Saturday, November 06, 2010

Secular Religion pt II

In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.
- Paul Harvey

The Public. The Public wants this. The Public wants that. The Public is angry. We had an election in Toronto and they had an election in the U.S. And I'm afraid to say, I'm not part of The Public. Because I don't really feel what The Public is feeling. I guess it's because the only taxes I pay are consumer taxes. I guess if I paid property taxes and land taxes and so on and so forth, I'd feel what The Public feels. But if The Government isn't forcing me to go kill people, or telling me what job to work, or kicking down my door and hassling me, I'm pretty content. But The Public? You can't tell The Public about what they should feel grateful for. The Public wants to know what you've done for them lately. And David Miller here in Toronto and Barack Obama in the U.S. they haven't done much.

Rob Ford and the Tea Party, however, they know what The Public wants. The Public wants lower taxes. The Public wants better services. The Public wants jobs. The Public wants the future to be as stable as the past.

But can they deliver that? Obviously hope springs eternal, and I can't say enough about being optimistic and having high expectations of people and the World. My problem springs from the rather obvious contradiction that we have expectations of The Government that The Public doesn't have of itself.

In the U.S., the President has only one problem of any worth: 9.6. That is the unemployment rate in his country and it isn't budging. He's thrown a ton of money at the problem, he's got credit flowing again, he's reined in the Wall Street investors. But no one's hiring. The Public expects him to get them jobs. And perhaps that's what they elected him for. And it's certainly what he expects of himself. But is it right to hope that The Government will manufacture a job for you? If The Government disappeared tomorrow would we just sit on our asses and throw our hands in the air and say "Oh, well." Or would we start asking ourselves the really hard questions like, 'If no one is going to hire me, what can I do to get people to pay me money?' What can I do to be productive, to become valuable to society and others? With the exception of those who work for The Government, The Public never got jobs from The Government. They made them themselves.

The most The Government ever did after The Public made jobs was just tinkering with the result (and taking credit for it). Tinkering to protect members of The Public that couldn't take care of themselves, tinkering to build ways to communicate and transport things, tinkering to keep us from being so single minded about working that we started not caring about anything else. Hence we have welfare, and domestic infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. And The Public always acknowledged, grudgingly, that it needs those things and no one member of The Public was going to provide them. But the one thing that was never The Government's raison d'etre was making jobs. It could only do that if economics was a precise invariant science based on inert factors. Yeah, well, ever heard of free will? It pretty much takes science off the table.

So if The Public doesn't expect itself to make jobs, why does it expect The Government to?


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