Monday, April 22, 2013

The Western democracies: What's our problem, really?



The Western democracies are in an awkward era. Our economic malaise is plainly government induced. Our governments are too large and costly. We will not admit it to ourselves. We the people have emotional and political interests tied up in the idea of the welfare state and many of us receive cash or benefits from government programs. The fact that the scheme cannot work in the long run is the more loudly denied the more inescapable it becomes.

Austerity is needed. It is vehemently resisted and the need for it is denied. The economy sinks a little lower. New calls for austerity are met by new resistance and further denial. The economy sinks lower still. We would rather have the problem than the solution. Austerity measures, when imposed, are too little  too late: big enough to cause riots but not sufficient to solve the underlying problem.

Democracy gone wrong in this way cannot correct itself by democratic means. Few voters have the vision, or the courage, to vote themselves less largess from the government. Once the idea became established of buying votes with programs paid for with public funds, an irreversible trend established itself. The trouble with bribing the people with the people's own money is that they always come back for a bigger bribe. Government grows and the vitality of the private economy is vampired away.

If we won't admit what our problem is, we will not be able to solve it. Rather like a wandering drunkard who assures himself and his friends that he can quit any time, we continue to reel down a road that ends we know not where.

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