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The PJ Tatler

Scott Ott


August 27, 2014 - 9:17 am
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More and more I’m convinced that America right now isn’t a country dealing with a mere dip in its mood and might. It’s a country surrendering to a new identity and era, in which optimism is quaint and the frontier anything but endless. 

— Frank Bruni, NY Times, Lost in America, 8/27/2014

Drawing on a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Times columnist Frank Bruni paints a picture of a nation on the down slope, with no end in sight. He notes that 60 percent of those polled feel America is “in decline.” 

But if you dig into the data you find that, while the depressing number has indeed climbed to 60 from 54 percent in January 2011, in five of the last eight times the pollsters asked this question (going back to October ’91) the readout was higher than 60, peaking at 69 percent in June 2008. 

So, you might say, cheer up, Frank Bruni, it could be worse. 

However, the next question in the survey brings a chilling context to that 60-percent figure. The question: “Do you feel confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us?”

Only 21 percent said they do. Back in the dog days of decline in summer 2008, that number was 31. During a declension nearly as severe, in 1991-92, around 41 percent still felt confident their kids would have a better life. 

We Are Dissatisfied

Americans have always been a dissatisfied lot — we wouldn’t have come here if we were not. But we’ve always coupled that dissatisfaction with a belief in a better tomorrow. We’ve backed that belief with a determination to make it so, and a bone-deep conviction that we lived in a land where anything is possible.  We’re all about “the pursuit of happiness.”

This is what seems to have slipped…or rather, to have been tripped.

You see, it’s not that a Jimmy Carter-esque malaise has fallen across the fruited plain, but rather that malaise has been spread like mayonnaise across the amber waves of grain by people who seem determined to share the gloom of their own existential angst with the rest of us.

I, for one, will have none of it.

America still offers the greatest franchise opportunity on earth, available with no money down, to anyone willing to invest his sweat equity. In fact, that opportunity now exceeds the wildest dreams of our Fathers, as the internet has dried up the ocean and we can cross it barefoot in a moment. Global markets lay beneath our feet like Russell H. Conwell’s proverbial “Acres of Diamonds.” 

That doesn’t mean careful plans can’t collapse in the face of unforeseen obstacles. They quite likely will, and perhaps should, since passionate dreamers tend to lose touch with marketplace reality and must run headlong into an obsidian wall from time to time, to jar us into exploring other options. 

This opportunity also doesn’t excuse us from competition, both legitimate and nefarious. Some of your opponents will see your presence as healthy inspiration for their own innovations. Others will work tirelessly and deceitfully to ensure that you’re bankrupted and living under a bridge in a cardboard box. But the alternative to the exhilarating roller coaster of competition is the mundane merry-go-round of corporate wage-slavery, or government-subsidized bondage. The merry-go-round thrills only those who have never ventured beyond the painted pony.

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Top Rated Comments   
I agree with the opening: the more one feels in control of one's destiny, the more one feels left alone to advance that destiny, the more optimistic one can feel.

When the gov't is fighting tooth and nail to ensure our children will live in a country with not only tens of millions more people, but with 90% of them coming from failed nations, that destiny has been plucked away by strangers in Washington and Honduras, Guatemala and Somalia. The latter's failure to create an individual destiny for themselves outside a framework of leeching at that of others does not bode well for our future. There is no more frontier now but only packing into increasingly crowded spaces.

I can change my family. I cannot change the Third World nor walk into Washington and ask them to stop importing failure in great heaps of millions. How can one vote for a non-voted body that runs independently? Overpopulation isn't even a topic for discussion anywhere in America. What there is of demographic talk is the insane idea of a never-ending pyramid scheme of bodies to pay for pensions and social security. Even a ditsy bad science fiction writer has more brains than that.

Where one can go in America to live in peace narrows day by day, and it is far more expensive in terms of raw man-hours to do so than 50 years ago.

