Monday, March 09, 2009

Opulence for All!

Tibor R. Machan

As I drive to work in the morning I pass a community college on my right and for years now I have been struck by its opulence. This facility looks like some palace built for pharaohs, not a supplementary educational institution helping people with a few under-division college courses each term. No, by now at least California has several of such fabulous schools--I recall Foothill College up in the Bay Area, which matches some of the best endowed private universities in its architecture, as well as Santiago Canyon or Santa Barbara City College. These and others stick to my mind but there are hundreds of them, as well as similar so called public facilities that show enormous investment at taxpayers' expense or on government credit.

When I hear about California's enormous budget deficit--were they not constitutionally required to balance it each year?--my mind quickly focuses on these and other indulgences throughout the state. They certainly make it appear that whoever plans the state's educational programs has no concern about frugality or thrift. Instead the mentality that appears to go into these projects is that if anyone anywhere is studying at a marvelous college, well then everyone must, including those who spend but a few hours three times a week on campus.

This egalitarian mentality seems to me to have contributed big time to the country's financial wows. Although I am convinced of the superiority of privatizing all education, I figure that if the government is going to get into the education industry, it could certainly practice some restraint. Subsidized education ought at least to be modest and the opulence witnessed around California and some other regions of the country--Long Island, New York comes to mind, as does Florida and Texas--is simply way over the top. Certainly if I am going to ask my friends to help me out with some of my personal needs, such as purchasing a car or dish washer, I would be abusing the privilege if I spent their good money on the most expensive of these items.

But the egalitarian entitlement mentality is such as to insist that if some people in society are studying at institutions with outstanding and beautiful facilities, well then everyone is entitled to the same. Never mind that the money is obtained through the extortion method called taxation, a relic of feudal times when monarchs had to be compensated for allowing their realm to be used by their subjects.

Which brings to mind a related matter--Nevada Senator Harry Reid's recent contention in an interview widely circulated on the Web that taxation is voluntary and that when taxes are collected, it's like collecting dues from us which we all owe because we choose to pay them. Bunk.

Dues are the result of signing up for a benefit with the provision oft paying an agreed upon weekly, monthly, or yearly fee. But taxes are nothing like this. Just being born and trying to make a living qualifies one as the subject of it, to being extorted arbitrary portions of one's livelihood.

But back to the egalitarian opulence that has contributed to the current fiscal meltdown in so many regions of not only America but the rest of the world. It may be driven by envy or by a phony political ideology, namely that everyone is naturally entitled to equal "shares" of the country's wealth but in either case it is nonsense. And it's costing big time.

Of course there is an ancient habit afoot that supports this sentiment. It is one that sees society as a club or team to which everyone belongs as an ant to a colony and from which everyone may draw maximum benefits, so long as the leadership allows it. In the time of kings and other mythical leaders of state it was an ideal to aspire to because it was one way to wrest of the wealth from the rulers--persuade them it isn't theirs in the first place (which it wasn't though they firmly believed it was). But once it was widely enough realized that societies were supposed to be realms wherein we all were to be free to work and aspire to some level of success but not entitled to end up like everyone else, this was supposed to change and we are all more or less competing with the understanding that in a competition people end up in different places at different points of the race. But by refusing to see it this way, the society is seen as obligated to maintain everyone in a state of economic opulence and that is simply unsustainable and leads to George Orwell's very apt depiction of an egalitarian society in his novella, Animal Farm, wherein everyone is equal only some are far more "equal" than others.

No comments: