“There are only so many people capable of putting together words that stir and move and sing. When it became possible to earn a very good living in advertising by exercising this capability, lyric poetry was left to untalented screwballs who had to shriek for attention and compete by eccentricity.”
Mitchell Courtenay in Frederick Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants
I’m up a bit earlier than usual because I’m training Abraham to wake himself up when he needs to pee during the night. So, of course, I decide to cogitate upon the recent CNN/Tea Party debate, and in particular the part where Tea Partiers choose to let someone my age, who chooses to be uninsured and then injured, die. The clip:
And here’s what I’ve thought:
The freedom of Ron Paul, current libertarians, and the Tea Party is the freedom of choice. They want the ability to not participate in existing government for a variety of reasons mostly boiling down to the fact that the government spends their money in ways they don’t approve of. They don’t really claim this as their goal, instead they just call it “small-government”, but that’s the outcome they’re aiming for. They’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to accomplish this non-participation is to get elected and change the stuff they don’t like about government. It’s a fundamentalist position. The major logical hole in this argument is that they want to enforce their choice upon everyone. That’s not libertarian. Another logical hole in the argument is that they’re not doing anything on their end to opt-out of the system right now. The major irony of this argument is that the Tea Party, who doesn’t want to be forced to purchase health care, is saying “let me die if I get sick or injured and can’t afford to pay.” Another major irony of this argument is that the choices they are fighting over are first world problems. The fact that choices are even possible in these situations is a reflection of the quality of life that has been created by the fact that we live in an America that has been governed by people who have constructed a social contract that makes our way of life possible.
Hole 1: Some people want to live in a society that cares for others. Some people want to create institutions and mechanisms that ensure that care is provided for the society and the individuals within it. The applause & outbursts in that clip show that there is no concept of “love thy neighbor” and, in fact, no conception of even “who is my neighbor?” or even “neighbor” going on here. This isn’t a political philosophy of autonomy & personal responsibility, it is a political philosophy of selfishness, borne out of ignorance. If it were borne out of knowledge you wouldn’t have people cheering or calling for death. (This space reserved for tangential discussion of the epistemology of psychology, sociology & anthropology as it relates to society & libertarianism).
I’m all for autonomy & personal responsibility. I’m also all for social responsibility, because I know that organizing, pooling resources, and working together for a common goal (building a road, providing health care for all citizens, lobbying the GOP to change it’s policy positions (looking at you here, Tea Party)) is more effective than acting autonomously. I also know that, as autonomous and personally responsible as I am, and can be, at some point, I’m not going to be able to get by without some help from my friends, the government, or other social institutions.
Hole 2: Opt-out. If these people don’t want to participate in the current social contracts, they should opt-out. That’s an easy choice, but hard to practice. Don’t like paying taxes? Change your tax withholding to zero and don’t pay taxes when the time comes. Work for cash, or if fiat currency isn’t your thing, precious metals. Don’t buy health insurance, and when you get sick, don’t seek care from modern medical institutions. You can always opt-out. If America won’t let you, move to someplace that will, but don’t complain when the quality of life blows, because quality of life is created and sustained through social contracts, governance, and loving thy neighbor.
PS. If you’re raising your kids to be libertarian, don’t potty train them. You’ll be forcing them to abide by a social contract for sanitation. Give them the freedom of choice. Plus, you won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to teach them to wake up and take a piss when they feel the need.