The limitations of democracy
I do not believe our country is going to survive the devastating economic and corresponding social crisis that is coming shortly. The staggering U.S. debt is propelled by a current political environment that spends citizens’ money as a reckless means to justify some sort of noble egalitarian end. As Lutheran Christians we should be appalled by such feeble stewardship of government that alone serves as a consequential detriment to our own personal congregational giving.
Soon after the passing of the Founding Fathers, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote his classic Democracy in America. His most revealing observation was that once a majority of the American electorate gets ahold of the keys to the federal treasury and votes themselves financial benefits, the American society will collapse.
Well, we have reached that fateful stage. More than half of all Americans receive government entitlements. Moreover, 43 percent of all Americans do not pay federal income tax. Consider too that whatever stimulus package jobs have been created are almost exclusively government positions.
Perhaps most tragic of all is the realization that, in our present culture, we do not have so much an economic crisis as we do a crisis of character.
Therefore, for all three of these constituencies there is a self-absorbed interest to promote government largess, whether willfully or unintentionally, at the expense of the economic health of the country. Meanwhile, it is inevitable that the present high unemployment rate will soon be followed by runaway inflation.
Perhaps most tragic of all is the realization that, in our present culture, we do not have so much an economic crisis as we do a crisis of character. Hard-working private entrepreneurs and corporate leaders that make our economy possible are routinely demonized by media and politicians alike.
Moreover, these workers of all income circumstances are never recognized for their philanthropic generosity. On the one hand, if a worker makes the sacrifice of time by putting in extra hours on the job, they are branded as “greedy” and taxed as such. On the other hand, if one petitions government for largess — no matter how unwarranted — they are regarded as “victims.” In a sane world, the designations would be just the opposite.
While a relentless critic of federal politicians, I appreciate that they are not the ultimate source of the problem. No, as Pogo so famously said: “We [the citizens] have met the enemy and they are us.”
Consider the noble office seeker who says, “I’m not going to be beholden to lobbyists. … I’m going to go out and meet the ordinary citizens and listen to their concerns.” Well, what are their concerns? The ordinary citizens reply, “More government money for my child’s school.” Or, “More money for my farm subsidy.” Or, “More for my Light Rail Transit.”
Does our office seeker ever hear one constituent say, “I want less government for the sake of the health of the U.S. economy and the freedom to pursue my own happiness which this country was founded on”? Not often.
So, do you think our noble office seeker is going to commit political suicide and propose government spending cuts — meaning, cuts for his own constituents not just those of the other office seeker’s constituents? Of course not.
I wish I was wrong in my pessimistic premise. But, even if we could resurrect and elect our Founding Fathers, they themselves would be helpless in the face of such a dreadful calamity. I grieve for our children and grandchildren who inherit such a pathetic legacy.
Tim Utter is a senior admissions counselor at Concordia University, St. Paul.