Readers frequently accuse us of being idol wreckers; tearing down without building up, criticizing wantonly while offering no constructive advice. They say we are unpatriotic, un-civic-minded, unhelpful, and un-American.
They allege that we must be part of some cynical order: The Brotherhood of Let-it-Be… or worse, some dark, satanic cult whose aim is to destroy all that is great and good in our Republic… by pointing out its idiocies, contradictions, and swinish behavior.
Often in the middle of the night, disturbed by allegations… deprived of oxygen, and slightly giddy from having had too many glasses of Malbec with dinner, we reconsider.
We imagine that maybe we should forsake our sniping brethren, cross over to the sunny side of the street, and begin making positive suggestions.
Then, in the light of day, we come to our senses and return to undermining the administration.
But today, we would like to introduce a few stray nuances… illustrate our position with some new information… and solve, once and for all, the problem of inequality in America.
First, trying to understand what is going on is hard enough. But expecting us to come up with solutions in addition is asking too much.
Connecting the dots requires you to stand back… away from your own self-interests, prejudices, and groupthink support network.
It is lonely, unrewarding, and unrelenting work—sniping at foolishness and conceit. Every day brings dozens of new targets. Pick up a paper and peruse the headlines; there’s hardly a single one that doesn’t deserve ridicule.
But the last thing people want to hear is negativity—or worse, criticism.
Not of their government, their country, their party, their church, or anything else to which they maintain any remote allegiance or for which they retain any sentimental affection.
Instead, they want warm, flattering lies. Which is why the glib, superficial con man will always draw a bigger audience, earn more money, and get elected to the highest public office.
Second, just because you identify something that others take for a “problem,” does not mean there is either a genuine problem or a practical solution.
Often, if you take the time to study the dot pattern carefully, it is obvious that no conscious improvement can be made. And if one were attempted, the result would be an even bigger mess.
Mountebanks and Quacks
That, of course, is what we make of the U.S. economy and its markets today.
After more than three decades of the feds’ meddling, improving, and perfecting our financial system, it is now so thoroughly out-of-whack that the only sensible response is simply to back off and let it get back into whack on its own.
Of course, that is exactly what will NOT happen… for all the many reasons we have explored nearly every day for the last 20 years.
Too many people have too much riding on this nag to leave the track now. Their houses, their incomes, their investments, their jobs, and their reputations all depend on it. They’ll stick with it to the inglorious end.
Third, all the real progress in human affairs has been made in spite of the improvers.
This is not true for the real improvers, who have solved practical problems such as river blindness or perma-press fabrics. But it is true for all the people who offer grand “solutions” to political, social, and economic “problems.”
They are almost universally mountebanks and quacks who have never solved a single real problem in their lives… and never will.
The proof of this assertion is easy enough. On one hand, there is not one example of it in history.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin used to say that the “last successful government program was WWII.” But then, the U.S. was not trying to improve the world… but protect it from the world improvers!
On the other hand, there is a simple theoretical reason why the meddlers can never either identify or solve a public policy problem.
To wit, all that is genuinely good, decent, or useful in life comes about through win-win deals, made by people with no gun to their heads.
But the reformers and improvers always have a pistol on their belts, and don’t hesitate to use it. They don’t suggest, they insist—with laws, arbitrary rules, programs, policy, and extravagant schemes paid for in blood, treasure, and aggravation exacted from common folk.
One proposes to build a canal, by hand, in the winter time with slave labor. Another proposes a new farming system; 30 million people starve. Another wishes to make the world safe for democracy; millions die in the trenches.
No “please.” No “thank you.” And the only “sorry” we ever heard came from former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who, late in life, wept as he regretted his part in the senseless killings in the Vietnam War.
Relationships—between employer and employee, buyer and seller, men and women—have evolved over thousands of years. But the 25-year-old reformer is convinced he can make them better.
He sees the future coming, surely… and is determined to make it come faster—by forcing people to do as he says. If he had his way, he’d have the angels shoveling snow and midgets playing professional basketball.
In short, the interveners only have win-lose deals. And they are the only winners of them. Everyone else… whose plans are disrupted, whose lives are cut short, whose money is stolen, and whose dignity is compromised… loses.