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November 21, 2011

DOOM: Short and Sweet


PSA: This is Thanksgiving week, and so this week's DOOM will be stepped down a bit. Less DOOM per day, and no DOOM on Thursday as well as Friday. (Well, the DOOM will still be there...this column will simply remain silent on it until the following Monday.)

It’s an interesting question: what if you had to choose between political freedom and financial stability? Democracy is often messy and chaotic, and markets hate uncertainty. Yet robust markets really can’t develop anywhere but in a representative political system (though rarely in pure democracies; a representative republic is generally the most fertile political system, economically speaking).

The Super Committee’s failure was pre-ordained. In fact, it was part of the Democrat plan right from the start, which is why they packed it with far-left ideologues. It was never intended to succeed -- it was an election-year prop. Even if the group scrambles to put some last-minute "agreement" together, it will obviously be a thin layer of face-saving political blather over a vast ocean of disagreement over the shape, responsibilites, and size of the Federal Government. These are not trivial issues, so perhaps it is not surprising that consensus is so hard to reach: the goals of the makers and the takers are completely at odds. The only way to get consensus is to have the voters speak and give the lawmakers a mandate, one way or another, and that won't happen until next year. Markets will hate it, and we may well be in for another credit downgrade...which would be richly deserved.

I've said it many times before: the notion of "retirement" is a modern fiction based on some flawed assumptions. The idea that you can take the last 20 or 30 years of your life as an extended vacation turns out not to be sustainable. This is not the result of a broken societal or cultural model; this is reality re-asserting itself, as it always does.

America before the entitlement state.

Reacting to calls for cuts in entitlement programs, House Democrat Henry Waxman fumed: “The Republicans want us to repeal the twentieth century.” Sound bites don’t get much better than that. After all, the world before the twentieth century–before the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society–was a dark, dangerous, heartless place where hordes of Americans starved in the streets.

Except it wasn’t and they didn’t. The actual history of America shows something else entirely: picking your neighbors’ pockets is not a necessity of survival. Before America’s entitlement state, free individuals planned for and coped with tough times, taking responsibility for their own lives.

And even if you disregard the moral and ethical questions surrounding the entitlement state we've built, there is this bedrock truth: we can't afford it.

And the wind cries bankrupt.

Just a reminder: Illinois is still on a rocket-sled ride to insolvency.

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posted by Monty at 09:00 AM

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