What Do You Expect?

What started as a post about Equality Before the Law grew into a discussion about the role of government in helping our fellow men. That eventually spun of into a discussion about how we can or should mix religion and politics at The Life I am Choosing. Later I ran across Connor’s post about the truth concerning charity in a capitalist system. That related post had a comment that seemed to capture the difference in the expectations between the two sides of the debate.

These and similar accusations . . . stem from a mistrust of capitalism and a lack of faith in man’s innate desire to help others.

Man’s innate desire to help others is what drives most of those who argue both sides of this issue. There are those capitalists who are not thinking of how to benefit others, and yet what they do almost always does help others. There are those communalists who are not really interested in helping others and they are very happy to be useing the force of government to negate the property rights of others. Despite those two groups, the majority of people approach this discussion with an honest desire to help others. Some believing that  government can provide the best coverage in helping others while others believe that individuals can tackle the major problem areas as well as filling the cracks that would be missed by government.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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22 Responses to What Do You Expect?

  1. Government to some extent to me, serves as a social insurance mechanism. Life is risky to all of us. So as a society, through the democratic institution of taxation, we decide to impose taxes on all of us, and through those taxes provide a certain level of security for all citizens.

    It is the nature of a democratic government that we don’t end up using all services all the time. We may utilize public schools, or we may not. We may be faced with a catastrophic disability, we may not. But we spread the costs and risks so someone who faces some major hardship doesn’t have to grovel for assistance from charity, particularly when that charity often-times comes with strings attached.

    We as a society through tax and spending policies decide which services we will provide and what our tax policies will be. There is nothing sinister about this. The vast majority of civilized countries have these processes in place.

    What we have in Utah, however, is the warped legacy of Ezra Taft Benson, who misread what I would consider to be a rational and healthy mix of private and public sector forces working to generate profits and income while also providing the tax revenues to provide a basic safety net. The creeping socialism of Eztra Taft Benson would lead you to believe that these government services were the first step in a process where the government comes to own the means of production, and ultimately to socialism and communism (ironic given Mormonism’s close affinity to many marxian concepts)

    In this regard, I think Ezra Taft Benson had a fatally flawed perception. Americans historically are far too independent to want the government controlling the means of production. Responsible regulation of the private sector, yes, outright ownership, no.

    To me, this mindset comes from the Book of Mormon view of the world, where there is a constant battle between good and evil. And since capitalism is good, any government action is by definition evil. You get the same thing with gun control. Guns rights advocates think that any regulation regarding firearms is a first step towards outright banning of guns. There is no middle ground. Again the religious traditions of the Zoroastrians creeping into our own religious tradtions with their manichaean world view are taken to an extreme.

    That is why it is so difficult to be a religious moderate. Because scripture doesn’t support moderates, scripture tends to be manichaean. Because ultimately, the great galvanizing force that provides power to religions, is the creation of demons to be afraid of. Those demons, are always those who don’t adhere to “our religion.” And so they who oppose us, must be evil, and therefore there is not middle ground, or role for moderation.

  2. David says:

    One thing I wonder about the views expressed by Ezra Taft Benson (and I certainly don’t claim that I know this for a fact) is if they are, to a degree, a product of the time he lived in. It seems to me that during his early adult life the country had a vocal minority who were clamoring for outright communism. I suspect that in that environment it would be easy to view any government services, and especially new government services as a step toward communism.

    One thing I have a problem with in all these government social services is that we grow dependent on them – they expand as our expectations expand and our expectations expand as we grow accustomed to the services already in place. I fear that if the clamor for more services goes unchecked we are likely to lose the independent streak that you accurately cite as our historic legacy.

  3. Dependence is certainly a concern. People getting stuck in the safety net is certainly a risk that happens from time to time. There are also those who find ways of abusing the system, such as Mormon fundamentalists and the notorious “welfare moms” who may have five kids from four different dead-beat dads.

    I think you have to be creative and structure aid programs so that they are not permanent unless we are talking about some serious delibitating condition.

    But the fact that it is difficult, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. There are many people who through no fault of their own, found themselves facing calamity who were still able to somehow stay afloat with the help of the government. Most of them raised their families and their children are now taxpaying adults not on government assistance.

