In Praise of Misery

Recently a critic claimed that writers and readers of Political Outcast are “miserable.”

As it happened, the same day I saw the comment I also saw this image posted on Facebook by Young Americans for Liberty.

tax refund

I can’t think of a more explicit example of why a person can be better off replacing happiness and contentment with misery.

Of course, I’m not completely serious. God wants us to rely on him and, in light of his special promises through Jesus, to be content and happy.

But that’s not the same as the euphoric happiness of getting your “refund” back from the IRS. People are happy because they are being duped. They believe they are better off when in fact they have been made worse off. The people who think they are getting “free money” will be more cheerful than those who realize they have just been forced to loan to the government. But that cheerfulness is based on a lie.

To use an example from business, the purpose of a salesman is to make someone feel good about making a purchase. If the sale is for a needed good at a reasonable price, then this can be done accurately. But if the person is persuaded to buy something he didn’t need for a price he can’t really afford, then the feeling is an illusion.

In politics and government we are dealing with a super-powered salesman.

What I’m arguing is that politics can be somewhat like falling in love. People get euphoric and, in that euphoria, do stupid things that make them worse off for years to come.

tingly feeling

In some cases (not all!), misery is simply the realization that one’s situation is bad, while happiness is the illusion that one is doing well in life. Naturally one primary way to succeed in exploiting people is to find a way to make them happy about how you are using them. You convince them the damage you are causing is actually good for them. Making a mandated interest-free loan to the government look like a free monetary gift is a great example.

Sometimes, places that tell the truth will have to appear as places of misery.