The Pursuit of Happiness: Everybody Wants to be Happy
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Everybody wants to be happy. I do not refer to passing pleasures but to deep satisfaction with the way your life has been lived. Happiness means to reach old age generally pleased with who you have been and what you have accomplished that has been important—through your own efforts over an extended period of time.
Having been a good parent produces happiness, as does having a good marriage. Having done your job well can make you happy, as can being a faithful adherent to your religion. Being a good friend and a good neighbor enhances happiness. That is about all there is to it.
True happiness nearly always involves some combination of God, family, vocation, and community. Kind of makes me wonder why they don’t teach that in school. And should make all of us wonder why Faith, Family, Vocation, and Community have been enfeebled by our government since the 1960s.
“Happiness consists of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.”
Charles Murray, social scientist and author of Coming Apart, the brilliant book that is my source for this article.
WHAT MAKES US HAPPY
If we ruminate over the technological advances of the last sixty years, including the increasing health care capabilities and longer life spans; the spread to people of all stations of what once were considered luxuries and unheard of personal comforts; the new welfare state to prevent utter poverty; and the social revolutions of the 1960s that promised to make us all happier, you might think that Americans are far more happy today than in the 1950s. You would be dead wrong.
Americans have grown continuously more depressed over the last half-century. 1 in 5 American adults is on anti-depressant medication. A recent analysis of the World Database of Happiness, covering the years 1946 to 2006, found rising happiness levels in 19 of 26 advanced countries around the world—but the United States was not one of them. The conclusion: "The U.S.A. has, in aggregate, apparently become more miserable over the last quarter of a century."
The reasons lie in a matrix of falsity promoted by our educational institutions and various forms of media as to what will make you happy. It is not how many sexual partners you have and how wild you swing. It is not even how much money you make and material possessions you accumulate. Except for people in abject poverty, the results of happiness surveys are not affected by income level.
The happiest Americans are housewives. Married people are far more happy than those who are not; children raised in traditional families are far happier than those who are not; and people who attend church regularly are way more happy than those who do not.
DOES DIVERSITY MAKE US HAPPY?
Francis Fukuyama says: "Social trust determines prosperity in any culture." This is a serious problem in America because today we have a far lower level of Social Trust than at any time in our past: Trust that the people around us will do the right thing.
According to the General Social Survey (GSS), when Americans are asked if their fellow citizens are trustworthy only 58% of the upper classes say yes today—down from 77% in 1970; and among lower class Americans it has dropped from 40% to a mere 18%.
When asked, "Do people generally try to be fair?" 80% of wealthy Americans answered "Yes" in both 1970 and 2010 but only 40% of working class folks believe that now—down from 65% forty years ago.
When asked if other people generally try to be helpful the affirmative answers have dropped from 72% to 60% among high class people and from 48% to 34% among poorer folks.
Americans were far more neighborly in the good old days. Only in the United States among world nations was the sense of community once so powerful that unrelated people who happened to live near each other routinely volunteered to assist their neighbors. People would watch over each other's children, drive neighbors to the doctor, loan out tools or groceries, and keep an eye on houses for those on vacation. Americans were also once the most engaged in civic affairs of all the world’s people.
As much as we are preached at about the wonderful benefits of diversity, it does not match reality. Studies show that Social Trust is eroded by ethnic diversity in all neighborhoods—the opposite of what liberal elites (who rarely live in diverse neighborhoods) predicted.
People who live in communities with the greatest diversity have the lowest trust in local government; and they trust their neighbors less—even those of the same ethnicity. They are less likely to give to charity; to work on projects for their community; to perceive that they have a good quality of life; and they even have fewer close friends. The more diverse a neighborhood the higher rate of crime it suffers. Most of its problems must then be solved by the police or social welfare bureaucracies.
THE KEYS TO HAPPINESS
Hardly any other factor promotes happiness as does a good marriage. This makes me wonder why kids aren’t told this. They are not getting married these days so this information must not be getting through. The happiest people in America are married—43 percent of whom say they are Very Happy. The unhappiest group is those never married—only 9 percent very happy. In the middle are widows and divorcees.
The happiest people in America as far as how they spend their time are housewives. 57% of homemakers say they are Very Satisfied with their vocation, while 44% of working people are very satisfied with theirs.
People who attend church on a regular basis exhibit better mental and physical health, and live longer. They have more stable marriages and fewer disabilities in their old age. They are happier, feel better about themselves, are less depressed, and use less drugs and alcohol. Their children have better outcomes, too.
