Thursday, May 10 2012
Have you noticed that the United States is becoming more like Western Europe? It seems that many would like for us to have eight weeks of vacation, and job security even if we don't work. Parisians in their twenties are marching in the streets to protest the retirement age being raised from sixty to sixty-two. In Greece mobs trash public buildings because the government has run out of money and the welfare state must be trimmed. Western Europe in particular suffers from what Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania calls, " learned helplessness." In social-democratic Spain nearly half of adults under 35 live with their parents. As Arthur Brooks wrote in the Wall Street Journal, they are "Unable to earn their success, Spaniards fight to keep unearned government benefits." The history of the United States is that of a meritocracy, of earned success. Right now the U.S. Government is spending 36% of GDP, about the same as Spain. The Congressional Budget Office says it will be 50% by 2038. It also tells us that 70% of Americans take more out of the tax system than they put in. What concerns me is that we are fast becoming a nation that is teaching "learned helplessness." This is poison in the water, it will create a greater welfare state, the economy will suffer, people will become less motivated to work and achieve. Do we really want to create a new generation that doesn't understand the rewards and punishments of behavior and how it is connected to merit? Scripture teaches us very clearly, " What a person sows, they will also reap." Galatians 6:7. God says that this is reality, and it is the kind of world we live in. Last summer my wife and I sat in the Tuileries gradens on a beautiful August evening, Paris was lit up in all its glory. I looked to the right and there was the Musee du Louvre, to the left and I could see all the way down the Avenue Des Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. I was caught up in the beauty of one of the world's most magnificent cities, but I held a Big Mac in my hand just to remind me of where I was from.