ARE YOU FOCUSING ON THE PROBLEM OR THE SOLUTION?

In this post, HOW THE LOGIC OF A LIVING CONSTITUTION LEADS TO THE SACRIFICE OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, we discussed the DC Court of Appeals’ decision on Obamacare. When Eric the 1/2 Troll commented (here, here, and here), he indicated his disagreement with the post. When I suggested private charity would work better than Obamacare, Eric responded by repeatedly asking some form of the same question.

“You really want to help the uninsured? There is no substitute for honest charity. That involves reaching into your own pocket.”

Tom, and what happens when no charity steps up to help the uninsured heart attack victim who needs triple by-pass surgery or he dies? Are you prepared to let him die (as a matter of policy) so as to preserve your ideal that gov’t has no role in charity? (from here)

When I explained Obamacare would just make things worse for everyone, Eric did not respond to my arguments. He could not get beyond repeating the same question. Why? Well, I think Eric is too focused on the problem to seriously consider whether the proposed solution, Obamacare, will work.

What happens we “think” emotionally? What if we are afraid or worried? Will we  give the solution to a problem that frightens or worries us enough thought?  Some people will not. Want an example? You see a child drowning. What do you do? Well, here is an example of what someone did, Girl, 9, rescuer drown in Plymouth.

A 9-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man died Monday night after the man jumped into a pool at a Plymouth apartment complex to try to save the girl from drowning. (from here)

Like as not, the guy forgot he could not swim, and that is not uncommon. In fact it happens enough that the problem has actually received some research, Drowning for Love. The Aquatic-Victim-Instead-of-Rescuer (AVIR) Syndrome: Drowning fatalities involving those attempting to rescue a child. Here is the introduction.

Non-intentional child drowning remains a leading cause of child mortality. A related and secondary syndrome is composed of those who drown in impulsive, altruistic attempts to go to the aid of a drowning child. Such ‘rescuers’ who attempt to save a drowning child may themselves drown, a tragic event we term the AVIR syndrome or aquatic victim-instead-of-rescuer.

The article suggests it might help to teach potential rescuers how to conduct such a rescue without inordinate risk to their own lives (The rescuer who drowns provides an “oral” presentation.). So some experts do provide instruction. For example, How To Rescue a Drowning Victim provides recommendations for conducting a rescue. Note that these suggestions are not particularly remarkable. Here is how How To Rescue a Drowning Victim begins.

Drowning victims are probably the most dangerous to try to rescue. In a panic, drowning victims are likely to claw at rescuers and climb to the surface at all costs. NEVER attempt a direct rescue of a conscious drowning victim without proper training.

Remember always: REACH, THROW, but only GO with training and equipment.

Even if you know how to swim well, it is not a good idea to get into the water with a drowning victim. Unfortunately, in a highly emotional, emergency situation, we don’t always stop to think. We take the most direct approach. We head straight for the victim. Without thinking, we risk being pulled under by the person we are trying to rescue.

Unfortunately, the corporate news media does not encourage calm and thoughtful responses to national problems. Instead, journalists urge us to dwell on the health care “crisis”, magnifying the problem and our emotional response. We empathize with the health care problems of the poor, the aged, and those who have exhausted their insurance. We imagine ourselves in the same dilemma. Then we listen with relief and rapt attention to the promises of scheming politicians.

When our leaders boldly promise to solve the problem of health care — to make health care a “right” — we want to believe them. When they offer Obamacare as the most direct approach to fixing our health care system, many cheered the “solution”.

Instead of cheering we first need examine the solution carefully. Because politicians are just people, we must consider whether their proposals will work. Will Obamacare fix the problem or make the situation worse? Has Eric considered that question? If we have good reason to believe Obamacare will worsen our health care problems, further damage our economy, and continue the unraveling of our Constitution, then the question Eric did ask is a non sequitur.

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I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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39 Responses to ARE YOU FOCUSING ON THE PROBLEM OR THE SOLUTION?

  1. Bob says:

    As someone who believes all charity should be private and voluntary, I get into arguments like this a lot. When you dissect the other person’s argument (that government should be in the business of dispensing charity), what it boils down to is that we citizens are too stingy and mean-spirited and lacking in compassion to take care of human needs ourselves, but we are generous and kind and magnanimous to vote for politicians who promise to extract our money from us forcibly and then hand it out as charity. If we don’t care about the needs of our fellow human beings, why do we keep electing all these wonderfully enlightened compassionate politicians to public office?

    • bydesign001 says:

      Well said Bob.

      I can answer that. Progressives are good at saying, “it’s not my problem” or “let him do it.”

      Example: For about ten to fifteen years, I was the president of the tenant association in my building. As hard as I tried to get people involved and to get them to take the lead, they would not.

      They always left it to me. It was to the point that people that NEVER attended a meeting would stop me in the mall if they had a problem.

      It is the same thing. People get emotional over what affects them directly and are more than willing to leave it to someone else to do the legwork.

      It is impossible to solve anything with that mindset.

  2. Tony Salmon says:

    Tom, your whole post proves itself wrong. The reason for our current national stalement where we can get nothing done to solve problems is not because we cannot agree upon the solution; it is because we cannot agree upon the problem.

    The Tea Party simplistically claims that all our problems are caused by government. The 99 Percenters claim that all our problems are caused by the greed of the top one percent. Both are somewhat right and both are somewhat wrong, but both sides are too busy screaming at each other to find common ground. Both extremes are so caught up in leveling blame for the problem that they never actually get to the solution.

    The reality is that we are all to blame for our problems to one extent or another, and that any solution that will work will have to involve reform, accountability, shared sacrifice, shared benefit, balance and compromise. In so far as you, like your liberal nemesises, insist on simplistic ideological purity in the face of complex problems resulting from a mixed world of competing goods and evils, then you yourself just confound the problem and we never get past the blame game in order to find solutions that will always be, as they have always been, like everything else in this world, necessarily imperfect.

