Thursday, February 24, 2005

In Response To New Challenges, B Sings An Old Song

In the previous post, I re-posted my Tuesday comments section, which was a discussion between me and The Unrepentent Individual regarding the nature of charities, and charitable giving. This is an adjunct to a running argument that has been going on, basically in the comments section among me, Brad (The Unrepentant One) and A Red Mind In A Blue State , with an occasional assist from THE ARIZONA LAWYER (who really ought to have a blog-site of his own).

The thing that struck me most in Brad's comments, the thing that crystallizes the Blue State/ Red State; Liberal/ Conservative: whatever you want to call it split is

"I think it is society's job, but while I might try to convince you to help others, I don't think I have a right to stick my hand in your pocket and force you to, I believe private charity can and will step up, help those in need, and be fully funded by Americans who, like me, believe that it is our job to do so."

I don't think so, at all ---

1. There is no history of charity providing for those in need in a manner that they ought to be provided for, unless that charity is the church. The level of charitable giving in the United States, is, I know, unprecedented. However, that is, in some respect, because of, not in spite of, high taxes. If taxes were not providing for basic needs, then charitable giving would not feel so sexy or attractive.

2. I thought, that all-in-all, the long range goal of the exercise was "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people." If we have a government like that, or we are on the right road to a government like that, why would charitable giving be much different from government giving.

3. Charities in America are very hard to distinguish from corporations in America. My opinion is that the only reason charities, corporations, or religions in America have any transparency at all, is because of government coercion, or the threat of government coercion lurking behind it.

4. I can't agree when someone complains about being "forced to give" or about you not having "a right to stick my hand in your pocket." We all support the uniquely American mix of democracy and capitalism in any number of ways, including all of the ways that are generally lumped together at the "New Deal/ Great Society." The great contention, the great argument is that I think that without these things, you would not have a pocket for anyone to put their hand into.

And now the old song. A reprint of

my August 8, 2003 post. I still have not changed my mind.

"It may be the Devil/ Or it may be the Lord/ But you're gonna have to serve somebody" -- Bob Dylan

Let me conclude, before my vacation, and before switching, I hope, well not the topic, but the way I handle the topic, by saying something pretty basic.

No one is in favor of small government. Everyone is in favor of having as much power in their corner as possible. People who complain that the government has too much power are generally those who stand to benefit most if the government's power is reduced.

People say that the government should not do it, that people can do it themselves, and better.

As a Democrat, I would prefer to put it like this (although I agree that this may not be the official Democratic position):

If the government does not do it, individuals (Republicans) will be left alone --- and they will starve to death. What will keep individuals from starving will not be their own efforts, because they lack the resources to do it themselves. Communal efforts of their fellow citizens won't do it, because their fellow citizens are hungry as well. What keeps everyone from starving is the largesse of some other large actor, either the church or the landlord (the corporation in modern parlance). Given these four bad choices --- church, state, corporation, starving to death --- I agree that Democrats do tend to cast their lot with the state. Excessive state will kill you. History is full of examples. However, excessive church also kills, excessive greed by landlords and corporations also kills, and starvation ...

So when people talk about limiting the government to its smallest possible level, I get the sense that they are not trying to make me more free, but are trying to switch the power to the church, the moneyed interests, or they're simply trying to starve me to death.

All-in-all, here in the United States, allowing government to be the dominant actor gives us a better chance for freedom than the church, the corporation or starvation does. Of course, the government has to be pared back from time to time, but that does not mean that a power vacuum should be created that is filled by one of the other three horsemen. The ministers and the landlords and the CEOs and their major stockholders have less freedom than they would otherwise, but I can't be so worried about them. Set up any game you want to play, and they still come out ahead.

This New Deal/ Great Society government has been so successful that it has raised a generation so well-fed and so free that it cannot imagine why the government had to become so large in the first place. One of the biggest losers of the New Deal sits in the Oval Office. Without the New Deal, his family would have so much more money, and we would have so much less opportunity.