Dan Popp
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By Dan Popp
November 9, 2009

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don't. Unknown

I'm starting to think that one of the greatest dividing-lines of humanity is not the one between Republicans and Democrats, nor between rich and poor, labor and management it's the huge chasm separating those who live in reality, from those who don't.

And the folks in la-la land have us outnumbered.

Case in point: Congress is digesting a bill "extending aid to over a million people in danger of exhausting jobless benefits," according to the Associated Press. No, there isn't any clause in the national contract empowering the Federal Government to do such a thing, but never mind that there is a problem, and government is the solution to all problems right? Now, good news! Some folks can be out of work for up to 99 weeks! Who pays for that, you ask? We do the people who might have employed them, directly or indirectly, had our money not been confiscated by Washington to pay their unemployment "benefits."

Here in Reality, people respond to incentives. When, for example, the government raises the payout to poor women for each additional baby born out of wedlock, the result is more children who will grow up with no daddy but the Government. After decades of the same experiment yielding the same result, there's no use hiding behind the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is simply cause-and-effect; direct, documented, historical reality.

People do what they are rewarded for what we pay them to do. Now we're paying them not to work.

To Utopians this kind of talk seems very mean-spirited. I want to watch the unemployed roast their own children over the rubble of their former homes before they die in the streets, they'll say. And that's what would happen in Utopia if there were no omnipotent Godvernment to bail people out of every scrape. It's impolite to ask a Utopian how Americans have gotten along without comprehensive government programs in the past, or why no Utopian program has ever succeeded. It's unrealistic to expect a Utopian to think realistically.

Those few of us here in Reality see that when people have more time to look for work, they usually take that time and hence tend to be unemployed for a greater period. The longer you can extend your hunt for a job (or a house, or a car...) the better your chances of finding a good one. If you're the one unemployed, you're simply maximizing your opportunities by taking all the time you can. When the free government money is about to run out, you might take a job you didn't like so well but you would be employed. You would be a taxpayer, not a "tax eater," to quote the grand Utopian, Lyndon Johnson.

Is it harder to look for a better job while you're working? Maybe, but people do it all the time. Career counselors often say that a person holding a job stands a better chance of landing another one, compared to an unemployed applicant. With this bill Congress is not "aiding" the unemployed it is promoting chronic unemployment.

What we have here is a "Public Option" for jobs. The Government is competing with employers for your labor (or your non-labor). Your options are to take a crummy job and pay taxes, or to let the suckers do that and get your "money for nothing." Just like the "Public Option" in health care, the government confiscates resources from its private "competitors" and uses those resources against them.

As Realist Ronald Reagan put it, "Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders." Ouch, Ron that's harsh! Or at least it sounds harsh to our brains, muddled as they are by Utopiaspeak. Once, there was a social stigma attached to "being on the dole." It was something that honest, hard-working folks disdained. But after a couple of generations of "welfare entitlements," the ideal of self-sufficiency has been supplanted by the notion of "getting what's coming to me." Government has corrupted our morals.

Realist Ben Franklin spoke against government giveaway programs for the poor. I trust you'll have no trouble applying this quote to unemployment "benefits:"

    I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There are two kinds of people in the political world. One side accepts as fact that human beings respond to incentives (seeking pleasure and avoiding pain); and the other side believes that good intentions will conquer history, psychology, economics and any amount of bad judgment. They will beat, or cheat, reality itself.

It just has to be so.

The Senate tally to ratify the unemployment extension was 98-0.

© Dan Popp

 

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