Democracy Isn't Enough

Freedom is more than majority rule.

Though one hates to nitpick, it seems that Middle East coverage on cable TV has been only almost perfect. You see, for some reason, a number of anchors and talking heads have made a careless habit of using the words "democracy" and "freedom" as if they were interchangeable ideas.

George W. Bush once famously claimed that all of humanity is hard-wired to strive for freedom. At the very least, this notion makes emotive sense. Hey, why on earth wouldn't everyone want to be just like us? But simply because democracy is the best way to self-determination does not mean everyone is determined to have liberty.

In fact, in his most recent book, The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, Kenneth Minogue argues that the history of both "traditional societies and totalitarian states of the twentieth century suggested that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security."

Sounds a bit unsympathetic to me. Yet both the right and left regularly accuse each other of surrendering to the temptation of chasing safety over freedom—usually when they're out of power. And who knows, maybe liberty is less intrinsic to the human experience than we would like to believe. Maybe freedom just means a range of things to different people.

How many times, after all, are we asked to surrender personal freedom for the collective good here at home? Alas, it only takes 51 percent of you to ban a stiff energy drink or a decent light bulb—a crime against not only liberty but also decent luminosity. When liberals crusade to end electoral colleges or scoff at states' rights, they are fighting for a more direct, centralized democracy in which liberty becomes susceptible to the temporary whims, ideological currents, and fears (rational and sometimes not) of the majority.

When the tea party members talk about returning "power to the people"—as they're apt to do on occasion—they're missing the point, as well. We already defer too much power to other people. If you knew the people I do, you'd be chanting "power from the people."

Now, despite our political disagreements, we have, historically and culturally speaking, a pretty common understanding of what independence means. If we struggle with democracy, can you imagine what it means for others?

Take Egypt, where 10 brutal plagues couldn't get the minority vote heard. Not much has changed, apparently. If we're to believe a recent Pew poll, 54 percent of Egyptians believe that women and men should be segregated in the workplace; 82 percent believe that adulterers should be stoned; 84 percent believe that apostates of Islam should face the death penalty; and 77 percent believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off.

And 99 percent of Americans—just a guess—wouldn't want to live under that kind of democracy, even if it meant a popular national vote for president.

Don't get me wrong; democracy is clearly a vast improvement over an autocracy. (Though, now that you bring it up, how many of you would choose to reside in one of those despotic Persian Gulf states with stipends, film festivals, and casinos rather than in a democratic Haiti?) Democracy without a moral foundation, economic freedom, or a respect for individual and human rights, though, has the potential not to be any kind of freedom at all.

We all wish the Muslim world the best in shedding its dictatorships and theocracies and finding true liberty. But let's not confuse two distinct ideas. At the very least, not on television, a place Americans can typically rely on for pinpoint accuracy and untainted reporting. Not there.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post. Follow him on Twitter at davidharsanyi.

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  • ||

    Do most Egyptians speak (and read and write) English? Because they sure do love them some English signs at their protests.

  • Tim||

    They're just being thoughtful.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    Is there an Arabic word for "astroturf"? Because if this has anything to do with GWB, then it must be astroturf. At least that was the explanation for Tea Party rallies and Anti-ObamaCare rallies, right?

  • ||

    astrosand?

  • Obvious||

    English is the world's lingua franca.

  • MJ||

    Now the French are going to fine your ass to oblivion.

  • sarcasmic||

    They want Americans to be able to read them on tv.

  • Juice||

    Yes. I also saw German and French signs.

  • ||

    Yet French is not the lingua franca.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It is in Paris.

  • ||

    We'll always have Paris.

  • ||

    It used to be in Egypt.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    So was English, back when it was part of the British Empire.

  • Matrix||

    People don't want to be controlled, but they want others to be controlled.

    Liberals don't really want the government to control a lot of people's personal choices, but they also don't think those people should have to live with the negative consequences of those choices, like being poor or jobless. In essence, you are no longer responsible for the consequences of your actions. Society should be there to bail you out, and often let you just be a leach.

  • sarcasmic||

    There are two kinds of liberals.
    There are the ones who need an Authority for everything, and there are the ones who are happy to be that Authority.
    The ones who appeal to Authority on all matters want to be controlled. They feel freedom means being free from choices. That's what Authority is for. When Authority makes your choices you cannot be held responsible for the consequences. Life is bliss.

    Then there are the ones who fancy themselves to be Authority. They are also not responsible for the consequences of their choices because they've got the guns.
    Rebel against their Authority and they send nice men with guns to haul you into court. Resist and there's a chance you will be killed.

    Liberals are Authoritarians.

  • Tony||

    It's not so black and white. Liberals just believe there should be a minimum level of protection--that the 'crime' of being lazy or making bad choices doesn't merit the punishment of death or prolonged misery. Libertarians believe the same thing, just at a different place on the continuum. After all, nobody believes people should be without the protection of the armed forces because they didn't live up to someone's moral standards. Liberals just extend the idea of a minimum of security and protection to include things like health.

    I don't understand why libertarians, who like to pretend to be ultra-rationalists, like to point the moral finger so much. It's based on an outdated understanding of human behavior anyway. People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices, end of story. Lots of factors go into one's success or failure. Have libertarians even bothered to quantify the issue, or do they just make these moral assumptions and never question them? Not that the moral uprightness of a person should really have anything to do with whether they receive help from society. They should get it because they signed on to the system and help pay for it.

  • sarcasmic||

    "It's based on an outdated understanding of human behavior anyway. People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices, end of story. Lots of factors go into one's success or failure."

    Sounds to me like you've made some poor choices in your life and are looking for someone to bail you out.

    Loser.

  • Tony||

    Actually I happened to be born into a well-off family and happened to be endowed with a superior intellect and study skills. The overwhelming factor leading to my current life would seem to be the random luck of whose genes I got.

    Of course, maybe you didn't choose the be completely inept at reading the latest literature on human behavior, instead relying on tired, outdated assumptions no better than the moral nagging of a devout christian.

  • sarcasmic||

    "superior intellect"

    L
    M
    A
    O
    R
    O
    T
    F
    F

    !

  • omg||

    "Laughing My Ass Off Rolling On The Floor Fucking"?

    Sounds like a good time.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I happened to be born into a well-off family"

    It is easy to be charitable with property that does not belong to you when you didn't earn what you have.

    Others of us who have earned everything we have are not so quick to give away that which does not belong to us.

  • Mensan||

    ^ THIS

  • JB||

    Rich liberal fucks are the worst.

    I say fine, let's have higher taxes: starting with you hypocrites first.

    You could give the US Treasury more money if you wanted to, but it's not about you paying more, it's about others paying more.

    I say time to put your fucking money where your fucking mouths are. Registered Democrats pay higher tax rates. Period.

  • Edwin||

    ditto here

    I was lucky to be born to rich parents/family

    actually one of the things that was lucky is that I was born into a family where I could learn how to do a certain industry first hand. And I can tell you, there isn't much to learn, and intelligence doesn't have much to do with success, regardless of what libertarians say.
    I think a lot of people remain poor because they can't easily get specialized skills/knowledge. Then again, liberals like Tony hate the private affordable colleges that are springing up, and the public schools fail to teach anything useful like that.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I think a lot of people remain poor because they can't easily get specialized skills/knowledge."

    Ain't that the truth.
    It wasn't easy working full time and taking two classes a semester over eight years to get a degree.
    Nor was it easy sending out literally hundreds of resumes in order to find the one that would hire a guy with a degree but no experience.

    It's a lot easier when your parents are well off.

    But I'll tell you what. I'm sure I appreciate what I have a heck of a lot more than you appreciate anything you might have.

  • Edwin||

    OK...
    that didn't address that poor people can be pretty fucked depending on their circumstances

    and they'd be way more fucked if there were no public education whatsoever, however bad ours is currently

  • Edwin||

    In other words, it works both ways

    Tony's liberals' proscription that we keep our crappy public schools with their teachers' unions isn't good

    the libertarian proposition that there not be any is even worse, and pretty severely regressive.
    Libertarians have a habit of being so regressive they're just shy of publicly strangling puppies.
    And this coming from a guy who used to hate the term "progressive" because of the image of all those fucking commie pinkos I had to deal with in college

  • sarcasmic||

    The libertarian perspective is that schools should compete with one another which would lower the cost and improve the quality of the education.

    Without the taxes being taken away to pay for public schools most people could afford to send their kids to private school, and charity could take care of those who cannot.

    The libertarian prescription is better education for a lower cost.

    I would call that progress compared to what we have today.

  • Tony||

    The libertarian prescription is better education for a lower cost.

    Another libertarian assertion of higher quality with absolutely no evidence to support it. Hey I'm for puppies and unicorns. That means I'm right!

    Public education is an obvious necessity. Charity simply wouldn't cover the costs for everyone, as it's a hugely expensive enterprise. We need universal access to education because it is at least a basic requirement for a level playing field. Your prescription is for competition to drive success and prosperity, but you want people to compete from widely different starting places.

  • sarcasmic||

    Public education is hugely expensive only because it is run by government.

    Anything done by government will cost more because government is the most inefficient way of doing anything.

    Besides, who said that public education is not a necessity?

    Arguing that something should not be done by government is not an argument that it should not be done at all.

    Food is a necessity. If I said I don't want the government to produce and control the food supply would you accuse me of not wanting people to eat?

  • Tony||

    Public education is hugely expensive only because it is run by government.

    Anything done by government will cost more because government is the most inefficient way of doing anything.

    This is just false. Medicare is more efficient than comparable private healthcare. Fact. You're just asserting that a totally private education system would be cheaper, again with no evidence. It almost certainly wouldn't be, but beyond that, it certainly wouldn't be universal without some form of subsidy. 13 years of education just isn't cheap, and many families would simply forgo the expense if given the choice, assuming they had the slightest possibility of being able to afford it in the first place.

    Food is a necessity. If I said I don't want the government to produce and control the food supply would you accuse me of not wanting people to eat?

