Many people reading the title of this post knew immediately what it was about. Those who don't have been deprived of one of life's greatest intellectual undertakings. The undertaking is simply this, to question whether or not society is made up of two types of people doers and takers and what happens when the latter out numbers the former..
This idea, philosophy, reality comes of course from the book that changed not only my life but countless millions over the past generation Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
I read the book in my late teens and it didn't have an immediate impact on me other than as sort of a hypothetical proposition. I could see that it was possible that society was drifting in the direction the novel portrays but I did not yet have enough life experiences to see the underlying human elements that underpin the overall theme of the book. I now have that life experience indeed have had it for many years.
If you have not read the book and you suspect you might want to , I suggest that you stop reading right here since some of what I am about to say may ruin it for you. You have been warned.
The basic premise of the book is that American society is pretty much going just as it is now. Where American's are becoming more and more dependent on government, government controls more and more aspects of peoples daily life, government controls more and more aspects of business (crony capitalism run amok) and fewer and fewer people are producing while more and more are taking and this taking and giving has become the primary function of the Federal Government. The book was written in the late 50's even before The Great Society programs but after the New Deal so Rand was not exactly a prophet but she certainly was blessed with not only great foresight but also a very good grasp of the human condition. The fact that she was a refugee from the Soviet Union probably helped in her ability to connect the dots and insights into how the imperfection of the human condition affects the governance of societies much as our Founders had two centuries earlier.
Though I have thought of it regularly over the past almost forty years since I first read it, what made me think of Atlas Shrugged in this case, was an interview I read. Here is a clip of the interview. Below are some of the highlights of it and this is what immediately brought me to thinking of Atlas Shrugged. In these few words are some truths that explain so much the underpinning of what Rand was foretelling. and what is now playing out. I know from my life experiences and observations, that what Dr. Kieth Ablow is saying is not only true but also frightening in it consequences.
Please read what follows carefully:
“When the government begins to act as parent to its citizens as children, and says ‘we are going to earmark your after-tax dollars…you must spend it on certain things,’ that [literally means] that you don’t know whether any of your money is really yours because today it could be health care, tomorrow it could be a hybrid vehicle that you are penalized financially for not buying.
“It takes control of your behavior in the way that a parent would of a child, and it diminishes us in terms of our autonomy and our ability to achieve things, even for liberty, on the world stage.”
It makes Americans believe that they are weak and it absolutely infantilizes the country:
“Listen, even adolescents or younger kids [dream] of the day when they’re in charge of their own money. Why? Because we know that money has that significance, it means independence, it means that you’re in charge of your destiny, kids dream of this.
To treat the American public as though they are preadolescent slingshots them back that way psychologically, so that they say to themselves: ‘my decision-making capacity isn’t so good. After all, if I don’t do what they tell me, I’m going to be fined for it, and it seems that we voted this in…’”
What it does is it deposits us back as children when economically, more than ever, we need to be adult.”
That is the way Dr. Kieth Ablow sees the healthcare ruling...me too and it shakes me to my core.
The reason that America is different, the reason it is exceptional which by the way does not only mean better but also an exception to the rule, is that we were not steeped in the tradition that governments are the parent and we (the citizen) are the children. In fact the entire concept of American exceptionalism is based on the very premise and our structured system of government which holds that government is not the parent in the relationship but rather that the people are. Government in America is supposed to be the servant of the people not, as has been the case through history, the other way around.
What Dr Ablow is saying is that this ruling is just another step in the process by which America is giving away not only its freedom but also its place as being the preeminent "grown up" on the world stage. While, with few exceptions, the immature nations of the world have continued to be governed by systems which give the predominate role and responsibility in the relationship between citizen and government to government, in America the citizen was king. But you can only be king if you take the responsibility to rule. How can a person look out for others when he can not look out for himself? How can the American citizenship be self governing when they can not govern their own affairs?
One reason I, mistakenly, was so sure that Obamacare would be overturned was that like most people I believed that Justice Kennedy would be the deciding vote. Unlike most people on the right I had little doubt that Kennedy would vote to strike it down (which he emphatically did) because for whatever else he may or may not be Justice Kennedy has always been the courts single strongest defender of individual rights and the importance that those rights play in the greatness of America. This is the truth that Justice Roberts totally ignored in his desire to legitimize Obamacare.
What is so insidious about the progressive left is that in the guise of compassion it has altered a society from one based on the mature principles of self achievement and self reliance to one increasingly based on the childish principle of parasitical survival.
