You Can’t Look the Government in the Eye
I have a friend that is trying to start a business – a valiant endeavor in my opinion. And yet, she is on food stamps, and wants free healthcare and believes all women should have paid-for birth control. She thinks that if the government just did a little bit more, made her life a little bit easier that this would allow her to build her business and succeed.
Written By Dillon Freed
This sort of hybrid – brave explorers of the world who expect the world to support their adventures – seem to be multiplying in America. I just ran into two more entrepreneurs who are on the dole.
The worst aspect of their attitude is that when one takes from the government one does not even have a chance to really feel guilty for doing so. I realize since Freud, and then the 1960s, “guilt” is taboo. We should not feel it, we should not judge ourselves, rather we are supposed to “accept ourselves” no matter what. I don’t entirely agree this notion – guilt can be good.
As I was starting my businesses, I had friends help me when I was penniless, homeless, starving and lost; they lent me money, gave me a floor or couch to sleep on (rather than the park or the train or church steps), fed me, and often offered me much needed pep talks when I was ready to quit. I felt a mixture of gratitude as well as shame. Those I borrowed money from, for instance, I often struggled to requite, I broke promises I tried desperately to keep – I felt arrantly disgraced.
What is more, is that I had to see those who aided me all the time and look them in the eye. I had to get emails, phone calls and text messages from them asking, politely, where the money was. It was humiliating.
But do you know what? That internal flagellation I took from my superego and it’s cat-o-nine-tails – I would not trade it for anything. It had to be gone through, it made me truly appreciate generosity.
How can a person on federal welfare feel that depth of guilt? How can they feel that personal shame? Sure, a person receiving assistance can feel degraded pulling out their EBT card, and they can, abstractly, feel grateful to their fellow citizens for helping them out (if they make the connection.) But when a friend lends $20, one really does feel thankful and sort of guilty; plus, there is something about being able to pay it back that makes it feel less wrong. No one who takes welfare will ever be able to pay it back; no matter how they rationalize it (“I’ll be a millionaire and pay taxes one day”, etc.), it won’t be the same. You can’t look the government in the eye.
The Exposed American Toddlers
Democrats aren’t “bad people” – as some suggest; they are not a sort of national Tammany Hall that seeks a welfare system as an indirect way to buy votes. Instead, I think they see something – the same thing President Roosevelt saw in the Great Depression – and that is the fact that most people are utterly helpless as Moses was beside the river.
And what is the natural human response to an infant exposed to the elements? The answer is to feed it, it shelter it, make sure it is healthy, and to love and care for it. Liberals see Americans as a Brobdingnagian two year old, beset by problems that they simply cannot handle on their own. Thus, Liberals feel they must help the American toddler.
And who can disagree with these intentions? If the Right says self-reliance is dead, that we are nation of cowards, wimps and whiners, the Left can easily say that what is seen as cowardness and complaining is but the fear of a child genuinely ill-equipped to deal with the world, the cries are from true inadequacies, not laziness.
While many of my friends are still “Americans” of the old breed – hardworking, risk taking sans a safety net, many of my friends are completely childish and live in wide-eyed dazes like babies looking up from a carriage – they would not survive if people or the government did not provide them some help.
I think the real reason Conservatives dislike Liberals is because they feel Liberals are not being honest about why they wish to make a Nanny State. It is not that Liberals think the system is unfair, it is because they see many Americans as nearly infantile.
American versus European Society
The fear in the United States seems to be that other nations will beat us because we don’t take care of our people enough, that government is not intervening enough. That is, if Americans have to worry about paying for things like healthcare – how will they ever compete with Europeans who have no such worries? Or if Americans have to work 40 hours instead of 35 hours, when will their creative juices be able to flow?
I have heard many of my friends say such things and wish for more assistance.
But – just off the top of my head – in what country did Google, PayPal, YouTube, Facebook, eBay, and Netflix start? I can’t name a large European company that I use (maybe Skype?). Can you?
Entrepreneurial Spirit and Paying Taxes
To shift gears slightly, I own a small local business on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (along with several others) and it is tax time. Thinking about paying these taxes really makes me not want to be in business. It’s not that I mind paying “my fair share,” I don’t, but the complexity and size of the tax system is annoying – not to mention to think where my money will go (On an aside, each time a huffing and puffing overweight adult steps on the train, I think to myself, ‘I don’t wish any harm on anyone. I know it must be tough to deal with that weight. But I’d be fat too if I didn’t control myself and workout. Why do I have to pay for, or chip in for, another grownup’s health-care who obviously cares nothing about his or her health in the first place?’ Then I wonder if more Americans will start to feel this way when everyone is responsible for everyone else. How long before people start getting angry that the obese guy in theater has a coke the size of his forearm and a bag of popcorn the size of his head?).
And it’s not that paying taxes make me not want to be a wealthy – I still do, but when I am just starting out and making $40,000 per year – it almost makes me want to work for a company that handles this irritating non-sense of taxes for me, so I don’t have to deal with it.
