Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pedantic Politics --- Part 2

My political stance is anti-collectivist by nature. In fact, I'm as impenitent as one can be when it comes to having strong negative feelings towards collectivist mentalities.

But what do I mean by collectivist? And, do I oppose families, church bodies, communes, etc, merely because people are to a certain degree pooling their time, resources, and energies together? Are these not collectivist?

Yes, they are. But they're not the collectivism at which I protest. What I mean is involuntary collectivism.

For example, when a man and woman meet and marry, at least in our culture, their decision to live their lives as one [both in a certain legal sense and in a certain sense before God], sharing their money, talents, sexualities, etc, they are acting in a collectivist sense, but in this case they presumably want to do so out of their own free agency in the matter. So, marriage is a collective, but a good collective [at least in theory]. When the Mr and Mrs get the gleam in their eyes and nine months later little Junior enters the world, the Mr and Mrs presumably know and knew at the time the fun was had that the existence of little Junior was a real contingency, and the Mr and Mrs then [again, in theory] agree to sublimate their own desires and such to the sustenance and upraising of little Junior.

Another example: people with common religious beliefs form worship groups that share time, resources, common interests, etc. This too is collectivistic by nature, but again the collective is voluntarily formed [unless we're dealing with some thought-controlling cult]. People in this particular collective can get in and get out of it depending on their own personal agency -- nobody is forcing them to do so.

A third example: insurance pools are where a group of people pool their money, each person knowing that, in all likelihood, they will not see [hopefully] the benefits of paying the premiums. In this sense, various limit theorems in probability, such as the Central Limit Theorem [one of the most beautiful results in all of science, I might add], help insurance companies and such plan for expenses, profit, etc.

A fourth example: a bunch of hippies in a commune. During grad school days in the mid-90's I saw plenty of hippies. If they want to get together, pool their resources, eat common meals, have no private property, and have sex with everybody else in the commune, then, they're engaging in voluntary collectivism.

I have no problems on a civic level with these examples above, precisely because the people who are letting themselves be collectivized know what they're getting into, and they are not under any threat of force if they leave the collective. The marriage example also fits into this --- if we're dealing with adults who take marriage seriously, there is no government force involved in leaving the marriage or abandoning little Junior, but there are natural social mores as well as financial consequences that one would know about when deciding to get married.

As I've gotten older, though, I recoil ever more strongly against all of the involuntary collectivist schemes I see. Some examples with questions that would be considered quite curt if not rude in today's enlightened culture:

(1) Public schools. Why must I, a single never-married man, pay and subsidize the education of other couples' children? They did not consult me when they had sex, and, they knew that a good roll in the hay just might lead to little Junior. Yet now, society-at-large expects me to pay for their actions and the consequences for those actions. And, more salt is rubbed into the wound when one sees the general incompetence of the educational establishment, along with its reinforcement of the very collectivist schemes I do not like!

(2) Social Security. I call this "socialist security" because it is, again, forced collectivism. What moral debt to I owe anonymous older people today under a secular government? Why do I "owe" them? In most situations, the older people were supposedly responsible younger people at one time --- why did they not plan for themselves? And what nobility or virtue is there in merely being old?

I'd have no problems with SS if it were voluntary: "You pay X% of your money in for Y years in exchange for payments according to Plan Z." But, even though I think I could do a better job with that portion of my income earmarked for SS than the government, I have no choice --- I must pay.

(3) State-sponsored medicine. Why am I responsible for paying for somebody else's medical care? When did we get this idea that a complete stranger X must pay in part for a complete stranger Y's health care? Did not Y plan things or at least make a responsible attempt to do so?

When the elderly voting bloc wants "cheap affordable" prescription drugs and health care, what they're really saying is that they want the State to force somebody else to pay for something that they should be paying for themselves!

(4) Also of major importance is any sort of income tax. It wasn't until the progressive era in the early 20th century that the US Constitution was amended [16th Amendment, if I recall correctly] to give Congress the power to tax incomes. I oppose income taxation not on the basis of the punitive rates at which we are taxed, but on the sheer principle of the matter. A good chunk of my middle-class salary is taken and redistributed to businesses, individuals, and various other things, which things I may or may not agree with. And, this collectivist notion is taken as an assumed fact of reality today --- to question it is to invite comparisons to radical individualism. We are forced to open up a private side of our lives to pay into the collective, and private businesses are used in large part to do the State's dirty work. Again, I ask just why I have some moral obligation to support businesses, Welfare Moms, or any other group that is out there.

The common question I ask for (1)-(4) is this: why do I owe you what you claim?

During my leftist college student days, this simple question above, and its lack of a coherent answer, is what started my own personal drift away from collectivist thinking.

In the next thread, cleverly named "Part 3," I'll continue my written-on-a-cocktail-napkin sketch of politics-in-general according to the PP idiom.