    If large amounts of people couldn't afford access to food, I'd expect government to subsidize food for people. Just as it does in this country in the form of food stamps. I'd say we do have a problem in this country, in that there is a widespread problem of people being able to afford quality food. The market can't solve all problems. Here, the market solves the problem of food suppliers not having profits, but it is not designed to solve the problem of starvation.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I'd say we do have a problem in this country, in that there is a widespread problem of people being able to afford quality food."

    Bullcrap.

    People eat unhealthy food because they like it. Plain and simple.

    It is a simple matter to eat healthy quality food on the cheap if one chooses to do so.

    You don't have to spend a hundred dollars at the organic market to eat quality food.

    What you are saying is that there is a widespread "problem" of people choosing to eat food that you would not choose for them to eat.

    That's not a problem with markets.

    It's your hubris.

  • Tony||

    That's not a problem with markets.

    So explain why the US is the fattest country on earth, especially among the poor? Just a matter of millions of free, individual choices to be fat?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Because our food market is dominated by a government-backed oliogopoly? If we had a food free market, I bet no one would be fat.

    Plus, just because you eat badly doesn't mean you automatically get fat. There's a certain amound of sloth involved, as well.

  • MJL||

    Short answer: Yes. Even poor people in the united states can afford Twinkies™, McDonald's™ and color TV to sit in front of. They could instead afford Oatmeal, apples, and bananas if they wanted them. They don't. To claim poverty as the cause of obesity is a bit much. Good Grief. Were we even more obese during the Great Depression?

  • MJL||

    ^above was a reply to Tony

  • ||

    The US is the "fattest" country because we have made the [oor comfortable in poverty. Lazy Fat and warm.

  • kc||

    "So explain why the US is the fattest country on earth, especially among the poor? Just a matter of millions of free, individual choices to be fat?"
    well, yes, aided by high government sugar subsidies. The bad choices include lack of exercize (driven by the belief that manual labor is something you do at work, not on personal time, even if your job doesn't include manual labor) and self-medicating with high-carbohydrate foods to deal with the stress of being poor.
    Having come from a poor family, these are observations based on experience.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Medicare is more dollars in debt than the US GDP. That's hardly efficient. Private companies cost more because, unlike our spending-spree government, they have to balance the books.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Medicare is more efficient than comparable private healthcare."

    The fuck it is.

    "13 years of education just isn't cheap"

    Who says anyone needs 13 years?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I would be cheaper if we didn't pay education taxes and instead paid out of pocket. Initially, this would be out of range for poorer families, but free market competition would drive the price down. (I suspect Tony will start a new subthread on this.)

  • ||

    Why would we want a "comparable" health care system? A hundred years ago, an uneducated hayseed could walk into a pharmacy and walk out with what he wanted, or what the pharmacist recommended, at a reasonable price. Now, a highly educated individual, with virtually unlimited information at his fingertips, has to pay a small fortune to get a permission slip (or prescription) to buy what he is permitted to have at an extortionate price. I'm living outside the USSA at present. I had an eye infection and went to the local pharmacy and bought what I needed in one minute for two dollars. You can thank the medical doctors' labor union, the AMA, for America's "health care system".

  • ||

    "Your prescription is for competition to drive success and prosperity, but you want people to compete from widely different starting places."

    Everyone already comes from widely different starting places. Duh !!
    I didn't come from a family that was rich or even well enough off to send me to college, much less a private school. But my mother read to me every night, and I was expected to go to college. I was rewarded for getting good grades, and punished (more studying and less play time) if I didn't. So I went to work full time, got married, had a kid, took out loans and went to (for-profit) university full time. It boils down to what we expect of ourselves and our children, and what we're willing to give up to achieve it.

    But public education is NOT an obvious necessity. This country had less of an illiteracy rate before the federal government took over the reins than we do now. Not all libertarians are saying to privatize education totally and leave the rest to charity, but virtually ALL libertarians want to take it out of the national level and send it back to the individual states.

  • Tony||

    Everyone already comes from widely different starting places. Duh !!
    I didn't come from a family that was rich or even well enough off to send me to college, much less a private school. But my mother read to me every night, and I was expected to go to college. I was rewarded for getting good grades, and punished (more studying and less play time) if I didn't.

    So you did have one advantage: caring parents. What about the children of deadbeats?

    I'm not talking about trying to make the playing field absolutely level for all people, but there is a continuum from that to total darwinian competition.

  • ||

    Tony life aint fair...get over it.

  • Edwin||

    Tony, I've said it before, fuck a level playing field
    it's a basic necessity for an ECONOMY! it's basically a form of infrastructure. The capitalism that these little puds worship wouldn't qork worth a squat if large numbers of the workforce can't read or do basic arithmetic
    Just look at other countries. The public-education/country development correlation doesn't work by developed countries are simply able to afford public education - public education is part of what lets them do so well

  • Edwin||

    poor countries have got millions of mouths to feed, but the only thing those mouths can offer for production is two hands to work and most of the time (but not always) the ability to speak the native languge
    There are very few people who know how to let's say, maintain a tractor to grow the food they need, or frame a decent house or provide it with plumbing, or read so they can read signs and be a decent driver (the roads are hell in those places), etc.

    If no one knows how to do anything, nothing gets done. Good bye modern technological economy!

    Public education, it's a necessity (unless you want to be one of those dirty shitty poor countries with no basic decent standard of living)

  • Tony||

    Tony, I've said it before, fuck a level playing field
    it's a basic necessity for an ECONOMY! it's basically a form of infrastructure. The capitalism that these little puds worship wouldn't qork worth a squat if large numbers of the workforce can't read or do basic arithmetic
    Just look at other countries. The public-education/country development correlation doesn't work by developed countries are simply able to afford public education - public education is part of what lets them do so well

    True. But they're arguing that the private sector could deliver these things by magic if gov't would just get out of the way. With the help of charity. They have lots of charts and numbers to back these assertions up, of course.

  • MJL||

    Since 1970 the average price of a new car has gone up by a factor of about 7, and cars are much better today. The price of education spending per pupil has gone up by a factor of about 12. Has it gotten any better? My question to you or Edwin: Is there ANY point of diminishing returns when it comes to public education? Is the answer always "more money"?

  • Edwin||

    Yeah, I know, I agree.

    What I'm saying is you're jumping to a higher, more esoteric philosophical point (like when these libertarians talk about rights), when a far more important practical matter is what's at stake.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Public education is hardly the deciding factor.

    When most people talk about "level playing-fields," they're talking about one sloped in their direction.

  • ||

    "Another libertarian assertion of higher quality with absolutely no evidence to support it".

    List for me the communities where the average public school is better than the average private school.

    Then do that vice-versa.

    I think I know which list will be longer. And remember, the families sending their kids to the private schools are paying for BOTH.

  • Tony||

    List for me the communities where the average public school is better than the average private school.

    I will accept the premise that private schools have better outcomes than public schools. Even though it's not quite as true as you might think. If everyone could afford private school, things would be great. Nobody is saying that you can't throw a lot of money at something and get a better result for any individual. But the private sector won't deliver universal education, and that's the entire point.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Tony, please explain why some lady just went to jail for trying to send her kid to school in her Dad's neck of the level playing field?

    Public education has yielded ever less and less educated people while requiring more and more money and will continue to do so.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    "Another libertarian assertion of higher quality with absolutely no evidence to support it."

    We have no evidence, because people like you make it a crime to collect any. If we could privatize schools, lets say just in one state for 10 years, we could find out if that method works. As it is, you criticize without evidence.

  • ||

    It isn't a necessity, especially in times such as these where technology has vastly lowered the labor required to educate people. One example is Khan Academy. Check it out. Public education will never reach the efficiency and quality of education based on private property and voluntary (emphasis) exchange.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    and they'd be way more fucked if there were no public education whatsoever, however bad ours is currently


    I would disagree.

    See here .

  • Edwin||

    and that article on zero tolerance has what to do with the general proposition that education should be pulicly funded in some form? (hint: that also includes the voucher-system possibility, where a school might not need/implement a zero tolerance policy)

  • WTF||

    It's great that you worked so hard and made the difficult, responsible choices necessary to be successful so statist fucks like Tony can take it from you and give to those who couldn't be bothered to put in the same effort.

  • WTF||

    That was to sarcasmic|2.16.11 @ 1:27PM|#

  • Tony||

    I'm very skeptical of for-profit colleges because they seem to be leaving a lot of people in a huge amount of debt and with a credential that's barely worth the paper it's on. Of course I went to a real private university, and I have nothing against those.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I'm very skeptical of for-profit colleges because they seem to be leaving a lot of people in a huge amount of debt and with a credential that's barely worth the paper it's on."

    Then don't go to one of those schools.

    Duh.

    That's what liberty is all about.

  • Edwin||

    uhhh.... no?

    that's exacly what these private classes are helping people not get into

    you just pick the classes you want and learn, sometimes online.
    No bullshit humanities requirements. Only pay per class
    Only learn what you need to learn
    It's much better

  • Tony||

    Only learn what you need to learn

    Most people don't know what they need to learn. The most intellectually valuable time of my life was the time I spent in humanities classes. Maybe it's not for everyone. I do know that for-profit universities are mostly a huge (highly lucrative) scam. We should be lowering the credential requirements for getting a job, and have more jobs available, we shouldn't be selling people expensive, useless pieces of paper.

  • Tony||

    Oh and higher ed should be free like it is in civilized countries.

  • Mensan||

    Free? So the faculty and staff are all volunteers? The facilities are donated by some charitable benefactor? That is what you meant by free, right?

    Or did you mean the kind of 'free' where it's paid for by someone else who may or may not derive any benefit, but has no choice in the matter?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    We should be lowering the credential requirements for getting a job, and have more jobs available, we shouldn't be selling people expensive, useless pieces of paper.


    Is that not decided by the people who hire workers?

    Of course, there are licensed professions. Good luck trying to lower the credential requirements for cardiologists.

