I’ve wondered ever since I was young, back in the 1960s, why governments in the USA always seem to be “cracking down” on something or other — usually recreational drug use.
I think the fundamental answer is simple. This was never, PRIMARILY, “the land of the free”. It was really the land of “work hard and keep your nose clean.” And when it started to stop being that back in the 1960s a lot of people became very nervous and very angry.
We’ve had two great streams of sentiment working together for almost 400 years in the USA. Those streams were puritanism and “the American Dream”, aka greed. They both seem now to be fundamental to the American psyche. Which is not surprising, since they were the two main reasons that our forefathers went to the considerable trouble of coming here in the first place — either to set up a community where everyone “did right”, or to get rich, or both.
Those two great purposes reinforced each other throughout most of the history of the USA. They both put a premium on self control and self-denial in pursuit of long-term goals, and one of them added to the mix that the bonus feature of a dire threat of horrible, eternal punishment if one disobeyed.
The country — or rather, its capital owners — got rich as a result.
In fact, for us it went just about the way things are starting to go in China now, and for the same reason: The population is naturally oriented toward striving and work.
But in the USA the machine started to look like it was going off the rails about 40 years ago. The 1950s was a period of great prosperity for the USA. It was followed in the 1960s by a great explosion of young people coming of age at about the same time. After growing up during that 1950s prosperity, millions of those young people now had every reason to feel safe in following youth’s natural hedonism.
Those kids went wild! And The Owners of this society (and, through employment, of most of its people!) have been cracking down to bring the society into line ever since. It’s just that simple folks*.
Still don’t understand what I’m getting at? Ask yourself this: What would the Chinese government do if drug use and liberal thought started to become widespread there? I guess you can picture a scenario unfolding there that would mirror what’s gone on here since the 1960s, only better organized.
The principle here is one that everyone intuitively knows, but just doesn’t think about much. To make most ordinary people work to the max you need both a carrot AND a stick. Greed and fear aid each other. It’s a natural balance. And during those times when the carrot grows less appetizing because the donkey is focusing on today’s pleasures, you have to wield that stick harder to restore the balance.
But why does the donkey have to work so hard in the first place? After all, in Europe (my Shangri-La) they hit a balance for a while there that was a lot more in favor of hedonism than here, and yet those countries prospered. Why does everyone in the USA and China, by contrast, have to work super-hard, seemingly forever?
Well, the Chinese government is looking to stay in power, so it’s trying to placate the population by fulfilling their greed. And in the USA federal and local governments are doing about the same thing, only the main people they have to placate are The Owners of Capital (and givers of campaign contributions), for whom greed is a way of life.
Luckily for our Owners and the Chinese rulers, the competition between the two countries is now strongly motivating folks in both countries to work harder. In the USA the world market is now providing all the stick any donkey driver could need.
Look for our laws on drugs, etc., to get a bit laxer soon. No artificial terrorizing is now necessary.
*Well, not really. This is a rhetorical statement. Obviously many other factors, such as worry about the safety and health of our children, have motivated this generation-long crackdown on all forms of drug taking. What I’m doing here is looking for THE most fundamental motivation for the crackdown. Without such a universal motivation that is very powerful and functions at the wellsprings of our culture, people in government wouldn’t have been willing to go on with the crackdown for so long, though it has done so much harm to so many people, particularly users and sellers of the innocuous drug marijuana.