In an odd way, people don’t appear to fully realize that they are the government. Effectively, this means that the diverse self-interests I am hearing, no matter how noble and egalitarian they sound, reveal the stark difficulty Washington ‘big government’ faces.
Ideals based in self-interest amount to pushing the proverbial boulder uphill. Statesmanship lies in seeing ways to roll it down hill instead. Pulling together with sincere common-interest and common-purpose is the only effective way. Having only half the country aligned with your interest is not exactly a mandate in common-purpose. It looks like a mandate only in the eye of the beholder.
We only seem able to focus our collective self-interests into common-purpose when we are experiencing true disaster. World War II was probably the last time that really occurred here. Therefore, I’m a fate realist: we humans, like all animals, are reactive, NOT proactive. Sure, we are able to imagine, talk, and project our proactive vision of a perfect answer to the question, “what should government do?” We are often helpless in the follow through…
If Obama had more courage and/or wisdom, he might have shortened his ‘dream’ speech and addressed the only emergency we currently face: the social safety net which makes up half the budget. All economists, regardless of politics, see the non-sustainability of the path upon which we are headed.
- Raise the retirement age a few years to re-balance the longer lives people now live. Like children, we have no trouble re-balancing it in our favor, to allow for inflation. When it comes to giving up unfair advantages, we balk.
- Means-test it, i.e., why should people with more have the same benefits as people with less? It would help to recognize how our unquenchable thirst for more always ups-the-anti of what we feel counts as the ‘bare minimum’. We simply want more than we, both rich and poor, are willing to pay for.
Had Obama seized reality’s current moment, he could have won over most people, conservative, liberal, and independent alike. Such common purpose builds trust, which could then help enable movement on previously intractable issues. As far as I can tell, addressing the national debt is the one large concern most people have in common. Next is probably immigration. Talk about guns, climate, even jobs, are red herrings. They all have merit, but the first two share the most common purpose. The increased public confidence that an effective government with a balance ‘grown up’ budget would imbue might then help resolve other matters.
The lack of common-purpose and trust is the most corrosive influence in society, bar none. If people connect in common purpose, they establish trust. As they establish trust, each faction becomes more open to compromise on what they would otherwise reject. Again, I’m a fate realist because we humans, like all animals, are reactive, NOT proactive. Chapter 70 (above) says it well. I find it very helpful simply to understand how nature works. Chapter 77 helps take it a little deeper…
The way of nature is like a stretching bow.
The high restrains the lower lifts.
The surplus decreases, the insufficient benefits.
The way of nature decreases surplus yet benefits the insufficient.
The way of man, as a rule however,
decreases the insufficient so as to give to the surplus.
Who can have a surplus and give to all under heaven?
Only those who have the way.
The holy people uses this to serve, yet does not rely on,
Meritorious deeds result, yet not dwelled within.
Such absence of desire to appear able and virtuous – how odd!
What I notice overall, is a profound hypocrisy that permeates the ideals we profess. Nearly without exception, it is always the other guy we blame for “giving to the surplus”, and also the other guy we insist should “give to all under heaven”. Our ability to hide behind the ‘sin’ of our own self-interest and throw stones at other people’s self-interest is remarkable! (For me, this teeters between being laughable and pathetic, depending upon which side of the ‘mirror’ I am.) Chapter 18 sums it up well…
When the great way is wasted, there is benevolence and justice;
When intelligence increase, there is great falseness;
When intimacy lacks harmony, there is mourning kindness;
When the county is confused and chaotic, there are loyal officials.