There are many people out protesting against spending cuts in education. This state, California, as well as the country as a whole, is massively in debt. However, all that I hear are frantic cries for no more spending cuts and no more new taxes. Now, just how is that supposed to work?
On top of this, when California had a massive budgetary surplus, the people spent it left and right, saving none for an economic downturn. Should I laugh or cry? My kids, as toddlers, had a better sense of frugality than many adults these days. I can only guess that this is due to the habits ‘taught’ in an extremely affluent culture like ours. It was different in the old pre-capitalist days of famine and serious want. Back then, people were motivated to save surpluses.
This is yet another example, if one were needed, of our core animal nature. We are irrational and emotional just like every other creature on earth. We would like to have it both ways; we like to have our cake and eat it too. Chapter 70 speaks to our irrational predicament:
I think most people do understand that one must pay for what one gets. It is common sense, right? Yet, the urge to get something for nothing is irresistible (1). Credit cards and the rest impart a sense of ‘free’ because you get your desires met immediately and can put payment off to some ‘distant’ future. Free is one of the most emotionally enticing words we use. Free is also illusionary! Capitalism, because it is based on growth rather than conservation, probably ties into all of this. And, continuous growth, like ‘free’, is an illusion. Natural processes obey the laws of balance: ‘growth’ followed by decay and ‘free’ followed by payment.
(1) The overpowering desire to get something for nothing drives us to conjure up by-paths that make us feel we can. A good example of this is the idea of taxing the ‘rich greedy corporations’. That either forces a corporation to (A) relocate abroad and lay off us workers, (B) pass on tax increases onto us customers through higher prices, or (C) make its business less competitive in the global market place and eventually lay off us workers.
Getting things the easy way is a healthy instinct in the wild. As a result, the core driving force in human civilization has always been to make life as easy as possible. However, a relentless drive to get things the easy way has consequences that make life much more difficult in the end. In the end, balance is essential. There is no free lunch, despite all our rationalizations and clever by-paths to the contrary. Chapter 53 sobers us up, Were I possessed of the least knowledge, I would, when walking on the great way, fear only paths that lead astray. The great way is easy, yet people prefer by-paths.