The expanding welfare state exists, in no small part, to shove marshmallows into our collective mouth. The government expunges sacrifice, smooths the risk out of our economic lives, and protects us from the consequences of our actions. It is aggressively moving us away from the national entrepreneurial ethos, teaching dependency and changing our relationship to the state.
This is not conservative dogma. Look at Greece. It is easy to get lost in the weeds of sovereign-debt ratings and monetary inflexibility, but the fundamental source of that country’s problems is straightforward. Politicians were unwilling for more than a decade to ask citizens for any meaningful sacrifice in public spending, which outstripped revenues. Citizens came to feel entitled to public resources their country had not earned and could not afford. As the country faced collapse, the result has been hopelessness, helplessness and Molotov cocktails.
That was from Obama’s Budget Flunks the Marshmallow Test which was in the February 24th edition of the WSJ.
By “marshmallow test,” Brooks is referring to the test conducted on kids in order to study self-control and deferred gratification.
Anyway, I agree with most everything Brooks says in his piece except for the idea of means-testing social security. He doesn’t mention it specifically but he alludes to it with this statement:
The present administration believes we should be able to get our country fiscally back on track without the vast majority of Americans having to accept less from government. Year after year, no entitlement recipient is asked to give up benefits—even benefits well above a basic safety net.
Good luck correcting this now. Meanwhile, the social security keeps raising the amount of income that’s subject to social security and those who are employed keep throwing more and more money down that hole.
Anyway, I like what Brooks has to say in this piece. It even goes hand-in-hand with the quote I posted yesterday from chapter two of “Think and Grow Rich” about how people tend to look at those who have achieved success in life as somehow catching a break that the rest of us didn’t get.