I think as of lately everyone has been thinking or at least heard of the worldwide economic woes. As a college student I would imagine that I have quite a bit of insulation from the direct effects, but I still hear from friends and family what is happening. Today I decided to "dig a little deeper" and decided to check the most reliable source of information available to me, youTube. I watched a presentation from a representative of the GAO on the financial status of the United States projected into the near future. Most of what I gathered from the presentation was that Americans don't live within their means. Obviously the presentation was referring to national budget deficit, but throughout history government has displayed the same weaknesses as its individuals have. Considering the converse, governments also embody the same strengths that the individuals that compose the nation possess. Ultimately we as a people are responsible for the actions of the government because we are the ones who grant it power and influence its direction through the electoral process. I have said to myself many times, "Yeah, the government isn't doing what I think is best, but I can't change it because there are people out there who don't understand. They can't see the issues as clearly as I can." And I resign myself to defeat.
However, if it is the case that one has obtained further enlightenment on a certain issue, they have also received with it the duty and obligation to be the voice of counsel and warning to those who are less informed. To draw a simple parallel, consider the story of Noah and the Arc. Noah, one who has enlightened knowledge, earnestly seeks to warn and counsel those around him of impending doom. Instead of resigning his post he works hard to teach and warn those around him. Of course, no one payed attention and we all know the rest of the story and what happened to those who kept their head in the sand.
How does this relate? Repeatedly I have heard of the greed of Americans and their lack of self control. The American Dream as I remember it being taught to me by my elementary school teachers was that someone who worked hard and was dedicated could make a living for himself and his family. Now I see a quite different dream, it goes something like this... I am an American, I have gone to school, I am working now and earning a decent salary. I want to enjoy all of the niceties of life and fulfill the American Dream, but I don't want to have to wait, I want the benefits before I actually do the work. Thus we see the beginnings of personal debt as our over sized eyes want more than our hands can earn. One principal that I learned from a presentation on finances as a teenager was, "If you want to stay out of debt, keep the big 'I' bigger than the big 'E' ". Obviously this was in reference to I - Income and E - Expenses. So, that seems pretty simple, don't spend more money than you earn.
Unfortunately that is not what we see across the board. Not only in finances, but in other aspects of life as well. For example, we all know that the key to staying fit and in shape is to make sure that the amount of energy that you consume is displaced by an equal amount of energy used by the body in both exercise and natural metabolic processes. However, once again we find that many of the American population fail to understand this related and equally true principle. Many complain of being obese, but lack the discipline to change it. (As a disclaimer I am not advocating society's notion of what "in shape" means, I personally feel there is a huge difference between being skinny and being healthy, thus my comments concern those who are blatantly unhealthy)
The driving factor behind each of these problems is the same, a lack of self control. A desire for greater things is natural and healthy, it was placed in us by divine appointment. However, those desires and appetites are also to be kept in check. We as individuals are to be the masters of our bodies. We are to control them, not to be controlled by them. By not suppressing natural desires and appetites we forfeit what we truly want for what we want right now. Sadly, this is a lesson that isn't learned until the day for change has past.
So what do we do about the economy? We have heard the voice of caution, the stock market numbers have been falling, loans have been defaulted, banks are failing, yet what have we learned and how are we going to change our actions? If we were overzealous in lending money to those who reasonably did not have the means to pay them back, will we be more moderate in our lust for bigger houses in the future so that we don't fall right back into the same trap?
The reasonable conclusion would seem to be no. Why would we? We are smart. It makes me think of a dog who has eaten something that he shouldn't. Often such a dog will wobble around until the nausea is overwhelming and he barfs whatever was causing him so much discomfort. But then, just as the dog has purged itself of the toxin, many times it will immediately lick up its own vomit. Hopefully we will express greater intelligence and wisdom than dogs commonly do so as to avoid this pitfall. Lets realize what is ailing us and put it behind us, not perpetuate the infectious cause.