Monday, February 16, 2015

The Ant and the Grasshopper

People who don't pay much attention to politics, and even some who do, are often confused about the difference between conservatives and liberals. If, for example, you poll folks on the question "who are the most staunch advocates of individual liberty, conservatives or liberals," many would reply that it's the liberal and would look at you incredulously if you told them they were mistaken. Yet, they would be mistaken all the same.

Perhaps one of the earliest illustrations of the difference between the two political views is a famous fable by Aesop titled The Ant and the Grasshopper. It goes like this:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

The moral, of course, is that we should all work hard and be responsible for ourselves. That's the conservative view.

A more contemporary version of the venerable tale, however, goes something like this:

The ant works hard in the withering heat and rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The ant worked hard in school as well, earned an education, waited until he was married before having children, and remained faithful to his ant-wife. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. The grasshopper couldn't care less about school, sleeps with whichever other grasshopper will have him, and lives life in a haze of drugs, alcohol, cheese curls and television reality shows.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he's cold, hungry and without health insurance. The major networks all show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant snug in his comfortable home with a refrigerator filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Labor unions and activist groups stage demonstrations in front of the ant's house where news stations film them loudly condemning the ant for his lack of compassion.

Progressive politicians publicly chastise the ant and blame his Republican sympathies for the grasshopper's plight. They exclaim on the Sunday morning talk shows that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and they call for a tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share and "spread the wealth around."

No longer able to pay his employees or his mortgage because of the tax burdens that have been imposed on him, the ant has to sell both his business and his home which the government buys and gives to the grasshopper because a job and a home are human rights.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his friends, sleeping till noon, and then finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the business fails and the house crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn't maintain it.

The ant has dropped out of sight, never to be seen again. The grasshopper is eventually found dead in a drug-related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and peaceful neighborhood.

The moral of the story, of course, is that we get what we vote for.

Progressives are determined to make the ants, which comprise about 25% of the population and which pays about 87% of the nation's income taxes, pull the wagon full of grasshoppers which make up about 50% of our nation and pay almost no income tax. On top of that the top 25% will now have to pay the health insurance costs for 30 million people (50 million if they pass amnesty for illegal aliens). Ants are strong. They can carry loads a hundred times their own weight, but they can't carry all those grasshoppers.

Not a few people labor under the misapprehension that conservatives are cold, heartless, stingy and lack compassion for the poor. This, too, is manifestly untrue. Indeed, studies have shown that conservatives give more to charity than do liberals. What conservatives do believe, though, is that until the grasshopper changes his grasshopper ways, no amount of charity will help him rise up out of his poverty.

The classic 1934 Walt Disney version of Aesop's fable does a nice job of depicting this truth: