How to make people unhappy: give them money they did not earn

This author makes the following point: giving people money they did not earn, either through the lottery, or through endless entitlements, makes people unhappy.

(Note to readers: we can all agree that temporarily giving people money so they don’t starve or so they can keep the lights on — the types of programs carried out by the Church — are not what is being discussed here. We are instead discussing a lifestyle of endless entitlements or earning money without working for it. It is worth pointing out that Church aid very often involves asking people to work for the money they receive.)

From the article:

But hitting the jackpot generally leads to unhappiness. A famous 1978 study of major lottery winners in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that while the winners experienced an immediate happiness boost right after winning, it didn’t last. Within a few months, their happiness levels receded to where they had been before winning. As time passed, they found they were actually less happy than they had been before winning.

Does this suggest that money makes us unhappy? Not at all. There is a huge amount of research showing that money, when earned, has a generally positive association with happiness. The problem is when it is unearned, when raw purchasing power is untethered from hard work and merit. Above basic subsistence, happiness comes not from money per se, but from the value creation it is rewarding.

More from the article:

The University of Chicago’s General Social Survey reveals that people are twice as likely to feel “very happy” about their lives if they feel “very successful” or “completely successful” at work, rather than “somewhat successful.” The differences persist whether they earn more or less income.

Entrepreneurs of all types rate their well-being higher than do members of all other professional groups in America, according to years of polling by the Gallup organization. And it’s not because of the money. The employment website CareerBuilder.com reported in 2011 that small business owners made 19% less per year than government managers.

While earned success facilitates the pursuit of happiness, unearned transfers generally impede it. According to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, going on the welfare rolls increases by 16% the likelihood of a person saying he or she has felt inconsolably sad over the past month (even after controlling for poverty and unemployment). A study by economist John Ifcher at Santa Clara University shows that single mothers who were required by the 1990s welfare reform to work for their benefits—and therefore lost leisure time, had to find child care and the like—were still significantly happier about their lives after the reforms than before.

And this:

All this data relates to our policy debates because every year, fewer and fewer people earn their way in America without a government subsidy. As my colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has written, entitlements have doubled as a percentage of the ballooning federal budget since 1960. Today, more than half of American households receive government transfer benefits.

And this isn’t just a case of senior citizens taking the Social Security they have paid for. Unearned transfers are exploding. Consider that the number of Americans receiving disability benefits has increased almost 20-fold since 1960, to 8.6 million today from 455,000. The Tax Foundation notes that nearly 70% of Americans now take more out of the tax system than they pay into it.

It is a simple fact that the United States is becoming an entitlement state. The problem with this is not just that it is bankrupting the country. It is that the entitlement state is impoverishing the lives of the growing millions dependent on unearned resources. The good news is that we have a golden opportunity to rein in entitlements, for the first time in many years.

This point of view seems to me completely compatible with the Gospel.

The Lord says: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39). When I first read this scripture, it became clear to me that eternal life is not about sitting on a cloud playing a harp (the vision that many people have of heaven) but instead about constant positive action.

There is no doubt that many people work at things they consider a complete waste of time, just as many people have callings in Church they do not like. But even the most menial tasks often can teach us things, just as the callings we don’t like are the ones where we often discover we learned something positive.

This is one of the primary points of the Gospel: it is about action, about doing something to help improve yourself and your family and your fellow man. This is what brings us joy. Is it any wonder that entitlements that encourage people not to work would do the opposite?

This was one of the points of Elder Uchtdorf’s important talk in last year’s October conference. I discuss that talk here.

Elder Uchtdorf says:

There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way. The Lord has said, “It must needs be done in mine own way.” He is not only interested in our immediate needs; He is also concerned about our eternal progression. For this reason, the Lord’s way has always included self-reliance and service to our neighbor in addition to caring for the poor.

The Lord’s way makes both the giver and the person receiving charity happy. The world’s way appears to make everybody miserable.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

49 thoughts on “How to make people unhappy: give them money they did not earn

  1. Spot on! True principles govern no matter what your beliefs are and when you violate principle, there is always a price to be paid.

