Last week, noted New York Times columnist, Nobel Prize winning economist, and renowned asshat Paul Krugman published a column that got a lot of attention. In it, Krugman discussed the relative morality of the left and the right, in the context of public assistance and support and welfare.
This, naturally, was picked up and run with by the left (for example, this twit) to argue that Republicans are innately morally inferior to Democrats. On the other hand, Protein Wisdom’s Darleen Click appropriately mocked the whole notion.
I don’t intend to weigh in on the particulars of Krugman’s column, but reading Darleen’s piece started me thinking in a related theme. The crux of the left’s argument here is that it is moral and virtuous for the government to provide assistance to the less fortunate, to provide a “safety net” that keeps the poor from becoming the starving, the freezing, the doomed.
Only the extremists would reject the notion that basic premise there — that would argue that the government has no obligation or duty towards those among its citizens who are in truly great need. Likewise, only the extremists on the left would argue that the government’s role is to set hard “floors” for income and standard of living, and hard “ceilings” for income and wealth. No, the argument is where to draw the lines.
But there is a fundamental assumption at play, especially on the left, that needs to be challenged. And that is the notion that supporting government welfare programs is somehow virtuous.
One fact that must never be forgotten is that, almost exclusively, the government has no money of its own. With almost no exceptions, the only income the government has is that which it takes from us by force of law.
The “generosity” the left boasts of is their willingness not to give of their own resources, but of all our resources. They are patting themselves on the back for giving away other people’s money.
To me, and pretty much every other source I’ve checked, that is not “virtuous.” “Virtue” implies choice. One must choose to act virtuously. If one is coerced into an action, then it is not virtuous.
Oh, it might be the right and necessary and appropriate thing, but it is in no way virtuous or noble.
The great compassion and generosity the left likes to boast of, such as in the above example, is easy for them — because they aren’t giving away their own money. No, they’ve decided that we all should pay for their generosity.
Which tends to explain all the studies that have shown that, on average, conservatives give more to charity than liberals. One factor has to be that the liberals figure they do their part when they vote for higher taxes and social programs, so they don’t have to do anything personally.
Speaking personally, I don’t mind admitting I’m not that well off. I could manage my money better, but I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. And my income has largely stagnated the last couple of years, while the cost of living has risen, so my standard of living has slipped a bit. So I don’t give money to charity.
But I still do what I can. I’ve been a blood donor of varying frequency for over 20 years, and just gave my 60th donation. That means I’m halfway to my 8-gallon pin, and have cumulatively given about five times my body’s total blood supply. (Probably slightly less, as I’m not exactly petite, but it’s a good whole number.) That my blood type is O+ is a bonus; the Red Cross likes me, because in a pinch my blood can be used by anyone with Rh+ blood (O+, A+, B+, AB+).
But I do so by choice. On the rare occasions I feel the need to brag, I feel entitled to do so. (I wear my seven-gallon pin with pride, and can’t wait to upgrade it to an 8.) On the other hand, I feel no sense of pride in whatever good deeds are done by my tax dollars — as I have virtually no say in how much I contribute, and how it is spent.
Yes, such programs are necessary. Yes, they do good. But in no way can they be argued to be “virtuous.” Because they are the results of coercion. Do not ascribe any virtues to them, or those who mandate them.