Sunday, May 08, 2011

The basic problem.

So over at Radley Balko's joint, one of the guest bloggers keeping the lights on while Radley's on vacation had a question for the masses. Since he was of a lefty-progressive sort of bent, he wanted to know "What's this libertarian stuff about?"

Now, I'll occasionally use the term 'libertarian' to describe myself, at least when I'm in too mellow a mood to have to explain 'anarcho-capitalist' to somebody who looks like they probably wouldn't get the term 'wookie suiter', and so it's the nature of the question itself that exposes the big difference between Mr. Moskos' views and my own:
That’s my basic problem. Here’s my real question: What is the libertarian answer to society’s f*ck ups? What about people who–through their own ineptitude, stupidity, laziness, or drug abuse–simply fail? What do we do about the undeserving poor?

I don’t want to see people starve in the streets. I certainly don’t want desperate people to mug me. At some point, in a rich and civilized society, don’t we just have to be compassionate… even to people who don’t “deserve” it?
Didja catch it? All that stuff about "society" and "we"? Well, as P.J. O'Rourke so aptly phrased it "There's no such thing as 'we'; there's only you and me. And sometimes I'm not too sure about me." It's important to not confuse the first person plural pronoun with an actual physical entity.

"We" are not a wealthy "society". You and I live in a place that has some rich people and some poor people and some in-between people. "We" don't "just have to" do anything. There may be things you need to do or things I want to do, but we aren't part of some borg-like collective with collective responsibilities, wants and needs.

If you want to be compassionate, go be compassionate. I know that's usually what I do when I'm feeling compassionate, not expect some entity called "the government" to go be compassionate for me. Mailing a check to the government to help the poor because you're feeling compassionate is like handing the local crackhead a twenty to fetch you a pizza because you're feeling hungry.

If you think something needs to be done, you should do it. You should not assume everybody else thinks the same way or that somebody else will take care of it for you. You and I are not sticks in a fasces or cells in a jellyfish; we are individuals with the right to live our own individual lives without someone else telling us what we have to do.

In retrospect, it was a big mistake to put e pluribus unum on the currency, instead of "You ain't the boss of me". (Vobis non me dux?)


(H/T to Random Nuclear Strikes.)

48 comments:

Ed Rasimus said...

Does Balko know who he left at the helm?

Seriously, that is some disturbed thinking. The guy looks right for a mugging because he surely wouldn't want to defend himself from someone who needed his property worse than he does.

Now I hate people on a day that started out so well...and I hate government worse than ever. I like anarcho-capitalism apparently in theory and practice though.

og said...

It's actually robert owen, the old socialist shitbag. "All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer" I dislike Owen enough that I was a bit disapointed that PJ co-opted his phrase, even cleverly turned as he did.

I would LOVE to see a true anarcho capitalist country. I'm confident that I wouldn't want to live in it, but man, would it be cool to watch.

WV: Preversi. A board game in which deviants change sexual orientation based on strategic moves.

Tam said...

Og,

"I would LOVE to see a true anarcho capitalist country."

And you never will.

You keep pulling for big government and I'll keep pulling for no government and hopefully we'll wind up with the needle somewhere around small government.

I could live with that; I don't expect or even necessarily desire perfection. After all, I'm not the one who believes in heaven. ;)

og said...

"You keep pulling for big government and I'll keep pulling for no government and hopefully we'll wind up with the needle somewhere around small government."

Man, I sure would appreciate if you'd copy paste some of where I've said big government is good, or even acceptable, because the simple truth is, I've never typed anything of the sort, and if what I type isn't ending up on the page, I need to fix my computer or find the guy impersonating me.

"After all, I'm not the one who believes in heaven. ;)"

Dunno who would, either. Me, I don't believe in anything. At least, when i suspect that I believe in something, I try to drink it out of me as quick as I can :)

WV: blatedem A belated democrat, the best kind.

Larry said...

What would it take to create an anarcho-capitaltist party in the US?

I'd sign up for it5 in a heartbeat.

Mark Alger said...

In retrospect, it was a big mistake to put e pluribus unum on the currency, instead of "You ain't the boss of me". (Vobis non me dux?)

How about what WAS there... "Mind Your Business" ?

M

MikeJ said...

