Let me take that one, professor.

Commenter Mike Kaplan asks Harold Pollack a question:

Why am I paying taxes to take care of your brother-in-law Vincent? He is your family – why don’t you take care of him? Why do you want to force me to sacrifice my time and labor – in taxes – to do what you are not doing?

Not a very nice question – even setting aside the obviously false premise that Vincent isn’t being cared for by his family – but it does have a fairly easy answer.

Professor Pollack is not and should not be obligated to support a disabled relative, because that relative is neither his minor child nor his chattel.  Vincent is a human being.  The government has determined that Vincent lacks the ability to support himself, and therefore Vincent, not his family, is entitled by law to a subsistence income from the Social Security Administration.

Before Social Security, people like Vincent were considered unpleasant accidents best kept out of the public eye and certainly undeserving of personhood status.  The family of an intellectually limited person was presumptively the only means of support, and consequently entitled to make use of him or her in any way they chose.  Developmentally delayed children grew up to be exploited as slave labor and for the sexual gratification of those who supported them.

Every disabled person should be afforded the ability to live as independently as possible and to have choices so he or she is not forced out of personhood.  In Vincent’s case, this means an income from SSI, which is an entitlement, not a gift, as it would be if it came from a family member.  I can hear the libertarians lining up to scoff at the notion that a monthly SSI check can be considered “independence,” but it is the best we can do.  For people with physical disabilities, independent living requires the expenditure of public and private funds to build entrances that allow them access to buildings and transportation services.

And of course not every developmentally disabled adult has a high-income relative. In the richest country in the history of the world, whether such people can lead minimally decent lives should be guaranteed by policy, not left to accident.

This discussion reminds me of a passage from Tom Jones, following an act of generosity by Squire Allworthy:

Allworthy here betook himself to those pleasing slumbers which a heart that hungers after goodness is apt to enjoy when thoroughly satisfied. As these are possibly sweeter than what are occasioned by any other hearty meal, I should take more pains to display them to the reader, if I knew any air to recommend him to for the procuring such an appetite.

Nations, like individuals, can learn to “hunger after goodness.” Or not.

 

 

Author: Lowry Heussler

Lowry Heussler is a lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having participated in the RBC as a guest-blogger, she made it official in 2012. Her most important contribution to the field of public policy to date was her 1994 instruction to Mark Kleiman, "Read Ann Landers every day. You need to learn about real people." Her essay on the 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates went viral and brought about one of her proudest moments, being described as "just another twit along the lines of Sharpton, Jackson, Gates, etc." (Small Dead Animals Blog). Currently serving as General Counsel to BOTEC Analysis Corp., she has been a public housing lawyer, a prosecutor for the Board of Registration in Medicine, a large-firm associate and a small-firm partner. She serves as a board member for NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a charity that trains service dogs to increase independence for people with disabilities.

63 thoughts on “Let me take that one, professor.”

  1. For me, cutting to the chase is easy – Kaplan’s perspective is cruel!

    He needs to entertain that iconic question a bit more often in his life – WWJD? He also would do well to quit whining and begin to work to change the laws he disagrees with instead of merely projecting his myopia upon the rest of us.

  2. Another question might be, why should Harold Pollack take the time to answer basic questions about civilization posed by libertarians, just to make them feel as if their ideas are actually worthwhile or interesting to the rest of us?

    I am not sure he should. Doesn’t it just encourage them?

    But, I’m in a bad mood today. Most uncharitable.

  3. Just how much is it really costing Mr. Kaplan to “take care” of Vincent? Seems like it is pennies a month and maybe even pennies a year depending upon Mr. Kaplan’s income. How much would it cost Vincent’s “family”? Tens of thousands.

    There is an economic logic that goes hand in hand with the humane analysis of the post here. And that economic logic is that, to care for folks like Vincent, it makes more sense from a societal standpoint to have a community cost that is small to care for him than to put the sole burden on the family of Vincent.

