What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer

Every morning, millions of Americans turn the key. What happens next tells us a great deal about why society is about to fall apart, unless we do what is needed to keep it functioning.

Almost without thinking about it, each day, Americans place the key into their car’s ignition switch, turn it, and the car springs to, as it were, life.

Rarely do we give any thought to the innumerable things that have to go right, in order for us to get the car started, to get it onto the road, steer it, and brake when necessary. We give little thought to the oil lubricating the engine parts, the coolant and thermostat keeping the engine at the right temperature, and the vast complexity of all the working parts that must not only work, they must also work together.

Once in awhile something goes wrong. A spark plug fails to spark, a motor leaks fluid, or perhaps worst of all, the engine’s computer shorts out. When that happens, there is usually a quick fix. Replace the belt.  Adjust the air intake. Get new brake pads.

Sometimes, that one quick fix makes everything right again. At other times, that one little problem, unnoticed at first, causes other, bigger problems, and soon the entire machine becomes an expensive piece of junk, more dangerous than functional.

The point is that society on the whole is a lot more complex than your car. It takes a lot of things working right, and working together, to keep the lights on, the food supplies flowing, and the roads from becoming cratered with potholes. Look at Detroit. Many of its once-elegant neighborhoods, where lived working families enjoying the good life, are now trash heaps overgrown with wild plants and inhabited by rats. The photographs are online, and they are both poignant and shocking.

Like an expensive automobile, society works well precisely because it is so complex that no one person has a complete knowledge of what makes it work. And like that same, high performance automobile, a single, failing part can make it wreck.

This is why it is so terribly difficult for social conservatives to sound the alarm and be taken seriously. One is reminded of the joke in which the car mechanic tells the driver that his car is out of gas. The driver asks, will it hurt the car if I drive it anyway?

Likewise, liberal solutions to complex social problems are fatally simplistic. Instead of teaching a man to fish, liberals wish only to give him a fish—one every day for the rest of his life. It is far more complex to explain why it is better not only to teach the man to fish, but to teach him the entire panoply of necessary life skills, such as thrift, productivity, educational excellence, and yes, personal discipline of the sort that prevents out-of-wedlock births.

The elements of culture that have made our society wildly successful are many and varied. Key ingredients in that culture are now eroding, being neglected, and even disparaged. In response, liberals wring their hands and complain that not enough money is being thrown at social problems. All we need is for bigger government to give us more free stuff, and all will supposedly be well. Tax the rich. Kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Those actions will only make matters worse. The warning lights on the dash panel are all lit, but we drive onward anyway. Night will soon fall, and we do not notice that our headlights are broken.

At least the radio still works.

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