  • ||

    How about a cardiologist who may have not read a single article about his specialty since he graduated thirty years ago? In Pennsylvania, mechanics have to re-qualify every five years to do car inspections. A medical doctor can cut into your brain without any such updated certification or information. Another perk from the AMA.

  • Edwin||

    Tony, I gotta call bullshit on this.

    If I want to be an engineer, I don't need to learn about literature or religion or whatever bullshit, yet colleges compel such things to get a degree. Maybe it would make sense to require WRITING classes; ideally an engineer can communicate well, which is necessary when he writes letters.

    If I want to be a plumber, I need to know plumbing. If I want to be a realtor, I need to learn about real estate law.
    No class got so straight to the point, was as thorough and as concise, and so rapidly taught me about something so directly applicable to real life than my realtor classes I took.

    We need to cut the bullshit. All the hoighty toighty philosophizing about "education" won't change the fact that college graduates are now fucking retards that don't know shit and have no basic skills, and that we're expending resources (or worse, requiring people expend their own resources) on classes that are nothing more than fucking circle-jerks or useless bullshit.
    I remember one class I took involved the teacher every week just sitting down and trying to indoctrinate us in liberal bullshit. No homework or tests or anything, that was the entire class.
    Another class had one teacher standing lecturing an auditorium, ostensibly about American history, but all he seemed to do was scream about Bush, and he would literally foam at the mouth and spittle would fly out.

    Do you think maybe it would be a good idea to just simply teach skills to people? I know for example trade classes don't sound very impressive, but find me a plumber or an electrician and I promise you he's far smarter than any recent college graduate in ways that actually matter (that is, physical/spatial acuity and at least some understanding of physics, which is more important in a technologic world than is liberals' ability to verbosely circle-jerk each other)

  • ||

    Of course I went to a real private university, and I have nothing against those.

    Even though your worth nothing....

  • John Calhoun||

    That's different than state-run schools how?

  • pancakes||

    Tony is really smart and you should all read what he writes. It's not black and white. It's black and white and yellow and red and whatever color hispanics are and dutch elm disease too.

    Liberalism is based on this concept that how sweet your life is comes from the state. So your lucky genes and smarts and business ecumen are all benefits derived from the state. This is reflected in your (probably higher) salary. Thus, you pay higher taxes.

    Since poor people receive fewer benefits from the state (such as having loving parents that value education) the state makes up for it by giving them free(ish) health care, housing, and food. Makes perfect sense.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 1:11PM|#
    "Actually I happened to be born into a well-off family and happened to be endowed with a superior intellect and study skills. ..."

    On the web, no one can tell you're a dog.
    But they sure as hell can tell you're a lying ignoramus.

  • ||

    I'm laughing at your superior intellect.

  • Realist||

    "Of course, maybe you didn't choose the be completely inept at reading the latest...."
    The above is from the mind of a superior intellect!
    It is so far above my cognitive ability that I have no fucking idea what it means.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    Liberals just extend the idea of a minimum of security and protection to include things like health.

    How exactly is someone else's health my responsibility. Moreover, how is my health any of your business, much less your "responsibilty"?

    And how, for the love of pomegranates, does Egypt's revolution translate into "free healthcare for all?" That's a heck of stretch there Plasticman.

  • Tony||

    How is your protection from armed invasion my responsibility? I don't live on a border state.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It isn't; thus, State militas.

  • Edwin||

    WHO ARE YOU TO DEMAND I PAY FOR YOUR PROTECTION!!!11!??!?!? TAXAION IS THEFT! TAXATION IS THEFT!!!!111 one

  • sevo||

    Edwin|2.16.11 @ 1:24PM|#
    "WHO ARE YOU TO DEMAND I PAY FOR YOUR PROTECTION!!!11!??!?!? TAXAION IS THEFT! TAXATION IS THEFT!!!!111 one"

    Max, since they don't pay a lot in the 'hospital', why you don't *have* to pay.

  • ||

    "How is your protection from armed invasion my responsibility? I don't live on a border state."

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,"

    Does that answer your question?

  • Tony||

    No. Just because something is written on a piece of paper somewhere doesn't address the philosophical justification for it. Why trillions for armed defense but nothing for healthcare? Which addresses a bigger actual threat to people's security and well-being?

  • Tony||

    *POOP*

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why trillions for armed defense but nothing for healthcare? Which addresses a bigger actual threat to people's security and well-being?


    What did people do to deserve health care from the government?

  • Tony||

    What did they do to deserve armed defense?

    It's not about lame moral calculations. People can decide, democratically, that they want universal healthcare. Why can't they have the freedom to decide that? Bitch about the taxes to pay for it all you want, but the whole point of universal healthcare is that it is cheaper. More money in everyone's pockets, more access to a basic life necessity. That's more freedom, to anyone keeping score.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    What did they do to deserve armed defense?


    The armed forces protects the nation itself.

    In war, entire populations will be sacrificed if it meant victory.

    Bitch about the taxes to pay for it all you want, but the whole point of universal healthcare is that it is cheaper.


    In universal healthcare, do young, healthy people get a tax discount due to the fact that they do not cost the system that much.

    If you want a fair universal health care system, people who are healthier should pay less in taxes because they are cheaper to treat.

  • Tony||

    In universal healthcare, do young, healthy people get a tax discount due to the fact that they do not cost the system that much.

    No, because eventually they will be old and need more care and it will all even out.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    No, because eventually they will be old and need more care and it will all even out.
    reply to this


    Not unless they die prematurely from an injury.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:27PM|#
    "What did they do to deserve armed defense?"

    They live in a place where the words on paper say they get it, you ignoramus.

  • ||

    Some of us served to provide that armed defense at one point in our lives.

  • ||

    And would again, if necessary.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 1:57PM|#
    "..Why trillions for armed defense but nothing for healthcare? "

    Because, you stupid shit, words written on paper *do* matter.

  • Tony||

    words written on paper *do* matter.

    Not when we're debating what's the theoretically best system of government. The constitution isn't holy writ, and appeals to it are not arguments.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Big government, obviously.

  • cynical||

    "Which addresses a bigger actual threat to people's security and well-being?"

    The military.

    Invasion and pillage at the hands of barbarian hordes cause people of all ages to suffer and die in large numbers, whereas lack of health care mainly affects old people and a minority of unfortunate youngsters. Everyone dies -- we're mainly focused on maximizing years of life, and healthy, fertile, productive years count for more than the later ones*.

    Moreover, the military becomes more and more and effective when undertaken as a united endeavor; while there are economies of scale in health care, the sweet spot is smaller and more local for the labor side of it -- to simplify, military has all the hallmarks of a public good, and healthcare doesn't to nearly the same extent.


    *Ironically, the general calculus applied in a death panel sort of scenario is often not that out of line with what people truly value deep down; it's combination of bringing an uncomfortable truth out into the open and taking control of that valuation away from the person affected by it (or those he trusts with his well-being) that bothers people.

    The latter is critical, though; a feeling of control is important to people (for reasons that should be obvious in light of evolution and human nature), and centralization basically takes that away from the majority and places huge amounts of it in the hands of the few. Since control, like money, is a means to utility, centralist, authoritarian, and statist tendencies can be seen as a form of social injustice. The inherent contradiction in non-anarchic leftism.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Invasions get past border states when we don't have national defense. I'd be perfectly happy to let you off the hook for defense taxes, so long as we don't have to defense *your* property.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It's not so black and white. Liberals just believe there should be a minimum level of protection--that the 'crime' of being lazy or making bad choices doesn't merit the punishment of death or prolonged misery.


    Define prolonged misery.

    Not that the moral uprightness of a person should really have anything to do with whether they receive help from society.


    It should.

    At a minimum, sex offenders should be excluded from public benefits.

  • Mensan||

    "At a minimum, sex offenders should be excluded from public benefits."

    I take issue with that particular exemption, because I think some states apply the 'sex offender' label a little too liberally.

    THREADJACK TANGENT ALERT

    For example:
    A good friend of mine started dating (and having sex with) a 16 year old girl when he was 22. A poor choice perhaps, but perfectly legal in Florida. The girl's stepmother didn't like that she was dating an older man, but they still continued their relationship for a year and a half.

    When he turned 24 years old his girlfriend was still 17 (but had already graduated high school and started college; which I only mention to demonstrate that she was mentally mature). At this point, under Florida law, it became illegal for them to have sex until she turned 18 three months later. During this time the stepmother pressed charges.

    Florida statute dictates that their previously legal relationship was irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. Although a 16 y/o can consent to sex with a 23 y/o, a 17 y/o cannot legally consent to sex with a 24 y/o. My friend was convicted of a second degree felony. He spent a year in jail, two more years on house arrest, and two more years on probation. He is also now a registered sex offender.

    Needless to say, being a convicted felon and a registered sex offender has had a lasting negative impact on his life. Although he is no longer imprisoned, his conviction does, in fact, carry a lifetime of punishment already. I don’t see why he should additionally be denied access to public benefits for which he may otherwise be eligible.

    Note: I’m not necessarily endorsing public benefits.

  • ||

    People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices

    True, when those people are children and their parents situation becomes their situation, but even children in unfortunate situations have the ability to become something else when they grow up. If that weren't true, then EVERY kid who goes to a lousy school would remain poor and stupid forever and EVERY kid from a wealthy family with smart parents would be successful. But in the real world some rich kids grow up to be stupid, lazy adults who don't accomplish much (relative to their parents) while some kids from bad situations grow up and become wildly successful at a great many things. It is not the government's responsibility to help anyone get there because by doing so they invariably harm someone else. Be charitable with your money and skills, Tony, if you think such things need to be done. Leave me out of it.

  • Tony||

    If that weren't true, then EVERY kid who goes to a lousy school would remain poor and stupid forever and EVERY kid from a wealthy family with smart parents would be successful.

    No, think statistics. If you're born to a poor family then you're just not as likely to be successful later in life. It's not true in all cases, but it is a statistical reality. You can't justify laissez-faire society based on the moral assumption that people will work hard to succeed if large contributors to people's success or failure are things beyond their control!

