Monday, September 15, 2008

Ever Notice There Aren't Many Libertarians After A Hurricane?

Manifesto Joe Interviews A Libertarian

Question: When natural disasters like hurricanes occur, doesn't this show the need for a reasonably strong federal government, strong in the right kinds of ways, to help those who have lost virtually everything?

Answer: A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also powerful enough to take away everything you have.

Q: I'm talking about people who no longer have anything. It was the hurricane that took it all away. Their houses are gone. Their possessions have been swept away. To whom do they turn, if not government?

A: Themselves. This country was built by independent, resourceful, self-reliant people. The weak ones died off, and the strong survived. The pioneers weren't crybabies, whining for a handout, after locusts destroyed their crops. They tightened their belts and survived until the next crop came in.

Q: Historians say a lot of homesteaders had to go back East after catastrophes like that. And then, I doubt that they did well. We have no way of knowing how many starved or died of disease. Would a little disaster aid from a bigger federal government have been a bad thing then?

A: Those people knew the risks when they staked claims as homesteaders. Besides, remember that the land was given to them by the government. Just about anything government does, beyond the bare basics, turns out badly. And again, I'm just not concerned about weak people. Let them die off. Then, they're not a burden on taxpayers like me.

Q: This seems to have less to do with people being strong or weak as it does with people being lucky or unlucky, regarding hurricanes, locusts and such. What's your take on luck?

A: Luck has nothing to do with it. Successful people simply know how to work hard. They make their own luck.

Q: It's pretty challenging to work hard when you haven't eaten. If a swarm of locusts eats up your crops, and you have little to eat, doesn't this put you at a natural disadvantage versus someone who's "luckier"?

A: We obviously disagree about luck. Bad luck is a delusional excuse for failure. I don't know anybody who hasn't had some bad luck in their lives, but the strong work hard and overcome these obstacles. That's their natural advantage.

Q: So you're saying that some people are just naturally superior, and they deserve to survive and ultimately prosper because of natural selection? The social Darwinist thing?

A: Quite so. I have no time or money for the weak, or even the mediocre. Excellence should be the thing we cultivate. And that's best done in free markets.

Q: Back to the hurricane victims. There were a lot of swank subdivisions wiped out entirely by Ike. These were fancy homes before the storm. Aren't a lot of those folks the strong, successful ones you laud? And now back to luck. Wouldn't you say that theirs was pretty bad this time?

A: They don't need to whine about it, and I dare say many won't. They'll just rebuild.

Q: With government help?

A: In some cases, yes. But that's just people naturally taking advantage of opportunities. America is, after all, the land of opportunity.

Q: Hold the phone. You're saying it's OK for an upper-middle-class family, left homeless by a hurricane, to accept government help? Does that mean it's OK for the poor to accept it, too? According to your view, shouldn't they all be "self-reliant" and turn it down?

A: In a perfect world, that would be true. But you may have noticed that this world is far from perfect. In a perfect world, no government of any kind would be necessary.

Q: So you're admitting that government is at least a necessary evil?

A: Yes. And the best government is that which governs least. It limits itself to just taking care of the basics.

Q: Does that include disaster aid, for rich and poor alike?

A: If the aid is there -- in an imperfect world, it makes sense to take it.

Q: Did you go to college?

A: Yes.

Q: How did you pay for it?

A: I worked at part-time jobs.

Q: And that was all?

A: Well, there were student loans. I paid them all off. No thanks, of course, to the onerous tax burden from the federal government.

Q: These loans were available thanks to government programs. Legislation was passed, and funds were appropriated. This happened by design, not chance. If this hadn't happened, how would you have paid for college?

A: I would have found a way. The strong overcome obstacles.

Q: Like hurricanes?

A: Yes, to name only one kind.

Q: But you say very little good ever comes from government. Would you say that government lending you money for college resulted in something bad?

A: Even a blind sow finds an acorn now and then. There were a few people like me who took the loans and turned out well. Many just squandered the money. I saw it.

