The New Clarion

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The Happiness of Slaves

May 16th, 2009 by Chuck · 18 Comments · Politics

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! 

Patrick Henry

An article on MarketWatch, called The Happiest Taxes on Earth, quotes a study which claims people in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands have the highest “life satisfaction” in the world.  The writer equates “life satisfaction” with happiness, and then notes that these nations have some of the highest taxes in the world.  Finally, he makes the assertion that high taxes are one of the causes of their happiness:

There are myriad reasons, of course, for happiness: health, welfare, prosperity, leisure time, strong family, social connections and so on. But there is another common denominator among this group of happy people: taxes.

Northern Europeans pay some of the highest taxes in the world. Danes pay about two-thirds of their income in taxes. Why be so happy about that? It all comes down to what you get in return.

He proceeds to list many of the welfare programs these nations have.  Then he contrasts this with the situation in America, where we do not have as many, or as comprehensive, welfare programs, and he concludes:

 Healthcare and other such social services aren’t built into our system. That means we have to worry more about paying for things ourselves. Worrying doesn’t equate to happiness.

So happiness, according to this line of reasoning, is a result of being taken care of by the government.  Happiness is not having to worry about being responsible for yourself.  Happiness is about giving two thirds of your income to the government, and letting them worry about taking care of you till the day you die.  If this is true, then of course it means one thing:  

Maybe it’s time that we [in America] looked at taxes differently. We have to pay them anyway. So they might as well make us happy. If Northern Europe is any benchmark, the more we’d pay the happier we just may be.

Now two thirds of a given individual’s income might not be enough to pay for his health care or retirement needs, of course.  No matter.  His wealthier brothers will pay it for him—whether they want to, or not.  And therein lies the flaw in all welfare programs, in all welfare states.  Welfare is theft.

But leaving aside the matter of justice, which already invalidates all welfare programs, what does it say about someone to be “happy” to live in a Nanny State?  What kind of “happiness” is this?  It is the happiness of slaves.  Anyone who is content to have the government take care of them, has the morality of a voluntary slave.  Such people want to be slaves, because they believe it is safer than freedom, and removes all worries from their existence.  Whether it really is safer or not, whether it really removes worries from their lives or not, they at least believe that it does. 

To anyone with a shred of pride, to anyone who actually wants to live a human existence, a life of such slavish contentment is not worth living.  This does not mean a person trapped in such a state would or should commit suicide, of course.  It means they should either escape to a freer country, or fight to establish a system of government in their own country that is worthy of man.   The Nanny State is worthy only of sheep.

18 Comments so far ↓

  • C.T.

    This is the quotation that keeps running through my mind more and more these days:

    “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

    Our current form of government, due to the flaws that were built into it, has run its course, is collapsing, and it is time to start over.

    Easier said than done, I know.

  • Lucy

    I never believe these studies; I simply don’t think they can adequately account for the unique American spirit. Americans aren’t known for being “satisfied,” but Europeans are more easily sated…too easily contented. Americans want more–wealth, freedom, happiness…. In that sense, sure, the Danes, etc. may have more “life satisfaction” – but that is not necessarily a good thing.

    On top of that, even the “causal” connection between taxes and “life-satisfactin,” is totally unwarranted (and that is so in all the cases like this I’ve read about). There’s no scientific/statistical basis for that claim of his, and it’s shoddy reporting to imply one. In any case, the relative contentment of Scandinavians is not enough to overturn the basic facts about human nature–the fact that all human virtues and values are at odds with compulsory taxation.

    Nice post and nice quote!

  • Jim May

    “Life satisfaction” probably pertains to a mental state which is best described as “I want for nothing”.

    That is not necessarily a positive thing; it can also mean that the person has no aspirations, which are a type of “want”. In societies operating under the malevolent universe premise, which Europe inarguable does, the pinnacle of happiness is that ultimate zero of having no needs or ongoing emergencies at the moment.

    The irony is that for most people, this state of merely physical satiety is enough for them to consider themselves “life-satisfied”. This unfortunately does not address a certain very common state of mind among Europeans which arises from this lack of life aspirations or goals in the minds of people who are aware at some level that there should be much more to life, but ignorant of what is missing or how to identify it: ennui, the worst soul-corroding kind of boredom. This emotion is always most pronounced in teenagers, and the most common response is eventually to give up hope of ever finding it.

