Tuesday, July 01, 2014
The more I read about Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran's primary
defeat of a strong Tea Party challenger, the less prophetic I feel. First, recall that Thad Cochran engineered his electoral victory by pandering to
voters who want government handouts, or at least depend on them and fear that
they'll suddenly be cut off. I didn't anticipate this, not being as good as I
ought to be at gauging just how low a big government conservative can stoop.
And now we have some interesting ratiocinations, albeit from flawed premises, from leftist commentator Froma Harrop. Regarding the great net cash flow of federal loot realized by the Magnolia State, Harrop asks "where do they think that [money] comes from?" She even notes that "not every item on [the Tea Party's] wish list would be bad for progressive America." Taken out of context, she sounds almost like she is beginning to see the light regarding the government taking money from one person and handing it over to another. But -- no surprise here -- she hasn't. The first clue is her use of the term "progressive America", rather than "progressives" or even "Americans".
Commenting on the same phenomeonon Harrop indirectly does, of conservatives who are happy to take tax money, I noted:
[P]erhaps most relevant to anyone financially dependent on another: What happens when those who are being looted either decide they've had enough, or are themselves ruined? Ayn Rand had something to say about that, too.Harrop's thinking along these lines surprised me a little, though it shouldn't have. She doesn't see ruin in the cards and she doesn't view this problem in terms of the individuals who are being robbed. But she does think of a way, lower federal taxes, to solve the problem of the wrong kind of people getting the goods.
States paying most of the federal taxes would be able to retain more of their wealth. They could redirect some of those savings toward things Washington underfunds, say, commuter rail. They could leave more money in the pockets of their own taxpayers to be spent in their communities.In Harrop's eyes, it isn't individuals who are being robbed, but states. And, in her own particular dictator fantasy, it's the left-leaning blue states who would be better able to call the shots were they the ones, rather than the feds, pocketing the loot. She even thinks of them as having "internal foreign aid" programs for other states. Not being eager for such "largesse", but well aware of the consequences of governments controlling purse strings, I am reminded less of foreign aid and more of dictators deciding to pass loot to political allies and deprive it from political enemies. If the Democrats want to pretend that an orderly tranistion to a free economy is impossible, they have a reason for doing so, and don't think they won't hesitate to suddenly cut people off if they can convince themselves they're doing the right thing. Harrop wants to, and chooses what she sees as a safe target: cotton farmers. (Let me reiterate that I don't think they -- or anyone else -- have a right to a penny of money taken from another by force.)
Importantly, wealthy progressive regions would have control. They could choose to continue helping poor Mississippi schools as a kind of internal foreign aid. But they could also decide not to send millions to multimillionaire cotton farmers.
If Harrop's line of thought is any indication of how voters think in blue states -- and I think it is -- then advocates of individual rights and limited government need to think past mere elections and consider the need for a massive, abolitionist-like campaign of "moral suasion". This includes boning up on why limited government is good. Whether government loot runs out because there is nobody left to rob, or because the people in control of its distribution feel like cutting it off, or because we have decided it's better to be in charge of our own lives is up to us. But that "us" includes voters who may not yet see the dangers of dependence or the propriety of their keeping their own individual money.
Harrop is right to ask where the money comes from, but wrong to treat money as government property, or to pretend that individuals, by virtue of consent, aren't part of the government. Individuals in the blue states should continue Harrop's line of inquiry until they see that Connecticut taking their money and their control over their own lives is just as wrong as the United States doing so. (And if charity is important to them, nothing would stop them from creating their own "internal foreign aid programs", using the money they earned.)
P.S. Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute writes a good blog post on why government theft doesn't bother most people as much as it should.