  3. Citizen Tom says:

    Bob – Why do we keep electing all these wonderfully enlightened compassionate politicians to public office? Ask Tony.

    Tony – If we cannot agree on the problem, then does it not logically follow that we cannot agree on the solution?

  4. Tony Salmon says:

    “Tony – If we cannot agree on the problem, then does it not logically follow that we cannot agree on the solution?”

    Yes. But the trillion dollar question is, if our principles are so inflexible, how do we get past that in order to find a solution? Only if everyone agrees with you? Only if everyone agrees with the liberals? When do you see either of these possiblities happening? Do you think that you could compromise and get something not perfectly what you want in order to make things marginally better than they were before?

    The “universal mandate” and “cap-and-trade” schemes were both ideas cooked up in conservative think tanks to provide a balanced market based approach to necessary governmental regulation. I doubt if they will work perfectly, but I’m sure that they will work way better than doing nothing.

    Maybe it’s just my viewpoint from the center, but it seems to me that the President has been running toward the Republicans in order to adopt their own compromises just to have them run farther and farther to the Right away from him. The left is furious with Obama, but because he has been mostly unsuccessful, it has not mattered. Now the President has decided, if you can’t join them, beat them. It now looks like our problems will have to reach a terrible crisis that we can’t ignore before we will be forced to do something about them. And yet we look back and say that we could have prevented it all by just compromising a little on some more balanced solutions. Oh well.

    • bydesign001 says:

      Up until three years ago, I always thought that the American way was that we all agree to disagree. However, once I started perusing the blogs, creating my own blogs and countless attacks, I quickly realized otherwise.

      Barack Obama is a flexible as a stone of granite and in his world, you are either with him or against him. If one is not with Obama, then the man wants nothing to do with you. In fact, he won’t even lift a finger for you but you won’t hear it from the lame stream has nmedia who refuses to take the man to task for refusing to represent ALL Americans.

      While you, Tony, are entitled to your opinions, I must respectively beg to differ.

      Barack Obama never moved to the center but he lied and put on a grand dog and pony show on more than one occasion.

      As far as his lack of success, there to, I beg to differ. He has usurped the U. S. Constitution more times than I care to mention and has shoved his unwelcome Marxist agenda down the throats of Americans by fiat.

      As far as the crisis, it’s been a long time coming and yet something else that Obama and company has successfully set forth.

  5. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – When you define compromise or bi-partisan as ignoring the Constitution, you are not offering a view of the “problem” that has a desirable solution.

    When your compromise involves redistributing the wealth, even if it was Constitutional, it is dumb and unethical.

    dumb = It has never worked.

    unethical = It is stealing.

    As for those “Conservatives,” what is wrong with disowning a bad idea? It’s Conservative to do something Liberal (modern use of the that poor word)?

    • bydesign001 says:

      Well said Tom.

      Obamacare is one such idea. It will not save lives but it will decide who lives and who dies. While many may say, “well the insurance companies are doing that already,” I do not deny it but I don’t want the likes of Cass Sunstein and the rest of the loons in the Obama administration have carte blanche over such decisions.

      Even worse, Obamacare is the ultimate betrayal in that many of those who voted for Obama and fought for Obamacare will be denied care and perish at the hand of its legislator.

  6. Tony Salmon says:

    We have a public paid for super highway system that shortened supply lines and expanded trade in goods and services nationwide. We have a Social Security system, without which, a good many of our Senior Citizens would live in poverty. Our Medicare system allows medical care for people who would otherwise be at an age of either uninsurability or who could only purchase insurance at preclusive expense. Our public education system at the end of WWII made our citizens the best educated in the world and propelled us to be, by far, the dominant economic, military and innovative power in the world. The enactment and enforcement of the Civil Rights laws ended racial apartheid in this country and provided equal opportunity to large minority of our population. Environmental protection laws cleaned up our air and water when it used to be bad and getting worse. The GI Bill, the Marshall plan, Keynesian banking reform, workers rights laws, Paul Volker’s monetary policies, and I could keep going.

    All these public policies created the greatest increase in middle class wealth and equal opportunity in the history of the human race. Getting away from these sorts of policies has created a shrinking middle class, Banana Republic level wealth disparity, tap water that actually catches fire in some areas of the country (Google it if you don’t believe me), outsourcing of our industrial base and less opportunity for upward mobility.

    You don’t see these public policy compromises and innovations that have worked because you have ideologically blinded yourself to our history and our economic reality. As for the saying that they are unethical, it is an absurd argument to say that nearly a century of expanding economic and social equality and increased opportunity that directly grew from such public policies that our parents formulated is somehow an evil history of unethical behavior, but I have no doubt that your desire to believe such a myth is also deeply sincere.

    Ultimately, I guess it will take a crisis and a backlash by the electorate before the center will begin to hold again, and we can once again get something done.

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – It seems you are arguing that I am against government. No. What I oppose is Socialism. I am for our constititional republic. I am for LIMITED government.

    When the colonists fought King George III, the colonies were already wealthy. It is the freedom from excessive government — busybodies — that made the United Kingdom and latter the United States places where the industrial revolution gave birth to so many new inventions.

    Look carefully at each of the programs you cited. Before they were created, we were already doing quite well. After they were created, these programs slowly gave busybody politicians more power. Because we now have so many huge government programs almost totally controlled by busybodies, we do not know what to do about them. These programs create a management nightmare for honest politicians and endless opportunities for crooked ones. These programs choke off innovation.

    Each year costly, muliplying programs result in more and more wasteful spending, and voters are totally at a lost as to what they can do about it. Maybe you have not noticed, but we are going broke.

    Anyway, with this comment you are all over the place. Beyond a generalized response, I don’t know where to start. I am one of those voters. I cannot solve all the world’s problems at once, and I cannot keep track of all the politicians who claim that they can. The only way I see out is a return to limited government.

