Abstract political ideas require a degree of critical thinking which one finds hard to compete with the instant gratification of government benefits.
Beyond the spin of politics and the need to vanquish political opponents, conservatives and liberals alike seek the betterment of their fellow man while disagreeing on the best approach to solving this problem. For example, when the subject of homeless people comes up, liberals argue that the government needs to build more shelters, food banks, and housing projects to provide for the needs of the homeless, while conservatives argue that government regulatory and tax policies should be reformed to encourage business development which will result in more jobs so the homeless can support themselves.
To a certain degree, both sides are correct. Liberals have a point that immediate needs must be met, while conservatives have a point that meeting immediate needs is not a sustainable solution. The problem comes in drawing the line between immediate and long term needs. Liberals seek to push this line as far out as possible in the view that the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency is more sustainable if the recipient has a broader and deeper base of support easing this transition. Conservatives seek to move this line in as far as possible to prevent the recipient from becoming dependent upon the base of support at the expense of developing the transition to self-sufficiency.
This entire line of thought is itself an exercise in abstract thinking requiring one to analyze various emotions and motivations in the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency. It ultimately breaks down because we unconsciously impose our preconceived notions of charity, self-sufficiency, and government dependence upon those under consideration. It may be anathema for one to accept charity, and so he assumes everyone finds it equally objectionable to accept charity in this thought experiment despite any evidence to either support or contradict this supposition.
Reality proves that it is quite easy to get used to receiving government assistance at the expense of maintaining work skills. Initial objections may be quickly overcome through rationalization such as this is unemployment benefits, and through the realization that getting paid to do nothing is not so bad a deal. The problem is that one is not getting paid to do nothing, but is drawing on a reserve fund to tide them over while they seek new employment. One’s job is to locate and secure a new job, not sit around watching television reruns while awaiting a check in the mail.
In the war of political ideas fought out on television infotainment shows, abstract ideas do not lend themselves to short soundbite explanations easily remembered by voters. It is difficult to connect all of the dots required for one to understand that receipt of government benefits leads to government dependency as one’s skills atrophy and they become used to plodding down the easy path until they awaken to find themselves limited by the very benefits meant to sustain until they could do better, while then arguing that businesses are reluctant to hire due to the uncertainty of vague government regulations along with the threat of higher taxes. See what I mean?
It’s much easier to say that the unemployed need help until the economy improves. In other words, it’s easier to address the symptoms instead of the underlying problems. Voters seek the redress of immediate needs even if they also understand the need to address underlying problems as a long term solution. Most voters merely hope that politicians are patriotic enough to do the right thing while most politicians are only interested in promoting their own agendas.
Europe has tried to extend the social safety net from cradle to grave and failed miserably. Human nature is to maximize one’s benefits at the expense of others, and there will never be enough money to fund unlimited wants. Members of the European Union are being forced to confront the painful results of their profligate spending in pursuit of Utopian dreams while their citizens suffer the inevitable pain of economic contraction. Despite this monumental failure, our leaders insist they are able to pull off the economically impossible feat of satisfying unlimited wants. What they don’t reveal is the fact that they have absolutely no intention of satisfying every want despite promises to the contrary.
Take healthcare. Yes, Canada has nationalized healthcare, and Great Britain has the National Health Service, but the lack of incentives in these systems has resulted in fewer healthcare resources. Yes, their healthcare is free, but what good is it if there is no healthcare available to consume?
Infectious strains resistant to current antibiotic regiments are spreading throughout hospitals in the United States. Contrary to what the public believes, drug companies are not working feverishly on new antibiotics to combat these resistant bugs because they can’t realize a profit on the billion-dollar investment required to develop, test, and market these new drugs. It takes several years of research and development to get a new drug through the development pipeline from conception to market. By squeezing drug company profits, these drugs are not currently in the pipeline and not just around the corner. These are the kinds of abstract concepts people need to understand when evaluating policy proposals from politicians seeking to maximize their short term political gain at our long term expense.
Sure, beat up greedy drug companies, over-regulate evil manufacturing operations, demand high union wages, and tax multinational conglomerates, but don’t complain when these companies stop producing products and move jobs overseas where they are more appreciated through lower tax policies and more reasonable regulatory environments.