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

11 May 2009

On Fairness Claims that Social Force is Necessary

The principle argument for socialism is that life is not fair and society must try to make it more fair. To do this, society must have a government which forces people to act so that life becomes more fair. Usually, those ways in which life is not spiritually fair are too complicated for anyone to imagine that governments can do much to make life more spiritually fair, so they concentrate on what they consider the material measures of fairness. This is further simplified to become material equality.

It is true that life is not fair. Some have a genetic intelligence factor which is greater than that of others. Some are tall, while some are short. Some are beautiful and some are not. Some are genetically disposed to be too skinny and some to being too fat. Some are born to good parents and some to bad parents. Some are born to wealth and some to poverty. Some are genetically prone to early cancers and heart problems, while some are not. Some are caught up in a plague or some other epidemic, while others escape. Some are ruined or killed by vicious criminals, or by robber barons or migrating tribes, or by the local despot. Some may invest years in a company only to see it strangled by a labor union which takes it over. Life is not fair.

We all know this. There are different ways to respond to this fact of life. The socialist says we should use the force of government to make life more fair. Unfortunately, this does violence to the idea that we should not initiate the use of force against others. The socialist claims that initiating the use of violence against others is justified if some of the imbalances of genetic values and chance in life can be lessened. Of course, when selling this idea, he or she almost always pretends that the desired lessening of unfairness can be achieved at little cost and refuses to address the high cost of creating a society in which a philosopher ruler or a democratic plurality of voters imposes their will by force upon others in their quest for what they think is fairness for everyone. Of course, their idea of everyone is always oversimplified to become some groups of people who will be favored in the adjustments, while others will be disfavored due to some combination of having more of what is being adjusted or having less political power.

Because life is complicated and life is not fair, the effort to adjust it for fairness for all people or more practically, some people, is a never-ending and evolving quest. The sets of people being helped and the sets of people who are forced to help are ever-changing. There is no way to establish the rule of known law or of intelligible law. Today, one must adjust the social consequences of differing intelligence, tomorrow the differing activity levels, the day after the different eating habits, the day after that the different sexualities, the day after that the differing mental healths, the day after that the differing ideas of climate control or stasis, then the income due to investors must be lowered so it is not so great compared to a migrant farm worker's income, and on and on. What measure of well-being is to be adjusted and what group is to be helped at the expense of what other group is an ever-evolving matter of fashion. It is also inherently a brutal game of political power. It is a recipe for chaos.

Frankly, women are more impressed by the argument from fairness for socialism than are men. There are many more women in the Democrat or Socialist Party than there are men. As with women's clothing fashions, what they take to be the fashionable measure of fairness of the day requiring governmental adjustment is constantly changing and it changes with as little rational reason as their clothing fashions change.

Many believe it possible to somehow use social force to rationally adjust the many factors of life to make life more fair for at least the average person or for those who are sub-average. There are many problems with this idea. First, there is no such thing as the average person. Second, it is harmful to anyone to have government designating them as sub-average, or even for that matter as average. The minute some socialist points at you and says life has not been fair to you and you are in such need of their help as to justify their using force to rob someone else of something you need to give it to you, you should be very indignant. Even it they try to disguise the robbery of someone else so you can receive the stolen goods by claiming those goods are yours by right, you should see this as a medical gown exposing your rear side. This is a flimsy costume designed only to fool the most simple-minded. You may look at me and think I am average, but I do not think I am average. Indeed, no one should think they are average. We should all be thinking of how we are going to make the most of whatever it is that we have that gives us our best chance to achieve our values. Most people really do have some things that they are truly good at. If they can identify those things or in some cases even just have the dedication to the idea of having some such traits, they can often translate that into an enhanced ability to achieve their values and to become happy.

Because life is complicated and the forces of politics are not capable of reconciling themselves with complexity, the government will always fumble about and create some new unfairness even as it attempts to reduce some perceived unfairness. Fairness cannot be achieve in the politicians' culture of sound bites. Government cannot recognize individuals as such. It can only recognize fairly large groups or occasionally the small group with much political power. Government is always a bull in a china shop. It is always a fire in a hay barn. All the dreams of rationally managing government with a wide agenda and scope have proven that this cannot be done. Government cannot even get good and affordable toothpaste to the right people at the right time. How often does this need to be proven before socialists will acknowledge its truth? If it cannot deliver toothpaste, how can it deliver more complicated values such as equal substantial wealth, equal quality education, equal security against criminals, equal quality housing, and equally interesting work? Governments have tried to deliver all of these goods or services on an equal and "fair" basis, but have never succeeded in doing so.

