Freedom: Don’t Let it Go Quietly

A reader asks: Why do so few possess this logical viewpoint [about socialism and ethics]? Have we bred laziness and lack of personal responsibility as a society? How can we possibly turn the tide?

One reason is we’re taught, starting in childhood, to think in groups. When we learn, we’re not taught as individuals. We’re usually taught in a group. We’re taught to find consensus in discovering the truth, rather than truth itself; maybe not so much about 1 plus 1 equaling 2, but certainly about issues of ethics, right/wrong, and the like.

As a result, we become a society dominated by people who conclude, “If I come out against socialism, then I’ll be seen as mean. I can’t be seen as mean!”

I live in a very left-of-center town. They call it “progressive,” although they never identify progress towards what. Publicly, anyone who says anything at all is on the left side of the aisle. I’m not merely talking about social issues, but primarily about economic and political issues, such as ObamaCare, taxes, micromanagement of business, and all the rest.

I get whispered agreement or emails or statements from local people all of the time about how they agree with me, about ObamaCare, for example, or about the merits of rationality, personal responsibility and individualism. They ask me not to tell anyone, because they’re trying to make a living in a small town, and they don’t want to be seen as rude or lacking in compassion. My first question (at least to myself) is always, “Why is it lacking in compassion to demand freedom? Nobody’s proposing a law against voluntary charity. Any millionaire is free to give everything away, and any person is free to support a charity.” Why should honest business people who want the government out of their way be afraid to speak up in their own defense?

Fear is the problem. The underlying psychology here is that, “If I’m seen a certain way, then I am a certain way.” It all goes back to the little child in the classroom who doesn’t want to speak up, lest he or she be seen as stupid, dumb, or—worst of all—different from the majority.

What we’re talking about, in part, is the psychology of shame. People with rational viewpoints, about government and ethics, are afraid to speak up. They have been shamed and intimidated into not doing so. Deeper than that, they have been shamed and intimidated into not speaking their minds. If even ten percent of the people who currently remain silent began to speak their minds more—in whatever forums or contexts are available to them, wherever it’s appropriate to discuss ideas—then we’d probably see some social change right there.

The other issue is that the welfare-entitlement state feeds upon itself. The more millions of people government makes dependent, the more people are stuck with that dependency. As government monopolizes more and more areas, even perfectly independent people become dependent on government, because government (with retirement, health care, etc.) is the only game in town.

I talk confidentially to many people who are stuck in this way. One of the major reasons for their depression, they tell me, is that they’re on government disability or benefits, and they hate the idea of being stuck on these programs forever. The problem is, once you’re on them, you’re on them for life. If you successfully overcome your depression and start to produce and generate income—well, you’re going to lose those benefits. People are free to give up those benefits, but are afraid to do so if it’s all they have. Government is happy to keep them dependent forever. It allows bureaucrats to keep their jobs, politicians to maintain their power, and self-righteous intellectuals (and others) to continue feeling superior.

People who love to support the entitlement state for its “compassion” don’t ever consider this point. This is because they’re more concerned with how they look in front of others than with what is actually happening.

It seems to me that if you woke up in the morning, immediately thinking of the impoverished masses and burning with pain for them, you’d be more than a little concerned that the welfare-entitlement state may actually be harming these people, not to mention society as a whole. But to even broach the subject in this way will generate nothing but rage, or perhaps laughter. This seems to suggest that something other than concern for the downtrodden is operative here.

We’re caught in a vicious cycle. The more government makes millions dependent on food stamps, permanent unemployment benefits, coerced (and bankrupt) entitlement schemes posing as government “savings” accounts, as well as higher profile transfers such as bailouts and corporate subsidies (for the politically favored), the more everyone becomes invested in and somehow (directly or indirectly) dependent on government for its own sake.

Breaking the cycle consists of speaking up for what’s rational, right and true, and refusing to be intimidated by the angry advocates of government coercion masked as compassion. A majority is not needed, because majorities do not move cultures; intellectual minorities do, for better or worse. The uncertain and uncommitted, who comprise the middle of the road, will eventually go with the intellectual currents that make the most sense to them. Right now, the only intellectual current is Obama’s socialism, because nobody is willing to risk being seen as “mean” by proposing a complete course reversal.

The tide can turn any time we wish. Americans must get out of their own way, and set themselves free from the toxic dependency of a meddling government “Big Mama” state. The answer lies in not being afraid, and seeing the true oppressors as ourselves, for allowing this to happen.

Twilight in America? It’s not inevitable. In this society, we have the cultural, economic and psychological infrastructure required for the comeback to rival all comebacks. When and if the people ever demand and permit that comeback, it will be ferocious indeed.