The more often you attend church the happier you are. 49% of Americans who attend church more than once a week are Very Happy; 41% of those who go to church weekly are Very Happy; 34% of those who attend church once a month are Very Happy. The least likely to be very happy are those who never go to church—23 percent. And the happiest of all Christians are "Fundamentalists."
No matter how the outcome is measured, children who grow up in an intact home with their father and mother married to each other turn out the best. They are less likely to be aggressive or hyperactive as children, as well as less likely to get sick, be injured, or suffer a premature death. As adolescents, they are less likely to be delinquent, have problems in school, have poor emotional health, to be sexually active, and to quit school. And it makes no difference what income bracket or ethnicity—this is true for all children.
Children whose parents are divorced do next best, while children whose mothers never married their fathers are the worst. Now anybody with a lick of sense could have told you this before the 1960s without having to first experiment on a hundred million living children. But feminist 'experts' sold their lies well to the American public through their accomplices in the media and in the educational system.
CRIME DOES NOT MAKE US HAPPY
Among white working class men, the percentage in jail or prison quadrupled from 1974 to 2004. Imprisonment does turn out to have one positive effect—fewer criminals are out on the streets. But the same cannot be said for people on parole or probation—the size of such a population in any neighborhood is the best predictor of danger for law-abiding citizens.
There are more than four times as many whites on parole today as opposed to thirty years ago. The number of whites on probation has grown since 1980 from 600,000 to 2.4 million—38 percent of whom did not finish high school.
And they are not all drug offenders. While white violent crime has dropped 40 percent since 1991, it is still quadruple the numbers of 1960. Statistics show that the drop in the crime rate correlates with the fact that in the 1980s we started locking up more criminals and keeping them locked up longer. They are no longer around to victimize their neighbors.
VIRTUE MAKES US HAPPY
From its founding, the American Experiment was about proving that human beings could be left free as individuals, and as families, to live their lives as they see fit, coming together voluntarily to solve their joint problems. The success of America has historically been due to industriousness, honesty, stable marriages, and the Christian Faith, spread across all boundaries of class, wealth, age, race and ethnicity.
In 1835, German author Francis Grund wrote: “No government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States, with a different code of morals. The American Constitution is remarkable for its simplicity; but it can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions." The American Experiment only works, said Grund, because of "the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality."
Everyone involved in the creation of the United States knew its success depended on virtue in its citizenry, because of the nearly unbridled freedom that the American Constitution allowed the citizens of the new nation. Americans faced few legal restrictions on their freedom of action. The guides to their behavior had to come from within. Self-government means citizens will govern their own behavior. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Marriage was the bedrock institution of American society. Americans considered marriage to be far more than a civil contract. It was a covenant. Marriage was seen as the principle source of American virtue; the promoter of hard work, proper education of children, the morals of the next generation, public peace and order, and as the most powerful restrainer of public vice.
WORK MAKES US HAPPY
The industriousness of Americans amazed the world in the old days. Americans believed in hard work to get ahead in life, and to leave behind something for your children. Active occupation was seen as the foundation for the happiness of Americans and their national greatness.
It was unheard of in the 19th century for an American to ask for charity. There was no such thing as being supported at public expense. Americans were seen as exceptionally honest and law-abiding. Criminals were looked upon as enemies of the human race, not misunderstood victims of society.
Working hard, seeking to get ahead, and striving to excel at one’s craft are quintessential features of traditional American culture. Being industrious has long been associated with a fulfilling human life—which is different from a life in which one is merely kept amused.
Rich or poor, it was not socially respectable to be adult, male, and idle until fairly recently. In 1963, 98 percent of American men aged 30-50 were in the labor force. Healthy men who did not work were scorned as bums.
The number of Americans who are actually physically unable to work has gone down dramatically since 1960 because of advances in health care and medical technology, e.g., prosthetics, as well as the fact that the jobs to be done are far less physically demanding today than 50 years ago. BUT the number of Americans who claim disability benefits—to live off of the labors of other people—has exploded from less than 1 percent of the labor force to over 5 percent today. This shows that being industrious is no longer seen as a necessary virtue by millions of Americans. The Protestant Work Ethic has markedly declined.
