Stimulus

Government by 'Harrison Bergeron'

From pandemic relief to public schools, wealth taxes to COVID vaccines, politicians are finding bad ways to redistribute the pie.

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"I like to say very bluntly: Our mission is to redistribute wealth," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday while announcing the removal of entrance standards at public schools. "A lot of people bristle at that phrase; that is in fact the phrase we need to use."

It's rare to hear Karl Marx translated so faithfully by a 21st century American politician, but alas not rare at all these days to see Kurt Vonnegut's classic short story "Harrison Bergeron" treated as not dystopian but aspirational. From vaccine dispersal to wealth taxes, from education policy to Capitol Hill's latest COVID relief package, the blunt force of government is being used to pound away at reality until "equity" is finally achieved.

On today's Reason Roundtable podcast, Peter Suderman, Matt Welch, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Nick Gillespie talk at length about the Harrison Bergeronization of American political discourse and policymaking, including the startling real-world disconnect between rhetoric and reality. Along the way, the gang also breaks down in detail the new corona bill, encourages President Donald Trump to at least commute the sentence of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, and tries to unblock Mangu-Ward's Moby Dick problem.

Audio production by Ian Keyser and Regan Taylor.

Music: "A Boy and His Dreams" by Hans Johnson.

Relevant links from the show:

"Deal Reached To Tack $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package on to Spending Bill," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"Coronavirus Stimulus Has Cost $3.6 Trillion, but Oversight Is Still Severely Lacking," by Eric Boehm

"To Mitigate Racial Inequity, the CDC Wants To Vaccinate Essential Workers Before the Elderly," by Robby Soave

"The FDA Finally Approves a Real At-Home COVID-19 Test," by Ronald Bailey

"An Anti-Racist Education for Middle Schoolers," by Robby Soave

"Public Schools Are Losing Their Captive Audience of Children," by J.D. Tuccille

"As Schools Reopen, Chicago Will Hire 2,000 Employees to Assist Students Whose Teachers Stay Home," by Robby Soave

"Presidential Pardons Offer Trump a Way to Go Out on a Positive Note," by J.D. Tuccille

"Help Reason Fight for the Unjustly Imprisoned," by Matt Welch

"Sound of Metal Creates an Entire World Out of Sound," by Peter Suderman

What are we consuming this week?

Katherine Mangu-Ward

Peter Suderman

Nick Gillespie


NEXT: End the COVID-19 Lockdowns? Two Epidemiologists Debate

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  1. About time Americans started to support redistribution! It is my right to stay unemployed so I may study the Torah and have more children with my wife. We’re up to 8 now and on public assistance in Kiryas Joel. L’Chaim!

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    1. Only one wife? Multiple wives, multiple govt checks.

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  2. “I like to say very bluntly: Our mission is to redistribute wealth,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday while announcing the removal of entrance standards at public schools. “A lot of people bristle at that phrase; that is in fact the phrase we need to use.”

    It’s rare to hear Karl Marx translated so faithfully by a 21st century American politician

    It’s actually not that rare nowadays.

    1. Haven’t you read the Declaration of Independence? “All men are created equal”. Unequal outcomes are due to historical disadvantages and systemic racism which the state must cure. Jo Jorgensen herself has committed the Libertarian Party to an anti-racist ideology. That must be our first and foremost goal before all other concerns.

      1. Should the LP be committed to a pro-racist ideology? Or just remain on the fence regarding racism?

        1. That’s not what “anti-racism” actually means. It’s false advertising. It’s a phrase that sounds good, and like something any reasonable person would agree with, but the actual definition is more like “being actively racist towards ‘the privileged’ to make up for the past”. This way lies reparations.

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        2. There are no fences. You are either fully committed to the party or you are an enemy of the people.

    2. Kind of the guiding principles of democrats these days. Maybe the reason editors are just slow students.

  3. Sure they want to redistribute wealth or vaccines or anything of perceived value to themselves and their cronies. Everyone else is just a pawn.

  4. >>the blunt force of government is being used to pound away at reality until “equity”

    is astonishing you “journos” aren’t the first to scream about it what with your platforms and all. instead we get one of you read some Vonnegut once.

