Monday, September 17, 2012

The Deuce and Perfection

My mother was a perfectionist, my dad slightly less so. You'd think that being an only child I'd grow up to be a perfectionist too. Didn't happen. Maybe perfectionism skips generations, or maybe I consciencely rebelled against my parents perfectionism...or maybe I learned, as some wit once said, that 'perfection is rarely worth the effort.'

I'm a practical guy. For me, "good enough is good enough." If it works, if it accomplishes what I want, then it's all that is required and I'm free to move on to the next task, trading unreachable perfection for saving time, effort and resources. Certainly some things need to be closer to perfection than others. If I over cook my steak, it's still pretty tasty and 'perfectly edible.' If I undershoot my approach to the carrier while attempting to land my F-18 Hornet I'll be dead. Neither cooking my supper or landing my Hornet has to be perfect, but the approximation to perfection in the Hornet has to be much closer.

I am not arguing that improvement is undersirable or unobtainable. What I am arguing is that there comes a point in any endeavor when continuing to seek improvement becomes counter productive.

So what, you say?

Well, it turns out that seeking perfection as a society leads to some very destructive behavior.

      "Perfection spawns doctrines, dictators and totalitarian ideas."
                         Antonio Tabucchi

Understanding this, the authors of the U.S. constitution devised a system of government that was designed not to seek societal perfection (as one could argue the French revolution did), but instead to maximize individual liberty thereby enabling Americans to enjoy their liberty by pursuing happiness in their own ways through voluntary associations with each other and the peoples of other nations, whether by free trade or travel or the exchange of ideas.

Americans have embraced this view, to varying degrees, throughout most of our history as a nation. World history, life experience and common sense proved to most Americans that people will never be the same, or 'equal', and that attempts to force them to be are at best ridiculous and at worst destructive. Some people will be more successful at finding happiness than others. The best that can be expected is to make the laws of the land equally applicable to all, ensuring as best as is humanly possible that the opportunity to find happiness is open to all.

Communism, socialism and fascism are attempts to reach societal perfection by making everyone the same, or equal. If everyone is the same, the theories go, then there is no competition and hence no conflict.  If everyone is the same then there are no rich or poor, no oppressors or oppressed, no majorities or minorities. No religious differences, no competing economic plans, the same amount and quality of education, health care and housing. No one is better or worse than anyone else. Equality. Closer to perfection.

But not even Americans are free from the delusion that what is simply good can be made perfect. There have been several waves of 'progressivism' designed to bring America closer to societal perfection. FDR's New Deal was arguably the largest and most pervasive...until now.

The election of President Obama and the last four years of his administration are the latest, and I would argue the most damaging, of all attempts to make us all 'equal'. Not just equal with each other but also as a nation equal to all other nations. Wealth is redistributed, health care is socialized, the military is reduced, NASA is crippled, GM and Chrysler are nationalized to save the United Auto Workers union, international terrorists are appeased, foreign aid continues to flow despite what would be massive budget deficits if we had a national budget (the last federal budget having been passed in April, 2009), 49% of Americans don't pay any federal income tax, racial strife is increasing, government employees earn more than their private sector counterparts, more Americans are receiving food stamps than ever before and the unemployment rate has been over 8% for longer than at any other time in American history.

Not all of these ills can be laid at the feet of Obama, but many can be and those that can't have been made even worse by the President's disdain for free market capitalism, his seeming desire to see the U.S. 'humbled' in the international community and his delusional desire to 'perfect' America.

"Good enough is good enough" most often equates to "As good as it's gonna get."

Unlike my own parents, I  learned early on the difference between the obtainable good and the unobtainable perfection. Communists, socialist and facists need to learn the difference. A large number of Americans do too.  


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