    It is not the government's responsibility to help anyone get there because by doing so they invariably harm someone else.

    The harm of letting people suffer and die because they were born poor is far, far greater than the harm of taxing others to give them a safety net. Life is about making these kinds of choices. A tax simply isn't equivalent to all the forms of harm out there. The reason it works is because the tradeoff is positive.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You can't justify laissez-faire society based on the moral assumption that people will work hard to succeed if large contributors to people's success or failure are things beyond their control!


    Why not?

    Life is unfair; deal with it!

  • Tony||

    Nature is highly unfair. Why should human society be equally unfair? What possible reason for that is there? You people don't believe in freedom as an actual thing, you just believe in it as a slogan. You want literally the least amount of freedom possible.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Nature is highly unfair. Why should human society be equally unfair? What possible reason for that is there? You people don't believe in freedom as an actual thing, you just believe in it as a slogan. You want literally the least amount of freedom possible.


    What could be more fair than letting people do as they please?

  • John||

    I agree Michael so why do you oppose same sex marriage?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I agree Michael so why do you oppose same sex marriage?


    Define marriage.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    Marriage is defined as whatever the fuck two consenting adults want it to be. Government should be absolutely mute on the subject.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Marriage is defined as whatever the fuck two consenting adults want it to be. Government should be absolutely mute on the subject.


    Which means that marriage does not mean anything.

  • sarcasmic||

    Reductio ad gaymarriagum

  • Tony||

    What could be more fair than letting people do as they please?

    What they please except form democratic societies with strong social safety nets. Why do you hate freedom?

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    I love freedom! Especially the freedom to CHOOSE whether or not to partake in - or pay into - your beloved "safety net."

    Your definition of freedom seems to be freedom FROM choice.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    There's no such thing as a freedom "from." FDR's four freedoms is really two, because freedom from is a synonym as slavery to the antithesis.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    The government isn't freedom. As soon as the government takes money from me with no guarantee of returning it to me (in the form of police, military, courts) then it is no longer protecting my freedom.

  • ||

    You can thank them when they come in shooting so they can confiscate your hash pipe.

  • ||

    What they please except form democratic societies with strong social safety nets. Why do you hate freedom?

    Freedom and social "safety" nets can't be used in the same set of logic. They both kill each other.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I'm not sure you know what freedom means.

  • Tony||

    I'm not sure you do. The only goal of my policy preferences is to maximize individual human freedom. Your guys' mistake is thinking that a few tax dollars taken from someone is the biggest assault on freedom there is, and that it outweighs the lack of freedom that comes with not having access to education, healthcare, etc.

  • ||

    I'm not absolutely sure I do. But I trust my own gut instincts (and the US Constitution) more than someone else's opinion on the subject.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:01PM|#
    "If you're born to a poor family then you're just not as likely to be successful later in life."

    And if you're born ugly, you won't get a job on TV.
    Please tell us again how stupid you are.

  • Tony||

    You are the ones basing your society on the moral premise that everyone is free to live and die by their own choices and personal ingenuity. If people aren't actually that free to make those choices, what's the moral center of your argument?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Do the best with what you can. If you love the state and "social nets" so much, go to Europe. Leave us capitalists here.

  • Tony||

    Fine. I expect you'll be paying for your own armed defense, since a standing national army is very socialistic.

  • ||

    I am my own army, so get on the boat Tony!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    But we won't be paying for yours.

    And how is a national defense "socialistic?" It's defending borders, nothing else. Admittedly ours is rather larger than necessary, but your argument is either incomplete or wrong.

  • WTF||

    People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices, end of story
    Bull shit. Statistically, if you choose to finish high school, don't have a child before you get married, and don't get married before you are 22, you are highly unlikely to be poor. If you make GOOD CHOICES you can get an education, improve yourself, and be at least moderately successful. But admitting this would destroy Tony's rationale for stealing from other's success to benefit the irresponsible. Fuck you, slaver.

  • Tony||

    While I think that science has pretty well established that life is far more deterministic than most people think, I'm willing to accept that there will be a lot of room for individual choice in the making of one's success, and even a lot of room for pure luck. Nobody's talking about making the world perfect, just more perfect than it is in a state of nature.

  • WTF||

    While I think that science has pretty well established that life is far more deterministic than most people think
    Citation that science has established that life is deterministic?

  • ||

    You're right, Tony. It's all fate, right?

    So just fuck it. Why try at all? We'll just live off the sweat of those that are too stupid to embrace our philosophy.

    Yeah, that's about right...

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:30PM|#
    "...Nobody's talking about making the world perfect, just more perfect than it is in a state of nature."

    Fine. Pay for your fantasies.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "the 'crime' of being lazy or making bad choices doesn't merit the punishment of death or prolonged misery"

    It's impossible for a man to sustain his life without consuming the product of someone's work. If not the product of his own work, then the product of someone else's. This is not a punishment, it's an inescapable truth of reality like conservation of matter. Someone is being forced to make up the difference. You are charging one with the crime of providing the means to his own existence and sentencing him to serve another, while the other is given talented human servants as reward for the virtue of laziness and irrationality.

  • Tony||

    So taking the product of someone else's work is obviously the biggest wrong imaginable? Bigger than people starving to death, even. You have to make tradeoffs in this world. Not every wrong is equal.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "So taking the product of someone else's work is obviously the biggest wrong imaginable? Bigger than people starving to death, even"

    Yes, it's quite wrong to deprive yourself of food until you are dead and it's also quite wrong to steal my food. There are two options if you want my food and you don't want to do something evil to get it. 1- offer me something in exchange for it or 2- ask politely.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    That's why I prefer tax cuts over subsidies.

    You're basing your assumption on the premise that need is absolute. It is not. If people are starving to death, they are either too lazy or stupid to produce their own food, or being held back by someone else (whom should be our target).

    Your argument is based on postulates, not axioms. And their is a difference.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Bigger than people starving to death, even.


    It depends on why people are starving to death.

  • ||

    "Liberals just believe there should be a minimum level of protection--that the 'crime' of being lazy or making bad choices doesn't merit the punishment of death or prolonged misery."

    Ya know, it's funny, Tony. Aesop lived in the 6th century BC, and he had you guys figured out even then. He discussed you in the fable of The Grasshopper and the Ant.

    You know what else? Aesop was born a slave.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    If we had a free market, it would be a pretty good indicator.

  • Ray Pew||

    People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices, end of story. Lots of factors go into one's success or failure.

    The latter sentence does not support the former. Lots of factors DO go into one's success or failure, and DECISIONS are one of those factors. To claim that what one chooses to do has no influence on their state is absurd.

    Also, it is illogical. If a person chooses to go to school to become a sociologist to study such issues, by your argument, such a decision doesn't influence their capacity to become a sociologist. It either must affect the final outcome, not absolutely, but with some influence, or not. If it doesn't, then your argument for universal education is meaningless, because education would have no ability to influence a person towards decisions that improve their lives. Staying in school would be no more beneficial than dropping out.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Just thinking here, but if you choose to be as sociologist, you're making a decision to take a pretty large risk, because sociologists aren't essential. Making bad career choices is also a factor.

  • Tony||

    To claim that what one chooses to do has no influence on their state is absurd.

    I'm not. I said just what you said, it's one factor among many. Luck has probably a lot more to do with it than any of you will admit, since your moral premises are based on an assumption of total free will.

  • Ray Pew||

    I'm not. I said just what you said, it's one factor among many. Luck has probably a lot more to do with it than any of you will admit, since your moral premises are based on an assumption of total free will.

    Luck definitely plays a part in life, but so do choices. And I have no assumption of "total" free will, just that man has the capacity for free will. If he doesn't, then there is little point to our debate or decisions, because they would amount to dick.

  • cynical||

    "People aren't poor or rich because they made good or bad choices, end of story."

    That's ridiculous. Just because a person's choices are influenced by a person's upbringing or genes or factors beyond their control doesn't mean they aren't choices.

    If you're looking for some sort of pure transcendent free will, then no one makes choices. And if no one makes choices, then every moral system is completely broken -- so we would have to re-establish why we should give a shit whether other genetically similar organisms suffer in the first place, using only scientific fact.

    Good luck with that; with reason alone, we can't even establish why it's important that we ourselves don't suffer or die, much less others. We've developed moral intuition by depending on nature to weed out of people and cultures that came up with stupid approaches to dealing with the world, including other humans. Empathy is a biological mechanism just like pain, and it can be just as misleading.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Why are you bringing "morality" into this, Tony?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Because there is no reason to his argument. He's trying to use his Morality of Altruism to try to make us overlook that, despite the fact that altruism's epistemological roots are irrational.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I forgot... libs say "separation of church and state", then use "my brother's keeper" as justification for giving money to able-bodied people.

    Either adhere to the separation, or don't.

  • cynical||

    The circle of life:
    Conservative: People should be punished for actions that are presumed to have negative consequences, the presumption of "consequences" being based on cultural taboos which may have originally been closely related to actual harm, but are carried on due to traditionalism moreso than any real empirical evidence. Indeed, if nature doesn't cause harm, conservatives often feel the need to supply it artificially (poisoning drugs and alcohol, etc.).

    [apply some enlightenment thought and skepticism to this state of affairs]

    Libertarian: Sure, people should bear the burden of the negative consequences of their actions (and reap the reward of the positive consequences), but let's not use circular reasoning -- don't create consequences just so you can say there are consequences. While luck exists, there is truth to the saying, "you make your own luck"; luck is often used as an excuse by those who are unwilling or unable to see how their choices indirectly affect their situation.

    [the resulting situation is harsh, but there is no traditional natural order or cruel god to fall back on and justify it. Empathy leads to...]