    We really need to restore the language of “socialism” to balance the language of “capitalism” (business libertarians) not because we should only embrace socialism, but to begin to realize when the capitalist sensibility goes off the rails. You know, kind of like the putz Scalia talking about broccoli as if it was the same as health insurance.

  4. IMHO the usual response to this kind of libertarian blithering isn’t very effective. Such responses allude to vague notions of a social contract, or to kindness, or to what it means to be a civil society.

    I don’t think any of that is outright wrong, but it’s hardly the most effective argument. The Georgists have the most effective argument.

    The libertarian view is that a man should be entitled to the fruit of his own labor. Not an unreasonable proposition in isolation. The problem is that taxes are not the only way government “takes” the fruit of one’s labor.

    10-20% of GDP is composed of land rent. Land is the product of no one’s labor; land value is the (indirect) product of labor, but the owner of a parcel makes no contribution whatsoever to that value. Yet the government grants licenses of privilege to private parties, aka “landowners,” allowing them to extort money (aka “rent”) from anyone who wants to use the land.

    Not only is the total amount of land rent (and other forms of government-granted rent-collection privileges) extremely large; but also on net the wealthy own more land than the poor and middle class. The very poorest own no land at all.

    Thus, the picture entertained by both almost all libertarians and many of those arrayed against them is that government on net redistributes wealth from top to bottom. Nothing could be further from the truth; it’s entirely from the bottom and middle to the top.

    I’ll listen to Mike Kaplan if he either (a) allows me to use his land whenever I fancy to do so (the collectivist solution, which of course is a very poor one), or (b) pays me and everyone else their share of the annual rental value of his land (the liberal solution). Until then, I’ll just laugh.

    1. IMHO the usual response to this kind of libertarian blithering isn’t very effective. Such responses allude to vague notions of a social contract, or to kindness, or to what it means to be a civil society.

      I agree. Such arguments appeal to a few facets of our human natures.
      It a necessary part of the whole argument, but more is wanting.
      And you are heading in one correct direction: the economic argument.

      But I think too that there is a new argument that our age is now poised to make: The scientific one.
      This article I probably now behind The New Scientist pay wall. But here are a few paragraphs:

      SINCE we published The Spirit Level two years ago, we’ve noticed a hunger for explanations of why rich societies seem to have so many social problems. The explanation we offer seems to link up with a widespread intuition that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive. The financial crash has also made people more willing to think critically about great inequality.

      In a sense, our book is a theory of why so many health and social problems are more common at the bottom of society. People imagine that vulnerable people end up at the bottom of society and the resilient move up. They assume that’s why there is a social gradient. But no amount of sorting the population like that would make these problems so much more common in countries with bigger differences in income. We argue that they are a response to social status differentiation and social hierarchy itself.

      To test this, we looked at several issues: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, obesity, education, imprisonment, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage births and child well-being. In every case we found that rates of problems were anything from twice to 10 times as high in countries with bigger income difference between rich and poor. We then double-checked by seeing if the more unequal of the 50 states of the US also did worse on all these health and social problems. The results were strikingly similar.

      Now here is the killer argument that is waiting to be made:

      One of the many interesting things to emerge is that it is not just the poor who are affected by how unequal a society is. The differences in outcomes between more and less equal societies are so great because almost everyone is affected. The poor benefit most from greater equality, but even the better-off seem to live longer and their children do better.

      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028085.600-how-to-be-happy-divided-we-fail.html

  5. Because every family cannot afford to take care of their own, and even moreso the vast majority of families cannot possibly save/insure themselves against all manner of potential catastrophies. Because when things *were* done that way it really sucked. Because private charity has never and will never be up to the task. Because risk-pooling works, and the bigger the pool the better. Because it’s a fairly minor imposition on you, and a great help to Vincent.

    But mostly? Mostly it’s because most of us are not raging aholes who actually believe that they are entirely self-made, self-contained supermen who are so put-upon by losers.

