There’s nothing more permanent than the illusion of permanence.
BlackBerry was revolutionary a decade ago. Now IT departments warn it may be gone within the year. Apple destroyed BlackBerry because it proved more adept at serving users. It won’t be long before somebody comes along and knocks Apple off as well. The only constant is change.
Except in politics, where things seem to remain the same election after election.
That’s where Kevin Williamson opens his book The End is Near and It’s Going to be Awesome. “I hope that this book is still being read a few years from now, because my admiration for Apple’s iPhone will by then seem faintly ridiculous,” he begins.
Over the course of his breezy, engaging book, he mentions several other things that 21st century Americans will also come to find ridiculous. Most of them involve governments, specifically the federal government and its outrageous promises.
For example, education: “Public schools are best characterized as a wealth-transfer program in which resources are taken from renters, landlords and homeowners,” he writes. “This money is then given to a group of largely female and white, upper-middle-class college graduates with professional credentials.”
He issues a long-overdue call for change. “The majority of what the federal government does can be taken over by cooperative enterprise -- right now. We have very good models and practices for providing people with health care, education, and retirement incomes.” Indeed, there are only a few areas where Americans aren’t getting better off. Education, general government services and health care are getting worse, because each is dominated by government and bureaucracy.
Yet the big hurdle will be retirement benefits.
“Social Security has already begun coming unraveled,” Williamson writes, noting that FICA taxes will never again pay for promised benefits. “As with the other major entitlement programs, the real question facing us is not ‘How do we go about paying these benefits?’ but ‘How do we go about not paying these benefits?’” In other words, how can the U.S. government navigate away from promises it won’t be able to afford to keep?
Williamson cites three potential prescriptions. None are appealing:
1) Explicitly default on creditors.
2) Print more money so the debt can be paid off with less-valuable currency.
3) Default on taxpayers.