    Liberal: First, it's not really feasible to quarantine consequence; people are always going to be affected by the mistakes of others. Besides, it's cruel to force people to bear the full burden of what naturally befalls them -- luck does exist, for all intents and purposes, and a lot of the harm people suffer is due to circumstances beyond their control; even in the case of bad choices, society shapes people's character, so society is partially responsible for and should take on some of the burden of people's bad choices. Everyone should be forced to shared the blame and burden for each other's failures, in some degree.

    [This is really appealing to a lot of people, since most of us would prefer some unspecified "other" clean up our messes. Everything starts to go to shit, and people react to the crisis...]

    Progressive: We embraced liberalism too fully; too many people made stupid choices, since their personal degree of suffering for any specific fuckup was far less than the harm caused by the fuckup itself. Enough dumbfuckery went on that we were even worse off than when we were conservative. Let's keep sharing consequence, sure, but let's try to find ways to make sure that people don't make choices that create some burden we all have to shoulder together.

    [Since the primary means of controlling choice is through punishment as deterrent, and since people are intellectually lazy and will eventually stop questioning whether "improper" choices actually result in material harm to the collective, and since control is self-justifying enough that the "social burden" will eventually fade in importance as a rationale for control, progressivism will over time transform into a new conservative status quo.]

  • Tony||

    When liberals crusade to end electoral colleges or scoff at states' rights, they are fighting for a more direct, centralized democracy in which liberty becomes susceptible to the temporary whims, ideological currents, and fears (rational and sometimes not) of the majority.

    Okay, there's a balancing act. I think the American system goes way to far in the direction of undemocratic. The electoral college is undemocratic, the Senate is very undemocratic, and the House is pretty undemocratic too. Not to mention the Supreme Court.

    The Senate wasn't liked very much by the founders. It was just established as a compromise to appease the small states. Now a senator representing a few hundred thousand people in one state has exactly the power of a senator representing a few tens of millions of people in another state. This is not even talking about the Senate's rules, which make it more undemocratic still.

    This is not a recipe for freedom. It still means other people get to make decisions for you. It just means those people are more likely to live in rural areas. Democracy isn't the end of freedom, and tyranny of the majority over certain well-established individual rights is a real threat. But democracy is still necessary, if not sufficient, for real freedom. Policy that affects the people should reflect the will of the people as much as possible, with a few exceptions for when the will of the people tramples unacceptably on the rights of a minority. But even that must be subject, at last, to democracy. Libertarians seem not to like democracy very much, preferring a sort of autocracy of first principles. To be determined by libertarians, presumably.

  • sarcasmic||

    I presume you have never read the Constitution or the Amendments, so I will give you a brief lesson.

    The Senate was to represent the States, as in the State governments.
    You know, the same State governments that are suing to repeal Obamacare?
    Why are they suing? Because it is the States that get the pleasure of implementing most federal legislation.
    It was to be a check on democracy.
    The democratically elected House could propose all the silly legislation that they wanted, but the States could veto it in the Senate.

    Then came the 17th Amendment which required that the Senate be popularly elected.

    That check on democracy was lifted, and the federal government exploded.

    I hope I have cured you of some of your ignorance, but I probably just wasted my time.

  • Tony||

    Madison, who described the Senate as a sort of cooling saucer where wisdom would prevail over popular whims, also said it wasn't born of any political theory, but purely out of compromise with small states. Since the 18th century as populations have increased, the Senate has only become more undemocratic.

  • sarcasmic||

    The Senate was to give the States a seat at the federal table.
    Not the people. They've got the House.
    The Senate was to be chosen by the State governments, since they're the ones who get to implement most federal legislation.

    Since over half of the State governments have sued to repeal Obamacare, don't you think (I know that's a stretch) that had the Senate been chosen by those very same State governments that the bill may have not made it through the Senate?

    Same with all these unfunded mandates. Had the 17th not been passed don't you think (there I go again accusing you of using your mind) there'd be fewer federal mandates?

    The Senate was to be a check on democracy.

  • Tony||

    Yeah and isn't it possible that a check on democracy can tilt too far in the direction of undemocratic? Over-representation of people in small states vs. big states has increased hugely with the population, and the Senate was certainly never meant to require a supermajority to pass everything.

    I really have never understood what's libertarian about favoring states over people anyway. There's a reason the Senate went to popular election. The prior system was irreparably corrupted by the machinations of state legislatures.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I really have never understood what's libertarian about favoring states over people anyway."

    Your reading comprehension skills suck for someone who claims to be intelligent and a good student.

    The people have a seat at the federal table. It's called the House of Representatives.

    The Senate (pre-17th) was a way for the States to veto the people.

    It was a check on democracy.

    Why is that so difficult to understand?

  • Tony||

    I understand the alleged purposes of the senate. I still think that anything that restricts democracy needs to be justified, since it's a restriction on individual freedom. And I think the senate has gone far beyond merely being a check on tyranny of majority to being an actual tyranny of a minority.

  • Professional Critic||

    There is nothing that says democracy = individual freedom. Nothing. The whole point of this column is that democracy is meaningless without protections against the tyranny of the majority.

  • sarcasmic||

    "I still think that anything that restricts democracy needs to be justified, since it's a restriction on individual freedom."

    Government is the restriction on individual freedom.

    Democracy, when used to empower government, can be a restriction on freedom.

  • ||

    I've never understood what's so beneficial about majority decisions vs. a Constitution of limits on government. But then, I also don't think a powerful government that takes care of people from cradle to grave in every creative manner those people can invent is a very responsible form of government whose original design was simply to provide for the common defense, postal service, and as arbiter for the several states. Call me crazy.

  • Tony||

    But then, I also don't think a powerful government that takes care of people from cradle to grave in every creative manner those people can invent is a very responsible form of government whose original design was simply to provide for the common defense, postal service, and as arbiter for the several states. Call me crazy.

    One of the most important projects of modernity has been to expand access to freedom from the theoretical to the actual. If your society is wealthy enough, there's no good reason to waste all that wealth on fortresses and toys for a few lucky people when it can be spent on providing basic necessities for everyone. You can argue philosophical points all you want about ownership and whatever, but when you get down to it, it's a matter of priorities.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    If your society is wealthy enough, there's no good reason to waste all that wealth on fortresses and toys for a few lucky people when it can be spent on providing basic necessities for everyone.


    And what did everyone do to deserve basic necessities?

  • Tony||

    And what did everyone do to deserve basic necessities?

    What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions? I don't give a crap about your personal moral judgments about people anymore than I care about what a Mormon has to say about my coffee habit. It's totally arbitrary, and not even consistent. I care about real people's real well-being, not your warped, inhuman calculation that the taking of a few tax dollars are the worst evil imaginable.

  • sarcasmic||

    "What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?"

    Chances are that if he'll lose his wealth soon enough without your beloved government stealing it from him.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?


    Ask the person who gave him his five mansions.

    In fact, if someone were to ask you for basic necessities, it would not be my business to ask, because I am not the one being asked for basic necessities.

    than I care about what a Mormon has to say about my coffee habit


    As long as you do not ask a Mormon for coffee.

    What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?


    If that cokehead son of a billionaire asks for my money, I fully expect him to explain what he did to deserve it.

    I care about real people's real well-being, not your warped, inhuman calculation that the taking of a few tax dollars are the worst evil imaginable.


    A cursory look at human history will reveal that humanity deserves little else other than eternal damnation in the lake of fire. That we are not enduring this damnation right now is much more than we deserve.

  • WTF||

    What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?
    His billionaire father can do whatever the fuck he wants with HIS OWN money, including give it to his coke head son if he so chooses. It is not yours to take away and decide who REALLY deserves to have it. You have every right to do as you wish with your own earnings - you have no right to MY paycheck, or anyone else's.

  • sarcasmic||

    "You have every right to do as you wish with your own earnings - you have no right to MY paycheck, or anyone else's."

    Tony doesn't have any earnings.
    He's a poor little rich kid who has had everything handed to him his whole life.
    He has no concept of what it is like to earn something.

    Now if he were kicked to the curb and forced to actually earn a living, he might stop feeling like a socialist and start thinking like a libertarian.

    Then again he'd probably just become a gay prostitute and live off some sugar daddy.

  • Tony||

    What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?
    His billionaire father can do whatever the fuck he wants with HIS OWN money, including give it to his coke head son if he so chooses. It is not yours to take away and decide who REALLY deserves to have it. You have every right to do as you wish with your own earnings - you have no right to MY paycheck, or anyone else's.

    You are the people obsessed with who "deserves" what. I don't give a fuck who deserves what. I give a fuck whether there are ignorant, unhealthy people starving to death in large numbers.

    You beg the question with this "my paycheck" bullshit. It's only yours if you are entitled to it by law. If government taxes a portion, that portion is no longer yours. Please argue on policy grounds why you deserve to keep that tax money and let others starve, don't tell me it belongs to you, since whether it belongs to you or to starving people is the question at hand.

  • Ray Pew||

    You are the people obsessed with who "deserves" what. I don't give a fuck who deserves what. I give a fuck whether there are ignorant, unhealthy people starving to death in large numbers.

    You beg the question with this "my paycheck" bullshit. It's only yours if you are entitled to it by law. If government taxes a portion, that portion is no longer yours. Please argue on policy grounds why you deserve to keep that tax money and let others starve, don't tell me it belongs to you, since whether it belongs to you or to starving people is the question at hand.

    I am amazed at how often your arguments undercuts itself. If people don't "deserve" (i.e. have some moral claim), then why does your argument deserve recognition? Why would starving people deserve food? Uneducated people deserve schooling? Since you have a disdain for any philosophical underpinning of "rights", your argument crumbles under it's lack of support for recognition of anything that people claim they "deserve".

    If man can't claim control of his existence, which requires resources for perpetuation, then starving people can't claim they need food. And liberals can't claim they need resources to provide food for those who also can't claim they deserve it.

  • Tony||

    Why would starving people deserve food?

    Because starvation is a proven, known source of misery for human beings, and non-sociopaths care whether other members of their society are in misery.