A study of unemployed men shows that they spent very little time looking for work, in job training, in educational pursuits, reading, on civic activities, going to church, exercising, or engaging in active sports or hobbies. They spent most of their time sleeping and watching television.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF HAPPINESS
"Golden Age thinking" is a term of scorn to some historians, who believe it to be excessively nostalgic. 'Progressive' thinkers claim that things are always getting better, as if all progress is progress toward something good. Nero, Attila, Genghis, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were all men of progress. Cancer progresses, as do most degenerative diseases. Half of all change is bad.
The fact is, the 1890s were better than the 1910s; the 1920s were better than the 1930s; and the 1950s were better than the 1970s. The 1950s may well be the high water mark of American Civilization.
In 1963, having sex before getting married was wrong. If an unmarried girl got pregnant, she and the boy who got her into that condition were supposed to get married—and almost always did. By and large they stayed married too. Nearly every adult was married and divorce was so unusual that less than 4 percent of American households were headed by a divorced person. Most mothers stayed at home to nurture their children. While illegitimate births were not uncommon among Negroes, they were rare among white people. Less than 3 percent of white births were out-of-wedlock before the Sexual Revolution.
In the Golden Age, hollering, yelling, screaming, and talking were not considered singing. Television portrayed loving families. It was taken for granted that television programs were supposed to validate the standards that were commonly accepted as the American Way of Life. No television character or film character ever took the name of the Lord in vain or ridiculed religion and religious people—or used any obscenity. Actors were never seen naked and even nearly naked. They did not dance in a way that bore resemblance to a sexual act. No plot presented sex outside of marriage as attractive or justified. Homosexuality was a perversion not spoken of—Abortion unheard of.
Books and magazines were not sold that depicted sexual acts; no magazines featured sex tips or nude pictorials—certainly not in the line at the grocery store where eyes of all ages could see them. The Christian Faith was expressed in public but sexuality expressed in private—the exact opposite of the spirit of our age.
In 1963, 99 percent of Americans expressed religious belief and over half had attended a worship service within the last week. Crime had been very low for many years. Few people had ever been in prison. People routinely left the doors to their homes unlocked, even at night while they slept inside peacefully. Folks left the keys in their cars overnight. It did not occur to anyone that walking around at night was dangerous, or that children should not be allowed to roam the neighborhood unsupervised.
Poverty had been dropping rapidly for years. What we would call poverty today was the lot of 41 percent of Americans in 1949 but that number had dropped to 20 percent by 1963 without any help from government programs.
Everything was about to change. Much of the change came from a social activist Supreme Court, which began legislating from the bench in the 1960s. Also, an accident of history brought a master liberal legislator to the White House in 1963. The birth control pill went on the market in the 1960s—for married couples only at first, which is whom it was invented for. For the first time in history women could separate sex from bearing children and this would cause a revolution in sexual mores.
In 1962, the Saturday Evening Post commissioned the Gallup Organization to conduct a survey of the attitudes of American women. 96 percent said married women with children were happier than single working girls. 93 percent of married housewives said they did not regret the choice they had made (instead of pursuing a career). 84 percent said there was no reason that could ever justify adultery. And then the clincher: “Do you think it is all right for a woman to have sexual relations with a man she knows she is going to marry?” 86 percent said "No." Note that the question was not if it was OK to have sex with someone a woman knows, or someone she is dating, or someone the woman is "in love with" but a man she knows she is going to marry, as in publicly engaged with a date set for the wedding.
In 1960, the only legal grounds for divorce were cruelty or adultery—and it had to be proven in a court of law. But 56 percent of American men and women said divorce should be made more difficult to obtain while only 9 percent said it should be made easier.
Even in the 1970s, large majorities of Americans thought it was wrong to engage in sex before marriage, and knew that young children suffer if their mother works.
Let us look at a few other statistics that show how Americans have slowly disengaged from civic life since the 1960s: 'Voted in the presidential election' down 22%; 'Attended a public meeting in your town' down 35%; 'Served as officer in a club or association' down 42%; 'Worked for a political party' down 42%; 'Served on a local committee' down 39%; 'Parents with children are members of the PTA' down 61%; 'Membership in 1 of 32 national associations ( Elks Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, etc.)' down 50%; 'Entertained friends in your home recently' down 45%; 'Our whole family usually eats dinner together' down 69%; 'Membership in bowling leagues' down 73%—but bowling has increased . . . bowling alone.
RELIGION MAKES US HAPPY
After decades of public school brainwashing against God, the level of Christian Faith among Americans has finally begun to wane since the 1990s. Contrary to some public pundits’ opinions, it has waned more among the working class than in the upper classes.
