Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rejecting the Premise, Part 2: Freedom

How do we balance freedom with our need to "look after one another"? - President Barack Obama

Way back in March, I wrote a post called "Rejecting the Premise" based on my concern that, too often, conservatives would allow the liberals to define the terms of the debate, limiting it to agreeing on basic (and usually liberal) principles, then being unable to differentiate their plan due to accepting a philosophically false premise.

The above quote from the above video is based on a premise I cannot accept, for a very specific philosophical reason. It's also why most issues (in the case of this quote, it probably refers to health insurance, but relates to most every contested issue) cannot be reconciled between conservatives and liberals in Congress and the White House.

First the premise of the above is that the role of the government is to balance freedom with the "common good."


The purpose of the federal government is to secure the freedom of individuals from infringement by other individuals, and from foreign enemies, and to unify the states (thus the name United States of America). Now within this narrow framework, the role of the fed is very limited in its control over individuals. The states, on the other hand have a more direct impact on the lives of the individual, with the most direct impact (and control) resting with the local governments (county, municipal), as long as they don't violate those things which the federal government does control (mostly, the securing of rights to the states and individuals.

In a truly free society (the way we were designed, even if we didn't live up to it initially), the individual has the full and equal right to determine how he, along with others will rather than being forced at gunpoint (the government) to give up freedom for the benefit of another. It's on this point that there is no reconciliation with a collectivist mentality.

Clarification for those who are screaming "Malthusian!" because they are just as collectivist and/or assume the worst from humanity: It all comes down to the moral responsibility of the individual rather then legal compulsion by the government to "look after one another" to take care of those who can't. And in societies from the earliest time, the responsibility fell to the families of the young, old, and chronically ill. Even today, families bear the burden of taking care of children when the parents are worthless (unless the whole family is (trust me on this one)). Fewer people care for their elderly (been there, done that). The chronically ill are the hardest of these burdens, yet there are still those today who rise to the challenge (love and faith manage).

So those of us who reject the premise of command compassion and gunpoint community do so in favor of the goodness of Man to solve these problems at home and in their community.


Satyavati devi dasi said...

Yall kill me. On the one hand, you scream that socialism can't work because it 'discounts human nature'-that people, essentially, could give a flying shit in a tornado about each other and basically look out for themselves-but when it comes down to healthcare, that we're all really essentially wonderful people who don't need anyone telling us to take care of each other.

Again, so much candy coated flip-flopped bullshit that presumes to qualify 'human nature' in whatever terms and light suit the argument best.

However, I love your preemptive defense of Malthusianism. Although this argument is less Malthusian than some of the ones I've seen out of you.

TAO said...

"It all comes down to the moral responsibility of the individual rather then legal compulsion by the government to "look after one another" to take care of those who can't."

Good point...but what happens if it isn't government taking away our freedoms but rather that we no longer are MORAL?

What if as people we no longer feel the responsbility of family, neighbors, and community? The to maintain any semblenece of society government has to step in?

Maybe government isn't the issue maybe its people...

Patrick M said...

Saty: I can't address everything in every single post. So I cover the relevant points and hope my ass doesn't get chewed (not like that!!!) in the comment section. Case in point below:

Tao: What if as people we no longer feel the responsbility of family, neighbors, and community?

You know, this is the point at which a free society will fail. One assumption that the Founding Fathers made when they wrote our Constitution was that we were, and would remain a moral society. Whether in service to God or by a logical recognition of our duties to others, that common morality is the key to maintaining a free society.

And while it may appear necessary for government to step in and maintain the social order, that's a slide toward the extreme of the totalitarian state.

Of course, the opposite is a slide toward an anarchical state, which is either resolved by a return to a purified government similar to the one the Founding Fathers envisioned or the abdication of responsibility to, again, the totalitarian state.

In this I have no clear answer. No one does (as it requires the people to become much more enlightened). But I'd rather take the risks with anarchy than submit voluntarily to the interests of the State.

TAO said...

Oh but Patrick, you see I think the whole key problem with politics today is that we are NO LONGER a moral society nor are we moral people.