Q: I took the loans, plus grants and scholarships, paid the loans off, and haven't done badly, either. Looks like more than a few of us did well enough, paid the loans back, and got into a higher tax bracket so that we could help the next generation of less fortunate people like us. And we can also afford to help hurricane victims. But, back to education -- I've talked to young people who have told me that a lot of the college aid programs that our generation benefited from aren't there anymore. The programs were slashed again and again, and now there's not much money left. Shouldn't today's less advantaged young people have the same opportunity?

A: It's a hard world. Our generation was ...

Q: Lucky?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Anonymous said...

People make decisions every day, and risk/reward analysis is part of the decision making process. People in Kansas know there is a risk of tornadoes in their area, and Ca-li-for-ni-ans (pronounced like Arnold would) live with the threat of earthquakes. If you own a home or homes, and if you can recall how many you own, you do the responsible thing and insure against potential losses. If you do not prepare responsibly, you are added to the list of losers, and you get to lose your home, belongings, etc. And as a former homeowner, whether your loss is from a natural disaster or from a self-inflicted foreclosure, what will you do now? You will become a renter! Is that so bad? Just like millions of other people who live in homes owned and maintained and INSURED by more responsible people, let's call them "winners," you will scrape together whatever you can each month to live in the best accomodation you can afford. If you find you have overestimated you ability to be a grown-up and to properly manage your finances, you might find yourself evicted from your chosen rental for non-payment. Awwww. Back to loser status. Now you will get another lesson in self evaluation. Let's hope this time you will choose what you can afford instead of what you want. Sometimes good people want something so bad they are willing to make sacrifices to get it. A nice place to live is often one of those things. It may require hard work and maybe even a second job to get it, but darn it, you are worth it! Now wipe off some of that mud, and get back out there! (Pats on the butt...dust flies) Your hard-working rich neighbors are already doing everything they should for you. (Making donations to private charities.) Unfortunately, half of their income is already going to support the federal government and its bloated social programs. The remainder is needed to raise their children and to plan for old age. They cannot afford to raise you too.

Manifesto Joe said...

Aside from the smug, banal, bourgeois presumptions common to libertarians, you somehow managed to miss the bulk of the point. And like most libertarians, you seem to live in ignorance of how two-thirds of humanity lives. Perhaps you would have advised the thousands of tsunami victims in South Asia that they should have had the foresight to take out term life policies for their survivors.

I can recall a time when FEMA actually could respond effectively to a natural disaster. In 1970 my family and I stayed put during what had seemed a small, unremarkable Category 1 hurricane (Celia) that turned into a 3 off the coast and ravaged our area.

Fortunately, our house stood, was insured anyway, and we didn't end up needing any federal help, thank you, Mr. Anonymous Libertarian. But many of our neighbors, some of whose homes were damaged or leveled, did need FEMA help with immediate needs such as food, water, first aid and housing. FEMA was well up to the task that time, and we were glad they were around. But after being under management of right-wing political hacks who are basically anti-government, guess what? In 2005, some 35 years later, they were unable to respond for victims of Katrina and Rita. Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophesy by those who love anorexic government.

In parting, I suggest you look at a breakdown of the federal budget. I think you will find a great deal more of your money going for things like military misadventures in Iraq than for "bloated" social programs, many of which have actually been on less than subsistence diets since the early '80s. As the U.S. far outspends any other nation in the world on its military, the federal government can't even look after those who gave arms, legs and/or minds in "defense" of the country, subjecting them to all manner of indignities.

I will grant that many libertarians have shown remarkable perceptiveness about the folly of endeavors like the Iraq war. But when it comes to human bread-and-butter issues, you dwell in a fool's paradise. Well, enjoy it. You are free to choose it.

Manifesto Joe said...

Postscript: Here's a bit more to ponder. According to libertarian "reasoning," there should be no taxpayer bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for their private mismanagement, nor should there have been any bailout of the S&Ls for their scandalous largess back in the '80s. Problem is, we live in a COMMUNITY, Mr. Libertarian; we really aren't atomized Robinson Crusoes. If such huge institutions go under, they affect the entire COMMUNITY.

I haven't noticed people like you getting upset about corporate welfare in general, though you seem opposed to it in principle. I oppose it in principle as well, largely because the fat beneficiaries are often gaming the system with one hand while grinding people's faces with the other. They believe in self-reliance -- for everybody else.

