Political Thinking Is Not In Your Best Interest

What does it mean to be liberal or conservative?

There was a time when I would have said I know the difference and I can see it in action throughout society. Today I am not so sure.

I think the idea of liberal is a good one. Look after oneself and each other. Adequate but not excessive government. High standards of morality. Opportunity for all. Not quite that anymore. 

Conservative to me means look after oneself, be a little reluctant to change, have a government that supports one group, usually wealthy, over others. Everyone, including governments, lives within their means. Opportunity for all, but if not part of the elite, it’s tough. Not quite that either.

It seems things have changed.

I cannot claim to understand what is liberal today.  The idea of looking after each other is still there, but it is no longer a personal duty.  The government is now the agent and that requires vast resources because governments are costly and largely unaccountable. Morality has been replaced by law. Another government function.

Conservatives are still busy looking after themselves but have a face to the others. The government supports them but not overtly. The government relies on them for campaign money so are unlikely to do much annoying. Most would prefer lower taxes and governments who lived within their means.

The common factor

Do you suppose being the government came to be an advantage?

Bigger government is common to both sides. Authoritarian even. I cannot see how that benefits society. On this point both modern liberals and modern conservatives agree. The expression of what the larger government should spend on is absent, but the structure of reward friends and punish enemies is larger than ever.

Big government is non-responsive to individuals and even to large groups of them. The European central government experiment has the unique skill of pleasing no one except itself and still it grows.

An alternative

When I was at university I took a course in what came to eventually be known as systems engineering. At the time, it was interesting but not fascinating.  I wish now I had found it more exciting. The ideas are universal.

The principle idea.

Look more than one decision layer deep. Study finds things that contradict our common government actions.

“If you never build public housing, you will never need it. If you do, you will always need it.”

The reasoning is based on the experience in Brooklyn in the late 50s and early 60s. Textile mills moved south for cheaper labour and lower costs. Thousands were thrown out of work. The government decided to turn empty factories into subsidized housing and to pay unemployment benefits. The effect was that labour rates did not fall despite the surplus, rents did not go down despite the surplus space, and taxes went up.

Think on the margin

There was some business on the margin, in Brooklyn that was getting along before the change. Once the changes started, their costs went up and they were no longer viable. More unemployed and empty space. More government action.

And then another and another until there were none.

Governments accelerate negative, cost-driven effects.

Not because they are malicious or uncaring, but because they can in the interest of protecting workers and others. They are big enough and financially powerful enough to do nearly anything.

It is all about asking questions whenever someone has a “good idea.” What then? and what after that? A program with no net economic justification must fail, or pick winners and losers. Not very liberal and not very conservative either.

Let us not forget that governments have no money of their own. It is all our money, no matter how obscure the connection.

It is time for another approach.

Common sense. On three fronts.

First, people are responsible for their own well being and should not rely on others. A safety net should be present because not everyone has equal resources and some suffer unlucky outcomes. It should be primarily aimed at returning the people to productive life.

Second, the money. You cannot spend indefinitely, and neither can the government. Theirs is often a cry of need that is well outside the need category and more an I want. Listen to your young ones. “I need designer jeans.” “I need Gelato.” I need an iPad.”

We are little different. “I need an exotic vacation.” “I need a new car.” “I need the government to fix that.”

Government “I needs” are just more complex, more costly and harder to stop.

Third, a way of thinking. Complaining is useless. It is the refuge of the powerless. Learn to take responsibility. Accept accountability. Learn patience.

Some further thoughts

I came on this article,  and am reminded how our thoughts get twisted by what we have available to see and hear. I have been an admirer of John Sowell and Walter Williams for at least 25 years. It is worth looking at their thoughts.

Applied common sense.

Perhaps the media does not tell us what to think, but it definitely tells us what to think about and that is just as insidious.

Pay more attention to what is missing.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. 

In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you. don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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