November 13, 2008

21st Century Part I - The Individual

America is undoubtedly still the world's superpower. By all objective measurements, economically, militarily, technologically and creatively, America's accomplishments and stature are astounding. For over 200 years the United States has forged herself into the world's power, as well as the world's greatest hope for freedom, democracy and fairness and equality (regardless of what individual interpretations of these last two might be). But that greatness is always at risk. That crucible of democracy is always fragile.

Every generation of Americans are party of a great experiment and part of a great challenge. And every generation is responsible to uphold it's end of the bargain by striving to advance the cause of these ideals. Anyone who does not consider it their duty, doesn't understand what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. There are many on the outside looking in (including myself, I'm Canadian) who are envious of the opportunity and good fortune your country provides. To squander that opportunity, to distort the meaning of being an American or to not appreciate the unique position which God (or fate or circumstance - whichever you choose to believe) has afforded you, is simply a travesty.

JFK's quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." fits that mold. The United States was not meant to be a welfare state or a nanny state. It was meant to be the land of opportunity for the individual. But with that opportunity comes an obligation to contribute back to the common good. There are many ways that can be achieved. Military service is merely one option. But at a minimum, holding true to the ideas of rugged individualism, self-reliance and simply obeying the laws of the land are required.

More than this, nothing is asked. But more than this, shall not be given - the freedom to exercise your Constitutional rights. True, there is no Bill of Obligations in the Constitution. But there doesn't need to be. It is implicitly understood that if you are free to act in your own best interest, you will attempt to do so. For most people this means things like pursuing an education, becoming gainfully employed and raising a family. The government imposes additional obligations, like paying taxes.

But America faces constant threats. And in exercising those given freedoms national interest and self-interest do not always intersect. When the two interests are at odds, one will naturally suffer. National interest typically takes the back seat.

How often have you heard things like "I'll only buy a Japanese car, American cars aren't built as well."? While that may or may not be true, what are the consequences of buying Japanese? Or buying from any shielded market? In this example, you are supporting a Japanese company (and potentially worker) rather than an American worker. And if millions are doing the same thing, then thousands of American workers and some American companies are at risk of failing. And if the entire industry fails, you have displaced workers, some of whom end up on welfare and increase the welfare burden and your taxes or national debt. That's a drastic oversimplification. The government has an obligation to ensure that it's national interests are protected. You do not. But how many people even consider that sort of impact - not drive their decision by it, but even give it a second thought?

Self interest has been taken to absurd extremes in America. The right to own a home is not a right. Living on welfare is possible, but it is not a right. Conspicuous consumption is not a right. People seem to think that the government can mitigate their retirement needs through social security so it's okay to spend today. Why not think for yourself and plan for yourself instead?

If you can't afford it, don't buy it, don't steal it - you haven't earned it. By abrogating your earning potential you are chipping away at your sense of self worth. Can't afford that iPod? Earn money, and save for it. Can't afford to retire? You should have thought of that when you were busy buying that Cadillac years ago.

People survived before welfare. People survived the Great Depression. But America seems poised to succumb to the cradle-to-grave nanny state mentality so prevalent in Europe and here in Canada. Standing on the shoulders of giants, Americans seem poised to climb down and hide in a ditch. That is a grotesque mistake. Succumbing to the maelstrom of socialism will not keep America great. And those entitlements you seek will become less and less sustainable as time passes. Your grandchildren will not have shoulders of giants to stand on, just the bones of giant corpses.

This is not a drill.

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