They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. I’d add spending to that! The current haggling over spending, taxes, and the debt problems that this country faces is a good example of chapter 70’s, My words are very easy to understand and very easy to put into practice, yet no one in the world can understand them or put them into practice. Note: I think of “My words” as being those Mother Nature would speak is she could, so I regard the Tao Te Ching as a spokesman for Mother Nature.
In arguments I hear, each side fails to step back enough to see the problem broadly. Yes, I know. That’s how Mother Nature intends it… Competitive interaction fleshes out fitness.
First, YouTube this 60 Minute segment on the Corporate Tax Rate that deals with one aspect of this issue (1). It shows why some old approaches don’t work well in a global market place.
Our politicians still operate from a point of view that is not only fanciful, but now dangerously obsolete. One reason is probably that they and the electorate have long seen this country as the ‘leader of the free world’ and ‘the best country the earth have ever seen’. Such a self-centric view, shared by both left and right, only exasperates our inability to understand.
It helps to frame this issue in another context. An animal’s body is confronted with an analogous ‘debt problem’. Indeed, the fundamentals are the same. Note, I’m relying on old memory, so forgive any minor technical lapses.
With Debt, Lactic Acid Builds Up
When the body works vigorously beyond a certain point, it builds up an oxygen deficit. Like the government and money, there’s not enough oxygen to run a balanced metabolic budget. Metabolism shifts to anaerobic processes to keep muscle working as long as it can. Government pulls off a similar thing by printing more money, borrowing on itself, and so on. The metabolic debt produces toxins which you feel the next day as aching muscles. Likewise, with any national debt, the pain comes in various ways: inflation, war, revolution, poverty, collapsing economy. In short: There are no free lunches in nature.
Clearly, if you want to get more work out of your body, you must exercise regularly to build the fine blood vessels that can deliver enough oxygen during those times of increasing demand. Similarly, if the people want government to do more, they’d be wise to first build up the necessary resources. Our current folly lies in the widespread unwillingness to prepare adequately, and yet we still expect widespread benefits to continue. Clearly, the population and their politicians as a whole are unwilling to bite the bullet and prepare. Adopting a rational tax code similar to the rest of the world would be a good start.
Solving the Debt Problem Naturally
In the body’s case, the wise thing to do is give enough time and effort to build the physical resources necessary to meet the demands. To always demand extra from your body, and pay later with pain, or worse, heart attack and death, is shortsighted and irresponsible. First ask, is the stress you expect your body to labor under truly necessary and beneficial in the long-term? If so, then it is better to stop in time and prepare it adequately before demanding more from it. As chapter 9 advises, Rather than fill it to the brim by keeping it upright, better to have stopped in time.
The most practical, natural approach to our budgetary problems is to stop sucking up all the oxygen. Like they say, “When you realize you’re in a hole, stop digging”. The natural way to get out of debt is to stop spending. Then, build up the resources needed for desired expenditures. This strictly pay-as-you-go way is the process throughout nature. Modern economics has found clever shortsighted ways to circumvent this and get away without paying up front. Sure, having those in authority eating up too much in taxes, as chapter 74 says, is unwise because it cripples economic incentive. However, spending more than you have is perhaps even worse. Simply put, nothing could be more out of natural balance than spending more than you earn… at least long-term.
Need + Thinking = Desires and Ignorance
I see emotion driving both parties in this debate to do the ‘right thing’. The conservative side, at least theoretically, is more in line with nature: earn before you spend they preach — alas, words are cheap. The liberal side pushes for doing the ‘right thing’ for the poor, the kids, the elderly, but fails to accept the necessity of ceasing to spend first. They want to solve the problem by raising taxes in a country where the majority of the population is against raising taxes, yet ironically expecting more benefits. Like the tax code and other cultural inconsistencies, this is completely irrational. There are no short cuts in nature. Spending for what the majority are not willing to pay for up-front is disaster-prone in the long-term. As I see it, such short-term pleasure leads to long-term pain.
Nevertheless, all this is natural. After all, we only think we are a rational and sapient species. Our behavior shows we are plainly animals that may have merely evolved cognitively too much for our own good or rather our emotions haven’t kept up with cognition. First Mother Nature tried out the big body-small brain model with the dinosaurs. Now she’s trying out the big brain-small body model in our species… and our ignorance is an unintended consequence. Of course, with evolution every consequence is unintended, isn’t it? That’s what makes life so fascinating. Only time will tell how it all turns out.
(1) Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Global Public Square) presents superb in-depth coverage of the most important of current affairs. His interview with James Baker on Americas Budget and Foreign Policy sheds more light on this whole ‘mess’.