  2. Indeed, inherited wealth is one of the great evils of society. As Ghandi said:

    “Those sons of millionaires, who are of age and yet inherit their parents’ wealth, are losers for the very inheritance. The nation thus becomes a double loser. For the inheritance should rightly belong to the nation. And the nation loses again in that the full faculties of the heirs are not drawn out, being crushed under the load of riches.”

    Time for death tax reform!

  3. I’ve been thinking recently that part of mortality is to learn to work hard, and the Lord does, indeed, want us to work hard.

  4. Ghandi was wrong. The wealth of an individual rightly belongs to that individual and when that individual dies, they still retain the right to determine where that wealth goes and what conditions they may or may not put upon its use (through the use of wills, trusts, etc.). Government theft of wealth through the use of death taxes is immoral and should be done away with.

  5. I would agree that inherited wealth often makes people unhappy. But like all things in life, the inheritance tax is problematic. It mostly hurts farmers and small businessmen. The Paris Hiltons of the world are few and far between, so we hurt thousands of small-timers while not really affecting the lives of Paris Hilton. In addition, it encourages spending instead of saving, creating a tremendous incentive for rich people to spend it all before they die. One of the interesting trends we have seen is that the really, really rich (the Rockefellers, the Fords, the Gates, the Nobels) end up creating charities with their wealth, so experience shows us most truly rich pay back one way or another.

    I would be willing to have a punitive death tax if we cut the welfare state down to 10 percent of its current size. Would you make that deal, Nate?

  6. Do you mean cut it by 10% or by 90%? If 10%, absolutely. But only till we get the budget balanced and pay down the debt! After that, I’m back to fighting for hard core socialism. 90% is just a far-fetched libertarian dream.

  7. Nate, more seriously, if we can both agree that giving people money for nothing makes them unhappy, we should favor policies that follow up on these beliefs. I would be willing to keep an estate tax if it were truly aimed at the really rich people. A farmer with an 80-acre farm is not rich, except in land. If he leaves the farm to his three kids, they must either pay the taxes or sell the land and sometimes you can’t sell the land for years and you must pay the taxes now. It is not a humane policy to make people who are poor pay such taxes. Same with a small business. But if we want to charge an estate tax on a person with a $10 million or higher estate, as long as the estate is mostly in cash, I would oppose it on ideological basis but would favor it as part of a bargain to cut spending.

    Meanwhile, the entitlement society is clearly creating an entire generation of miserable people who are not being fulfilled and not pursuing the Gospel truism that self-reliance makes you happier. I see this as a real problem with long-term consequences that are negative for society.

  8. I’m curious – would life insurance benefits be considered money not earned? It is, basically, gambling against someone’s death, but does that unexpected income help or hurt?

  9. Frank, there is a whole category of stuff that you could argue is “not earned.” Insurance payouts definitely are not in any reasonable category (in my opinion) because you are paying a company for a service rendered. If you are paying for fire insurance and your house burns down, I can see absolutely no moral issues with getting the insurance money. Same with life insurance.

  10. To tell you the truth Geoff, I’m a bit torn on this, because I’m actually fan of inherited wealth, because I like everything that comes with it: aristocracy, fine arts patronage, luxury and plutocracy (not that I’m getting any myself, just crumbs falling from the table). I would sooner tax the family of a small business owner than Paris Hilton, because the Paris Hiltons of America are our only royalty, and we need royalty to create an aspirational culture. I don’t like bourgois and middle class culture. I like upper-class and aspirational culture. I know this is bad. But I confess, those are my feelings. I’m a bit of a limousine liberal, or coctail socialist or whatever you call those insufferable people. My utopia would be to have a privileged class, and then everyone else middle class.

  11. I don’t either. But Geoff, you do say: “If we can both agree that giving people money for nothing makes them unhappy, we should favor policies that follow up on these beliefs.”

