It is something everyone knows that anyone who wants to shrink government is aiming to push grandmas off cliffs and let the poor starve in the dark.
Just because “everybody knows it” doesn’t mean it’s so. Some time ago – oh, seventy years or so – international communism made it a goal to capture all the gatekeeper positions for mass media and entertainment. (No, I’m not saying everyone in that position is a communist. Most of them aren’t even conscious fellow-travelers. They’ve just bought the “every good/smart/well educated person thinks this, and they’d rather die than think.)
That’s actually what makes it worse. If these people had been conscious communists, they would have had to re-examine their beliefs when the horror-show that the Soviet Union had hidden came out when it collapsed. But because they’re simply going on “what the good people believe” without examining it or figuring out where it leads, they have continued, pretty much on course, repeating the lies that were once in service of a now defunct evil empire. It’s a zombie thing.
So the “big lies” that get repeated over and over by the media, until everyone knows them often are gross distortions of reality. More often, they have absolutely nothing to do with reality and are made with reference only to the Marxian theory of the world. (Sort of like the maps medieval cartographers made with reference only to other, previous maps – often someone’s guess at reality – had absolutely nothing to do with where land masses were or even what the shape of the Earth was.)
It is much easier to assume that anyone going against those in power (yes, dears, those who want to GROW government are in power: in government, in the economy, in industry and in media. No, that doesn’t mean they’re right. At one point everyone in power thought it was right to get rid of “inferior” races) is wrong and to think up evil motives for them then to examine the moral foundations of unbridled government and to wonder who really wants to throw grandma off the cliff (and grind your childrens’ bones to make their soup.) Because once you start examining things, you might find yourself on the side where the “good” people aren’t.
First let’s establish what taxes are: taxes are a way to collect money by force – if you don’t pay you go to jail – for purposes so important that they justify the theft.
Theft? Well, taking money from people by force is theft. If it’s immoral for the local tough to do it on the street corner, what makes it moral for the government to do it? Because a lot of people say it’s moral? Please…
But I can see a position in which it is right for someone to relieve you of your belongings at gun point. Say, you’re carrying a vial full of a new virus you intend to release in a NY restaurant and which will kill millions of people. It’s still theft, mind – but it is a justified (sort of) theft.
And here we come to where taxes are justified – in my opinion (no one died and made me G-d, this is JUST my opinion.) – taxes are justified when the goal to be obtained is so clearly and obviously not just good but necessary that it justifies shaking down a grandma for the dividends on her investments. As a further test, it is justified when even just one person not contributing can markedly affect your chances of obtaining your goal.
Say your neighborhood – in some Mad Max post apocalyptic future – is under attack by a gang of Reavers, and you need to buy barbed wire (or cement) to enclose it. If grandma next door refusing to give up 25% of what she owns is going to mean none of you can protect yourselves, then it is moral and just to force grandma to contribute, because if she doesn’t, not only you but she ALSO will die.
Now for those of our visitors outside the United States, let me explain that there are three (used to be) largely independent levels of government in the United States: Federal, State and Local. What might be appropriate and just at a community level is NOT appropriate and just for a government that lays down the law to 350 million people give or take a few dozen. Why? Because you lose granularity. Also, because – trust me, you don’t know that you are ignorant fo this, but you are – we are an incredibly regionally diverse country at a level that no foreigner who hasn’t lived here can begin to GUESS. H*ll, many Americans who haven’t travelled outside their region or haven’t LIVED outside their region have no clue. When I moved from the North to the South and then the East to the West I found greater differences than I’ve found between countries in Europe.
So, let’s talk first of the Federal Government: what is it right and just for a government covering 350 million people in widely varying circumstances to take money at gunpoint to cover? Common defense is the only one I find particularly convincing. Why? Because it’s d*mn hard to setup a subscription system to buy a nuclear bomber – though we might come to have to try that.
To cover the expenses and salaries of those negotiating on our behalf with foreign potentates, simply because it would be really expensive and counterproductive to have Texas, Maryland and Rhode Island appoint ambassadors who might disagree with each other.
I’m willing to concede that whether the Federal Government should have some say over highways that cross more than one state, and whether the Federal Government should concern itself with food safety when it crosses state laws can be debated, though I’m not sure either of those rises to the level of “let’s take money from grandma to pay for this.”
