The Perils Of Prosperity
I saw an amazing little commercial the other day. The ad was for a service that delivered your pet’s drugs directly to your door. Now you may wonder, ‘what’s so amazing about that?’ Well consider how incredible this service is when viewed through the lens of how much of the world lives. First off, many people around the globe can’t even afford to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves, much less a pet. Moreover, even if they do have a pet, they couldn’t possibly afford to have it treated if it got hurt or became sick. That’s assuming that they could even find a veterinarian when many countries don’t have enough doctors to take care of their people. So when you look at it in that light, that business probably couldn’t even exist in 80% of the world.
Furthermore, we have almost none of what most of the world would consider to be ‘real’ poverty in the United States. In America, the ‘poor’ will in all likelihood have roofs over their heads, be able to feed themselves, will be treated if they’re sick, and take for granted that their children will get a free education all the way up to the high school level. Most of these people even have what would be considered luxuries in other parts of the world like televisions, stereos, and even cars. In other parts the world, poverty means living in a mud and straw hut, with one set of clothes, a ratty blanket given to you by a relief worker, and not knowing if you’ll have anything to eat for days at a time.
Ponder a few other issues of concern in the United States. A member of the press in the US who criticizes President Bush might not get called on at the next press conference or at worst may not be invited on a press junket. On the other hand, if you criticize Saddam Hussein or Fidel Castro you may end up being tortured to death in a prison cell. We have reparations lawsuits working their way through our court rooms today because some of our fellow citizens have relatives who were slaves over 130 years ago. Meanwhile, slavery is still practiced in some parts of the world. We have baseball players with average salaries of more than million dollars per year threatening to go on strike while 12 year olds in other countries work 80 hour a week for pennies per hour.
In short, we don’t know how good we have it. It took 200 plus years of work by our ancestors to make it possible for those baseball players to have monster salaries and for businesses that deliver drugs for pets to be feasible. However, it is not a given that the culture that produced these things will continue to prosper. To believe that things are good and that they’re only going to get better over time is optimism. But to believe that the next century is going to go as well for America as the last if we don’t continue to do the things that got us here is foolhardy. Yet as a society, we feel so secure and confident of our place in the sun that we continually become enamored with trivia while the fundamental things that help make our nation successful are being ignored.
We have a massive amount of oil, the product that fuels our economy, in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. However, we don’t want to drill for it because environmentalist groups are claiming that this seldom visited property that is owned by our government, would be much more valuable if it were ‘pristine’ and ‘unspoiled’.
In the face of terrorists with access to weapons of mass destruction, who’ve sworn to destroy the United States, have we made a commitment to protect ourselves from this threat? Some of us have and some us have not. Unfortunately, some Americans don’t think protecting ourselves is as important as the treatment of terrorists at Camp X-ray, whether Europe approves of the US defending itself, and whether it’s moral to kill people who want to murder millions of our citizens.
The average person couldn’t care less if Tobacco companies get looted in court or if someone makes nearly three quarters of a million dollars because they’re too clumsy to hold a cup of McDonald’s coffee without spilling it all over themselves. But almost every product and service in our country costs more and is less competitive with foreign goods because we will not insist that our Government institute tort reform.
Then there is our education system, our inability to control our borders, social security, our inefficient tax system, our burdensome regulations, our activist courts that feel the Constitution is a living document, and many, many, other things that we have not addressed. We should take a lesson from the Romans and remember that living in a prosperous nation is not our birthright. Our nation will continue to be successful only as long as we continue to do the things that got us here. Unless more of us refuse to be content to coast along, living off the fat of the land and leaving others to pay the tab, there is no guarantee that America will be a better place for our children than it was for us.