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Populism, For the People?

There is a game making a resurgence in Washington, called ‘populism.’   Do we understand where it can lead us?  Everyone likes sporting events, to cheer for our favorite team and snarl at the opponent.   In life, is an enemy necessary?  For us to feel successful, does someone else have to fail?  Is life a zero sum game?   If we fail, is it anyone’s fault other than our own?
If Steve Jobs makes another billion dollars, does it cost me anything?   His computers are smaller, faster, and cost less than a year ago.  In a free economy, I don’t have to buy his computer.  If I do buy, it is because I value the computer more than the money it takes to buy it.
Is populism for the people, or a cynical political ploy to exploit our desire for fairness?
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out.
---Martin Niemoller, German pastor and theologian---1946
Fast forward to 2010
First they said the mortgage lenders took advantage of people—
Those poor people with adjustable rate, low document loans!
Then they vilified the hospitals because they made too much money---
I agreed.  Emergency rooms ought to be free!
Then they said health companies denied coverage to people, and charged too much---
I believed them, but why didn’t people change insurance companies?
Then they blamed the banks for taking TARP money ---
I cheered, those greedy bankers.  Make them pay.  But, didn’t the government make them take the money?  And haven’t they paid it back?
When they said the oil companies could pay higher taxes, after all, they were profiting from high oil prices---
I guess it was ok, except I own oil wells.  Oh well, we all need to do ‘our share’.
Then they proposed a tax on every business transaction I make, when I buy or sell stocks---
Oh well, it won’t cost that much.
Then they proposed that I invest in treasuries and annuities---
And there was no one left to speak out.
This is meant as a small example of picking out a group, the smaller the better.  Making the argument they are greedy, their rights must be restricted, for the benefit of the public.  The problem for the ‘world improvers’ that like to practice this sort of control over our daily lives is the existence of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  The rights of all citizens are guaranteed individually, not as a group.
Our founders did not guarantee rights for 95% of the population, at the expense of a small group.  All rights and protections are for each individual citizen.  Each individual citizen has the “unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The pursuit is guaranteed, the results are not.
I am not advocating that you agree with my view on banks, health care, oil companies, doctors, hospitals, farmers, union members, non-union members, or stock traders.  If you chose to support or remain quiet when a group is singled out, that is your choice, but remember you may be next.  And who will defend you?



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