Monday, July 14, 2014

Millennials: Let's Talk!

The folks at Reason-Rupe just released a poll about Millennial political opinions.  Not surprisingly, you Millennials are confused.  A majority, 59% are in favor of tax cuts, but 66% percent think that raising taxes on the rich would help the economy.

57 percent of millennials want wealth distributed according to achievement, but 68 percent say government should ensure that everyone makes a living wage.

You can see what is going on here.  You millennials have been buffeted around by everyone's political talking points, and so you want plenty of things that are mutually incompatible.  Join the club!

It would be nice to have a consistent view of the world of politics, although, of course, Ralph Waldo Emerson warned us that a "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers".

Let us be clear about this: "foolish consistency" only applies to other people.  For you and I a consistent view of the world is nothing less than common sense, or even the sophisticated German idea of a world-view, a Weltanshauung.  Everybody has one, but not everyone has thought about it, or tried to resolve the inevitable inconsistencies.

I'm going to talk about my world view in this and subsequent pieces.  I believe that the current system is reaching the end of its useful life.  It may have been a good idea, a century ago, to build a government welfare state state featuring government furnished, government administered benefits like old-age pensions and health care and education and welfare, but today I think we can see that reform is needed.

The trouble is that ideas that seemed pretty good a century ago can be totally out of place a century later.  It seemed like a good idea to provide a basic pension to old people back in 1900, especially since few people lived as long as 65 years old.  But the problem is that the funding mechanism set in place for Social Security back in 1935 -- a mere 2 percent of wages -- becomes a monster in 2014 at over 12 percent of wages.

The point is: how can we, as a society, provide decent safety nets for our people without breaking the bank.  For make no mistake, the burden falls heaviest on you guys, the millennial generation.  The way that Social Security and Medicare are set up the only flexibility is on the payment side.  Try to reduce benefits on the baby boomers and see what happens to you.  But saddle Millennials with student debt and a lousy job market and who cares?

Then there are the social issues.  Everyone wants to be free, but where does freedom turn into license?  Conservatives don't much like gay marriage.  But liberals don't much like sugary soft drinks.  They hate to bow to other peoples' morality.  Yet everyone is mad to "legislate their morality" on the rest of America.

At least everyone hates those evil banksters. Except that nobody seems to do anything about them.  What gives?

Let's start at the beginning, with the idea that government is force.  A little extreme, you think?  Well, it's my belief that you can be a patriotic American and support your government, and still be radically suspicious of every politician and activist.  Because when you come down to it, government not about the things we do together, as President Obama has said.  It is about things that we authorize the government to do with force, from the IRS and taxes to the EPA and environmental regulation.  The government does not say you may pay your taxes.  It says you must pay your taxes or go to jail.  The whole idea is for a majority in Congress or in the Supreme Court to force its ideas on the minority.

So let's take a broader look at government.  There's nothing wrong with government being force; it's just that I think that it's important to be clear about it.  People like to think that government that implements their idea is nothing less than justice.  I want you to think twice about that.

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