It seems to me, if we want to eliminate the scourge of drugs, stop our children from joining gangs, and prevent the youth from traveling abroad to bolster terrorist groups, what we need to do is give them a sense of ownership in our society. Mencius said, “The people constitute the way (Tao). Thus the hearts of those who have a stake in the country are fixed and those who have no stake in the country are not fixed; and if they have no stake they let themselves go in vice and extravagance…” That advice is as relevant today as it was in 500 BC. A stake, or ownership in the nation, society and culture is essential to a person’s self worth and sense of future. When that stake is taken away the individual becomes careless about society, the culture and government. We see this plainly in the results of the Frankfurt school of philosophy when it was introduced into American culture in the early 1960s. If you want a better life for your children and yourself, it is up to you to make sure we all have a stake, else our standard of living will dwindle along with the fortunes of our society.
When people own their own home everyone keeps it up much better than when they rent. That is an established fact. People are at heart rational maximizers. Any rational person will maintain what they own and let go that which they do not own. This has been proven over and over in cultural experiments. In the slums of South America, when the impoverished are given title to the shacks and land they are on, those shacks get maintained, fences get built around them to protect them, they get painted and expanded. Those who do not have a deed on their shacks let them rot into the ground, because they could be bulldozed down at any moment or someone will simply come and take it from them. That is the crux, when someone has title, their stake is protected, but when someone could be tossed out at a moment’s notice, why should they maintain it for some usurper?
A nation is like a home. In nations with Right government, those countries protect the property of the people, they protect the lives of the people, apply law equally and they provide a framework that allow people to get ahead, if they work hard… and get rich if they both work hard, take chances and are smart. A nation can be allowed to deteriorate by negligence or it can be built up by elbow grease. Let the roof on a home rot away and the rest of the house quickly becomes uninhabitable, let the laws of a nation become corroded by arbitrary enforcement, and the nation rots from the inside. Break the foundation of a home and it crumbles to the ground, smash the foundation of a society and it collapses from the first wind of crisis. Give the people a stake and they will maintain it, take that stake away, and they will allow it to fall to the ground.
How does one give the people a stake in a country, culture and society? By several means. Protect the foundation of that nation by protecting the societal myth is critical. The constitution of those countries with one is that foundational societal myth. When someone destroys the constitution, they destroy the nation that was built upon it, no differently than when the foundation of a house is smashed the house falls in. To do that we must keep those who despise the constitution from having power over it. There will always be those who seek to destroy a constitution by conniving. Those people are villains of the most heinous sort.
Another thing that must be done is to enforce the laws equally and without bias. That requires laws that can be read and understood. While this should seem obvious, in practice it is perhaps the hardest to achieve. All people are selfish to some extent. Lawyers make the laws, lawyers prosecute those laws and lawyers interpret the laws. This gives lawyers a great incentive to make laws that benefit them, prosecute laws in such a way as to enrich themselves and interpret those laws to protect their position in society. To do that they must make the laws of a society so circuitous that no one, even lawyers themselves, can fully comprehend them. Furthermore, it is in lawyers best interests to force everyone to use a lawyer for every economic interaction, by undermining the very laws they are supposed to protect.
Perhaps the most important thing a people can do to give everyone a stake in the system is to maintain class mobility. Not only to maintain the ability of individuals to rise from poverty to the elite but to maintain the societal belief of class mobility. When schools teach children that it is not possible for them to advance beyond their status they undermine class mobility. When the elite pervert the societal myth, that class mobility is available for anyone if they work hard, take smart chances and persevere, they destroy the belief of class mobility. Possibly the worst way the elite in a society can eliminate class mobility as well as the belief of class mobility is to sell the fiction of equal outcomes.
The very concept of equal outcomes takes away everyone’s stake in society. When you will get the same as everyone else, no matter how hard you work or even if you work, you have no stake in that society. You are merely a slave and everyone knows a slave cannot own anything. Redistribution is so corrosive of a people’s sense of ownership in a nation it should be attacked anytime it is mentioned. The only people who have a stake in a country that redistributes the wealth of the people are the elite that do the redistributing. They always take more than their share and their share is protected by the army.
The results of these negative incentives can be seen in the United States since the 1960s. The concepts of the Frankfurt school came into their own then. Redistribution became vogue, class mobility was attacked in the classroom and in popular culture, the laws had been undermined by bureaucracy for two decades, the arbitrary application of the law became obvious, and the US Constitution became a living breathing document destroying the very foundation of American society. All these innovations took away the people’s stake, or ownership, in the country. The results were that drug use became rampant, it was the beginning of the scourge of drugs, crime skyrocketed, violence became endemic and the institutions of civil society began to deteriorate. Clearly, the path to prosperity is through giving all people a stake in their nation, the path to poverty is to take that stake away.