    Since we are trying to find solutions that make people most happy, perhaps we should consider the fact that the most socialist countries like Denmark also rank highest on surveys of happiness and well-being. America is far more unhappy than most Western European countries.

    I think many people would argue that most of the welfare state is not “money for nothing.” Certainly not medicare and social security, the two pillars of the welfare state. Having these safety nets makes people happier, not sadder, because it frees them from the stress of worrying about unexpected disaster, and desperate financial circumstances. Sure, chronic welfare recipients fit into your category, but socialists would also agree that these programs are not being run effectively. Socialism is about the idealization of work: work for all, the stability of work, the knowledge that you will always have work. Not putting people on the dole and keeping them there. We all agree that is bad, and something has to be done to fix it. We just can’t agree on a solution. Kick them out on the street? That’s not good enough for me or for other cocktail socialists.

  12. And here’s what it means to be a coctail socialist. It means I love capitalism, I owe my success and money to capitalism. But it also means that I attribute my success not to my own efforts, but to good luck, good education, good breeding, and innate talent. I recognize that not everyone had the luck, education, and talent I have, and as a compassionate human being, I want to help people not as blessed as I am to have a decent quality of life, with consistent work, and educational opportunities.

    So to be a coctail socialist is to love a well balanced mixture of capitalism and socialism, like we have now, but a better mix.

  13. I think nate has a point. Does giving people money make them unhappy? I think that’s a little simplistic. I don’t think you can use the case of people who win lotteries to show why people who owe most of their standard of living to welfare are unhappy. The one thing these examples have in common is they both get money they didn’t earn, but virtually everything else about these two groups is different (except that both of them were more than likely at one time poor).

    nate points out Denmark as a happy socialist country, but most of the happiest countries of the world according to the variety of scales I have seen are generally fairly socialist countries. There’s simply more at play. As for nate’s point on royalty. Being a rather driven anglophile I actually want to see us rejoin the commonwealth. But that’s neither here nor there.

  14. Another link if you can’t stomach anything related to von Mises:

    http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=127748

    Good snippet: “Most of that is myth. The Scandanavian countries have become icons for the “Socialism”, while the US is an icon for “Capitalism”, but the truth is that the difference between them is not that wide. All developed countries all mixed-economies at this point like you said, and correlations between the outcomes for the slightly-more-interventionalist and slightly-less-interventionalist are spurious at best. At this level of similarity, the nature of public policy (such as the corporate tax rate) will be more important than the quantity, not to mention non-policy factors like demographic homogeny or natural resources like oil.”

  15. Great point Michael: “The difference between them is not that wide.” This is really true. If by “socialism” you mean Marxism, Denmark is much much closer to the US than say Cuba. We are both in mixed capitalist/socialist economies.

    I would say the biggest difference is universal healthcare. Taxes are higher, but not really for the middle class. It’s the rich that get soaked in Europe. I live in the UK right now and pay almost exactly the same tax rate as in the US. There are some advantages: lower retirement ages, stronger infrastructure, longer maternity leave. But these things are all on a grade. We are both far, far away from Communism. Are similarities far outweigh our differences.

    But the differences are significant, and I think these little quality of life things and financial safety nets do make a populace more content and restful in general.

  16. Michael,

    Perhaps you should continue reading down the thread on the second link you provide (see Spellbanisher’s post). The Mises stats take into account only select data to make a claim about state-controlled (socialist) economies, which is only one aspect of what we might call socialism (a slightly nebulous term since no country has ever been purely socialist, and the term used now doesn’t quite mean what Marx meant by it). In other words, this is a straw man attack on the argument I am making.

    So, granted, Scandinavian corporate taxes are comparable with the US, *but* income tax rates get up to 50% (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/aug/05/scandinavia-recession-welfare-state).