    But I have a problem with letting people starve, out of devotion to a theory regarding government. Ezra Taft Benson may have been influenced by the time he lived in, but I always found it instructive from some of his writings just how much of a socialist he viewed moderates such as the President who appointed him Secretary of Agriculture. I often have wondered whether Ike appointed ETB to that position as a bone to the radical conservative wing of the party. Because the John Birch Society that Ezra Taft Benson viewed so favorably, was no friend of the Eisenhower Administration.

  4. David says:

    I fully agree that we should not let people starve out of a devotion to a theory of limited government. Of course, those like me who argue for limited government believe that there will be no increase in the number of people who starve to death if we were to remove the safety net.

    That being said, I do know of someone who has a legitimate need – his son incurs about $15,000 per month in expenses for medication for a condition he has had since birth. Because of my discussions with him, I recognize that we don’t talk enough about the cases of legitimate need just as we don’t talk enough about the cases of unnecessary dependence and abuse of the system.

  5. The issue that collectivists can never get around, and can never explain in anything close to a coherent manner, is “What gives anyone the right to steal my property and give it to somebody else, regardless of how badly that person is in need?”

    I don’t have the right to reach into your wallet, take your money, then give it to the person that I believe needs it more than you. Because one individual does not have that right, a group of individuals cannot have that right. Stealing is stealing is stealing, regardless of what type of legal sanction it is granted by the thieves themselves.

    Sometimes I’ll run across some hippie that will give me the “rights of the community” or “rights of society” or some similarly pathetic argument. There are only individual rights. A group of people does not magically obtain rights because they are a group.

    Even in the case of legitimate need, nobody–and government least of all–has the right to STEAL my property and give it to someone else. If people want to contribute voluntarily to a government welfare program, and they are stupid/ignorant enough to think that the government welfare program will be effective (something that never has, does not now, and never will happen), then they are free to contribute THEIR OWN PROPERTY, not mine.

    Life doesn’t have safety nets. Any attempt to create an artificial one will always end up in the horrific state that our current government dole is in.

  6. >Mormonism’s close affinity to many marxian concepts

    Total and complete and absolutely absurd myth. No offense, but I can’t believe that anybody even says that anymore. It’s like anti-Mormons bringing up the same myths that have been refuted over and over and over and over and over again.

  7. APCI, perhaps you don’t see it’s affinity to marxian concepts, because you don’t know how the United Order was practiced in the 19th century and never read Karl Marx. Unbridled greed was one of those things which concerned the bretheren of the 19th century. Removing the quest for earthly possessions would allow the members to focus more on spiritual matters. BTW, my own G-G-Grandfather was required to turn over of his store in Franklin, Idaho to the church. http://srp.parkinsonfamily.org/srp-photos/co-op-800.jpg. Mormons who don’t see an affinity between the communal living 19th Century Mormons and Marxian inspired communists are in serious denial. Your calling me an “anti-Mormon” doesn’t make that true.

    BTW, you do have a choice over whether to pay taxes or not. Of course, don’t expect the benefits of citizenship in this great country if you aren’t willing to pay for the benefits which come with citizenship. If you disagree with the taxes you pay or the services you get or don’t want, change the law. America, love it and pay your fair share, or leave it. I’m sure there is some libertarian utopia out there on some desert island you will find more comfortable with. But this country has always had a mixed economy, with an active government from the time of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton on.

  8. alliegator says:

    Obi Wan- Have I said how much I like your comments?

    I agree, dependence is a problem, especially with the way welfare programs are currently set up. Instead of just giving people food, or housing assistance, we ought to be including some sort of job training, then when it is completed, they can be phased off of the food and housing assistance.

    I don’t get how anyone can view some taxation as theft and not all taxation?

  9. David says:

    “If you disagree with the taxes you pay or the services you get or don’t want, change the law.”

    Unfortunately that’s not as simple as it sounds. Our extra layer of party bureaucracy warps our democratic process so that the laws that pass do not need the support of a majority of voters (otherwise we would be out of Iraq for lack of funding by now).