    1. Rob in CT: Your second paragraph gets to the core issue: the delusional view of libertarians that whatever they’ve achieved has been by their own doing, when in fact their achievements are premised upon a functioning society and everything that means–including the social support of those whose poorly functioning bodies would otherwise impede the travel of their “betters” on the common thoroughfares.

      What alternative “nature red in tooth and claw” remedies do the libertarian types have in mind for the reality that some among us will always need some assistance? Those are the dystopian nightmares that can keep me awake in the dark of night.

      Meanwhile, like NGC I too am torn between the need to attempt a rational discussion with people like Mike Kaplan, futile as it may be, and the fact that some contentions are simply not worthy of a response. Any response I do provide will do nothing to change Kaplan’s mind, but it may sway others who are unsure–and that is the only reason I bother. Too many these days are being swept along on a stream of hate emanating from Ayn Rand wannabes, and it’s important that at least some are rescued from that course.

      1. “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” —Frédéric Bastiat

        1. The thing is, I don’t even disagree with Bastiat here, at least not in principle (but then I’m not a socialist, but a social liberal, and he was a classical liberal, so it’s not surprising that philosophically we have a fair bit of overlap).

          The problem was that he lived in the first half of the 19th century when a lot of very basic ideas regarding democracies and free markets were still being hashed out. Almost two centuries later, we have a lot more data and experience and even those of us who, as a rule, prefer governments to be smaller rather than larger know that realistically there are problems that the free market handles really poorly. In general, the market is controlled by financial incentives, not humanitarian ones, so when these incentives aren’t aligned, the outcome is often less than desirable.

          One such example is health insurance. Even if we stipulate that the efficient market hypothesis is correct, the incentives are still all wrong: Insurances are incentivized to insure the healthy and to stay away from those have health risks. The outcome of a purely market-based approach is to let the cancer patient with a 50-50 chance of survival die in the gutter.

          That does not mean that the government has to take over health insurance; realigning incentives properly could be sufficient (it is also possible to introduce actors into society that are neither directly controlled by the government nor the market). But when the superior solutions that we know from actual experience are either government-run single payer systems or extremely heavily regulated quasi-private systems, then it is irrational to keep searching for free market solutions just because.

          With respect to health insurance, the free market has failed, hard. Sticking with it despite all evidence to the contrary is no more rational than communists in the 1980s still using five-year plans because a guy in the 19th century had hypothesized that this was the right thing to do.

        2. Well that’s nice.

          Except that there was, effectively, very little education before public education was put in. Only a very privileged few were educated before that. So that’s one excellent example of how the nice-sounding rhetoric goes splat when it encounters reality. Functionally, when someone like Bastiat (who I’ll take at his word when he said he supported education) opposed “state education” he was just carrying water for those who didn’t want to bother educating anyone but their own group.

          Charity is good. It’s nice that you think charity can handle things like public education better than the government can. Trouble is that history shows us that this is simply untrue.

          1. The literacy rate for white males in colonial America was from 75% to 100%. At the time of the revolution, literacy rate for adults was about 60%.

        3. There is an article in the Constitution which states:

          “Society assists and encourages the development of labor…. through the establishment by the state, the departments, and the municipalities, of appropriate public works to employ idle hands.”

          As a temporary measure in a time of crisis, during a severe winter, this intervention on the part of the taxpayer could have good effects. It acts in the same way as insurance. It adds nothing to the number of jobs nor to total wages, but it takes l

          abor and wages from ordinary times and doles them out, at a loss it is true, in difficult times…” Frederic Bastiat, What Is Seen and Not Seen

  6. The other flaw in this idea that families should take care of their own is that it can take a highly skilled team to take care of someone with a disability properly and most families aren’t going to have a behaviorist, job coach, etc. among their ranks.

    How much money would someone have to have to create a shared apartment or group home situation, a day program/sheltered workshop/coached job position, modified/accessible recreation opportunities, and so on, just for ONE person? Talk about recreating the wheel.

    But in the end, it’s not that the people making these absolutely inane arguments know nothing about disability. It’s what NCG said.