    The Scandinavian states have much greater influence on personal quality of life than the US government does (an indicator of socialism). For example, Scandinavian countries have much stronger union-government bonds. They have free college education. And obviously, until recently, their healthcare systems were much more universal than the U.S.’s (and to some extent, if I remember right, still are even more technically publically controlled), which is an important factor considering that all of these happiness by country polls were reported before universal healthcare in the US.

    This is not to say that socialism causes happiness. But that’s not the argument anyone is making here. The point is, the Scandinavian countries *do* have more state involvement on social matters than the US does, and by every happiness index I’ve seen, they are much happier. I’m not implying causation, but I am saying that we probably need to look deeper than lottery winners if we want to see whether unearned money actually causes unhappiness for the majority of people who take.

  17. There are different ways of measuring happiness, but this measurement shows Denmark is one of the least happy countries in the world:

    http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/denmark-ousted-100-latest-worlds-happiest-country-561826

    This survey by Gallup shows, like the other one, that people in Latin America are generally the happiest, although Denmark does better here. Please keep in mind that both survey show that some of the happiest countries also appear to have virtually no welfare state and suffer from huge economic inequality.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/159254/latin-americans-positive-world.aspx#2

    I do business in Denmark, and Danes are great people, but comparing Denmark to the United States is not really a good way to spend our time. Their cultural and constitutional law traditions are different than ours in a myriad of ways. In addition, it is worth pointing out that Scandanavian countries have been scaling back their welfare states lately at least in part because the dependancy created is making people unhappy, which is exactly my point.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattkibbe/2012/08/02/with-most-of-europe-still-on-its-back-sweden-tries-policies-that-actually-work/

  18. Consider Alma 24:18, the anti-nephi-lehis felt their lack of honest work was so serious they included it as part of their covenant to refrain from war.

    ” rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.”

    I think this is very interesting and ought to be considered in our own warlike state and tendencies. It’s not surprising we seemed both engaged in endless war and endless envy and look to material confiscations as our salvation. I sure hope as a people our path to redemption need not follow the same as theirs! But in many ways I see our society mirror theirs.

    I hope no one would misunderstand my thoughts to mean no own is worthy of support if they are in need as its a sacred and exalting responsibility to seek out those in need and freely impart our substance to them (as well as find other ways to help them).

  19. Chris, could it be that creating a sense of entitlement (ahem, Lamanites) causes people to covet things that are not theirs (ahem, Lamanites), which causes unhappiness and more coveting, which causes secret combinations and wars? If so, why would we encourage the sense of entitlement and the covetousness in the first place?

  20. Geoff, I think you’re almost laying out the corollary to the pride cycle – the entitlement cycle?

  21. Yeah, I’ve seen several different “happiest countries in the world” catalogues. I honestly don’t put a lot of stock in any of them. I also agree that comparing countries, especially large v. small ones, presents a whole mess of challenges despite the best attempts of political scientists.

    For what it’s worth, I also see problems when people feel entitled. I don’t think it’s inherent in countries that use a lot of socialist policies, but the fusion of the two can have disastrous effects, ala Greece.

  22. Geoff, you failed to cite the difference between the happiness model you link and the traditional UN one with Denmark on the top. According to the article you cite, the difference is: “In addition to life expectancy and happiness, the HPI takes environmental sustainability into consideration.” In other words, they are asking: “is the earth happy?” Not really an argument I thought you would want to espouse.

    Also you say Scandanavia is scaling back on the welfare state, which is true. But you claim the reason is that “because of the dependency created” and this is false. They are scaling back because of dramatic budget deficits.

    It’s true that the European model is absolutely unsustainable in the current economic environment. Socialism has a problem with flexibility in a volatile economy, I freely admit. But most everyone likes the philosophy behind in the Europe, and the goodies and well-being that come with it.

  23. “But you claim the reason is that “because of the dependency created” and this is false. They are scaling back because of dramatic budget deficits.”

    The two actually go hand-in-hand.

    “Socialism has a problem with flexibility in a volatile economy, I freely admit. But most everyone likes the philosophy behind in the Europe, and the goodies and well-being that come with it.”

