Having been born in 1958 places me directly behind the generation of the 60’s movers and shakers. In my youth they were hugely influential, through the broader culture of pop music, books and television. Their ideals of peace and freedom challenged me to question the social order and the meaning of life. I have always known though that I am not one of them. My generation is just enough removed from their time to not have directly shared in the Vietnam war, college campus protests, Woodstock and communes.
Yes, I could see some validity in their complaints about the Man, the system and how much was wrong with the world. I could share their hope of change and feel inspired to make the world a better place. Maybe even to the point of believing, sometimes more than they did, in the ideals they sang and wrote about .
The first Earth Day, I was with them, made my garbage pickup stick and cleaned up the litter not only in my backyard but in the neighbors too. I prayed for peace, attended the first No Nukes protest at Shoreham and later the concert at Madison Square Garden. I was completely drawn into the idea that at long last we were the generation that would fix the world. I wanted to be on the right side of history.
But somewhere, somehow, as Bob Dylan says, I got my signals crossed. What I heard and understood then was a passionate plea for freedom. I took this to mean we the people, taking responsibility for our own lives, or as E.F. Schumacher wrote about in his 1973 book, Small Is Beautiful, downsizing the footprint we leave behind by consuming less and caring enough to not only stop contributing to the problem, but to clean up from others when we can.
How that sentiment has morphed in the last 40 years into a call for a bigger government to incessantly intervene to make things fair, safe and risk free baffles me. Perhaps we just disagree on the nature of human nature. Life is not fair, safe and risk free. Strip away what civilization provides and we are left cold, hungry and full of disease and suffering. Western Civilization, more than any other culture, has provided the means to alleviate and even escape the harsh realities inherent in life on planet earth. But we seem to be destroying all that is good about us, whether from a sense of guilt or greed or both is hard to tell.
The sixties, or my take from the cultural message of those times, are where my libertarian sensibilities first became a conscious lifestyle choice. I never saw big government as in need of redirection of power from the elites of the past towards some new elite, but as in need of limits of its reach into the lives of we the governed. Governing bodies, with their power to legislate, will always be susceptible to an unhealthy influence from corporate structures and tempted to legislate, not for the good of all, but for political gain.
I wonder then what leads people to come to such very different conclusions? How could it be that the powers that government has, once understood to be in need of checks and balances, are now assumed to be the means of curing all our ills?
Edited 7/1/12 to add this link to the chart below of the growth government spending to GDP since 1910. Is this what a free market looks like?
Here is an article from Lew Rockwell’s website arguing that the influence of Government Medical Insurance has created the Healthcare Insurance monster that keeps prices rising and care inefficient.
“Theft is theft, and fire is fire, so that fire or theft insurance is fairly clear-cut – the only problem being the “moral hazard” of insurees succumbing to the temptation of burning down their own unprofitable store or apartment house, or staging a fake theft, in order to collect the insurance.
“Medical care,” however, is a vague and slippery concept. There is no way by which it can be measured or gauged or even defined. A “visit to a physician” can range all the way from a careful and lengthy investigation and discussion, and thoughtful advice, to a two-minute run-through with the doctor doing not much else than advising two aspirin and having the nurse write out the bill.”
Thank you Bob Dylan for the theme.
“Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”