    You want to write a post that provides a coherent explanation your position? Go ahead. I will happily post it. Then I will write a comment or two.

  8. Tony Salmon says:

    The problem with your position is that we were NOT doing quite well. Remember the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and that working condifitions for average industrial workers were Dickensian.

    On the other hand, after these changes, we have, until recently, done quite well over half a century. You want to act as if “Big Government” was some recent evil phenomenon that suddenly is ruining the country. None of the programs that I cited just happened yesterday. Most are many decades old and we have been mostly happy with them for most of that time. Your prospective is historically short sighted.

    Does that mean that I don’t think that we need new ideas and constant reform. No. We should have no more and no less government than we need. These programs dealt well with the massive and painful problems industrialization of the 20th Century. We need to reform them and come up with new ideas to deal with the 21st Century problems of globalization. That will take, not just national programs, but international cooperation, regulation and meaningful institutions as well. We need to do for the world what are parents did for our nation. That’s the reality of modernity – we are either going to recognize it and deal with it, or our civilization, our institutions and our middle class will continue to decay and crumble,

  9. Scout says:

    We certainly are not doing well when it comes to health care. By many measures, this country lags behind even some countries with far fewer resources in that regard. Having just dealt with the illness of an elderly parent, I can assure anyone who doubts it that the health care system in this country is completely sub-optimal. I’m not particularly convinced that last year’s health care amendments really got to the core of the issues, however. It seemed to be typically Washington – a half-baked compromise that focussed on political flash rather than substance. A lot more time and attention needs to be devoted to building a system that works and that we can afford.

  10. Citizen Tom says:

    bydesign001 – Thank you for your comments. You may also enjoy THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 6.

    Scout – Throwing our tax dollars and increasing reams of government regulation at the health care system does not seem to be working does it. When expect anything other than a typical Washington – a half-baked compromise? When the politicians already have our tax dollars, what they care about is what their organized constituencies want. That most certainly does not include an elderly parent or a concerned adult child.

  11. Eric the 1/2 Troll says:

    Once, again, Tom, I must beg forgiveness for joining the conversation late BUT I really think you are misrepresenting my questions and why I am focussed on them. They are posted so that we can all start from the same assumptions. That assumption is that the poor, the elderly, the illegal immigrant, EVERYBODY will indeed receive healthcare in our system. In fact, this has been true for so long that I think one can safely state that we DO have a defacto RIGHT to healthcare. Just try to deny services to ANYONE (especially the poor, elderly, or minority). You can not do so – even IF you thought it OK to let them die on the operating table.

    If we can agree on this base set of assumptions, NOW we can discuss how to pay for those services. This is not about government re-distributing wealth. This is about figuring out the most efficient means of providing healthcare to every man, woman, and child in the US (legally or illegally) – remember we ALREADY are providing the service – we are now discussing the means of paying for it.

    Right now, you and I and all other insureds are paying for these services via our ever increasing insurance premiums. Additionally, we are also paying for the services provided to the uninsured via our national debt (as Medicare premiums are not increasing to pay for increased costs).

    Frankly, the private sector has had their chance at figuring out an efficient means to pay for the healthcare of the uninsured. They have failed. Why? Because they can not force the people who are receiving the healthcare services to use their system to pay for them (i.e., health insurance). The government is the only entity who can force people to participate – had they done so through a tax instead of a penalty this discussion would be moot and we would be moving forward to the next HC challenge. It is a shame it was not and we have to be mired in politics instead of problem solving.

  12. Citizen Tom says:

    Eric – It appears that one of the reasons we have a disagreement is that you yet to seriously consider what my assumptions might be. I have not exactly hidden them, but just to make it easy I will restate them one more time.

    Everyone has a right to buy healthcare, but no one has the right to make someone else pay for their health care. Why is that? Well, I assume God gave us our rights. I think we need government to protect our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property. Without some kind of government, the weak and the disorganized are entirely at the mercy of the strong and organized. Therefore, we tax each other to pay to protect rights we would not otherwise be allowed to exercise.

    I don’t want the government to give me what rightfully belongs to someone else. That subverts the very purpose of government. We have any business calling such a thing as wealth redistribution a right. However we choose to dress it up, it is still stealing.

    Our right to life means no one has the right to take our life from us. That right has nothing to do with making someone else pay for our health care. Just because a public official does it on your behalf, do you really think you have the right to reach into somebody else’s pocket and steal from them? OH! You’re Robin Hood? You want to give that money to the poor? It stilling stealing.

    When we expand the definition of rights to include rights given to us by politicians, we authorize people hardly anyone trusts to raid the public treasury on our behalf. That can happen via redistribution of the wealth via tax and spend or through the imposition of mandates on private industry. Such things are immoral. They corrupt the voters who vote themselves other people’s money, and they corrupt the politicians who deliver the stolen goods. The end results is always the same, bankruptcy and disorder. It is just a matter of time.

    When the people find they can vote themselves money; that will herald the end of the republic. — Benjamin Franklin

    The Constitution says what it says. It does not authorize a welfare state. If our leaders can tell it what says — calling it a “living Constitution” — the document can serve no useful purpose.

    Nowhere in it does the Constitution empower Congress to create public welfare programs. Read the document. Do you seriously think that the Founders just forgot to authorize spending on welfare programs, our biggest budget items? I don’t. The Constitution most certainly does not authorize Ponzi schemes such as Social Security and Medicare. In any event, if we can evolve the Constitution to authorize such foolish crap, we can certain evolve to dig a hole and bury it.

  13. Eric the 1/2 Troll says:

    I understand (and have understood) your position perfectly clear, Tom. Your position, however, is not reflective of reality. That is because REALITY says that everybody WILL get healthcare whether they can afford it or not. Once you accept this as reality, we can move the conversation forward. Until you do so, there is really no reason to discuss it further because your opinion is moot.