    Fundamentally, socialism has a problem with the calculation of prices in a socialist economy. If you can’t figure out prices, then the economy is worthless. The genius of capitalism has always been the efficiency in calculating prices.

    Yes, socialism is very popular in Europe. So what?

  24. “Fundamentally, socialism has a problem with the calculation of prices in a socialist economy. If you can’t figure out prices, then the economy is worthless. The genius of capitalism has always been the efficiency in calculating prices.”

    Michael, again, you hit the nail on the head! Capitalism is a science, not a philosophy or an art. It is a set of universal laws which predict the actions of free-agents given protected autonomy in an environment of various limited and unlimited resources. It is efficient and perfect in it’s sphere. It is as effective and ruthless as the laws of nature, which ordain that some species thrive, and some to go extinct, that some will eat, and some will be eaten. Obey it’s laws perfectly, and you will be rewarded tremendously! Defy them, or fail to obey them in your weakness, and you will be trodden down.

    But some of us believe that God ordained man to be more than a capitalist money making machine. “Bridle your passions, that you may be filled with love” the Book of Mormon says. We don’t squelch and destroy our capitalist passions, for the science of capitalism is the fire of our ingenuity, the power of our prosperity. But still, we bridle it, that we might be filled with love. We mitigate it, and spread the wealth. We don’t cast the servant who buries his one talent into hell-fire, as Jesus said he would be. Rather, we bear with him, support him, educate him, and help him in his weakness, just as God creates happy terrestrial and telestial spheres for those who defy His natural laws.

  25. Nate, I completely agree with your above comment. I am impressed with your knowledge of the free-market system, which is actually much deeper than most people. I would just point out that we are expected to *voluntarily and without compulsion* bridle our passions and be filled with charity and love. Our vision of a Zion society is probably exactly the same: a community of people voluntarily giving and serving each other, with “no poor among them.” The issue is: what do we do today? On a personal level, we try to carry out the Zion society. The problem is that on a national level, such a vision involves compulsion, which is the exact opposite of a Zion society. Some compulsion in government is necessary: some taxes need to be collected and some (minimal) force may be needed in times of emergency (I am thinking here of forcing people to fight if the country is invaded, for example). This was the vision when the country was founded, a small federal government with minimal force, much more powerful local and state governments. The problem is that now force and compulsion are everywhere in the federal government. This is what people like myself are peaceful protesting against.

    I would also point out that forcing people to be good and be charitable against their will never works. It makes both the giver and the person receiving charity unhappy. A voluntary Zion system brings joy to both the giver and the person receiving charity.

  26. As long as we’re talking socialism, capitalism, taxes, force and the greater good…

    It’s my understanding that one of the big purposes of the earth is to give people the opportunity to take responsibility over a stewardship. A lot of people make really dumb mistakes with theirs, but that’s all part of the learning process. One of my problems with large scale government intervention is the way that it interferes with this stewardship learning process.

    Give me an extra 10% income and I now have a huge chance to decide what to do with it. Do I have neighbors who need help? Or maybe it would be wiser to invest it. How much of it can I ethically spend on my own wants or my family’s wants? I might not make the best decision, but by making a decision and watching the consequences I learn more about being a wise steward.

    Give me an extra 10% tax and the inverse happens. I now have fewer options and have less freedom to experiment with my stewardship. Potential learning opportunities evaporate. I might optimistically assume that the government does better work with my money than I would, but I don’t get the learning experience of personally making a decision. I’m trading a divinely ordained teaching method in hopes that some earthly agency can make some temporary temporal improvement to the world. And from an eternal perspective I don’t think that’s a good deal.

  27. Geoff, I’m so happy to receive such a warm response from my portrait of capitalism! I’m glad to hear we agree about both the effectiveness and drawbacks of the capitalist system. What we would disagree about, is whether mitigating capitalism should be done voluntarily, or through compulsion. While you believe that some minimal compulsion is necessary, I’m in favor of a lot of compulsion.