Of course, I get the need for complexity – it makes America competitive even if it does allow a lot of crooks leisure to operate and creates clear unfairness. But loopholes, if we are honest, bring in big business and keep big business (e.g. Google paid no income tax in 2011 – that is annoying and unjust on one hand, but would Americans like Google to move to another nation?).
Small Business versus Cumbersome Government Regulations Part 1
Many of my friends on Facebook re-posted a New York Times article which lamented the fact that in America there is no law that mandates “maternal leave” pay. Of course, the article references many European and Asian companies which do. I suppose this is another front in the brutal, American “war on women.”
I don’t want to be too flippant, I do see the fact that God or evolution made it so women become “disabled” for nine months to keep our species going, but in my company, if a woman were to become pregnant and was guaranteed by law to be paid through the entire gestation process – we’d go broke. Everyone in my company brings in cash in some way or another. So if my business would continue paying her, by the time she had a child, she’d have no job to come back to. Does anyone fighting so vigorously in this “war” care about that? Not really. It’s all about some abstract, Kantian sense of the “right” dislocated from reality.
Small Business versus Cumbersome Government Regulations Part 2
My mother and stepfather own a small asphalt maintenance company in Florida. The crazy regulations of one of the cities they work in caused them to lose a $30,000 job. (You have to actually be approved by the municipality to stripe a parking lot on private property.) It adds $300 to each job – not a huge sum for big projects like I mentioned above, but on a $1,000 job, in a cutthroat industry, with start-ups just trying to make a little bit of cash, those few extra hundreds can seriously harm a larger company’s (read more established) bidding prowess.
At any rate, the paperwork for the above job, took nearly three months to complete, and by the time it was approved (after numerous errors by the local, utterly inept committee), the man who was paying for the project, the owner of the parking lots, became pissed off and backed out. The incompetence of the local government then became associated with my parents’ company, it made their business look incompetent.
It was later found out that the parking lots were striped, and that the paperwork was approved for a different asphalt company in just a few short days. The reason it only took a few days for the new company was because of all the leg work by my parents’ company over that ninety-day period. Of course, the owner of the parking lots had no idea what was going on or why it was taking so long, and the apology sent to my parents from one of the bureaucrats on the city board issuing the permits – well, let’s just say you can’t exactly take an “I’m sorry we lost you $30,000″ to the bank. And by “bank,” I don’t mean just my parents’ business account – I mean the low-wage laborers who do the striping – they lost money as well.
Delusions in our Adolescents
Another serious problem in America is that directly beside the idea of fairness and economic equality for all is this crazy drive to be excessively wealthy. Everyone bashes big business and is trying to start a big business. Everyone hates the successful and is trying to be successful.
There is also a sort of craze going on – everyone is trying to be super motivational – to the point of duping themselves. I have not only seen truly untalented people think they are destined for riches and fame, but worse, untalented and lazy people who think they are going to make it big. Everyone on social media is like a miniature Tony Robbins, posting the worst and most useless psychobabble and inspirational one-liners. With YouTube – anybody can watch a Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, or the like – and while the added benefit of this is obvious, there is also a downside: an epidemic of delusions of grandeur.
Failure is Success
Orwellian as it may sound, I have come to believe that failure is success – at least until you truly succeed. It takes failure after failure after failure after failure to make in business or anything.
But by failure I mean not merely figuring out how to make your business work, or what marketing strategy to implement or product adjustments to make. I mean learning how to deal with the failure of having no food, no money, and sometimes no place to live; it is dealing with the failure of evictions, ruined credit, total fear and the questioning of your own self-worth as well as the utter loss of reputation.
Verily, a big chunk of “failing” in business, and in turn succeeding, has nothing to do with business per se. For some reason that isn’t exactly quantifiable, those personal hardships one goes through in building an enterprise tend to make one successful in commerce. Indeed, often only those willing to face total business as well as total personal failure will make it (Cf. Steve Jobs as but one such exemplar). The old adage seems to be true: it is about who you become that makes it possible to achieve wealth.
If government takes away personal failure, if the government guarantees food, shelter and, even, health care, in some odd way, I predict that you will not see as many great, innovative and dynamic individuals and companies in the United States.
Big Angel is Watching (Over) You
Keeping with the 1984 theme, and as mentioned above, the girl in the first paragraph is not unique – she is a growing cohort. She and her ilk believe they have a lot to give the world if only they were given an assist upward.
And why should she not feel she deserves it? Barack Obama has told her, in effect, ‘he has her back.’ The President did not really mean “you didn’t build that,” what he meant to say – which is worse – “Let me help you build that, please.” And I think – and this it the worst of it – he really means it. It’s like Big Brother sans the creepy-voyeurism, it’s more like our government and leaders are Big Angel – watching over us, watching us at all times, wanting to help us out, wanting to make sure we triumph and never know the depressing, but powerful, pains of life. I guess the question that will determine our future as a nation is this: how many Americans will stick with old-fashioned and admittedly dangerous self-reliance, and how many will come to love Big Angel?