Column on Opulence for All

Opulence for All!

Tibor R. Machan

As I drive to work in the morning I pass a community college on my right
and for years now I have been struck by its opulence. This facility looks
like some palace built for pharaohs, not a supplementary educational
institution helping people with a few under-division college courses each
term. No, by now at least California has several of such fabulous
schools–I recall Foothill College up in the Bay Area, which matches some
of the best endowed private universities in its architecture, as well as
Santiago Canyon or Santa Barbara City College. These and others stick to
my mind but there are hundreds of them, as well as similar so called
public facilities that show enormous investment at taxpayers’ expense or
on government credit.

When I hear about California’s enormous budget deficit–were they not
constitutionally required to balance it each year?–my mind quickly
focuses on these and other indulgences throughout the state. They
certainly make it appear that whoever plans the state’s educational
programs has no concern about frugality or thrift. Instead the mentality
that appears to go into these projects is that if anyone anywhere is
studying at a marvelous college, well then everyone must, including those
who spend but a few hours three times a week on campus.

This egalitarian mentality seems to me to have contributed big time to the
country’s financial wows. Although I am convinced of the superiority of
privatizing all education, I figure that if the government is going to get
into the education industry, it could certainly practice some restraint.
Subsidized education ought at least to be modest and the opulence
witnessed around California and some other regions of the country–Long
Island, New York comes to mind, as does Florida and Texas–is simply way
over the top. Certainly if I am going to ask my friends to help me out
with some of my personal needs, such as purchasing a car or dish washer, I
would be abusing the privilege if I spent their good money on the most
expensive of these items.

But the egalitarian entitlement mentality is such as to insist that if
some people in society are studying at institutions with outstanding and
beautiful facilities, well then everyone is entitled to the same. Never
mind that the money is obtained through the extortion method called
taxation, a relic of feudal times when monarchs had to be compensated for
allowing their realm to be used by their subjects.

Which brings to mind a related matter–Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s recent
contention in an interview widely circulated on the Web that taxation is
voluntary and that when taxes are collected, it’s like collecting dues
from us which we all owe because we choose to pay them. Bunk.

Dues are the result of signing up for a benefit with the provision oft
paying an agreed upon weekly, monthly, or yearly fee. But taxes are
nothing like this. Just being born and trying to make a living qualifies
one as the subject of it, to being extorted arbitrary portions of one’s

But back to the egalitarian opulence that has contributed to the current
fiscal meltdown in so many regions of not only America but the rest of the
world. It may be driven by envy or by a phony political ideology, namely
that everyone is naturally entitled to equal "shares" of the country’s
wealth but in either case it is nonsense. And it’s costing big time.

Of course there is an ancient habit afoot that supports this sentiment. It
is one that sees society as a club or team to which everyone belongs as an
ant to a colony and from which everyone may draw maximum benefits, so long
as the leadership allows it. In the time of kings and other mythical
leaders of state it was an ideal to aspire to because it was one way to
wrest of the wealth from the rulers–persuade them it isn’t theirs in the
first place (which it wasn’t though they firmly believed it was). But once
it was widely enough realized that societies were supposed to be realms
wherein we all were to be free to work and aspire to some level of success
but not entitled to end up like everyone else, this was supposed to change
and we are all more or less competing with the understanding that in a
competition people end up in different places at different points of the
race. But by refusing to see it this way, the society is seen as obligated
to maintain everyone in a state of economic opulence and that is simply
unsustainable and leads to George Orwell’s very apt depiction of an
egalitarian society in his novella, Animal Farm, wherein everyone is equal
only some are far more "equal" than others.

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