Why Did Ireland Implode? (And What Can We Learn From That Debacle?)
A top news story this morning is about a woman in Michigan who won US$1 million in the lottery. She took the lump-sum payout option and, after taxes, came away with US$500,000.
The story isn’t about her winning the lottery, but about the fact that she’s still, legally, receiving food stamps, because she’s not working.
Michigan state legislators are scrambling to pass a law to rectify the loophole, but the situation is a great example of what’s wrong in the United States and elsewhere.
Talk about government inefficiency. One agency hands out a check for a half-million dollars and another one continues to dole out US$200 a week.
Even the most liberal socialist has to see how ridiculous this is. Taxing the rich to feed the unemployed may sound like a good, socially productive shift of wealth, in theory, but how can anyone think that it makes any sense for this woman to continue receiving food stamps? The truth is, I haven’t read about anyone who does think it makes sense…except the woman herself!
The woman is arguing that she has bills to pay, because, you know, now she has two houses to keep up. Michigan taxpayers should be storming this woman’s house (if they can figure out which one she’s living in), demanding their money back.
Which gets at the real point. This woman, like so many, seems to think it’s her right to continue to receive food stamps even though she now has a net worth that is five times the median net worth in the United States (give or take, depending which statistics you reference).
An Upside-Down Way Of Thinking
Living, working, and running a business in Ireland years ago, Kathie and I were shocked to discover that being on the dole in that country is almost a badge of pride. Anyway, nobody seems bothered by it, and many in our experience considered it a viable option to gainful employment.
Kathie and I went to lunch one day when we were running our business in Waterford and returned to the office to find that our Fulfillment Manager was gone. He’d quit. With no notice. No explanation. It was no loss for the business, and we didn’t give it much thought beyond making a plan for his replacement…
Until a week or so later when we received a notice from the local unemployment office explaining that the guy had applied for benefits. He was signing himself up for the dole. Having just quit a reasonable job where he was making a reasonable wage. No explanation seemed required for him to qualify…and the guy went on to collect unemployment for many months.
Another employee explained to us one day, soberly and matter-of-factly, that “the government is there to take care of us if we don’t have a job. If we do have a job, then the employer is there to take care of us…”
In other words, as she saw things, Kathie and I were there to make sure she was comfortable and well cared for.
From our point of view, she was there to work hard. In return, we’d agreed to pay her a fare wage.
This upside-down mentality that we first encountered so directly when trying to run a business in Ireland is, unfortunately, more common than we like to think. And, as the disease spreads and more and more people in the United States and elsewhere opt to pass off responsibility for themselves to their governments, those of us paying the bills (the employed, the business owners, the entrepreneurs) are going to look for options. For ways out. It’s a straightforward cause-and-effect situation…and a formula for disaster in the United States.
Ireland achieved an unprecedented level of prosperity (relative to this country’s history) in the late 1980s and through the 1990s…only to implode. All in the span of a single generation.
What went wrong? Loads of things that we could speak about another day. But one fundamental, underlying cause of the economic boom and bust that has played out so spectacularly in Ireland over the past couple of decades is the entitlement attitude engrained in much of that country’s population.
The United States, very unfortunately, is moving down a similar path.
And productive Americans who are happy to take responsibility for themselves and their families aren’t going to stick around to pick up the tab. Especially not when they’ve got many appealing options for moving on.