Posts Tagged “history”

I never thought much of history when I was in high school.  Why do we need to remember all that silly stuff that happened a long time ago?  That was never fully explained, and so it seems a little pointless.

Now I know it matters, and I wish someone would’ve explained why.  It matters because history repeats itself and people have short memories.

Life is not a laboratory, so you can’t know what will happen if you pass ObamaCare or not.  There is no control group or double blind peer reviewed studies on the subject; we can’t split the US in two and have one group continue status quo while the other pursues health care reform, then compare the results…….but in reality there is something that will often suffice: history.

History (sometimes modern history) runs natural experiments for us; if you understand history, you understand the present…you can preview the future.

Is anything sustainable?

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” It is debated who originally said that, but let’s give it to the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville.

I think about that a lot lately, because I wonder about the sustainability of Democracy.  I’ve already discussed that I don’t understand how our monetary system is sustainable….money as debt requires us all to be in ever increasing amounts of debt to allow the economy to grow.

I watch the welfare systems of Europe….where the people,  always on strike, demand more and more from a government they don’t seem to understand is not giving them jobs.  It does not provide them with healthcare, or a pension, or education, or really anything……it takes from them and when they receive it back they act like they’ve gotten something.  It was theirs in the first place.  If I rob most of your money, then give some of it back to you….have I really done you a favor?

Maybe in some cases…if you can do better with the money than I can (which is possible)……but is it sustainable?  Won’t I always end up voting myself more until I do to the country what the labor unions did to Detroit and the US auto industry?

I think of the US, with its crippling income inequality, and I see a future where voters may well try to vote themselves more.  Why not?

If people no longer feel hard work can get them ahead in life (and I admit that as I watch Wall Street get bailed out while I foot the bill, I wonder whether lobbyists might be better than hard work), they will pursue other means…voting themselves benefits is one avenue.  Crime is another.  Leaving the country is another (an avenue we see Mexicans  pursue).

Government does not hold any real power.  People agree uneasily to be governed because they feel the alternative is even worse…but that doesn’t mean it will always be.  History teaches us that ALL governments except the ones currently in existence have failed. These will likely fail too.

Alexis de Tocqueville also said, “The best laws cannot make a constitution work in spite of morals; morals can turn the worst laws to advantage.” and its corollary: No contract can be sufficiently specified as to prevent dishonest behavior by those who wish to gain advantage.

History, and Stanley Milgram’s Stanford Prison Experiment, show that people’s morals are easily swayed.  People act in accordance with the situation.

Our Constitution, Democracy….our way of life…..its all enabled by this basic agreement that we trust people and its possible to come to mutually beneficial agreements.

Government (Democracy or otherwise) is a moot point if people decide the system is rigged against them and that it doesn’t pay to obey the rules.

Governments fail for this reason.  At that point you must reset the people’s sentiment by fixing the system; or you have to bribe them with their own money.

I wonder about the sustainability of all our modern governments.  I think they will fail; perhaps in our lifetime.  I wonder what will come next?


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