The election is over and, in large measure, the populace once more voted to continue voting itself funds taken from “other” people. Oh, sure, in some areas like Florida, the flood tide was temporarily stemmed with Rubio-type sandbags. But the waters will keep rising; the sandbags will not hold.
As Tocqueville told us long ago, “A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.” I would amend that to read “those who vote for a tax think they can escape the obligation to pay it.”
And then this, a quotation so well known that we now here it as we hear a Christmas carol; we nod our head to the music, but we no longer attend to the meaning of the words:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
This quotation is a prediction and, for all you Popper fans out there, a falsifiable one. Which is not to say a false one. If there is anything problematic with Tocqueville’s forecast, it is that he didn’t say when, how long? Two hundred years, three, more?
For we shall hear of budget deficits and rumors of budget deficits, but the end is not yet come. We still have some life left, but I think not much; perhaps another century, at most two. Ah, too far away to care about.
Californians must have been humming Tocqueville’s tune as they made their way to the polls. They happily pulled the lever for Jerry Brown, a man well known to the indigenous populants, and a man who promised to stop all the “cuts” that his predecessor and his challenger touted. By which he meant, he would discover new and improved rhetoric to describe how he will provide largess out of the public treasury.
Californians really do believe that the spending to which they have been accustomed over the past thirty years can continue indefinitely. They had the choice to tighten fiscal policy, but they rejected the idea as anathema. In a way, the blind faith Californians have is touching. The really do feel that the money is out there somewhere, just waiting to be plucked from the air.
New Yorkers are not much different. Even Charlie Rangel—a man who served honorably in Korea, once a gentleman, now a white-collar thief—was returned to office, held high on the shoulders of the voters of his district. Those voters wanted more of what Rangel had been giving them: other people’s money.
What made this all worse, was that yesterday in class I was describing an experiment ESPN Magazine conducted to test the ridiculous Power Balance bracelet. This is a trinket into which is embedded one of those little holographic stickers of the type you have on your credit card. The manufacturers claim that this sticker is “tuned” to “human frequencies.”
“What is it supposed to do?” one student asked. I said it was meant to make the wearer stronger, more virile. Can you guess what happened next? If not, glance again at the first part of the title of this post. The student asked, “What’s that mean?”
“What’s what mean?” I responded.
“I don’t know that word.”
“Virile? You don’t know what virile means? Are you kidding me?” I stood speechless for a moment. I spelled the word on the white board. “How many of you don’t know this word? Come on, don’t be shy.” A good thirty voters raised their hands, many voices saying “Never heard of it. What’s it mean? Etc. Etc.”
All I could get out was, “You guys don’t read enough.” What made it worse was that this episode came after I gave my example of the deleterious effects of constantly wearing a thinking suppression device (I did an experiment on the F train, noting what proportion of men, and what of women, wore them; so-called test of difference of proportions). Most of the students bristled under my nomenclature. Don’t pick on my music!
Yet there is still some hope! Beards might be back. The fearless New York Post is reporting beards are busting out all over New York City. What we need in this country right now is more men that look like Jules Verne, and fewer like Harry Reid. At least we can go down looking like men.