I studied anthropology in college. What I got out of that subject is that, while there are reasons that people and cultures act the way they do, it is rarely for the reasons that they give. Search a little harder, dig a little deeper, and more realistic rationales begin to pop up. In other words, either “follow the money” or “cherchez la femme”. One of those two motivations is behind most human interaction.
The attempt to blame racism, sexism, or contempt for other people, all make the actions more palatable to the intended audience, but they have little to do with reality. Folks will be as racist and sexist as they like in their social interactions, but when it’s crunch time, they’ll almost always act in the best interests of their pocketbooks, regardless of their prejudices (no matter what Hollywood tells us).
But the true believers in the audience are fooled into going along with the blame game. And that makes sense. Most of us are outraged when we face weaker people being bullied by those who are stronger. The problem with true believers is that they accept the given rationale without exploring any hidden motivations. They confuse having a problem with having to accept the proposed solution for the proposed reasons given.
Unfortunately, true believers, who want to know that their actions make a difference, abound. They want to think that their efforts can help bring about an end to (insert crisis of the week). Would that it were true—or at least, would that it were true using the method-of-the-week government intervention.
Ah, now we get to the crux. This anthropological study has devolved into yet another rant against the dangers of big government. Yup. Because big government is dangerous. It’s also extremely inefficient, and it doesn’t even accomplish its purported purpose.
After years of taxation, after years of assistance to those in need, after years of setting up guidelines and rules and laws to follow, most of the people ALWAYS end up worse off than they were before, in whatever arena big government chose to stick its nose. And not just in the hit to their purses. Would that being out some money was the only downside.
The original problem grows into more of a morass than it was to begin with, morality and kindness and charity always suffer, and just a few somehow always end up with more power than they had to start with. (Follow the money–right into some politicians’ and some businessmen’s pockets.) And when we’ve reached the detrimental end result, what is the new proposed solution? It is always, ALWAYS, we need more money, more rules, more regulations, more laws. We need to try harder, we need to keep going a little longer, we need more cooperation. Bunk.
Economist Thomas Sowell summed up the whole sequence of events nicely. He calls it The Pattern of the Anointed. In his essay of the same name, he cites 3 examples of this pattern. One of them is the “War on Poverty”, which as President Kennedy described it, was designed to decrease dependence on government. And we all know how well that went.
Anyway, according to Mr. Sowell, the Pattern goes something like this:
STAGE 1. There is a CRISIS, say, for instance, the housing bubble bursts. (As a side note, this may or may not be related to government pressure to extend loans to anyone who could fog a mirror—or is that a good indicator of ability to repay?). The massive inflation of prices for houses reaches its peak as more and more people are priced out of the market. All of a sudden, houses go unsold, and the construction industry tanks. Construction workers lose their jobs, and the effects are felt all the way along the building food chain. Lots of people who couldn’t afford to pay their mortgage when things were going well aren’t helped out by losing their jobs, and the mortgage industry collapses.
STAGE 2. The government comes up with a SOLUTION, say, more regulations, and the bailing out of the banks, which are “too big to fail”. Critics of the plan say let the market adjust itself. There will be pain, a lot of pain, but it will be over soon, and we can all move on. The proponents of the plan retort with the PC version of “pish-tosh”.
STAGE 3. The bail out begins, and the RESULT is a recession that has lasted four years, leaving 23 million out of work, with no end in sight, and Ben Bernanke frantically chopping down trees to make more money.
STAGE 4. The RESPONSE is, as you would expect in the face of failed policy, a denunciation of those who do not believe that the current state of affairs is the best possible result. They are, as Mr. Sowell states,
“dismissed as ‘simplistic’ for ignoring the ‘complexities’ involved, as ‘many factors’ went into determining the outcome. The burden of proof is put on the critics to demonstrate to a certainty that these policies alone were the only possible cause of the worsening that occurred. No burden of proof whatever is put on those who had so confidently predicted improvement.”
He finishes with a point that sounds agonizingly familiar:
“Indeed, it is often asserted that things would have been even worse, were it not for the wonderful programs that mitigated the inevitable damage from other factors.”
In other words, “We had the right idea. It’s not our fault it didn’t work. And besides, things would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t gone down this path. We’ll be rolling out the reform package soon, complete with a new Crisis Czar. All we need is more money and more time to get the job done properly. Just have a little faith.”
It would be nice to hear, just once, “We won the war on (insert crisis here). In fact, we brought it in on time and under budget. We’ll be issuing every taxpayer a rebate, and repealing the laws that were necessary to bring a permanent end to this crisis. Thank you for your support, and you may resume your lives for the better now.”