July 1997. Prime minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz visits sites damaged by the flood of millennium and concludes: this is yet another incidence which bears out one should be prudent and take out insurance, alas this truth is still not common. Nothing hurts like the truth. Mr Cimoszewicz’s utterance has become a nail to the coffin of his party in the coming parliamentary elections and has gone down in history as a symbol of insensitiveness to other people’s misery.
In fact only extreme liberals have the courage to admit Mr Cimoszewicz’s statement was hitting nail in the head when speaking about lack of foresight among humans. Those words might have been out of place, if spoken out among people who had lost all their belongings in the flood, but look at it from a different perspective. One person pays insurance premiums for years and when their house is destroyed by a flood, they collect a compensation. Another person, if they have luck be one of many victims of a natural disaster, gets aid from the government = taxpayers. What is your sense of justice telling you now? Should there by any differentiation between forward-looking citizens who take out insurance and those who reckon when it comes to the crunch the government will step in and help? There are several ways out. First one – the government does not help anyone, the insured get money, those who failed to insure against flood are left out in the cold. Second one – the government gives money, but only to those who have not bought insurance policies. Those who paid insurance premiums learn they are suckers sinking money into insurance policies for years and their reckless neighbours are free-riders whose lack of prudence is rewarded. Third option – the government gives money to anyone aggrieved, no matter insured, or not. Those without insurance get relief, while when comes to the insured ones, there are two options – either they get a compensation from their insurance company and in effect are better off (counting out the hassle to rebuild their houses and arrange them) after the flood, or insurance companies refuse to pay out compensations, as benefits from the government have the same character. In both cases somebody grows richer at taxpayers’ expense – the insured flooded or insurers…
The considerations above arise from the widespread belief government is omnipotent and is capable of influencing events at its discretion. This conviction is abjectly dangerous as it implies firstly citizens are infantile creatures not capable of taking care of themselves and should be incapacitated, secondly the government can be blamed for virtually everything, since it can control everything.
When politicians of PiS blame government for everything, it is not just an element of their political strategy which assumes no matter what the PO-led government do, good or bad, must be slated right away, but also an exemplification of their view of the world. Mr Kaczyński’s advocates deeply believe if Kaczynski was in power, all the problems would disappear. They deeply believe people in power are capable of turning things around whenever they wish. And this is dreadful. This also engender claimant’s stance – a way of thinking “I deserve”, “the state is duty bound to provide for…”. “Mnie się należy”, “państwo ma dać”, “państwo ma obowiązek, dbać, zapewnić, etc.”, „co państwo zrobiło”... Rigns a bell? Makes me want to puke…
In fact how a society functions, all social plagues, shortcomings, criminality, etc. is mainly a sum of millions of individuals’ behaviours, attitudes, moral spines. Other factors shaping workings of society are formal and informal sets of rules which tell us what is acceptable and what not. There is legal system, including penal code, which deters individuals from engaging in unacceptable practices, but what really can discourage people from wrongdoing are enforceable social norms. It is not a potential punishment of let’s say ten years of imprisonment for drunk driving that should prevent us from sitting behind the wheel when intoxicated, but the strong conviction this is dangerous and will be condemned by any upright citizen.
You cannot blame government for everything. Can we blame the government for Amber Gold scandal? Partly yes, as it did not amend regulations which did not oblige prosecutors to instigate proceedings against the fraudulent company immediately upon receiving request from Financial Supervision Authority. The state should ensure all scams are detected early and their masterminds imprisoned, but the state will not prevent you from entrusting your money voluntarily to a crook.
Can we blame the government for bankruptcies in the construction sector? Terms of contracts, including payment terms, as proposed by Road Construction Agency were often unfavourable for contractors but they all in concert bid the lowest prices. They all agreed for conditions set by Gdaka, but when everyone cries about bankrupt subcontractors (doing business means taking risks), why does nobody mention millions or zlotys saved from the public purse? Intense competition among road builders has finally brought costs of road construction to a level comparable with European ones. Why does nobody mention relief to taxpayers and lower public debt?
Your fate lies in your hands. Many times people’s misery is not their fault, but many times they work hard for their predicament. As someone aptly summarised recent summer’s woes of clients of Amber Gold, OLT Express, or bankrupt travel agencies, this can be all put down to Polish greed, tight-fistedness, low level of wealth or simply dziadostwo. We chase bargains by seeking out promises of high yield, low-lost travels, without minding credentials of our counterparties. And when it falls down, we blame regulators, government, bad people, but never ourselves, our naivety, greed, lack of foresight and judgement.
If so, no wonder we posit the government should take responsibility for us, but consequently we deprive ourselves of freedom. But let’s ask whether freedom is actually desirable. Freedom is not the right to prance about in tight clothes on a gay parade (I have nothing against homosexuals, but I am not fond of flaunting sexual preferences), but freedom entails responsibility, means you are wise enough to take decisions regarding your life and suffer consequences of your deeds and this may be inconvenient for many.
My observations indicate people prefer to renounce responsibility and admit their infantilism by offloading responsibility to others. No matter if these were bankers who begged for bailout four years ago, or unemployed Poles blaming Mr Tusk for their joblessness, the trend towards giving up freedom in return from protection is disturbingly apparent…