Who Have We Become?

This year’s election was not about the economy, the candidates or the platform of any political party; it was about each individual’s values and how they affect where we are headed as a country. Every politically motivated attempt was made to divide us into classes or races or makers versus takers. This was all for show because we have already created deep divisions based on what each of us is willing to find acceptable. Your core beliefs control who you vote for, what you determine to be the cause of your own set of problems and where you look for solutions. Do you as an American still feel you can achieve as much as you are willing to work for or will you have to settle for shared government controlled mediocrity because the deck has become unfairly stacked?  If you have no problem accepting what someone else decides you can have, are you ready to surrender your freedom to get it. Who you really are cannot be determined by which party you support or the causes you are passionate about, it is a product of how you perceive the world around you and your place in it.

Are you someone who sees an abandoned factory and can’t help but imagine what it once was, what it produced, how many people worked there and what it might again become?  Or do you register no emotion at all, simply seeing it as a dilapidated building that once contained a business, a business that you would guess likely choked to death on its own greed.

Do you feel a deep sense of frustration when you hear of a lottery winner squandering a fortune on fleeting indulgences instead of creating something of lasting value? Or do you say good for them, who wouldn’t put a gold plated fountain in their front yard if they had that much cash?

Is it clear to you that government can only raise revenue by taking money from those who actually produce something and create wealth? Or do you assume “government money” to be unlimited and able to be spent freely without any effect on those it is taken from or those who will be obligated to pay it back in the future?

Have you ever marveled at what it took to create something extraordinary?  Or do you think it just exists and would inevitably exist, even without someone’s dogged persistence, talent and willingness to take risks?

Do you believe that jobs are created by those who develop new products and services and that a job created by government with money taken from the private sector diverts rather than increases the nation’s wealth? Or are you convinced that political gridlock is the cause of this job-less recovery and that if both parties would just work together; good paying jobs with great benefits for all would immediately result?

If you hear of a wealthy successful person, do you feel that there must have been something dishonest done at some point to account for that much good fortune? Are you disturbed by anyone else’s success, reasoning that it will diminish your chances because the available pot has somehow gotten smaller? Or are you motivated by knowing that it can be done, understanding that the poor aren’t poor because someone else is rich and that opportunities for others are created by those who succeed?

Do you have a problem with accepting money from any government agency if you know you have an opportunity to take care of yourself? Or, for example, do you consider something like extended unemployment benefits a right and if offered a reasonable job do you engage in … The Calculation: unemployment benefits + money saved on child care + money not spent on transportation or other job related expenses added to a lower tax level versus the new job’s take home pay and benefits. If the two numbers are close do you invoke the tie breakers … a flexible schedule, the chance to possibly make some untraceable cash doing side jobs and more time with your family as ways to justified refusing the job and continuing to receive assistance that could go to someone else?

Do you seek out full explanations of major issues and events to form opinions and engage others in well-reasoned discussion? Or do you recite sound bites and base your arguments solely on motivated reasoning; spending your time venting on message boards and comment sections with all the depth of a fan rooting for your favorite team? Is the old adage that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts, lost on you?  Can you appreciate that motivated reasoning restricts you to viewing the world only as it pertains to your own biases, affiliations or causes?

Consider your gut reactions to these situations. Do they betray a lean toward more government intervention, buying the utopian notion that equality of opportunity will produce equal results for all or is capitalism in its purest form calling to you from the land of the one percenters? Don’t be fooled, none of the candidates or parties are pure adherents to either ideology; all are more concerned with their own power base and supporters than anything else. It would seem that this election was a clear choice between two diametrically opposed philosophies … more government or less government.  Unfortunately, no matter what is promised or who is elected we are not actually going to end up with less government. The temptation to micromanage people’s lives while spending someone else’s money is too addictive.

Have we finally arrived at a point where we can at least pick and stick to a definite path?  These lurches from left to right every election cycle or two are both costly and counterproductive. Are the majority of us still behind the notion of self-reliance and personal freedom?  If not, we need to face who we have become and begin the tough process of scaling back the ambitions of those we choose to lead the way, instead of encouraging aimless wandering toward our countries eventual insolvency. If you ignore basically everything that has been during this election cycle and simply consider that when a problem arises one party will default to the private sector for solutions while the other will consider government the only option; it might be a little easier to male your choices in the future.