    Beyond that, a starving mass makes for an unstable country. It's in your best interest to make sure nobody's starving, and the richer you are, the more of an interest you have in the stability brought from low levels of starvation.

    Your morality is divorced from real consequences. In my book that makes it immoral.

  • Ray Pew||

    Because starvation is a proven, known source of misery for human beings, and non-sociopaths care whether other members of their society are in misery.

    But you still have no philosophical argument for why misery is "bad". You wish to discard moral philosophy, but then use it when it suits you. Without morality, you can't claim "good/bad". Things just are.

    Beyond that, a starving mass makes for an unstable country. It's in your best interest to make sure nobody's starving, and the richer you are, the more of an interest you have in the stability brought from low levels of starvation.

    Your morality is divorced from real consequences. In my book that makes it immoral.

    But your argument previously was that morality be damned, only policy matters. So you have no moral foundation upon which to claim something is or is not moral. By throwing out moral justification for property ownership, because it suited your need at the moment in debate, you have undercut your own argument for a policy "ought".

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    You don't seem to understand that the right of property exists independent of government. My paycheck is mine by contract with my employer, not by government permission.

  • Tony||

    You don't seem to understand that the right of property exists independent of government. My paycheck is mine by contract with my employer, not by government permission.

    Oh really. And what makes that contract valid? What compels your employer to abide by it? What secures your claim to your property? Pixie dust?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You are the people obsessed with who "deserves" what.


    Because they are asking for our stuff.

    If they were asking you for stuff it would be not our business what they did to deserve it.

    I give a fuck whether there are ignorant, unhealthy people starving to death in large numbers.


    You have not starved to death.

  • Tony||

    Because they are asking for our stuff.

    Okay I acknowledge that there is a legitimate debate to be had about how many taxes are taken from you and what they should pay for. There are plenty of practical arguments to make for social services, but whether we want to go to the expense of a thing depends, in part, on society's moral judgment.

    Pity the rightwing Christians, the most morally opinionated Americans, do the opposite of their prophet's advice on how to treat the poor. Which is why, perversely, they are so politically allied with heathen Ayn Rand cultists.

  • Mensan||

    “It's only yours if you are entitled to it by law.”

    No, you are entitled to it, because it is a representation of your work, which is a product of your body and your mind. If someone else has a claim over your work, then they are claiming entitlement to the means of producing that work. They are claiming entitlement to your body and mind. If you do not own your mind, then you have no free will. If you do not own your body, then you are a slave.

    I am a generous person. I don’t have much money, so I instead donate my work directly by volunteering. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement, because I receive a sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for my work. I think that everyone should want to be charitable, but I cannot force someone to give their work, or the monetary representation thereof, against their will. Or can I?

    This is where we get into the deeper moral question of whether an end can justify the means. Tony, you are obviously a consequentialist since you feel that an immoral means (taxation) is justified by a moral end (charity). My question for you is, at what point is the immoral act too egregious and the aggregate benefit too negligible for such an arrangement to remain morally justifiable. Would it be acceptable to murder the cokehead son of a billionaire to redistribute his wealth? Surely that could cause a lot more happiness for many more people than the amount of misery his death would cause for far fewer people, right?

  • Tony||

    at what point is the immoral act too egregious and the aggregate benefit too negligible for such an arrangement to remain morally justifiable. Would it be acceptable to murder the cokehead son of a billionaire to redistribute his wealth?

    The line is somewhere, I dunno. It's not like you don't also have a line, it's just somewhere else. You're not non-utilitarian, otherwise you wouldn't be arguing for policies at all. So the question is why do you want certain things to be? Without exaggerating your principles, because they are pretty absolute, you can't accept any taxation for anything.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:32PM|#
    "..What did the cokehead son of a billionaire do to deserve his five mansions?"

    Your opinion isn't worth shit.

  • ||

    Who said it's any of your business?

  • sarcasmic||

    "You can argue philosophical points all you want about ownership and whatever, but when you get down to it, it's a matter of priorities."

    It's a matter of incentives. Without "ownership and whatever" there is no incentive to create all that wealth that you want to spread around.

    Our society is wealthy precisely because of "ownership and whatever".

    Take that away and you take away the incentive to create wealth.
    With no incentive to create wealth, why bother to create it?
    What's the point in striving to live a better life if it's all going to be taken away from you because Tony's "priorities" say someone else deserves the product of your sweat more than you do?

    That's why Soviet Russia was so poor, why Cubans live in poverty, and why every socialist/communist/collectivist system has failed miserably.

    China is growing prosperous because they're allowing more "ownership and whatever", and the people are responding to that incentive.

  • Tony||

    sarcasmic I think you'll find, if you study the history of tax rates in this country, that it's pretty hard to completely remove the incentive to enrich oneself if the opportunity exists at all.

    And China's gonna surpass the US as an economic power, not just because of a more market economy, but because its government is powerful enough to direct that economy in certain useful directions.

  • sarcasmic||

    "but because its government is powerful enough to direct that economy in certain useful directions."

    Not only are you a socialist, you're a fascist as well.

    You were born in the wrong century and on the wrong continent.

  • ||

    Not only are you a socialist, you're a fascist as well.

    You repeat yourself sir.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    They're not *entirely* the same thing.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    And China's gonna surpass the US as an economic power, not just because of a more market economy, but because its government is powerful enough to direct that economy in certain useful directions.


    Useful directions according to whom?

  • Tony||

    Useful directions according to whom?

    Presumably according to the Chinese government. I'm not saying their government is better, I'm saying it's a big fat contradiction to your guys' claim that government can't make an economy prosper. Just watch. We're gonna be dicking around talking about stupid ideological free-market bullshit, and they're going to be developing a strong economy.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Presumably according to the Chinese government.


    So if the government orders coal mining when everyone wants to buy natural gas?

  • WTF||

    And China's gonna surpass the US as an economic power, not just because of a more market economy, but because its government is powerful enough to direct that economy in certain useful directions.
    I think we have determined that Tony = The Truth.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    That's what I thought when he started on this China rant. Didn't we already have this conversation...?

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:34PM|#
    "And China's gonna surpass the US as an economic power, not just because of a more market economy, but because its government is powerful enough to direct that economy in certain useful
    directions."

    Your opinions aren't worth shit.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "fortresses and toys"

    What utter wealth-envy bullshit.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 1:35PM|#
    "Yeah and isn't it possible that a check on democracy can tilt too far in the direction of undemocratic?"

    Your opinion isn't worth shit.

  • ||

    "The Senate wasn't liked very much by the founders. It was just established as a compromise to appease the small states."

    None of the founders were from small states?

    Libertarians like liberty. Liberty is secured by a government whose authority is delegated to it, not ceded to it, by its citizens. Democracies are just mechanisms of delegation, all imperfect.

  • Edwin||

    but didn't you hear Tony? VOTING IS JUST LORIFIED GANG RAPE!!!! RAEEEPPPPPEE!!!!!

  • Ben Franklin||

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

  • Edwin||

    also, don't you know that democracy isn't needed? Everybody just needs to respect everybody's else's rights.

    What do you mean people might not agree on the details of what their rights are? What do you mean that might lead to strife?
    Look, it's perfectly Objective® don't you know? There is only one conclusion you can logically draw to come up with a system of rights. Wait... what do you mean even libertarians can't agree on every detail?

  • Edwin||

    meant that to be a reply to Tony's post - less tabbed in

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Next time, try substance over fluff, Edwin.

  • sevo||

    "Okay, there's a balancing act. I think the American system goes way to far in the direction of undemocratic."

    Your opinion isn't worth shit.

  • cynical||

    Re: the electoral college. While I don't give a damn whether Senators grant EC Votes, I prefer Electors to having a direct vote, if only because it reduces the incentive for cities and states to commit electoral fraud. If a state gets 4 votes, period, then the electoral fraud is only relevant in a close race, and basically involves internecine warfare -- some of the state's citizens losing voice in favor of other of the state's citizens. In contrast, if we used the popular vote, a state would be able to increase its influence by inflating the number of "voters" in that state. Instead of increasing the influence of small states, you'd be increasing the influence of corrupt ones.

    Seriously, ditching the EC would be an unprecedented clusterfuck -- if you think people snark about Chicago voter fraud now, when it's basically just a question of point-scoring, just wait until it actually has a chance of affecting the outcome of elections. And can you imagine doing a nationwide recount if the popular vote is close? The EC quarantines corruption and incompetence.

  • jtuf||

    You bring up a good point, Harsanyi. Democracy is the best system of government, but it must be combined with a respect for individual freedom.

  • ||

    A Representaive Republic with severe Constitutional restrictions on government power is the best form of government.

    Pure Democracy is the absolute worst form of government imaginable.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    Pure Democracy is the absolute worst form of government imaginable.

    As poor Lara Logan can attest, mob rule is the most wicked form of government.

  • ||

    no it isnt. in a perfect world, anarchy would the best system.

  • ||

    No, even in an imperfect world, anarchy would be better.

  • Edwin||

    evidence?

  • ||

    never been tried after the french effed it up. yet somehow democracy is still ok even after the palestinians elected hamas.

  • Edwin||

    it IS ok when you've got very strong constitutional and common law protections for civil and property rights

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." --James Madison, the Federalist No. 51

  • ||

    Somalia?

  • ||

    Democracy failed horribly in ancient Greece. It's failing pretty badly now as well. "The People" have voted themselves goodies to the point of absolute national bankruptcy in Greece and most other Western Democracies including the U.S.

    The average African is far freer – probably because they are too poor for their government to bother hassling them.

  • JD the elder||

    I don't know if I'd go that far about the average African being more free, but "less hassled" might be true. There is much to be said for legal protection of one's right to speech, protection from arbitrary detention, etc. - and much has been said on that. There's also something to be said for living in an environment where the authorities don't tell you what color your house can be, how large an orange has to be before you can sell it, whether you can smoke flavored tobacco, etc. I think once mentioned here in Reason was a comment from someone who'd lived in Francoist Spain and said that while Francoist Spain was certainly not "free" in a number of major ways, on a day-to-day basis you were less aware of the government than you are here in the US today.

