What should we think of a 247-year-old, post-revolution country that came to be recognized after World War II as the “land of opportunity” but now appears to be transforming into one of personal dependency? Ironically, the state arguably gaining most benefit from human resourcefulness and ingenuity, California, leads a vocal and insistent movement for a different kind of revolution – a domestic war on sensibility. Do we need another international military conflict to restore rational citizen thinking and community of purpose?
Equality of personal and group opportunity has been replaced by obsession with capitalistic success and inequality of outcomes leading to acceptance of collective welfare. Wealth, however defined, is increasingly viewed as a curse responsible for racial discrimination, ignoring ample evidence to the contrary. Some presumably disadvantaged Californians now clamor for financial reparations to overcome prejudicial conduct of past generations – by immediate placement in the ranks of the wealthy. They would impose a “make-good” tax burden on the entire population to pay up to $5-million each for alleged ancestral sins of persons whose lineage is mixed, speculative or untraceable. A headline-seeking press seems happy to stoke that fire of discontent without seriously considering its implications for various aspects of our society and economy. Is reverse discrimination the ultimate scam?
The common theme is stirring the pot to create division and conflict. Modern-day mobility and communications have compressed the world and fostered international trade that tests societal norms (such as child labor in Africa and religious dictates in the Middle East). Labor-saving innovations are transforming America into a more consumer-based and entertainment-driven society as group settings are replaced by work at home and now the disease-inspired four-day work week. Office automation has dramatically altered that workplace while artificial intelligence and robotics have enabled marketing and customer-service functions to supplant traditional factory jobs. Those trends create the allure of leisure time allowing flexibility to do what we want when we want – 24-hour media availability, travel, recreation, hobbies, sports, drugs and personal causes like health and environment.
The key question is “Do we work to satisfy individual ambitions and needs – or to sustain indigent lives of others who prefer unemployment, addiction, criminality, intransigence, irreverence, and otherwise reject conventional standards of conduct?” A nation inordinately taxing and spending beyond its reasonable means by further borrowing at the rate of the most recent federal administrations cannot afford California-style indulgences. No household or corporation could expect to survive by doing so.
By Phil Osifer