Part of the problem is that an unhappy person tends to project happiness elsewhere, into other people. In other words, the unhappy person sees happiness in the people he envies. This is obviously not a true -- or even conscious -- idea of happiness, just a fantasy, often allied with projection of other primitive impulses, such as greed.
When a leftist complains about all those greedy and happy people, you can be sure he's just projecting, and that if he knew how to be happy he'd just be happy without any need to obsess over the projected emotional muddleman. In reality, no matter how much money X has, it has no impact whatsoever on my personal happiness. It can only have an effect in fantasy, and this fantasy needs to be rooted in some personal lack. For every fully functioning man has the means to happiness.
This pathological mechanism almost defines the left, since the left reduces reality to material and economic terms. Now, matter is not nothing, but it clearly isn't everything. Nevertheless, the left has managed to convince the majority that human happiness can be reduced to a crude economic metric, and that it is the task of government to force this metric up via transfers of wealth.
How's that working out? Trillions of dollars spent on the war on poverty, and the needle of human happiness hasn't budged an inch. Not only that, but because people in the meantime have bought into leftist philosophy, they imagine that the government isn't spending enough on the insane project of making them happy (instead of preserving the conditions which allow happiness, more on which below).
There is no question that the welfare state directly undermines happiness by short-circuiting its causes. To cite one obvious example, a big part of happiness involves a feeling of accomplishment for an achievement of something genuinely difficult and worthwhile. At the opposite end we have state-mandated affirmative discrimination, which can confer the effect of achievement on blacks or women or hispanics, but not the cause. But what is an achievement with no cause?
That's right: it's just narcissism, or self-deception, or theft, or cheating. Clearly it's not the real thing, and on some level, every so-called beneficiary of affirmative discrimination knows this. The only way to preserve one's dignity in such a situation is to attack the entire system as corrupt, so that genuine achievers are thought to be just lucky, or connected, or greedy, etc.
I think Obama falls into this category -- a weightless mediocretin who was effortlessly wafted to the top on the winds of white liberal guilt. A man that is literally not permitted to fail can never find true happiness, for what has he achieved? Nothing. If Obama really thought about this -- that is to say, if he were normal -- he would be embarrassed or ashamed. I mean, Ben Carson he is not, and how embarrassing for him to even be seen in the same photo.
Indeed, Obama is Carson's antitype in more ways than one, in that Carson is a man of singular accomplishment who has devoted his life to saving babies, while Obama is a vacuous demagogue and corrupt politician who has devoted his life to murdering them. (And let me emphasize that I have some sympathy for aspects of the pro-choice argument, but I cannot imagine ever being "proud" about it, nor can I imagine being so delusional as to think that abortion isn't a grave evil, irrespective of whether or not it is legal.)
Much of Obama's outlook can be attributed to his implicit awareness of the fact that he has ascended to the top of a system he thinks of as absolutely corrupt. Therefore, in order to preserve his dignity, he will be the one who "fundamentally transforms" this rotten system. He is like someone who becomes a mafia kingpin, and then decides to make the organization legitimate.
The problem is that such a person doesn't really "know anything," so he'll ultimately fail at whatever he tries. In the real world, corporate CEOs aren't just greedy and corrupt mafia godfathers. As Thomas Sowell says, if all it requires to be rich is to be greedy, then we'd all be rich. Problem solved.
Now, any system -- even the very best system in the world -- will be regarded as rotten by those who fail in it, but who cannot take responsibility for their failure. This is just human nature. Few people are brave and insightful enough to say, "I'm a loser and it's my own damn fault," especially when an attractive ideology is available to tell them that nothing is their fault. In a democracy, this can easily lead to a situation in which we have a government of, by, and for Self-deluded Losers, which was precisely one of major headaches of the founders.
In his classic Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bailyn writes that "faith ran high" among the framers
"that a better world than any that had ever been known could be built where authority was distrusted and held in constant scrutiny; where the status of men flowed from their achievements and from their personal qualities, not from distinctions ascribed to them at birth; and where the use of power over the lives of men was jealously guarded and severely restricted." Only with such a distrust of political authority could institutions spontaneously emerge to "express human aspirations, not crush them" (in Murray, emphasis mine).
The founders were quite aware of the fact that something in a man changes when he goes from private to public -- in short, when he is suddenly given access to political power. Such men are to be profoundly distrusted, especially the ones who seek it. For starters, just what personal defect(s) are they attempting to conceal or compensate for?
That one's for you, Obama.
What? You only want to "help"? Why you passive-aggressive bastard. What about the half of us who not only don't want or need your help, but regard it as destructive even to those you presume to help? When I say that I despise Obama and everything he stands for, I am obviously speaking for millions, not just the imaginary "one percent" of wealthy malefactors who have caused all our problems.
We can be sure that Obama has never had the thought, "what if the founders of this great nation were wiser than I am?" Because to even think the thought would create a contrast so odious, so ridiculous, that he'd banish it from consciousness. It would be like sitting in the shadow of Ben Carson. That won't happen again! Better to just stick with what cognitive heavyweights such as Andrew Sullivan or Chris Matthews feel about him. Ahhhh, that's better!
The founders weren't only aware of the danger of ambitious but mediocre men with power, but concerned about the source of this destructive power. In the past we have called this Loser Power. In nature, a being with no power has no power, period. There's no way to get around it. Only humans can convert loserhood into genuine political clout, making it a farce multiplier. In a quantitative world of majority rule, qualities literally do not count. If 51% believe 2+2=5, it's a done deal.
For which reason a central message of the Federalist is that Loser Power is "a danger so great and so unending that all the structures of the government must be arrayed against them," because "republics collapse when a faction is able to use the state to impose its vision of the good on the rest of society" (Murray).
Are we there yet? Or, is the left correct: that the federal government is just too small and unobtrusive?
To be continued....