    Furthermore, you said:

    “Everyone has a right to buy healthcare, but no one has the right to make someone else pay for their health care. Why is that? Well, I assume God gave us our rights. I think we need government to protect our God-given rights to life, liberty, and property.”

    The reason that everybody does have a de facto right to healthcare (whether you agree or not) is because it has now become a matter of a right to life. If you withhold life saving chemotherapy from a poor person who can not afford it, for example, you are (in this day and age) writing a death sentence on that person. That is one of the main reasons why we DON’T withhold healthcare from the poor but pay for it for them. Now again, you can argue the constitutionality of this all you like but it really does not matter because this is the way things are in America and this fact will not change. You will never be able to withhold healthcare from those who can’t afford it (or unfortunately those who CHOOSE not to buy insurance). If you try, you will face forces that will ultimately lead to overthrow of the gov’t – it simply is NOT going to happen (at least for the former). The healthcare law seeks to eliminate the latter class of people (i.e., those who choose to NOT buy healthcare insurance coverage) and seeks to provide a more efficient method (via the private sector, btw) of providing the services WE WILL BE PAYING FOR ANYWAY at a lower overall cost to the former class of persons.

    So be adult about this, Tom. Let’s begin the discussion on what is the best way to provide the healthcare services we are going to provide in any case. Until you can start that discussion, we really have nothing to discuss.

  14. Citizen Tom says:

    Eric – So everybody does it? This is just the way things are done. Similar arguments have been used by teenagers to justify cheating, sex before marriage, staying up late on school nights, …… In the Old South, I am confident the slave owners could have provided a far more adult defense of slavery. Nonetheless, they too would have dodged around the fundamental ethical issues.

    We don’t have the right to make someone else support us. That is stealing. Instead of advocating true charity, you are defending a fundamental principle of evil, might makes right. And what is the basis of your proof? Even though we supposedly elected change, you point to the present as unalterable.

    Has government always paid for the health care of the poor? Of course not. So we know no such system is required. When it must eventually fail with disastrous results, the only reason to institute such a system is just plain human laziness and greed.

    What you are arguing for is a more complete implementation of Socialism. If we just give the government more power, our Socialist leaders will somehow fix all the problems their less ambitious Socialist fixes created. Socialism has been tried repeatedly, and every time it has been tried it eventually fails. Socialism requires majoritarian tyranny, and that is exactly why it cannot work. If you get your way, what you will eventually get is just plain tyranny. Majoritarian tyranny always evolves into just plain tyranny. When we create a system that does not allow us to hold our leaders accountable, the power we give them corrupts them.

    If we institute government run health care in this country, the cost of it must eventually force rationing. Then we will refuse people health care with a bureaucratic directive to wait in line. Then we will get full-blown death panels and numerous exceptions for the well-connected. Our leaders will never submit their own health care to a committee decision; they will just insist that the rest of us poor slobs must submit.

    And how will this improve our lot? We will get to screw the “rich”. Instead of the rich getting what they paid for, only the powerful will steal from us. What an improvement!

    Morality makes a difference. Any system based upon stealing will corrupt those who participate in that system.

  15. tony salmon says:

    This syndicated column examines the lack of reality out of Republicans that Eric iseems to be pounding his head against here:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2016888928_harrop30.html

  16. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – Is reality defined by an opinion poll that some syndicated columnist pulls out of nowhere? Do you define what is right and what is wrong using an opinion poll? No. Instead, even though you are too “pragmatic” to believe any such thing yourself, you try to tell me what my religion says I should believe. And why? So you can practice your pragmatic brand of unworkable socialism.

    I don’t know how we will “solve” the health care problem. I just know there is no such thing as a good man. So I don’t expect anyone to produce a perfect solution. I would just like you and Eric to consider a morally sound solution. Apparently, however, morality is something adults do not have to consider.

    • tony salmon says:

      What “opinion poll”? I looked at the article again, and maybe I’m just missing it, but I did not notice reference to one.

      “So you can practice your pragmatic brand of unworkable socialism.” Tom, that just does not make semantic sense. Either what you presume that I propose is either “pragmatic” or it is “unworkable”, but I can’t logically be arguing both.

      Anyway as I state below, although I can see the practical good and evil in both systems, I tend to lean toward capitalistic free market solutions when they are most practical, and would choose a governmental solution only when it is necessary. Practically speaking, no where in the world do functional markets exist without governments to regulate them, and generally when markets break down it is because of either too much, too ineffective, or too little regulation, too much or too little government involvement. And as world markets have expanded through the inexorable march of globalization, many of the problems we are facing are caused by a lack of available mechanisms to regulate and free that world market to fair competition.

      Furthermore, despite my favoring effectively and efficiently regulated markets over socialistic state ownership of goods and services in most cases, I also recognize the reality that capitalism does not work best in some cases and it is not always a perfect either/or problem. Some goods and services are best provided by the government (national defense is an obvious example), and some are a combination (again the use of private contractors in national defense is an obvious example). The reality is that the most advanced nations in the world, including our own, exist somewhere on an imperfect balance between regulated market capitalism and socialism. The prosperity, freedom, happiness and moral satisfaction of the people of those nations seems to be more a matter of how corrupt or accountable the government is than how big the government is or where the country exists in the capitalism/socialism balance.

      • Citizen Tom says:

        This is from your article.

        The political problem for Republicans is that this ideal stands at odds with what the public wants.

        I guess some people believe morality is decided by opinion polls. And so if they want to do something the first step is to convince themselve everyone agrees what they want to do is okay.

        And you voted for Obama and favor free markets. :lol:

  17. tony salmon says:

    Sorry that you didn’t appreciate the article, although from your exagerated tone, it appears to have struck a nerve.

    I don’t really understand the rest of your rant, Tom. One thing I know for certain, however, is that we vastly disagree on what is undeniably right and what is undeniably wrong and what is a practical dilemma. As long as you would rather have no solution unless it is a perfect solution then no practical dilemma can be resolved, no matter how dire the result of doing nothing.

