Another Write-wing Conspirator

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    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 20, 2010

…and de facto wards of the state

In a recent blog entry, “Swan Trumpet” — who sometimes comments here — brought up an interesting vignette about taxation and the effects thereof.

To briefly recap: Years ago, Democrats forced the imposition of taxes on certain luxury items—including yachts. Yacht-building was then a well-established industry in Maine. Apparently being better at basic arithmetic than the average congressional Democrat, the rich folks who wanted to buy yachts quickly deduced that they could obtain their stylish boats more cheaply from foreign suppliers not subject to the effects of taxation. Not surprisingly, yacht sales in Maine plummeted, jobs were lost, and a thriving industry died—and the Democrats never did get the tax money they’d sought (one cannot tax what isn’t produced).

Thus, we become re-acquainted with The Law of Unintended Consequences, the current vernacular for which is often expressed as “Didn’t see that coming.” (During my Army days, this was commonly referred to simply as “piss-poor prior planning”—reflecting the often-pithy nature of soldiers.) In addition to the results noted above, consider the following:

– loss of revenue previously generated by now-defunct (or much-diminished) firms.
– cost of unemployment benefits paid to laid-off workers.
– loss of income tax previously paid by the laid-off employees.
– declining tax base in the surrounding community.

In other words…far from becoming the cash cow envisioned by Democrats, the venture resulted in a substantial net loss. (“Swan Trumpet” also comments on the cultural impact; her blog entry may be viewed here: Being a Democrat Means You Were Born Yesterday).

Now…ordinarily, this might be pretty much the end of the story. I’d come up with some witty comments to tack on, press “Enter,” and go on to the next target.

Ordinarily.

However, I mentioned the story to my wife. And we talked about it.

I should know better.

Smart girl, my wife. After I mentioned how the whole scheme had backfired, she zeroed-in like a laser on another idea. “I don’t think Democrats would really see that as a loss. Having more people dependent on them would be seen as a gain. Isn’t that what they’re really after?”

At about this point, my pinkie finger suddenly froze, poised over the “Enter” button.

As often happens, my mind began to meander around…

Her comment reminded me of something Star Parker had written likening the welfare system to a modern enslavement of sorts, even referring to it as “Uncle Sam’s plantation.” The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. (It should be noted that Ms. Parker is far from being the only commentator to see in welfare assistance a cycle of dependence, and she’s not alone in perceiving a racial component; interestingly, it’s a frequently-held view among conservative blacks—though it is by no means an exclusively-black issue. Jesse Lee Peterson has been even more vocal in his denunciation of a system that he insists blacks must cast-off. Noted scholars Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have both weighed-in similarly.)

Was this creation of a dependent class also an unintended consequence?

Many years ago, a study conducted by the Wharton School of Business pinpointed the one constant in virtually every election: People vote their pocketbooks. In good economic times, voters support the incumbent who has benefited them; when times get tough, they support the candidate showing the greatest potential to improve their lot. (Noted political consultant James Carville famously hung a sign in the White House that summed it up well: “It’s the economy, stupid.”) This applies both to the electorate in general, and to individual voters.

Before too-hastily condemning the welfare system as the cause of all our troubles, however, consider also that our dependence on Uncle Sam can take many forms; welfare is merely the most visible—and most maligned.

Have you noticed lately the size of the federal workforce? Though not a form of financial assistance to the poverty-stricken, it is nonetheless another source of federal cash; the employees within this system are every bit as dependent on their earnings as welfare recipients are on their dole—and will likewise vote for the guy who’s going to benefit them the most…like, maybe…oh, I don’t know…perhaps the one responsible for creating that federal job?

Now, consider all those “pork barrel” projects and set-asides. They create jobs, too (though not very efficiently)—and they also add to the pool of voters dependent on the flow of federal money.

Add to this the massive effect on communities surrounding federal installations in the form of tax-base computation, spin-off businesses, and vendors.

Though not always readily apparent, the impact of federal funds grows more and more pervasive—with a concomitant increase in the strings attached to that money.

Again the question arises: How much of this is “unintended consequence”—and how much is by design?

The premise is simple enough: By gradually increasing the people’s dependence upon the government, the government essentially ensures that the people will acquiesce to what would otherwise be unacceptable government demands in order to perpetuate the government’s support. Moreover, those dependent on that support can be expected to vote to retain the government that spoon-feeds them; factor-in a smattering of “what have you done for me lately” mentality, and one has the makings of a very loyal base.

And for those who dare to resist, a clear message is imparted: Get with the program—or we’ll withhold the goodies.

This is a system that works well when training pets—and when transforming the populace into virtual wards of the state.

________

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3 Responses to “The Law of Unintended Consequences”

  1. The most common moral weakness of Democrats is they often violate the laws of unintended consequences. As Aristotle poignantly pointed out, you judge the moral worth of an action – not by the intentions of those who advocate them – but by the consequences. This moral weakness is present in most if not all of Obama’s policies, both domestic and foreign.

    Unfortunately, I agree with Mrs. Curmudgeon that the failings of modern liberalism under this administration aren’t unintended consequences; they’re deliberate. Destroying the American economy not only destroys our rugged individualism, our spirit and liberties, it also destroys our position of dominance as a superpower and leaves us vulnerable to the most ruthless world actors. It could only be accomplished by a narcissistic sociopath who despises America: a man such as Barry Soetoro aka Barack Hussein Obama.

  2. LarryZ said

    We have so many who will be led astray by the dangling of the latest “whats in it for me” carrot. Consequences be damned, as long as I get mine. “As sheep led to the slaughter they were dumb before there shearers”.
    LCZ

  3. Mrs.... said

    Frogs demanding to be boiled.

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