If you go to the state level, I’m willing to concede that the government has the right to take money from individuals at gun point to pay for other things. For instance guaranteeing a minimum income, if the citizens of that state think it is a just and worthy goal.
(I don’t, particularly. Why should you take money from grandma at gun point to make sure that grandson who is working by day as a barista and playing in a band that makes no money in the evening gets 10k more money he didn’t earn? Tell me why this is morally justified. Show your work.) I think this is an iniquitous practice, but if most citizens in a state think this is morally justified, it’s their state and none of my business. And if grandma isn’t so confused, fluffy and dumb that she gets lost in her own underwear (Pants-Bunny) she’ll move out of that larcenous state.
Then there is the city level, and at city level, everyone should be able to do whatever they very well please, provided that the citizens of that city agree with it, and provided, of course, they’re not depriving anyone of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. (And here we’re talking real rights, not penumbras. If a city decides to kill every busker who comes in, it’s violating the constitution. If a city decides that buskers aren’t allowed to perform on their streets, and fines them and drives them to the edge of town, that’s within their rights, and it’s within their rights to tax citizens to pay for this de-busking program. The busker can’t really claim that he/she can’t pursue his/her own happiness elsewhere. Not credibly. Again, if grandma thinks raiding her savings to get rid of buskers is not a moral imperative, she’ll move elsewhere.)
And right now the kung-fu straw fighters are getting ready to say “you do want the poor to starve in the dark” and “if grandma is poor you want to throw her off a cliff.”
The kung-fu straw fighters are really good at fighting strawmen.
Every human society since – from what we can deduce from their skeletons – before we were fully human has looked after its sick, its ailing and its truly helpless. This is not something that’s about to change.
Yes, most of the time that was left to private charity – though not always and though sometimes private charity was funneled through the state.
Being me, and being a student of history I think it’s less dangerous to leave the care of those truly indigent to private charity. The reason I think this is that private charity can’t put to death those who have become too burdensome: a national government can. (For examples of national governments that have done that, look to Nazi Germany, look up China’s “dying rooms” [if you have a strong stomach. I looked once almost a year ago, and I’m still having nightmares,] and look at “non voluntary euthanasia” in Europe or what happens to babies who are going to cost a lot of money to keep alive to adulthood.)
However, I’m willing to concede two things:
First, contracts must be honored. Those people who had money deducted from their paycheck their entire working life on the promise that their retirement would be secure and who are now past or very near retirement age, should be given at least enough to survive comfortably on.
Second, we live in an age when religious moral imperatives have been (deliberately?) chipped at for almost a century. This means some people (most of whom think the State should do it for them) are not at all inclined to give even one cent to provide for an indigent neighbor no matter how deserving – not out of their own pocket. Because of that, at state and city level, some arrangements might be needed to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves. For the record, the Federal arrangements are so inefficient, so poorly targeted (they often require you to own nothing in order to give help – even though your entire worth might be tied up in a house you cannot sell, no matter how much it is nominally worth), that local and private charities have to step in to keep people from real trouble – and often fail. (For instance, our kids do not qualify for subsidized education loans because a) I’m a contractor and get paid irregularly, so we have “savings” in the bank. b) The government assumes that all the savings in the bank should be used to pay for the kids’ education first – even if that means we can’t meet next month’s mortgage, or the month’s after. c) the government assumes I’m going to use that money for EACH of the kids which requires us to have either the ability to use the same money twice, or to (of course) pick the kid we’re going to help through college and let the other one go hang. No, I am not complaining about this. I don’t think grandma should be robbed so my kids can go to school—we can contrive and if we don’t, there’s always an appliance box under a bridge. I’m simply showing it’s impossible for a government covering 350 million people to account for every individual circumstance in a just and fair manner.) The bigger the government and the more intrusive its aims, NO MATTER HOW NOMINALLY GOOD, the more misery and injustice it will spread.
This does not mean we don’t think the things that the government taxes us to do are bad. A commenter yesterday brought up a “road safety program.” That is a nice goal. By all means, tell people not to text and drive, not to drink and drive, and to keep a car length between themselves and the car ahead of them – I’m sure these are things we can all get behind. Or at least things we don’t think are INHERENTLY evil.
