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1.10.10

The Family That Prays Together...

American families and friends are joining forces to survive the new depression.

It's about damn time! Having lived in the 'third world' for close to three years now, I for one celebrate this new direction in American cultural dynamics. Frankly, the primary difference between 'advanced' nations and 'developing' countries is the destruction of families. The only major advance that is so-called 'first' and 'second' world offers is the complete ruin of families, and the subsequent reliance on Big Brother for the daily bread and butter. The unintended (or was it intended) consequence of FDR's Social Security and LBJ's Great Society was the undermining of the family unit and the of the father as ultimate authority.

Here in Indonesia, there are low taxes, strong families and a complete reliance on self for survival. The result is a weak government, cheap health care and expanded economic opportunities. In other words, America could stand to learn from the 'developing' world.

In Indonesia, there is no MediCare or MediCaid, no Social Security, no welfare or subsidized housing, no food stamps, and a nearly 100% cash society. As a result, taxes are low, government regulation and control is virtually non-existant and families are strong and cohesive. The father is the ultimate authority and his value to society is judged by the success of his family. The family helps its own, with multiple generations living in a single or group of houses. All members of the family are expected to contribute to the overall needs of the family, and even children who move away to other locations for work send home monthly stipends. The family contributes to educating the children and by pooling resources, can hope to get some or all through collage so that they can improve their income and thus contribute greater amounts to the family wealth.

Health care is cheap and there are multiple alternatives. One can get therapeutic massage, two hours for less than $5. One can choose traditional hearbalists, acupuncture, western-style pill-popping, and any of a number of other options, for low cost and easy access. Doctors build up their practices because they are effective, not because they have a staff good at milking the government teat, and they compete with the traditional herbalists and reflexologists. A doctor visit runs about $18, and that is not a co-pay, that is the out-of-pocket cash price. If the individual requires surgery or long-term care, the family shares the burden, not the society. All decisions regarding a member's care are kept within the family and not delegated to some anonymous review board or (God forbid) a government agency.

Due to a virtual lack of government regulation and no army of tax-paid nincompoops with guns running around enforcing laws willy-nilly, the family can freely pursue many avenues to generate income. If the house has a large forecourt and there is a good cook in the family, they can open a small restaurant in front. No licenses, permits or jack-booted thugs demanding a cut. The only regulation is the market. If the food is good, the portions fair and the price reasonable, the customers come. If it gets a reputation for making people sick, they stop coming. Very simple and effective and uses no tax money whatsoever. Grandma can take in laundry. Mom can open a small store. Dad can operate a motorcycle repair. If you are good at something, you open your own business; no DBA, no permits, no bullshit. Dad is expected to have the job outside to bring in the paycheck, but Mom can operate any number of businesses out of the house while watching the kids and there's no need to day-care.

For those who go off in search of work, there are rooms for rent, called kost, that run about $40 a month, and a bowl of meatball soup costs around 50 cents. If you are fairly successful, you can rent a house for less than $2,000 per year, your monthly electric bill for high usage runs about $30, and you can eat pretty darned good for far less than $100 per month. If things are going really well, you can buy a house in many areas for around $25,000 for three bedrooms, and you can run businesses out of the house to make it pay for itself without burdensome government interference. You can buy a motorcycle, no frills, for $1,000,and you can help pay for it by charging folks for short rides (called ojek), or you can use the public transportation (most of which is privately owned) for less than a dollar a day to go pretty much anywhere in the city. You can completely gut the house and remodel it without a single permit or license, if you want.

The long-term result is that people rely on themselves for their own well-being. Taxes are low because there are no services from government, no regulations to enforce and people generally never consider looking to government for help of any kind. In fact, there is no equivalent expression in Indonesian for, "There oughta be a law." Government agents don't carry guns and most people simply ignore them. What a great system!

What's the downside? You are responsible for your own mistakes. Success or failure is entirely your own. The well-being of the family requires strong leadership from the father and he is given more-or-less free rein to operate. The family is self-regulating. If there is an abusive member, the family deals with it. Problems are addressed inside the family and the government leaches are not allowed into the circle.

The whole point here, is that once a society turns to some 'authority' to police itself and to provide 'security' for it, then the natural result is rising taxes, lower efficiency, intrusive regulation, and destruction of the social and cultural core: the family. Once the family is destroyed, civil society breaks down, gangs roam freely and the moral and ethical fabric unravels. When that happens, then corporations become predatory, greed becomes the norm and government becomes authoritarian, if not outright totalitarian. One need look no further than America at this moment to see the results. Beginning with FDR and culminating with Obama, the country has unwound itself, with the concomitant destruction of society and economy. Once public servants became 'authorities,' then people stopped thinking for themselves. Once government became the provider of 'social welfare,' society stopped caring for itself. Once society looked to 'law' for moral direction, it stopped worrying about right or wrong. To support the outcome, it was necessary to tax the individual into poverty and borrow against posterity in order to maintain the facade, while the interior living space degraded into unlivable conditions.

How can America call itself advanced when it has legislated and mandated that every individual remain a child for life? Unable to mature into adults, enforced by the threat of death, the country has devolved into chaos and poverty, not just for its current inhabitants, but for generations to come. What would be if America had chosen to build a Great Society without the help of government? What if it had chosen to strengthen families and clear the path for individual success? What if?

Indonesia is by no means perfect, but if it stays on its current path and rejects an increased role for government in the daily life of the family, it may become a greater society than even America ever dreamed. It will certainly be mentally and spiritually healthier than the rotted out soul that is America today.

There are many lessons to be learned from the 'third world.'

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