  7. The Right loves its sanctimonious blather about how we are a Christian nation. Were it really so, Kaplan’s question would answer itself.

    1. The ‘Right” includes many Randroids who take seriously Ayn Rand’s willingness to give the middle finger to two thousand years of Western Civilization and its traditions. Making people like John Galt pay taxes to support people like Vincent is looting. Her boasts about challenging thousands of years of traditional culture were what made her the greatest human being who ever lived.

    2. So far as I read the Torah and the New Testament, the responsibility for the poor is first the family, then the church (reasonalby generalizable to society).

      1. This largely describes the fact that the state in the pre-modern world was a completely different beast than we have today. In fact, saying that it was the church’s responsibility to care for the poor is pretty close to saying that it was the community’s responsibility. In today’s world, the state fills many of the roles that the churches once did. Indeed, during biblical times, the church was generally able to levy a tax, though called something different, on the populace.

        1. Correct: that’s why I said that “church” would be reasonably generalizable to society.

          1. What J. Michael said. I read Jesus’ teachings as both a personal and societal obligation. Others’ mileage may vary.

  8. In the meanwhile, Fred Clark nails it (at least, for those who consider themselves Christian) with this homily from St. John Chrysostom:

    It is foolishness and a public madness to fill the cupboards with clothing and allow men who are created in God’s image and likeness to stand naked and trembling with cold, so that they can hardly hold themselves upright.

    Yes, you say, he is cheating and he is only pretending to be weak and trembling. What! Do you not fear that lightning from Heaven will fall on you for this word? Indeed, forgive me, but I almost burst from anger.

    Only see, you are large and fat, you hold drinking parties until late at night, and sleep in a warm, soft bed. And do you not think of how you must give an account of your misuse of the gifts of God?

    … On the other hand, you question very closely the poor and the miserable, who are scarcely better off in this respect than the dead: and you do not fear the dreadful and the terrible judgment seat of Christ. If the beggar lies, he lies from necessity, because your hardheartedness and merciless inhumanity force him to such cheating. … If we would give our alms gladly and willingly, the poor would never have fallen to such depths.

    … But for him, who prays and calls on God, and beseeches you humbly and modestly, to him you will vouchsafe neither an answer or a glance, but at the most, you will give him a reproach and say: “Why does such a one have to live and breathe and see the light of the sun?” And while God says to you “Give alms and I will give thee the Kingdom of Heaven,” you hear it not.

    … Indeed, for your charioteers in the circus, you are ready to sacrifice your own children, and for your actors you would deliver up your own soul, but for the hungering Christ, the smallest piece of money is too large for you to give. And if you do sacrifice a penny for once, it is as if you were giving away your whole property. Truly, I am ashamed when I see rich people riding about on horses decorated with gold and with servants clad in gold coming along behind them. They have silver beds and multitudes of other luxuries. But, if they have to give something to a poor man, suddenly they themselves are the poorest of the poor!

    1. You could almost swear the good man had been listening in on the republican debates. The more things change the more they stay the same.

  9. Some island in the Pacific should be declared a stateless territory and dedicated to libertarianism, so all the libertarians can move there and put their principles into practice.

    With advanced satellite-cam technology, we could probably make an entertaining, if gruesome, reality show out of that short-lived enterprise.

    1. I’m afraid so. I suspect that the libertarian utopia would very much resemble a “Lord of the Flies” remake.

      Libertarianism (or at least the hardcore version) also strikes me, in a way, as the Communism of our times; a different ideology, but the same meta-structure. Principles over pragmatism, a largely hypothetical vision of a future society based on more or less untested theories, a belief that this future will automatically evolve in the right direction if the principles of the ideology are being followed, simplified explanations for complex problems. Much of what Popper wrote in vol. 2 of the “Open Society” can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to libertarianism [1].

      That doesn’t mean that everything is bad about libertarianism, but the religious fervor can be somewhat scary at times.

