The closest I ever came to flying a plane was sitting next to a colleague who was piloting a small plane. But even I know that what enables a plane to fly is lift. As the plane moves forward, the angle and shape of the wings cause the air rushing by to produce an upward force. This lift must exceed the drag caused by the friction of the air, and still be enough to counter the plane’s weight.
Unlike balloons or blimps, airplanes are heavier than air. Without enough lift, they fall. If the speed drops below the amount needed to produce that lift, they fall. This is called a stall. When a car engine stalls, you pull to the side of the road and try to restart it. When an aircraft stalls, you crash.
When the stall warning sounded repeatedly on Air France 447, the two first officers were confused by conflicting data, so they ignored the warnings. Instead of putting the plane’s nose down to gain speed, the man at the controls kept it in a nose-upward attitude.
Perhaps he felt instinctively that when he was in trouble, he should try to climb higher. But instinctive feelings are dangerous guides when one faces a complex problem. The two less-experienced first officers realized they were in over their heads and called for the captain, who was resting.
When the captain returned to the flight deck and realized what was wrong, he ordered that the plane descend in an attempt to regain speed and therefore lift. But by then it was too late. The stall had reached an unrecoverable stage. The plane crashed into the Atlantic, and all 228 persons aboard were killed.
What is true for aircraft is also true for individuals and for nations. We all have weight to lift. If we can’t generate the force to do so, gravity inevitably pulls us down. This weight includes our own weight, plus the weight of those who are not pulling their own weight and depend on us to lift them. Individuals − and nations − have a finite amount of strength. Individuals − and nations − can tolerate only a finite number of freeloaders. If this number is exceeded, individuals − and nations − are inexorably pulled down.
The problem is that the maximum number of freeloaders is knowable only in retrospect, after the final descent begins. The trick is to anticipate this point before it occurs, and to reduce the number of freeloaders before they overwhelm our capacity to produce lift.
If you doubt this, look at the show-business personalities who are pulled down by freeloading or actively destructive spouses, friends, hangers-on, and business associates − not to mention enablers who supply alcohol or drugs. Similarly, look at Europe, where 60 years of socialism have produced a myriad of hangers-on who supply little or nothing, but take freely from the decreasing number of productive citizens.
And look at the enablers − the self-serving politicians who pander to citizens to get their votes by offering benefits that are as addicting as heroin or cocaine. Politicians who induce citizens to accept government benefits are similar to pushers who hand out free drug samples in order to “hook” people into addiction. They both are destructive to society. Which are more destructive remains to be seen, but I’m betting on the politicians. A nation can tolerate a relatively small number of addicts, but I doubt it can persist as a republic if over 50% of the people receive government handouts.
More weight pulling these nations down, more drag holding them back, but less forward thrust to produce lift − and there you go.
We all face friction that tends to hold us back. Sometimes this friction is inherent in the situation. Moving forward through air causes friction. Moving forward in other ways also causes friction, but often the friction is due to lazy, selfish, ignorant, or actively obstructive people. As cities grow larger and more crowded, and organizations do the same, friction will increase. But must it increase this much?
Must petty bureaucrats exercise their crumb of authority by stifling the productive with a host of regulations? Can’t bureaucrats at least make an effort to reduce friction by being a bit more helpful and a bit less rigid? No, they can’t − it’s not in their nature. The only answer is to reduce the number of bureaucrats. More bureaucrats = more friction. It’s that simple.
But what about us? What should America do, now that we are in trouble? We clearly are burdened with increasing weight. Already 48.5% of Americans receive direct federal benefits. If ObamaCare isn’t repealed, that figure will become 100%. No, these people aren’t all freeloaders. Many are productive. But with more freeloaders and fewer productive citizens, it doesn’t take a prophet to foresee where we are headed.
Liberal politicians create more dependency on government to create more Democratic voters. But as they do this, they are also creating more weight that tends to pull the republic down. And at some point, the weight will exceed the lift. And then we will all crash, the productive and the unproductive, the conservatives and the liberals, the thoughtful and the unaware, the passengers and the crew − all of us.
We are like Air France 447, at a high altitude where the air is thinner. As our weight increases, so does our drag, with thousands of new regulations added every year to slow us down. And mountainous debt continues to accumulate, burdening us and our progeny with debt payments. At the same time, our engines are being throttled back, generating less forward thrust, and thus less lift.
Drill for oil? Build the pipeline? Unleash industry? Free innovation? No, choke off all these engines of progress. Pass laws and issue regulations adding up to thousands of pages annually. No one really knows what they contain, so everyone is subject to the whims of bureaucrats who interpret those regulations to suit themselves.
People are uncertain what to do, so they do as little as possible. They don’t start new businesses, for fear that new regulations will make the businesses unprofitable. They don’t expand old businesses or hire new employees, for fear that they will be required to supply an unpredictable amount of expanded health insurance and other benefits that will render the business unprofitable.
A nation with an arbitrary, capricious government cannot be free. Free people need written laws that they can read and follow. Employees do whatever the boss says. Who knows? Tomorrow he may say something else. That’s what employees do. But employees can quit. Peons also do whatever the boss says, but they can’t quit. They aren’t even allowed to decide what to give their children for lunch. They do as they’re told and keep quiet. That’s what peons do.
Like the inexperienced copilots of Air France 447, President Obama and his aides are pulling back on the stick, attempting to reach new heights of government intrusion into our lives, and new levels of astronomical spending for pie-in-the-sky programs that may not be workable, but surely will reduce our freedom.
More weight + more drag + less thrust = less lift. This is true for aircraft, for individuals, and for nations. The stall warning is already sounding. Let us heed it before we enter an unrecoverable stall and crash our republic.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.