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Lesson from Santa: Reward the Nice, Not the Naughty

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Revelers dressed as Santa Claus gather at a park during the SantaCon event in New York December 14, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

In this festive season of the year, our leaders should learn from its most visible figure and resolve to reward the nice and punish the naughty. Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems perversely determined to do precisely the opposite in both foreign and domestic policy and to violate what ought to be the sacred Santa Principle.

Consider the new opening to Cuba: the administration has promised to reward the island’s aging Stalinists without even the slightest demand that they mend the brutish and anti-American excesses that have characterized their misrule for more than fifty years. In fact, Fidel’s kid brother Raul (a sprightly 83-years-young) recently affirmed his floating prison’s eternal and immutable commitment to Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy – even in the face of the lavish Christmas gift from Barack Obama. And while diplomatic recognition and an end to the embargo would have ranked high on Cuba’s wish list for holiday giving, they presented the USA with absolutely nothing in return – since gift exchanges might count as somehow counter-revolutionary.

How do we know that rewarding the naughty without reduction in their naughtiness counts as a dangerous precedent for a great power? Because rewarding bad behavior powerfully encourages more of the same, as Kris Kringle most definitely understands. He gives civilized children what they naturally desire: toys and sweets and tokens of love and approval. According to all reputable accounts of St. Nick’s longstanding M.O., the less deserving kids get a lump of coal – not exactly the domestic equivalent of a devastating nuclear strike, but definitely something that no child craves. The carbon nugget at least makes clear that the recipient must mend his ways before expecting goodies in the stocking.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration seems to reserve its coal lumps for the most mannerly and well-behaved children in the un-chaperoned pre-school known as the UN: friendly, pro-American nations like Poland and Israel receive public scoldings, disappointments and betrayals, while the administration plays patty-cake with spoiled brats like Iran, China, Turkey and now Cuba. Little Vlady Putin, currently in “time out” for his Eastern European schoolyard bullying, need only watch the unpredictable behavior in Washington to assume that he will get his own Christmas bonanza at sometime in the future without any need to alter his imperialistic approach.

The same illogic characterizes the liberal attitude toward domestic issues. Especially this time of year, left-leaning lunacy leads to loopy largess for the bums, winos, psychotics, violent criminals and drug dealers affectionately known as “the homeless.” One sure way to encourage more people to camp out in public parks and on sidewalks of busy shopping districts is to reward those transients with attention, sympathy, and governmental benefits, whether or not they make even the slightest effort to mend their broken lives.

Meanwhile, the dreaded 1% – precisely those fortunate individuals who have modeled productive behavior by making and saving their money while creating jobs and investment returns for their neighbors – provoke scorn, ridicule, and flaming hostility. To the leftist mindset, creating wealth amounts to a less sympathetic activity than panhandling for beer or drug money.

The Communist rallying cry demonstrates that the only resemblance between Santa and Karl Marx involves their similarly well-developed beards. Saint Nick wants to give to those who behave best but Saint Karl strives to hand out his rewards to those who act least productively. Consider the slogan: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The ones with the greatest “ability” to pay are those who succeeded the most and get whacked under Marxism; those with the biggest needs are often those with the most disorganized and self-destructive lives. The leftist losers therefore push their captive societies directly toward disorganization and self-destruction.

The administration’s inverse Santa Principle extends even to its ruinous approach to illegal immigration and helps underline the profound difference between the liberal and the compassionate conservative ideas of reform. Nearly all Americans on every side of this issue can agree that illegal immigrants have done something naughty in coming to this country without authorization and in violation of prevailing rules. The Obama executive amnesty rewards the rule-breakers with official status with no meaningful demand for compensation or correction: in other words, you can get an undeserved reward even if you keep on acting naughty, without any requirement that you turn nice. Earned legalization involves precisely the opposite idea: that only when illegal immigrants do something nice (paying fines and back taxes, going to the end of the line for green cards, showing fluency in English and a credible desire to assimilate) do they get the reward of a long, complicated, costly but clearly defined path to legal status. In other words, they earn goodies only in return for trying to compensate and correct past transgressions, not for continuing them.

This argument of course requires a definition of what constitutes reward or punishment for nations or for individuals. The most direct answer suggests that a reward gives the recipient something he or she passionately craves; a punishment brings a development you would ardently seek to avoid. This means that the right way to punish North Korea for its terrorist threats and cyber-bullying involves hitting the regime with what it wants least: searing humiliation on a global scale, perhaps at the Oscar ceremony (as previously discussed here at Truth Revolt).

While deserved punishments comport with the Santa Principle, undeserved rewards emphatically do not. Consider the colossally misguided 2005 Israeli decision to reward Palestinian fanatics with what they desired most: unilateral withdrawal from a major chunk of their territory (Gaza) without extracting even a single promise about future progress toward peace. The result involved tens of thousands of rocket attacks, claiming hundreds of Israeli lives, and three wretchedly frustrating wars against the suicidal, brutal and apocalyptic crazies of Hamas.

The recollection of that bloodshed ought to generate a different response to Santa in this particular holiday season, based on his seasoned wisdom and not just his good heart. Sure, the big bearded guy wants to spread happiness as far as possible but he understands what liberals don’t: that you end up undermining that process whenever you erase all distinctions between naughty and nice.

This column appeared at TRUTHREVOLT.ORG on December 23, 2014.

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