These days we consider ourselves more civilized than the middle ages.
Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark,
The beggars are coming to town.
Some in rags,
And some in tags,
And one in a velvet gown!
Then again there’s Monty Python
“How can you tell he’s the King?”
“He doesn’t have any shit on his shoes…”
Welcome to the New Dark Ages
And you thought homelessness was a recent phenomenon…
In the first dark ages there were refugees – whole migrations of refugees, and disabled from one war or another. There were criminals, and people thrown from their land because the church wanted it or some noble lord wanted a new hunting preserve. There were people in debt who could not pay who ended up in debtor’s prisons, as indentured servants (virtual slaves) or in the poor house. People were regularly reduced to begging as well as the normal lazy vagabonds who, for whatever reason, were content to beg for their bread and depend on the poor box in the local parish. What do you think made up Robin Hood’s band of merry men? It was not the rich and famous.
Today, we are a much more compassionate society, or so we think. We have public housing, welfare, food stamps. No one needs to beg, though some still do. And this is compassionate, but is it wise? You see, back then there was a real incentive (granted a negative incentive) to work hard, stay in good graces with the church and the lord of the manor, deal honestly (against criminality) with your neighbors, live frugally, save what you could against the rainy day, and be charitable with the understanding that you might end up there, but for the grace of God,
Today, the incentive is turned on its head. We are already seeing some results (and riots) in certain parts of the globe, like Europe where this “entitlement” thinking has taken a firm hold. Yes, I know it is very politically incorrect to think this through, but here is the truth of it: entitlement = government promises = taxpayer money = stealing from your neighbor… Perhaps (in general) we have to get back to the idea that some people at times, for whatever reason, are in need, and we are compassionate enough to help such people get back on their feet. We need to get over the idea that “Hey! I’m entitled to it!”
I am not saying we were better off in the first dark ages when people got thrown out into the street. I am saying we have to find a different way of being compassionate to the poor and needy because the way we are doing it is not working.
The bureaucratic class needs a permanent underclass to be their power base, but that class cannot be allowed to get too big. Someone has to pay for it. The government does not have any magic money and in fact is racking up debt for our children and grandchildren without stop, and to be blunt, there simply are not that many rich people.
Our current system kills the incentive to work hard. Young people are asking why they should work their butts off when they can do almost as well not working at all. It kills the incentive to stay in good graces with the owners and bureaucrats. Cheating on taxes, for example, is becoming a way of life to where you are considered a fool if you don’t cheat. And the same goes for neighbors. Concern for neighbors, and charity in general are entirely out the window. Charity has become the government’s job. Our current system of entitlement thinking inspires us to ask, “What’s in it for me?” There is no incentive at all to live frugally or save. Even massive debt is no sweat given the big bailouts we have all seen.
Of course, it will all catch up to us. The only question is, when?
We have to find a better way, because otherwise that word “unsustainable” will rear its ugly head and then the bureaucratic class will have to impose a litmus test for “help.” When that happens, the millions who don’t pass that test better find work mighty quick. If they don’t, we will soon enough be right back in nursery rhyme land: Hark, hark! The dogs do bark. The beggars are coming to town…