Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Conflicting Moralities

Paul Krugman writes that the real divide in America is between white hat advocates of "the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net" on the one side, and black hat, red-meat capitalists on the other who maintain that "people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft."   Presumably, only the white hats in his taxonomy believe that it's right for the wealthy to help those less fortunate than they are.  Realizing that the selfish black hats will never understand his and his readers' lofty ideals, he ends with a critique of sore-loser eliminationists who foment violence.  

"Ground floor to citadel tower. Are you reading tower?  Professor Krugman is sniffing the thin air again."   He is right that what drives the side he's always expecting to break out into violence (when it's nearly always his side that does) is that it's fed up with paying for the modern welfare state.  The reason is not that ground-floor man would elect to keep more of his money if the alternative was to really help the needy.  Rather, it's because the nanny state is a completely ineffectual, exorbitantly costly, morally fraudulent, self-perpetuating scandal, which serves only the interest of the political party favoring it with ever more tax-and spend booty--his.  Consider the self-soiling performance of HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--to name just one recent  instance of self-serving big government bleeding the middle class and adding burdens to its back.  How could anyone keep the fantasy of the party of the little guy alive when confronted with the spectacle of parading Democrats larding their troughs through the GSEs, and then leaving a multi-trillion dollar mess for the taxpayers to clean up.  The list includes Rahm Emanuel, Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick, Andrew Cuomo and scores of other establishment Democrats.   High-sounding "mandates," like "affordable housing," allow liberals to preen about in their ethical magnificence, stuff lucre into their wallets with abandon, and move onto the next lesson for the moral betterment of the American taxpayer.  That buzzing-cafuffling sound you hear is Krugman and his pals raiding the refrigerator as they shuffle out on their way to the next party.  You can bet, however, that 'they'll be baaack.'

Krugman and his readers might be the only people remaining who don't know that the modern welfare state doesn't help the poor.  It entraps them, lives off them like a matrix, and creates more of them.   News flash to stratosphere dwellers:  "Winners" in a capitalist economy already pay the lion's share of taxes, just never enough to satisfy the moral avatars' thirst for more money with which to create more bureaucracies, which in turn employ more constituents with ever cushier jobs.  Moreover, it is copiously well documented that people who believe in limited government, and in pulling their own weight, give far more money to help others than do welfare state advocates. (See Arthur C. Brooks, "Who Really Cares?" See also, Peter Schweizer, "Makers and Takers.")  Tea partiers are not shrieking about a Brandeis-like "right to be let alone," the way that abortion advocates did before Bill Clinton's election (even though Brandeis was referring to personal property, not offspring termination).  People on Noman's side of the divide see that people need a hand.  They also see that the moral cretins on the left who posture as enlightened humanitarians while demanding to be let alone to kill their babies, are not likely to be the ones to lend it to them.

Noman says that the good people of this nation who want Krugman's project stopped have a different idea of what it takes to build a moral society.  In ours, government doesn't try to do everything.  It gets out of our way to let us handle the needs of people through strong families and vibrant faith communities; through volunteerism and dignified work.  Taking health care for example, as he does, liberals can posture all they want about the moral imperative to make sure everyone is covered.  Setting aside the facts that Obamacare was never designed to cover everyone, and that services under any social welfare model come ineluctably to be rationed--everyone becomes entitled to non-avialable services--there is an alternative route to achieving affordable healthcare for everyone that was never discussed because of the incessant linking of two unrelated things: social needs on the one hand, and social welfare ideology on the other.  Though it may surprise Krugman and others who see government as the solution to every problem, public needs might be better served by private solutions.  The only sustainable health care system is one in which people are taught to take care of themselves, first, and then look around to help others--those closest, in expanding concentric circles.  No society can, or does, afford citizens who are trained to rely on others as a matter of entitlement.  In practice, it finds ways to eliminate them, e.g., through waiting lists, quality of life reviews, "death panels."  For those who inevitably fall through the cracks, the only economy large enough to capture them is the economy of the human heart, not of Leviathan's magic fisc, which supposedly never runs out of money.  Intermediate associations--first, the family, next the Church, and so on--leap up to take care of the needy, and to make sure that fewer people become needy.  Delivery of care through these institutions brings out the best in people; delivery through government brings out the worst.  The other way to make sure that people can afford health care is to drive down it's cost.  The way to do that is to encourage people to shop around for their care, compare prices, and pay out of their own pockets.  (Krugman would be amazed at the willingness of retailers to drop prices at the register once Noman flashes his bar code reading iPhone App.)  The only way to address this or any social problem is to encourage people to develop habits of self-sufficiency, and foment a sense of personal responsibility for the well being of others. The noxiousness  of Krugam's policy prescriptions lies in that they invariably develop the precisely contrary habits of personal dependency, and the diffusion of responsibility for others to "society."  

Noman says, there really are two moralities at work here: the vibrant one of personal character, and the phony one of liberal platitudes.  Perhaps we might call them Noman's morality, and Polyphemus's morality, for shorthand.

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