In a sad turn of events, former-Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife are reportedly looking to down-size their living arrangements. They are planning to leave their $12,000/month Park Ave. apartment and have recently viewed a more frugal living space. According to the Washington Times, the new apartment they are considering rents for a mere $8,000/month. Weiner is rumored to make between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, as a “political consultant”, while she earns around $150,000. This is truly a sad turn of events for Anthony and Huma, one can only imagine the humiliation of having to scrape by on half a million dollars annually.
If this country had its collective head screwed on straight, Weiner would be searching for a more spacious refrigerator box to move into, broke and destitute after his repeated betrayal of the public trust. But if common sense and integrity ruled the roost, men (using the term loosely) like Weiner would be shoveling dung for the circus just to make ends meet. Instead, he somehow retains a shred of relevance and financial viability.
Something which is lost in America today is the phenomenon of discomfort. It was once clearly understood that discomfort provides a valuable service in an economy. In one of Benjamin Franklin’s finest quotes he said,
I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not in making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
Franklin understood the motivational power discomfort has on the poor. If poverty causes discomfort, then a poor man is more likely to take actions which move him out of poverty and the discomfort associated with it. But if a poor man is insulated from the discomfort of poverty, what incentive does he have to strive for prosperity?
As a society, America has become increasingly wealthy. Thanks to the free-market capitalist foundation provided by our founders, America has created more wealth than anyone imagined was possible. Consequently, Americans have become inured to the experience of deprivation, preferring instead the idolatrous bosom of Comfort.
This sea change was first codified in FDR’s attempt to create a 2nd Bill of Rights, in which he attempted to calcify specific social privileges as “rights”, equivalent to the rights listed in our original Bill of Rights. These new “rights” included housing, employment, freedom from unfair competition, medical care, education, and social security. In the years following FDR’s failed push to officially codify these socialist planks, Progressives haven’t given up; preferring instead to force them on us via monolithic congressional bills in the form of Social Security, socialized education, and Obamacare.
Like many economic truths, the doctrine of discomfort also has application in the social/moral realm. In many ways, Americans have not eradicated poverty as much as we have translated our economic poverty into moral poverty. Benefitting from the most powerful economic engine of success and innovation in history, our society has been able to effectively stifle economic poverty, as it has been traditionally defined throughout the history of the world until now. The creature comforts of our society have trickled down to even the lowest classes of our society, as the Heritage Foundation described a few years ago in their explosive analysis of “poor” American households. By analyzing households which had been labeled “poor” by the US Census bureau, Heritage found that 80% of them had air conditioning, 75% had a car or truck, 66% had cable or satellite television, and 33% of them had a wide-screen plasma/LED television. Clearly the War on Poverty is making startling strides toward the utopian goal of eliminating economic poverty, but this has seemingly come at the cost of our integrity.
And what about our integrity, as a whole? Unexplainable phenomenon like Anthony Weiner’s continued viability demonstrate that our poverty is now moral instead of economic and we are beginning to insulate those who are morally bankrupt from the discomfort traditionally distributed by the market forces of society. Just as the protection from economic discomfort has produced generations which manufacture discomfort while surrounded by unprecedented provision, those we protect from social discomfort will spawn a new grievance industry which will create protests and complaints which are baseless and unfounded. Economic and social discomfort is vital to the health of a society, functioning just as the nerves of our bodies protect our physical health from harm. If we seek to eradicate discomfort from our nation in the hopes of achieving a progressive utopia, we do so at our own peril.
Image: Courtesy of: http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2011/03/11/physical-activity-protects-our-body-from-cognitive-stress/