10 Mar 2011

America Isn’t Canada

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Karl Smith, an Assistant Professor of Public Economics and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shares his confidence in the survival, and continued inevitable advance, of the welfare state, even in the face of federal deficits.

In reality, Professor Smith informs us, the only thing really causing Americans to object to wholesale redistributionism is racial animosity.

Contrary to Jonah Goldberg and others who see Canada and the United States as examples of two clashing ideologies, they are actually examples of two different ethic distributions. The United States is not Canada because there is ethnic strife between Southern Blacks and Southern Whites. That strife reduces the sense of moral obligation on the part of the white majority and so reduces government spending.

I want to be very clear that I don’t say this to paint those against social spending as racists. From where I sit I am betting that most of the intellectuals lined up against expanding the welfare state are naively unaware that their support rests upon racial strife. Otherwise they would realize that as America integrates they are doomed. They are fighting as if they believe they have a chance of winning. Given the strong secular trend in racial harmony, they do not.

I point this out also to show why the major Republican strategy for limiting government was doomed from the start and why I am also not particularly worried about Americas fiscal future per se.

I must say that Professor Smith’s perspective on the fundamental character of African-Americans seems a bit excessively pessimistic.

We have here, it seems, a vision of a nation permanently and irremediably divided between between productive, independent and self-supporting whites and needy and dependent blacks, in which the only thing that is going to change is white resentment of exploitation gradually being reduced by social integration and racial harmony. In other words, as we attend school with, mix socially with, and come to know better our helpless, ineffectual darkie neighbors, we will like them better, recognize our moral obligation to support them, and quit complaining about our tax burdens and the federal budget.

Obviously, there does exist a pathological and dependent black subculture, but it is not unique. There are significant sized white and Hispanic welfare-dependent subcultures as well. Dependency is a product of culture, of a cultural aversion to effort and education and of a cultural acceptance of unmarried promiscuity and unwed childbirth, not specifically of ethnicity or race at all. Those cultural pathologies are difficult to change, and they are cultivated rather than opposed by the condescending paternalism of Professor Smith and his ilk.

According to Smith, it is completely impossible to restrain federal spending in the face of the intransigent, irrefutable moral obligation of socialism.

Much of the handwringing about fiscal irresponsibility is a sense of alarm not only on the right, but throughout much of the political center, that these spending cuts are not actually materializing.

But, by what theory of government did you ever believe they would? Governments don’t look at how much money they have and then decide what they want to buy. They decide what they want to buy and then they look for ways to find the revenue.

Divorcing the two – through sustained deficits – was only going to lead to ever increasing levels of debt. This is what we got. At no point was the beast ever starved. The peace dividend lowered government spending growth somewhat, but that was undone by the war on terror. Otherwise spending hummed along, as it always will, with the government buying things the public thinks it ought to buy.

Yet, if this is causing upset stomachs among many of my fellow bloggers it calms mine. Its quite clear how this will end. Racial strife will continue to abate. The public will coalesce around the welfare state and taxes will be raised to meet the cost.

The fundamental do not predict rising debt forevermore. The fundamentals predict a VAT.

This is not to say I am unconcerned about our economic future. Health care costs will continue to eat up more and more of our economy unless something is done. However, trying to convince people that health care is not a social obligation a fool’s errand. The best you could do is convince them we have no obligation to the other. As the other integrates this will likewise prove impossible.

No, people will ultimately believe that health care for all is a social obligation and therefore government will pay for it. There is no more analysis to be done on that part of the question.

And, there you have it. There are people who require other people’s money to meet their personal exigencies. There are the people like Professor Smith who understand that altruistic redistribution of other people’s means on the basis of one’s moral intuitions is obligatory, and that is the whole story.

There is democracy, a hungry mob, and an indulgent and sentimental bien pensant elite, and the rest of us are in the position of the sheep participating in the democratic process with a couple of wolves to decide on what’s for dinner.

Fortunately, I think Professor Smith is as bad a prophet as he is a sociologist and an ethicist. The compelling power of liberal moral intuitions is, I would predict, going to be proven to wane very significantly as the general public inevitably comes to recognize that current (pre-Obamacare) entitlements are unsustainable, and faces a choice between maintaining entitlements and economic prosperity and growth.

You do not have to be Tocqueville to recognize that the fundamental American character has always featured a powerful determination to get ahead, to build a better future on the basis of current effort and sacrifice. It is not sectional ethnic animosity that stands in the way of implementing socialism in the United States, it is the fundamental American character and the values and attitudes that the country was built upon.

We are not Canada, not because we have blacks, but because we are the rebels who threw off the yoke of monarchy in favor of Liberty and individualism, and Canada was, practically speaking, founded by the Tories who preferred being subjects and dependents. We will never be Canada.

One Feedback on "America Isn’t Canada"

COL Goff

Reading this article, I couldnt help but thinking that this “Boomer” Prof. was writing sometime in the late 1960’s… How out of touch can you be?


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