Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

02 November 2004

The Politics of Benevolence

Why do many well-meaning people think that it is a cruel world in which government does not lend a helping hand to others as a constant and primary function? Primarily this conviction arises from a combination of two premises. The first is that the world is inherently cruel and will bash and batter the most rational and purposeful individual sometime in their life until they cannot possibly recover on their own. The second is that many individuals are not sufficiently well-endowed with intelligence and character that they can achieve the success in life that we, the elite, have achieved.

The first premise is essentially that the cards in life are stacked against everyone. People who believe this are pessimists and there are some such people. But, those individuals who are very pessimistic are generally in no position to help others much. They, like everyone else, will be knocked down by the many trials of life. Those with some optimism in their outlook rise again to face the constant challenge of life. The real pessimist will likely refuse to get up one day after being knocked down. But pessimism comes in degrees and some people have little enough to get up most of the time and may feel they need to help others afflicted by this view worse than they are. If this is one's worldview, the issue is too all-encompassing to be addressed here today.

Most of the people who want to deliver alms to the needy by using the force of government do so because they have a low opinion of the ability and character of many of their fellow humans. A disproportionate fraction of these people seem to hold this opinion in strong correlation with their own wealth, income, and education. If you are college-educated, then you are more likely to support Kerry, while if you are high-school educated, you are more likely to support Bush. The wealthy suburbs of most of the large cities of the northeast and West coasts are strong Kerry neighborhoods. The less well-off small towns and rural areas support Bush. Every four years for the last several Presidential elections, the Democratic Party convention had much wealthier delegates than did the Republican convention. Yet, the Democratic Party is eager and willing to vote higher taxes upon those with greater incomes. Why? Because the party leadership with its wealth and higher education has a low opinion of most other Americans and yet they believe in the mantra of equality.

Now, this has some very interesting consequences. First, they look at the African-Americans and the Hispanic-Americans and convince themselves that they need their help on a broad group basis. Apparently, they judge them to be incompetent and unable to compete on an equal basis. Now, if they thought this was just because these groups may be hurt by often living in areas with bad schools, then one would expect them to address that issue with all the tools available. These would include a welcome to school voucher programs and a demand for more rigorous teachers and courses. The most they ever seek is more money to be pumped into schools which are often well-funded already, but badly managed. Fundamental reforms of public schools are opposed vigorously. In conversations with many elite, liberal Democrats, I have learned that the reason they want programs to offer special assistance to the African-Americans and the Hispanic-Americans is because they believe that these groups are inferior in intelligence and character. For public consumption, they claim instead that this is because these groups are still suffering from victimization. Some of the elite believe this propaganda themselves, but many do not. If I were of one of these groups, I would be furious at the insult whether with respect to being inferior or being unable to rise above victimhood.

What are the practical consequences of being treated as though one is in need of special government assistance by virtue of being from a group classed as either inferior or mired in long-term victimhood? The consequences to one's ability to develop a self-reliant and self-confident character are very erosive. Every time one fails, as most of us do from time to time, one has a ready-made excuse to blame the failure on others. But, the way to success is to think about how one erred and fix it and try again. Or maybe it was just bad timing and one simply needs to try again at the right moment. An example of the latter might be starting a travel business just weeks before 9/11. In any case, one has to believe in one's own ability and the resilience of one's character, and that these make a big difference.

Americans graduated from the public schools are not in general the best educated people in the world. Most Americans are not very knowledgeable about how to lead productive lives when they finish their formal educations. What we excel at is in becoming competent with our on-the-job training. Because of that, by the time we are in our 30s, we are the most competent people in the world. This happens because we teach ourselves and we have colleagues who teach us. It happens because we have confidence that we can do it. We do not allow a fair share of this confidence to those minority groups we curse with Affirmative Action for the wanting. When they achieve a goal, neither we nor they are entirely sure that they achieved it by virtue of their effort or by virtue of a lowering of the bar. This is a terrible way to undercut the effort of whole groups of Americans. Many very capable African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans of my acquaintance really resent this doubt and more and more are hoping that the Affirmative Action programs will go away. They are sure they can compete as equals. Everyone else should be willing to give them this opportunity.

Another problem is that the higher taxes the Democratic Party elite want are generally leveled on higher incomes, but still start in the middle-income brackets. They hide this fact by trying to define the middle-class income upper end much lower than it really is. Then they say the middle class is getting smaller, when what has really happened is that more people are simply making more income than they have defined as appropriate to the middle class. This might be taken to mean that they want a poor middle class! These punitive tax rate schemes have the effect of making it harder for those who are not rich to become rich. The rich often do not mind this at all. We see a graphic illustration of this in their refusal to allow inexpensive housing to be built in their neighborhoods, to require 3-acre lots for homes built in huge areas of some counties, to require large green areas, backing for urban renewal elimination of inexpensive housing, and refusal to allow trash incinerators, gas stations, and any commercial businesses near them. On the other hand, disproportionate numbers of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans want to achieve a comfortable status. More and more of them are starting to realize that the Democratic programs of high taxes will stand in their way. The property-holder concept of President Bush does make sense for them and everyone else, provided one believes that they and most other people can manage their own lives and their own investments wisely. The doors to wealth will really be much more open with further income tax reductions, less punitive restrictions on investment money for small businesses, and the development of personally-held retirement investments as a part of the solution to the Social Security crisis.

Curiously enough, the logic of the Democratic Party elite should mean that they will want to transfer considerable wealth from themselves to the generally less well-off high-school educated Republicans. More and more, Hispanic- and African-American individuals should see that the route to better education and the acquisition of real, personal wealth is through the policy of self-management fostered more by the Republican Party. The remaining Democratic Party elitists will be committed to yielding power to the Republicans and being unable to make the government make them transfer their money to the Republican beneficiaries. How ironic! The Republican Party will be truly benevolent to these elitists by allowing them to keep what they have earned.

Unfortunately, while it is clear that a still small, but larger portion of the African- and Hispanic-American population is coming to understand where their interests really lie, there may not yet be enough of them who understand to return President Bush to office today. What a horrible tragedy that will be. The elitists may win another victory, but their days are numbered! Their house of cards cannot stand. George Bush may be a bit ahead of his time and he may not have been an adequately eloquent spokesman, but he is wise enough to see much further into the future than he is given credit for doing. Vastly wiser than his unworthy opponent, Senator Kerry.

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