Thoreau’s Dilemma

I heard this (quasi-)syllogism a long time ago: 1) The government spends too MUCH (overall); And: 2) The government spends too LITTLE on: [the speaker’s] particular area of interest.

The jury’s definitely in on proposition #1; even John Maynard Keynes couldn’t mount a credible argument against it. But in Ontario, we’ll be hearing impassioned pleas on #2 for some considerable time to come.

The trick with dealing with “#2″ arguments (other than labeling them as “#2″) is calling them for what they are: Wishes, wants, preferences, luxuries and the like, NOT “needs”.  The piper’s demand letter has just arrived; it’ll put a damper on all the ‘feel good’ spending Ontarians have come to expect.

Thoreau suggested that one of the keys to maintaining a sense of well-being was the ability to distinguish wants from needs. It’s a talent for discrimination that’s seemingly lost on all those folks lining up in front of legislatures and attending town counsel meetings to decry the lack of money for stuff like (free) drama lessons for seniors and equine therapy (for non-equines).

In my community, time and time again, I’ve seen town council fold like a cheap suit to persistent and vocal demands for all kinds of non-essential spending, usually supported by the flimsiest of benefit arguments, apart from the mushy feelgood aspect, of course.

I think even the dumbest of spendthrifts is probably starting to realize the future was mortgaged some time ago and it’s only a question of which succeeding generation non-essential spending is being passed on to. All kinds of stuff is going to have to be subjected to the cold glare of the need/want filter.

The starting point for ‘need assessment’ is in your own pocket – if someone else doesn’t pay for it, will you be required to and actually reach into your own pocket for it? If not, don’t bother asking.

This entry was posted in Thinking out loud. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.