  18. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – What is so complicated? You want to implement a system of thievery called Socialism. I point out the stealing, and you just ignore any obligation to justify the morality of Socialism. Instead, you try to prove that Christianity obligates Christians to allow others to rob them.

    Then you pretend to revel in your accomplishment. Frankly, I am disgusted with you. You are capable of better than that.

  19. tony salmon says:

    You appear to know about as little about the inherent morality of socialism as you do about the inherent immorality of capitalism. However, despite your simplistic attempts at labeling everyone not at your extreme as inexorably existing only at the other extreme, I have no moral obligations, or idealistic moral “loyalty”, to either system. Just like tools or weapons, such systems are only as useful, moral or immoral, as the morality of people that use them and the purposes for which they are used. I think that the most practical and moral system is probably a complex and an imperfect balance between both systems, adapted of course by knowledge of many other areas and systems such as law, human nature, sociology, history, anthropology, economics, philosophy and yes, even religion.

    Neither has existed long in any pure form, but on a sliding scale, some states in the world today are more freely capitalistic and some are more socialistic, and the citizens’ satisfaction with and their will for their system to remain in their particular place on that scale has more to do with relative differences in cultural goals, many of which are moral, than with their success in achieving some immutably perfect pinnacle of moral government. It’s just asinine to think that because the Swedes prefer something at the more socialistic end of the scale, they are somehow less moral than say some country in the third world that has no regulations, no taxes and no social programs. Indeed under you theory, Somalia has the most moral system of them all.

    Oddly, given human nature, I don’t think that it could be workable in the long term, but the economic system of a true morally “Christian” society would probably be some form of governmentless voluntary socialism – a utopia that we are unlikely to see in our lifetimes. The Amish arguably have such a system but even their society only exists precariously within the protection of our government’s tolerance for plurality.

    I’m reading a great book right now that explains when capitalism works, and why it does not sometimes work in more practical economic terms. If you want to expand your mind beyond your ideological dogmas to what works and does not work in the real world, then I highly recommend it. It is called “The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competion, and the Common Good” by Cornel Economist Robert H. Frank. I doubt that ideologues at either extreme will like what he says, but Frank’s theories could end up redefining the whole debate away from normative ideologies about how things should work and toward a more reality driven assessment of how they actually do work and how they could work better.

  20. tony salmon says:

    “Then you pretend to revel in your accomplishment. Frankly, I am disgusted with you. You are capable of better than that.”

    Getting all testy just because you can’t really support a politics of selfishness and exclusion by asserting Jesus is beneath you Tom. Maybe you’ll do better with this issue than you did with immigration. Maybe you can prove that Jesus wants us to let people die outside of hospitals rather than allow a public policy that requires doctors and hospitals to save our lives first and find out if we have insurance or cash later.

    Regardless, I think it obvious that Jesus of the Bible wants Christians to try to heal and relieve the physical suffering of poor people, however it is done. I think that the majority of people in this country agree with that sentiment. The question is the most practical way to carry out that social good while allowing the most personal liberty. If charity solves the problem, I’m all for it, however, there is a good deal of data and history that shows that charity is often not enough. The question is not whether the consensual solution to a given social problem appeals to the morals of the most libertarian or the most socialistic among us. The real question is whether it allows the most incentive enhancing liberty while providing the most social good, in other words, whether we have found the proper (and ever fluid) balance and compromise between the two extremes that actually works, in both means and ends, toward goods that we all mostly agree on.

  21. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – If you do not believe might makes right, then what alternative do you offer, pragmatism? Your tools justify themselves? Based upon what? The ends justify the means?

    Anyway, I will post something Monday.

  22. tony salmon says:

    Your talking about the irresolvable debate between consequentialists and deontologists. Consequentialists believe that the right coarse of action is the one that produces the best overall consequences. Deontologists believe that fundamental principles matter regardless of consequences. The debate is interesting but problematic.

    On the one hand, even the most adamant deontologist is pragmatic enough to concede that outcomes matter. Even if we want to follow the most straight and narrow path, we would still like to get to where we would like to go, or at least be moving more toward agreed upon goals than away from them. The biggest obstacle that deontologists face is proving their fundamental principles rationally. Deontologists can score debate points by saying that these fundamentals ultimately are natural rights or that they come from God, but aside from this being impossible to prove, as we are constantly finding out here, people can have vast disagreements sbout what those fundamental principles really are when they are tested by moral dilemmas.

    Consequentialists have a similar problem. Even if results matter most, how does one ultimately judge whether a result is ultimately “good” without reference to some moral principles. Most social, economic, and political goals, such as increased social prosperity, security, or liberty, are intrinsically moral. No matter how pragmatic we pretend to be, one cannot measure the success of our outcomes without reference to some fundamental moral ruler or another, and where does that ruler come from? How do we prove it is the immutably correct ruler. And so consequentialists fall into the same rational trap of the impossibility of proving their moral fundamentals as do deontologists.

    This intellectual debate has been going on for centuries and we are not going to resolve it here, nor, despite what your trying constantly to put me at one extreme or the other, have I taken sides in it. No, I don’t believe that the moral ends justify any immoral means, nor have I ever said so. On the other hand, only a fool thinks that outcomes, costs and benefits, don’t matter at all. The essential nature of the issues we have debated here, the fact that we are debating a topic at all probably means that the morality of the choices (the means) is not that black and white, and we also disagree on the practical outcomes (ends) of the of separate paths that each of us would take.