The dilemma is that if huge corporate entities go down, they take down big chunks of the economy with them, and that sinks a lot of people who had nothing to do with the bad decisions. I wish I didn't have to subsidize such things, but the consequences could be dire for me and many others if we do not.

What you people seem to want is all the benefits of living in a community, without having to pay anything to maintain it.

Anonymous said...

Oh puh-leeze! I was using some mild hyperbole to make a point. The bottom line is the federal government has no business dealing with the personal tragedies of individuals. Honestly, when is the last time you read the constitution? The founders envisioned a limited central government with strong checks and balances and well defined separation of powers. The individual state governments were expected to fund their own enterprises, and the federal government was to stay out of the way of the states. This is not about states' rights. It is about an intrusive federal government that with an insidious propensity for intrusion into the lives of individuals and for the erosion of individual rights. We pass law after law after law as a federal collective, and we laud our representatives with the moniker of "lawmakers." Yet what is the thing EVERY law has in common? I will tell you: they all limit freedoms. Some of the limitations on freedom are necessary and are universally acceptable to a civilized society. For instance one must not have the freedom to rape, steal or murder. Yet unnecessary restrictions on freedom are heaped upon the members of the community in the name of community. When a program is established to help individuals, and when it is funded by federal tax dollars, in order to support the program you must believe it is criminal to disagree with your position and that any dissenters should be rounded up and put in jail. After all, if I do not agree with money being taken from me against my will to fund the program, what are my options? The only real recourse I have is to either give up my personal wealth without a fight, or I can refuse to pay my required taxes. And if I do that, a man will come with a badge and a gun, and I will be taken to jail for disagreeing with you.

So, when I say the federal government has no business assisting disaster victims it is because the federal government was never intended to be benevolent. The role of the federal government is to facillitate commerce between the states, settle disputes among the states, defend the homeland against foreigners and to engage in necessary public works that are of such a scope or character that they cannot be undertaken by individual states or by private enterprise (such as building transportation systems, and arguably, space exploration.)

There are many things we might sit around and discuss that the government could do because it would be "nice" such as feeding children, helping out homeowners who are over their heads financially and giving short and long term aid to disaster victims. It would also be nice if everyone could have a car, a flat screen TV, cable, internet, nice clothes, health care, weekly massages, and of course everyone needs a generator, 'cause, well you just never know. And wouldn't it be nice if we could buy some flyswatters for those kids in Africa. Jesus! But I am on duty making sure you never have to shuck out your hard earned writer dollars for things the federal government has no business providing. If you have ever traveled the country by car, you know it is VAST. Almost unbelievably so. And the cultural differences throughout the land are just as vast. In some areas folks are harder working and more careful with a dollar. In some areas people manage risk and leverage themselves in a way that would make the rest of the country feel very uncomfortable. In some places, they enjoy the simple, easy life with fewer frills. Since there is such a large variance in the definition of an acceptable lifestyle, it is better that the state and local governments decide on acts of benevolence. They are more in touch with the people involved. They know better what the populace can afford and they know the attitudes of those who may be asked (actually forced) to give. A bureaucrat in Washington likely has no connection with someone from Oregon or Alabama besides what they see on movies. And believe me, there are no Reece Witherspoons in Alabama. That was just a movie.

I am tired, and it is making me ramble. I will regain my focus and follow up later. Just remember, Joe. When it seems like to would be nice for the government to do someting for somebody, tell yourself. "That's not what government's for. That's not what government's for. That's not what government's for." Keep saying it until it sinks in. I really do not want to go to jail.

Oh yeah, "...we really aren't atomized Robinson Crusoes..." I liked that. Did you steal it?

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Anon.
There's little that's genuinely original in this world, but as far as I know, the Robinson Crusoe line is entirely mine. The point is to get libertarians to recognize something they don't seem to, which is the interdependence common to all societies. Even "Murka."

I'm a recovering libertarian, and a good part of why I'm doing this is to devote the rest of my life to doing penance for such foolishness and trying to show the error of this "thinking."

Anon, there was a long period in American history when we had a federal government sort of like the one you envision. It was called the 19th century. It served a good enough purpose for a developing country back then, at least for a while.

