The Truth Hurts, But It Also Sets You Free

A loyal reader sent some of my articles to a friend. This is the response he received. 

“These capitalism articles are very depressing.  I read two of Dr Hurd’s, ‘America’s Decline is Not Inevitable But It is Real — part 1 & part 2.’ I clicked on these hoping to find an upbeat possibility of the reversal of our slide into socialism.  Nope!!! Part 1 was about religion/big government & how people want a savior.  Part 2 was about people’s loathing of self-responsibility.  There was no mention of any possible turn of events or shining star politicians that would be about to save us from the  destruction of socialism.  He did mention in both parts that nothing is inevitable and that man always has the free will to embrace self-responsibility. Nothing comforting in there!!”

The loyal reader commented: “I was a little disappointed that she is still looking for a ‘Shining Star’  who would save us. I wrote back and explained the consequences of looking at any politician as a Savior and suggested that she take on that role for herself.”


Dr. Hurd’s Reply:

These comments get to the core of why our situation in America is not hopeful, not right now.

Too many people believe that we need a “savior,” as you said. This, of course, is wrong. America doesn’t need a leader to make everything right. America needs a leader who will get out of the way. If Obama were a true leader, he’d be saying, “America, you can fix this yourselves. For my part, I’m going to get government out of the way.” He’d also say, “We have to face hard facts. Medicare and Social Security are bankrupting us. Those promises never should have been made in the first place. We’re going to do what we can to keep those promises to the current and near-term generations, but we’ve got to put the next generations in charge of taking care of their own retirement and medical care. We’re going to do everything we can to open up the private market for doing so.”

A leader is not a savior. A leader will not perpetuate the delusions of the masses by pretending that the truth isn’t what it plainly is.  A leader is someone who says, in essence, “You can do it.” In the context of government, this means saying, “You can do it, which is why I’m getting out of the way.”

The person who wrote these comments finds the notion of self-responsibility “depressing.” That’s the whole problem  with America. There’s an old, unkind and unfair saying about teachers. It went like this: “Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.” I never believed that about teachers. It might be true of bad or mediocre teachers, but it’s not true of education on principle. A good teacher is one of the greatest things there is. However, this saying is true of politicians. I would put it this way: “Those who can, do; those who cannot, go into politics.” Think about it. Politicians are, by definition, people who either cannot or choose not to make it in the private sector. Once in awhile you find people who go into politics who did accomplish things in the private sector. But even this calls their motivation into question. Why would someone want to force people to do things after having a successful career, in business, of voluntarily persuading people to spend their money? I wouldn’t make this comment about a politician who wants to get out of the way, but I have yet to see a single politician like this, at least not one with a widespread following whose viewpoints are consistent.

This reader is, in a sense, shooting the messenger. The reader is persuaded of my points about capitalism and politics, but doesn’t like what she’s hearing. So that’s my fault? That’s kind of like saying, “The emperor has no clothes. I can see it myself. But why did you have to say it?” This kind of attitude is what kills people. It’s called denial. It’s not only unfair, but it’s harmful to the person engaging in the attitude.

America’s leaders are continually disappointing them. It’s clearly not even a liberal or conservative issue. It’s deeper than that. Obama was supposed to rescue us, but he didn’t. Now will Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich rescue us instead? The prospect is almost comical. So what are we left with, then? Who’s going to rescue us? “Don’t leave that question unanswered, Dr. Hurd,” this reader is saying. “It’s too depressing!”

In a psychological context, the goal should be, as my loyal reader suggests, to rescue yourself. In a political or social context, the proper goal should be: let the best and brightest be free to do their thing, and the economy will come back to life. The economy is still vibrant and strong in so many ways. It’s undermined by government, not supported by it. The more government tries to “support” the economy, the worse it becomes. All I hear from people about getting mortgages or trying to refinance their loans is about how bureaucratic and cumbersome it has all become, in the era of government bailouts and regulations. I repeatedly hear things like, “Citibank doesn’t get back to you. You have to fax them three times just to get a response. Dealing with Citibank is like dealing with a government agency.” Gee, you think? This is what happens when government gets even more involved in the economy. Government contaminates everything it touches when it departs from its only valid role, which is to protect people from force or fraud. The moment governments get into the business of rescuing, managing or enabling people, it’s a disaster. Watch what happens when government is the primary manager of medical care, and you’ll see what I mean.

America’s compulsive and irrational fixation on government saving us is like a family with a drug addict. “I know my loved one has a drug problem. But it’s depressing to think of it that way. Who’s going to rescue him?” The obvious and only answer is, “He’s got to rescue himself.” The reply will be, “But that’s depressing.” My reply to that would be, “It’s not depressing at all. The moment he decides his life is worthwhile and that he’s capable of something, the possibilities of accomplishment and happiness for him are enormous. In fact, it happens all the time. It happens every single time somebody breaks their habit.”

The same applies to a society, including one such as America. Its decline is not inevitable. A society is only as good as its willingness to respect the best and the brightest, and to keep them free. Keeping the best and brightest free is part and parcel of keeping everyone free. Only outright criminals are restrained. That possibility still exists in America probably more than any other place in the world right now. If only the people would set themselves free, we’d be on our way. Prosperity and happiness are more possible than most of us know. Most people don’t grasp this. That’s not depressing, but it is sad. And so unnecessary. We could reverse course, any time, and with a much better head start than any other society on earth.

We can only blame elected officials so much. Americans are still free to reject Obama, but if polls are to be believed, they probably won’t. Americans are free to reject Republican alternatives like Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, and make it profitable for a real alternative — say a Ron Paul with a rational foreign policy — to get somewhere. The reason this isn’t happening is because most Americans don’t want it. A minority do, but a majority don’t yet want it. Most are still stuck where this critic of mine is stuck, saying only, “Don’t depress me. Find someone to save me!” Just because you’re an opponent of Obama and socialism doesn’t make this attitude any more admirable or productive. I have a hunch this is why the Tea Party failed. Perhaps many of them dislike Obama merely because he didn’t save us, not because they want to save themselves.

Stop the pointless complaining. The truth may hurt, but it also sets you free. So long as you see the truth as your enemy, or as “depressing,” you’re sealing your own fate. Don’t blame that on the messenger. Blame that on your own way of looking at facts. You’re free to change it, any time.