  • ||

    The reasonable extension is the greatest gift to humanity since the internet itself.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    The airtight case proving this point is the book by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy, The God That Failed.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    And Aristotle saw the fatal flaw of democracy. Paraphrasing: "The poor will eventually vote to take away the money from the rich."
    Has that happened? Is it still happening? Look around to see the damage caused.

  • Tony||

    All I see in this country is money moving upward toward the rich. And it's been happening for decades. The biggest explosions of prosperity this country has ever seen happened during times when the rich were heavily taxed and social safety nets were at their most robust.

  • ||

    the gulf bet the "rich" & everyone else is the greatest its ever been...& still growing.

  • sevo||

    OhioOrrin|2.16.11 @ 1:17PM|#
    "the gulf bet the "rich" & everyone else is the greatest its ever been...& still growing"

    So what?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    All I see in this country is money moving upward toward the rich. And it's been happening for decades.


    So what goods and services are the rich providing in exchange for that money?

  • sarcasmic||

    Do campaign contributions count?

  • Tony||

    They seem to be providing useless financial quackery and jobs in other countries, mostly.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    They seem to be providing useless financial quackery and jobs in other countries, mostly.


    Obviously, people must want such things if they pay the rich for it.

  • Tony||

    In the market, some are way more equal than others. In a democracy, everyone gets an equal say, so the results would seem to reflect what people "want" all the better. Why don't we just poll the country and see if they favor sending jobs to cheap labor markets overseas and sending money into pointless, destructive financial instruments.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why don't we just poll the country and see if they favor sending jobs to cheap labor markets overseas and sending money into pointless, destructive financial instruments.


    How many of them will actually pay for it?

    Unless those financial instruments involved fraud, it is not the public's business. Certainly Exxon Mobil and Wal-Mart were not hurt by the real estate crash, and in fact benefited from it, as rents plummeted.

  • Tony||

    Unless those financial instruments involved fraud, it is not the public's business.

    It's the public's fucking money they were gambling with! We do not live in individual snow globes. Your premises of how the world works are completely and totally false.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    No, it's not. It's their money, and if "the public" is stupid enough to give it to them, that's their own fault.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It's the public's fucking money they were gambling with!


    Then maybe the public should not give the money in the first place.

    We do not live in individual snow globes.


    People who wanted to buy a home benefited from the real estate crash.

    Similarly, trucking companies and airlines benefited from the oil crash.

  • Ynot||

    you can't be that stupid, can you?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Yes, he can.

    He should just stick to sucking cum out of men's dicks, which is apparently the only thing at which he is good.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:39PM|#
    "In the market, some are way more equal than others. In a democracy, everyone gets an equal say..."

    Your opinion isn't worth shit, and you're stupid besides.

  • MJ||

    You split an "equal say" between some 200 million eligible voters, and that means that each individual has effectively no say in anything. An individual has more say in a market over the affairs of his life than democracy can ever give him. because he does not have to deal with people who do not give him what he wants.

  • Tony||

    You split an "equal say" between some 200 million eligible voters, and that means that each individual has effectively no say in anything. An individual has more say in a market over the affairs of his life than democracy can ever give him. because he does not have to deal with people who do not give him what he wants.

    Equality is freedom. There's a situation in the market that you'd never tolerate from a government: that is, some people are more equal than others. That's fine for it's purposes but it's what we used to call tyranny when it comes from government.

  • John Calhoun||

    How's that "equality" in the modern American democracy working out for you?

    Nobody "more equal than others" here anymore are there.

  • tmp1701||

    "The biggest explosions of prosperity this country has ever seen happened during times when the rich were heavily taxed and social safety nets were at their most robust."
    The 1950s? Don't forget the massive damage done to the economies of Japan, Germany, and the USSR by years of warfare. Crushing your competitors always makes the competition easier. Another example of successful government intervention!

  • sarcasmic||

    Then they got to rebuild (on our tab) while we still had (have?) factories built before the war.

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 1:07PM|#
    "All I see in this country is money moving upward toward the rich."

    Your opinion isn't worth shit, and you're blind, besides.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    People could *think* about those "social safety nets" when things were looking up. Don't reverse causality.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    So?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Sorry, that was for Tony's "All I see in this country is money moving upward toward the rich" slash "rich people suck" diatribe.

  • GroundTruth||

    What needs to happen in each of these "newly free" countries is that very quickly, a bunch of cynical old men need to sit down and write up a document to protect freedom by setting up system that pits one part of government against the next. If they're lucky, they too may get a few generations of liberty before they get stupid and vote themselves some inflation or some nice shiny manacles.

    Hmmm, how to begin....

    "We the People..."

  • Robert||

    This has been going on a long time. Decades ago the word for freedom or liberty on foreign picket signs was commonly translated "democracy" in the press.

  • ||

    INcredible, who comes up with all this stuff LOL

    privacy-online.au.tc

  • ||

    Democracy does not have any perceptible inherent bias toward protection of human rights, because it does not impose any limits on the scope and power of the State.

    Democracy merely assures that human rights will be violated to the cheers of the mob.

  • omg||

    I predict tons of liberal butthurt in this thr-

    Oh nevermind too late.

  • ||

    All I see in this country is money moving upward toward the rich. And it's been happening for decades.

    Weird, how that happens even though we have tons of democracy, and the non-democratic limits on the exercise of state power have been eroded.

  • Tony||

    I argued upthread that our system has become increasingly undemocratic, and was never that democratic to begin with. Apart from the institutional examples, it seems that wealthy interests have a much more prominent seat at the policymaking table than non-wealthy interests.

  • ||

    We're more "democratic" than ever, and I'd say that the number of parties with influence has grown rather than shrank. Not to suggest that there isn't corruption or that some animals aren't more equal than others, though in the latter category you can also include non-corporate interest groups, unions, political parties, etc.

    I'm amazed that some people who purport to support civil liberties cannot see that the biggest threat to those liberties is an unrestricted government. The ability of an employer or retailer to really oppress me is limited, but the government can take my stuff, imprison me, even kill me. The foundation of having a free society is preventing the government from acting without limit. Period. Things like a liberal tradition and the Bill of Rights don't matter if you insist on allowing the state to do whatever the heck it wants.

  • ||

    "The biggest explosions of prosperity this country has ever seen happened during times when the rich were heavily taxed and social safety nets were at their most robust."

    Really? Social safety nets, pre-Medicare, pre-Medicaid, pre-food stamps (I think), were more robust before the War on Poverty?

    Really? The rich were more heavily taxed than now in the 50s and 60s? Back then, the top 1% paid more in taxes than the bottom 90%? I can't Google up what the tax burden was back in the day, but you made the claim, you need to provide the evidence.

    I couldn't find anything going back that far, but the CBO tells us this:

    In 1979, the top 10 percent of households, as measured by income, paid 40.6 percent of all federal taxes; other ninety percent paid 59.4 percent.

    But by 2005, the top 10 percent accounted for nearly 55 percent of all federal tax revenues, while the rest of the population paid about 45 percent.

    Looks to me like the trend is kind of the opposite of what you assert.

  • ||

    One thing to keep in mind is what rich people actually paid when the nominal rate was very high, versus what they pay today, with a lower rate.

    The boom in the 90s doesn't fit that paradigm, either. Nor do many others.

  • WTF||

    Don't confuse Tony with facts.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    Until we can compare where we are today to where we COULD be if we had freedom rather than democracy, we are wasting time.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Maybe we should send the sociocommunists to Europe and try freedom here. I recommend a new Constitution while we're at it. The Oceanian constitution had some good points in it. http://oceania.org/const/const.html

  • Mr. FIFY||

    We've spent trillions on The War on Poverty.

    Fat lot of good it accomplished.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    We've spent trillions on The War on Poverty.

    Fat lot of good it accomplished.


    So true.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Entirely agreed. It's a convincing argument that the War on Poverty has actually created a poverty industry that keeps people poor.

    See John Stossel's first book for details.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Apart from the institutional examples, it seems that wealthy interests have a much more prominent seat at the policymaking table than non-wealthy interests.


    So what?

  • ||

    They also have more stuff.

  • Tony||

    So that means those wealthy interests get to decide policy for the rest of us. How is that freedom? Why should they have more power over other people than other people have over them? Because they're more morally fit to rule, being wealthy?

  • ||

    Really, that's absurd. First, "wealthy interests" include interests other than rich people and businesses. As you're well aware.

    Second, if rich people are controlling the country, why do they carry so much of the tax burden?

  • Tony||

    You mean the tax burden that's been going down and down as their mostly Republican puppets have been in charge? We haven't wrung progressivity completely out of our tax policy yet, but we're pretty close if you take all taxes into account.

  • ||

    As usual, you have it exactly backwards.

  • Tony||

    So taxes on the rich have been going up?

  • ||

    The overall tax burden is carried by the wealthiest, yes. That hasn't changed. And, of course, the inverse is telling, too. It's simply not a good idea to allow people to not contribute and to vote for others to do so. Don't want to take the vote away, so probably shouldn't allow anyone to totally escape the tax burden.

  • Tony||

    The overall tax burden is carried by the wealthiest, yes. That hasn't changed.

    Duh. First, they have most of the money. Second, a progressive tax system is pretty much standard in the modern world. But if you factor in all taxes, the American system is actually just shy of not being progressive, and getting worse.

    It's simply not a good idea to allow people to not contribute and to vote for others to do so.

    Where is it written that you must contribute (whatever that means) before you are entitled to a say in your own government? Don't you realize that the rich are at least as capable of making policy that steals from other people for themselves as anyone else? I'd argue that we have been going in the direction of kleptocracy for years.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's right.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Tony, translated:

    Just raise taxes, because that always fixes things.

  • ||

    It's an American's patriotic duty to pay taxes!

  • ||

    We need to spread the wealth around!!