    The way I see it, voluntary “spreading of the wealth,” won’t work, because the science of capitalism has already factored and determined the degree to which people will act altruistically, when given autonomy, protection, and assets. The science predicts that people as a general rule, will act according to self-interest, over the interest of their fellows. Voluntary mitigation will fail on the whole, and that is predicted by the science itself.

    But even if that is true, your philosophical argument is that compulsion is morally wrong, and that it limits freedom, Satan’s plan. But I think this is a misreading of the doctrine of free-agency. Jesus taught us about a different kind of freedom, not about whether you are a slave or a master, but about knowing the truth, which shall make you free, going the second mile, rendering unto Cesare, submitting to your masters.

    JSG claims that when the government taxes capitalist free-agents, that it limits their freedom. But this is not really true. It simply means that the environment for everyone changes, and the market adjusts to the new environment. It’s like rerouting or damming a river. The kinetic potential energy remains the same. It is simply routed according to a different landscape than the natural one. We still have the same amount of freedom, it’s just that we have new environmental factors that come into play, environmental factors strategically placed there by the government. These changes might happen through non-government forces as well: a product goes out of style, there is really poor weather one year. But the market adapts to the new environment. The cost of doing business has changed.

    While it’s true that government taxation limits the amount of things we can do, we still have plenty of freedom. While we may not be able to do A, B, C, D, E, and F, we can still do A, D, and F, and choose between those things. That’s plenty of freedom by God’s standard, in fact, it’s an incredible amount of freedom when compared with how humanity has lived for thousands of years, when all of life’s decisions, who to marry, where to live, what to do for a living, what to wear, were all chosen for you. The orgy of choices we have today has it’s own drawbacks. Submitting ourselves to the yolk of a benevolent socialist government is a wonderful way to try and ground ourselves and focus our efforts on what is most important.

  28. Nate,

    It seems that we have very different ideas about the relative values of freedom, security, choice, responsibility, risk, stewardship, welfare, taxes, regulation and so on. We also appear to have radically different assumptions about the benefits of decentralization and the trustworthiness of bureaucrats.

    So while I can see how you logically arrive at your positions given your values and your base premises I must honestly say that, given my values and beliefs, your vision of the world still appears both undesirable and unrealistic. At the very least, I wouldn’t be happy living there.

    On the other hand, a country with a weak federal government and strong local governments would make it easy for you to find or create a community that suited your standards while I could live in one that suited mine. I grow very weary of our all or nothing political system that seems to condemn half the country to despair and malcontent regardless of which national politicians get elected.

  29. JSG, you have a point. One thing that makes Scandinavian countries so successful is that they are small, about the size and population of a typical American state. Socialism works well there because there is a strong unified culture which all share similar values and heritage. What isn’t working so well, is the European Union, which sort of replicates some of the problems of the US federal government over it’s various states.

    I would be interested in visiting alternative universes, where the United States are less united, or where the Civil War was won by the south, or where all the states that petitioned Obama to secede from the Union after his election were allowed to do so. I’d love to see blue states try and create socialist utopias, and red states abolish all social welfare, and see how that works out.

  30. Nate, you can see it on a small scale in the United States. Red states like Texas are very prosperous, with low unemployment and constant growth. Blue states like Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey are falling to pieces.

    Remember, the Founders clearly saw a future where people lived very differently in different states. In 1787, the life of the average New Yorker was completely different than the life of the average Georgian, and the Founders wanted a country that allowed people to pick and choose what kind of lifestyle they wanted. So, in our day a truly federalist system would have some states where people pay 10 percent of their total income in federal and state taxes, with very small governments, and other states were people pay half their total income in federal and state taxes, with large governments. People could choose which model they prefer. This is exactly why people like me oppose the socialist model: because we don’t want to live in states with high taxes and big government. If other people want that, then more power to them. But the humane, charitable and Christian thing is to allow those of us who don’t want that to be left alone. The fact that people want to force us to live the way they want to live is highly objectionable.

