Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Month: December, 2012

Modern Malaise: Gen Y

Something is amiss with modern man; a sort of subtle melancholy that at times defies articulation. The history of humanity has thus far been defined by hardship and the struggle for survival. Our forebears lived lives that were nasty, brutish and short, where each day was an unbearable struggle to merely survive. However, over the past hundred years or so a large portion of the human race has managed to pull itself up from the drudgery of mere survival, to a place of prosperity and ease. Physical comfort and survival accomplished, the question has become: What now?

Those stuck in the paradigm of survival have concluded that if what they have now is good, surely more is better. So they set out to acquire ever more wealth, luxury and ease; often at the expense of enjoying any of it. However, an increasing portion of the population, particularly those in Gen Y, are no longer satisfied with their predecessors’ imperative of survival.

This is the generation who has known no great wars, and was born into a world of material abundance and digital connectivity. Survival was never at risk for this cohort, so they often fail to see the necessity or wisdom of the ideas that drive modern society. Survival assured, Gen Y wants more than their parents’ suburban mansions, with garages filled to overflowing with once wanted but now unused adornments and diversions. Instead, they wish to live lives filled with meaning, in communities that foster growth.

People are changing, and the world is soon to follow. What many are experiencing now is the birthing pains of a new paradigm, and a new age. As survival chafes against the paradigm of prosperity, many find themselves trapped in old patterns that leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled. They work jobs they hate, doing thing they find meaningless or wrong, to buy things, once acquired, they no longer want. They live in a world of survival, because they cannot see how prosperous they are. This person feels trapped, and their life meaningless. They know there is a better way, but they see no way to achieve it. They feel trapped in a struggle for survival, not born of the necessity to survive, but out of a system and circumstances that seem to allow no alternative. In short, they are caught in the inertia of a world predicated on a paradigm that enriches their flesh, but impoverishes their soul.

However, only our choice to adhere to inertia’s mandate gives it any power over us. To live a life of prosperity, one need only decide they are prosperous and enjoy their wealth. I do not speak of the ornaments of survival that have given birth to the tremendous waste and shallow consumerism of our society. Instead, I speak of the richness of living a life with meaning, with people you love. To be prosperous, one need only live a life in which your values and actions align, and those you love are cherished.

Consider what the world would be like if everyone engaged only in those things they found meaningful, good and worthwhile. Is it somewhere you would like to live? If so, what is stopping you?

Big Problems, Little Solutions

It is often said that America has big problems that require big solutions. To this, I would say they are half right. We as a country have much to overcome, not least of which is getting our financial house in order. However, as the fiscal cliff looms, and one “big deal” after another gives way to temporary solutions and the kicking of the can down the road, these problems seem ever more insurmountable.

At a time when neither party seems to be able to agree on anything, both appear to agree that the federal government is and should be primarily responsible for addressing the country’s woes. I would contend however, that the fate of this nation should not be left in the hands of a few men with enormous power. The hope of our country, as always, lies in the vast resource of our people.

In the face of insurmountable problems, I propose our federal leaders take radical action. In fact I propose they do the hardest thing anyone with power can do, which is to relinquish that power. America learned long ago that free market capitalism is most conducive to an efficient, innovative and prosperous economy. When people are free to make their own decisions and prosper from them, they innovate, solve problems and by their individual actions create a better more prosperous world. On the other hand, the end of the Cold War and the decline and fall of the Soviet Union taught us that a centralized command economy becomes unsustainable when it reaches a certain level of complexity. A handful of bureaucrats cannot match the efficiency, innovation and flexibility of the invisible hand of the free market.

It is time we recognize that these lessons are not limited to the economic functions of government, but are applicable across the board. Centralization of policy and decision-making at the federal level has resulted in a bloated inefficient federal government, which is incapable of innovation or even carrying out the basic functions of governing. Therefore, I would urge our federal leaders to step aside, and restore to state and local governments the power to govern their people.

We must free the hands of local and state leaders, who understand the problems facing their people. Let the federal government do only that which the federal government can, and leave to the states all else. This was the original vision of our founders and constitution, before the Court rendered the tenth amendment moot. That is not to say I am advocating a return to Lochner, where industry was allowed to run amuck; what I suggest is a return to localism, and re-establishing state and local governments as the focal point of American political life. Let the most ardent red states and blue states realize their most radical ideological excesses, and let the rest of the country learn from their follies and follow a middle path incorporating their successes.

Give to the states the management and control of social security, medicare and medicaid, and give them the power to fund them. Those states that walk a wise and compassionate path that balances the needs of the most vulnerable with economic growth will prosper, while those who chose another path will fail. Those who do not vote at the ballot box will vote with their feet, and the ideological winners and losers will quickly become apparent by the success or failure of their states.

America is a large and diverse country, filled with talented people with different values and ideas. Yet the fate of all has been hitched to the decisions and faults of a few men in Washington, who with their narrow scope of experiences and ideas go about making policy for all. Where the wisdom of a few fails, perhaps the wisdom of the many can do better.