The 30-year-old in his parents' home
If you're wondering if it's hypocritical for me to hold that most people are, by and large, ignorant and tasteless slobs, while simultaneously advocating radical freedom (no speed limits, no drug laws, no government imposed licensing requirements, no taxes or tariffs... in fact, no government at all), I invite you to imagine a scenario that is really not imaginary at all, but is familiar to us in these times: a 30-year-old college graduate living with his parents. He has no ambition, no career to speak of, and no desire to change. He's comfortable, he's successful at the latest FPS (a style of video game), and nothing's gonna change his world. Our gut, instinctive and unrationalized, tells us that this is wrong. A wasted life.
One might say it is his responsibility to do better with his life. Quite right. Should his friends, if they are any different, help him to see the error of his ways? No doubt. But who else could do better in this unfortunate situation? Is no one else guilty? I say there's plenty of guilt to go around: to the guy, to his friends, if they know better and remain silent, but most of all to the parents. They had 18 years to raise an adult capable and willing to make his responsible, self-provisional way through the adult world, and squandered not just those but 12 more. Finally, they rob him of the one thing that can save him now at this late date: necessity. Were he exposed to true necessity, the need for food, the primal desire for shelter, and the longing for the luxuries he had when he was cradled in the second womb of untimely paternalism would spur him to find a job that would afford those things. If he could not find such a job right away, even better: he would have something to work towards, and the light of healthy ambition would spark in his erstwhile dark spirit.
So it is with the public. Coddled into our adult years, protected from drugs, prostitutes, high speeds, and unlabeled food (and soon, the option of a poor diet to entice those poor slobs in their parents' basements), we lose our ability and our desire to protect ourselves. Robbed of choices, we lose the ability to discern which choice is best. Saved from poverty by unemployment insurance and welfare, we lose our sense of why we need to work at all. So to say that the 30-year-old is a slob ill-equipped to fend for himself is no argument against his being put out on his own, but completely to the contrary, and likewise the teeming masses yearning to be swaddled. Swaddle them no more, and perhaps they, or at least their children, may once again yearn to breathe free.
I have been hearing a lot recently about Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries, and how they have this social program and that social benefit, and single-payer health care, and how their socialist government is so much better than the one here (in the U.S.). And they do it so much cheaper! This is no different from saying that the Hendersens are better at managing their 30-year-old than the Wests are, even though the Wests are richer and have more stuff. While one could argue that the Hendersens have the advantage of a more family oriented cultural background (i.e. the profound cultural differences between Norway and the U.S. make socialism somewhat more practical there than here), or that kicking them both out of their respective houses to fend for themselves would provide an eventual increase in their wealth (after an initial period of hardship and adjustment), or even that the Hendersens, being poorer than the Wests, are likely to run out of money in another 10 years or so, more important and fundamental than any of these points is that it is simply wrong for their parents to keep them. It destroys their creativity, their work-satisfaction, their ambition - it robs them of important aspects of who they are. It is cancerous to spirit and soul. At least young Mr. West knows that something is wrong. He is a violent, irascible man with no contentment or satisfaction in life. By being (marginally) better parents, the Hendersens are able to maintain their daughter's illusion that this is a good and acceptable arrangement for life; that living in your parents' shelter, and eating their food, and spending frivolously while earning little or nothing, is normal and right. The Wests are richer than the Hendersens because they were hardy, adventurous entrepreneurs, taking risks, coddled by no one, and building tremendous wealth through creativity, hard work, and ingenuity - all the qualities they are stifling in their son - and the young West intuits something of it. He can't put his finger on it, but he knows something is wrong, and he acts up, like a 2-year-old unconsciously craving discipline and boundaries. So in some ways, the Wests are closer to doing the right thing, but they still are not doing it, and the results are very messy.
Allow me a digression for a moment. In many cases those who are greediest and wealthiest are those who arose out of desperate poverty, and overcompensated for what they lacked in their early years: money and that which money can buy. They are unable to balance their desire for gain and instinctive hoarding with spiritual, familial, or artistic pursuits. On the reverse of that same token, those who are raised with everything they want are raised without that which they most need: the spark of desire. It is easy for someone raised in the lap of total luxury to assert that "Desire is the root of all suffering." Those struck by natural disaster and disease would likely offer those as other possible roots. I am not being glib, but to say that philosophy, nay, unpretentious thoughtfulness, seeks to find a balance amongst pursuit of material wealth, pursuit of spiritual understanding, pursuit of artistic expression, pursuit of familial love, pursuit of anything you might think worth pursuing. To eschew pursuit as evil, and to enshrine unproductive behavior or listlessness as the highest virtue, is a great disservice to the human spirit and to those who suffer from want. When a man is starving, it does him no good to tell him to stop wanting to eat food.
One might say that our 30-year-old slob needs his parents, that is, needs them to kick him out of their house. This is very different from saying that they should protect him, provide for him, or offer him any material help in any way. He is certainly better off if he learns to provide for himself. Someone might say that paternalism is required in the case of someone who is severely mentally handicapped, or that some other help is needed for someone who has another handicap, or that it is right for the parents to take him in if his house is destroyed in a disaster. But the metaphor easily gives way to literalism here: the handicapped and disaster victims require their real family, not the government, who is both a poor substitute for a family and a grossly codependent enabler. Those unfortunate adults who have no family can make friends, and when a child's immediate family die, a good family can adopt her. It is no problem for a civilized society to take care of its own without government; at least, it is less problematic than trying to take care of yourselves and each other despite a government and enduring its help.