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Abler-Minded: Incrementalism

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We’re probably all familiar with the word “increment.”

As a noun, it means an increase in the size or amount of something ... and is accepted to also include a series of small, often regular or planned increases.

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Now, if you add “al” to the noun, you get an adjective that really means those regular or planned — incremental — increases. Going one step further, the suffix “ism” denotes a movement, doctrine or system of belief.

While you won’t find “incrementalism” in the dictionary, you will certainly find it at work in just about everything we do.

Incrementalism is how you boil a frog. In case you’re not familiar with that concept, I’ll explain.

You can’t drop a frog into boiling water. Its reflexes are so fast that when one foot touches the hot water it will jump, twist or otherwise leap away from the danger.

If, however, you put a frog in water and slowly raise the temperature — in small increments — you will eventually raise the temperature enough so the frog will be unable to respond when the water gets too hot.

Actually, you’ll probably have a dead frog even before the water boils. I prefer my frog legs battered and deep fried anyway.

Incrementalism is either in our genes or we learn it as a child. My parents were young adults during the Great Depression. They worked hard — first to survive and eventually to be successful — to be thrifty and save their money and to have a better life than their parents. They taught me and my siblings the value of hard work — and its rewards.

I think I can safely say we had an easier time than our parents did. We have taken that incrementalism and applied it to nearly everything. If you look at any significant event you can see its effects.

Take the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, the Presidential Inauguration celebrations or anything similar, and if you compare today’s extravaganzas to how they were celebrated in the past, you can see what happens when we feel we have to do things better than last time.

Our children expect more toys with each succeeding birthday and Christmas. And we often oblige. The people who receive government benefits vote for those who promise to continue or increase those benefits.

And who advances social agendas of many types in order to satisfy those expectations? The liberal progressives in all areas of our government and society, that’s who.

When Social Security first became law, it wasn’t intended to be anything close to a retirement system. It was meant to supplement people’s own savings and resources.

Fast forward one lifetime and as a result of incrementalism in the legislative and executive branches, such as increasing benefits, extending benefits to many more people who did not contribute to the phantom “trust fund,” and spending the money on many things other than what was intended — and you have a system that can only survive if it takes in significantly more money to keep it from total insolvency.

The social progressives slowly turned the heat up under all of us in regard to contraception and abortion over the last 60 years to the point that abortion and contraceptive drugs and devices are now considered an integral part of health care.

And in the state of Minnesota, we even get to pay for the privilege of killing the unborn. Isn’t there an inconceivable level of insanity in a child being unable to go on a school field trip without parental permission, but that same child can get contraceptives or an abortion without the parent even being notified?

Another area where incrementalism is in full force is in the gun control movement. Over the years, in virtually all areas of personal behavior and expression, the liberal elements in our society have sought to remove all obstacles to people “doing their own thing.” And if someone decides that doing his own thing includes slaughtering a couple of dozen people, the liberals’ conclusion is the weapon is the problem.

Incrementalism is working on both sides of this debate.

The gun lobby sees any registration, gun or ammunition restriction as one too many. The anti-gun crowd knows that if they get their foot in the door on strict background checks and limits on magazine capacities, they can use that as leverage to move incrementally into full registration of all weapons, limits on ammunition purchases and eventual confiscation of all handguns and/or firearms.

Our founding fathers supported an armed citizenry as a sure protection against a tyrannical government, and I believe many citizens today perceive that tyrannical government as a highly potential reality.

On the other hand, incrementalism is a key part of our economy. If people didn’t want a better computer, car, camera, bicycle, house, golf club, shirt, jacket or any other widget you can name, we wouldn’t have had the economic growth we have experienced since the country was founded.

In contrast, if you look at the incrementalism in the growth of the national government and its programs and the associated costs, you can understand why we’re on a path that is simply not sustainable.

Incrementalism usually occurs in small, modest and affordable steps. When it is done in exponential numbers in just a few years’ time, national economic disaster becomes more likely as do draconian governmental actions to fix the problem government caused.

If we aren’t on an incremental path to socialism, then what path are we on?

Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.

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