In harmony with my post, this morning, about the deadly incentives of socialized medicine, Dr. Bastiat has used the experience of a trip to the hair stylist for a compelling explainer of how progressive policies can win the political day, even as they suffocate people’s economic opportunity. The woman cutting his hair told of how she’d wanted to go into business for herself, but the red tape and the costs it imposed transformed the start-up costs into too great of a gamble; the same was true for her husband, a mechanic. Nonetheless, their attitude is that they can’t complain; “everything is ok.”
My Uncle Fred (Frederic Bastiat) described this as the seen versus the unseen. Progressives win elections because the benefits they provide are immediate and obvious. They give people free money with taxpayer dollars, or build highways with taxpayer dollars, or start new general assistance programs with taxpayer dollars. They’re working for you, and anyone with eyes can see it. The benefits provided by progressives are seen.
But the damage they cause is mostly unseen. In 30 years, Kaitlyn and her husband could have retired to a very nice community on the Gulf Coast and played golf for the rest of their lives. But they won’t. She’ll still be cutting hair for $12 an hour plus tips, and he’ll still be fixing lawn mowers for the city. Just like they are now.
They didn’t lose a fortune, because they never had the opportunity to earn one. Nothing happened. There they sit. And there they’ll stay.
Progressives may think they’re utopians who dream of a better tomorrow. But, in reality, they are the robotic defenders of the status quo. Everything stays the same because nothing happens. And when things don’t happen, those things don’t make the evening news. They didn’t happen at all, so there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is basically ok. And that’s the way it will stay.
Until it doesn’t.
One could also apply this principle across generations, as I did a bit with my late-Saturday post. Maybe Kaitlyn and her husband would have been less interested in decades of golf and more interested in setting up their children for a better start than they’d had. Either way, their children would have had the valuable experience of seeing their parents take control of their destinies, rather than depending on others to build their workplaces, as if “boss” were a separate class.