July 31, 2017, from Da Lat, Vietnam
Here are a few key questions which illustrate critical determinants of how we individually see the world, what we vote for, and what we support or fight for. If you know a person’s stance on such as these, you can predict his/her attitude toward border walls, health care, foreign trade, tax legislation, and more.
- Is success and wealth in life determined solely by one’s drive, hard work, and creativity; or, are the successful of us mostly beneficiaries of privilege of birth, help along the way, and/or good luck?
- Do most of the underemployed want to work and provide for themselves; or, do most want to live off the government?
- Should government limit its role to rule of law, protecting property rights, and security; or, are health care, education, infrastructure, and regulating the excesses of capitalism (and more) also part of the proper role of government.? For this question, assume government can be local, state, or federal. Also, assume that all of us are displeased with most government as it has operated in recent times. This is a question of what should be, not what is.
I believe in people, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, sexual preference, religious belief or other differences. I am naturally inclined to trust people. There are criminals, and there are lazy-good-for-nothings. There are corrupt leaders of nations made up of good people like the people around us at home. But I strongly believe the great majority of people in the US and around the world are honest, and trustworthy. That includes Chinese, Russians, and Iranians, even North Koreans.
I believe most people are not lazy, want to work and care for their families, and do not prefer to rely on others or on government. God knows, what you can get from the government is hardly enough to motivate anyone to prefer it, unless you are caught in a web of despair and need a helping hand to get trained and get a good job.
I think those of us born male WASPs (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants) or the like, of good and stable parents, good communities, good mentors, various helpers along the way, need to remember that we didn’t do it all by ourselves. How much harder is it for a woman, a person of color, Jewish or Muslim, or an immigrant, a person with poor or absent parentage, born into poverty? It is abundantly clear that “making it” is much harder for non college graduates now than in the 60s, for even a white male. Some of the reasons are structural (e.g., technology and globalization), but much is due to advancing neoliberal policies favoring business and wealth over workers.
I have been deeply disappointed by the performance of government–in Venezuela, in Russia, and in the US, particularly under the current administration. I won’t bother to even make a partial list of my disappointments with government. But starving government until you can drown it in the bathtub (Grover Norquist) is not the answer. We must fix government. We can’t live without it. Competition is what capitalism is all about. We can no more allow capitalistic competition without the government as active referee, than we can tolerate a football game without a referee. The game would quickly degenerate into a dangerous and deadly disaster, like the gladiators in ancient Rome. So, the logical (and only) answer is to work to fix government, not to destroy it.
My beliefs are deep seated. I can’t tell you where they come from. You have such beliefs too, perhaps different from mine.
I’m left to wonder…if I believe people want to work and be responsible, just need an occasional helping hand, and you believe they prefer to live off handouts, then how can we resolve our differences and move ahead?