Monday, June 25, 2018

An Infectious Malady Of The Mind

     As he so often does, Thales / Dystopic / “Our mystery guest is salaried and deals in a service” has diagnosed an important aspect of our sociocultural milieu:

     Deep down, many people in the West feel guilty. We live comfortable lives, we have plentiful wealth. Few in the history of man have possessed such plenty. I cannot speak for everyone, but at least for myself, there are times I look at what I have and think that I do not deserve it. Greater minds than I have done things for civilization that I could only dream of doing, and possessed far less.

     Our problems are often laughable. Listen to any conversation where people are complaining about this and that. The complaints are small-minded. Perhaps someone is having trouble with love or sex, another complains that his car has broken down, or perhaps his toilet will not work. Another complains of crushing debt from his state-of-the-art smartphone, sitting in his brand-new vehicle. The Internet is slow today, or the air-conditioning unit has broken down again.

     With the exception of love and sex, perpetual problems for the race of man, these are not problems in any historical sense of the word, not even for many of the poorest among us. Such things are small, and deep down most of us know that. Problems we face are preferable to the problems of our ancestors, for whom food was difficult to obtain, work was brutal, and life short and filled with pain.

     When compared either to their ancestors or to those in the shitholes developing countries, Americans do have it easy. Even those of us who work at physically demanding jobs get to go home and rest at the end of their shift. We live well. We eat and drink well. We have comfortable homes. We partake of innumerable forms of entertainment and diversion. Our medicine has relieved by far the greater part of the ills flesh is heir to. Except for the skim of America that was once called “bums” and now enjoys the sobriquet of “homeless,” we know a very pleasant existence.

     At some deep level in our minds, we’re aware that the overwhelming majority of Mankind, past and present, has had it a lot rougher. It makes the conviction that we’ve earned what we have more difficult to sustain than it would otherwise be. That provides a nice inroad for the merchants of politicized guilt.

     There’s a passage from Atlas Shrugged that bears on this:

     “The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time. If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics’ Middle Ages, the whole of your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your hands in days and days of effort.. How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your paycheck was created solely by your physical labor, and that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.”

     Our society’s accumulated knowledge and capital plant make our standard of living possible. The knowledge exists because inquirers before us developed, systematized, and recorded it. The capital plant exists because innovators before us developed productivity-enhancing machines and visionaries invested in their conceptions. A properly modest man, aware of the critical importance of the insight, vision, and enterprise of those who’ve gone before him, would concede the point John Galt makes above.

     Yet he would still be entitled by right to 100% of what he had earned. He would have no just cause to feel guilt about it.

     Comparisons to the lot of others, leavened with the old maxim that “There but for the grace of God go I,” fuels the charitable impulse. This is good, worthy, and up to a point to be encouraged. (See this recent emission.) One who has been born in the United States, or in any other First World nation, has been blessed by chance. He obviously didn’t choose his place of birth. Neither can he claim credit for its accumulations of intellectual and physical capital. But he cannot be blamed for them either...nor, be it said in boldface, for the rapacity and cruelty that have characterized the poorer nations and kept them from advancing to our state.

     There’s no way a society can advance if its political class seizes and squanders the greater part of its produce. That, and that alone, has caused more than 90% of the poverty and squalor to which Mankind is subject. As well ask a farmer to grow a crop on a glacier.

     Americans did not fasten the political parasites of the poor nations upon them. A modest amount of blame attaches to the colonial European nations, but not for colonialism itself. The colonial governments of today’s “Third World” nations were, with a few exceptions, evenhanded and just. However, those governments unwisely – ironically, in the usual case because of unearned guilt – abdicated their guardianship of their colonies, which were then taken over by thugs and thieves. Africa provides a multitude of demonstrations.

     There’s no good argument for feeling guilt over something that lies beyond one’s control. As there’s no way to bestow the blessings of an advanced society on one hagridden by political oppression, thuggery, and systematized theft, we of the First World have no reason to feel guilt over what we have and they don’t.

     Ignore the prattling about “white privilege,” the nonsense claims about “fairness” and “accidents of birth,” and the pseudo-gospels about the “obligation” to share our wealth. What you have earned by your honest efforts is yours by right. Anyone who presumes to tell you otherwise is trying to stick his hand into your pocket.

1 comment:

John C. said...

And that very concept of others sticking their hand in your pocket is what every other economic system is all about. It's what the left in America is about. They call a capitalist "greedy" for laying just claim only to that which he earns yet places the mantel of "compassion" upon those who would seize the product of that mans labor. Theft of another's wealth is not compassionate regardless to whom you give it after it's stolen.