2012-06-28

A Nation That Knows No Suffering

Courtesy: http://www.asianews.it
Taxes and mandates do not produce food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or entertainment. They produce need. And brothers, you asked for it.

The photo above shows a poverty-stricken boy literally dying in the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. I found it using Google Image Search, under the search string "poverty Bangladesh." I ask that my readers look at that image, and the others they find under that search string, and carefully consider what they see. It is possible - today, as in right now - to buy a plane ticket and fly to a place where people are literally dying in the streets, from hunger.

Things are worse in the villages, of course, but please understand that the poor in Dhaka have travelled from the villages in a final attempt not to starve to death, and many of them fail. Why? No, it's not because the hideous, evil, profit-seeking corporations have destroyed them. It's because there isn't enough food, clothing, shelter, or healthcare to go around. Resources are insufficient to sustain life. These poor people could live, if they could find work, and they are willing to do so. But, there is no work to be found. What little work they manage to do simply does not pay enough to keep them alive.

Again, I ask that you consider what that means. Imagine what your life might be like if you could do work, sleep in the streets, go without new clothing for years, put all your money toward food, and have it be insufficient means for keeping you alive. Not happy, alive.

Just consider what it means to be completely unable to obtain enough food to keep yourself alive, no matter how hard you work. Think about it. Think about it.

The people of the United States of America do not know suffering. They do not know poverty. They do not know want or need. It is possible in this country to find steady work at a fast food restaurant, that pays you enough money for you to afford a roof over your head and - at the very least - food enough to keep you alive. Over time, you will even be able to afford health insurance, a computer, a cell phone, new clothes, and so on.

Don't get me wrong - you won't live a fabulously opulent life. You won't have much. There will be many things you will simply have to go without having. You probably won't ever be as happy as the middle class family with 2.3 children and a dog. You may never realistically be able to climb to the top of the corporate ladder, and you will never know the kind of life that Warren Buffett or Bono lead.

But, on the other hand, you won't die of starvation in the streets, either. Not unless you're mentally ill.

The vast, overwhelming majority of US citizens have never known the kind of scarcity, the kind of ever-pressing, clear and present danger that real poverty poses to millions of people in Bangladesh, and many millions of people elsewhere.

Because Americans have no concept of scarcity, we have grown accustomed to making demands for trivial things: government healthcare, government day care, government education, government roads, government green energy...

We beg the government to raise our prices by subsidizing industries and closing our borders to trade. We plead with the government to regulate every aspect of our lives, raising our prices, reducing our choices, putting our neighbors out of work. We beseech the government to raise our taxes. We wax long and boring about "we can afford to pay more taxes." We call the police on our neighbors when they play music in their garage. We flash a middle finger wildly at someone taking a telephone call on the road, screaming, "There ought to be a law!" We stare helplessly as wildfires claim our neighbors' land and then implore of our government, "Why don't you do something???"

We have lost all perspective on scarcity. We have it so good here, that we anxiously await our next chance to throw it all away.

It never once occurs to us that our lack of scarcity is a priviledge we enjoy solely because our taxes are so low, our borders so free, our markets so open, and our wages so high, that even the lowest among us can afford to pay more than she has to without worrying about literally starving to death on the street, no matter how hard she works.

Economics teaches us that the source of wealth is our ability to feed, clothe, shelter, heal, and entertain ourselves. Paying a little extra for any one of those things (food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or entertainment) simply reduces our ability to consume all of them. We may go for years without noticing the difference. We may even go a lifetime without seeing it.

And then, one day, some of us start dying in the streets, while the rest of us look on from the comfort of our cars as our chauffeurs drive us to the mall - just like the rich and middle class people do in Dhaka.

If Americans want to live in a banana republic, they very well can. If they want to turn America into one, they're doing a very good job. Just make sure you're not the one in the street, and every thing will be fine.

Taxes and mandates do not produce food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or entertainment. They produce need. And brothers, you asked for it.