2 Comments:

Blogger centuri0n said...

| (1) Public schools. Why must I, a single never-
| married man, pay and subsidize the education
| of other couples' children? They did not consult
| me when they had sex, and, they knew that a
| good roll in the hay just might lead to little
| Junior. Yet now, society-at-large expects me
| to pay for their actions and the consequences
| for those actions. And, more salt is rubbed into
| the wound when one sees the general
| incompetence of the educational
| establishment, along with its reinforcement of
| the very collectivist schemes I do not like!

This is actually a great question, but I think it is confusing a few things. The last problem -- the incompetence of the aggregate public school system -- is not a reason to stop funding it. I own a christian bookstore (as you know). When I opened, there was another christian bookstore in town. Without being an ass, they were incompetent retailers -- and we are not. The aggregate Christian retail in our community was incompetent: should the christian consumer not shop any Christian retail because the aggregate is bad?

The middle problem -- that public education is an entitlement in our day and age when in the past it was nothing of the sort -- is an interesting matter. To whom is public education an entitlement? The children? That seems to indicate that they are demanding to be educated, and I think that's not actually true. Perhaps their parents are demanding that they be educated, but I think you last question re: the incompetence of the system proves otherwise. Put very simply, if the marketplace was demanding education, then education would be the outcome -- but as you have so nicely pointed out, education is, on the aggregate, not the outcome.

The snappy rejoiner to that argument is "cent: socialized education is like socialized medicine. When it's free to everyone, the quality decreases because the profit motive (therefore competition) is removed from the picture." What happens with socialized medicine is that because care is on-demand, there are more users; because there is no profit motive, there are fewer providers. What results is mediocre care and long lines. We do not have long lines or waiting lists to get into public schools, and the services provided are not merely mediocre but politically biased. The reason for poor service is not lack of profit motive but excess of other motives.

And your primary problem -- nobody asked you if they ought to have children, therefore it's not your problem -- is a terrible political philosophy. It's practically secular. Nobody asked you if they could start an LTL carrier service, but your tax money pays for the roads they use -- and nobody denies that we need roads or that taxes should pay for them. I see this problem from the other side: I need educated employees. I need people with reading and math skills. So while nobody asked me if they could have children, if they are going to have children I'll be glad to help over the long term to give them a basic education because it is in my best interest personally and "our" best interest as a local community to have educated people working and living there.

BTW, we live in a community with a good public school system on purpose.

| (2) Social Security. I call this "socialist
| security" because it is, again, forced
| collectivism. What moral debt to I owe
| anonymous older people today under a secular
| government? Why do I "owe" them? In most
| situations, the older people were supposedly
| responsible younger people at one time --- why
| did they not plan for themselves? And what
| nobility or virtue is there in merely being old?
| I'd have no problems with SS if it were
| voluntary: "You pay X% of your money in for Y
| years in exchange for payments according to
| Plan Z." But, even though I think I could do a
| better job with that portion of my income
| earmarked for SS than the government, I have
| no choice --- I must pay.

Oh, no doubt. No argument. If FDR were alive today I've vote for lynching him.

| (3) State-sponsored medicine. Why am I
| responsible for paying for somebody else's
| medical care? When did we get this idea that a
| complete stranger X must pay in part for a
| complete stranger Y's health care? Did not Y
| plan things or at least make a responsible
| attempt to do so?
| When the elderly voting bloc wants "cheap
| affordable" prescription drugs and health care,
| what they're really saying is that they want the
| State to force somebody else to pay for
| something that they should be paying for
| themselves!

Yeah, no doubt there -- what happened to "honor thy father and mother"? My folks are on the brink of being old people, and when they get there, I see it as my responsibility to provide for them. Not yours.

| (4) Also of major importance is any sort of
| income tax. It wasn't until the progressive era
| in the early 20th century that the US
| Constitution was amended [16th Amendment,
| if I recall correctly] to give Congress the power
| to tax incomes. I oppose income taxation not
| on the basis of the punitive rates at which we
| are taxed, but on the sheer principle of the
| matter. A good chunk of my middle-class salary
| is taken and redistributed to businesses,
| individuals, and various other things, which
| things I may or may not agree with. And, this
| collectivist notion is taken as an assumed fact
| of reality today --- to question it is to invite
| comparisons to radical individualism. We are
| forced to open up a private side of our lives to
| pay into the collective, and private businesses
| are used in large part to do the State's dirty
| work. Again, I ask just why I have some moral
| obligation to support businesses, Welfare
| Moms, or any other group that is out there.
| The common question I ask for (1)-(4) is this:
| why do I owe you what you claim?
| During my leftist college student days, this
| simple question above, and its lack of a
| coherent answer, is what started my own
| personal drift away from collectivist thinking.

I have mixed thoughts on the income tax. I think that local taxes are fair and necessary for things like roads, police and schools, but I also think that I'd rather pay my 30% and make sure we have people on the wall, so to speak, defending this country and killing those who want to kill us. When I was young, I thought about the fact that I worked all day Monday and Tuesday until
Lunch for Uncle Sam. Now I just work.

Maybe I got jaded.

Thursday, July 21, 2005 7:48:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

P.S. -- you're just mad because you now live in CA, where taxes are blasphemous.

Thursday, July 21, 2005 7:49:00 PM  

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