      [1] I’m not saying that one should follow Popper here, I’m just using him to illustrate the underlying symmetry.

      1. Do a search on Peter Thiel and “seasteading”.
        This libertarian billionaire hopes to go Galt someday.
        I am sure the new billions he’ll wreak (from the privatizing of (nearly) everyone’s public data) as a huge shareholder of Facebook will help…

        Fascinating post Katja.

        1. Romer is no libertarian fantasist. He’s thought through the problems carefully, and his proposed “charter city” would have some restrictions that would send true libertarians running away screaming in terror: no cash, for example, and forced savings to support a social safety net. The goal is to free commerce and industry from the Honduran kleptocracy, not to play John Galt. The proposed city is to be an industrial zone with a mostly working-class population, not a playground for the idle rich. The reason I know something of this is that Romer called me – we hadn’t met before, but have a friend in common – for advice about how to organize the criminal justice system for the “charter city.” I’m agnostic about whether there’s a real idea there capable of being realized in the real world, but it would be wrong to imagine that Romer shares Brett’s ideology.

          1. “…his proposed “charter city” would have some restrictions that would send true libertarians running away screaming in terror: no cash, for example, and forced savings to support a social safety net.”

            Why would libertarians care one way or the other if people freely choose to live there and agreed to the restrictions?

          2. Mark, I think they’ve rolled you on this one: “The goal is to free commerce and industry from the [X] kleptocracy”–wouldn’t that be the ideological platform of the Caymans, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore, Dubai, or come to that, the good people of South Dakota or Delaware when they take over the issuance of credit cards or corporate charters? Indeed, don’t we all want the consolations of a dynamic economy without the inconveniences of the refractory and the wrongheaded?

            It’s the dual goal–to enjoy all the solace of civilization without picking up the trash–that provides the key to understanding this pell-mell rush to insulation. It’s part and parcel with “cafeteria law” (as others have called it), where we have our marriage license in one sovereignty, our corporate charter in the next, our asset protection in the next, all the while paying taxes in any jurisdiction we choose. So also I’m assuming the founders have no intention of relinquishing their table at the Four Seasons, or their tickets to the Met, or their boltholes in Gstaad or St. Tropez.

            I suspect the giveaway may be in (I quote the Economist, last December 11): “And democracy will be introduced gradually. Only when the transparency commission deems that the time is ripe will citizens be able to elect …” [http://www.economist.com/node/21541392] I think we’ve heard that one before, not so?

      2. “Libertarianism (or at least the hardcore version) also strikes me, in a way, as the Communism of our times”

        That’s insightful, Katja, and also clever, given what that implies about Ayn Rand: she failed to un-think Marx’s Hegelianization of Smith’s “invisible hand” …?

        1. That’s insightful, Katja, and also clever, given what that implies about Ayn Rand: she failed to un- think Marx’s Hegelianization of Smith’s “invisible hand”

          Fixed it for you.

          She also failed to write characters that could survive outside a comic book, but that’s another issue.

      1. But: the libertarians in Nevada or Idaho will just fire up coal plants on the eastern edge that billow emissions into the next states over. Or, they’ll use nuclear power, and dump the waste into the river where it exits the state.

        And, when their kids’ teeth start rotting out, they’ll be too tempted to send them to Grandma Sue’s or Aunt Tricia’s in Massachusetts and she’ll want to fix the situation, ’cause after all the kids didn’t go Galt.

        Feel free to add examples. There are too many to list.

        1. That’s an interesting point. I don’t know what the libertarian position on externalities is, actually. Very interesting.

      1. I’ve thought for a long time that anarchy was the purest form of free enterprise (except for the need to enforce the laws protecting private property and contract…)

    2. Thom Hartmann had a guest from some Randian/libertarian think tank (see how seriously I took him). He was proposing selling realestate on other plants ,like the moon austencibly so libertarians would have a place to try their grand experiment.
      I didn’t catch who he thought should be paid for this realestate. I mean it couldn’t be the Government. Maybe he thinks his think tank are the rightful owners of the moon, Mars, Jupiter,… Maybe I should check the archives but, …nahh, I think I’ll eat lunch.