Is it really just being "a lazy compassionate"? As in, "I want to help those with less, but I don't want to dirty myself by interacting with them." All of the feel good, but none of the cost? Sort of the left's energy policy... "I want the benefits of oil, but not the wells, so I outsource that impact to other nations." I'd say on both fronts a little adult responsibility would go a long way. If you feel the poor need help, you can help, volunteer, lend a hand, donate your cash. Stop outsourcing responsibility, whether it's for your desire to help those less fortunate than you, your desire to drive a car and have plastics, or your self-protection. Put on the big boy pants and do it yourself.

perlhaqr said...

I'm with Mark, we never should have changed from "Mind Your Own Business".

rickn8or said...

I don't mind folks being compassionate, it's just that they insist on doing it with my money.

I've been known to be compassionate myself from time to time. But I prefer to pick my beneficiaries my own self, thankyouverymuch.

Tam said...

Og,

Because government gets big. There are two poles: Big government and No government. Being in favor of a little bit of government is like being in favor of the first trimester, but opposed to pregnancy on the whole.

You can craft, with the best intentions of the heart and the brightest minds in the world, a tightly-circumscribed severely-restricted government, and within barely three human lifetimes, you'll have an unrecognizable leviathan. How many times do we have to run this experiment to prove it?

I'm not ashamed to say that my ideals are an unworkable thought experiment but something worth striving towards regardless.

Go now and sin no more. ;)

Bubblehead Les. said...

Personally, I'm from the "Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone" school of Political Science. But the way this so-called Civilization is going, it's looking like I'm being forced into the "Leave me alone or else..." camp.

Kip Condor said...

If you think something needs to be done, you should do it.

This sentence is made of truth and win. I suspect that if lefties would put the time and resources into actually achieving themselves the things they spend so much energy trying to force others to do, they'd've been done ten times over already.

TJIC said...

> I'll occasionally use the term 'libertarian' to describe myself, at least when I'm in too mellow a mood to have to explain 'anarcho-capitalist

I knew you were crazy, Tam, but I never realized that you were crazy enough to agree with ** ME ** on politics! ;-)

og said...

I'm not ashamed to say that my ideals are a(long term) unworkable thought experiment but doing something right and then resetting it to "right" every so often is better than nothing. And everything else.

Sin no more?

I would have figured you'd know me better than that by now. :)

WV Readsjo. While I love the work of S. J Perelman, especially the writing he did on "Monkey Business" for the Marx brothers, I can't say I'd like to read SJ only.

og said...

Btw, the pregnancy analogy is way weak, for someone with your skills. At some point, without variation, pregnacy stops.

Tam said...

Og,

I'm riffing here. :)

og said...

lol. I would have taken "I slept in and hadn't had coffee yet, Alex" for 200. :)

SewerDweller said...

Apparently Balko is going to work for huffington post. I do not think that was a wise choice on his part.

Anonymous said...

I just smoked A piner,first time in 3 years. I just read your post. Best one of the year so far! Groovy....

CIII

Tirno said...

"At some point, without variation, pregnacy stops."

That's where I think the metaphor is strongest. You start with no government, get a little government, which grows into big government, and next thing you know, it's screaming and unending shit and being woken in the night by a howling vortex of need, need, need.

Where the metaphor breaks down is that you're never going to get the babbling bundle of joy or unconditional love. You're going straight to the sullen emo pothead teenager that always need another $20 and won't ever move out on his own.

Tam said...

Man, I wish I'd written that.

og said...

If you had, you'd be stretching the condom to get it to fit over a moose antler too.

WV: Pshat

WV is being good to me today

Joe in PNG said...

I feel a lot of emotions when I tell someone repeatedly “don’t do that- it will hurt you”, and the idiot goes and does just that. It’s just that compassion tends to not be one of them.

So why is it now my problem when you tell a kid for years that they should stay in school, avoid drugs, and be carful about sleeping around- a message which gets routinely mocked btw. And wouldn’t you know it, after a couple of years of doing just those things; I’m supposed to use my money to pay for their drop-out, drug addicted and single parent lives?

But what really gets me irate is that those “compassionate Government Programs” only make the problem much, much worse. So, a good bit of the money I could use for actually helping people is gone, and it’s actually being used to make the problems worse. Oy!

Borepatch said...