  31. It might be objectionable Geoff, we we socialists need you, and wouldn’t want you to escape to tax shelters in Texas! There is a big outcry in France right now because Gerard Depardieu moved to Belgium to avoid paying the astronomical taxes on the wealthy there. Socialism has a delicate balancing act in this regard. Communists solve this problem by forcing people to stay in the country. But socialism has to make life attractive enough to both business and population that they don’t loose their tax base. No socialist country will be able to have long term prosperity unless they actually have an economy with hard working people that work and produce. So there is a built-in check to Utopia right there. Of course, it’s been too tempting to give out all the goodies, but pay for them with deficits, but that can’t last forever, and that’s another check. There is no free lunch. That’s a universal law, and we all have to obey it.

    And no one is forcing you to live in Obama’s Marxist state right now either. It was the American people who voted for Obama, and 50% of the liberal congressmen. We have a government that reflects the will of the people. There is no oppression. There is no compulsion. 70% of Americans are in favor of a tax hike after all. This is democracy. We have the government we deserve and voted for.

  32. I would just like to point out that democracy can still result in compulsion and oppression. There is very little difference between police threatening to arrest you because of an unjust law passed by a dictator and police threatening to arrest you because of an unjust law passed by 51+ percent of your neighbors.

    Sure, democracy is nice because it requires a majority of people to feel in an oppressing mood rather than a single dictator. But the risk of oppression still exists and passing it off as the will of the people doesn’t make it right. See Mosiah 29 and the warning about the tendency of societies to collapse should the voice of the people go sour.

  33. “And no one is forcing you to live in Obama’s Marxist state right now either.” First point: Bush was almost as bad as Obama, so it is not just Obama, and Obama is not a Marxist. Second point: If I move overseas I still must pay oppressive US taxes unless I renounce my citizenship, which is extremely expensive to do. Most countries do not force you to pay taxes if you live in another country, but not so the US. So, in reality, I am being forced to live here, unless I want to pay a huge amount of money to live someplace else.

    (I have lived overseas and with all our problems I still prefer the US, but the point is that there is a LOT of force involved).

  34. Isn’t it a matter of attitude? I’m living in the UK and working in France this month. France pays me well, and they tax me heavily. I’d be saving a lot of money in France if the UK would give me an E101 form which proves I pay into the social security system in the UK, but they won’t give me one because I’m only on a year long visa there. Plus I’ve got to pay US taxes, as you say. Right now, the US is looking pretty good, but I find that people here have a more patriotic attitude about taxes over here. It was nice to go to the doctor here in France, who charged me 24 Euros for the visit, and was very concerned that I would get reimbursed by the UK for the 24 Euros, and who was also very concerned that I not only take my antibiotics, but also my pro-biotics, because “prevention for the future is much more important for you right now than any treatment we can give.” I’d never heard that from a doctor in my life, but actually it’s completely true. The system in the US is geared to keep people getting sick each year, because the sicker you are, the more money they make. Capitalism in action. But when doctors are on salary for the government, that incentive dissolves, and doctors try to keep you out of the clinic, rather than in.

    Basically, I feel really good about how my money is being used in France, because I’ve already seen and experienced the difference a socialist state can make to a sense of well-being. And that is the attitude of people here. I don’t think they feel oppressed. You could argue they are more patriotic than Americans in a way, even though they are chronic complainers too, because they actually believe in what their governments do, rather than believing they are in an oppressive state.

  35. Nate, but that is exactly the point. I have spent a lot of time in Europe, Latin America and Asia. I like visiting but don’t want to live there. I don’t like the European welfare state system. It is not for me. I should have a choice to choose something else that is more to my liking rather than living in a country that is becoming increasingly similar to the European welfare state. Americans who want that can create it — in their own states. As for me and mine, I like minimal government and a focus on personal liberty. That was the principle that the Founders created, and it is increasingly ignored. Don’t try to force other people to adopt the system you like best — allow us to create the system we like best.

