Back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont was one that would try about anything. Cigarettes or chewing tobacco, moonshine or green persimmons, Stinky was willing to give it a shot. Sometimes it took more than one try. He said he thought a person could get used to about anything if he gave it enough time. I suppose he was right about that, but I was never convinced getting used to something was always in our best interest.
I don’t know if Stinky would appreciate the sentiment or not, but I thought about him the other day when I saw a dead buzzard in the road on my way home from work. Several years ago, buzzards usually lived in the woods, and it was hard to get close enough to one to even tell what they looked like. Then a few years ago, a flock of them took up residence in the pine trees in a neighbor’s front yard at the edge of Hagerstown.
While they remained skittish around people and vehicles for a while, after a time they grew more accustomed to both, and instead of flying away from the road kill du jour at the first sight of a car approaching, they would continue to dine until it got closer and closer before they would abandon their meal and fly off, and eventually reached the point of tolerance where they would simply hop to the edge of the road as the vehicle passed, and then hop back to the table, such as it was. You might think that after a buzzard saw a few of his buddies on the other end of the food chain, he might become a little more skittish again, but so far that hasn’t seemed to be the case.
I’ve also noticed that people can get used to government the same way those buzzards got used to cars. I don’t think it happened all at once. Kind of like the income tax. The government used to introduce a minimal income tax on certain citizens in order to temporarily fund a war or some other special occasion, and then remove it when it wasn’t needed anymore. Then in 1913, the government decided to make the income tax permanent. It started out at 1% on certain incomes, and like all government programs, grew in scope and complexity, until it reached where it is today. People and businesses stand quietly as the government whisks by, taking a third of what they earn. I’m pretty sure if the first rate would have been 35%, we wouldn’t have just sat there and let it happen like it did.
I don’t think it ruffled our feathers enough when the government introduced Medicare, but then again, it was just health insurance for old people that needed it at the time, and it only cost about $1.50 a month. By the time it morphed into what it is today, the single largest contributor to the federal deficit with unfunded liabilities of nearly $40 trillion, we had grown so accustomed to it, that, like the income tax, we couldn’t even consider that there might be a better way of doing things.
In the last several years, we’ve become used to a seemingly unlimited federal government, an incomprehensible federal debt, an ever increasing loss of individual freedoms, and a foreign policy that has led us into perpetual war. Pretty soon, because of that unlimited government and its incomprehensible debt, those of us who pay taxes are going to have to get used to paying even more taxes, and those of us who depend on the government to take care of us are going to have to learn to get by on a lot less.
I suppose Stinky might have been right. Maybe we can get used to about anything.
But I get the feeling the buzzards are circling, and I’m not sure we can get used to that. And I’m not sure it’s in our best interest if we do.
(Rex Bell is a Wayne County Libertarian that writes a monthly column on events that shape our lives from a libertarian point of view. He is also the author of “Stinky Shorts”, available at www.StinkyShorts.com .If you have a comment or question on a particular subject, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or snail-mail him at 17059 State Road 38, Hagerstown.)