    Therefore, though I can see the good points of both the deontoligist and consequentialist camps, I can also see the flaws, I have purposely chosen to bypass this sink hole of an argument by stepping around it all together. I have said that I think that we have a social consensus on the outcome side of the equation that we all can agree that we want for our society (I have used the goals in the Preamble as a good objective). And, although the problems that we face in achieving those consensual goals often present themselves as moral dilemmas with no perfectly moral path, but instead required us weighing of goods and evils, along with some compromises, I think that we should not resort to means that we all agree are shockingly immoral, if for no other reason than that using such blatantly immoral means is ultimately self defeating of the moral ends,

    No, Tom, ours is not an argument over deontology verses consequentialism. We don’t essentially disagree on whether blatantly immoral means are justify by blatantly moral ends, and I doubt if we disagree that we want practical outcomes regardless of how we get there. Where we vastly disagree instead is on whether certain practical means really are blatantly immoral consistent with any commonly accepted standards that our society uses to measure such things (especially the standards set down in the Bible by Jesus), and we also disagree on the practicality of achieving the desired outcomes, even when we can agree on what those outcome should be.

    That is what we disagree about and this is means/ends argument is just a distraction.

  23. tony salmon says:

    A key misunderstanding of your premise that taxation is thievery is confusion over the meaning of “ownership”. It goes along with the constant conservative refrain to taxation that it is “your money” and shouldn’t you get to spend it rather than the government? How we answer these issues has both practical and moral implications.

    Until just the start of the Industrial Revolution in England, essentially no one but the sovereign “owned” anything, however, people did have property rights and responsibilities. Individual lords were granted fiefdoms where they essentially leased an area from the sovereign and paid rent in the form of fealty (agreeing to provide men under arms to fend off invaders and usurpers) and a share of the crops produced on the land. Each lord in turn charged rent from serfs who belonged to that land. The serfs worked the lord’s land, and either got a share of the crops or a right to work “the commons” and keep the crops produced there. They also were required to pack up and go to war on behalf of the lord when asked to,

    The concept of individual ownership has obviously expanded greatly, but the concept is essentially the same. When we say that we “own” some property, whether that property is realty or personal or intangible, what we are essentially saying is that we own a bundle of rights and responsibilities to the use of that property and to exclude others from using that property. As the idea of “rights and responsibilities” implies, ownership is never unlimited. For example, if you own a house in a city neighborhood, you can live in that house and you can exclude others from living there, but for reasons of harm to your neighbors that are self evident, you can’t put in a smelly pig farm in because that is not within the bundle of right and responsibilities that you purchased when you attained ownership of the property. So what does that have to do with government? Well, as it turns out, it has everything to do with government.

    First of all, ownership rights and responsibilities are defined at law by government. They are also protected and enforced by government. And finally, disputes of these rights and responsibilities are normally arbitrated by government. Some people may claim a “natural” or “God given” right to ownership, but even if that may be somehow metaphysically true, unfortunately God never actually passed any of the complex laws that clearly define those rights and responsibilities, He doesn’t enforce or protect those rights when they are infringed upon, and He doesn’t arbitrate them when we have disputes. Government does that.

    So therefore to say that one of the ownership responsibilities that the government defines, enforces and arbitrates, the responsibility to pay taxes on that property to,in part, pay for the institutions that do that defining, enforcing and arbitrating, to say that that is somehow inherently immoral, well that defies all logic, semantic or otherwise. You may consider that uses of those taxes as inefficient or the amount as confiscatory of your rights, or you may have some moral objection to the use of those taxes, but to say that the government does not have the moral right to tax ownership as one of the ownership responsibilities that goes along with all the other ownership rights and responsibilities that government allows to even exist at all, well that is to seriously misunderstand both ownership and morality.

    When Jesus said of the Roman coin to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, He was saying something more morally profound about the traps of materialism and ownership than most people even grasp.

  24. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – So you start with serfdom? I think it safe to say that is focusing on the problem. I think some would prefer to consider the conditions described in Genesis closer to our natural state. Of course, when Adam and Eve chose to sin, that did create a big problem.

    When he considered the purpose of government, Thomas Paine chose a different starting point.
    http://citizentom.com/2007/07/19/the-difference-between-society-and-government/

    Like you , I think Paine held the belief man could perfect himself through good government. Most of the Founders I think held no such illusions.

    But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51

    How did the serfs become serfs? How did they come to be ruled by robber barons? Just exactly what was Feudalism? Wasn’t Feudalism a system that promulgated the notion of might makes right? Didn’t feudal lords find it strangely convenient to pronounce their rule as divinely approved? As you seek to justify your view of government, beware you do not make the same mistake.

    You have put the cart before the horse. Instead of deciding what man needs government to do, you have government deciding what it needs from man. We do not need government to define our rights. We need government to recognize rights we already have and to protect those rights.

    Government is not god. Government did not create us. God did. God defined what we are and how we should live.

    Look carefully around the world. Look at the history of man. What a people believes about God determines how they govern themselves. If a People believe in a God who created an orderly universe, a God that expects men to love Him and each other, they will govern themselves a manner that promotes mutual respect for each other’s rights to life, liberty, and property. If a People believes in a hateful and selfish god — or no god at all — may God have mercy upon their souls.

  25. Tony Salmon says:

    Tom,

    You are sort of misinterpreting my point altogether (something you conveniently do very often) if you think I was making some sort of endorsement for the feudal system. What I was providing was the history and the living reality of how property rights (and for that matter all rights) are defined, protected and arbitrated by government. This is not just my opinion; it is a fact of history and law.

    You want to make some sort of chicken verses egg argument that the rights existed in concept before the force of government and law made them reality, and that Christian influences were part of that conceptualization? Sure, I can go along with that wholeheartedly, as long as you also recognize, that particularly for our founders’ conceptualization of “self evident” rights, that chicken was as much influenced in the negative by a history of people killing each other over differing interpretations about Christian believe.

    However, regardless of what religious and philosophical concepts may have influenced governments to expand property rights into the governmental laws and institutions that make up the rule of law, the bundle of rights and responsibilities that make up “ownership” simply does not exist in practical reality unless and until strong governmental institutions create them, enforce them and arbitrate them.

