A group of individuals, not particularly trained or skilled but competent enough, began stealing buses in various cities around the United States. Now, rather than go on destructive rampages or other things the average criminal is wont to do, these bandits instead took up old bus routes, and gave rides to people for free. Never hiding the fact that they were thieves, people still obliged and accepted transportation in these hijacked vehicles. Inevitably, the police finally got around to arresting the miscreants and restoring the buses to their proper owners and use. The police, naturally, get heckled for this (because the police are super duper evil, right? Except when used as an argument for why the second amendment is superfluous, then they are the best thing ever, but that’s a tale for another time), and people decry the selfishness of the proper owners of the buses for spurring the law to reclaim their property.
While this story seems completely outlandish, it’s a parallel for a very real event: Blizzard ordering a cease and desist on “Nostalrius”, a private server for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft game. For those of you unfamiliar with what a private server is, it is basically a separate group running a form of online game, typically with various modifications in comparison to the live versions. It is, of course, theft. The devs of Nostalrius were obviously not licensed by Blizzard for their product, nor paying the required fees to operate accounts (which are all technically owned by Blizzard; players rent accounts). While Blizzard has been relatively lenient of private servers, more lenient than most companies and people would be in regards to the theft of property, they moved to dismantle the operation. This has been met with some degrees of outrage (granted, what doesn’t generate outrage?), it is baffling to think of the naivete and extreme narcissism that is required to be enraged at Blizzard for protecting their own property. Perhaps this reaction is more of a sign of the times than anything; an indictment of the modern day entitlement mentality, where I deserve to get stuff for free, regardless of who has to foot the bill.
While everyone certainly knows the mentality I reference, I think it can be best explained with an illustration. A week ago, I went to the Wells Library to study with my friend. While I was waiting, I was approached by a man bearing a clipboard, asking if I was registered to vote and whether or not I knew about early primary voting. After answering yes to both questions, he handed me a sheet of paper, before shuffling off to find another person who looked unoccupied. Glancing down at it as he walked away, it was a flyer for none other than Bernie Sanders (If he knew anything about me, he’d have kept the paper. Amusingly, it was thrown away within 5 minutes after I showed my friend. So much for his hippie programs). While I’m familiar with Mr. Sanders’ platforms, the highlights of the flyer, which were bullet pointed no less, including such exciting ideas as a $15 dollar minimum wage (because we love increased unemployment!) and free healthcare and tuition, paid for by the wealthy. And, my favorite part was the “paid for by the wealthy” was not an implication, as per usual. It was actually written there (When did the wealthy become the enemies of everyone else? Also a tale for another time). The flyer, as is virtually all of Mr. Sanders’ platform, was solely based on the idea that the reader deserved to have stuff given to them for no other reason than they graced the world with their presence. This is what makes Mr. Sanders’ the most dangerous candidate in the race. He does not seek to liberalize things a bit and enlarge the governments a few degrees; he wants to destroy the American identity itself.
The American identity is inseparable from the American Dream. Simply put, the American Dream is the idea that anyone, no matter where they started out from, can get to “the top” if they work hard enough. While I contend that it’s better to rephrase the anyone to extend to family, because often people care more about setting up their children for success than themselves, the idea still stands. Sure, not everyone can succeed by definition. That’s an inherent risk of life. When that end goal is removed, however, everything changes. When there is no “success” to strive for, the purpose of striving is obliterated. Rats in studies that have their food simply given to them, rather than working towards it, are infamously less happy and more likely to die. While humans are obviously infinitely more complex than rodents, the idea translates over; without that struggle, without the work that defines life, we won’t get anywhere. And that’s just when thinking about societal progress as a whole. Consider what kind of technology we’d be using if the idea of rising to the top is gone. Virtually every form of modern day technology was created as the result of some form of endeavor or trial. Modern day computers, all the way back to Xerox and IBM to Apple and Microsoft, wouldn’t exist. Automobiles would not have existed, because there’s no need to go faster if there’s nothing to go to.
While some could argue the prior examples are hyperbolic, I contend otherwise. The vast majority of human innovation can be derived from two factors: opportunity and incentive. The removal of incentives are not done in a clear, manner. Saying “I want to ensure that there’s no reason to work hard; success will never be found if you elect me!” surely doesn’t poll well (Although it works well if you imply it, like Mr. Sanders). Any time benefits are taken from someone who earns them and given to someone else, it just takes a little bit more of the incentive to reach the top away. If I’m only making nine cents on the dollar, why would I bother making a product that earns me $100,000 in revenue when that in fact only makes me $9,000? The American Dream is being able to work hard, to potentially do something great. Mr. Sanders, unfortunately, wants no part of the American identity to survive. I pray that he never gets the opportunity to see his dream unfold, for the sake of everyone else’s.