leadership kept much of Western Europe free in the face of a Soviet menace that was constantly seeking to enlarge its empire. Because of the security provided by the United States those same European nations were able to spend billions of dollars a year on welfare programs. Now, today, after six years of American failure of leadership AKA “leading from behind” it is those welfare programs themselves that are acting as a magnet to those who more often than not have no use for the freedoms that the United States spent half a century defending… Why fight a hot war against the Crusaders when you can simply sign up for their welfare programs and help them collapse from within?

The same holds true for the United States and the influx of illegals from Latin America. Just as the welfare programs of Europe have been drawing and supporting Muslims for a quarter century, American welfare programs have been doing the same for immigrants – both legal and illegal – from south of the border for even longer. Just as Europe’s crisis is coming to a head, so too one is here in America, where La Raza seeks to create its own empire called Aztlan... but thankfully Donald Trump has put that crisis front and center.

If only the Soviets had been smarter, they could have conquered both the United States and Europe without firing a missile. Just as ISIS has promised to put sleepers in amongst the refugees flooding into Europe, Gorbachev could have recruited Manchurian candidates from the Middle East and Latin America to invade Europe and the US respectively. Unlike the character Frank Sinatra investigates in the movie however, these Manchurian candidates wouldn’t have had to actually assassinate anyone. They could have just gone forth and multiplied and continued to receive their welfare checks. Eventually the Russian Bear would have been able to walk right into both after their economies and the cultures were obliterated. Perhaps it’s only fitting that all of this is occurring just as a leader formed in the kiln of the Soviet Union’s KGB is reasserting Russian military might at the very time the West is so vulnerable. Russian vodka, Mexican tequila and the Koran… that might make for some interesting interactions.