  36. Putting aside ideologies, it sounds like you are arguing that you should have the kind of government you want, simply because you want it. “I should have a choice to choose something else that is more to my liking.” Are you saying we should have a state for everyone’s personal taste: some socialist states, some libertarian states, some green states, some militaristic states, some communist states, some theocratic states, something for each individuals tastes? So then we can all just move to a place where everyone is like-minded and be happy there? No one will ever have to compromise, we can find a state that is as extreme or as moderate as we want to be.

    There is something about that idea that sounds so un-American, in spite of your insistence that the Founding Fathers would want it that way. When I think of America, I don’t think of a place where you get whatever you want, but a place that is a melting pot, where politicians bicker, fight, and compromise, and where there is an increadible diversity because it is made up of cultures and religions from all around the world: Islamists, Mormons, Atheists, Utopian dreamers, Religious Fundamentalists, Capitalists, and everybody tries imperfectly to get along.

    You fall back on the claim that your preferred government is the best government (because the Founding Fathers wanted it that way), so you have more of a right to get what you want, than say a Communist. But even if the Founding Fathers were all libertarians (which they couldn’t possibly have been, because they disagreed wildly with each other politically), how can we possibly assume that all those dead men had it all figured out, and no one else can do it better?

    Gees, sorry to have railroaded you entirely off the point of the post, and over the holidays no less! Problem is I’m stuck in France with no family and no one invited me over for Christmas at the church today!

  37. I think you are missing the point entirely. Your ideology calls on everybody to do what you want. Mine calls on everybody to do whatever they want as long as they don’t hurt others. Although it is not your intention, your ideology is about control and power and mine is about free will and individual rights. I am simply pointing out that difference in the hope you will give people the ability to make their own choices about their lives.

  38. The other point Nate is that some states could get more socialist if they want to. I don’t see the point to forcing the more conservative states to become more socialist. Its especially strange considering how wealthy the blue states are. Why would they want the federal gov to tax them even more for programs the red states don’t want? The concept just doesn’t make sense. The federalist system allows for the states act.

    Quite frankly, I see the reason as two fold. Our state governments are often inept and can’t accomplish what theyd like to (from a socialist perspective) – I’d say that because they are hoping for an uncreatable utopia. And second there isn’t enough money period for them to do what they want. They have real budgets they need to meet. The fed can just print money so the program must Nephi nationalized… maybe a third point which is capital will leave their state if they tax too much (a la Depardieu) so those states would naturally be at a disadvantage unless their neighbors were forced to compete at the same level.

  39. I see your point Geoff. But consider this: when you live in a democracy which chooses collectively to go a socialist route through majority rule (or tyranny of the majority as you call it), a libertarian will claim that his form of government trumps the will of the majority, by appealing to various interpretations of original intent of the founders. By doing this, a libertarian seeks to force his will upon the majority, who have chosen a different form of government, by appealing to “original intent” interpretations of the constitution. Is this not a form of coercion? When Samuel responded to the children of Israel’s request to have a king, he first warned them that it was a bad idea, and then he went out and got a king for them. He could have put his foot down and gone to war with “the king men” as others did.

    People want control. They need to be ruled, and they choose to be ruled by their governments of their own free will, again and again in societies throughout history. We have social security because people know they can’t trust themselves and many others to save for retirement of their own free will. When you try and destroy the government they want, in the name of freedom, you are fighting against the will of the people. They are choosing Satan’s plan, and you are forcing them to accept Christ’s. And that ironically, is Satan’s plan itself!

  40. Do these studies control for the the fact that people who get large unearned sums, such as fools who play the lottery and the persistently poor, are precisely the sorts of people whose destructive personal behavior is bound to make them unhappy no matter what they do? In other words, if you took the jackpot and gave it to a normal bourgeois type who is too smart to play the lottery, would it really increase his unhappiness?

    I can’t escape the feeling that I would do just fine with all that money.

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