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But he still expects things of government. At the most basic level, he wants the feds to keep order. Nobody likes disorder…except for people who cause it. And even their appetite for anarchy is limited and temporary. They like it only until they have a chance to impose some kind of order of their own.Skip to next paragraph
Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning (dailyreckoning.com).
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Today’s modern governments have struck a bargain with the common man. They keep order, of course. But there’s more to it than that. Keeping order doesn’t cost very much. And governments today, as Paul Krugman puts it, are “big, ambitious and expensive.”
What do they do? They promise to look after the voter…to ease his pains…to succor him and support him in all his endeavors. That is, the voter looks to the government as he once looked to the church – to salve his sufferings.
But what does he suffer from? Not from want. There are very few – if any – people in America or the other developed nations who suffer from real want. Instead, having too much is likely to be their problem. They eat too much. They have too much stuff. They’ve spent too much. And they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them.
They suffer from plenty, not from want.
Then, what suffering does the government alleviate? What itch does it scratch? What hurt does it make go away?
As we discussed yesterday, people do not necessarily want to be richer. What they want more than that is not to be too much poorer than their neighbors. It’s relative wealth that counts.
There was a wise and silly report in The Financial Times earlier this week. The writer criticized Barack Obama’s drive to make America more “competitive.” He pointed out that being competitive is not the same as being rich. You get richer by becoming more productive. You don’t get richer – necessarily – from becoming more competitive. Someone may be even more productive than you are. So what? As long as you’re able to produce more goods and services, more efficiently, you will be richer.
Trouble is, people are naturally competitive. They judge their own wealth and status in comparison to that of others. Without a point of reference, wealth – beyond what you need to survive – is irrelevant.
You’re probably wondering where we’re going with this. And to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, we kind of lost track ourselves…
…but here’s the point: what the common man really wants is for the government to beat down the rich…and humble the powerful. His suffering is the kind of suffering the Bible condemns: envy.
He wants what isn’t his. He covets his neighbor’s ass. Not because he needs another ass, but because he thinks it isn’t fair that the neighbor has it.
He only wants what is “fair”…unless he can get an unfair advantage himself.
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