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April 10, 2004

Freedom « Politics As Usual »

So it seems to me...

That there are people who want to make sure that no one ever starves, that no one ever dies for lack of money for medicine, that the gap between the successful and the not-so-successful should be minimized. After all, they say, if a CEO works 40 hours and a janitor works 40 hours, why should the CEO make 3000 times as much? After all, they say, there are people who could spend their whole lives working as hard as they can and never be able to earn enough to buy a house, or to retire, or to stop living hand-to-mouth.

It sounds good, right? We in the US have so much money, how could anyone be allowed to struggle?

They look to Europe, where they have 35-hour work-weeks and a month off for vacation as standards, and most retire in their 50s.

No one starves there, they have health coverage for all, it's perfect, right?

Well, then there's this (link via Zombyboy).

Is it any surprise it's a European?

See, if he does lose everything, he doesn't really have to worry; his retirement is pretty much set by the British government. He might have to work harder for a few years. And it's not really the point, since he's doing this for a stunt and will make wads of cash even if he loses, most likely.

But he's got a safety net, courtesy of European socialism. He can't really fail.

And that's what socialism is about. That's what liberalism is about. Bad things shouldn't happen to good people, and the government is the best mechanism for preventing it, and they're going to do it with your money.

See, that's one thing that gets forgotten about Europe. They spent about three centuries plundering all the wealth of the rest of the globe, snatching art and precious metals and raw materials. They even spent about 100 years taking from what became the US. It made them exceedingly wealthy. It ensured that their upper classes didn't have to work at all, and virtually enslaved the menials.

And their rigid class restrictions still exist. The son of a single mother isn't going to get the equivalent of a Rhodes scholarship, a law degree, and then use his charisma to lever himself into the highest position in the land, no. If you're born low there, you pretty much stay low. Rich don't marry poor. The Rich stay Rich, the poor are kept comfortable enough to not rise up, and for the most part they are governed without their voice or consent being considered, much.

At least in the US, most of our rich people still work.

But even more important, we have the freedom to fail. Because, see, that also means we have the freedom to succeed. You really can't have one without the other. If everyone who runs the race gets a blue ribbon, does it mean anything anymore? If you don't risk, what do you gain?

Bill Clinton could become President of the United States because we allow amazing upward mobility. The flip side of that is we have amazing downward mobility. You can be poor today, rich tomorrow, and poor the day after that. The dot-com bubble and implosion is absolutely American. I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Democrats are really offering a free lunch by trying to guarantee health coverage, social security, welfare, medicare, drug prescription coverage, racial quotas (in the guise of affirmative action), hate crime legislation, no limitations on pain&suffering awards in lawsuits, gun control. They are trying to ensure that nothing bad happens to people, which seems good on the surface.

But there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. They don't ask you to pay as you leave, but you pay by losing your freedom. By losing your freedom to fail, you lose your freedom to succeed. Fight it!

Paul Newman is an excellent example, I think.

He founded Newman's Own food products. In 20 years they've given over $125 million dollars to charities. Did anyone get forced to contribute to his company? Nope. Was anyone forced to buy his product? No! I buy some of his dressings because they taste good. He makes a quality food product. Because he has enough money, after he pays his taxes, he donates all profits to charity. When Democrats target the "evil, greedy" corporations for tax increases, all it could do to Mr. Newman's company is reduce the amount they can give away, wouldn't it?

And he didn't just give $125 million to charities, did he? I'm sure there is a CEO, and a board of directors, and secretaries, and drivers, and packers, and warehouse managers, and janitors, and security, etc, etc, etc, all employed by Mr. Newman before the first penny of profit is earned to be passed on to charity.

But again, the higher taxes are raised, the harder it would be for Mr. Newman to continue to run his business. If taxes are ever raised to the level Democrats want, would he be pushed out of business? Would he move overseas and become an outsourcing statistic?

So you have a rich Democrat, someone like Al Gore or John Kerry or Howard Dean or John Edwards. They say want to help poor people. They say they want to create jobs. They say they want to make things better for the people in lower tax brackets. Do any of them, seeing the success of Paul Newman, go out and open up a business to hire the 5.7% of people who are currently unemployed? Do they try to make a profit that they can hand over to charity (since they are still very rich without company profits)? Do they even give enough of their wealth away to put them into the range of lifestyle of the average college professor? Nope. They run for office on platforms of raising money. That's right, they say that only the government can create new jobs. There's not necessarily a need for more government workers, but they'll create them because they would rather use your tax money to add people to the government payroll who cannot be fired for incompetence, rather than to risk their own personal fortunes to create something of lasting value for this nation.

George W. Bush ran a baseball team, and added value to the team before he sold his interest. His father expanded an oil company. What did John F. Kerry do? He married one rich woman, "annulled" an 18-year marriage that produced two children so that he could marry another rich woman.

I don't know about you, but I still find it galling that there's a good chance the very same money earned by a Republican Senator Heinz, by way of inheritance and marriage, was used to finance John Kerry's presidential bid.

Okay, I feel a little better now.

