the limits of bootstraps

Too many Americans, goes the common complaint, want other people to pay for them. Yet the same is true in generational terms. We have been able to live well, and do well, because we inherited a rich, well-functioning country, but for a long time now—I’m thinking of the tax revolt that began in 1978—we have refused to do our share to keep it going. Essentially, the bootstrap crowd is living off the civic-minded willingness to sacrifice of those who came before. The problem, in India, isn’t simply that the country is poor, but also that it has a very weak idea of the public good.
Read the whole thing.

For me, a few days in Cambodia undid more of my youthful, reflexive libertarianism than a thousand editorials or blog posts ever could. Infrastructure matters, a lot. Public goods exist. And Americans in this era are much more used to having them than we are to the idea that we actually have to keep paying for them.


Bike Bubba said...

I have to wonder whether the status of Cambodia is a crisis of physical capital as much as it is of moral and intellectual capital, both of which were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge even more than the physical capital.

Put differently, tremendous amounts of energy were put into public goods in the old Warsaw Pact, but it couldn't overcome the lack of moral capital there. Same thing with most big cities in the U.S.

Gino said...

compare the price of building a mile of road 75yrs ago to that same mile today.
and why.

the tax revolt wasnt so much against the taxes as it was against what is done with them.

americans generally do care for the public good, but taxpayers are fed up the bullshit that gets done with their money.
that is why home owners associations are so prevelant: the streets and commons are cared for (the public good) yet democracy still has an honest voice and the money is better controlled.

RW said...

The bullshit that gets done with my money is the amount we give to the military industrial complex (the last warning given by a late-comer to the Old Right, President Eisenhower). But the mere mention of cutting defense spending is enough to have these reactionary assholes brand a person a traitor.

The comparative spending and wastefulness between guns and butter is a no-brainer. But so long as there is so much testosterone and chicken-hawk bullshit running the show we will continue to more happily build cruisers despite the plain fact of modern, asymmetrical realities than to repair roads and bridges.

I'm not a doom and gloomer and I don't believe in this kind of equivalence, but even a cursory look at history will tell you we are following the same policies that led Rome to its ruin. I don't think it is all that bad, but it certainly can't be healthy.

Bike Bubba said...

RW fancies himself a Visigoth, I see. :^) Hopefully I can do the same.

But seriously, given that spending on roads and the military is dwarfed by entitlement spending, our current budget crisis clearly indicates not a crisis primarily of physical infrastructure, but of moral infrastructure. Are recipients of various government entitlements--Social Security, Medicare, welfare, corporate welfare, even unemployment benefits and such--willing to cut what they receive a bit so their grandchildren will have a chance?

Or are we, like Rome, hoping simply to do our best when the Visigoths come to town?