A Nation of Children
By Doug French
Imagine, as Christopher Buckley (son of William F.) did in his clever book, Boomsday, a plan to make the government solvent by offering incentives for people to kill themselves at age 70 and younger. Instead of calling it suicide, it would euphemistically be known as “Voluntary Transitioning.”
Now we have Ezekiel Emanuel, Ari and Rahm’s brother, making quite a splash with his article “Why I Hope to Die at 75” in the Atlantic. While he doesn’t plan on suicide, he will stop receiving medical treatment. He says people deteriorate, and are less productive and creative. So why stay around so long?
The former White House aid’s article makes Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet’s piece on Casey Research last December all the more interesting. She pointed out that Mr. Emanuel has written plenty about “The Complete Lives System” which:
makes crystal clear that physicians must not focus on the individual patient. Instead, medical care should be allocated based on the patient’s usefulness to the “collective good.” If you’re too old, or too young, or your ailment is too complicated, society is better off letting you die rather than paying a doctor to heal you.
One tenet of the Complete Lives system is that medical care for people under age 15 and over age 45 should be attenuated. “Attenuate” means to ration. Emanuel believes that the very young and the elderly are less valuable to society than those in the middle of the age curve.
Mr. Emanuel is likely trying to start a trend and maybe even plant the idea for legislation to stop caring for people at 75—all for the good of the country, of course.
Besides ghoulish, it’s a bit ironic, given the unwillingness of Americans to grow up. It’s telling that Obamacare covers children up to 26, as if the mid-20s is the new teenager.
There was no such thing as a teenager before 1941; there were children and there were adults, explains Diana West in her book The Death of the Grown-Up. Now, turning 13 brings on the wonderful, entitled world of being a teen instead of taking a small step toward adulthood, and according to West “due to the permanent hold our culture has placed on the maturation process, that’s where they’re likely to find most adults.”
For instance, it turns out more adults watch the Cartoon Network than CNN. And while CNN is a low bar, remembering that my old boss, the CEO of a bank, would constantly watch SpongeBob SquarePants, I can believe this.
Ms. West writes that the previous generation was “one not yet under the influence of a youth culture of licentious boys (sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll) and petulant girls (women’s lib), shaped [by] that most basic human instinct—survival. Elevated by a maturing belief in duty, honor, loyalty, and forbearance, the instinct to survive wasn’t just a self-concern; it was, it turned out, the saving grace of civilization.”
So what’s happened? Why the societal breakdown? We’ve had Republicans and we’ve had Democrats in charge. It doesn’t matter. It’s inflation and democracy. Both shorten people’s time horizons. As a nation, we live for the moment because our money is constantly degraded and our politicians steal from us continuously.
In his masterful examination of the Thomas Mann short story Disorder and Early Sorrow, professor Paul Cantor observes, “Mann is as acute in portraying the psychological effects of inflation as he is in portraying the economic, social and political effects.” Mann shows “inflation fundamentally changes the way people think, forcing them to live for the moment.”
With everyone’s time horizons shortened during the Weimar hyperinflation, hard work and prudent investing are believed foolish. In Death and Early Sorrow, the older generation lost its authority and youth dominated. The children acted like adults and the adults acted like children. “The young are more adaptable to changing conditions, while the old are set in their ways,” writes Cantor, “Hence the young cope better with inflation.”
Mann saw inflation change the dynamic between generations in society. With “the young [having] a huge advantage over the old,” Cantor explains. “Not having experienced economic stability, the youth of Germany are more able to go with the inflationary flow.”
Mann’s principal character, Professor Cornelius, has a servant, young Xaver, who is the perfect inflationary child. Xaver, Mann described, “utterly lacks a sense of duty and can as little be trained to the performance of the daily round and common task as some kinds of dog can be taught to jump over a stick.” Xaver has no feeling for the past and lacks the discipline so prized in Germany.
Cantor points out that the elderly “become increasingly irrelevant” in an inflationary environment. It’s well known that inflation especially punishes those on fixed incomes. “Mann fills in our sense of the psychological disruptions that accompany the economic ravages of inflation,” writes Cantor. “More than any other factor, inflation discredits the authority of the older generation and turns power over to youth.”
With prices soaring, youthful vices look like wisdom; the conservatism and prudence of the elderly are made to look silly.
In his epic Democracy: The God That Failed, Hans-Hermann Hoppe explained that democracy increases societal time preference and with democratic rule “contrary to conventional wisdom, the decivilizing forces inherent in any form of government are systematically strengthened.”
The private ownership of government (monarchy) is much more long-term oriented. Rulers may pass on a nation’s wealth to their heirs. In a democracy, politicians can only use government resources. A president has every incentive to maximize current income at the expense of capital value. A president being a temporary caretaker, explains Hoppe, “will use up as much of the government resources as quickly as possible, for what he does not consume now, he may never be able to consume.”
And since in a democracy anyone can be president or in government, “public resistance against government power is systematically weakened,” Hoppe writes. “While expropriation and taxation before may have appeared clearly oppressive and evil to the public, they seem much less so, mankind being what it is, once anyone may freely enter the ranks of those who are at the receiving end.”
Ever oppressive government and increased taxation make saving for the future look futile. One might as well live for today if what you save will only be confiscated by government.
As democracy dictates that the haves take care of the have-nots, “there will be less productive activity, self-reliance and future-orientation, and more consumption, parasitism, dependency and shortsightedness,” Professor Hoppe writes.
What democracy and government have done is to retard the natural tendency of humanity to build an expanding stock of capital and durable consumer goods. Man, instead of becoming increasingly more farsighted and providing for ever more distant goals, is tending toward decivilization. As Hoppe describes, “formerly provident providers will be turned into drunks or daydreamers, adults into children, civilized men into barbarians, and producers into criminals.”
When someone so powerful as Emanuel, leading by example, advocates for the elderly to get out of the way, society has indeed devolved. Too much money and too much government have turned civilized people into barbaric children.