The quest for the supernatural and the desire for Big Government both spring from the same source: A desire to be taken care of and controlled by others. Supernaturalism is one unhealthy manifestation of this desire; and Big Government is another. The supernaturalist yearns to be cared for by ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ or ‘Allah.’ The socialist yearns to be cared for by Barack, by Mr. Roosevelt or by the Department of Health and Human Services.
While it’s true that supernaturalism and Big Government/socialism are based on similar errors, it doesn’t follow that people who want one necessarily desire the other. On the contrary, in today’s culture the two are almost mutually exclusive. Advocates of Big Government are usually educated elites, secular agnostics or atheists who love living in the material world. Karl Marx, the godfather of Communism, is one of the most famous atheists of history.
Opponents of Big Government are more often fundamentalist religionists. Their opposition to Big Government rests not on reason so much as the idea that ‘God is more important than government.’ Ronald Reagan opposed Big Government, but he also gave rise to the religious right in the United States. George W. Bush claimed to oppose Big Government (he actually didn’t), but he was also a fundamentalist Christian. Rush Limbaugh opposes Big Government, but he insists that rights come from God, not government — when in fact they come from neither. They come from man’s nature as a conceptual, thinking being who must be left free to survive.
At the root, proponents and opponents of Big Government denigrate the individual. The conservatives say, ‘Individualism matters, but it’s still secondary to God.’ Liberals say, ‘The individual doesn’t matter at all, unless it’s a powerful figure in society or government.’ What is the neurotic appeal of both these views to millions of people? Fear of individuality, of course.
Individuality means freedom, and everyone seems to want freedom. But throughout human history, freedom has been the exception, not the norm. The nation of freedom and individual rights that was established in 1776 has steadily drifted away from freedom since that time.
The reason for this dangerous move away from freedom is simply that people fear self-responsibility. Sure, they want to be free. But they don’t want to be self-responsible — at least not ‘too much’ so. Of course, this isn’t true of everybody but it is true of many. This is why freedom has been the exception and not the norm throughout all of human history. People don’t necessarily want to be ruled, and they’d rather not be brutalized. But they also don’t want to rule themselves or run their own lives, either. The most popular slogan a politician can proclaim is, ‘Help is on the way.’
At the core, many people fear and loathe self-responsibility. That’s why freedom is slowly perishing as it is compromised again and again. I don’t agree that humans aren’t ‘ready’ for freedom. It’s not a question of timing; it’s a question of ideas, beliefs, and conviction. When enough people have the right ideas and the resulting attitudes required for freedom, then freedom will rise again and perhaps even prevail.
Human beings have progressed throughout the ages, particularly in the realm of technology. And exponentially greater progress is still possible. But it will certainly slow down as freedom subsides. Progress requires the free exercise of human reason, the kind of reason that flourishes best in the free marketplace of business and ideas.
Just as church and state must be kept separate, economics and state must also be separate. Freedom has not yet disappeared completely, at least not in places like the United States, but it is waning, and it is currently under relentless attack, as rarely before seen in the land of Thomas Jefferson. Most people agree that the budget deficit and the national debt are in crisis. There’s really no precedent for such debt because the human economy has not ever reached a point where any debt could be so large.
Capitalism and freedom, dominant in the nineteenth century and, to a lesser extent, in the twentieth century, brought us unprecedented wealth, growth and prosperity. In the early twenty-first century, we’re at a crossroads. The forward motion of our wealth and prosperity is stalling and will surely stop is we continue on our current anti-capitalist and anti-freedom course. Most are still in denial about this, but the evidence is stacking up almost daily.
America is not merely in a recession. It’s in decline.
The Tea Party and others are worried (and vocal) about the problem, but solutions still elude us. Why? Because at the core, most people don’t want to be self-responsible. ‘Cut the deficit? Absolutely. Curb the national debt? Of course. Cut programs? You bet. Cut this particular program, one that I like? Well, not so fast!’ What causes the attitude of ‘not so fast’ is: ‘I don’t want to be self-responsible.’ The deeper motive beneath this viewpoint: ‘I don’t want to be alone.’
What about the rights of others, upon whom you’re depending for that support, to be left alone? Why do you have the right to be left alone, while they don’t — and in fact they must be required to pay some of your way, so you don’t have to feel alone? No answer is given. It’s no different from religion. As the debt increases and the currency continues to devalue, the economy will be ruined for everyone–the producers and the takers. Won’t everyone then be alone? ‘It won’t happen here, not in America,’ is the unspoken answer. It’s just like religion.
The sad thing about human beings is that their progress in ethics and psychology has not kept up with their progress in technology. We live in a world of satellites, smart phones, life-saving medical treatments and jets that take us around the planet. From the perspective of even a century ago, we live in a world of miracles. However, at the same time we live in a world of profound neurotic anxiety, patronizing group-think and sacrificial savagery in the prevailing attitudes, ideas and ethical beliefs. The rise and growth of Islamic fundamentalism — the embodiment of sheer insanity in its purest, most undiluted form — in the midst of all this human growth and achievement is an indication that something has gone horrifically wrong.
What went wrong is the breach between science, technology, reason and what passes for ‘ethics’ in this most modern of worlds. People who live in that world, but who lack the ideas appropriate for coping, functioning, flourishing and expanding it are vulnerable to the savages who reside further out there. It’s really no different from the fall of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire ended slowly, but its final demise was marked by the invasions of the ‘Turks,’ the savages of that time who were not fueled by nearly the hatred and metaphysical zeal—or advanced technology—of today’s savages. The savages who destroyed the Roman Empire wanted power and property; today’s Islamic savages want the annihilation of life.
Such is the state of the United States and Western civilization. But nothing is inevitable. Human beings have free will, and human beings of today are truly ‘ready’ for self-responsibility. Tragically, most of them eschew it. Nevertheless, the choice to embrace it will always exist. Until or unless more of them do, our economic well-being, and ultimately what’s left of our freedom, will continue to fade away.