This is a huge detriment to American society. Half of all volunteering in America occurs in activities involving the Christian Faith. Half of all charitable giving is to Faith Based charities. Half of all associational memberships are Church related.
As Robert Putnam observed in Bowling Alone, “Religious worshippers and people who say religion is very important to them are much more likely than other persons to visit friends, to entertain at home, to attend club meetings, and to belong to all sorts of clubs, groups, associations, and organizations.”
America was at its most Christian in 1963, the year when the most new churches were built, and when church membership and church attendance were at the highest levels in American history.
In 1963, only one American out of a hundred had no Christian Faith—the same year the Supreme Court kicked God, the Bible, and Prayer out of the public schools, and the schools began to indoctrinate children into the substitute religion of Secular Humanism, which makes the State the highest authority in the world instead of God.
By 1972, 4 percent of my fellow citizens had left the Christian Faith. By 1980, it was 10 percent. By 2010, it was 21 percent of whites ages 30-49.
In 2010, 59 percent of working class Americans had not stepped foot in a church more than once in the past year, compared to 35 percent in 1970. In spite of liberal elites who sneer at the ignorant folks who go to church, it is in fact the most intelligent Americans who go to church more often than anyone else. Among high class elites, regular church attendance has fallen from 66 percent in 1970 to 53 percent today but among low class people that percentage has dropped from 57 to 40.
American men used to be known the world over as men who said what they meant, meant what they said, and kept their word. A man was only as good as his word. That is why deals on a handshake were once so common. This is a far cry from today’s litigious society.
Integrity means doing the right thing—not because you might suffer consequences if you don’t—but because your principles are such that you do the right thing even when there are no negative consequences for doing the wrong thing—such as when you won’t get caught: What you do when no one sees.
To take advantage of another person was considered dishonorable under the Christian Ethic that used to dictate behavior in America. This does not mean it was wrong to out-negotiate someone, buy something for less than it might have been worth, sell something for more than it might have been worth, or write a contract that gave you favorable terms. It meant that it was dishonorable to steal, cheat, defraud, or lie to someone else—because it is dishonest.
Personal bankruptcy has always been an option in America for those unable to meet their obligations. But the laws were changed under President Jimmy Carter to make it easier to evade one’s financial responsibilities and from 1978 personal bankruptcies exploded by 700 percent by 2005—when the economy was still very strong.
Some mistakenly blame this on medical expenses but a study done in 2011 shows that medical costs are not usually the primary reason for bankruptcy. Instead, most folks go belly up because of imprudent expenditures, especially on houses, cars, boats, and aircraft they could not afford.
When personal bankruptcies increase by seven-fold during fabulous economic times it can only mean that personal integrity has declined—that people do not mind incurring debt they cannot repay. After all, who cares if I stiff a greedy corporation or bank anyway, right?
WHY HAPPINESS DECLINED AMONG THE WORKING CLASS
In the average working class neighborhood the median family income is $42,000. People work as electricians, plumbers, machinists, heavy-equipment operators, truck drivers, factory workers, and in the construction trades. In the last fifty years, many people have left these neighborhoods and moved to middle class housing areas. They generally work in the medical fields, or as teachers, police officers, salespeople, social workers, technicians, clerks, bookkeepers, insurance agents, real estate brokers—and millions of them operate their own small businesses.
Among the working class, marriage has declined dramatically and the number of babies born to unmarried mothers has increased to unprecedented levels. Among white people ages 30 to 49, only 13 percent were not married in 1970 but within 20 years that figure had more than doubled and by 2010 only 48 percent of prime age working class whites were married—but 84 percent of upper class folks are. It seems that working class white men retreated from the marriage market as a third of them under age 49 remain never married—and another third are divorced.
22 percent of white working class children grow up in a home with a single parent but only 3 percent in the upper class do. It has been common knowledge for centuries that children need to be reared in solid families or society would suffer catastrophically. That is why illegitimate children were called bastards, who had diminished legal standing and were stigmatized for life. This was true in every culture on earth. It was universally recognized that children absolutely needed fathers to guard, protect, and teach them about the world—as a vital link between children and their society.
Today a lone woman with her children has become an accepted unit of normal life for the first time in human history. Illegitimate births had been at around 2 percent for white people for centuries until the 1960s when the very thing that was supposed to eliminate them for good—the Pill—actually led to an explosion of them. Today, 30 percent of white births are out-of-wedlock and for high school dropouts it is 60 percent. But in upper class parts of towns the number is still below 5 percent.
