Monday, March 10, 2014

Price to Pay

In a comment on my previous posting, "Who's Your Imaginary Poor Person?", bobjbkln said:
"A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a young, moderately conservative Canadian (Newfoundlander). His attitude was that welfare cheats were a scourge BUT that he believed that they were a necessary evil. Canadians felt that all people should not go without adequate food, shelter, education, health care, etc. If a few gamed the system, well that was just a price that they had to pay to assure that the people who really needed the help were able to get it."
Like a number of leftist principles (which is what this is, despite the affiliation of the Canadian) I think this "feels" smarter than it "thinks".

The big problem with moral peril is that it inflicts a steady pressure on society, so its effect inevitably accelerates over time (as is true of anything under steady pressure). We saw this with the welfare states of 1970s England and America. And, more extremely, with Communism, which held this thinking as a core principle with exactly the results Paul Ryan, etc., worry about. I wouldn't want to return to 1973. We went too far. You could feel society slogging and smell the rot (and pay a tax rate north of 90%). 1973 could have made a Tea Party partisan out of any but the most fervid of current liberals. 

The unfeasibility gave rise to radically extreme counter-balancing: Thatcher and Reagan, who yanked things to an opposite extreme (and then some!). The end result is the worst of all worlds: the poor get extra screwed by the harsh counter-swing, and the middle class gets screwed both ways.

And that's not all. The escalating counter-swings and counter-counter swings can ferment into political extremism - ala the current day, with an extremist clash between Great Society and Reaganism. It might be oversimplification to describe our current political climate as a direct outcome of liberal overreach - of tolerance for that "necessary evil" while social engineering - but it does describe the broad outline of our politics over these decades.

I realize it sounds downright evil to suggest that everyone may not deserve "adequate food, shelter, education, health care, etc.". But each of those noble-sounding propositions represents a perilously slippery slope. For example, why should I have a really good, really expensive heart surgeon when a poor person just gets some hapless shmuck, and must wait an extra week for the surgery in a worse hospital, and will therefore have lower survival odds? Where does "adequate" cut off? Communists certainly had an opinion on that, but most modern thinkers acknowledge the need to draw the line well short of the extreme of perfect equality of result...cold-hearted though it sounds (I learned the hard way that running successful communities requires tough pragmatic decisions which don't always mesh with our dreamier "ideal world" hopes and aspirations).

And the dangling "etc." (in "adequate food, shelter, education, health care, etc.") is troubling. Liberal agendas start off moderate and reasonable-sounding, but there's always an "etc", stated or unstated (recent example: transgenderism being snuck into the choices moderates and conservatives are expected to normalize along with gay marriage).

I don't think conservatives are unhinged in suspecting that unchecked leftism would, from its core principles - I.e. those notorious "good intentions" - naively recommit some of the gravest errors of the twentieth century...but don't get me started on conservatives, either, most recently re: their shocking love affair with the iron fist of Mr. Putin.

No comments:

Blog Archive