Right vs. Right

I just kept wondering why it felt wrong. Everything sounded so reasonable coming out of the radio. Yeah, gotta agree there. Yup, that’s the way it should work. Then it hit me.

The other day a radio commentator was going on and on about the good ol’ days when America meant self-reliance, a land of opportunity, a place where if you worked hard you would succeed. Nothing wrong there, I’m all for people earning their place in the world. The radio guy kept explaining that America was in decline because creeping socialism and Obama-care picked his pocket, taking what he earned to give to those too fat and lazy to get a job. Government was destroying America’s greatest asset, our ambition. Why shouldn’t he keep what he earns? God bless the child that’s got his own. Seems reasonable.

But here’s the problem: What happens to those who don’t make it? How about the children of the fat and lazy? Worse, how about the spawn of the crazy people? We can all agree that the world is full of crazies, right? Sex crazed crazies out procreating their way into everyone else’s wallets because they know the socialist nanny state will take care of them. The more kids they have the more money they get. Damn logical for crazies to be working a plan like that. Back in the day when everyone minded their own business, the few that would dabble in this dangerous behavior would get their comeuppance right away by either starving, getting a job or maybe some do-gooder at the church might take in the kids. What more could you do? You are working hard just trying to take care of your family and mind your own business. Scraping by makes it hard to be compassionate about others and, really, don’t you hurt them more in the long run by not teaching them a lesson? This is the theory of the Wild West. This is what made America great!

Here’s what hit me: The Wild West “good ol’ days” sound a lot like life in a third world country where subsistence is the norm and gun toting violence is every day stuff. It’s what Thomas Malthus talked about – when the harvest was good well-nourished folks would have lots of babies and just kept at it until the harvest was bad when the ensuing famine would wipe them out. This has been mankind’s history for thousands of years with few exceptions. People so poor and desperate that they will do anything to survive. They will accept any work at any pay so long as it is just enough to keep from dying.

This was the good ol’ days because desperation kept wages low. That way those who paid wages kept more of their worth for themselves. Why pay $10 when you can get it for $2? It is wrong to overpay. Think about it, really; it is good to learn the value of a dollar. Those on the bottom don’t have the luxury of time to think about whether it is good or bad, besides starvation clouds the mind.

Now before you say that this isn’t being civilized, isn’t being civilized taking care of your neighbors? Civilization has a cost. We are a well-to-do nation (I was going to say rich, but we are in a recession) that is no longer part of the third world. Shouldn’t we be civilized? That means giving the less well off a hand up. I mean job training. I mean a quality education. I mean social services. This means taxes, fairly collected and prudently distributed. I mean we should be civilized.

And that is what felt wrong. The libertarian logic is undeniable, but taken to its end it means a return to a feral America, wild and unfettered by empathy. Can’t feed your kids? Great! It will cull the herd. Never taught to read or write? Well, it sucks to be you and I can say that because you’ll never read this so I won’t worry about insulting your sorry ass.

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