Sunday, April 10, 2005

Taking Liberty: or Redistributing It

Interesting article. Granted definitely saw the golden pieces in this rather disturbing article. I think Galston is spot on with regards to a political strategy for the left. Though I have to say I completely disagree with his notion that they can convince voters to participate in the socialistic utopia that he proposes in the final section. Would all that he speaks to be wonderful to have? Yes, no doubt, but reality must have some say here. The bottom line though is how to pay for it. Maybe I'm mistaken, but the whole gist of the discussion smacks of wealth redistribution.

His statement on Bush having tunnel vision on the topic of providing democracy is the best defense, I honestly think is completely blind. I think he has a problem here with this statement.

Whatever one thinks of the war in Iraq, it is sobering to reflect on its opportunity costs—on the quantity of loose nuclear materials we could have secured around the world and the number of facilities we could have hardened at home with the hundreds of billions of dollars we are spilling in the sands of Mesopotamia.

The thought that spilling money on the sand in Iraq is a waste of time when we could be hardening facilities in the US and securing nuclear material elsewhere is interesting. The problem is that castling doesn't work. You can't build a wall to keep people out, especially in a free society, where people will always find ways to create a breach. If you take the lessons of the modern military, you'll understand why castles aren't used anymore, and why bunkering fails for the same reason.

The better tactic is to seek ways to limit the enemy, not necessarily by killing him, but by giving him a hope and freedom. I'm a full believer that self-interest will always out weigh fanaticism, at least in the macroscopic sense. Yes we could have secured a lot of nuclear materials with the money, but the fanatics would have just found a different weapon. Give them no reason to carry a weapon, and they won't seek one.

I also disagree with his statements of Social Security reform. I don't agree that the proposed changes are outside of a realistic resolution of the problem. Though his statement, about the undeniable appeal of the private accounts, is right on. This has definitely been proven out by the polls on the topics, though the schism in the age groups is understandable. I at least hope that the democrats will work on the reform, irrelevant of the solution.

I do like the whole discussion on economics and freedom. The quote from Freidman; "“no set of rules can prevail unless most participants most of the time conform to them without external sanctions." always strikes me as the rule that would allow an anarchistic society to work if you replace "most" with "all." I just hope that people overall understand just how difficult this ideal is in a culturally diverse country. The US appears to do a better job with its "salad bowl" approach to blending of society. Unlike most European countries, where the various ethnic groups are not only allowed, but encouraged to remain distinctly different, the US by its very nature forces a blending of these groups and forms more stability. Economics in this case being the big spoons keeping the whole mess blended together.

I especially like his statement:

But if we have learned anything since the collapse of the liberal hegemony in the 1960s, it is that the appeal to freedom trumps the appeal to fairness.

His discussion on not reframing the debate is excellent. I just wish that politicians, of all ilks, could learn that. I won't hold my breath though.

I also find I disagree with this statement, not because it's untrue, but because it is short sited.

Instead of dodging the issue, an effective center-left strategy should begin with a critique of the fundamental conservative conception of freedom because that conception is fatally flawed. Experience gives us no reason to conclude that government is the only, or always the gravest, threat to freedom; clerical institutions and concentrations of unchecked economic power have often vied for that dubious honor. Nor has the ideological synthesis of markets and civil society abolished the very real problem at issue between libertarians and traditionalists: The unchecked market regularly produces social outcomes at odds with the moral conditions of a free society.

Ok, I lean very libertarian on most things. The reason I think this is short sighted is because governments, as most organizations, build self-interest into there systems because of the individuals working within them. Governments don't get smaller. Don't try and tell me the government got smaller under Clinton, it didn't. Reducing the size of the military wasn't limiting the size, or control, of the government. And as we all have clearly seen, republicans don't do a damn thing to reduce government either. This isn't a direct threat to freedom mind you, but it produces a system that by its very nature will curtail freedoms. Especially economic freedoms, since these behemoths only can sustain themselves and grow by stripping more money from the citizen. I would also argue that unchecked markets are definitely self-correcting. The problem comes in that those corrections are too often devastating when they occur. Especially when you have individuals in power, who benefit when they succeed, but are not sanctioned when they fail or deceive. In this sense I do see government providing some benefit, though I have trepidations as to how you can initialize a system that can easily run amok.

His discussion about the results of unchecked markets producing social outcomes coming at odds with the moral conditions of a free society, strikes me as defining things as black and white in a very gray world. Markets move to satisfy desire. If the outcome is undesirable, the market will move away from it. The problem is that what is desirable to whom? Just because the extreme right and left don't like FPS games from a moral standpoint, doesn't mean that the markets will move away from them. This is where that old personal responsibility thing kicks in. You don't like it, well, don't use it. But don't even think of limiting my access to it. And with the size of the market out there, I can see no way to find any absolute stand on any product. Where do you draw a line on restricting what someone desires? There is a simple answer, when those desired products cause a direct threat to the freedoms of society in general. Now there is a gray answer, which leads again back to that personal responsibility thing.

Then there is this line of utter BS.

It is often observed, rightly, that Social Security has virtually eliminated poverty among the elderly.

WTF? Does he honestly believe this? Maybe he has missed the problems of the elderly with affordable housing, prescription drugs, and heating in the colder climates. And, does he think that social security is the cause, or is it more likely that individuals now save and invest to provide themselves with a stable retirement. Social security came in a time when people didn't have the savings and investment potential that the gained in later years. Even my grandfather who was born pre-WWI did his own saving and never drew social security. How did social security help him stay out of poverty? He was a farmer and far from a rich man. I guess I'll get off the Social Security discussion. It pretty much crushes his credibility with me.

The article, for me, went into a death spiral when he started talking about freedoms as if they were rights. This is where I think his arguments come to a crashing end. The arguments about the freedom from fear and want sound surprisingly socialistic and begin to smack of the notion of redistribution of wealth. He doesn't state it that way, but the arguments he uses could be inferred to justify such a notion. I also find the discussions on socialized medicine to have fallen off the edge of reality. I certainly don't want a Canadian medical system. Even if it costs me less. No discussion of tort reform is mentioned though in the topic. I see that as something that should have been mentioned.

I think his last section leaps off a precipice into the extreme liberal fantasy. The discussion points could only win votes from the present moderate "purple" voters if they can explain how to fund all of these "freedoms" without crippling the individual with extreme tax increases.

1 comment:

Granted said...

You're on the money on this. The additional stuff in the article did raise my hackles. He basically did what he warned against. Redefined freedom to mean what he needs it to in order to justify increasing taxes to pay for the exact same programs that the dems wanted before they "understood freedom". I still thought the first two-thirds of the article were pretty outstanding. He just somehow made a logical leap from a firm foundation and landed in quick sand.