  10. David says:

    Allie,

    I think that calling taxation “theft” does not help the debate because any reasonable person must admit that a certain amount of taxation is necessary and proper. The real discussion is about defining where the line should properly be drawn between necessary taxation and wealth redistribution.

  11. alliegator says:

    It may not be as simple as it sounds, but that doesn’t mean that we sit and do nothing if we feel our government is leading the country in the wrong direction.

    One person might not be able to change a law on his own, but we can get involved, and influence laws.

    (and by getting involved, I mean doing something besides sitting behind your computer telling the “liberals” how wrong/stupid they are)

    David- I didn’t call it theft- that was Infidel. I agree with you.

  12. David says:

    I agree that we must not sit back and complain. We have to do everything we can even if the system is weighted against our success.

    Allie – I’m sorry if I implied that you were calling it theft, I know it was Infidel who used that term. I have also heard the same “theft” label from others of a libertarian bent.

  13. alliegator says:

    Thanks for clarifying, I couldn’t imagine why you thought that was my word.

    🙂

  14. Jeremy says:

    As one of those of a “libertarian bent” that David mentioned I pose this question to all of you: How could it be considered anything other than theft for government to take money from me for the benefit of someone else? Even if 99% of my neighbors support the idea of taking my money to provide a social safety net for the poor isn’t the money government takes from me still taken at the point of a gun? What would happen to me if I didn’t pay?

    I’m not saying that our system should be changed to something more in line with the libertarian utopia of my dreams…only asking that we be a little more humble about what we ask our government to do in our names. Obi Wan is right that we’ve never had a political system that didn’t forcefully take from some and give to others and we never will. A great argument can be made that we never should! But don’t pretend to not understand that it is still legalized plunder. It may be for the greater good of society as a whole but it is still theft.

    I think anyone elected to a political office that can levy taxes or spend taxpayer dollars needs to have this point driven home again and again. Everything they do is made possible because of this system of legalized plunder. If this understanding were more wide-spread I’d hope that we’d have a more effective and limited government than we have now.

  15. alliegator says:

    I agree Jeremy, that all of us, and most especially elected officials need to be very careful about how they spend tax dollars. I don’t view it as theft, but I do hope that “my” tax dollars are being spent wisely for the betterment of society.

    There is far too much waste, and that does bother me.

  16. David says:

    Jeremy,

    One problem I have with the stance that all taxation is unequivocally classified as legalized plunder is that there seem to be some things that should be funded by taxes – specifically I would cite police forces and a reasonable military force.

    Do you really believe that it is theft to collect taxes for those things that are the legitimate responsibility of government?

  17. Obi Wan Ravioli:
    >because you don’t know how the United Order was practiced in the 19th century and never read Karl Marx

    Hahahahaha! I’ll forgive you for that because you don’t know my background. Let’s just say that I am very well versed in both, and I see no meaningful connection between the two specifically because I DO understand the principles of both very thoroughly.

    >Your calling me an “anti-Mormon” doesn’t make that true.

    Interesting that you would automatically assume that I was calling you an anti-Mormon. I merely indicated that your promotion of a meme that had been refuted repeatedly was exactly the same type of tactic employed by those goofiest of goofballs, anti-Mormons.

    It actually wasn’t until AFTER I had posted that comment that, out of bland curiosity, I visited your blog and found out that you actually were, if nothing else, a de facto anti-Mormon. I wasn’t surprised, of course, since only a collectivist anti-Mormon could so misunderstand the wisdom and stature of Ezra Taft Benson, and assert something as bizarre as a connection between the Law of Order and Marxism, but I did chuckle at the coincidence.

    Jeremy’s right. Bastiat’s coining of the expression “legal plunder” is spot on. (Incidentally, anyone who does not have a thorough understanding of Bastiat really has no place in a discussion of rights, economics, etc.)

    But we still haven’t gotten any real attempt at a coherent justification of taking, under threat of violence and without my consent, property that I have created or obtained through a free exchange, and giving it to another who has neither created it nor engaged in a free exchange with me to obtain it.

    After decades of waiting for such an explanation, I have no hope of ever getting one…in particular because none exists.