You and I are not sticks in a fasces

What's truly demoralizing is that the majority of Ivy League students would understand this.

Chris said...

Given the answers (or lack thereof) in response to (what should be) common-knowledge questions posed to said Ivy Leaguers in the seemingly annual studies, they don't understand much of anything other than networking with others of their ilk and coming up with more ways to spend the money of folks in "flyover country".

And my usual reply to anyone who uses "We should . . ." in a sentence is the old punchline, "What you mean, 'we', Kemosabe?"

mariner said...

Putting "You Ain't the Boss of Me" on currency would be interesting, as money is in fact the boss of many, many people.

Standard Mischief said...

>>"What is the libertarian answer to society’s f*ck ups?"

He's never seen this quote?

>>"If you want to help them, you will not be stopped."

Jeffersonian said...

Didn't some of our early coins say "Nemo me impune laccesit"?

Old Grouch said...

"If you want to help them, you will not be stopped."

Except you probably WILL be... or at minimum be hindered... for failure to meet zoning/affirmative action/equal opportunity/minimum wage/health and safety/taxation and licensing requirements.

Because it's not enough to just help somebody, it's also required that you jump through all the hoops imposed by our "fairness" friends that (mostly) protect special interests who've already "got theirs."

Linda Morgan said...

Mailing a check to the government to help the poor because you're feeling compassionate is like handing the local crackhead a twenty to fetch you a pizza because you're feeling hungry.

Deserves repeating! Memorization wouldn't hurt, at least 'til comprehension sets in.

Don Meaker said...

I am for smaller government. I may not go all the way to "no government". I may go further than you. At lease we can agree that smaller is better right now. We didn't get the behemoth overnight, and we won't get tinkerbell overnight either. In extenuation of the people who gave us behemoth, many of them didn't know where they were going.

docjim505 said...

Tam - "We" are not a wealthy "society". You and I live in a place that has some rich people and some poor people and some in-between people.

Charity depends on having an excess. If I've got more than I need, it's possible for me to give some of it away. If I have ONLY enough for myself, giving ANY away becomes suicidal.

The "problem" with our country is that most people have an excess of wealth (I've read somewhere that our "poor" are in the top 30% "richest" people in the world), so the do-gooders wonder why more people don't give. It's only a short hop from there to REQUIRING them to give.

I've never seen the virtue in forcing somebody else to be charitable, nor do I feel virtuous when I consider that (some) of my tax money (probably) goes to help somebody else. It was TAKEN from me; I deserve no credit for any good that was done with it.

I'm afraid that the do-gooders don't see it that way.

Another problem is that terms like "rich" and "poor" and "compassionate" are in the eye of the beholder. If I have $1.01 when everybody else has $1.00, I'm "rich". If I have $40,000 when everybody else has $1 million, I'm "poor". And which is "compassionate": making a poor person work a bit for the food / money / clothing / shelter he wants from me, or just giving it to him and making him my ward?

T said...

I've never seen the virtue in forcing somebody else to be charitable

That's because the virtue isn't there. To quote Steven Erikson: "Choice is the singular moral act and all one chooses can only be considered in a moral context if that choice is free."

Phelps said...

What about people who–through their own ineptitude, stupidity, laziness, or drug abuse–simply fail? What do we do about the undeserving poor?

Maybe I misread it, but to me, that looks like a list of reasons why someone does deserve to fail.

Sigivald said...

All of that is true.

But there is the slight problem if if there is a significant underclass for whatever reason, you're going to end up with some of them robbing or mugging you out of desperation - or at least trying.

Which is, how can I say... awkward.

I believe Hayek suggested that a minimal "social safety net" might be required for purely practical reasons in an industrial/post-industrial society - not for "compassion" as such, but to prevent mob violence and disorder.

(Plus it may well be cheaper and too subject to free-rider costs to manage any other way, much like national defense.

[But I'm also not an anarcho-capitalist, either. I don't even comprehend the term as having significant real meaning, Rothbard be damned.

Minarchy, I understand. Anarcho-capitalism, not so much.])

Anonymous said...

Sigivald: that is why we have the police, and that is why we have concealed weapons permits.

If you are arguing in favor of paying the Danegeld, history demonstrates that this is never a viable strategy in the long run. Or even the short run.

