October 7, 2009

Quote for the Day Year

Filed under: Church,Philosophy — Bob Gifford @ 11:41 am

A Sully quote for the day. Given the name of this blog, I have to pass it along:

“Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith,” – Thomas Merton.

October 2, 2009

The Flaws in the Tea Party Conservative Ideology

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:34 pm

The libertarian wing of the conservative movement has two intellectual problems, it seems to me.

The first is their canard that taxes is the moral equivalent of stealing. US economic growth, i.e. our income, is to a large extent thanks to government. The low cost of raising equity capital? Government (SEC). Low friction commerce within the US? Government (enforcement of regulations means we don’t have to worry that we’re being lied to or sold worthless drugs, lead paint, tainted milk, infected meat, etc etc). The fact that we aren’t all left penniless because our banks failed? Government (Fed, Treasury, FDIC). Like the low cost of pretty much any commodity? Government (FTC preventing monopolies and price-fixing). Like being able to buy cheap plastic stuff from China? Government (trade deals). So much of our personal wealth and standard of living in the US is directly due to government.

Disagree? Let’s look at countries that don’t have such government mechanisms. Mexico, Russia, Turkey, where graft and bribes are required to get anything done. China, where the drive for profitability of party members’ companies leads to tainted milk. Every single one of the prosperous countries in the world have effective government regulation of commerce. Every one. And every country that does not is stuck in poverty.

But anti-government anti-tax conservatives don’t want to pay for what they’re getting. They’re selfish that way. They insist that what the rest of us consider “paying your own way” is “theft”. The government (i.e. the people) say that if you are going to receive all of these benefits, you’re going to pay for them whether you like it or not. And rightly so. To do otherwise would make all of us worse off. Think Darfur, where as I understand their marginal tax rates are rather low and regulatory burdens fairly light.

Problem #2: libertarian conservatives live in an either/or world, as though there are only two choices: pure libertarianism, or pure communism. Put differently, we either exalt the individual and ignore the community, or exalt the community and ignore the individual.

But it’s not an either/or proposition. We must find a balance between individualism and communalism (not communism). France, say, has found a balance that is too far towards communalism for me. Among developed nations, the US is the furthest towards individualism. I believe we should nudge it a bit towards communalism in some things, but not many and not very far. The world is analog, not binary, and I just want to turn the dial a tad to the left.

That doesn’t make me a communist, and doesn’t mean I don’t care about individual freedoms. I care very much. I care about civil liberties that many on the right are happy to sacrifice to communalism: privacy, protection from unlawful search and seizure, freedom of speech (flag burning, say), and many more. So the anti-government libertarians too are somewhere in between pure libertarianism and communism. We’re just at different points on the spectrum.

The libertarian conservatives view the left as godless, as if our political beliefs are unchristian. So is my view compatible with Christianity? Oh my yes. I want a community where people aren’t ruined financially because they get cancer, or where they die from cancer needlessly. Where, while we treasure individual liberties, we also balance them against a communal desire to care for the least of these. And we do these things together, as a people deciding these things democratically, under the rule of law. As a people realizing that we can do some things together that none of us can do alone. As a people understanding that, while we are all individuals, we all suffer or benefit from the well-being of the entire community.

The Tea Party right, however, seems to want a world in which they benefit from the vibrant and thriving society all around them, but don’t have to pay for it. Now that’s not Christian.

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