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The Starving Society

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A recent link by “darrenlobo” to an article, Is The Starving Man Free?, provoked a number of comments. One was mine, and dl wrote back with a lengthy comment to that, which I’ve cut and pasted major parts of below, with my responses to those passages (below in bold):

This candid recognition of the contradiction between freedom from coercion and government welfare is more than can be expected from the advocates of the welfare state. Most are not content to admit their preference for government welfare instead of freedom from coercion. Rather, they gloss over the coercive nature of government action altogether. As a case in point of this fraudulent stance we can do little better than Sir Beveridge's own disingenuous statement that "Liberty means more than freedom from the arbitrary power of Governments."[8] In fact, the "liberty" conceived by Sir Beveridge and other welfare statists does not mean freedom from the arbitrary power of government at all. It means precisely the opposite: that people are to be systematically enslaved by their government in order to provide an expanding list of goods and services to those that the government deems worthy.

I recognize the distinction between freedom from coercion and government welfare. Coercion is when I’m told to wear a seat belt, for example, or that I can’t marry another male or a cockroach, or that I can’t buy anything stronger than 3.2 beer. Government welfare is when my paycheck goes to maim and kill people I don’t even know in another country, or to pay the salary of a dictator like George Bush.

None of you have dealt with the moral issue of initiating force against people to separate them from their hard earned pay that the article brings up. The fact that you want to use the loot to try to feed people or give them healthcare is irrelevant from a moral point of view. It's just as bad from a practical point of view since history shows that such redistributive schemes only leave people worse off. Zimbabwe is a good example of this kind of program failing.

I like the redistributive schemes that bring me police and fire protection, clean water and sewage and garbage removal, libraries, most roads that I use, relatively clean air, schools for my kids, medical services that have prevented major epidemics for decades, oftentimes intelligent zoning codes, building safety, relatively reliable electricity, parks and bike paths, recycling, free outdoor concerts, reasonable internet rates, and so on.

But need I go on? Of course you can find some failed redistributive schemes, but does that mean you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Why not fix the nature of the redistribution network? Teach people to fish, so they can fish; you don’t necessarily have to keep throwing them fish. The redistributive scheme of public education has worked fairly well, though there’s surely much room for improvement.  

Money is rarely “hard earned” in the U.S. In fact, it generally stolen, since only about 5% of the people do any work that actually supports the rest of us physically. The “loot” is the resources that capitalism generates through grand larceny of resources against future generations, and that loot is largely redistributed to about 5% of the do-nothing population, who suck dry those of us who do actual  work.  Most Americans wouldn’t know a “hard earned” dime if it sat on the end of their nose (I do remember a few from when I was a kid, however).

A better alternative is the voluntary associations that formed in the 19th century to provide for the people's needs: The Voluntary City Choice, Community, and Civil Society

Posing the Problem: The rise and decline of American civic life has provoked wide-ranging responses from all quarters of society. Unfortunately, most proposals for improving communities rely on renewed governmental efforts—without recognizing that the inflexibility and poor accountability of governments have often worsened society’s ills. Most would-be reformers seem profoundly unaware of the wealth of historical and contemporary evidence that decentralized, competitive markets can contribute greatly to community renewal.

If governments are not accountable and are too inflexible, why can’t that be fixed? 1) Folks give up before they try (I call them American’ts); 2) Decentralized, competitive markets don’t exist in the welfare state we’ve created, in the name of capitalism, for corporations—which have all the rights of individuals, but none of the responsibilities. We also have cosmic scale welfare military, welfare slugs in the White House, and welfare outfits like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, Gruman, General Electric, Haliburton, Blackwater, etc., who like to call themselves “entrepreneurial organizations.”

What is a Voluntary City? It is a community built and maintained by private initiative and cooperation, not by the coercive political institutions that many people assume are needed to make communities work. The voluntary city is a paradigm for the community of tomorrow. It is also a historical reality: All of its key pillars—the physical infrastructure, services, and institutional framework that make communities livable—have at various times and places been provided by private initiative. Current legal, political and social trends suggest that its separate pillars may unite to build complete voluntary cities, allowing us to enjoy the myriad benefits of living in a truly civil society.

Key pillars from private initiative? You mean like the Jay Goulds, Vanderbilts, Rockerfellers, Gates, Cheneys, and Waltons, who loot the public in uncountable ways, then piss a few dollars at the rest of us, and tell us frankly it is “trickle down” money? Why not coerce these folks to limit their greed, which they can’t seem to do themselves, and use the wealth to fertilize our most valuable national resources—young, developing minds? Why? Because Big Behinds matter more than Little Minds, in the so-called free capitalist market.

Compassionate Mutual Aid: Before the rise of the welfare state, mutual-aid societies provided social services to millions of Americas, Britons and Australians. By 1925, member societies of the National Fraternal Congress represented 120,000 American lodges. Member benefits often included medical care, unemployment insurance, sickness insurance, and other services.

And these folks vanished because there was no money in the deal? Or do they now call themselves compassionate conservatives, like the ones who like torture as a new form of Christianity?

Responsive Law Enforcement: Community policing is seen as responsive to local needs because it is relatively decentralized. Law enforcement in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries was even more decentralized and responsive because the private sector provided for public safety and the enforcement of contracts. When Britain’s Bobbies (public police) later came on to the scene, they were jeered not praised.

Who’s arguing against decentralization? Why a strawman argument, that is rather insane, since every progressive I ever heard of wants decentralized government, wherever it is possible. Sometimes, of course, that is not possible, even when it should be—such as regulations on car mileage, clean air, clean water, keeping out of coastal areas, etc.

Fairer Laws: The Law Merchant was a non-governmental system of commercial-dispute resolution that arose in Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Merchants viewed it as fair and abided by its decisions because it was created and administered by and for merchants. The Law Merchant was highly successful until governments began to subvert it and expand their own power. But because government-run legal systems have become increasingly slow and arbitrary, the Law Merchant is returning in the form of private arbitration and mediation services, which now help resolve criminal as well as commercial disputes.

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly want: (more...)
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