In 1960, there were 172 murders and 3988 armed robberies in the city of Detroit. In 1970, after the transfer of nearly a trillion dollars of wealth under the auspices of President Johnson's soi-disant "Great Society" programs, there were 495 murders and 23038 armed robberies in the city of Detroit.

This would appear to be empirical disproof of your claim, good sir, and support for my counterclaim that the "progressive" ideology is at odds with objective reality because it has its roots in a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

Crowndot said...

I think the Latin motto would go like this: "Dicator mihi non es" - You are not a dictator (autocrat) to me. Or: "Dictator mei non potes" - You cannot be the dictator of me.

Tam said...

Sigivald,

I will trust that you haven't read the entire comment thread.

Your "minimal government" and my "no government" are, in practical terms, nearly equally fictitious. My imagined utopia and yours both disintegrate within a human lifetime or two; yours into Superstate and mine into Warlordism.

Why try and maintain a fig leaf of imagined practicality? Since we're both fantasizing, why not shake your bowcaster and howl? ;)

Justthisguy said...

Og said, " I don't believe in heaven."

Dang, Og, I thought you were a serious Roman Catholic!

Tam said...

Justthisguy,

He has faith in heaven. See, "belief" and "faith" are synonyms in the OED, but "faith" connotes a level of belief stronger than "belief", and therefore "believing" in something means you really don't believe in it, and...

It's Ogspeak, dude. Roll with it.

Ed Foster said...

Sigivald: Basically, we agree. I'd carry them, but they'll have to stand in line outside the shelter, summer and winter, to get their weekly allotment of clean used clothes from Goodwill, soy laden fatty hamburger, vitamin pills, day old bread, and $10 sneakers.

They'll also have to maintain the hallways and grounds of the very basic government housing they'll recieve on unused but very secure military bases, far away from the inner city's temptations.

Which, by the way, is what I grew up on as a Navy Brat. When shopping at the Salvation Army store, my mother always made it a point to not notice the other Navy wives shopping there too. A lot of them were officer's wives, and it wasn't good for unit cohesion if NCO's ladies and folks from "O" country found themselves in the same bucket.

Remove the fairly luxurious feedbag and a lot of them might start grazing on their own.

Kim said...

Ducem meum non es.

og said...

"It's Ogspeak, dude. Roll with it."

I don't expect anyone to understand, or care. And the two words are not synonyms, under any circumstance. As I posted on my blog, directly from Webster, there is a clear differentiation between faith and belief. You can doubtless find a book that makes them sysnonyms, but you can find a lot of things that are bullshit.

What I have faith in is not easily described. It damned sure isn't heaven. I'll gladly discuss seriously with anyone who wants; having done a six year stint in seminary I am somewhat qualified. If you want to mock, stick with the mormons. They're much easier targets, having read their religious tenets out of a hat. Or calvinists, but then most of them are self mocking. I've been mocked by masters, it's nothing to me, and a waste of breath to those who mock.

Tam said...

Og,

There is a difference between mocking and teasing, but I expect you know that.

One man's theology will always be another man's belly laugh.

There are countries where such is not allowed, but I expect we neither of us would wish to reside there.

Tam said...

Oh, and as to:

"If you want to mock, stick with the mormons. They're much easier targets, having read their religious tenets out of a hat."

It's amazing how much more respectable and familiar hats become with age and long use.

og said...

"There is a difference between mocking and teasing, but I expect you know that."

Indeed I do, which is why I never either mock nor tease you about your chosen religion.

hats? Oh, yeah, hats.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ejD5sEhZAQ

"True Theological authority comes from actual divinity, not some farcical millinery ceremony!"


BTW, my copy of the OED also gives "Clip" as a synonym for "Magazine".

Tam said...

"True Theological authority comes from actual divinity"

Oddly, that's what they all say.

And the bit about my "chosen religion" is why you'll never find me engaging in these discussions with you any more, Og, since obviously there's no point when we can't even agree on terms.

A Nothing is not just a different kind of a Something.

And this being my blog, I believe I will have the last word, here.

macsnafu said...

This is the line I like best: Mailing a check to the government to help the poor because you're feeling compassionate is like handing the local crackhead a twenty to fetch you a pizza because you're feeling hungry.
Great comment!