5 Political Fallacies Too Many Americans Embrace
1) The more democracy we have, the better. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” This is why our Founding Fathers made this country a republic, not a democracy. They believed that the people should have their say, but also that certain underlying rules should remain in place that should take precedence over the will of a simple majority. Ultimately, that’s the only way that the wolves and the lambs can happily co-exist over the long haul.
Unfortunately, we’ve moved so far away from the plain reading of the Constitution that we could fairly be called a post-constitutional society and that has a lot to do with why our government functions so poorly, why politics has become so contentious, and why our nation is slipping into decline. A nation where the law has more to do with the whims of the people in power than constitutional principles is a nation that will become increasingly embittered and unstable over time.
2) When it comes to politicians, morals don’t matter. It’s no coincidence that most Americans are perpetually disappointed in the honesty of our politicians when they simultaneously believe that the moral failings of politicians have little bearing on their fitness for office. If we put adulterers, degenerates, and crooks in office, they’re going to lie to us. Why would anyone expect anything else?
What’s worse is that they’re changing the culture inside and out of Washington. After Bill Clinton, why should anyone be surprised at Anthony Weiner? After Gerry Studds got away with having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old page, why should anyone be surprised that Barney Frank got away with having a gay prostitution ring running out of his apartment? The impact on society is even greater not only because politicians are prominent, but because it’s assumed they are held to a higher standard than the average person. If a pothead who liked to snort a little coke, like Barack Obama, can become President, what message does it send to kids about drugs? If Bill Clinton’s adultery is treated like no big deal by his wife, Democrats, and the voters, what message does that send to men across the country? We’ve allowed Washington, D.C. to become a pig pen and no one should be surprised at how dirty all of us are getting in the process.
3) Income inequality is caused by rich people stealing money from the poor. There is more income inequality today in the United States than there used to be. That’s because advances in computers, transportation, and technology have shrank the world. What that means is that it’s more feasible than ever for dirt poor workers in China and India to do low skill work that once would have gone to Americans at a cheaper price. The time when a man with an 8th grade education can support himself, a wife, and a kid by doing repetitive, unskilled labor all day long has largely ended.
On the other hand, for highly skilled workers, a smaller world means that people overseas now are more likely to be their potential customers. Bill Gates isn’t just selling Microsoft products to Americans, he’s selling them to computer users EVERYWHERE. So, the money isn’t flowing from the poor Americans to the rich Americans; it’s flowing from the poor here to the poor elsewhere and customers elsewhere to the rich here. Moreover, you can tax the rich at a much higher rate (and we do), but since there are relatively few of them, you can’t loot enough to make up for the reduced demand for low skill workers. In fact, paradoxically, the more capital you take away from rich Americans, the less money they have to buy products or invest here in America to create jobs.
That’s why it isn’t about rich versus poor so much as a global economic change that benefits one group while hurting another, like the introduction of sharks into an environment filled with fishermen and tuna. If you’re a fisherman, you’re going to love the shark fin soup, but if you’re a tuna, you’re going to spend a lot more time swimming for your life and finding places to hide.
4) There’s no need to worry because politicians know what they’re doing. The primary reason most Americans don’t pay attention to politics is that they just assume that despite all of the feuding and fighting, politicians generally know what they’re doing and won’t let anything too horrible happen to the country. This is no longer a safe assumption because the people running the government aren’t competent, they’re not making decisions based on what’s best for the country, and most government employees are just following orders, not trying to improve the system.
We have an unsustainable level of debt that we’re not addressing. We’re in the midst of a radical and dangerous experiment with our medical system. The Federal Reserve is deliberately trying to reduce the value of our money by 1/3 over the next 20 years. Our response to the government-inspired housing crash that wrecked our economy at the tail end of the Bush Administration is to try to artificially reinflate the housing bubble using the same techniques that got us into the mess in the first place. All the money that has been contributed to Medicare and Social Security has already been spent and our plan to pay those Americans back is to borrow trillions indefinitely. Responsible government has left the building in America and like a Bible salesman walking towards Mecca, we’re veering into strange and dangerous territory.
5) Any sort of debt-related crash is a long way away. A decade ago, prepping was for militias, Mormons, and survivalist nuts. Today, it has gone mainstream and guns, gold, and survival seeds are growth industries. There’s a reason for that: tens of millions of Americans believe the country isn’t that far away from a Greece-style economic crash caused by our debt. This is not an unreasonable belief.
In 2010, Mike Pence (who’s now governor of Indiana) told me that, “unless we produce national leadership that is willing to confront our mounting fiscal crisis head-on, that America will be Greece within 10 to 15 years.” Senator Tom Coburn wasn’t as optimistic. In 2010; he said we could be Greece in as little as 4 years. When you consider the fact that we’ve lost our AAA rating, there are no realistic prospects of balancing the budget in the foreseeable future, and we can’t sell all of our debt on the open market, it’s already clear that we’re in deep trouble.
Now consider the fact that by 2020, we’ll need roughly 19% of the PLANET’S GDP to finance our debt and that by 2030, just the INTEREST PAYMENTS ON THE DEBT will take up about 58% of our budget — and ask yourself how much longer we’ll be able to hold it together. We’re already at the point where we appear to need massive action by both political parties to avert a financial catastrophe and not only are both sides barely even discussing the problem, the Democrats are upset that we’re not ramping up our spending even more. We’re like a patient whose doctor just warned him he could have a heart attack at any time who insists on eating nothing but bacon cheeseburgers for every meal. The question isn’t whether there’s going to be a heart attack sometime in the near future; it’s how bad is it going to be?
Debate #2 Of 3: John Hawkins Vs. Conor Friedersdorf: What’s Your Advice For The Right Going Forward?
(Hawkins’ Note: Conor Friedersdorf challenged me to a debate. I accepted. This is the second of three posts from the
John F. Kennedy broke some sort of record for stating the obvious when he noted that “life isn’t fair.” More