George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘human nature

GOVERNING TO THE MAX

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The federal, state, and local governments always adapt the most optimistic scenario of revenues going forward, and then proceed to go ahead and spend on that basis. When these projections don’t materialize they are caught unprepared, especially at the state and local level, since they cannot print money like the federal government. Prudence would suggest that rather than proceeding on the rosiest assumptions, more cautious figures ought to be used. Instead they assume that things will be as good or better than they are at the moment, never worse. This is not to suggest that more realistic projections are not made in some cases, but those tend to be ignored in practice.

But things do occasionally get worse and revenues do fall below expectations. Everyone else has to tighten their belts when things go south. Businesses have to cut back ,as do individuals, but not the government, or it goes into crisis mode. In the recession everyone else has had to do more with less, but government just keeps growing, especially at the federal level. Locally, when the economy tanks there is less flexibility. If suburban property values fall, as they have in the housing bust, the income from property taxes that local governments depend upon is going to be reduced since houses are worth less. With reduced revenue they must choose between cutting back or increasing taxes, opting for the latter to the extent they can get away with it.

If governments simply adapted more realistic assumptions they would be in far less trouble, as several states are now, and there would be more stability, But when times are flush and the tax revenues roll in they make sure they spend every penny of it, usually for “unmet needs,” instead of either reducing debt, maintaing a rainy day account, or returning money to the people it belongs to through tax reductions. They usually go for the maximum they can squeeze out, and this is a feature that has been characteristic of all governments throughout history, no matter what form they take.

There is a reason for this, which takes us to my Prime Axiom: All entities constantly seek to grow and expand. Whether it is the state, social institutions, business, educational or religious institutions, at the top of the agenda is continued growth and expansion. It is a collective organic compulsion that takes on a life of its own. Rare is the entity that seeks to reduce itself. There is an even more basic reason for this; people always want more. Whether it is power, money, glory or simply more stuff, everyone wants more. That being the case, people in institutions continuously want more out of the environment they operate in. They  feel compelled to be bigger tomorrow than they are today. it is no surprise that government acts in the same way. The differences is that there are fewer checks and limitations on the state than there are  in any other domain. They get to write their own rules.

Once we understand how compelling these characteristics are in human nature, it is easy to see why government, which is composed of human beings, inevitably grows without limitation. The state always seeks to govern with the maximum number of resources it can obtain.  This leads to ever increasing incursions into the private sphere, which is diminished, as it retreats before the endless state appetite for power and revenue. But as the government takes on more and more, its effectiveness becomes less and less, until it can no longer honor its commitments and heads towards collapse.

How then do we reduce the insatiable appetite of the state? It can only happen if people become aware of the process that is engulfing all of us. There are some states where government has changed course, limiting itself and lowering taxes, and it is no surprise that they are growing while other states with high taxes and regulation are losing jobs and people to them. It is only when we realize what we are doing to ourselves, for we do have a government composed of the representatives of the people, that we can begin to reverse course. We do not always need more and more, and must learn to limit ourselves. Some things do not get better with growth and expansion, for where the state is concerned, it contains the seeds of its own demise.

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Written by georgesarant

March 16, 2013 at 10:11 PM

OF HEROES AND EVIL

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One of the most poignant stories to come out of the Aurora, Colorado movie massacre was how three young men rushed to cover and protect their girlfriends from the gunfire. They shielded them with their bodies, sacrificing their lives in the process. Sadly all three died, but all three women survived. It is striking how each man had the same reaction, instinctively acting to protect their female companion. We live in an age when gender roles are supposedly blurred and their is endless pressure from “progressives” to eliminate them completely. Nevertheless there are things in human nature that cannot be changed so easily. It is not simply a chivalric response, but a natural protective impulse of self-sacrifice. Such stories occur over and over, such as in the case of a pair of young people found frozen on a mountain, the male shielding the female with his body, as well as throughout history. While a strong sense of duty may be socially inculcated, there is more at work in instinctive actions to protect women and children.

It is true that the role of women has changed radically over the past one hundred years. This has only been possible through the veneer of civilization and law. However, most women still appreciate and will seek out men who act like men. Yes, there are in fact characteristics that are particularly male as well as female. Neither is better than the other. They are simply different, and no amount of blurred sex roles can change this. This is clearly most evident in the absence of civilization, or when civil society breaks down and natural tendencies become more obvious, notwithstanding all the nonsense on tv and in the movies depicting women acting like men. The three heroes were not from an older, presumably more traditional generation, but were young men in their twenties with everything to live for, and raised with contemporary assumptions. They grew up without anyone like John Wayne on the scene, yet each one “did a John Wayne,” as they used to say during the Vietnam war era.

There is another false premise of the left apparent in this incident. It is best summed up, continuing with movie metaphors, in a scene from the film The Good Son, when one boy warns a liberal psychologist of the awful deeds of another boy and she responds “I don’t believe in evil.” But the reality is that there is evil in the world. That is obvious in the meticulous, extensive preparation of the murderer in this incident. While lawyers will no doubt come up with some “insanity” defense, on the assumption that such a heinous crime could only be attributable to mental derangement, the pre-meditation and methodical, rational planning belie that explanation. Nor can lax “gun laws” be blamed, as prior to this incident this individual could have passed any kind of background screening. He was an honor student with a clean background. The reality is that some people do terrible things. Fortunately the most extreme are few in number, but there are evil people willing and capable of committing horrendous acts.  While it is possible to come up with psychological motivations for almost anything, there is no way that evil deeds are blameless.

Sometimes a whole regime can be permeated with evil,such as those we have struggled with in the past, often through war,  as well as a place like Syria today, where the government has slaughtered over 17,000 of its own citizens. The belief that proper conditioning is somehow going to eliminate evil in the world is a dangerous fantasy, for whether one is a believer or not, there will always be evil in the world. But against this backdrop we can take comfort in the ubiquity of good in life, most apparent in the actions of our heroes.

Written by georgesarant

July 22, 2012 at 3:41 PM

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