    Not quite the same as merely being jaded, which is a sort of numbness, ennui is the maddening, melancholy itch that can’t be scratched — in those who, unlike the more common sort of welfare-state sloth, cannot stand not being able to scratch it. Where a merely jaded person might push the limits of legality and morality in search of the next thrill to jab some feeling into their numb lives, those suffering from ennui are angry about the perceived pointlessness that pervades their lives. Where the jaded person grows ever more listless in his pursuit of edgier novelties, those suffering from ennui get angier and angrier as they look for goals and/or “meaning” in their lives.

    The jaded person eventually runs out of gas; those suffering from ennui, tend to explode. It should be clear why Leftist nihilism has such appeal for these people; it rationalizes, fuels, enables and channels their incipient rage. This is consistent with the common phenomenon of children born into wealth, who end up as Leftist radicals.

    It seems that ennui is inversely analogous to obesity; where the latter is the symbol of a overfed body with nothing to do, and is a warning sign of incipient underlying disease, the former is the warning sign of a starving soul, one with no aspirations, goals or “point” to its existence, which stands vulnerable to the worst sort of philosophical diseases.

  • Inspector

    Yes, I’m with Jim and Lucy – I’ve seen many of these studies, especially those with “happiness indexes.” The index is usually weighted such that the more welfare there is, the more points a country gets. If this is the measure of the study, then using it to promote welfare is the equivalent of saying, “Countries with lots of welfare score high on studies ranking welfare so therefore we should all have more welfare. Tada!”

  • Chuck

    Lucy, sadly, what you describe as the American spirit is fading quickly in this country. Obama stands for everything that article is championing, and Obama got elected, here in America. American Liberals, basically, are Europeans.

  • L-C

    That is not happiness. They hold no concept of such. At best, they have the contentness of a dog, sleeping on a warm sofa.

    Work (the necessary evil one must perform in order to live), eat, sleep and drink during the weekends. Repeat. That is the life of most Swedes.

    No, they will never know the happiness of a rational, productive person who fulfills the purpose in his life.

  • Lucy

    Hi Chuck,

    Well, after writing the above, I actually went back and took out a few words that implied “all” Americans hold that spirit; however, perhaps I should have tempered my comment further by saying “historically” or even “compared to Europeans.” And your point comparing liberal Americans to Europeans is well-taken.

    But I’d still argue that our sense-of-life and love of freedom still sparks up occasionally. The malpractice in public education is doing a lot to quash those flames in the general population, but the embers are still smoldering. A lot of regular people in this country don’t understand the philosophic issues and thus are vulnerable and inconsistent yet still have a “don’t tread on me” feeling on many issues.

  • Ernest Brown

    They are happy in illusions, the kind that Rod Serling & Gene Roddenberry used to lampoon. What our boy fails to mention is that such lotus eating comes at the cost of compromising the future to the extent of having to import and exploit ethnic & religious minorities (soon to become majorities demographically because of said lotus-eating) who do not share their values and who will ultimately cut off their false paradise.

  • Madmax

    Ernest makes the typical conservative argument for why Europe is failing: non-white, non-Christian immigration. This stuff is pure candy for many conservatives.

    Instead of pointing to the massive welfare-state which lies on a philosophical foundation of altruism and egalitarianism, conservatives place the blame on immigration and specifically of non-white immigration (many of them will even blame capitalism for this). At the root of this is the racist view that the different races are not culturally compatible and can not be assimilated.

    There is a genuine problem with Muslim immigration which has been raised on this blog before but that’s a problem that could be dealt with without the war against immigration (destroying Iran would be a start). Europe is dying because of the welfare state and multiculturalism. The solution is capitalism and individualism not some kind of white European nationalism (which is likely what Europe will get soon enough).

  • Ernest Brown

    No, I did not say that it was the cause, I said it was the EFFECT of their welfare state illusions.

    “At the root of this is the racist view that the different races are not culturally compatible and can not be assimilated.”

    That requires an ideology of assimilation that our elites are rejecting and that Europe never had. The Arab minority in France tried peaceful protest in the 90’s and it got them nowhere.

    Now the cars burn…

  • Jim May

    Ernest: America did not ever have an “ideology of assimilation”. It had an ideology of *individualism*.

    “Assimilation” means “to make similar”; in that sense, it means the same thing as “conformity”.