Then we have cohabitation, long promoted as the same thing as marriage but just without that insignificant “piece of paper.” Perhaps half of unwed mothers are living with the baby’s father when it is born. But those children fare no better than those born to other unmarried mothers. A difference in their development can even be measured at only 15 months old—already they are developmentally behind children with married parents. Why is it hard for everyone to see that American communities must be built around traditional families with children?
By the time an upper class mother turns 40, she is still married to the father of her children 90 percent of the time but among working class women that number drops below 30 percent. Among married people, those who describe themselves as happily married fell from 70 percent in 1960 among upper classes to 63 percent today. But among working class people those who say they are happily married fell from 58 percent to 24 percent. So what is driving all this discontent?
BUMS ARE NOT HAPPY
From 1970 to 2008, the percentage of white males with no college but a high school diploma who had left the labor force rose from 3 to 12 percent. Some said there were no jobs but for the 14 years prior to 2009, unemployment was never above 6 percent in America and the average was 5 percent. Help wanted signs were all over the place. In fact, the reason millions of illegal aliens snuck across the border from Mexico was because everyone knew that any person who wanted to work could work in America.
Some said the jobs didn’t pay a “living wage,” but there were shortages of delivery truck drivers, construction workers, and building cleaners—all jobs that averaged over $13 an hour (over $26,000 a year), which was double the poverty rate for a couple with only one person working.
Between 1985 and 2005, working came to be seen as unnecessary among young white working class men, whose hours of leisure increased by 8 hours per week while men with college degrees worked 6 hours more per week. In other words, working class guys spent a lot of time goofing off. In fact, they spent nine hours a week more than their counterparts from 1985 in front of the boob tube.
Married men are more productive—and therefore earn more money—because they are married. Studies have found that men are civilized by women through marriage. The responsibilities of marriage cause men to settle down, focus, and get to work. Controlling for all other factors—race, education, background—married men earn 15 percent more money. They behave differently and make better employees who work harder and are more dependable. Men who are not married are three times as likely to be unemployed across all socioeconomic lines and this has been consistently true from1960 to 2010.
The percentage of women in the workforce has doubled since 1960 and with so many more workers competing for the same jobs this has hurt the wages of men to the extent that now many Americans don't believe you can make it without two wage earners in the family—something no one thought necessary in 1960. But in working class neighborhoods today, 40 percent of households have no one working fulltime.
In the old days, all self-respecting men could boast, “my wife doesn’t have to work.” Even if they worked themselves into an early grave. Not as a sign of holding women down, but because men loved their women.
Women who work have never worked as many hours as men. Women who work with children under age 5 average 33 hours per week; women with no children average 40 hours per week. All men average 45 hours a week.
WORKING CLASS PEOPLE ARE IN TROUBLE
Individually, most working class people are perfectly pleasant. They have simply not gotten their act together, or at least it seems that way to their parents. A lot of the adult men are living off their girlfriends or relatives. Growing numbers of men have no intention of working if they can avoid it.
Most guys who have fathered children out of wedlock are nice fellas. But only a small minority end up being fathers to their children. Children need fathers.
In working class America, 81 percent of children had married parents in 1970—down to 67 percent just ten years later and less than half that today. So many young men now seem to have no interest in holding down a job or raising a family. They have been told by feminists and family court that they are nothing but sperm banks for so long now that they have begun to believe it. After all, their babies can be killed before they are born without their permission. What could be a greater violation of fatherhood?
Lots of grandparents are raising the children of their daughters. Many women collect welfare checks while they work for cash under the table. Many men only work enough weeks to get back on unemployment—they actively seek jobs that are seasonal or temporary. Lots of people now fake injuries to get on disability. More and more families get government money by declaring their children ADHD and putting them on Ritalin.
People used to discipline their children and married people still do. Single mothers and divorced parents do not discipline their children nearly as much because they feel guilty over their own failings and over the circumstances of their children's lives that they have created for them. They tend to want to be the good guy, the buddy with their children—as if they are children themselves. They want to be the best friend, the cool parent that lets kids do whatever they want and always takes their side—even when they are wrong. These children are not taught to see some actions as morally wrong that clearly are.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF SUCCESS
The top 5 percent of American workers earn $200,000 a year or more. The people who rise to the upper class have certain attributes in common: they exhibit higher than average levels of cognitive ability, industriousness, motivation, self-discipline, and interpersonal skills. The people at the very top of most fields are the most intelligent among the people in that field.