  • John Calhoun||

    A progressive tax system ISN'T standard in the modern world. Look at the UK, France, Germany, etc. All of them rely far more heavily on a more spread tax burden due to regressive payroll and sales taxes.

    The U.S. has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world BECAUSE it relies so heavily on income taxes both personal and corporate.

    For example, in 2006 46.5% of the U.S. tax share came from income taxes, while just 23.5% did in France. Meanwhile, 41% of the U.S. tax share came from payroll and sales taxes, in France 60% did.

    Read the 2008 OECD report "Growing Unequal" for more details.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Because they're more morally fit to rule, being wealthy?


    Few people could credibly argue that the wealthy, on average, are morally fit. After all, even Jesus Christ observed that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    But poor people, on average, are even less morally fit. Theft, rape, and murder are more common among the poor than the rich. Look what happened to Lily Burk, killed by some dude who is poor because he would rather do drugs than work.

    If it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, then it is a hell of a lot easier for a camel to go through a twenty-foot concrete wall, than it is for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • Robert||

    Isn't that a common magic trick -- sticking a cigaret thru a wall?

  • Tony||

    But poor people, on average, are even less morally fit. Theft, rape, and murder are more common among the poor than the rich.

    Just wow. How about we remove someone's material wealth from the question of whether he's morally upstanding? I'm sure they have nothing to do with each other.

    Why do you think criminal activity is more common among the poor? Is it because moral perversion causes poverty? Or could it be the other way around? If you're poor, you have potentially less to lose and more to gain from crime. Not to mention the poor are overwhelmingly more likely to be punished for their crimes.

  • ||

    Face it...the average poor person is on the left side of the bell shaped curve.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why do you think criminal activity is more common among the poor? Is it because moral perversion causes poverty? Or could it be the other way around? If you're poor, you have potentially less to lose and more to gain from crime. Not to mention the poor are overwhelmingly more likely to be punished for their crimes.


    Define poverty .

    For those without knowledge of basic economics, poverty is not defined in terms of absolutes. It has nothing to do with absolute measures of subsistence, or health, or quality of clothing or standards of living. It is simply based on income percentiles; if you rank financially in the bottom third of the population, then you are below the poverty line (the exact placement of the poverty line may vary from country to country).

    To put this concept in stark relief, consider this: if everybody in North America experiences a tenfold increase in wealth over the next 30 days, the number of people living below the poverty line won't change one iota. The "poor" grocery store clerks might have 6000 square foot homes and Porsches, but the "rich" people would have 30,000 square foot homes and McLarens (insert whatever ostentatious displays of wealth you prefer, if you're not into cars).

    In other words, a general increase in the standard of living cannot possibly eliminate poverty, no matter how high that increase is. It's all relative, so even the most comfortable country in the world must have poverty ... unless the government forces everyone's standard of living to be the same.

  • Tony||

    poverty is not defined in terms of absolutes

    Agreed. Standards are raised with time. But rather than say, we're done here, let's stop increasing everyone's standard of living, let's leave that the privilege of the upper classes, how about letting everyone share in their own country's prosperity?

    The minimum levels of acceptable living standards have increased with time, and that's good. We've hardly achieved the perfect system. This country's metrics are pathetic.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Did you read the rest of that post?

  • cynical||

    "How about we remove someone's material wealth from the question of whether he's morally upstanding? I'm sure they have nothing to do with each other."

    That's highly questionable. While wealth might not cause good or bad behavior, the same sort of behaviors that lead to criminal sanction tend to lead toward poverty as well.

    Since voluntary bargaining with other people in society is a key aspect of acquiring wealth for most people, poverty is at least in part the result of social sanction that falls short of criminality -- just for a really obvious example, doing something bad enough to get yourself sued, though not so bad as to get put in jail, is a good way to get closer to the poorhouse.

    Even absent the question of social judgment, being short-sighted, sociopathic, having poor impulse control, or just being a dumbass all are more likely both to make you poor, make you go to jail, and make you an asshole.

  • Tony||

    cynical,

    While I think your moral stance is abhorrent, remove morals from it entirely. What makes the most sense for a country? Is letting sociopaths and dumbasses roam the streets with nowhere to go really the smart way to do things? Is dumping enormous amounts of them into expensive prisons?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Is dumping enormous amounts of them into expensive prisons?


    Why do prisons need to be expensive?

  • ||

    Iiish....resemzmnlbe thash remarsch....

  • sevo||

    Tony|2.16.11 @ 2:37PM|#
    "So that means those wealthy interests get to decide policy for the rest of us."

    We live in a republic, and that's by design.
    It is intended to protect reasonable people from lying ignorant jackasses like Tony.

  • Tony||

    Ignorant tool.

  • ||

    The democratic component of a liberal system mostly serves to ensure that citizens view the government as legitimate and mostly representative of the majority's interest. However, too much democracy means your system will have a tendency to become tyrannical towards minority interests and to do things like steal from a few for the benefit of the many.

    Because of the dangers of allowing the majority to control things without fetters, most of the successful republics in history have been based on mixed systems. In our case, reaching directly back to the Roman republic, we established a mixed system (roughly speaking, a House for democracy, a Senate and a court system for aristocracy (in the loose American sense), and a president for monarchy) with lots of checks and balances and with the fundamental starting place that ALL government actions, regardless of who supports them, must be limited.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Walter E. Williams explains self-inflicted poverty .

  • ||

    Democracy and freedom are mutually exclusive.

    You're not supposed to say that in public, because everyone's spent their lives being taught to worship both of them without thinking about how they work (or would work).

  • ||

    Here is the problem--too many Americans, and this writer, think that we have a democracy. The fact is we have a republic. We have a body of democratically elected legislators who represent their constituents. The republic works to protect the populace from a "mobocracy."

  • ||

    We have a representative republic that is more democratically influenced today that it was originally intended to be. That's part of the reason the government has grown so much.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic" - Ben Franklin

  • ||

    Exactly.

  • Tony||

    Well that's true, since white male property owners were the only ones who were enfranchised.

    Thank you guys for making it explicit that you're nothing but a bunch of classist elitist plutocrats.

  • ||

    Yes, let's throw that baby out with the bathwater, shall we? When you get your tyranny, what do you think will happen?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Dig the irony of Tony chastising others for being "elitist".

    Wait... aren't non-liberals just all ignorant, Christ-worshiping racist hillbillies?

  • Tony||

    But you mean elitist as in smarter and more interesting, which liberals are and is nothing to be ashamed of. The elitism you're guilty of is ballsack licking of the wealthy.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Not exactly... elitists can be conservatives, as well, and ALL elitists think they can micromanage society.

    Fuck that.

  • ||

    As Herbert Spencer pointed out over a century ago, we appear to have replaced the "Divine Right of Kings" with the "Divine Right of Majorities." But a "Divine Right of Majorities" is an assumption neither questioned nor reasonable.

  • Tony||

    What's the alternative (assuming there are codified civil liberties and other checks on majority tyranny)? You guys are all dumping on democracy, but what exactly are you offering as an alternative? I'm very curious.

  • ||

    The mixed system described in the Constitution seems like a good idea to me. Surely you aren't advocating actual democracy, anyway.

  • Tony||

    No, I'm not.

    But how incredibly fortuitous that the theoretical system you think is best also happens to be the system of the very country you live in! That must mean, even with the changes ours has undergone, we're pretty damn close to having the best possible system on earth. Wonder what you're complaining about. Direct election of senators seems like a petty thing compared to the alternatives to our system out there.

  • ||

    Well, by that logic, a PC that only kinda sorta still works beats not having one. Yes.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The alternative is the most democratic system of all, individual freedom, in which the individual may do as they wish, so long as they do not use force against another individual.

  • cynical||

    Well, because of the machinery of elections, it's questionable whether our "representative" democracy is truly representative, and thus truly democratic to begin with.

    Disregarding that, considered from a utilitarian perspective (whether or not you buy into it, it's useful for thought experiments), the flaw in theoretical democracy is that the utility at stake on any vote is not necessarily proportional to the vote spread.

    That is, if a vote has serious, horrific consequences for a large minority, and only minor benefits for the majority, the greatest number of votes represents, by far, the lesser amount of utility. Generally, our concepts of civil liberties, due process, and so on are heuristic responses to this flaw, but they can only prevent the worst failures.

    I could see a system where representatives got a pool of votes that could applied in any number, as desired, to the various issues up for vote; rather than a single vote on each issue. The size of the pool would be be proportional to the number of existing statutes (under this system "existing statutes" would refer to all issues that had been settled by vote, even if the status quo was preserved). However, the properties of the system would discourage the accumulation of defunct laws.

    Rather than things being permanently decided, the representative or his successor in office could pull some of his votes off an existing, decided statute (potentially reversing it) if some more important issue came along. The end result is that representatives would place more votes into issues where they truly care about the outcome, rather than voting because, eh, they might as well. The end result would hopefully better reflect the actual values of the people (including the places where their "value" is not to intervene at all).

    There would still need to be rules to prevent too much uncertainty and instability (a waiting period on pulling votes from old statutes, rules to ensure that multiple nearly identical statutes don't keep being proposed, rules that delete statutes if they have too few total votes, and so on.) The nice thing is that bizarre, obsolete laws would be removed (recycled, really), since they're essentially consuming literal political capital that could be better used on more important issues.

  • TeaPartyGuyMN||

    What is it with the shots at Tea Partiers from David Harsanyi? Tea Parties are made up many different walks of life unified in the goal of reining in the government in terms of finance and reach. That's it. Much more than that and consensus quickly dies off.

    My email signature ends with the following quote: A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty nine. -Thomas Jefferson

    Does that sound like someone looking to return power to the people via democracy? Returning power to the people in the context of more choices by people instead of government officials yes. Not choices of the majority to take away the minority choices.

  • Realist||

    Another monument to Tony!!!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    He should get the Troll of the Month award with this "democracy" fuzziness.

  • قبلة الوداع||

    ThaNk U

  • دليل||

    asgasc

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