I Don’t Want No Satisfaction

 

We always want what we can’t have. Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Mick Jagger understood that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Most literature is based on this concept, and religions are designed to deal with it. This longing for things you don’t have could also be described as an endless effort to improve your life, which is not such a bad thing. Which is fortunate, because this is simply human nature. It can be temporarily suppressed, but not extinguished. Even temporarily suppressing it often requires powerful drugs. Accepting the way things are is simply not the way we’re wired. Humans are restless.

On the other hand, humans also crave security. You would think that this would tend to balance our dangerous restlessness with the safety which comes with the desire for stability. You would be wrong. Our desire for security often leads us into the protective arms of strongmen, tyrants, and/or powerful centralized governments which offer to protect us from the big bad world, in exchange for some of our money and freedom. This secure protective cocoon is where the conflict starts.

Our desire for security leads us to some form of socialism, which assures us of food, housing, medical care and so on. People want that security, but they also find it stifling. They want to follow their dreams and slay ever bigger dragons, and socialism’s steady erosion of their personal liberties begins to feel less like a safety net and more like a cage. True happiness is best kept just over the horizon, just out of reach. Once we reach it, we want something else. That keeps us striving and improving. That’s just human nature.

Progressives understandably view American slavery as our unforgivable sin. During this horrible chapter in our history, slaves were fed, clothed, and housed, but had no freedom. Now progressives want us to give up our freedom in exchange for being fed, clothed, and housed. And they expect this turn out well. This time. I mean c’mon! This isn’t slavery, right? Just give everybody everything they need, and they’ll be happy, content, and easier to control. Peace and tranquility will reign for generations.

That has never worked. When you consider human nature, it can’t work. As I mentioned above, this is a common theme in literature. The Keanu Reeves movie “The Matrix” makes this delicate point with a sledge hammer. It was a bit oversimplified and overdone, but the point of the movie is valid. Giving people everything they want does not make them happy. You would think that if you give someone everything they wanted, they would be happy. You would be wrong.

Spoiled kids are not happy; in fact, they are incapable of happiness. Spoiled kids are miserable, and they tend to lash out at those who spoil them. Giving people everything they want does not make them happy. Or content. Or easy to control.

Quite the contrary.

Aristotle’s view of the telos – that rewarding labor is a pre-requisite to happiness – is very insightful. Most people can’t be happy just sitting on a beach. Not for long, at least.

Even if Democrats and other socialists really did want everybody to be happy (…and I believe they actually do…), they should understand that it is not in their power to give people happiness. No government can meet the changing needs and desires of each one of millions of people. Each person must go find their own fulfillment and happiness. You simply can’t just hand it to them.

Our founding fathers, who had read Aristotle, carefully chose their words when they said that American citizens had, “the right to pursue happiness.” They knew that government could not give anyone happiness, but that it most certainly could take it away. The Constitution was written not to give people happiness but in an effort to prevent the government from taking it away from its citizens.

There are progressives who view our Constitution as a quaint document on yellowed paper from hundreds of years ago. They view it as no longer relevant. They also tend to view “The Matrix” as insightful commentary on the human condition. You might expect this dichotomy to lead them to read and think more on the topic.

You would be wrong.

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There are 16 comments.

  1. Member

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    • #1
    • January 20, 2019, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    There are many, often conflicting, human desires and tendencies that exist to one degree or another in all of us. Certain groups may tend to favor a certain tendency.

    Your point is well taken. The feminization of modern society may play a role in our drift toward socialism. Then again, it may not. 

    Such thoughts crossed my mind while writing this post, but I chose to focus on other things.

    • #2
    • January 20, 2019, at 11:42 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Member

    “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But a penny earned and then saved, is priceless.

    • #3
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Member

    Excellent post. Somebody needs to reconcile the ideas in this post about the conservative relationship with safety and security with the comments in the recent post about hard-to-give-up modern conveniences.

    • #4
    • January 20, 2019, at 1:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Excellent post. Somebody needs to reconcile the ideas in this post about the conservative relationship with safety and security with the comments in the recent post about hard-to-give-up modern conveniences.

    What?! And end the perpetual debate?

    • #5
    • January 20, 2019, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Excellent post. Somebody needs to reconcile the ideas in this post about the conservative relationship with safety and security with the comments in the recent post about hard-to-give-up modern conveniences.

    What?! And end the perpetual debate?

    First stir well and cook at high heat before it’s ready to serve. 

    • #6
    • January 20, 2019, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Member

    Dr. Bastiat: You would think that if you gave someone everything they wanted, they would be happy. You would be wrong.

    Noone can be happy who isn’t contented. Contentment comes with accomplishment .When we seek to provide every desire for someone, whether our children or fellow Americans or some other country, we deprive them of the chance to earn the contentment that comes with accomplishment. We make of them permanent dependants and that’s what causes the resentment they manifest . Everyone needs at some point a hand up but giving help beyond what is needed risks creating a permanent group unable to break the dependency trap who are also sullen and angry at their fate. 