We believe that as we are the 'biggest' and 'most powerful' nation in the world we believe we are ENTITLED to things rather than in the past where we believed that we EARNED what we have and the position that we attain.

As we believe that we are ENTITLED then thus we are all for ENTITLEMENTS, and this hold true for both democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives...

Supply side economics is as much an entitlement program as welfare is...tax breaks or welfare checks its all entitlements.

Thus to continue getting entitlements we will abdicate the need to earn and will succumb to totalitarianism...

Everyone looks to the government already for everything and as such its a done deal.

Welcome to your worst nightmare....

Beth said...

Can a government have "morals"? Seems like that is what liberals think and that the government's moral code is perfect.

Satyavati devi dasi said...


Can a government have morals?

Isn't this what the right claims? That we were "founded as a Christian nation" (wrong)? That we somehow have to legislate against various "moral" evils that I shall not name, and that to do otherwise is a virtual attack of Satan on all that is good and holy?

That we should legislate prayer in schools?

That we should teach religious theories of creationism, and ban classes on Islam?

The problem most people have with the idea of a moral government is that if the morals aren't specifically dictated by themselves personally, then it's not morals at all.

But this isn't Patrick's argument. Patrick's trying to argue here that despite the fact that he insists we are, as beings, far too involved with our own competitive spirits, our own need to get ahead and to do for ourselves, as a function of our nature, to be involved in a system like socialism that is concerned with the overall good.... we are yet somehow as outward-focused and deeply mindful of the plight of our neighbours and will of course take care of them on our own.

That these are diametrically opposed views matters not.

Government, in the preamble to the constitution, lists among its priorites promoting the general welfare.

This would include health. If the system doesn't promote the general welfare, which it doesn't.. it promotes the welfare of those who can pay for it as long as they don't actually need anything (because when they do, they get rescinded). The hell with the rest, regardless. If the system doesn't work, which it doesn't, then in order to fulfil its duty to promote the general welfare, the government has to intervene.

There is no 'free market' as such in healthcare, like I've said a thousand times, because insurance companies don't compete for individual policies, nor do they care about them. The vast majority of people have no choice regarding their insurance and are forced to take whatever company is chosen by their jobs (if this means the policy and company and providers change every year, tough toes). There is no real choice, there is no real competition at this time. It's a fallacy. People are fighting to hold on to something they haven't even got.

Propaganda is a fascinating field of study.

Patrick M said...

Tao: what's this "Oh but Patrick..." shit? I think I've made it clear that we are on the slide to this amoral existence, at which the maner part of human nature is not held in check by the nobler part.

But the choice is either submit to this or try to right the system, and everything related so that it works.

Not saying that will ever be easy, but the alternative is slavery.

Beth and Satyavati: Can a government have "morals"?

Let me answer this question. No.

The key is that the individuals in the government (and in private industry and in the population at large) must be overwhelmingly moral. This is the only way that our system can really work. That's what roots out the corruption, and gives us a reason, free of being forced at gunpoint, to give a shit about one another.

Saty: That these are diametrically opposed views matters not.

Let me correct this. The moral responsibility to take care of our own is an extension of personal responsibility to begin with. We begin with our immediate family, then move to our extended family. The rest is what you feel when you see someone in pain. You want to help. But being compelled to do so breeds the opposite.

Government, in the preamble to the constitution, lists among its priorites promoting the general welfare.

With health care, you're not talking about the "general" welfare, but specific welfare for those who have not or cannot provide something for themselves. In past generations, this was done through charity.

What you seek, however is compulsion, by government, to provide for others. This is, quite simply, the imposition of your morality on others. Taxation to build a road that all may use is different from taxing one individual to give it to another.

On the health care issue specifically, you seek to replace a system that has been built up out of what was once a free market (but is barely one now) with one that shifts all rights and responsibility form the people to the government.

And citing the failings in the system as a reason to increase those failings (lack of competition, specifically) is the most disingenuous sort of propaganda.

Beth said...

I think the libertatiams have the best views in that indeed you cannot legislate morality.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"...in the world we believe we are ENTITLED to things rather than in the past where we believed that we EARNED what we have and the position that we attain."

"...tax breaks or welfare checks its all entitlements."