Intelligence does not vary much after the age of six—regardless of the quality of the school children attend. Intelligence measured at age 18 is very similar for the same children as it was when they were six.
If you attend parents’ night at a typical public school you will observe that 2/3 of the parents are overweight and 1/3 of them are obese. At an elite private school, the parents are rarely obese, are generally attractively lean, rarely eat fast food, and even more rarely do they smoke.
The elite of America—the 2.4 million adults at the top of the socioeconomic scale—only watch six hours of television per week compared to 35 hours for the average American. Upper-class women meticulously take care of themselves and their children. Broken homes are not common among them.
Homogamy refers to the interbreeding of individuals with like characteristics—especially in intelligence. It is a fact that intelligent couples usually beget intelligent children. And intelligent people are very likely to marry other intelligent people. It appears that a highly intelligent person does his offspring a disservice by breeding with a low-IQ person. It turns out that it really does matter whom you breed with.
What has happened in the employment marketplace over the last thirty years is that brainpower has markedly increased in value. Knowledge workers—people good at processing information—are increasingly in demand. The demand for such intelligence as is required to become an architect, attorney, consultant, engineer, executive, journalist, manager, professor, scientist, or writer has outstripped the supply by enough to result in a strong and steady increase in the wages earned by those in these professions.
On the other hand, we now have more than enough qualified applicants for other types of work so the supply is far higher than the demand for those skill sets and thus we see a steady but natural decrease in real wages in those fields. The technical jobs require very smart people and they are the jobs showing great growth in demand. 40 percent of the jobs in Manhattan in 1960 were industrial work. By 2000 that had declined to 5 percent.
THE ELITE AMERICANS HAVE MOVED OUT
Up until the 1960s, executives, physicians, attorneys, and business owners lived in the same neighborhoods as city employees, insurance agents, pharmacists, teachers, and factory workers. As crime increased—and civility and manners declined with the onslaught of multiculturalism—and as more people shamelessly went on the public dole, those who could move away from the hoi polloi did so and congregated in their own communities.
The decline of associations has meant a decline in people socializing with others from all walks of life. When we had the Lions Club, Moose Lodge, Chambers of Commerce, et al., going strong, people from every part of the socioeconomic strata often broke bread together.
As the quality of public schools declined, people who were able to sent their children to private schools, especially those parents who loved their country and did not want their children exposed to anti-American, anti-Christian, politically correct drivel from curriculums designed by Atheist, Secular Humanist, Cultural Marxists bent on "Social Justice" who rule the teachers' unions and teachers' colleges.
HUGE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT MAKE US HAPPY
The reason it is a terrible state of affairs to have such a huge central government is not that corruption is necessarily any worse than in the past. It is that if we take 10 percent as a given for the level of corruption then the larger the government the larger the total amount and damage of corruption.
Now we have trillions of dollars of goodies doled out from Washington D.C. and up for grabs for whosoever has the right connections to secure the right appointment or get a bureaucrat to word a regulation a certain way or the right congressman to word a clause in a certain way in a new piece of legislation.
As taxpayer financed benefits grow, so does the number of people who decide they want them. The more people that line up for benefits, the larger the bureaucracy that is required to distribute the funds and shuffle the paperwork. The more people who receive benefits, the fewer taxpayers there are paying for the benefits and supporting the cost of the bureaucracies.
Then, of course, we have the serious problem of politicians giving away benefits in the future, such as enormous pensions that make the politician popular today—thus ensuring himself reelection—but straps down future generations to make benefit payments that cannot be sustained—due and payable long after that politician is dead.
The larger the number of voters that depend on government payments the larger the number of voters who will vote to continue the payments and increase the amounts of them. Sooner or later a Day of Reckoning comes: the day when for any politician to get elected, he must out-promise the other guy. The day when to campaign on a platform of cutting the deficit and the debt (by cutting benefits) is the kiss of death to any political career. Eventually you end up like Greece.
You have to be a fool not to realize that if unemployment benefits are high enough, and last long enough, the vast majority of people will not look for a new job. But that is the exact premise on which the welfare state rests.
