A Way To Get What You Want - But, Be Careful

- A Discussion

In today's political America there seems to be two opposing camps. No, not Democrats and Republicans; but, rather, socialists and libertarians. Both are in the two major political parties.

So, before I begin let me define terms:

Socialist: One who firmly believes that large government can best serve all in a more fair manner, feels that personal responsibility for all things that come to them is not as "moral" as things being more evenly divided - independent of one's own abilities - and generally believes that sharing is a far better characteristic than "getting". NOTE: Throughout this piece I am NOT equating "socialist" with communism or any other "negative" characterization.

libertarian (Not the "party", the philosophy): One who believes, first and foremost, that government should stay out of the lives of all people except for defense and necessary infrastructure, feels that total freedom to seek what they desire, assuming that such brings no harm to another, is paramount, generally believes that one should gain what they want and have through "the fruits of their labor", and that sharing of one's gains is a personal matter and should not be legislated.

Now, of course, the above definitions are generalities and a little bit (or a lot) of both exist in everyone.

And, as you might correctly point out, neither is "right" or "wrong", per se. It comes down to what an individual "feels" is correct depending on each's personal background, education, and life objectives.

But, let's look at some realities.

In the history of the world there has never been a sustained, successful government based on socialism - never. In the most simplistic of terms, this has been so because a socialized government can not, over time, sustain itself financially - pure and simple. The more a government provides for its people the more that increased funding is required to do so. This means that the more money that is required from those "outside" the government's "benevolence" the higher the taxes must be. The higher the taxes the less the "tax payers" have to invest in ventures that make them money. It is a "death spiral" leading to the eventual collapse of the government. What should be a warning to us all is the fact that today 50% of Americans pay no income tax at all. Consider what that means.

In fact, this is how the US broke the back of the Soviet Union (actual name: The Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics). We engaged them in the space race and the militray race to the point that they went "belly up" financially. They, in fact, had too many "takers" and not nearly enough "providers" amongst their people.

Why would a person want to support a socialistic form of government? A few things come to mind.

A person knows full well their own capabilities and realizes that they will never obtain what the "rich guy" has; therefore, why work yourself to the bone to never achieve your dream - whatever that might be.

A person sees the world full of inequities and truly desires that everyone should have, as a minimum, "a good life" - again, whatever that might be.

A person sees it as an avenue to obtain control or power or both. This person is usually smart, driven, and without a high degree of "moral fiber" - they are gaining power at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves. They see that by providing to those less fortunate, those same people become dependent upon them and, thus, they see their power and control grow. Think of union leaders and/or politicians who say they are "for the people" while living very high and expensive lifestyles at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve.

An admittedly over simplified "motto" of a socialist: "One For ALL and ALL for ALL".

Why would a person want to support a libertarian form of government? A few things come to mind here as well.

A person desires to be as independent of government controls and regulations as possible. Basically, "Leave me alone, I don't need you to tell me how little water pressure my shower must produce, I don't need you to tell me what to eat, I don't need you to tell me what kind of light bulbs to use, I don't want you to tell me that I have to pay for someone else's better life - I certainly don't want them paying for mine", and the like.

A person desires to be able to obtain "gains" only through their own abilities, motivation, and effort. This is often called "self esteem". People have differing talents; as such, a libertarian would see the "way to get ahead" is to apply themselves at the maximum of their capabilities augmenting their abilities with others having different talents. This is how, basically, the free enterprise system works.

An admittedly over simplified "motto" of a libertarian: "One For One With The Help Of Others".

The ability of libertarians to organize to achieve their collective goals is thwarted by their very nature. The ability of socialists to simarily organize is enhanced by their very nature. It's very much like competing cultures striving for dominance. The libertarians, in general, have productivity on their side while the socialists have organization on their side. As you might well imagine, compromise is not an easily found entity between the two. Thus, we have today's "stalemate" in our government. Nothing really moves ahead due to basic "cultural differences" - the aims are 180 degrees out of phase. To date the socialist side seems to be winning. This has been a slow battle for over 60 years - the socialists have patience, libertarians not so much.

Today the country seems more at odds within itself than ever in my lifetime. I may have a reason for this. It's an old negotiating strategy that may have gone somewhat amiss.

The Strategy:

The negotiating strategy to which I refer is summarized in Figure 1.

This common strategy, as pictured, is to offer something that is far beyond what you know or believe your opposition will be willing to accept. In fact, it will be so far out of line that even YOU wouldn't know what to do if they accept. Sounds strange but it will "get the ball rolling". It is expected that the opposition will "counter" with an offer far less than you will accept. This continues until an agreement is reached such that both parties can "live" with it - even if it's not what is truly desired on either side.

With the disparate political "cultures" operating in our country today such negotiations usually wind up with the side having the most "power" (e.g., a majority in Congress and the Senate) winning. In fact, when one side controls the Congress, the Senate, and the presidency there isn't any real negotiation. Any semblance of negotiating is a PR move while the votes are being tallied. But, the negotiation process proceeds anyway but not to real benefit to the American people. As an aside, it's important that there be a reasonable balance of viewpoints within our government. Too much power on either side winds up alienating a large portion of the population and obviating any real compromise - not a good thing to keep "The American Dream" alive.

Now, in playing this "game" you have to be careful to not get more than you bargained for or it may jeopardize the longer term strategy you have in mind.

Now, this longer term strategy is a slower but more effective in "winning" in the long run. This second, longer strategy is what the socialists have been using; i.e., repeatedly accept less than the final goal by always making the other side believe the current "settlement" is not as bad as it could be. But, I believe it backfired (see Figure 2). The socialists got more than they thought they could and, now, are stuck with an untenable financial and political situation.

Basically, you can think of it as making the other side so fearful of the outcome they are willing to settle for far less than might be in their best interests. Another way to look at this is the following example:

You need a new car and do not want to spend more than $20,000. The one you really like is $35,000. But, the seller says he'll give it to you for $27,500. Sounds like a good deal so you take it. More than you can afford - but you REALLY need the car and are afraid that another car may wind up costing a whole lot more. Bad move!!! Now you have the car but can't afford it and can't sell it, etc., much less afford the insurance, license fees, et. al.

Now, the danger of winning too much too quickly - especially in politics - is that the people will eventually see that what sounded like the "right thing to do" costs more than the country can afford, has not been thoroughly planned out, and the execution fails. Why? Since the outcome was not really expected, the winner never figured out how to get it all done. Confusion reigns and things get ugly.

The old Chinese curse, "Be careful that you don't get what you ask for.", applies BIG TIME.