In 40 years we will have more than twice as many people as 1960. That's not same ol', same ol' but less things for more people. And what do we leave our children in the year 2100? A stable population we had the wisdom to confine at 200 million, or a billion people, most of them from countries that can't do squat for themselves in Western terms? I guarantee you Americans in 2100, what's left of them, will curse our name the opposite way we pay tribute to the names of 1787.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (16)
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About 4 years ago, give or take a few months, I would have been on the same page as you Scott Ott, but now, my hopes are dashed. Perhaps I read too much or read too much into what I read and see. I feel certain That America's best days are behind her. I argued with my son in law (easy to do) because America is modern and he can ride a bicycle that has 2 $600 tires, has an xbox, HDTV, can drive a car with GPS, etc, but he, of course didn't get it. I might as well have been making the argument with the wall. He has not see America in her better years, nor try to start a business without mountainous regulation. Stupidly I decidedly download the ACA after not quite believing an assertion made by someone on a website I found to be a little off on their facts. I am not kidding, in the segments I read, every paragraph I read "The secretary shall promulgate regulations to..." and my first thought was that as usual in govt. "the left hand will never know what the right hand it up to" and I found it intimidating or worse. Scott, always the the optimist, I felt as though you were trying to liven up the crowd with a little good news. I hope it works, but for me, I feel there is no upside to the news we are getting everywhere else.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
"In the meantime, government botherism cannot serve as the excuse for your failure."

This is a man who has not in the last decade or so gotten his hands dirty in a small business, or at least not done so for long enough to know what goes on among his contemporaries.

Most people recognize that lack of effort and even sheer bad luck can sweep you away. What's new -- mostly in the last ten years -- is that government at all levels is the main adversary for people in your business. I believe that's true for every business now.

While government as a whole says it doesn't want your type of business to go away and it will only actually squash a few chosen chosen basically at random, the effect on the rest is that of a terror campaign: You consider every step in the light of whose attention it might attract and how it will affect your defenses.

Every small business is subject to hundreds of laws and regulations. Some are generic, others are special to what you're doing. They come from all levels from local associations that you might be a member of, through your town, county and state, to the federal government.

You can never know all of them and indeed simply reading a rule or law doesn't necessarily tell you much: What you need to know is:

1. How is it actually enforced? (Might be as written, better, or worse.)


2. What are the odds that someone connected with enforcing this is or might in the future get mad at me?


3. Who outside the government might want to use this against me?

If the government notices you, that's likely to end with it actively disliking you and the odds that you win are essentially zero. The reasonable goal is mitigating the damage to your life but you will almost surely have to abandon your business.

The laws and rules you have to comply with may well have been written by people who hate what you do and who follow your field, looking for opportunities to demand enforcement. Having written the laws they know things about them that nobody else does and having bought both the law itself and an assortment of enforcement jobs (including judges at various levels, governors, etc.) they can use that knowledge.

You can search for these strings for specific examples:

'gibson guitar wood epa'

'dollarhite rabbits usda'

'magician rabbit hat usda' (The magician actually won, last I knew.)

'pet-law cyhanick ashamed'

DON'T use the quotes in your search.

Basically we're losing the rule of law. There's no way for a citizen to be sure that his activity is okay and won't be crushed by the government, no matter how hard he tries to get it right.

Many countries have never been any better than what we have now, many, indeed are far worse. But Mr. Ott's happy talk is no more than that: This is a very sad pass for America. Among other reasons our prosperity depends on the liberty we're now destroying as fast as possible.

In the new world, fewer people will start businesses, fewer of those started will succeed, more of those that succeed will use corrupt methods to do it, and profitability and growth will be less than at an earlier time.

I guess we should be happy that things aren't even worse, but the realist would put "yet" on the end of that. And a turnaround doesn't look very likely: Too many of us are ignorant of how society and business work, far too many are ready to agree that anything they find unpleasant ought to be 'fixed' with another law.

This is true within each field as well as outside. In my own micro-model, the hobby breeders of dogs want more regulation of commercial breeders; large scale commercial breeders want small commercial breeders to be more heavily regulated, ALL breeders think animal shelters and pet rescuers need more regulation -- and yes, all the other lines on that chart are also there.

Hello? They're DOGS: We need laws requiring basic care and laws against cruelty -- but we had all those laws fifty and more years ago. If today you decide to swap a dog that won't hunt to a buddy for a box of shotgun shells there is a USDA regulation carrying a potential fine of $10,000 that says how that must be done. It's very unlikely to be enforced against you, but the odds that you know or can find out how to comply are zero, unless you ask one of a few hundred people.