Posted by Nathan at 10:58 PM | Comments (8)
» Read My Lips links with: When you put it that way, it seems so clear
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The other side of your observation about Kerry's fortune, Nathan, is his "fighting for the little guy" demagoguery -- and it's just as disgusting.

What I keep asking myself is how anyone with three functioning brain cells could accept a multimillionaire Brahmin such as John Kerry as a representative of "the people." The man couldn't stand to have 99.999999% of "the people" brush past him on the street.

Unfortunately, high-level federal politics is all but closed to persons of ordinary means. How it might be reopened is a research problem. I think term limits will be required at the very least, but other thoughts are welcome.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at April 11, 2004 04:17 AM

Good point, Francis.
The situation is far more complex than I indicated in my "stream-of-consciousness, there's-a-few-things-I-want-to-say-and-I'll-write-them-down-as-they-come-to-me" writing style. John F'n Kerry shows his arrogance every time he pushes his way to the front of the line, every time he says, "Do you know Who I Am?"
And it often takes a great deal of personal wealth to make it into politics. True dat.
And yet, as much as I dislike and detest Bill Clinton, he does embody the American Dream. It does bother me that he used his success to try and rob wealth from the people who achieve it in business, but I cannot deny that President Clinton had humble roots and is now rich and influential.

I don't know. The thing that always bugged me about the Clintons, and leftists in general, is that they say everyone should be the same...excepting the elite who make the hard decisions of government. They don't want the common man to decide how he will spend the bulk of his money, they want to do that, and they want to be paid more for their efforts "to help reduce their vulnerability to bribery" (at least, that's the excuse the communists always gave). If they have that drive for comfort and luxury and self-determination in themselves, why don't they recognize other people have those same urges?

But we could talk about this all day. Maybe we should do a series of posts about this, so let me know if you ever want to do a "guest" post here.

Posted by: nathan at April 11, 2004 09:05 AM

I'd agree that no-one need die of starvation - food is plentiful and cheap, and some of the people who might otherwise die will end up doing something useful.

Basic healthcare for all is a good idea, for similar reasons, and because of the problem of communicable disease.

These are basic elements of social welfare, partly insurance and partly investment. (Like public education.)

But the equality of outcome - that the janitor should earn as much as the CEO - isn't social welfare but a denial of the known facts of how economies work. And implementing laws to this end will only ensure that your economy doesn't work.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 11, 2004 09:50 AM

I agree that no one should have to starve...
...but then, I think it's dangerous to tell people, "No matter what you do, we'll make sure you don't starve", because then you get people doing stupid things like this bet. Or "max"-ing out credit cards on superfluous things because they know the govt is always there as a safety net.
I like the idea I've seen in science fiction books in which a sort of gruel is available everywhere for free. It tastes like crap, but you aren't going to starve. That ensures people have the minimum they need for life but still gives them some motivation to try and improve their lot.

And that's what I'm all about: arranging our laws, society, and governance so that people will tend to make better choices in life. I'd rather not pass rules like "No Smoking"; instead, I'd rather find better ways to reward those who don't smoke and allow natural consequences to punish those who do.
If it's a voluntary behavior, you should be allowed to experience the consequences of that behavior. You also should have the opportunity to get all the available information about the consequences, as well, but it swimming upstream to get information available when it is being blocked for political reasons.
I'm not really expecting we'll ever get to my utopia, but I still want to fight to persuade in that direction.
I want to stop protecting people from their choices, but only after clearly explaining what we understand the consequences might be, and only after clearly notifying people that the safety net is being withdrawn.

Posted by: nathan at April 11, 2004 10:13 AM

Ding-ding-ding! Right on the mark, there, that freedom also means the freedom to fail. Too bad liberals seduce many with the promises of 'free stuff' in exchange for true freedom. It seems to work all too often.

Posted by: maura at April 11, 2004 02:55 PM

And when they fail to deliver on their promises, they can always promise more. There's always a significant number of people who believe the check is actually in the mail. That's why Spam exists: some people are dumb enough.

But we've got to be able to craft a democracy that works even with dumb people. One way is to ensure that we remain a representative republic, and to ensure that we don't have programs enacted through judicial fiat.

The judiciary should be able to reject on the basis of constitutionality, but they should be allowed no power to rewrite constitutions, as they have tried in Florida and Massachusetts and the 9th Circuit Court.

Posted by: nathan at April 11, 2004 05:27 PM

Since when is success judged only by your job and economic situation? Everyone in the country still has the freedom to succeed or fail at being an asset to their community and a good person.

Posted by: Adele at April 17, 2004 09:16 PM

That's a good point, as well, Adele.
I guess it's just that it is economic/wage disparities that motivate some people to agitate for socialism, for continually increasing taxes on the wealthy...and then the middle class when the taxes on the wealthy don't bring in enough revenue.
And while greed and jealousy for your neighbor's belongings causes some people to try to steal, or claim it is racism preventing them from working hard enough to earn their own trappings of wealth, no one ever seems to covet someone else's involvement in community or be a good person. No one has ever tried to institute a form of government on the basis of regulating being a good person.
It would be better if more people would remember that a healthy society is as or more important as fulfilling their own impulses, 'tis true.

Posted by: Nathan at April 18, 2004 09:15 AM
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