The free-for-all that the Democratic presidential candidate forums have become is quite a spectacle. As if anything governmental can ever be free.
And as if the truly free thing--enterprise--is no longer about how to earn more, but how to earn less, so as to better qualify for government aid.
The Democratic debates are like a brainstorm session, except instead of there being no such thing as a bad idea to encourage the broadest spectrum, any ideas outside the narrow scope are roundly shouted down.
In marketing parlance, "new and improved" has been pushed aside for "Free!" The concept of value proposition has been displaced by the lure of cost elimination.
But what proverb of any age or people has ever suggested great worth arises or arrives with zero cost? And what student of human nature has ever charted an inverse relationship between effort and appreciation?
In their Neverland of the Free, Democratic candidates would have us believe that citizens will treasure most that which they do not deserve and did not strive to accomplish or acquire.
Such a Government of Federal Grace would obliterate the separating line of church and state and usurp the religious concept of divine blessings, which the Democrats-who-would-be-president purport to grant, not by infallible deistic omnipotence and omniscience, but by political chameleons who seek to out-pander each other.
At this rate, it won't be surprising if the party platform next year unveils a graven image declaring a new decalogue--the Ten Entitlements: Free health care; free abortion; free day care; free college; free housing; free jobs; free food; free money/reparations; free forgiveness of student debt; and free get-out-of-jail cards (to go vote).
Okay, no candidate has played the Monopoly card yet, so that 10th slot could go a different direction.
As their misguided ideas run out of song and speed, like Frost's Hyla Brook, this mass of free-everything misfits in search of some galvanizing identity, yet finding none, will be left like a "faded paper sheet of dead leaves stuck together by the heat"--serious candidates to none but who remember long.
Individual benefits free of any individual responsibility provided from government funds acquired through collective coerced taxation (under threat of loss of liberty and property, no less) is a perverse pinnacle of servitude, not an apex of freedom.
The liberal think tank that equates giving voters free stuff with promoting liberty has lost sight of the twin foundations of successful self-government: values and virtues. No republic can long survive without its populace preserving and passing on its core concepts and constructs. And no private economy can thrive or prosper under an unbearable tax yoke.
Indeed, when Lake Superior State University releases its 2020 Banished Words, the term "Free" should top the list, when used to describe government services.
One man's subsidized benefit is another man's tax bill, to rephrase the old Lucretian axiom.
The "free means tax" understanding is revelatory. It transforms the happy-sounding Ten Entitlements into a more ominous and accurate tax Bill of Heights: Higher health-care taxes; higher abortion taxes; higher day-care taxes; higher college taxes; higher housing taxes; higher employment taxes; higher food taxes; higher reparations taxes; and higher student-debt taxes.
Since "taxation at previously unimagined heights" isn't very catchy as campaign theme, however, Democrat candidates have hit upon the ideal political cost-benefit scenario: Bought votes are always better investments than earned ones--a vote bought with promised benefits is collected electorally here and now, but the cost will be paid financially (somehow and hopefully) by future generations.
Taxes are inherently destructive, but necessary. Two hundred years ago, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall wrote in McCulloch v. Maryland that the power to tax is "the power to destroy," and such tax-induced destruction "may defeat and render useless the power to create."
The reconciling factor for the proper balance of taxation that does not undermine the government's power to create and preserve, Marshall said, is in "the magic of the word confidence."
When the people have confidence in the integrity, operations and actions of taxing institutions, they can see higher value overall coming from higher levies.
So what is the level of confidence in government today?
A 2018 Gallup poll registered only 5 percent of Americans had a "great deal" of confidence in Congress (respondents expressed more faith in Internet news than Congress); in public schools, only 12 percent; in the criminal justice system, 9 percent.
A Pew Research Center report for April 2019 shows public trust in government still mired near historic lows, with tiny percentages of Americans believing the federal government will do what is right "just about always" (3 percent) or "most of the time" (14 percent).
Using Marshall's estimation, Democratic candidates who propose to add trillions of dollars to a federal budget already in deficit to pay for free stuff at a time when virtually nobody has confidence in government are on an expressway to neverland and obscurity.
We'll see soon enough how much free-spun wool the average voter allows to be pulled over his or her eyes.
Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.
Editorial on 07/12/2019