None of those people work for USDA -- they'll simply lie to you about the reg, secure in the knowledge that it's not being enforced as written, anyhow. That'll happen via 'sue and settle' in a couple of years.

Reality -- specifically that our prosperity and happiness DEMAND liberty -- is still out there and is already asserting herself. That's why the economy is doing so badly. But notice how rarely you hear those who pass for our leaders say "We're regulating our country to death: We need to cut the number of laws and rules dramatically!" You DO hear it, but only rarely and most of the country considers it to be frin
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reads like a Ronald Reagan morning in America speech. This is not 1980 Mr. Ott. Jettison the sentimental historical nostalgia, take your head out of the sand and look around you.

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree, but I think some of that hope is being lost because so many are having their drive crushed under government. The Americans we were would go to Home Depot and fix the sewage problem, but the America we live in is likely to have an EPA rep there to quiz you on your environmental assessment, and OSHA is asking if you are wearing appropriate PPE, and the local government wants to see at least a dozen permits, filled out in triplicate, and receipts therefore.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment

Harsh words, I know. The reason that Obama and the liberals will never be able to permanently drag this country down is that they do not truly understand American exceptionalism.

Bill Whittle articulated it best: IN most other countries and cultures if the city has open sewers they just shrug their shoulders and live with it, or petition some government to fix it. Americans are different. A group of americans would buy what they needed from Home Depot to solve the problem and fix it themselves. Private citizens are self-organizing and traveling to Texas to help enforce the border.

Once BHO is gone, we'll get back to work and start making this a better place again.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Taking your analogy a little bit further: LIberalism and Barry are not going to go away in one election. Old Liberals never die, they just smell that way. It will take a a gigantic effort to get rid of this cancer. So " A group of americans would [do what is needed] to solve the problem and fix it themselves." Barry and his minions know it. Within the next 60 days the crisis they have been creating will mature. Those IRS employees would not be smirking in front of a Congressional Committee if they did not know something that we don't. May be they have been told that there will be no Congress soon. So "once BHO is gone" is a good wish but I have a feeling that he is not going to go easy.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait, if you wish, my friend, but I think it'll take more than Obama and the Democrats to repress the American spirit...yours included.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have a small wood sign that hangs on the wall of my kitchen; it reads:

"Bless this mess."

That's America as I know it. I wouldn't say that the American people have always been a dissatified lot. Rather, we've always been a contentious and somewhat quirky lot.

The American Dream is freedom, liberty, opportunity, and individualism. The government of late has been trying to take that away. A second revolution and a renewal is coming.

There are ups and downs in all things in life. And we are on a downturn now. So the only way to go is up. When push comes to shove, Amercans don't just push back; we nuke.

I'm not the least bit worried about the American Dream. We're just going through a rough patch. When it's over flowers will blossom and birds will sing. The sun will shine, and freedom will lighten the world once again.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was 20 years old when Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. I grew up through Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon I, Nixon II, Ford and Carter. When Reagan was elected in 1980 my old father, who was born during the Taft administration, told me "That guy is gonna make some SERIOUS changes in this country."
"Baloney!" I cried. "Nobody can change things - this country will always be screwed up."

I'm not so sure I want to buy into Mr. Bruni's premise that the end is nigh...
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Born in '48 my first job was in the town library when I was in 7th grade. I was paid 40 cents/hr and I was thrilled. There was never a year after that that I wasn't working at something somewhere and that is true to this day.
Allowing the country to be overwhelmed by illegal immigrants from the south has deprived Americans the opportunity to work up the employment ladder.

Why the great government thinks this is so good is beyond me.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Clearly Lincoln never foresaw the coming of Obama.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry to nitpick but the words Lincoln spoke in September 1859 were actually delivered a year and six weeks, not just two months, before election day. Lincoln was elected on November 6 1860, not 1859, and began his term of office in March 1861. He hadn't even won the nomination when he spoke the words you're citing.

Of course that doesn't weaken your argument in the slightest. He still said what he said and it made sense.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry for the mental slip. Will fix. Appreciate the close reading.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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