Rich Enough To Be Stupid

There is a scene in The Friends of Eddie Coyle where an FBI agent says to Coyle, “It’s a hard life, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.” No doubt that is a central lesson of human history, but Mark Steyn argues in what may be his greatest column ever–certainly one of his most important–that there was a brief postwar moment in which Western societies were rich enough to be dumb. Now, however, We’re too broke to be this stupid. You really must read it all; this is almost a random excerpt:

[W]here does the government get the money to fund all these immensely useful programs? According to a Fox News poll earlier this year, 65 per cent of Americans understand that the government gets its money from taxpayers, but 24 per cent think the government has “plenty of its own money without using taxpayer dollars.” You can hardly blame them for getting that impression in an age in which there is almost nothing the state won’t pay for. I confess I warmed to that much-mocked mayor in Doncaster, England, who announced a year or two back that he wanted to stop funding for the Gay Pride parade on the grounds that, if they’re so damn proud of it, why can’t they pay for it? He was actually making a rather profound point, but, as I recall, he was soon forced to back down.

Quite a few years ago, I subscribed to the New Yorker. That was before I became a conservative and before the magazine became so insistently left-wing that I couldn’t stand it anymore. But I still recall a cartoon in which a man has answered his doorbell and the person on his front step says, “I’m from the government. I’m sorry to say that we’ve wasted all of your tax money. Can we have some more?” It may be that, at long last, the answer to that question could be No. Hard times and impending bankruptcy, in other words, may accomplish what philosophical argument never could.


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