    “Might certainly doesn’t make right” but it often decides who wins the argument. That is why the expansion of property rights and responsibilities (as well as all individual rights) closely tracks the expansion of democracy in the western world. As more and more people became empowered over government, they finally had the “might” to get what was “right”. (and it certainly didn’t hurt that the elites were also getting more wealth, comfort and status through the general prosperity that an expansion of property rights leads to in a capitalist industrial economic system).

    So the issue is not whether strong governmental institutions are necessary to have any kind of rights, much less ownership rights. This is settled question, an historical and legal fact of reality. The issue is what kind of strong government do you want – one that defines rights and responsibilities in favor of an inefficient and repressive feudal type plutocracy of the wealthy elite, or instead do you want strong governmental institutions that define rights in favor of fair efficient markets, greater shared prosperity, and more individual freedom? For ownership rights and responsibilities to exist, it is not a question of “strong” governmental institutions verses “weak” ones because rights such as ownership rights simply do not exist in weak governments. In weak or no government situations, chaos and lawlessness exists, not rights, not expanded ownership. In weak governments you have either Kleptocracy or anarchy, such as in Somalia.

    If expanded rights, prosperity, equal opportunity and freedom are what you want, then in so far as you and others simply seek to discredit and emasculate government as somehow inherently evil and never beneficial, then you are aiming us on the road to tyranny and slavery or chaos. Take your pick.

  26. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony –

    You are sort of misinterpreting my point altogether (something you conveniently do very often) if you think I was making some sort of endorsement for the feudal system.

    Baffling. Where did that come from?

    What I said is that you are focusing on the problem. What is the problem with being a serf? A serf is a type of slave. A slave is subject to the decisions of his master. What is your solution? Instead of being governed by masters that make selfish decisions that only benefit themselves, we work to ensure the serf’s masters make generous decisions that benefit the serf. That is, we implement Socialism.

    Why doesn’t Socialism work? Instead of focusing on a solution, Socialism pits classes against each other. Instead of respecting the rights of others, Socialism teaches the majority to force its will on the Capitalists. Instead of letting people make their own choices, every decision become a decision of the collective.

    Anyway, I have already replied to most of your comment.
    http://citizentom.com/2011/12/05/why-we-cannot-separate-state-from-church/

  27. tony salmon says:

    Tom, you are misinterpreting my point altogether (something you coveniently do very often) if you think that I was making some sort of endorsement for pure Socialism.

    That said, maybe you consider our governmental institutions that define, enforce, and arbitrate the bundle of rights and responsibilities that is “ownership” to be Socialistic. Well, I suppose that that is arguable.

    After all, these are “government” institutions rather than private institutions, and they do provide these services. Government ownership of a good or service is the literal definition of Socialism. On the other hand, as I have stated, private ownership cannot even exist in a democracy unless “the People” agree to give such public, arguably therefore Socialistic, institutions the sovereign authority to provide that public service.

    There are ways to contract out to private institutions at least some of those standard governmental services. For example, private arbitration of disputes is becoming increasingly popular, and this has it’s detractors and its advocates. However, even private arbitration of property rights and contract disputes cannot exist unless it is empowered by government made laws and can be enforced in government provided courts, so we are back to where we started from with supposedly Socialistic institutions underlying even the practical possibility of private contracts and ownership. Apparently then, capitalism simply cannot exist at all unless it works hand in glove with at least some socialistic institutions.

    You want to claim that governmental goods and services (In other words, Socialism) is somehow inherently evil in any and all cases, but I think that you are the one confusing the problem. Governmental sovereignty over the institutions that determine property ownership is not inherently evil to a capitalist democracy; it is an inherent necessity for capitalist democracy, and for every other form of government. The alternative to the government providing the service of these soveriegn public services (which one could argue are socialistic in nature) is not libertarian free markets – it’s a failed state.

  28. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – Misinterpretation? Perhaps. However, the problem is not what you think. We misinterpret each other because we have not agreed upon a definition of terms.

    From my perspective, Socialism is about redistributing the wealth, and once you buy into the belief that government has the right to redistribute the wealth, you are a Socialist. Since you have obviously bought into that belief, from my point-of-view you are a Socialist.

    What do you think defines a Socialist? I think you subscribe to the notion that a Socialist would support government ownership of virtually everything.

    I also find Socialism morally repugnant. When we use the power of government just redistribute the wealth — to take what belongs to one person and give it to another — I see that as stealing. Unless, we restrain ourselves — our government — and use the force of law to protect each other’s rights, we will inevitably abuse that power. It is just our nature.

    You, on the hand, apparently see little moral difference between using government power to run a welfare agency and a police force. Given you are a lawyer, I think that terribly odd.

    Anyway, here is the dictionary definition.

    socialism
    n 1: a political theory advocating state ownership of industry
    2: an economic system based on state ownership of capital [syn:
    socialist economy] [ant: capitalism]

    When its advocates concocted the term, they obviously intended a direct attack on Capitalism. Here is the dictionary definition of that.

    capitalism
    n : an economic system based on private ownership of capital
    [syn: capitalist economy] [ant: socialism]

    From the viewpoint of its advocates, Socialism has always been about redistributing the wealth. Unless you can somehow convince yourself you have a right to what someone else has earned, Socialism cannot be about protecting our rights. None of us have the right to take what belongs to someone else and just give it away — particularly if we just happen to be the recipient.

    We do, however, have the obligation to protect each other’s rights to life, liberty, and property. If you can figure out how to do that without taxes, I will listen.

  29. tony salmon says:

    So from my prospective, Facism is eating bananas of Fridays, and once you buy into the belief that you can eat bananas of Friday, then you are Facist. Since you have obviously bought into that belief, then from my point-of-view, you are a Facist.

    I also find Facism morally repugnant…. Well, hopefully you get the point, Tom.

