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I went for a haircut today. Money is no object when it comes to my appearance – only the absolute finest will do. So I went to Sport Clips in the strip mall next to Target, with a $3 coupon in hand. Like many other fashion-conscious men, I frequent this establishment and don’t think I’ve ever had my hair cut by the same person twice. Like many other seemingly mundane things, this interests me. Well, most of the things that interest me actually are mundane, I suppose. But I’m fascinated by these young ladies. Who are they? Where do they come from? Where do they go? So I’ve applied for a federal grant to study attractive, rural, 30-year-old women who cut hair at gimmicky chain barber shops.
Well, actually, no – I just talk to them. And I learn a lot.
Kaitlyn (not her real name) just moved here from Georgia. Her husband is an auto mechanic. “He can fix anything with four wheels! Well, except my car – it runs like crap!” She went on at some length about how good he was at fixing things. His plan was to start his own shop once they moved here. They moved into a double-wide trailer that had a nice pole barn out back, which he planned to outfit with electric and a high-end air compressor, maybe even a grease pit, and start his own business.
He spent almost a year working on permits, licenses, inspections, and so on. He spoke to people from the county, city, state, feds, and the EPA. He talked to attorneys, accountants, and consultants to help wade through all the red tape. After about a year, he realized that the start-up costs were more than he was willing to gamble on the eventual success of a business that did not yet exist, so he got a job with the city, maintaining their trucks and mowing equipment. It doesn’t pay very well, but it has good benefits. It’s not a bad job, she says. Nothing to complain about. Everything is ok.
Kaitlyn did a great job on my hair, was very pleasant and personable, and is clearly very intelligent. She said that a few miles from their house, a barber recently retired. She considered buying his shop. She’s always dreamed of owning her own business. She said that’s the whole reason she went to cosmetology school. I said that sounded great – the shop is already set up, it has a large group of established customers, and she could expand from there.
She said that she spent several months looking into it, but she would need permits, licenses, inspections, and so on. I pointed out that it has been a barber’s shop for years, so the inspections, permits, and so on would already be done. She said that it would be a new business, and she would have to pay for all that to be done over again. She spoke with attorneys, accountants, and consultants to help wade through all the red tape – some of the same individuals that her husband had just consulted. She soon realized that the start-up costs were more than she was willing to gamble, so she got a job with a chain. The pay is not very good, and the benefits are lousy. One reason her husband took a government job was for the health insurance for their family. But she doesn’t mind working for Sport Clips – it’s a decent job, she says. Nothing to complain about. Everything is ok.
So how does this story end?
Well, in my view, it’s already ended. This young couple from a modest background has all the potential in the world. They’re both ambitious, intelligent, and very good at a valuable skill. They’re devoted to their family, their dreams, and each other. They dream of better things and are willing to gamble, willing to work hard today for a better tomorrow, and willing to take on the additional responsibilities that come with owning a business. They’re savvy enough with modern government to hire attorneys and consultants to help with the red tape.
And even they can’t open a new business, to do something they already know how to do.
And 30 years from now, nothing will have happened.
My Uncle Fred (Frederic Bastiat) described this as the seen versus the unseen. Progressives win elections because the benefits they provide are immediate and obvious. They give people free money with taxpayer dollars, or build highways with taxpayer dollars, or start new general assistance programs with taxpayer dollars. They’re working for you, and anyone with eyes can see it. The benefits provided by progressives are seen.
But the damage they cause is mostly unseen. In 30 years, Kaitlyn and her husband could have retired to a very nice community on the Gulf Coast and played golf for the rest of their lives. But they won’t. She’ll still be cutting hair for $12 an hour plus tips, and he’ll still be fixing lawn mowers for the city. Just like they are now.
They didn’t lose a fortune, because they never had the opportunity to earn one. Nothing happened. There they sit. And there they’ll stay.
Progressives may think they’re utopians who dream of a better tomorrow. But, in reality, they are the robotic defenders of the status quo. Everything stays the same because nothing happens. And when things don’t happen, those things don’t make the evening news. They didn’t happen at all, so there’s nothing to complain about. Everything is basically ok. And that’s the way it will stay.
Until it doesn’t.
Change is scary. You never know what might happen. It might be good. It might be bad. You roll the dice like this young couple tried to do. Twice.
Or you don’t. Like progressives do, every day.
I wonder if Kaitlyn views progressives as nice people who are trying to help her. Or if she views them as well-meaning fools, as I do when I’m trying to be charitable.
But in bed late at night, I wonder if she ever hates them for destroying her life and the lives of her children.
Probably not. Because nothing really happened. And nothing ever will.
There’s nothing to complain about.
Everything is ok.
I left her a $10 tip for a $15 haircut, and I walked out. I looked good – it really was a sharp haircut. But I felt like I wanted to puke.
Everything is not ok.Published in