I know. A pretty bizarre headline up there. But no less bizarre than what was offered by our Vice President last week. As we begin yet another week in the political mess that has become Washington DC, I find myself wondering what exactly is going to happen come Tuesday. This is no normal week, readers. With the election we will once again watch to see which way the political winds blow in America. Remember when John Kerry ran against Bush and so many were saying that Kerry was such a sad candidate and how that showed that the reign of Democrats in American politics was as good as dead? I remember it well, the calls that the Democratic party is dead. “Rejoice,” they said. I did not. A mere two years later the Democrats swept through and captured power of Congress. Two more years passed and a Democratic sweep in the White House and Congress bred calls that the GOP was dead. “Rejoice,” they said. I did not. And now a mere two years later and we are on the eve of what appears to be another flip flop in the landscape of DC. That got me thinking, when I suddenly ran across this bizarre statement from Joe Biden that runs completely counter to my conclusion on the reasoning behind the DC roller coaster.
Good old Joe was out doing some stumping at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South at a fundraiser for Democratic Representative Tim Bishop of New York last week ($1000 a plate to hear Joe dispense his wisdom!). Captain Foot in Mouth was discussing how the US needed to keep up with China and India in terms of spending on infrastructure and education, a notion that I completely disagree with merely because what we spend should have nothing to do with China and India’s investment strategy. But then he dropped this particular little nugget of wisdom, which almost made my head explode:
“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive”
What?!?!?!?!?!? Did I hear that right? You bet I did. He said exactly what you thought he did. EVERY. SINGLE. GREAT. IDEA. I was blown away at the notion that he was presenting. So I sat down and I started thinking to myself on whether there was an inkling of truth to what the Vice President was saying. I tried to think about what great ideas DID NOT require government vision and government incentive. I thought of a few, although I freely admit that these were off the top of my head so I haven’t researched them to ensure I am correct (I have no need to do so, I am sure all of you will be chomping at the bit to tell me where I am wrong). I came up with a sort of top ten list of things that government vision and incentive were not required for. Here goes:
10. Electric Freezer / Air Conditioning – Could we live through global warming without it?
9. Flushing Toilet – Thank you Mr. Crapper. Could our marriages survive without it?
8. Assembly Line – Revolutionized the means of production
7. Telephone – I include in this the future invention of the smart phone. Changed the world, and the way we track our teenagers.
6. Light Bulb – Although the wax candle people aren’t too happy with this one.
5. Electric Generation – Allow me to clarify that electricity always existed. The great idea was to harness it and use it for good.
4. Personal Computer – IBM did big blue with some government assistance. But the personal computer we can thank Bill and Steve for.
2. Combustion Engine – Little has had such an impact on our ability to travel. Horses thank us for this.
1. Airplane – Born right here in North Carolina, enabling frivolous travel for all.
Let’s be honest, I could have made an extensive list of inventions and another extensive list of ideas that government had nothing to do with. What made my top ten is irrelevant. Now had Joe gone with, “Every great idea around finding new and exciting ways of killing people required government vision and incentive,” I could have gone along with him. After all, no one knows how to come up with the most effective means of eliminating the human body’s ability to function like the US government. And of course the personal computer would have been useless without Al Gore’s generous contribution of the internet.
What is scary about what Joe said is that he actually believes it. That is the mindset of the progressive politician. They really believe that without government, all the great ideas of the world would never have happened. They have to believe that in order to believe that continuing to grow government is a good thing. More important, they have to get you to believe it. They have to make you believe that without government there to provide the vision and incentive, all of the great things that make your life better wouldn’t have happened. It allows them, subsequently to claim that those nasty tea party people who want to make government smaller are really simply trying to take away government’s ability to provide you with the next great idea that will make your life better.
As most of you would probably guess, my statement would look a little different from Joe’s. I would instead posit that every single great idea that changed our world for the better came despite government intrusion and attempts to control. This isn’t me trying to make an argument about the free market or make the case for eliminating government altogether. I merely believe that the private markets, individual entrepreneurs, free-thinking men and women, are the catalyst for great ideas and inventions. NECESSITY is the mother of invention, not government.
But I am completely open to discussion on this matter. What do all of you think? Is government the provider of vision and incentive behind all of the great ideas in the last 200+ years? 50% of the great ideas? None of them? What can you add to the list of things government had no hand in? What can you add to the list of ideas and inventions that would not have happened without government vision and incentive?
Which brings me back to the DC roller coaster. I have always wondered why the country is so back and forth on the political winds of the two parties. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to think that the individual voters actually completely change their values, principles, and beliefs every couple of years. So why do we see the back and forth? I came to a single conclusion that I cannot imagine there being a refutation for:
Government is so bad at what it does that the American public consistently is unhappy with its performance. Each change of the political wind is a time of hope. A hope that this time the people we send to DC will finally make government work for us the way we imagine it can. When they fail, we give up hope on that group and go with the other alternative, hoping that this time the people we send will do better than the group we sent from that party last time. When they fail to make government work, we start the cycle all over again. The roller coaster of Republican/Democrat popularity is really nothing more than the recurring cycle of Hope/Disappointment in the performance of government.
Perhaps a better statement from a politician would be the astute observation that no party in American political history has ever done a good enough job running the country that Americans actually wanted them to keep doing the job for an extended period of time. How sad is that…..