    If you are going to make up your own language, and change the definitions of words whenever the conventional definitions don’t support your arguments, then it is impossible to have a serious discussion. Aren’t you the one who is always saying that words should have meaning? I guess what you are really saying is that words must have whatever interchangeable and pliable meaning you need them to have in the Tomese language. Reminds me of the old Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up and everyone seems to be speaking in gibberish, so at the end of the episode, his daughter is trying to help him relearn the right words with her children’s book. I’m not sure who is the one really meant to be speaking gibberish in the Twilight Zone story, but I do know that you are the one making up gibberish here.

    On the other hand, if you want to have a serious discussion based upon conventional definitions of terms then, by your own admission, Socialism conventionally is not defined as all redistributions of wealth. Instead, by definition, all economic systems, including capitalism, redistribute wealth. Also by definition, governments are a necessary component of every economic system, even market capitalism, in that, as I have explained, market capitalism cannot even exist today and has never existed in the past, absent a government with the soveriegn power to define, protect, enforce and arbitrate the bundle of rights and responsibilities that make up all property ownership.

    Furthermore, in order to have a government to provide these necessary and generally accepted public services, you have to pay for that government in some way by redistributing someone’s wealth somehow. This redistribution of wealth to pay for the government’s provision of these necessary public services (even the ones we have little dispute over such as courts of law, police and national defense) is always done through some form of taxation. Evidence of this fact is that every government now and throughout history is/was supported through taxation in some form.

    Ergo, because you can’t have even the most uncontroversial of limited governmental public goods and services without paying for them through some form of taxation, and because taxation, no matter what form it takes, is by definition a redistribution of wealth, all governments of all kinds redistribute wealth.

    In the Tomese language perhaps this means that all types of government, from fuedal to constitutional democracy, are Socialistim, but in under standard English language meanings that are not gibberish, it means that all forms of government, including the most libertarian market capitalistic ones, must redistribute wealth, and in fact, this is one of the purposes of ALL forms of government. And because “no government” means “no ownership,” you can’t own property and have a viable market economy if you don’t have a government that redistributes wealth through some form of taxation.

    Now if you want to talk about what forms of redistribution of wealth are just and practical, than that is fine, but could we please just use real English language words because I don’t have the time or inclination to learn Tomese.

  30. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – In spite of that long write-up, you never explained how I wrongly applied the term “Socialism”. Instead, you argued that our government must be socialist, and that is not true. Look at the definition. A courtroom or a police department is not a socialist institution. Armies are a means of destruction, not production.

    If Socialists do not justify Socialism as a means of redistributing the wealth, then how do they justify it? Our roads can be paid for with tolls, we could allow private ownership. Many utility companies are owned privately.

    But you don’t like Tomese. Let’s see. Let’s talk about words. Let’s talk Democratese. Progressive as in political beliefs. Progressive as in income tax. Gay. Same-sex marriage. Entitlement. Earned income. Empowered. Hate crime. Change. Right. Living Constitution. Inclusive. Diversity…. And you don’t like the way I used Socialism? :roll: At least I try to use the word correctly.

  31. tony salmon says:

    Tom,

    Read your own definition of Socialism. One has to torture the term to the death all its meaning to find that I am advocating state ownership of ALL of the means of production of goods and services, all industry, and all capital just because I believe in progressive taxation. On the other hand, governments, even in the most capitalistic economies, own some public capital and some of the means of providing public goods and services. If you don’t want to define the government’s ownership of the capital investments and the government’s providing the “service” of defending the country as Socialistic, then call it what you want in Tomese, but it still fits the conventional definition. The same is true for our governmental capital investments in the publicly owned and operated services provided by courts and police. You would have to eliminate all these common governmental industries and have each person voluntarily contract for a private defense and private legal arbitration and enforcement industries in order to make it all capitalistic. No one company would be soveriegn. We would have the negation of soveriegn statehood, a failed state, Somalia.

    As for your toll road idea, if it is a government owned road, then it is still “taxation” (still just a redistribution of wealth to pay for a shared public capital investment): it’s taxation in the form of tolls rather than taxation in the form of sales tax, or a customs duty or a property tax. If you don’t want to call a toll a tax in Tomese, fine, but it has the same function in a different form. In conventional English, however, it is considered another type of tax.

    By comparison, private ownership of a road and charging a toll to use it is capitalism, and yes, it is not a tax. In some cases, I think it is probably appropriate and efficient, but it is not practical for most roads. However, even when common public functions are privately owned and operated, as in the case of utilities, they are the result of imminent domain assistance from the government and highly regulated, for obvious reasons.

    As for your ranting mantra on the immorality of “redistribution of wealth”, I have begun what I think is a good argument to negate that fallacy in my last post. You and your readers can decide how successful that argument is.

  32. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – What you advocate is redistributing the wealth. That crosses a moral line.

    What do I prefer? I prefer limited government. In order to protect our rights, we must give government sufficient authority to protect our rights. Here is an example. Since the movement of people and their property requires a right of way, we require government to guaranteed that certain routes are available to all. Having a right, however, does not mean that you have the right to make others pay to allow you to exercise that right. Thus, I prefer tolls as alternative to just giving politicians our money to pay for transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance.

    In addition to being more ethical, tolls reduce waste. A toll is based upon usage. You don’t use a road, you don’t pay for it. Since none of us like to waste our own money, that cost reduces our incentive for frivolous travel. That cost also reduces our government’s incentive to build roads we do not need. If government must finance roads using bonds that will be paid off with tolls, the politicians trying to sell those bonds must convince the bond’s buyers of something rather important. After the road is built, sufficient numbers of people will pay those tolls.

    Are user fees such as tolls always the best solution? No. As human being, we simply do not have the capacity to create perfect solutions. Nonetheless, we can learn recognize certain ethical boundaries. Redistributing the wealth crosses one such boundary. Redistributing the wealth is just a euphemism for stealing.

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