SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I made a business trip to Rome. My friend, Bob, was with my wife and me. He was an habitual personality. When he found a restaurant that he liked, he went back repeatedly. On the first night, he ate at Alfredos, the restaurant that popularized Fettuccine Alfredo. On the wall were pictures of famous people that had eaten there. They included movie stars and President John F. Kennedy. It was a quaint establishment, with a sterling history, and good food.
Alfredos hired a violinist who moved from table to table playing for the patrons. Bob drank too much wine. As he left he tipped the violist what he thought was ten dollars, but was actually one hundred. It was the mid-eighties. That would be like two hundred and fifty dollars today. Naturally, whenever Bob went back, which was almost every night, the violinist hovered over his table ignoring the other guests. This story provided us with an endless supply of jokes and laughs, but there was also an important moral.
People will do whatever you incentivize them to do.
Obviously, there are exceptions. A man or woman courageously reminding their work associates that there are only two sexes, or that same-sex marriage is a fiction, will probably get fired. They have acted according to conscience not according to temporal incentives, but generally this rule applies. The average person will do whatever their environment incentivizes.
Because progressives lack an understanding of human nature, they don’t get this. They think the average person will act contrary to incentives. For example, they think the U.S. citizen will work productively and diligently even though the government offers him or her a guaranteed minimum wage whether working or not. The truth is altogether different. A guaranteed minimum wage will incentivize the lazy to quit working and the industrious, angry because their hard work pays the bill, will quit producing and innovating.
The Seattle liberals think they can build free housing for the homeless, and that they will not take advantage of it. The truth is the opposite. The homeless will flock to Seattle in increasing numbers, and they will eventually trash the free housing, in which they have no “skin.”
We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did , but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.Thomas Sowell
The San Francisco liberal thinks he can give addicts free needles and a safe place to shoot up, and they will still try to get off drugs. In fact, the addicts will do what they are incentivized to do—even more drugs. In addition, addicts from around the nation will flock to San Francisco making the problem worse.
The liberal thinks the government can pay the disabled and they will try to go back to work and get off disability. Of course, some will, but the majority will abuse the system. Why? They are doing what the State incentivizes. The examples are endless.
Sin & Reality
The root problem is a dreamy, other-world understanding of human nature, utterly disconnected from reality. Most liberals are convinced that people are fundamentally good, that we are not responsible for our actions, but that we are victims of our environments. Of course, the Bible, rooted in reality, speaks otherwise. Yes, our environments influence us, but we are not fundamentally good, and our environment does not eliminate personal responsibility.
Human nature is essentially perverse and self-centered. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand this. All you need to do is open your eyes and look around. To best understand this, focus your attention inward, to your own lusts and selfishness, and the issue will become crystal clear. Here is God’s testimony about human nature.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.ROMANS 3:10-18
In previous decades, when our culture was grounded in biblical truth, we understood human nature, we did not foolishly incentivize laziness, addictions, and poverty. We diligently upheld each human being’s responsibility to act virtuously and obey the law. One’s environment was not an excuse.
Therefore, the problem is not politics. It is a failure to believe the fundamental truths of God’s Book. If the problem is not politics, the solution is not politics. It is faith and repentance—corporate and national submission to the Lordship of Christ.
We need to learn the lesson that Bob’s violinist made so clear. People will do what we incentivize. Let’s not naively assume otherwise, and let’s pray for revival, the conversion of millions of lost Americans.