Monday, June 25 , 2018, 12:43 pm | Overcast 68º


Harris Sherline: A Perfect World

It was inevitable that Obama would fail in changing America

In a perfect world there would be no wars, no poverty, no cruelty, no pollution, no problems that couldn’t be solved, no strife nor dissention among people (everyone would agree on everything). You can complete the list to suit your own view of the world and its foibles.

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

But ours is not a perfect world. It is a world that is divided by strife and conflict, and reaching one’s goals requires both realism and perseverance — qualities that aren’t always found in abundance.

People aren’t as stupid or as foolish as they are often portrayed. Whatever we may think of the things they do, for the most part they invariably act in their own self-interest. The welfare system is a good example. When a Republican-controlled Congress forced President Bill Clinton to compromise his ambitious welfare ideas and accept a more conservative approach — namely, forcing many people off the welfare rolls — the results were a startling success.

The more we — that is, the government — give to people, the longer the lines of those with outstretched hands becomes. There is never any end to it. That’s the lesson that has been repeatedly confirmed over time in every society that increases government handouts, seemingly without limit. We see this public response to government largesse in every country that has or is expanding its government programs, from welfare and health care to unemployment insurance and beyond. Greece, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Sweden and Japan are notable examples.

Politicians and bureaucrats never seem to learn that they can’t regulate and control the behavior of millions of people by edict. The basic premise of welfare states, from progressive to socialist and communist, is that it is possible to anticipate every conceivable course of action that vast numbers of people will take in their efforts to interpret and adapt to or avoid the demands of the state.

Perhaps there is no better person to comment on the failure of the welfare state than Fidel Castro, who Associated Press writer Paul Haven noted “told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work. ... The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel’s brother Raul, the country’s president, has repeatedly said the same thing. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba’s 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked (Castro) if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: ‘The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.’ ... Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has clung to its communist system. ... The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen’s food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices. ... President Raul Castro and others have instituted a series of limited economic reforms, and have warned Cubans that they need to start working harder and expecting less from the government. But the president has also made it clear he has no desire to depart from Cuba’s socialist system or embrace capitalism.”

What strikes me about this candid admission by the founder of one of the world’s few surviving communist states is that no matter how badly state-controlled societies function, there are always true believers who seem to think that it’s not the underlying concept of such governments that is wrong, it is the people who ran them who were responsible for their repeated failures. In other words, the liberals and/or progressives in society always seem to believe they can succeed where others failed because only they understand how to make it work, saying in effect, “It’s not the concept, stupid, it’s the other leaders and politicians who have been incompetent, but I (we) know how to make it work.”

But they are always wrong.

Today’s leaders don’t know any better than any of the earlier proponents of socialism and/or communism because they always fail to see the underlying reality that it is simply not possible to foresee everything people might do to adapt to government controls and regulation. No leader or group can possibly anticipate every conceivable action people can or will take to get around regulations, and no bureaucrat or group of bureaucrats is smart enough to predict everything individuals can and will do to adapt.

It’s for this reason that President Barack Obama, his administration and his political supporters ultimately will fail in their efforts to change America. It was inevitable from the outset.

The next problem for those who oppose him will be to figure out how to untangle the mess he is creating after he and his fellow travelers are no longer in control of our government.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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