Fair Warning

Did you know that David Koresh released a new-wave sounding single in the late 80s? It gets more surreal: The song was called Mad Man In Waco, and it contains lines like “there’s a mad man living in Waco, praying to the prince of hell.” The whole thing’s on Youtube (of course) along with some of the funniest comments imaginable:

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“Please won’t you listen? It’s not quite what it appears to be. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. Set all our people free… there’s a mad man living in Waco!”

This was about 5 years before he immolated the majority of his most devoted followers. Guess they weren’t paying attention to the lyrics. Or to history. Or even near-current events. What a bunch of losers. Good thing we’re smarter than them.

Changing gears completely: I had an e-mail exchange with a cousin in which we attempted a remote autopsy of Detroit, curious to determine some root causes for its spectacular social, economic, & structural collapse. Welfare and other forms of wealth redistribution figured prominently in that conversation, and he asked for an argument for the proposition that welfare programs have a negative effect not just on the confiscation side, but on the distribution side. Here’s what I said to him:

In order for a society to prosper, the people who live in it need to either generate or discover more wealth, on average, than they consume. Any individual’s impetus for doing so, however, is only very rarely their consideration for society at large. In producing wealth, most people tend to be motivated by the more immediate consideration that they and/or their families shall need the wealth to survive. As long as their wealth is peacefully and morally obtained, most people don’t bother to worry about whether the means they employ to get it is actually generative or simply transfers it to them by some nonproductive process. To wit: if a government offers to pay its citizens for meeting some (nonproductive) requirements, many of those citizens are going to take them up on that offer. Of course, meeting the requirements takes time, which is time those citizens aren’t spending producing wealth. (Remember, the requirements are never that a good or service be rendered to the government, otherwise it isn’t what we call “welfare.”) Additionally, because the government is providing these citizens with wealth, their motivation to create more wealth during their remaining time is decreased. Most counter-intuitively of all, a common requirement for participating in welfare programs is that the recipients not have other sources of revenue. In these cases, governments are literally paying their citizens to avoid producing wealth.

There’s also another level on which these programs decrease a society’s productivity: As more people participate in a government’s welfare programs, that government needs must hire more people to administer the programs. These welfare administrators, like the welfare recipients from which they are different in type but not in form, accrue wealth through their participation in the program, leaving them with little time, energy, or inducement to produce any new wealth.

It’s exactly this wealth-draining effect that leads me to conclude that much of our Federal budget isn’t just wasteful, but actively destructive. Lately, though, I’m starting to feel like the time in which this was even a relevant argument to have is rapidly dwindling, if it hasn’t already elapsed entirely. Our opinion as a nation about the value of, for example, HUD, is quickly becoming irrelevant, for the same reason that my personal opinions on the stylishness of tailored tuxedos is irrelevant; I don’t have the money to purchase one.

I’ve heard the argument that our debt doesn’t actually matter at this point, since there’s no way any creditor in the world can force us to pay it right now. This argument is bullshit. Sure, they can’t force us to pay, but the consequences to us of not paying would be catastrophic. This kind of thinking might work if we were still the kings of production. But in that case we wouldn’t be in debt in the first place.

Rather than lull yourself into somnolence with that sort of jive, the thing to do right now is to convert as much of your savings into anything other than dollars as you can. Because what’s going to happen is that the U.S. is going to pay off this debt. The alternative is just that bad. And in order to do it we’ll just print the money. When that happens (actually, it’s been happening since QE1) the value of the dollar shall collapse. We’re no more immune to reality than Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany.

Is there anything broader you can do? I don’t know. Personally, I’d love to take a shot at running for office, but I’m worried that it’s too late to be of much help that way. It’s possible that the big crack-up is inevitable now, and we just have to get out of the way for it. Maybe go back in after things settle down and help rebuild.

Don’t mistake my outlook here; I’m not, myself, a Doomsday prophet. I’m not predicting a rapture, or that the whole planet shall immanently over-heat, or that the all the computers are going to fail because of a calendar glitch. I’m predicting that an event which has occurred many times in the history of mankind shall here occur again, on the basis of my understanding of the mechanics of this event. Even the morphine-peddling news media talk about the fall of the American Empire as a “when” rather than an “if” these days. They’re quite serene about it, as though we can expect it to be a largely peaceful transition. Of course, that would run contrary to every example from ancient history. Or modern history. Or even near-current events.