You're a piece of work TAO. On the one hand you're speaking the virtues of the past when "we EARNED what we have and the position we attain".

Then you go on to state that a tax break is an entitlement.

Is not a tax break merely returning more money to the very individual who RIGHTFULLY earned it in his/her quest towards attaining their position?

Of course it is and yet you failed to see that logic in your own post.

Welfare constitutes a subsidy; a transfer of wealth from someone who earned it to someone who did not.

It is dishonest to obfuscate these two wholly separate things and imply that they are one and all the same. They most definitely are not.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"Government, in the preamble to the constitution, lists among its priorites promoting the general welfare."

Indeed it does. AND YET, citizens of this great nation have repeatedly bastardized that very concept and have so distorted it that by their own definition they have come to interpret it to read that the government's priority is to Provide the general welfare.

Toad734 said...

Look after on another?? What a ridiculous notion! We should instead follow the examples of Jesus Christ...Oh, wait...

Matthew 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd

Matthew 20:34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils:freely ye have received, freely give

Matthew 25:35:For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Toad, you're missing the fundamental issue.

The issue (as aptly proposed by Ayn Rand) is whether an individual does or does not have the right to exist without looking out for or after another. The issue is whether an individual must keep buying their life, dime by dime dollar by dollar, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”

Beth said...

I would go so far as to say that legislated morality takes away from true morality and values, maybe even replaces it, because with the state making the judgments then ours are diminished to nothing; we don't need to think or feel or react anymore, just pay our taxes and let someone do the caring. Is that really what you libs want?

Toad734 said...


So what you are saying is that we should no longer subsidize corn farmers and all the big corporation of America who live on tax payer welfare...Along with of course, the country of Israel.

Yes, I wish I could choose not to hand millions to millionaires and send aid to rich countries.

Yet, your side wants to force our side to look after your fellow embryos and legislate that they take care of them the way you see fit. Oh, the irony.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

If you knew me at all Toad you'd know that yes I would say exactly that. And, with all do respect, I don't have a "side". At least not in the manner in which you are inferring.

If there be a side of which I am on, it is on that of the individual and the rights ascribed therein.

dmarks said...

Soap: There is the idea of choosing to help others. Choosing to serve them. Randists seem to think this is a bad idea. I think that most of us here (Toad, Beth, SDD, Patrick, myself) think that the choice to do this is a great thing.

In Rand's favor, if one needs to choose between the ideas of Marx and the ideas of Rand, we're much better going with Rand.

You just don't get tyrants killing tens of millions of people in order to impliment Rand's ideas. Yet, that happens a lot with Marxism.

Rand's selfishness is just a lot more deadly than Marx's "meddle in everyone's lives" schtick.

Let's use the example of a kid kicking a ball, and it ends up in the yard of the grumpy old man.

If the grumpy old man were a Randist, he'd keep the ball. His property rights, and all that.

If the grumpy old man were a Marxist, he'd puncture the ball (a reference to how Marxists quickly destroy economies) and shoot the kid because he is a capitalist oppressor running dog.

Toad734 said...

Individual rights? Like the right for a woman to be able to choose what happens to her body?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Yes Toad like the right to allow a woman to make healthcare decisions between herself and her doctor about the workings of her own body.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

So those of us who reject the premise of command compassion and gunpoint community do so in favor of the goodness of Man to solve these problems at home and in their community.

Except that in America, Man doesn't give a shit about anyone's problems but his own.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

If you ever catch a break Saty from all the time you spend caring for the poor and downtrodden that the rest of us couldn't give two shits about, might I suggest you do a little research not only into the history of private charity in America but also come to terms with the fact that if your backasswards comment were true, we'd have far more people calling for the demise of the government's social safety net than would be calling for its necessity.

Beth said...

Saty now I know for certainty that you live with blinders on, there are so many people who care for others and do for others that aren't having press conferences every other week and going on freakin David Letterman to make himself look like the Messiah that it would make your head swim to hear all that people do for others.

Patrick M said...

Saty: What Soapster and Beth said. If you doubt that, look back at the big Tsunami a few years back and which country busted their ass to help.