?A Clueless America Approaches Bottom

by | Jan 24, 2011

I received a letter from a reader I’d like to share, in edited form: Hello Dr.Hurd, I have seen the decline of socialism in Poland. I was born in 1956 and left Poland in 1982 for good. I now live in Canada with socialized medicine, but that is changing because it is not sustainable. The […]

I received a letter from a reader I’d like to share, in edited form:

Hello Dr.Hurd,

I have seen the decline of socialism in Poland. I was born in 1956 and left Poland in 1982 for good. I now live in Canada with socialized medicine, but that is changing because it is not sustainable. The USA never experienced what it is to see empty shelves in shops, and your money (paper currency) become worthless. That will be the time people rebel. My hope is, the sooner the better. I saw first hand the Communist privileged class lacking in nothing and one day people said: Enough.

Not many people in Poland have read Ayn Rand. I have read all her books and films like, “We the Living” (a 1942 adaptation of her novel made illegally in Fascist Italy) and “The Fountainhead.” For me, after my experiences in Poland, her philosophy was like putting a hand in a glove.

As I see it, presently there will be more violence in America because the far radical left are angry for not implementing a Maoist, Stalinist system and many anarchists are waiting to do the damage and blame rational people. There will be a movement of people but as such, without a rational leader, will only spill blood just like in Poland in 1956, 1968, 1979, 1973, 1983. I hope the American people will depose all usurpers, unions, and CEOs that pretend to be “capitalists.”

You and your readers know what Capitalism is — a social system based on Individual Rights — but ask that question on the street, and hardly anybody, nor even House or Senate representatives will answer correctly, not to mention President Obama.

Dr. Hurd replies:

Well put, from somebody who knows.

America is, in a sense, the victim of its own success. People born and raised in America — the majority — have no concept of what makes freedom possible, nor that anything is even needed to make freedom possible. They don’t seem to grasp that America, even in its current recession, is still better off than most of the planet has ever been.

They don’t grasp what poverty truly is, and, worse than that, they seem to expect continued and ever-growing prosperity as an entitlement.

In a sense they’re right, and in another respect they’re horribly wrong.

Americans are right to expect that happiness and comfort are man’s natural state, and life should be an ever-improving condition for all mankind, provided one is willing to think and work. There’s no reason to assume that all of human civilization cannot continuously improve, from one generation to the next, as far as the eye can see. The United States was the first civilization in history to accomplish this feat in such a sustained way. This is no accident: It’s because the United States had a strong enough government to keep the peace (at times for the entire world), while at the same time left its people alone to invent, think, create, produce and pursue happiness (along with self-responsibility) on their own individual terms.

In another respect, however, Americans are horribly wrong. They expect things to continue to improve, but they act, speak and think as if these improvements are causeless, or even automatic. Or, if they take the time to think about the causes of prosperity, they conclude the exact opposite of what is true. They conclude that more government spending is the answer, that bigger government is the key to prosperity. This is why politicians of both parties continue to spend more and more, and why politicians of the party elected last fall, who supposedly want to shrink the government, cannot even bring themselves to propose a budget that will return us to 2008 levels (where spending was also out of control, only less so).

Most Americans have no clue as to what they’re on the brink of losing.

You illustrate this well in your note. America is not yet a place where the currency has lost all value, but we’re heading in that direction.

Already, more and more people are “underwater” on their house mortgages.

In plain English, this means they owe on their houses more than the house is worth. This is because the market value of most homes fell dramatically in the last few years, thanks to a real estate bubble created by government intervention in the private economy. That downward slide is continuing, and nobody knows where or when it will end. But the currency is the bigger issue. Government spending and borrowing has always led to inflation of prices, and inflation means a devaluation of the currency. When the $10,000 in your bank account can buy in 2014 only half of what it bought in 2011, and still less by 2017, Americans will finally have to grasp what the policies of their Big Government politicians have led to in practice. It’s clear from the positions of the President and the U.S. Senate that government spending is not going to stop, and it’s sadly unclear if the U.S. House even has the stomach to try and stop it.

Another thing most Americans don’t understand is that ideas rule the world, and the ruling ideology determines most if not all the policies of our government. You’re correct that the left is angrier than ever, even though they have more of its representatives in office than at any time in American history (outside of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s terms in office). They are angry because they have waited so very long to impose on America the policies that brought down your own country, Poland, as well as all the other nations who practiced collectivism and socialism.

The left likes people to believe that they are representatives of idealism and the future. No such thing is true.

The left represents the policies of tribalism, group think, group ownership and censorship and control — policies that have dominated most of human history, and an ideology that for a brief moment in time, the founding of the United States, thinkers rebelled against. People will not understand that ideas matter, and that the minority who care about ideas are the ones who set the policies, especially in a democratic republic. America is still free enough to reverse course, to reject the intellectual minority of the rabid left in favor of a different intellectual minority, one which favors a restoration of free markets, hands-off capitalism, and individual rights. This would mean the end of the Big Government welfare-regulatory state as we know it.

This is too radical or extreme for most Americans to contemplate, even as their fear and anger over the decline of our once great economy grows. Americans want unrestricted freedom, but they also want unlimited benefits and guarantees to be paid for by mythical “others.” This contradiction is what’s killing us all.

I don’t know if mass violence is coming to America, although it’s hard to imagine that deteriorating conditions won’t justify that in the minds of all kinds of people. If it happens, those who still think rationally must remember that violence is a symptom, not a cause. It’s the symptom of a society which had a lot to lose in fact losing it. It never had to be, and it does not have to be even today. A government aggressively committed to the preservation of private property, private ownership, individual rights and freedom of association is a government worth having, and the only government that can sustain itself. The American government mostly — not completely, but mostly — committed itself to these principles for several centuries. That commitment is just about gone now, as illustrated by the policies of Barack Obama and those who dare not challenge him in any significant way.

Americans need look no further than places like Poland, or any country where government controlled the economy and the people, to learn that one way is right and the other is wrong. America was fortunate to escape that fate during the reign of Communist and Nazi dictatorships, but most Americans have sadly squandered that benefit in favor of … more unemployment benefits, health insurance to be paid for by somebody else, and a whole host of “goodies” that has created trillions of dollars in never-ending debt with huge implications for our currency and entire economic system.

All ideas have consequences. These consequences eventually assert themselves in the daily lives of even the most willfully ignorant of people. They’re already seeing it at the gas pumps, and the grocery store, and in the housing market. They’re going to continue to see it in these places and elsewhere, on our current course. They’ll gradually come to understand that the smiling politicians are impotent and, at the root, indifferent to their well-being. In some sense, many will come to grips with the reality that where government is concerned they are, after all, alone … and indeed, always were. The root issue is: “Nobody is coming to rescue me. I am responsible for my own happiness, and my own life. I get it now.” The collapse of the welfare state, for all the suffering it entails, will also be the greatest liberation for human beings in a long, long time. To some it will be frightening and even a justification for anger and violence; in the literature of psychology it’s called “hitting bottom.”

America is in the process of hitting bottom. There will be many different reactions in what was once the land of the individualists.

Most of it won’t be pretty, but it’s the only way to recover and start over with a set of principles that never should have been abandoned in the first place.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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