FDR’s New Deal arose at a time of serious existential crisis. The unemployment rate was 25%. All any American, if they were not deeply experiencing the Great Depression themselves, had to do was look to their neighbor or a street corner to know there were serious issues. Agree or disagree with the particular policies of FDR in the New Deal, the fact that something had to happen was undeniable. The “Green New Deal” is an entirely different animal. The crisis it purports to respond to is something that 1) not all Americans agree is a crisis, and 2) you have to mine vast hordes of data to actually detect. There is massive debate about whether the best response to climate change (or whatever the term du jour is) is to cope with it or to try and halt it. The Green New Deal does not respond to an obvious crisis, but given that it has not already died of embarrassment, it responds to a crisis that many Americans think…feel…sense needs a response.
When people sense a “crisis” more than they observe it, such “crisis” is generally a reflection as much of their own attitude as it is the facts on the ground. There are a lot of Americans that are apprehensive about their future. That apprehension has found a place to reside in concerns about climate change. I would argue that this is a result of being unmoored from faith, which is certainly where I turn to deal with my ungrounded apprehension. But that is a different post, as just linked. A state of apprehension is not a happy state in which to exist, yet apparently many Americans are living there. And this in a time of great prosperity. The sad thing about the GND is that in the end it perpetuates that unhappy state.
Albert C. Brooks has famously argued that EARNED success is the key to happiness. In other words, vocation(work) matters. Therefore, one could easily conclude that this apprehension is born not of an actual crisis, but of a lack of EARNED success. Along comes the GND FAQ sheet calling for “Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” In other words, removing the need to even try to earn success. The GND, rather than relieve the unhappy apprehension, can only deepen it.
But where does the original unhappy apprehension originate? As the host often says, “Anecdotal proof is proof of anecdotes,” but I have had several conversations this past week with employers that are not having a hard time finding bodies for jobs, but are having a very hard time finding people willing to work hard at a job. Young people in particular seem to expect high levels of compensation and minimal drudgery. Further they expect work to bend to their schedule and desire, rather than the other way around. Way too much of education seems designed prevent kids from failing rather than to move them towards achievement. So many parents work so hard to prevent their children from ever suffering the disappointment of failure, never realizing that without failure there is no genuine success. And without success, there is no happiness. Thus apprehension is born. This is the same problem inherent in the GND’s economic security designs on a cultural level.
It has been my privilege to know many successful people – even some enormously successful people. The commonality among all of them is not their success, it is their failures. They have all failed in some profound way and they all learned from that failure. If nothing else, they learned to appreciate their successes. Such appreciation, a form a gratitude I would note, is what happiness is built upon.
Why do we want to rob people of that?