But some funny things happened on the road to freedom. It became an ironic form of wage slavery for many who had somehow lost any connection to the land and wandered cities, subsisting on the offerings of the company store. Yeah, they were free -- to quit and change masters, whenever they wanted. That is, if they could get even as good a deal from the new boss. Often it was worse. If you got hurt on the job, out on the street you went. Tough luck, Bub. Come back when your arm heals. There was no workers comp, no OSHA back then. Way back in 1787, nobody thought about mentioning such things in the Constitution (Or a number of other things like women voting, not owning slaves, and such). In the libertarian world view, every dime ever spent on programs such as workers comp or OHSA was unconstitutional. Hey, I can appreciate minimalism in certain forms of art. But it makes for irresponsible and ultimately unworkable government. It even PLANTS THE SEEDS for terribly wrongheaded ideas such as Marxism-Leninism, by creating the vicious extremes that BREED THEM. This same kind of government that we had back in the bad old days, circa 1890, was essentially a courtesan to the robber barons of the period. A few hundred families held something like 50 percent of the entire wealth of the country. That didn't happen by accident, and many people could see the double standards and ultimate corruption of all this. And in the course of 20th-century reforms, wresting just SOME of the loot away from the malefactors of wealth didn't happen by accident, either. It was a long, hard fight.

Historically, a big step back has been taken since 1980. But finally, people are beginning to wake up -- except for a few like you.

I've been too busy WORKING all my life to do much traveling, but all the travel I have ever done has been by car. Big deal. What I have seen, largely, are three kinds of people -- (1) the ones who know who is fucking them, (2) the ones who are also getting fucked but being foolishly duped into blaming the wrong people, and (3) the ones who are doing the fucking, and then laughing all the way to the bank as they zip their pants. Not everybody falls exactly into one of those categories; it's a big world. But I'd say those three cover 90%.

My purpose is to try to get as many of Group 2 as possible to wake up and figure out what Group 3 is doing. It's a thankless task, but it beats many other hobbies I can think of.

Hey, thanks, you really got me going here. It's a bore to just run into people you agree with all the time!

dr sardonicus said...

Been talking to Phil Gramm again, eh?

trog69 said...

Amen to that; I hope anon returns! hehe. Every man an island theme is right on too. I've never understood the petty meanness and greed involved in telling the rest of humanity to get fucked. And the point that state and local gov't should decide how to take care of the poor is disingenuous, as anon and his ilk would be hard at work to prevent those entities from spending his money on the needy, just as s/he cries about the Feds doing it.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Trog:

I don't think Anon knows much U.S. social history, but back in the bad old days of the libertarian 19th century, most places had a county-level system, perhaps a bit like he or she envisions, to offer subsistence to the poor and those left penniless by misfortune. Such places were usually known as "the poorhouse." They were basically work farms where, in exchange for a bunk and some kind of slop or gruel with stale bread three times a day, you put in a day's work sort of like you would at a minimum-security prison. I guess the difference was that one was "free" to leave anytime, to go out on the open road and maybe perish of hunger, disease, or in many cases, old age. There was no Social Security or Medicare back then, so that's some of the less fortunate elderly ended up.

Reas Kroicowl said...

"Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." FDR

Marc McDonald said...

I really don't have a problem with people who strongly advocate a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy.

I also don't have a problem with affluent people who have always had everything handed to them on a silver platter by their rich family.

But what I DO have a problem with are "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" people who have had everything handed to them on a silver platter.

And you know what?

Every person I've ever known who was a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" person ALSO enjoyed loads of help from others.

The ultimate example of this, of course, is George W. Bush himself.
Born into wealth and privilege, his daddy was a multimillionaire and a President of the United States. His grandfather was a U.S. Senator. Bush had everything handed to him on a silver platter from Day One.

And yet, you'll NEVER hear a bigger advocate of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" than Bush.

(Amusingly, Bush himself doesn't think he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth...for example, he once said he could relate to Alberto Gonzales):

Bush "likes somebody he sees as having overcome potential disadvantages, because he sees himself as having done that," says Paul Burka, executive editor of "Texas Monthly" magazine and a close follower of the president.