Government Meltdown

The ‘government shutdown’ is really a crisis for career politicians and their dependents, more than anyone else.

However, the issue runs deeper than that.

At stake in the ongoing government fiscal crisis is the future of the entitlement mentality.

The entitlement mentality refers to an emotional syndrome based on the false idea that one is entitled to be cared for by others—regardless of the cost, or violation of individual rights, involved. It’s the mentality of a child—proper to a child—taking form in a grown adult.

You find the entitlement mentality in many families. ‘I’m your sister [or brother, or father, or daughter]; therefore, you’re obliged to do what I want.’ I cannot count how many conversations I’ve had with people which start and end with, ‘I know these family demands are irrational and I deeply resent them; but it’s my family.

It’s the ultimate blank check, which explains why government debt and deficits are literally unlimited. ‘I am entitled to be taken care of, regardless of the cost to others.’ This is the spoken or unspoken attitude which those who now scream about the alleged ‘government shutdown’ cash in upon. Whether it’s trillions of dollars for corporate subsidies, or trillions of dollars in debt-laden funds for social insurance programs, it’s all propped up by the entitlement mentality.

Yes, the Republicans—specifically the Tea Party—will get the blame. It’s a thankless task to state the obvious, i.e. to attempt to hold irrational ideas accountable for their inevitable consequences. But that’s what this whole fiasco is really about. It’s not really about sequestration or continuing resolutions. Those are merely the concrete form those debates take. What’s really at stake in all this is, ‘Am I responsible for my own existence—or is some other entity responsible?’ This issue is operative whether it’s a welfare check, ‘free’ health insurance, or a billion-dollar corporate subsidy to the politically connected pseudo-capitalist running some favored corporation.

The rage and hostility one encounters when raising this issue in a political context reveals the level of anxiety that entitlement arouses in people. This is why you find wealthy or perfectly well off middle class people defending the entitlement state to the hilt, and voting in droves for politicians who continue with the charade at all costs.

They’re scared to death, which is what the rage really means. What are they scared of? Any concession to the idea that we are not our brothers’ keepers, that we own nobody’s life, not by force or guilt. At root their emotional terror is, “I’m alone in the world.” Even if it’s true.

The battle for Big Government is not really a political battle, although that’s the context in which these emotional and ideological issues play out. It’s actually a battle for preserving the false assumption that it’s moral or even possible for one person (or group of people) to hold a mortgage on the rights and life of another. ‘If I’m suffering hardship, or even potentially suffer hardship, then someone else must be there for me. The products of his or her efforts belong to me, if I need them.’

The irony is that a free economy based on private property with literally unlimited economic and technological expansion over time is a far better deal than Obamacare, Medicare or any of these other preposterously bankrupt government schemes ever could have been. No matter. It’s not about logic, or anything like that. It’s all about emotion.

If the obvious irrationality and dysfunction surrounding our collapsing entitlement state were allowed to speak freely it would say: ‘Don’t you dare question my right to be taken care of. The government preserves that illusion for me. I cannot survive the hour without that illusion.’

What we’re witnessing in Washington DC is a battle to the death between reality-evading politicians and ‘ reality itself.

Sooner or later, reality always wins.


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