Russell Taylor – In praise of adulthood

A couple of weeks ago, a hundred or so rabble-rousers descended on London’s West End for a ‘carnival against capitalism’, which coincided with the G8 conference taking place in Northern Ireland. By all accounts, it was a lacklustre affair, involving a few tatty banners, some naff chants and a distinct lack of deodorant. For all their righteous anger, I suspect that most of the demonstrators were not hard-working stiffs looking for a better deal, but jobless wastrels, whose demands amounted to a call for society to featherbed them more generously than it already does.

Seeing these layabouts railing against the onerous task of acquiring some skills and working hard, I was reminded of something Nancy Pelosi said a few years ago, as speaker of the US House of Representatives. She mused that government healthcare reforms would allow creative people to quit their jobs and develop their talents. “If you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever,” she said, “you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations, because you will have healthcare.”

Implicit in Pelosi’s statement were a number of beliefs: that working in business is a tedious grind that the government should help people escape for something more avant-garde; that creative work is not particularly fruitful, hence the need for a helping hand; and that there’s no need to help people move in the other direction, because business-sector jobs pay sufficiently well.

Artistic work is rarely lucrative because it puts the cart before the horse. The artist doesn’t produce something in response to public demand; he produces what appeals to him and hopes that someone buys into his vision. In business, the process is normally reversed, with companies falling over each other to satisfy our demands. For this reason, businesspeople tend to earn more than those who strum a guitar or daub a canvas for a living, and are more likely to produce the things we need.

What Nancy Pelosi was saying, then, is that the government should help people create less wealth and produce fewer things of value to others, so they can escape the rat-race and satisfy their creative urges. And since the government has no money of its own, this amounts to the taxpayer subsidising those who want to contribute less to society. If enough people signed up to this idea, a dwindling number of workers would end up supporting a growing number of dreamers, until they were little more than slaves to a vast bohemian class. Eventually, there wouldn’t be enough people doing any real work, and the entire house of cards would collapse. But hey, at least you were able to finish that concerto for didgeridoo and bongos before the crash came.

Of course, it could be that I’ve got Ms Pelosi all wrong, and she had no intention of letting things get out of hand. Perhaps she imagined that only a tiny minority of people would want to become painters or musicians, and saw no harm in volunteering taxpayers’ money to give these creative souls a shot at their dreams. But if it’s okay in principle to help people become less productive, why stop at aspiring artists? What about those who want to work in government? After all, even useful public servants are a net drain on the public purse. And what about those chilled-out idealists who would rather not work at all? Why not finance their desire to sit on their sofa, playing Call of Duty or watching Jeremy Kyle, while working their way through a giant packet of Doritos? Isn’t it horribly judgmental and non-inclusive to only favour people of a creative bent?

Actually, I imagine Ms Pelosi would be quite happy to keep large numbers of Americans as indolent welfare-claimants, so long as they imbibed the liberal poison and turned themselves into piety-spouting replicants, who voted the right way. But, in reality, I doubt she gave the issue that much thought. Her wistful vision of people turning on, tuning in and dropping out merely articulated what most liberals favour: enabling grown-ups to live like adolescents.

Briefly as a young man, I aspired to the same Peter Pan existence. I decided that the need to get a job, acquire skills and apply yourself was a pointless tradition propagated by rich folk and slavishly observed by hidebound fogeys. Like the over-entitled toerag that I was, I imagined that all the good stuff in life just existed somehow, and didn’t see why I should be made to jump through hoops to get my share.

In hindsight, I was fearful of the responsibilities and uncertainties of adulthood, and wanted to remain in the fur-lined sanctuary of youth forever. I was in no hurry to enter a world where I would be judged by people indifferent to my self-centred needs, where failure and humiliation were very real possibilities, and where recognition and reward demanded hard work, humility and self-restraint.

In my search for reasons not to join the adult realm, I decided that it was morally bankrupt. Rather than measure myself against its standards, I found areas in which I could claim it was deficient and I was distinguished, and chose to believe that these were the proper criteria for success. The failure of ‘the system’ to meet my freshly-minted standards apropos inequality, the environment and so on robbed it of any legitimacy and demonstrated the need for an alternative system that granted comfort, security and power to sanctimonious morons like me as a matter of right.

Fortunately, I abandoned this self-pitying ego trip very quickly. A spell on the dole made me realise that the product of inactivity is poverty, and that it is socially disastrous to have too many people doing too little productive work for any length of time. Had I not woken from my adolescent daydream, I could have found myself on a slippery slope towards protest marches and bad personal hygiene. Or maybe I would have become a success in spite of myself and joined the ranks of liberal poseurs, who grind an axe against society for failing to let them live like spoilt brats.

As it is, I’m happy to shoulder the burdens of adulthood, without forgetting what it is to be a child and to enjoy childish pleasures. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery. He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life.”

7 comments on “Russell Taylor – In praise of adulthood

  1. theaustrianway
    June 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Damn good read from Russell Taylor as always!

  2. Brian the Rhetaur
    June 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    I’ll second theaustrianway’s motion.

  3. Anthem
    June 26, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Great article. However, much as I hate to admit it to myself, I have found myself questioning the beliefs you put forward there.

    When we see businesses (the lifeblood of everything) hounded as though they were criminals and MEP’s doing a “SISO” and getting away Scot Free, I have to ask myself, “Is doing the right thing, the right thing to do?”

    Lord Neil Kinnock should be held up as an absolute failure but he’s a Lord and has “earned “an income stretching well into eight figures since his abject failure to do anything remotely useful.

    I’m with you all the way but the way this crazy world works, I really don’t know what the best advice to give my kids is any more.

    • Russell Taylor
      June 27, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Keep the faith. Our best hope for the future rests with the good guys who refuse to play the game.

      • Ryan Thomas
        June 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

        Great article and great advice.

  4. Anthem
    June 26, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    That should say “despite” not “since”…

  5. silverminer
    June 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Maggie had the right idea encouraging small businesses. Nothing like being your own boss to make you grow up. Having to meet a payroll every month does that on it’s own.

    Self employment means you can “stick to the man” and escape from wage slavery early in life, work hard then retire early and indulge your creative side without needing a hand out.

    Is it any wonder that the authoritarian control freaks have unleashed the bureaucrats, Banksters and tax collectors on the middle class entrepreneur? Everything is being consolidated into larger entities. The Corporatist/Fascist State, that seems to be our future unless we turn things around.

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