    America did not seek make its immigrants conform; far from it. Except for those elements directly involving the coercion of individuals — in particular, children — each immigrant was left free to retain whatever elements of their own culture they chose. The only principle that was held as common to all “Americans” was to respect the freedom of each person to choose his own destiny.

    Where the dissolution of cultural isolation usually came in was in the second generation; since the parents were unable to coerce cultural conformity, the second generation of immigrants usually were the ones who broke free of their parents’ provincial notions and were free to define themselves as individuals — to explore cultures outside the traditions of their families, and even to define and invent their own.

    What was being melted in the old “melting pot” was collectivism; it freed individuals by dissolving the bonds of group identity and setting them free in a wider universe of individual potential.

    What is being lost now, is precisely this individualism. Now, children are once again learning to define themselves by belonging to some group or another, accepting ready-made “narratives”, rather than creatively authoring themselves as individuals. Instead of exploring the universe of possibility open to free and sovereign individuals, they confine themselves to the shrunken universe of tribal groups. They are assimilating themselves into groups, at the cost of balkanizing the country into incommensurable tribal blocs once more.

    Strictly speaking, you have it backwards; an ideology of assimilation is a good description of Leftist collectivism, and that is what is happening.

  • Ernest Brown

    Jim,

    I bow to no man in my desire for individual liberty, but you have apparently never studied the elite reaction to immigration in the U.S. during the early 20th century:


    “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.

    The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic. The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American. There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

    For an American citizen to vote as a German-American, an Irish-American, or an English-American, is to be a traitor to American institutions; and those hyphenated Americans who terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are engaged in treason to the American Republic. ”

    Former President Theodore Roosevelt, October 12, 1915, in an address to the Knights of Columbus, Carnegie Hall, NYC.

    http://home.comcast.net/~nhprman/trhyphenated.htm

    It wasn’t just Roosevelt, but the vast majority of our political and cultural elites that had this view, (it was also the motivation for Dewey’s destructive “progressive” educational policy of socialization over individual rational teaching) which is the diametrical opposite of what obtains today. You apparently have the delusion that I have any kind of respect for the morally & intellectually self-castrated idiot that is Pat Buchanan. He has confused effect with cause, just as you have falsely accused me of doing.

    Remember, I was responding to the following from Madmax:

    “At the root of this is the racist view that the different races are not culturally compatible and can not be assimilated.”

    I’m in full agreement that the bell jar view of humanity in “monoculturalism” is evil and racist, whether it comes from the Euro-elites or paleo-filth like Patsy the Pig.

  • Jim May

    Ernest: I don’t think we are necessarily in disagreement. The trick is that the issue turns on precisely what it means to be an American.

    To me, being an American is defined not by mere fealty to the United States as a nation, but fealty to the defining principles of the United States (at the time of its founding).

    What are those defining principles? I shall summarize them right here: the defining principle of the United States, is the concept of individual moral sovereignty, as expressed in the principle of individual rights.

    THAT’S IT. There is more to it, of course, in terms of the derivative concepts and ideas that result from implementing that principle in society, but all of them ultimately represent compliance with this single principle.

    So: you can keep up Oktoberfest, if you’re German. You can continue to speak in French, if you like, with anyone else who can speak it. You can keep following hockey, if you’re Canadian.

    On the flip side, you are also free to adopt such things from nationalities other than your own… or to reject them all and invent your own personal “culture”.

    However:

    1. this freedom is itself very, very American no matter what choices you make.

    2. That freedom naturally ends where the liberty of the next man begins.

    The freedom to choose, and the enforcement of the next guy’s freedom to choose, is what “being American” means.

    If you accept that, you are American — and that’s all the “assimilation” that is needed, or desireable.

    THAT is the sharp, easily grasped line which both the Left and conservatives tend to blur, each to the extent that it serves certain anti-individual-rights positions inherent to each — including Roosevelt and his contemporaries, who were already drifting away from true Americanism in key ways.

    The point I wish to get across is that true Americanism *only* seeks assimilation on the single, but key, point of respecting other individuals’ freedom of choice; this principle overrides ANY AND ALL cultural considerations.

    Beyond that, there is no need whatsoever to encourage *or* enforce assimilation in any respect to *culture*. On the contrary; on *this* side of that line, is where the grain of truth lies in the notion that cultural (intellectual) diversity is a Good Thing.