    Even my children know that taking something that is not yours without the freely given permission of the owner is stealing. Why is it that so-called “liberals” have such a hard time understanding it? Maybe it’s because you wouldn’t feel like you had a right to steal from me anymore, and that you would have to earn your upkeep yourself. How shockingly grownup that would be!

  18. As for viewing all taxes as theft, that’s not the stance I take (nor did those such as Bastiat take that stance). I am 100% willing to pay for goods and services that I both want and receive. I am 0% willing to pay for 1) goods and services I do not receive or 2) goods and services I do not want. The only legitimate taxation is for goods and services that the tax payer both wants AND receives. If either of those elements is removed, it is nothing more nor less than theft.

    Most of the taxes I currently pay are for goods and services I neither want nor receive. In other words, I am being robbed.

  19. David says:

    So Infidel, you’re saying that we can’t legally tax a thief since he does not want, and considers himself lucky if he does not get, the “benefit” of police protection.

    Assuming you disagree with that – what portion of the population must want and receive the benefits for a tax to be legitimate?

  20. Hmmm. That example doesn’t really work, since the thief doesn’t get the benefit of police protection. His potential victims do.

    Of course, the main problem with using the example of “police protection” is that it is premised on the idea that the police protect us rather than catch the bad guys that have already committed a crime. Actual police “protection” is very rare, except indirectly in the sense that they can take the bad guys off the streets after they have committed a crime…so that the courts and the ACLU can put them back on the streets, of course. (I’m not denigrating our police, just stating an unavoidable fact. Police can’t be everywhere all the time. We have to protect ourselves.)

    The other problem with using the police “protection” example is that the tax money is being used for a legitimate role of government, that of protecting my true rights (life, liberty, property) from parties (the thief) that would take those from me . Most types of taxation do what the thief does, which is to take away my right to my property (and by connection my life and my liberty, since neither would be possible without the right to my legitimately created or acquired property).

    >what portion of the population must want and receive the benefits for a tax to be legitimate

    It’s only legitimate if it’s being levied on those individuals that want and receive it. (Why anyone would think that government can do a better job of providing goods and services than private parties is a rather bizarre mystery, of course.) I should be able to opt out of any of it I choose, and because I value the liberty of every individual, I would only opt in to those functions of government that protect individuals from others who would kill them, physically enslave them, or steal their property. Government has shown itself to have a difficult time even doing that, and is clearly completely incompetent to do anything in addition to that.

    The responsibility for the protection of rights is in the individual. Legitimate, effective government is created when a group of individuals comes together and selects representatives to ASSIST them in protecting those rights. I cannot rightly assign a representative to help me protect a right that I do not have.

    For example, because I do not have a right to your money, I cannot appoint another person to help me take it from you. That means I can’t appoint government officials to take your money. I can, however, appoint another to assist me in protecting my own property, because such protection does not kill you, enslave you, or steal your property.

    Of course, individuals may also come together to pool their resources for a certain cause, including assisting the needy. That does not take away anyone’s rights. For that to be a good act, however, it must be wholly voluntary. However, if that group threatens me with violence if I don’t contribute to their cause or their organization, it becomes theft. In particular, if I came into that community before they had changed the rules of the community, and against my protests they decide that I must join their cause or suffer penalty, it also becomes tyranny. That’s the situation in which I find myself in my own country right now. Other people are voting away my right to my own property and attempting to force me to join their club. But mostly they want my money.

    Sometimes I’m perplexed that so many people want to control my property, but then I remember how greedy people are, and I’m not surprised anymore.

  21. David says:

    Infidel,

    It appears that you define legitimate taxation as taxation to support the government in protecting your fundamental rights:

    the tax money is being used for a legitimate role of government, that of protecting my true rights (life, liberty, property) from parties (the thief) that would take those from me .

    While all other taxes are acceptable only if individuals can opt out of the taxes:

    It’s only legitimate if it’s being levied on those individuals that want and receive it. . . . I should be able to opt out of any of it I choose

    Correct me if I have misunderstood you there, but assuming I have not – I can totally support that delineation between acceptable and “thieving” taxes.

  22. David:
    You are correct in your interpretation. (That will probably be all from me today, since I have a huge translation project to complete as well as final grades to calculate, etc.)

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