Mark Steyn gloomily predicts that the attempts of politicians to deliver material comfort, cradle-to-the-grave security, and substantial life intervals of leisure to the masses are not compatible with economic reality.
In the twilight of the West, America and Europe are still different but only to this extent: Theyâ€™ve wound up taking separate paths to the same destination. Whether you get there via an artificial common currency for an invented pseudo-jurisdiction or through quantitative easing and the global decline of the dollar, whether you spend your final years in the care of Medicare or the National Health Service death panels, whether higher education is just another stage of cradle-to-grave welfare or you have a trillion dollarsâ€™ worth of personal college debt, in 2012 the advanced Western social-democratic citizen looks pretty similar, whether viewed from Greece or Germany, California or Quebec.
Thatâ€™s to say, the unsustainable â€œbubbleâ€ is not student debt or subprime mortgages or anything else. The bubble is us, and the assumptions of entitlement. Too many citizens of advanced Western democracies live a life they have not earned, and are not willing to earn. …
Look around you. The late-20th-century Western lifestyle isnâ€™t going to be around much longer. In a few yearsâ€™ time, our children will look at old TV commercials showing retirees dancing, golfing, cruising away their sixties and seventies, and wonder what alternative universe that came from. In turn, their children will be amazed to discover that in the early 21st century the Western world thought it entirely normal that vast swathes of the citizenry should while away their youth enjoying what, a mere hundred years earlier, would have been the leisurely varsity of the younger son of a Mitteleuropean Grand Duke.
As usual, Mark Steyn’s rhetoric is well worth the read, but I do not entirely agree.
I think it’s true that the dynamic of egalitarian democracy by its nature faces the fundamental danger of an ongoing benefits auction for the masses’ political support which will always in the end wind up devouring too great a portion of the economy resulting in disaster.
But I think myself, on the other hand, that, if government regulation and economic meddling were minimized and the burden of taxation was modest, economic growth could create and sustain an economically-independent and leisured middle class, much larger than the vanished one which existed in Britain and America before 1914. It’s just not possible to lift all the boats all at once.
I do strongly agree with Mark Steyn that our current model of near-universal college education, consisting of four years of leisure and good times combined with plenty of left-wing indoctrination, represents a simply astounding waste of human energy and talent.
Between useless high school and useless college, millions upon millions of people today fritter away what are actually their most healthy, energetic, and potentially productive years imbibing modest quantities of learning, having a good time, and being flattered into believing that are members of an omniscient elite charged with the revolutionary overthrow of a wicked and stupid past. It would be infinitely better all the way around if 90+% of everyone simply went to work at 13, as my parents’ generation generally did.