Somehow it’s happened. Terrestrial and temporal authorities, —presidents, legislators and judges, et al. have, at least in the developed world, as well as in much of the undeveloped world, pretty much replaced the spiritual authorities of the past, of the Middle Ages, –emperors, kings, priests, and the like. We may have once looked to king and religious authority to look out for us, to protect and care for us, but no more.
Now we look to our elected representatives. And we expect more from them than we ever did from prince or priest.
And isn’t it now the unrealistic expectation of the people of their government in regard to expected benefits the principal source of the government’s problems? For governments, our government, those of China, Russia, Japan, France, probably all governments (except perhaps a hypothetical but not yet established Muslim or Jewish state) can no longer satisfy their populations, as say in the Middle Ages, simply by telling them that prayer was enough, or even praying along with them.
Now governments have to deal with reality, have to actually provide their peoples with food, shelter, and jobs. And that task, as people make more and more demands on their governments, that task becomes more and more difficult, quite out of reach in most countries, as certainly in my wife’s country, France, as in my own country, the United States, or more and more outright impossible as in Russia and Ukraine, Greece, and any number of other countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa.
Take a look below at he 2013 spending budget of the United States. Our government’s non-defense discretionary budget which under the rule of king or pontiff might have represented most of the available funds at the ruler’s disposal, is now only 17% of the total, and of that less than 1% actually goes to the government, to the rulers themselves, the rest to various interest groups of the people.
The remaining 83% of the 2013 budget, some $3 trillion goes to the “needs” of the people, for health care, old age security, and defense. Compounding our problem today is that the “needs” of the people had been too extravagantly met by prior governments who had, perhaps, more funds at their disposal, and now, when funds are no longer available it’s almost impossible in order to reduce their obligations to their peoples to redefine the people’s own understanding of their “needs”.
Today government budgets, our government’s budget, are set up to meet the needs, or assumed needs of the people (as opposed to earlier periods in our history when the needs of the spiritual authorities, the kings and the priests, often came first for the budget makers).
However, as we have learned the people’s needs can never be satisfactorily met by the government’s means. The result being that present day history is mostly about governments trying to lessen their obligations to their peoples in the interest of lowering their debt burden. And of course when they take things away, things the people thought were theirs, the representatives of the people are regularly voted out of office, resulting at best with a new team in place with no more chance of success than its predecessor.
What seems to have happened in the modern world is that governments have learned to their extreme distress that the needs of the people are infinite and that their own means, their wealth is altogether finite. And governments, no more than their peoples, have a God to turn to.
In order to be elected and be reelected and remain in office candidates had to make promises, and those who promised the most and were most believed were elected and immediately set about to fulfill their promises, almost as if they didn’t know that their means were finite and the demands of their constituencies infinite. At best they borrowed funds to help with the impossible task, at worst they printed their own money.
And that’s where we are today. All of us. More or less in debt. Talking about growing our economies and creating more jobs and more wealth, but for the moment facing high unemployment rates especially among the young, and if occasionally not going further and further into debt, doing little or usually nothing to reduce the actual debt, which is in the United States, as of today, April 17, 2014, $16,787,451,118,147, that costing us a quarter of a trillion dollars in annual interest payments.
If you’re not used to 15 figures, that’s trillions of dollars. To put that in context the GDP of the United States is about the same amount, $16.8 trillion. And to put that in an even larger context that’s a bit more than 20% of a world (GWP) of $85 trillion.