    3. Why waste a perfectly good island in the Pacific? Why not Somalia instead?

      Think of it: no functioning government, no social services: a true Libertarian paradise!

  10. Why am I paying taxes to subsidize ExxonMobil’s raping of the planet, polluting our water, and destroying our children’s future? Why am I paying taxes to subsidize the military-industrial complex that wanders the Earth, killing people in my name who never did a thing to hurt the USA, in the process creating enemies who -will- hurt the USA? Why are my taxes going to subsidize Israel’s apartheid policies in Palestine?

    Because these are decisions we all take, together, as a nation. The placing of one form of subsidy (for the disabled, so their families don’t take the entire burden) as illegitimate, where another (for Israel, or oil companies, or ballistic missile defense) is ruled legitimate is a -political- decision.

    Each of us has their bugaboos that we think are illegitimate uses of our tax dollars. Just because you think yours are more valid than mine, doesn’t mean I think so, too.

    1. “Because these are decisions we all take, together, as a nation.”

      Because these are decisions some of us take, and impose on others of us.

      1. “Because these are decisions some of us take and impose on others of us.” No surprise that Brett has no clue how democracy works. If only the GOP philosopher kings were in charge!

        1. Of course I understand how democracy, theoretically, works. A vote is held. The larger, better organized, faction gets to impose it’s choices on the smaller faction.

          Kind of like holding a war game instead of a civil war, it’s an efficient way to determine who gets to subjugate who, without having to have an actual fight over it with consequent death and destruction. The minority coming out of the election doesn’t bother to resist by force, because it has just been demonstrated that the other side has the numbers, organization, and resources to prevail if it comes to a fight.

          I realize there are all sorts of fuzzy headed myths about democracy. But at it’s core, one group of people is imposing a decision on another group of people. Democracy is not an alternative to tyranny, it’s just a way of deciding who gets to play tyrant.

          That’s why democracy is no substitute for limited government constrained to respect human rights. A democracy is as capable of doing horrific things as any other form of tyranny, if some other limit is not placed on what sort of decisions are subject to a vote.

          So, if you’ve already decided somebody is going to get ordered around by somebody else, yeah, democracy is a pretty good way of deciding who issues the orders, and who has to obey them. But far better in most contexts that people get to make their OWN choices.

          1. But the point is, as the joke goes, now we’re just arguing over the price.

            I’m always puzzled why people don’t understand, for example, why the UN (feckless institution though it be) has a Security Counsel with substantially different (and greater) powers than the General Assembly. Do they imagine that the existence of the UN removes, at a stroke, the reality of power relationships between nations in the world? Do they imagine that such a model of the UN, built to ignore these realities, could actually function (which is not again to say that the current model functions particularly well)? Do they think it’s possible to remove power relationships from the world — or even desirable, really, to do so entirely?

            Similarly with you. There will be power relationships in the world. There will be a government. Some — a lot — of the power reified in government will reflect money and monied interests, and that’s legitimate. But not all of it, and that’s completely proper too. Because there is real power in mass numbers, no kidding, and attempting to ignore that or pretending that it’s not legitimate is irrelevant as a basis for constructing a stable and workable system. It’s a fantasy.

            All of which is to say, FDR was the best friend rich people in this country (and their private property “rights”) ever had, and I’m always amazed at how many of them are too stupid to understand this. Because the alternative to Roosevelt was revolution.

            So I’m afraid, yes, that you’re going to have to live with and help to pay for my values, which include helping Vincent to lead a decent life. Because that’s my price for living with and agreeing to pay for your values, specifically supporting the existence of governments, laws, courts, and police which, without things like Social Security, would permit the impoverishment and misery of people like him, as it factually, historically did. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that the threat of forcing people to submit to your vision of the world through police and Pinkertons is somehow more honorable or ethical than the countervailing threat of mass action.