    As the history of America before Roosevelt was demonstrating, the “melting pot” worked solely by enforcing individual rights, but this one thing was sufficient to dissolve the old tribal bonds within a generation. No further direct assimilation was necessary or desireable.

    I would submit that by Roosevelt’s time, the rise of collectivism was already in full swing; by 1914 when the first immigration laws were passed, the idea of what it means to be American was changing from its old Enlightened form as describe above, over to the ancient collectivist form, of fealty to America as one’s nation (or tribe) instead of to America the principle. This is evidenced by hostility to the hyphenation issue; the latter is non-essential to the issue, which is collectivism.

    Today, people approach the issue in those terms; they no longer think that being American involves any principle, but is merely a function of where you were born or who your parents were — that “American” is not a chosen identity, but merely citizenship.

    I call those “birth-canal Americans”. When it comes to being American in the proper, original sense, I consider myself far more American than most such “Americans”, even though I lack this legal status.

    I am Canadian by birth… but not by conviction.

  • Jim May

    A small note: strike the date “1914” from the above, as immigration controls in their current form began in full swing with the Immigration Act of 1924, and some immigration controls go back as far as 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

  • Madmax

    Jim, excellent comment as always. I agree entirely. What you described is the individualist approach to nationhood in general and America in particular. The Left, of course, despises the original American principles especially the principle of moral sovereignty that you mentioned. Thus, at root, they hate America.

    But there are those on the Right that will reject the view that America is fundamentally about moral sovereignty and individual rights. They would argue that this is just a “liberal reductionist” argument. These types, mostly Paleo-Cons, will argue that America is the product of ethno-cultural factors and those are the white race, European civilization and the Christian religion. Also, they will say that other cultures and religions are fundamentally not compatible with the original American culture. They blame “liberal universalism” for believing in the “delusion” that all people can be assimilated in one nation. Of course they will point to immigration as a “culture killing” phenomenon.

    My fear is that as the welfare state collapses and social chaos ensues, this type of tribalism will grow in influence. This is a minority viewpoint amongst today’s Right. But I wonder if it will remain so.

  • Jim May

    madmax: in other words, the Rightist you describe also “… despise the original American principles especially the principle of moral sovereignty…. at root, they hate America.

    This is the level where the Left and core conservatism stand revealed as the same enemy.

  • Inspector

    Jim, I would not say that hostility to the hyphenation issue is indicative of having mis-framed the issue. Take, for example, this excerpt from The Ominous Parallels,

    “Thus the fading of the New World’s legendary “melting pot,” which had once demonstrated that men from around the globe could live together in harmony; the harmony had followed from the principle that group ties did not have to matter, because in America self-reliance was possible and individual accomplishment was the source of rewards. Instead, we see the oldest kind of social splintering and sectarian hatred. We see the “unmeltable ethnics,” the “hyphenated-Americans,” the “roots”-seekers through genealogy, and all the others eager to define their identity in terms of ancestral tradition and/or brute physiology, i.e., blood.

    This is the emergence in the United States of the most primitive form of collectivism, the form endemic to backward cultures (and to controlled economies): tribal racism.”

    You main point remains true, however.

  • Jim May

    Inspector: the cultural context within which Dr. Peikoff refers to hyphenation, is radically different from that of Teddy Roosevelt’s reference in 1915.

    Back then, the Left was in its early stages in America; its primary activity at the time was to entrench the destruction of property rights, and to continue unshackling government. Racism and genetic determinism were fairly apolitical in those days; the Left’s redefinition of racism as “right wing” in order to disassociate itself from its precocious German progeny was still twenty-five years away.

    Against that backdrop, genuine liberalism was still a force in America in 1915. I find it very plausible that in those days, hyphenation was seen by 1915 liberals as a assertion of an individual’s prerogative to maintain his own culture, against the demands for conformity coming from the tradition-bound conservatives.

    Unfortunately, they did not realize that the conceptual rug had already been pulled out from under them by the Left; having lost the idea of individualism as a principle, they were unable to realize that they were no longer standing up for individuals at all, but for another species of collectivism. They did not realize that they had conceded the main point, and were now arguing only over where the tribal lines were to be drawn.

    It would take another fifty years or so for them to arrive at the end of the Leftist road; that is where hyphenation, absent the individualism implicit in 1915, arrives at Dr. Peikoff’s door.