Friday, March 22, 2013

America's Entitlement Crisis and the Marshmallow test

Many citizens are confronting this harsh reality:   The US cannot keep up with its entitlements.  Welfare, Social Security, and many other government programs designed to help the weak and the old and the temporarily incapacitated, are going to fail.  Eventually.  Maybe sooner than most want to believe.

This crisis will open the floodgates for all kind of evildoers.  Nature instructs here.  Not all, but most animals instinctively exploit, desert or kill off the weak.  With the US showing signs of collapsing under the weight of government programs, Korea, the Middle East, Russia and China will naturally seek to gain.

As the US wrestles with moral issues that are implicit in helping those who cannot help themselves and as the US tries to develop more ways for government to help, it only succeeds in burying itself more thoroughly.  Meanwhile, other world powers regroup, rethink and react.  My opinion: The world is too big, too complicated and too diverse and no set of politicians regardless of philosophical underpinnings can untangle the mess.  At the risk of sounding trite or perhaps fatalistic ....I think that only the strong will survive.

Maybe it is time to think about how we got where we are so at least those who do emerge from the inevitable chaos in one piece can avoid the mistakes of the past.

I was reminded recently of the famous marshmallow studies of Walter Mischel.  Four year old children were offered one marshmallow, which they could eat right away, or a promise of two marshmallows, if they could just wait a few hours.  These children were then followed-up and, not surprisingly, the children who were able to delay the marshmallow reward (at the age of 4) were also the more successful adults.

If this test were given to a large group of American children, a large group of Chinese children, a large group of Iranian children and a large group of Norwegian children what story would the numbers tell?  In other words, can a test as simple as this predict which nation is best prepared for success?

In our own homeschools,  we try to have our kids work harder than the average kid.  We ask them to delay a present reward  for a greater and later reward.  We might tell them that they cannot attend a sleep-over because the next day they are facing a science test.  We might suggest that they not watch any TV during the week so that they have more evening time for reading and studying.  In these efforts we succeed or we fail and a pattern emerges which can follow a kid through life.  Add to this outcome the long-standing national concept that "we can have it all!"   How can a nation that knows not how to delay gratification and that at the same time promotes the idea of having it all have ended up anywhere else but in this utterly vacuous and deadly space - the squalor of the moocher state?

The inability to make do with less is why we continue to borrow money from China (money we cannot and will never be able to repay).  We want to be able to provide hip replacements for poverty-stricken seniors, give gallons of milk to moms on welfare, and offer special services in our schools for children with learning differences.  All of these things seem necessary, I agree.  It sounds like a good idea.  Yet, we continue to whistle in the dark ....even when intellectually we know there really is a big, bad guy hiding in the shadows.  And it is not China.  Nor Russia.  It is ourselves.  It is the American mind-set ....demanding to have all of its treats today without a thought of tomorrow.

Yes, we are the generation that grabbed the marshmallow that was offered, the moment it was offered.

God help us.