          2. Brett, you argue as if everyone here objects, in the abstract, to the idea of government being limited. My guess is that no one does. We all think that government should have limits. Most of us also manage to articulate what we think those limits should be when challenged.

            It isn’t that you alone stand pure and in favor of limited government. It’s that you disagree with pretty much everyone else here as to what those limits should be. Fine. You don’t think that the government should step in in cases where there is clear market failure to provide optimum outcomes. We get that. So you can stop making the most general arguments about why government should be limited.

            Instead, you should make the arguments as to why you think it is better to have a situation where people such as myself cannot purchase basic health care because it’s too expensive on its own and we can’t get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. I’ve challenged you before to explain to me why, effectively, I should be left to die due to the fact that I’m unemployed and, absent direct government intervention by the state of Minnesota, insuranceless. To date, you have failed to ever respond. That’s a shame because, whether you acknowledge it or not, that’s exactly the world you are arguing for.

          3. Rational-basis laws only need a majority.

            Laws that affect a protected class need some more compelling reasons besides “we think so.”

            That’s because the protection you’re looking for is SUPPLIED by the fact of rational-basis laws affecting everyone equally, with only distinctions of circumstance and situation. Thus, equal income taxes of the sort you detest. They’re *equal* because they apply *equally* to everyone in a certain circumstance. Everyone has an equal reason to resist them.

            They’d be *unequal* if they taxed white people differently from black people, or people with green eyes differently from people with brown.

            The “limited government constrained to respect human rights” of which you speak IS our Constitutional republic, with the Bill of Rights imposing the constraints you say you want, along with the civil rights jurisprudence of the courts (which you don’t like for some reason), on the more general democratic principle.

            The tyranny of the majority IS constrained by equal protection law. That’s one reason it’s so bizarre to the rest of us here that you don’t support equal protection jurisprudence. You say you want it, but then when the courts apply it, you scream that the courts are going against the Will of the People.

            I mean, you’re missing a basic Civics class here, Brett. The power to tax inheres in government. It only needs a rational basis justification to pass muster under our system. Your political argument is just a political argument — not a logical or legal one. And? Your political argument LOST. Someone else’s WON.

            (Actually, that’s not accurate. A combination of yours and everyone else’s is what was enacted. You won some things, and you lost others, just as I did, just as everyone here did.)

            But we all had the right to participate in the political debate. We all elected the decisionmakers. That is “why” Vincent gets a trickle of public support from all of us.

          4. Great posts, everyone! I think we may actually be getting somewhere. Reaching some greater degree of understanding, if not agreement. I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

            You all have renewed my faith in discourse. It may be the only good thing that’s happened so far today.

          5. In fact, I think I feel a little better now about what’s-his-name. He was probably just in a bad mood … from doing his taxes. Been there.

  11. You are going to get nowhere with this type of argument when talking to a conservative. You’re just screaming at a wall with this kind of “it’s the right thing to do” argument, and “people deserve dignity” argument. That’s all you have as a reason for the government to take people’s personal property and redistribute it?

    That said, I fully support every one of these programs. Why? Because they are a fabulous investment! Families relieved of the burden of financially and emotionally caring for disabled people are more productive citizens who pay taxes and are valuable customers for our businesses. Disabled people who get excellent care can often become more productive citizens as well. Stay away from moralizing issues. It’s pointless. The government should make cold, hard investment decisions. Every single time you look into government health care investment, early childhood education, training, drug rehab vs. incarceration, infrastructure, etc. etc. they are worthwhile investments by any sound analysis! You don’t need the moral argument. It’s distracting from the point that our nation is better off if our government makes these investments.

    1. That tack doesn’t work either. Argue for justice, argue for common sense, argue from examples in history, argue for the survival of civilization, it just doesn’t matter. The Right is right the Left is wrong. So there!