PROGRESSIVES DO NOT MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY
Progressive true believers are actually stupid enough to believe that all people—and all possible groupings of people—are equal in their abilities. They believe that if society was only good and just, equal numbers of all groups would succeed in every possible endeavor. They do not believe significant individual differences exist and surely not group differences. This is the basis of thousands of pages of government labor regulations. Of course, anyone with a lick of sense who has ever spent any time around real human beings knows it is all hogwash. If human beings are anything—they are different from each other.
The great underpinning of the welfare state is that people are not really responsible for the things they do, the decisions they make, and the consequences, most of all, for the choices they have made. This means that people who do well do not deserve it and people who do poorly do not deserve it. Progressive ideologues believe the State should dole out the rewards of life and pick the winners and losers—or better yet ensure that there are no winners and losers.
THE GREAT SOCIETY HAS NOT MADE PEOPLE HAPPY
Science is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that male and female babies are different for reasons that have nothing to do with the way they are raised. There are real reasons why boys who grow up without fathers tend to reach adolescence not socialized to the behavioral norms required to hold a job and stay out of prison. There are reasons why child abuse occurs far more often in family structures in which a live-in male is not the biological father. We need to stop imbeciles from continuing to claim that the traditional family is merely one choice among many equally good alternatives. The traditional family plays an indispensable role in human flourishing and social policy needs to reflect that fact.
People grouped by gender, ethnicity, age, social class, and from different types of home arrangements, left free to live their lives as they see fit, will produce group differences in outcomes because they differ genetically and in their cognitive, psychological, and physiological profiles.
In 2002, the federal government alone confiscated $1.5 trillion from people who had earned it and redistributed it to people who hadn't earn it—in what are called “transfer payments.” The states confiscated and redistributed a few hundred billion dollars more. To pay for this "Great Society," the government simply prints more and more money, which creates inflation (another tax on wealth by another name, since your assets are steadily diminishing in value). That is why eight dollars today buys what one dollar bought in 1965.
AMERICA IN DECLINE
From 1939 to 1967, things were steadily improving for working class Americans. The poverty rate in 1940 was 50 percent. It dropped to 15 percent by 1967, naturally, through Free Enterprise, before Welfare began in earnest. But the number of single mothers heading households—the greatest predictor of poverty—among whites zoomed from 5 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 2010.
Anyone can make an income above the poverty line—$15,000 per year for a couple—just by having one of the pair work for minimum wage. A healthy man who cannot do this is failing to pass a very low bar. Only 6 percent of the employed work for minimum wage.
People need food and shelter—no doubt about that. Beyond that they need self-respect and it is only earned by achieving something where failure was possible. Knowing that you have responsibility for the consequences of your actions is a major part of what makes life worth living. It is far less satisfying to have the welfare state take care of your children than it is to know you have taken care of them yourself when you could have failed. It is much more deeply satisfying to receive a raise you know you have earned than to get raises just because you are in a labor union.
A man holding down a menial job that supports his wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. If the same man lives under a system that tells him that his wife and children will be taken care of whether he contributes or not he is diminished in status. Taking possible hardship out of the way for folks also robs them of being able to look back and say they made a difference.
Many people now see children as nothing but a burden that will distract them from having fun. In a godless universe individuals become nothing more than a collection of chemicals that deactivates in the end. Therefore, a life well lived comes to be defined in hedonist terms: the most pleasure and the least pain possible—period.
THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE IS GONE
America lost confidence in the rightness of its traditional values. Maybe there was a time when America did not practice all she preached. Somehow, it came to be that America no longer preached what she practiced. The only thing preached now is the devilish notion of non-judgmentalism—nobody is lazy, nobody is a whore, nobody is a criminal. The only people you can call a derogatory name are Christians and heterosexual white males.
We have suffered a vulgarization in our language, manners, and arts that started in the lower classes and spread upward until higher classes of people now behave in ways that remind one of the harlots and the tattooed lowlifes of yesteryear.
The American moral code, that applied to everyone across all lines of race, class, or background, is gone and replaced with nothing. This code had the power to restrain unseemly behavior—unbecoming, unfitting, indecent behavior—as in not in keeping with established standards of taste; indecorous in appearance; improper in speech or conduct.
Unseemliness is prevented not so much by laws and regulations as by mutual understandings; upon an allegiance to behave in accordance with these shared understandings.
The American Way was a system in which people were free to live their lives as they saw fit, and were responsible for the consequences of their actions. Americans were free to control their own destinies. It was understood that we were free to fail as well as to succeed.
My source for this article is Coming Apart by Charles Murray.