It is, in a superficial sense, a good thing that the modern world affords us so much comfort. We live in air-conditioned rooms. Our cars have airbags. Banks have plenty of money for loans. We are surrounded by companies that provide us services we need and want to the point that we indulge far more than restrain ourselves.

But you know what they say about “too much of a good thing.” For instance, in time, good things can form bad habits that lead to disasters. Good times make weak men, etc. etc. Many of our “good things” in life have come in the form of a social safety net. A prosperous society has given rise to all sorts of contingency plans for everyone, from the down and out to the filthy rich. With everything from the FDIC to public schools to Medicare, and a thousand other programs in between, it’s almost impossible to fail in America. Both the indigent drug addict and the billionaire hedge fund manager have safety nets at their disposal in order to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. You are either so down and out that you desperately need help, or you are “too big to fail.”

The Dangers of Too Much Safety

The cost of excessive safety nets is accountability. They may avert some disasters from happening at a local level, but eventually, the chickens will come home to roost.

Think, for example, of the working-class retiree who has insufficient income from Social Security and Medicare to cover a doctor’s visits. One person’s local disaster is averted, but such programs, if not properly prioritized and funded, become liabilities for the nation as a whole. As a great man once said, “Many such cases.”

It’s hard to say exactly when our consequence-free society began, but the inner-Libertarian in me points to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is a system that acts as a guarantor for local banks. It was originally established to avert the personal disasters caused by bankruptcies, as a result of numerous failures in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Never mind, though, that bankruptcies continued well after the creation of the Federal Reserve. Indeed, the very existence of the Federal Reserve (and its cousin the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) has created moral hazard and led to even more bank failures occurring after its creation than before—1929, anyone? The point is that America’s financial system is held together by the promise of bailouts, which are ultimately paid for by the taxpayer. And, in fact, this is true for the global financial system as well, too. The bailouts, relatively small at first, eventually increase in size and ultimately lead to financial ruin. The incredible scope of the 2008 bailouts is an indication that these bailouts are likely to grow until a point where there is not enough money in the system to save all the institutions.

There is no way out of this impending economic disaster, and it is not possible to simply “print” more money in order to "create" prosperity. Eventually, the laws of economics do their thing. Keep in mind that the entire global financial system we take for granted is perpetuated by creating money out of thin air. The long-term result can only be inflation, economic collapse, and the need for yet more government control and regulation.

The aforementioned “entitlements” are the next looming disaster (and not entirely unrelated to the inflation caused by the excessive money-printing.) Designed for a population that didn’t live quite as long as we do today and that tended to have more children, the system is now a demographic black hole. The sum total of our country’s unfunded liabilities is simply staggering. “Thus, with Social Security and Medicare included in the assessment, the federal government’s unfunded liabilities in 2021 are $93.1 trillion…”

Public education is another safety net whose rope is strained. Sure, parents can drop their kids off at school while they go to work, however it has now become the school’s job to civilize, educate, babysit, and moralize the children.

But how is that working out? Well, apparently, we still haven’t recovered from the Covid shutdowns. And did you know that students are far more likely to be sexually abused at public schools than in the Catholic Church? (Even though you hear a lot more about one than the other.) In one example in Houston, the state had to take over the school district—and everyone still complains.

The public schools are, by any measurable standard, failing (although I am aware that there are bright spots and wonderful teachers here and there), and yet there seems to be no consequences for failure. The children know that they don’t need to behave because teachers are now powerless to enforce discipline. Parents are not held to account for unruly children because, apparently, it is the “public’s” responsibility to educate your children. Today, bad teachers are protected either by powerful unions or the reality that fewer and fewer educated young adults want to become teachers. With so few to choose from, you end up settling for whoever you can get.

And how about crime! If there is a better example of a lack of consequences in the public square, I can’t think of one. While a former President is convicted of a felony for merely receiving an invoice, violent criminals are routinely never caught, are released (immediately or early), or never sought. If there are no significant consequences for crime, why wouldn't we expect more of it?

Bad Ideas and Choices Make for a Worse World

So let’s summarize:

- If a bank fails, it will be bailed out.

- If an “important” corporation fails, it will also be bailed out.

- If our government doesn’t have enough money, it bails itself out by printing money or it borrows funds by selling additional bonds to private parties as well as to our enemies like China. (Don’t worry, it will be paid back with your taxes…some day.)

- If you won’t work, there is welfare, unemployment, Social Security, Medicaid, and/or many other safety nets (as well as many other programs that I have never even heard of). Thus, there are no consequences for not working.

- If you commit crimes, the odds are increasingly high that you will not be arrested nor punished for them.

- If public institutions like our schools fail, they nevertheless remain open, and often receive even more money in the process.

- If parents fail to raise their children, the state is now expected to bear the burden.

- Oh, and if you get pregnant and don’t want the child, there is always the option to abort it (in most, but thankfully not all, states).

In the real world, there are consequences for bad ideas and bad choices. Reality has a way of working things out. But the ever-prosperous West has so many safety nets in place, there is simply not enough "pain" to force any person or any of the systems to change their approach.

While most of us like to complain about how bad things have become in our current environment, the solution is actually quite simple. Ease up, or erase the safety nets, and let reality do its job. When there are appropriate consequences for sin, bad policy, and crime, people will change. But unless and until we have the moral courage to allow pain to be felt, we can only expect more crime, more debt, and more failed public institutions.

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