I don’t usually read the comments on articles as I cruise the web. All it normally does it raise my blood pressure and make me faintly nauseous. But for the last couple of days, for some reason I’ve found myself scrolling through the comments on articles I’ve read. It had the desired affect: I now need my antacids and a blood pressure pill.
It also leaves me rather said and worried about the future of our union. Because rarely do I see a comment that represents real thought and understanding of the issue being discussed. Rather, the vast majority resemble talk radio or cable TV sound bites loaded up for shock value and one sentence partisan zingers. Here’s an example:
You think the private sector creates wealth and the government doesn’t? You’re a joke!
This is, apparently, now what passes for political converse and economic literacy in our country, because the discussion quickly descended into foul language and finger pointing from there. And it’s hardly unique. No, it’s about on par with most comment threads I looked at. It doesn’t take perusal of many comment or forum threads to understand why the Washington political landscape is as dysfunctional as it is. Not just for its hard line “my way or the highway” attitude, but also for its complete lack of common sense. The reality that, while government can create an environment in which the private sector can better create wealth, government does not create any wealth on its own was standard fair in economics 101 when I was in high school! And yet, over half of the posted to the comment thread above seriously believed that either only government created wealth or that it was at least as good at it as the private sector, and that there was no difference, economically speaking, between a government salary and a private sector salary.
With that kind of economic and political literacy, Is it any wonder the national debt now exceeds our GDP?
Ah yes, here we go again some more. The Minnesota State government is still shut down and the masses are whining that their government won’t plunder the ‘rich’ and give them their money, while the rich complain that they’re being unfairly targeted and should be allowed to go their way, protecting their monopolies so they can soak the masses unimpeded. Meanwhile, in an oh so typical move, New York City is actually rationing toilet paper, claiming it “is so hard up for cash that it’s rationing toilet paper in women’s public restrooms—to the point where bathroom attendants are doling out a few measly squares per patron—along the world-famous Coney Island boardwalk.”
Okay, so if I’ve got this straight, it’s cheaper to pay City employees to ration toilet paper than it is to buy the cheap, single ply crap, governments always buy?
The logic there kind of strains credulity, don’t you think? On the other hand, political analysts are well aware that women, as a group, are more liberal than men. So from that point of view, rationing toilet paper to women, and women only, makes a great deal of political sense even though it’s fiscally stupid. It’s guaranteed to put enormous pressure on those trying to deal seriously with New York City’s financial problems.
And of course, neither the finger pointing in Minnesota nor the toilet paper rationing in New York City has or does diddly to address the real problem: When everybody plunders everybody else, only the politicians win—and then only for a short time. Because plunder adds no value to an economy, no matter where the money was plundered from. You, me, the rich—it doesn’t matter. No redistribution of wealth, no government project creates real wealth. Until the masses understand that basic fact (and don’t hold your breath) there is little hope for New York City, Minnesota, America, or the European Union.