David Brooks had the last must-read column of 2009. In, "The God That Fails" he wrote:
During the middle third of the 20th century, Americans had impressive faith in their own institutions. It was not because these institutions always worked well. The Congress and the Federal Reserve exacerbated the Great Depression. The military made horrific mistakes during World War II, which led to American planes bombing American troops and American torpedoes sinking ships with American prisoners of war.
But there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.
Remember when government used to be considered a safety net? As libertarians, we can make all of the arguments against form of welfare. In reality, few of us have a problem with government-as-safety-net. We'll find a way to rationalize not having orphans starving on American streets. We'll call starving children an externality - or something.
Government, though, is no longer a safety net. It's not something you fall back on. Government is a hammock. It's supposed to be ever present so that you may check out of life. Consider the recent Gulf of Tonkin Incident attempted terrorist attack.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.
Even better: In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, "An airplane isn't a school bus, and you are not children. If something seems suspicious, speak up. The lives of you and your fellow Americans depend upon all of us taking responsibility for our own safety - and for the safety of our countrymen. Act like adults."
Instead, Obama will fire someone for "failing." Yet no one failed. In a human system, terrorists will slip through. Life is uncertain.
Your children might be kidnapped today, and sold into sexual slavery. Your spouse might be raped. You might be mugged, or raped. Someone might steal your dog, and sell it to a cosmetics factory that will torture your faithful friend so that women can have pretty lip stick. Your face might burn off when you reach down towards your oven. A car crash might put you in a wheel chair for the rest of your life. You might slip in the shower, shattering your pelvis. Even less improbably than everything I just listed: You might die in a terrorist attack.
The government cannot eliminate risk. The government can mitigate risk, and indeed the government has. Since 9/11, how many Americans have been murdered on American soil by Muslim terrorists? The system is working. That one idiot out of hundreds-of-millions of post-9/11 fliers slipped through security should validate the government.
That the people in the airplane with the Nigerian fire starter actually did something should make us all feel better. At least some people got the memo: Take responsibility for your own life.
It's time for Obama to stop treating Americans like children. He must give a candid lecture on the risks associated with terrorism. He must tell Americans to remain vigilant - to be adults.
He must also lead from the front. Effective immediately, he must end the Bailouts. The biggest children in the United States right not are drooling TV watchers. I fear people who watch American Idol much less than those who read the Financial Times.
No, the biggest children are union workers and Wall Street banksters. Like children, the United Auto Workers and Wall Street banksters destroyed entire industries. Very well. They are all over 18 years of age. Let them clean up their own messes.
It's time that we as a nation grow up. Government should exist as a safety net. People should not be starving in the streets. The safety net should be strong, but it should also be low. Goldman Sachs will pay record bonuses this year. UAW workers haven't seen meaningful cuts to their pensions. Government has, for Wall Street and labor unions, become a hammock.
It's time for all of us to grow up...Starting with President Barack Obama.