Saturday, May 7, 2016

How Can One Guy Get So Worked Up Over A Measly Little Letter To The Editor?

Well, some three weeks ago a short letter of mine was published in The Denver Post Sunday Perspective section, and it was like dozens of people went ape shit - as diagnosed from their comments in the e-edition of it. I'm not going to recite all the assorted blather which typically followed the usual conservative or libertarian lines we've all come to know.

No, my attention is not to harp on any e-reply but instead to critique an actual snail mail letter received merely three days ago (clearly delayed because the mail was withheld until our return from Bim).  What kind of a person, indeed, actually takes the time to search out your address then actually write to you? ( Actually the letter itself was addressed to the Editor of the Post but clearly never published, perhaps explaining why this fervent character "Lou Schroeder"  wanted to be sure I saw it. Good bet,  because I mostly dismissed and never read the online replies.)

Anyway, the letter of interest is shown below and readers can judge for themselves if the reaction is appropriate::

Of interest here is that Schroeder not only disagrees with my letter "vehemently" and "completely" - fair enough, but also "violently".  That simply doesn't ring up in terms of full mental stability and a grasp of the issues. After all, I did not propose a takeover of all health plans by the government, or the nationalization of all health insurance companies. I simply voiced the view that health care is a right under the ninth amendment - specifically as an unenumerated right.  This POV is also strengthened when one factors in (unlike Schroeder) the general welfare clause in the Preamble to the Constitution.

To remind those who may have forgotten that clause:

"We the PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….”

This passage has been a source of incessant squabbling over every issue from states’ rights, to the degree of control vis-à-vis the individual vs. the collective or common good. Much of this, I believe, is unnecessary and merely discloses an inability of current citizens to think or even conceive of the community or the commons. So brainwashed have we become by the screeds of either ‘rugged individualism’ or Social Darwinism.

Let’s begin by quickly dispatching some of the more common canards, often circulated by the Right's darlings, like the Tea Baggers. One is that the clause refers only to military defense, or that "no positive social rights inhere in the Constitution". (All rights are ipso facto, "negative",  expressing what gov't may not do).This conveniently excludes any basis for social spending, but is erroneous on inspection.

The reason is that the phrase – “provide for the common defense” is separate from that to “promote the general welfare.” Hence, the two have no commonality in terms of language, unless one supposes the writer was deliberately redundant.

Another common error is to invoke the ‘fallacy of division’ in this case, disputing that “promotion of the general welfare” refers to anything other than the United States as the entity whose ‘welfare’ is being considered. This again is falsified on inspection. Note that the Preamble begins:

We the PEOPLE…”

Not “The United States”. In fact, the United States is itself an artifact of the people’s will and their creation, as elucidated say in 'The Federalist Papers', by James Madison, i.e. comparing the federal system to the solar system.. The Constitution, composed by the “people”, engendered the United States as a new national entity. In the context, therefore, the United States as this manufactured entity and abstraction cannot of itself possess a “general welfare”. Only PEOPLE (citizens) can possess or aspire to a general welfare. Not people as disparate individuals, but as a collective or commonality aspiring (in common cause) toward a good.

This is a point that totally escapes Mr. Schroeder, though again, this could be because he isn't as familiar with the logical basis of the Constitution as he believes.
Schroeder in his last paragraph also blathers about "a citizen's right to another citizen's property or labor" invoking the libertarian canard that taxes amount to use of force or "theft". Which is total bullshit. Much of this libbie codswallop likely got revved up with Charles Murray's tract What it means to be a Libertarian (p. 6):

“It is wrong for me to use force against you, because it violates your right to control of your person....I may have the purest motive in the world. I may even have the best idea in the world. But even these give me no right to make you do something just because I think it's a good idea. This truth translates into the first libertarian principle of governance: In a free society individuals may not initiate the use of force against any other individual or group

This is also where the pet libertarian canard“taxes = theft’ originates. But look at it objectively, this is arrant twaddle and illogical to boot. Further, it takes no note of actual political and social reality which may make these perceptions even more egregious.

I mean “libertarian principle of governance”?  This is an oxymoron! Governance presumes and demands the non-passive act of governing, which means the projection of force for enforcement of laws.  (The opposite of which is NOT "freedom" but anarchy). Someone is invariably and actively setting standards of expected action, and also providing the means to uphold the standards. In other words, force inevitably backs up governance. Why do you think cities maintain police forces, and the nation a large volunteer standing army - along with assorted weapons to control crowds?  It is to sustain coherent and FORCE-ful governance. The libertarians, then, espouse a philosophy which cannot possibly work in the real world - because that world implicitly recognizes and declares government the primary agent of force, i.e. to enforce laws. Look around for a "force-less" government, i.e. which retains adherence and respect for its laws with no use of force. I defy you to name one!

If governments aren't enabled to enforce their laws , what’s the point? It’s all an exercise in mental masturbation. People can do whatever the hell they want!  Set up sex store emporiums or pot shops next to schools, or sell cocaine  and semi-automatic weapons in open stalls on the sidewalks of major cities!  Freedom thereby becomes perverted into a veritable "free for ALL". In other words, unless governance declares limits to actions - and someone (coercively) enforces governance, a functional society becomes  impossible. Now, maybe there IS a docile libertarian principle of “governing suggestion”- but this in no way is the same as “governance”! I also warrant such "suggestion" will always remain that and never be adopted.

If Schroeder is so "violently" opposed to my letter then truly his only response must be to refuse to pay taxes. (In the same way I would argue is justified to avoid my having to pay for wars of choice which I do not approve).  The fact he does not refuse to pay taxes (which he knows must also be going to support Medicare, Social Security) discloses he doesn't disagree with my points as violently as he proclaims.  None of which detracts or diminishes my central thesis that health care is a right, especially as the U.S. itself was a signatory to a 1994 UN Declaration that health care is a right - which it cannot be if one can be bankrupted by accessing it.

Perhaps the best takedown of Libertarian thinking and arguments was provided by Prof. Ernest Partridge  in his 2012 article, ‘Liberals and Libertarians’:

Now consider the implications of this denial of the "independent existence" of "the public" and "society." If there is no "public," then there are no "public goods" and there is no "public interest." If there is no "society," then there is no "social harm," or "social injustice" or "social (and public) responsibility." It then follows that government has no role in mitigating "social injustice" or promoting "the public interest," since these terms are fundamentally meaningless. Poverty and racial discrimination, for example, are individual problems requiring individual solutions”.

 Schroeder (and compatriots) might wish to ponder those points before "violently" disagreeing again. They could also acknowledge they are the ones "misled, misguided, and uninformed" - mostly by rightist propaganda.

No comments: