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13 December 2004


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If you REALLY want to understand US politics and the 2004 election, you need to combine Lakoff's "Moral Politics" not with Frank, but with Stephen Ducat's "The Wimp Factor" and Michael Parenti's "Superpatriotism". Also, you should read my blog - there are at least 20 Lakoff-inspired posts.



Brandon Berg

Coercive wealth redistribution is not the only form of charity (and is arguably not charitable at all), and to smear those who oppose it as uncharitable is either improbably foolish or despicably disingenuous. Either way, I expected better from you.


Brandon, my guess (and perhaps I'm wrong) is that you expected "better" of me in part because you and I don't speak the same language here. I've said before on the list we both belong to, that I don't mind paying my taxes, or the idea of paying taxes. I don't. I consider it a fair and (in concept) extremely efficient way of structuring and funding a society. I believe that certain things work better when done by as large a group as possible, such as interstate highways and the funding of public health or hot lunches for children.

I prefer to live in a society that runs in this way, and one which funds social programs based on compassion rather than social engineering. That is the nation I want to live in, and of course, it's my right to advocate for that just as it's yours to advocate for something else.

My entire objection to libertarianism, and the reason I am not a libertarian, is that I believe it increases human suffering for ideological reasons. In short, I believe it lacks compassion and empathy. So your criticism is, from your perspective, quite correct: I believe those who oppose government-funded social programs that help those in need regardless of whether they "deserve" it or not, and regardless of whether it matches their standards of social engineering or not, to be uncharitable and to create a less happy, functional nation.

Does this mean I LIKE all the choices government has made about what to do with my tax money? Hell no. I abhor waste, and I especially abhor social engineering and micromanagement. That's probably why you expected "better" from me, because you've seen that side of me. But it does not follow that just because I don't like exactly how it's being done, I don't think it should be done at all, any more than getting a bad hair cut in the past makes me decide not to get one again in the future.

Brandon Berg

I cannot speak for all others, but my opposition to the welfare state is based as much on concerns about its detrimental long-term effects on standards of living as it is on my moral distaste for coercion, and your cavalier dismissal of liberalism as purely ideological suggests to me that you don't really understand it well enough to reject it.

But that's beside the point. Regardless of who's right from an economic perspective, I'm willing to assume that you're sincere in your belief that your policy prescriptions are best. What disappoints me is not that your disagree with my economic analysis, or even that you do so without giving it the consideration it deserves, but that you uncharitably--and unjustly--assume that anyone who opposes the welfare state must do so out of an ideologically-inspired lack of charity.

If you want to present the economic arguments for welfare statism or against liberalism, that's fine, but don't just smear those who disagree with you by distorting our motives before you've even addressed our ideas.

Note also that all of the Bible verses you quoted extolled the virtues of charity in general, not coercive wealth redistribution in particular. If you can find any that unambiguously endorse the welfare state, I'd be very interested in hearing about them.

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