Blaise Pascal is supposed to have said that we all have a God-shaped hole inside us and that only God can fill it. What he actually said was more wordy and less specific than that, but the common paraphrase is close enough.
I wonder, though, if what we really have is a security-shaped hole. We want to believe that there is an entity that cares for us, watches over us, and most importantly, has our best interests in mind. An entity that has only good intentions toward us and who works exclusively for our good and welfare.
This sounds sort of like the description of God, right? We want God to be on our side and to care and to intervene and to always be good. We want God to always be on guard against evil and to always be intervening to make our lives better, healthier, happier, and safer, either now or in the hereafter.
This description isn’t limited to Christians and Christianity. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attacks on November 13, claimed that Allah helped him pass through border security so he could carry out his mass murders. This is just one example, but look how many terrorists bombings and shootings are attributed to the assistance of Allah.
So what’s wrong with all this? Aside from the fact that bad things happen even to good people, what I’ve said so far is a simplified version of what a lot of people believe.
The problem is that there are people who don’t believe it. There are people who don’t believe in God, or at least don’t believe in an interventionist God. What do they trust if they have a security-shaped hole?
If you think about it, the role of government in the lives of people who don’t believe in God, often matches the role that believers in God assign to God. Government is always watching out for our best interests, is nearly omnipotent, all but infallible, and wants only the best for us.
Government as individuals – bureaucrats, judges, elected officials – may be less than competent or may even be corrupt. But government as an entity provides us with that security. Maybe this is why so many on the political left can’t acknowledge any failings by government, at least as long as their guys have the reins of power. Admitting that government made a mistake, or that a government program is useless or that regulations, laws, and bureaucratic edicts are harmful to individuals or to the economy would equal saying that the government is fallible. Or even worse, that sometimes government is self-serving instead of always watching out for us.
You see this played out in the calls for a $15/hour minimum wage. Some of the proponents seem to believe that the government can perform a legislative “miracle” and raise the minimum wage with no consequences. They petition and protest (pray) for government to implement this miracle. Many of them seem to have more compassion or anger than they have a grasp of basic economics.
To pick on restaurants in particular, labor is typically about 30% to 35% of the expenses for a restaurant, and the average hourly wage is between $7 and $9 per hour. So a raise to $15 will approximately double this. That makes labor 60% of expenses, instead of around 30%. So the price of your Happy Meal is going to have to go up about 30%. Or more restaurants will increase their use of automation such as the Ziosk terminal that I’ve seen in more and more places. This lets them hire fewer servers. Or they will use cheaper ingredients in the food. Some will simply go out of business.
This isn’t just restaurants; I recently read an article about a clothing manufacturer in Los Angeles who is going to have to move or close; he can’t compete with those businesses that are just outside of Los Angeles and don’t have to pay the $15 minimum wage. So it isn’t just restaurants that will feel the impact, it is any low-skill job that will be affected. Jobs will move overseas or some will just disappear completely. Any company employing low-wage workers that can’t move and wants to stay open will have to raise prices.
We might all want a $15 hour minimum wage, but we can’t assume that our neighbors will pay the increased prices that will result. We all will.
The point isn’t to delve into the politics of an increased minimum wage, that’s just an example. The point is to demonstrate that on this topic, as with many others, people seem to assign to the government a power to dispense with economic realities, physical laws, and human nature. It is as if we believe that the government has the miraculous, God-like power to proclaim something to be so, and all the natural and mathematical laws must bend to its will.
I can’t say that blind devotion to something is unique to those who don’t believe in God. Galileo was persecuted by the church because he stated that the world wasn’t the center of the universe. The problem for the church wasn’t just that they said that the sun revolved around the earth; that was just a conclusion based on incomplete knowledge that was turned into a doctrine. The real problem for the church was that admitting the truth meant that they had been wrong and were therefore fallible. And the infallibility of the church was an important doctrine that couldn’t be challenged without a lot of other things changing. It was easier to “kill the messenger”.
Lest people claim it’s only the church that does this, look at the people who petitioned the government to use Federal RICO anti-racketeering statutes to prosecute anyone who publically opposed global warming theories. They literally wanted to put people in jail for disagreeing with them. Anyone else see any parallels here?
What do you think? Is government a substitute god for some people? Does this explain some of the seemingly irrational excuses that people make for failed government programs? Is a desire to be cared for and protected by a higher entity a driving force in the blind faith that some people have in government power? Or have I oversimplified something much more complex?