However, now visualize someone holding grandma at gunpoint to get money for this road safety program. Is it worth it? Why? Show your work? Haven’t people heard this message before from other outlets? Why do you think they’ll pay attention when it’s done by the government if they haven’t before? If they don’t stop under the threat of fine, why will a series of billboards, program spots, or even a policeman stationed here and there along the road make a difference?
Now imagine that the money you’re taking from grandma is the difference between her living independently and not. (No? Right now my household spends more on taxes than it spends on food or mortgage and some years it’s food and mortgage combined. And most of those are Federal taxes.)
Road safety is a nice goal, but is it worth it? Is it worth taking all the savings grandma has worked for all her life and throwing her to the mercy of public charity? Is it moral and just? Show your work.
And then there’s the fact that a bureaucracy has a tendency to become the creature of long-established functionaries and the slave of idiotic law makers. (And we won’t even go into the fact that our presidents can now legislate with their signature, via executive orders. I’m sure I don’t know why we can’t power most of the country from the energy generated by the Founders spinning in their graves.)
It’s very easy to convince these “elected representatives” some of whom are dumber than my cat (look up “Guam tipping over.”) that say the lightbulbs we’ve been using for years are baaaaad and we should ban them. It is particularly easy when lobbyists – GE – get involved. And if it turns out afterwards that the “ecologically safe” lightbulbs they want you to use emit mercury and can cause brain cancer… well, it’s all to the good, right? The fewer humans the better for Mother Gaia. No? You don’t think that’s worth it stealing grandma’s savings to give more power to these creatures who go to Washington and become self-enriching machines and creating regulations that actually make things worse? You don’t want to give them power of life and death over yourself and yours?
Then perhaps you should stop doing it. Perhaps you should keep each level of the government to its essential functions, with a little more leeway at the local level, where, you know, if they want to forbid Big Gulps and their idiot constituents let them, it’s their stupid business and not yours.
It’s very easy to say “I want to make sure no cat is homeless” but when it comes to creating Federal homes for homeless cats – is it worth it robbing grandma to do it?
Look, it is a fact – known through history and enshrined in human nature – that humans tend to do that which they perceive as a greater good for the individual self. This doesn’t make humans evil. Most humans are fairly decent people – if flawed – and none of us wants to watch our neighbor die on the street. The fact we’re social animals means we care for the “group” as well as for ourselves.
Assume we haven’t changed radically in the last two hundred years – we haven’t, at least that we can tell – what is the good of putting all-too-fallible humans in positions where the best for them (more power, more security, more public acclaim) comes from robbing their neighbors to pursue increasingly more quixotic goals? Why would you assume they wouldn’t go from essential goals to goals they think would be cool to have? Particularly since this ensures they keep their jobs?
Government is a necessary evil unless and until it is possible to network to such an extent that a group of citizens can buy a stealth bomber. But let’s keep it small, to carefully enumerated powers and DISTRIBUTED. You can keep an eye on your local b*stards, but how many of us can go to DC and tell our representatives (or our all too imperial President) that they’re out of their rocking minds and that we don’t want grandma’s money taken at gun point in order to take over GM? (And steal grandma’s shares in it, too.)
I don’t want to throw grandma over the cliff. I don’t want the poor to starve in the dark. But if we give the power to make those decisions to a distant and impersonal entity, that entity will INVARIABLY – even with the best intentions in the world – through omission and commission do exactly that to some grandmas and some poor. And right now we’re headed to a world where we write off the money we send to Washington and are lucky if it isn’t used AGAINST us – while all the real needs have to be taken care of at other levels.
We’ve tried massive governments that supposedly took care of everyone. The Fascists and Communists were humans like us, made of the same genetic material. They weren’t monsters. They had a strong, centralized government and — by their lights — the best intentions in the world. Both claimed to be “scientific.” The results were appalling levels of death and misery. There are no angels you can port in wield that much power with no consequence. Sooner or later those in charge lose track of the boundary between essential and “would be nice.” There is no right way to do this. It’s a bad idea to turn humans into numbers on a bureaucrat’s slate. And it is evil to expose mere humans to the temptation of playing G-d and (thinking they can) forming the ideal world.
Let’s give the other option a try. Small Government: Too Small to Throw Grandma off The Cliff or to Make Us All Poor.
Who knows? It’s such a crazy idea, it just might work.