Sunday, December 9, 2012

In praise of simplicity

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free...
- lyrics from "Simple Gifts," traditional Shaker folk song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett
I'm writing from a coffee shop in Washington, D.C. this morning and my online news feed is full of discussions about this fiscal cliff mess: what the President is proposing, how the Republicans are reacting, whether there is any chance of a deal, how bad it will hurt our economy if we go off this fiscal cliff, whether it's even remotely possible to avoid it, and so on.

What frustrates me is that, as usual, the debate in this town misses the main point - neither side is taking any steps to address why we're in this mess in the first place.

We can argue back and forth about whether all those wretched "millionaires and billionaires" are paying their "fair share" (whatever that is), debate raising income tax rates, eliminating deductions, making spending cuts here and there, but the reality is that our government not only spends an insane amount of money on an insane amount of things, an increasingly high percentage of that money is money we don't have.

Which, again, brings me back to the issue of why we are in this mess.

Our government is interfering with every darn aspect of our lives, in ways that are neither essential for our safety nor designed to increase wealth or happiness for anyone (except maybe the armies of bureaucrats such nonsense regulations employ). If they're not taxing it, they're regulating it.

We're facing new taxes on every aspect of our lives, our jobs, our homes, our investments, our health care...even our pets. Uncle Sam has rules about how many gallons of water your toilet uses when you flush, what kind of lightbulb you are allowed to buy, and they even meddle with what percent of milk fat and natural food colorings are allowed in egg nog. Bah humbug.

Couple that with the ever-increasing number of people who can't find work, have given up finding work, or - in some sad cases - who never really tried in the first place. We are raising entire generations to be dependent on handouts from the government, pretending that we can somehow tax the rich in enough different ways that the money won't run out. Worse, our system creates massive obstacles and disincentives for those who might be able to find work and get off welfare, perpetuating and increasing the problem.

Why do we allow this?

Capitalism is the greatest engine for increasing the prosperity of people anywhere it has been introduced, and it works, in large part, because it is simple.

Very young children can handle capitalism, and do so successfully. Johnny has a cookie, and Susie has a cupcake. Johnny would rather have Susie's cupcake, and Susie would rather have a cookie, so they trade. Now they both feel "richer." This is the same concept that motivated me to trade a few dollars for this latte I'm drinking right now. I wanted the caffeine more than I wanted the money.

In contrast, many extremely brilliant and very well-educated people have attempted to make socialism work, and not a single one of these bright and shining minds have ever been able do so. Not once throughout all the centuries of known human history has anyone ever found a way to make a socialist system financially viable or even sustainable except through brutal oppression of the masses.

Again, I ask, why do we keep doing this?

Why do we keep allowing Congress to expand the labyrinthine mess of taxes and regulations? We are Charlie Brown, never learning that Lucy has no intention to ever let us kick that football, as our government leaders keep telling us that this new regulation is needed to keep us "safe", this new tax is "more fair," and every darn time, what we actually get is something that is neither safe or fair, and just makes it harder for us to go about our lives.

So, I'm left reading these articles about the fiscal cliff, and watching the talking heads on television, chattering on and on about tweaking the tax rates here and there, and I just want someone, anyone, to propose the very radical idea that the chuckleheads in this city sit down around a table and discuss what the government actually needs to be doing, and quit doing everything else.

Keep us safe. The interstate highways are a good idea. Negotiate trade treaties. Fine. But quit messing with what light bulb I buy, what label has to go on my cereal box, and get your hands off my egg nog.

Just. Keep. It. Simple.

[Cross-posted at RedState]

Follow me on Twitter at @rumpfshaker

1 comment:

  1. You're in D.C.?!? Enjoy! Best pizza: Duccini's at the intersection of 18th Street and U Street and Florida Avenue N.W. (closest Metro: Dupont Circle, Q Street exit). If you haven't yet, go up the bell tower of the Old Post Office (Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th Street N.W., closest Metro, Federal Triangle)


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