  5. “wealth taxes”

    I guarantee that will not happen under President Biden. Recall that Biden literally told a roomful of wealthy donors that nothing would fundamentally change when he’s President.

    Granted, some Democrats still have a habit of ranting about “the 1%” on occasion. But pay attention to how they actually govern. The next 4 years will be quite profitable for billionaires like Reason.com’s benefactor Charles Koch. I expect him to return to the top 10 on the Bloomberg Billionaires List by the end of 2021.

    #BillionairesKnowBest
    #(ThatsWhyTheyBackedBiden)

    1. Poor effort, man. You really need to retool.

      1. Nice try, Jeff.

  6. the blunt force of government is being used to pound away at reality until “equity” is finally achieved.

    Perhaps maybe we should interview more problematic and “controversial” thinkers and writers who’ve been on the front lines of this dangerous, insidious and slavish cultural shift towards equity. That is if your younger staffers don’t revolt.

  7. Let’s be honest – everything the government does redistributes wealth. The argument is about direction. It only gets labelled “redistribution” when it’s from the wealthy to the rest of us. The rest of the time it’s called “defense spending” or “agricultural subsidies” or “oil depletion allowances” etc.

    1. “Let’s be honest – everything the government does redistributes wealth. The argument is about direction…”

      Bull…
      Shit.

    2. Very good point.

  8. “I like to say very bluntly: Our mission is to redistribute wealth,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday…

    Now this is the way to stand out amongst a bunch of half-assed Marxist Democrats. Kamala better watch it in 2024.

    1. I hope his house is broken into and his wealth distributed to the proletariat.

      1. This is my thought. “Ok, hand it all over, Bill.”

      2. He is in no personal danger. His beloved rape-and-loot hordes cannot penetrate his phalanx of heavily-armed security agents. He’ll give the finger to actual victims of his policies and call them ignorant for resisting.

  9. Of course 90% taking people will 90% support STEALING. 3rd World Country; here we come fast and furiously.

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  11. I have read Harrison Bergeron and it is a good story. It does of course paint the idea of equality taken to extremes.

    Saying that you are for equal opportunity is not enough. It must be followed up by action to move us to that goal of equal opportunity. And that is not as easy as it might seem for those proposing remedies for inequalities. It is easy to see that free college is more likely to benefit the privileged. It is also easy to see that school choice programs are really doing the same and not providing the opportunity for the poor that was promised.

    I see a natural resistance to equality of opportunity. The concern that by making opportunities for others do we imped our own opportunities. I think the answer is to have confidence and contentment in what a person has individually, so that more can be freed up for others. Maybe if this happens people can make the real changes necessary to promote opportunity and not the grand gesture that make headlines.

    1. What is this “opportunity” you speak of? Is there a law that restricts X,Y,Z person from specific “opportunity” or are we to pretend *entitling* every X,Y,Z full-time bum to a job as a medical doctor is “equal opportunity”?

      There’s a vast difference between *entitling* opportunity and blocking opportunity; so unless you can name a specific law that blocks opportunity you’re just promoting legal *entitlements* that put those who *earn* opportunity in distress.

      1. That’s easy. It is like racism. You can’t just oppose blocking opportunity. You must support providing opportunity.

        1. Good point. There were no laws saying a black player could not be on a baseball team. But it was not until Branch Rickey offered the opportunity to Jackie Robinson that things changed. If we want equal opportunity we need to see what barriers are in the way and how those barriers can be removed.

          1. And YOU can do that. It’s not a [WE] issue so demanding it requires loss of freedom by Gov-Gods dictatorship.

            Forcing anyone to “provide” opportunity would be re-enacting more slavery. Provide your plantation owners food, provide heat, provide water, provide “opportunity”? No, no; In a FREE society people are going to have to learn how to provide for themselves.

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  13. Sadly, most Americans have never read Harrison Bergeron or 1984 or Animal Farm. If they had, we might not be electing so many socialists. They might ‘get it’ if LeBron James were forced to play with 80 pounds of lead weights strapped to his legs and his fingers taped together to make it more ‘equitable’ for the other players. Liberals cannot grasp the concept that person A may be more successful than person B because they are physically better suited, simply smarter, or work harder to achieve their goals. I’m not a failure because you are better at something.

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