You see this played out continuously today, Why shouldn't the rich pay more? Why shouldn't the government pay for my healthcare, college education, food-stamps,housing, etc, etc etc ad nausea. Well the answer to this question is actually quite simple, the answer is that grown ups take care of themselves. But our political system is so infected by the idea that it is governments job to take care of us rather than the true beauty of our republic's founding that it was and is our responsibility to take care of the government that we Americans are less and less exceptional every passing day.
Indeed the progressive childishness has so infected our government and society that the childish behavior of our citizenry and officials is applauded while those who would promote maturity are ridiculed and condemned for heartlessness. More and more in America we are evolving not towards a more enlightened society, as the near sighted would have you believe, but rather we are evolving towards the feudalism of the past. A past where a select self appointed few make all the important decisions of life for the ever more dependent masses.
How did we come to this? We came to this by buying into a a very alluring yet childish proposition foisted on generations of Americans by a foolish and self serving political class. What was/is that proposition? Simply put, I'll take care of you.
It is a basic, well understood and accepted premise in life that it is not healthy for one individual to become overly dependent on another. Even in a loving relationship as between the parent and a child , the ultimate healthy goal and desire in a mature relationship is to foster the independence of the individuals joined by the bonds of love not on the dependency of need. Why then would we accept that it was and is a good idea for individuals to create a dependency relationship on something as heartless and remote as government?
Even if you accept the cynical premise that government is the parent in the relationship between the government and the governed, why would you accept that the parent's (governments) role is to tie the child (the citizen) to the parent in some permanent state of dependency which everyone knows from life experience only leads to unhappiness? In a healthy parent child relationship both the parent and the child look forward to the day when they are independent from one another. If you simply take this child parent analogy and everything you know to be true in life and apply it to the relationship between the citizen and the government, it is obvious it can only lead to heartache and an eventual dissolution or a re-framing of the relationship.
Why is this? Why is it that ultimately all relationships based on dependency fail? It is simple really and it is as true in the relationship between the governed and governments as it is between two individuals, people are created with an inherent desire to be free. Societies may for a time live under the allusion that someone else is responsible for their well being but this always collapses and then we are left again where we started, taking care of ourselves or perishing.
So that leads us back to Atlas Shrugged, spoiler warning here, I am about to give away the primary story line.. In Atlas Shrugged, the doers, those who were the self reliant, self motivated of society who were paying the bill for those that the political class had helped create, began to simply walked away. They began to create their own much simpler but much more realistic society based on the premise that people are responsible for themselves. Shocking I know, but true. Some truths are indeed self evident.
One of the great lies that the progressive left has foisted on American society is that the self reliant and those that promote self sufficiency are in fact selfish. Of course as most things promoted by this progressive ideology the opposite is true, "you shall know them by their fruits". As a rule those who believe in self reliance are in fact generally the most giving as individuals whereas those who promote dependency tend to be the most personally selfish, except where it comes to promoting their self serving agendas where they can be quite generous. Nowhere is this selfishness more evident than those who promote dependency then profit politically and financially from the promotion of this slave trade.
For that is precisely what they are doing, they are selling society into a slavery of dependence on government in order to selfishly profit from it by accumulating either political power, financial reward or more often than not both. Ask yourself this, how does a politician who promotes individual freedom and a limited role for government in the affairs of society profit by such positions? The truth is that there is very few ways to "game" that ideology for personal gain.
When Rick Perry running for President said “I will work every day to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your lives as I can” what power base, what special interest was he trying to promote? He was promoting the power and the interest of the people. Because the people can not be free if they are looking to Washington for the most intimate and basic of needs which is exactly the direction that this nation is heading unless we stop it now.
The question is, is now too late? Perhaps it is, personally I am willing to give it one more election cycle...but for me that is it. If the nation is indeed in the final stages as portrayed in Atlas Shrugged, then so be it let it fail. Failure will at least allow collapse and it is far easier to build on top of the ruins than trying to shore up a building infested with termites.
I hope, I pray every day that the nation I love is not headed towards ruin, but one thing is now crystal clear, only WE THE PEOPLE can save it, which is how it was intended to be anyway. And if we can not well America was never a location or a culture or an ethnicity, it was and is an ideal and a truth that even delusional termites can not destroy "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
And as Ayn Rand and any person with a grasp of reality knows, safety and happiness are not the product of dependency...especially dependency on a unfeeling, uncaring, monolithic government.
Shrug Time? Getting close.