Stage One Thinking

When I was studying policy in my early 20’s, I read a book by Thomas Sowell called Basic Economics.  It was life changing for me.  The irony is that it’s not full of groundbreaking economic theory.  It’s full of exactly what’s titled, basic economics.  The reason why I, along with millions of others, found it to be thought provoking is because we are not taught basic economics in schools that rely on federal aid or are managed by the federal government.  In the same way that if BP had a monopoly on education, they would teach praise of oil and gas, while the federal government has a monopoly on education it teaches praise of concentration of power at the federal levels.  It’s pure self-preservation.  If a generation was taught human behavior in the context of basic economics, the next crop of voters would come to the conclusion that there’s no need for the feds to take so much of our money just to pay their preferred service providers to supply our consumer demands.  They would understand it’s much more efficient to eliminate the middleman and pay for services ourselves to a marketplace full of competition.  Since value is subjective, it’s far better for people to spend their own money than paying the government a commission to choose who provides a service.  Which obviously results in endless corruption and business is done, not on merit, but the ability to lobby.

In the book there’s a chapter called stage one thinking.  This chapter resonated with me more than the rest because it put into words what I noticed everyday from most of society.  That is the inclination to react emotionally to a public issue with calls for action and very little policy opinions.  Social media has made this much worse.  Everyday is filled with individuals dedicated to sculpting the perception others have of them.  This opens the door to blatant virtue signaling in a way that is so harmful to our society and they don’t even quite grasp what they’re doing.  You see, when the public cries out for “action” from politicians, with no policy prescriptions’, then it opens the door for politicians to mock up their own policies that end up as schemes to consolidate power to a political group all while selling their solution to the public as a moral good.  Then 10 years later the original problem never went away, but now the people have significantly less individual, economic and political freedom.  All is well though because your post about how we should “do something” made you feel like a good person, and more importantly, it made you look like a good person.  All without having to actually think. 

For example, in the 80’s same sex marriage was popping up on local government ballots.  This made the organized religions nervous because local government is an incubator for state government, and before you know it spreads to federal government.  So, they screamed at their federal representation and asked for action but with no mention on what to do.  DOMA was signed into law by Bill Clinton in the 90’s which created the legal precedent for government to have the authority to define a word traditionally associated with religious ceremony.  In this case, the word was marriage.  The language of the definition mentioned specially “one man and one woman.”  This immediately divided the people and categorized poly and same sex unions as not recognized by the government as marriage.  For those that could marry, tax benefits were given, better bank loans, easier access to college grants, higher salaries for service people, union members and government employees.  The grand irony here is that we all know how this ended up.  Yes, THE CHURCH were the ones who originally gave up the power of their ceremony to the government which created the circumstance that allowed the same sex marriage movement to then use that power to punish the church three decades later.  Never forget…If you can punish your enemy with the federal government, your enemy can do the same thing to you when the political winds change.  You see, all the legal benefits of marriage were always there for same sex unions to use.  They could have always signed personal legal contracts that marry their lives together, but since the government was given the go ahead to treat some classifications of people differently, the fight ended up being about the definition of a word and the federal benefits that word provides.  The clear headed understand the best way to have solved this was to get government out of marriage.  Then everything would end up being a legal contract and those that were religious would still be free to attach the ceremony to it without being forced to recognize a marriage they disagree with.  However, the people demanded ACTION!  The government will never voluntarily limit it’s own power, so the solution ended up being to double down on the government’s authority.  The tables turned completely.  Discrimination of any sort is abhorrent.  Both sides in that situation were wrong.  The solution was to get government out of marriage, but the church was the one in the first place to relinquish their freedom to the government to punish those they disagree with and preserve their personal beliefs and force the rest of us to live under it.  Which ironically then was turned around on them.  

Government should NEVER show preference to anyone.  All lives are built of choices.  Why do married couples of any demographic that work for government, or college kids that took out loans, deserve more money and tax breaks than a person that chose not to marry and not go to college, but start a small business that employs people and provides value to the market?  Why are there talks of student loan forgiveness and not small business loan forgiveness?  Why are non-consequential choices punished by the voting habits of people that make the opposite choices?  It’s insane and remarkably immoral.  By this legal reasoning, we should all be calling the gay marriage movement bigots against polygamists and pedophiles.  Who knows, maybe that’s the next crusade to use government to punish others.

I’m writing these thoughts today because of the present gun debate, the current topic of free speech online, healthcare and climate change.  I’ve not heard one regular person explain their policy prescription on any of these.  Political pundits, yes, but nothing from normal people who hold the power of an election.  I’ve only heard the calls for congress to “Do Something.”  The topics I just listed are far more important than social marriage debates.  The debate cannot continue to be, if you’re not for X then you’re for Z.  It’s easy for people to get outraged at a group if you think like this thus it makes you feel good about yourself for speaking up.  The problem is that culture is far more diverse, and the distribution of power is far more complicated than a simple us verse them mentality.  For example, not one law proposed would have stopped ANY mass shootings in the last several years.  Literally not one.  However, what they would do is limit a basic natural right in the constitution to defend yourself.  FAR more deaths in the US are prevented by the presence of a gun and without them even firing.  All the current proposals would do only one thing and that’s decrease the amount of income one political party receives from 2nd amendment unions and lobbyists.  Not at all saying we should do nothing, which is what half of you just inferred, which makes my point, so thank you.  What I’m saying is that when not given a specific objective, politicians’ use a crisis to further their own grip on power by decreasing the power of their political opponents.  Be careful with the power you give people over you.

Climate change is another perfect example.  Every solution put forth requires absolute authoritarian power be granted to the democrat party over our economy and consumerism.  That should be a red flag to everyone.  Not one proposal doesn’t include a massive power grab from the left.  Another example is healthcare prices.  For years we screamed that it’s too expensive, but we had no collective solution, so the government said to give politicians all the power over the healthcare market to make it better.  Never did I hear from a regular person that it’s wrong for US citizens to be subsidizing the cost of medicine in dozens of other countries, by paying higher prices, when it was our economy that served as an incubator for innovation for said drug.  Never did I hear someone say there needs to be more competition in the insurance market across state lines.  No…The solution the politicians came up with was to immediately give all market power over to the very people that destroyed it in the first place.   

In the end, all I really wanted to get across is before you make your social media outrage post about a complicated topic, offer a real solution and converse instead of simple stage one thinking of “action” which ends the conversation, not starts one.  While you are feeling so good about yourself from your moral outrage, the powerful are plotting on how to use the power you just gave them to further their political ends which is almost always used against your “side” down the road.  The hard truth is that there is no government official solution to most things.  The solution is up to the people and their communities.  Government isn’t a thing.  Government is people.  Flawed just like us.  If a solution must be done through government, chances are it would be best served on a local level first where the people are most accurately represented.  I know it’s not as sexy but solutions don’t have to be spoon fed by those with ulterior motives.  Be careful with the power you give others over you.

If men are good, you don’t need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don’t dare have one.

-Robert LeFevre

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