    Even when this is a result of good intentions the effects are counter productive .When will this lesson ever be learned?

    • #7
    • January 20, 2019, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    There are plenty of men who crave security. I think that’s a key component of the “beta” mindset.

    • #8
    • January 20, 2019, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Member

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    There are plenty of men who crave security. I think that’s a key component of the “beta” mindset.

    Like the men who say, “I want to drive down the road in a big, gas-guzzling car with irresistible force, because those cars are safer.” 

    • #9
    • January 20, 2019, at 7:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Member
    Dr. Bastiat Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    There are plenty of men who crave security. I think that’s a key component of the “beta” mindset.

    Like the men who say, “I want to drive down the road in a big, gas-guzzling car with irresistible force, because those cars are safer.”

    Some risk-taking makes sense, and can lead to happiness. 

    Risking financial losses to start a business may be a wise decision, because it might lead to significant benefits down the road. 

    Risking death every time you leave your driveway because you choose to drive a 40mpg Suzuki Deathtrap seems less wise, because the only possible benefit is that you save a few hundred bucks on gas. You may see other benefits that don’t leap to my mind. 

    But my point is that avoiding the avoidable is simply good sense. That’s not the same as forsaking happiness by refusing to consider risks. 

    • #10
    • January 20, 2019, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    You may see other benefits that don’t leap to my mind.

    Yes, in the realms of national security, environmental preservation, and personal exhilaration. 

    • #11
    • January 20, 2019, at 9:03 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    You may see other benefits that don’t leap to my mind.

    Yes, in the realms of national security, environmental preservation, and personal exhilaration.

    Or think of it as bungee jumping down I-75.

    Some people need practice in getting out of their comfort zones if they are ever to take any risks that are important to their family or country. 

    • #12
    • January 20, 2019, at 9:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Member

    Great post.

    • #13
    • January 21, 2019, at 2:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Thatcher

    Dr. Bastiat: Our founding fathers, who had read Aristotle, carefully chose their words when they said that American citizens had, “the right to pursue happiness.” They knew that government could not give anyone happiness, but that it most certainly could take it away. The Constitution was written not to give people happiness but in an effort to prevent the government from taking it away from its citizens.

    I think I remember reading somewhere some founders wanted the right to own property to be the third item behind life and liberty. I forgot why it was changed . . .

    • #14
    • January 21, 2019, at 6:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Our founding fathers, who had read Aristotle, carefully chose their words when they said that American citizens had, “the right to pursue happiness.” They knew that government could not give anyone happiness, but that it most certainly could take it away. The Constitution was written not to give people happiness but in an effort to prevent the government from taking it away from its citizens.

    I think I remember reading somewhere some founders wanted the right to own property to be the third item behind life and liberty. I forgot why it was changed . . .

    Jefferson replaced a phrase about property in George Mason’s Virginia Declaration (which was in John Locke’s writing) with “pursuit of happiness”. Kevin Phillips’ book, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, has a good explanation of what some called Jefferson’s plagarism of earlier documents, and why this part of the Declaration didn’t get a lot of attention at the time, either from the Continental Congress or from the Declaration’s intended audience. 

    • #15
    • January 21, 2019, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: On the other hand, humans women also crave security.

    I’m not sure this is true of men. Or at least, there are things men value more.

    First off, great post @drbastiat

    On this particular comment, however, I would have to vehemently disagree. One of the foundational instincts of a man is to provide for his family – I thought about saying “civilized man”, but I believe that instinct was there before civilization. That provision includes a very strong element of security – am I able to provide food, clothing, shelter for my family? That is the bedrock of security. Perhaps it is more of a need than a “craving”, but that’s semantics.

    This point was driven home very strongly in my own personal experience about 3 years ago. I was self-employed for 12 years, the first 9 of which were quite successful. The income swings were wild – nothing coming for 2 or 3 months at a time then along comes a payday of mid-5 figures. Any time anyone asked I told them that it was a constant struggle between autonomy and security, and as long as I could afford to maintain the security, I would continue on with the autonomy.

    Year 10 came along and the 2-3 months at a time with nothing coming in started growing to 4, 5 months. When the paydays came they were lower in the 5 figure range. We still did okay. Year 11 dropped further. The balance between a desire for autonomy and the need for security started to tip more towards security. When year 12 dropped even further, I knew it was time to take the security route – signed back on with my previous employer (or actually the company that had purchased my previous employer). I’ve been back for 3 years now. Could I venture back out on my own again? Yeah, but I also know that my medical insurance premiums that were running about $400 per month back then would now be closer to $2,000 per month. And I would not have the guarantee of that paycheck coming in on the 15th and 30th of every month.

    In short – at least in my eyes – there is a word for a man who disregards security. I call them “Irresponsible”

    • #16
    • January 21, 2019, at 7:41 AM PDT
    • 5 likes