  12. 1. Support for other people is important for a humane and prosperous society. “If you think the law should be for your benefit alone (which, I admit is not exclusive with then engaging in private acts of support for other people), then why do you have such a problem with people who think that the law should be for the benefit of other people. If ‘I want it’ is food for you, then why is ‘we want it’ not good enough for others.” Of course, the most important rights for the law to assign and enforce are private property rights in order to achieve a humane and prosperous society.
    2. Not everybody has the resources to support the people who are close to them in a way that is humane and prosperous.
    3. Barry Goldwater bellowed this “if you know people who need help, then help them!” argument, but it does not make a lot of sense. If I know somebody who needs help, and I told Barry Goldwater about him, why should Barry Goldwater not have helped me to help that person? Why would the state not have used its resources and legislation to help that person and other people in their situation? People have the same rights and potential to “contibute to society” (lolololol. Technology is rapidly annihilating the possibility of any person doing anything other than owning and consuming). In the case of family, the argument is stronger for people caring for people who are close to them, because of the importance of the family as a basis of society, but when an expense it too much to expect the family to support, then the family must be supported by the state. “He’s not my brother-in-law!” “Well, he your ninety-ninth cousin. He is another citizen. He is another human. He is another being whose life you could try to experience with intelligence and imagination.” Being close to a person gives you a stronger reason to help that person, but being farther away does not eliminate any responsibility to share in that person’s humanity, for the interests of the humanity of all.

  13. My answer to Mr Kaplan is a bit more radical:

    You already are; it’s just a question of accounting. In Vincent’s case, the opportunity cost imposed on the rest of his family is a denial of potential productivity that ultimately benefits you, Mr Kaplan. There are also obvious costs imposed on 24/7 family-member caregivers, too… that you, Mr Kaplan, are going to share.

    This is even more obvious for more traditionally accepted medical issues. To name an obvious one, consider the problems caused by low-paid, uninsured restaurant workers who don’t seek medical care because they can’t afford it when they’re ill, or the TB sufferer who stretches out his medication to lower his personal costs.

  14. The Randians are insane. There is no other answer to their absurdities. I do not for one second account myself to the what I consider absurd collectivist views of the writers if this blog. I am a conservative. But to think that having a substantial portion of our poor be utterly, totally dispossessed, mere property of anyone more intellectually abled, is a radical, not a conservative position. As a Conservative, I view things with moderation, intent and practicality most in mind. The notion that we should have people who go to work every day live in abject poverty whilst the other 70% live in middle-class or more prosperity reeks of a society which is inherently unstable, perceived by many even in the middle as unfair, and works at the very core of our being as a political democracy.

    I am continually astonished at people who claim to be “conservative” who seem to think that vast income inequality and lack of opportunity could be anything other than what it is: despotic. We revolted from such norms in 1776. -Aside from what the current brand of radicals calling themselves “conservatives” would have you believe, it was representati9on, not guns, that produced the great revolution.

  15. Among the problem with folks like Kaplan is that they mostly consider themselves immune to the “I refute it thus” argument. A layoff and an accidental encounter with an uninsured, judgment-proof driver would make it quite clear why we have a social safety net, but the true propertarian knows that would never happen to them.

  16. The original remark was intended as a more or less uncamouflaged “Screw You” to those of us afflicted with scruples.The comment thread is proof of it’s effectiveness as “bait” but it had no more elevated intention, really.I suppose it’s possible that the author was merely pretending to be morally inert.It was only one more unpleasant reminder that grinning sociopathy isn’t a big deal. Hey, FREEDOM!-amirite?

  17. You know, it’s not like we don’t have any evidence of what happens under the Kaplan-Bellmore (no relation to Kaplan-Sheinwold) system. I wonder, how exactly did people like Vincent fare before there were government programs to help them? How do they fare today in places lacking such systems?

  18. “Why am I paying taxes to take care of your brother-in-law Vincent?”
    Because we’d at least like to pretend to be a humane, empathetic society. Because thankfully the people who set up the SSA weren’t selfish bastards but understood that some people need to be either supported directly by society or killed, and supporting them is the humane choice.

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