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The War on Human Nature
For nations as for individuals, pretending self-interest doesn’t exist is perilous.


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Victor Davis Hanson

At some critical point, everyone makes choices based on incentives and his own perception of self-interest. Somehow the Obama administration has forgotten that natural law.

A therapeutic sense of self-sacrifice is fine in the abstract, but in the concrete such magnanimity causes far more harm to the innocent than does a realistic appraisal of self-interest and a tragic acceptance of the flawed nature of man. The theme of the present administration is that it possesses the wisdom and resources to know better what people should do than they do themselves. From that premise arose most of catastrophes that have befallen this administration.

Consider the logic of Obamacare — a protocol that we lesser folk were supposed to learn about only after the bill was passed, in the expectation that eventually we will surely like it, although we are not able to know that yet.  If you use medical care infrequently, you supposedly will rush to sign up to pay more for it, so that those who will pay less can use it more. I wish such idealism were innate to the human character, but nothing suggests that it is. Does providing more coverage at less cost to more people somehow lead to lower costs for all participants? If so, the entire history of capitalism would have to be rewritten. Is it true that the more you try to get onto a website and are stymied, the more you will redouble your efforts to log on? If that were true, wouldn’t Amazon rig its website to fail 20 percent of the time?

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Would employers hire more full-time employees in order to up their health-insurance costs, or would they keep their work force small enough that the federal guidelines will allow them not to provide coverage? And how would those incentives affect overall job growth? Will employers decide to forgo more of their profits so that the nation’s unemployment rate will stabilize?

Consider the news that the IRS improperly refunded $132 billion to people who falsely claimed earned-income tax credits. Add in the fact that about 45 to 50 percent of all Americans already pay no federal income tax. Then factor in the idea that conservative groups were more likely to be targeted by the IRS’s tax-exempt division than other nonprofit organizations. What natural lessons do many citizens learn from the IRS that might govern their future behavior? Are they likely to feel a greater need to report cash income, or to worry about unauthorized income while on federal assistance?

Did administration explanations about Benghazi and the IRS scandals help reassure the American people that what the president said about Obamacare was likely to be true? Does serial disingenuousness finally ensure remorse and a return to veracity?

Does promising a new transparency and an end to lobbying and to the revolving door between government and the private sector at least display a heartfelt desire to change the system, even if in reality there is no end to any such influence peddling? Is it better to promise great things and then break those promises than to have never promised at all? Do we operate on the T-ball philosophy that effort and happy talk can substitute for achievement? Does continuously blaming a prior president drive home the message of his culpability, or appear tasteless and reveal a sense of inferiority?

Do the unemployed more eagerly seek employment when they are provided increases in food stamps, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and assorted housing, legal, and education subsidies, or are they more likely to remain on public assistance, to become more indifferent to full-time employment, and to augment their subsidies with off-the-books cash income?



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