It is highly irrational not to learn from history. History has many lessons about what governments can and cannot do. History is not devoid of governments which tried to produce equality among its people for some brief part of the history of this nation or that. But, that history was always short and always followed by an orgy of force against the people that made them most miserable. Oftentimes, the carrot of equality was only held out so those claiming to offer it could acquire power and then yank the carrot away and replace it with the whip or the gun to the head.

Can it not be argued that it is unfair for government to use more force against one person than another? If equality were a value which every person should be committed to pursuing, then surely we should be as adamant that there be equality in the actions that government takes in its dealings with each of us. If government takes a bauble from me, should it not also give me a bauble of equal value? If it does not, it is violating the principle of equality. This, by the fairness principle, should mean that we are all in a zero-sum game with government, so what is the point of playing this game? Especially given that it is a game involving deadly force. If I object that the bauble taken from me was worth more to me than the bauble given me, the government will require that I shut up and live with it, or else. But of course, I know that equality is not really a principle of broad applicability, so there is no intention that the actions of government will be fair to each and every individual. Yet, does this not show the unsuitability of even trying to make equality a goal of government action? It is not an achievable goal by its very nature.

Wisely, the American Founders and the Framers of the Constitution recognized that government was force and a crude instrument for managing society. They saw that it had always been necessary, but also a huge danger in its own right. The government powerful enough to give you what you want, was seen as powerful enough to take all that you want away from you. Historically, governments very commonly did just this. So, government was not to give us all we want and it was also not to be made strong enough to pretend to be pursuing equality for all of us except for our equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution made no pretense of giving us equal happiness. It only said government should not block our efforts to personally achieve our happiness. This formula proved incredibly successful. Individuals could truly manage their own lives, identify their own values, and act to acquire the values they had identified. Man prospered as never before and man became happier, healthier, and more secure than ever before in history.

As men pursued their happiness, they were aware that some among them had been dealt unfair hands by chance. These same Americans who had no governmentally imposed requirement to be charitable or to rob one another so some could receive the stolen goods and services to be elevated to a more "equal" status in some sense, became the most charitable people on earth. They still are today. We are not unaware that bad hands are dealt some people at some point in their lives, or even for their entire life. We help, but we do this on the moral basis of voluntary action, not on the immoral basis of forced action.

Socialist government does not like competition. When government becomes the agency of charity, if it can be called charity when it is carried out by theft by organized gangs of thugs, it acts to squelch competition. This is exactly what Obama tried to do when the charitable deductions of wealthy people were to be given lower levels of deductability than were those of people with less income.

There is nothing more unfair than to have the value you have poured the hours of your life into achieving taken from you by force. If you were a farmer in the Dark Ages and a gang of cutthroats poured over the hill on horses, armed with steel swords, covered with body armor and possessing shields, and carried away your wife, your child, your only pig, all the loaves of bread your wife had baked, and trampled your wheat field, you understood that the most important thing you could ask of others was that they not use force in dealing with you. If you were strong enough to oppose that gang of cutthroats you would surely do so. Now, multiply that gang of cutthroats by a hundred or a thousand and arm them with machine guns, scoped rifles, tanks, and helicopters and have them take 44% of whatever you have invested the many hours of your working life into making and you have the unfairness of today in America. They still swoop down on you, the individual, in massive force and demand what you have produced by your own effort and take what they want. You do not know when they will come and you do not know what they will steal from you tomorrow. You know only that you are their slave, at least 44% of the working hours of your life.

We no longer have the rule of law, we have instead the rule of the momentary fashion, as Obama showed by forcing banks to keep money they do not want, by forcing the GM CEO to give up his position, and by giving the assets of Chrysler not to the lawful highest priority investors, but to the labor union. This is a system which has pretended to be justified by seeking fairness for the average guy and the downtrodden, but makes its livelihood by preying on the rich and setting up the average guy with the carrot to be yanked away and replaced by the whip. The average guy will soon become aware of the huge indebtedness that he will have to help pay off with higher taxes and/or by suffering at the hands of inflation as we did in the 1970s. Of course many of Obama's followers do not remember the 1970s or know any history. Some of those who do are too power-hungry to be detered by such knowledge. Some wish to see equal poverty for everyone, no matter if this means that everyone will be made worse off in terms of their options to manage their own lives and their health, security, and prosperity. Others are drawn in with simple-minded ideas of fairness. Together, there could be no more effective a crew of cutthroats swooping over the hill and descending like locusts striping the land of all value in the act of ultimate unfairness, the act of taking what they want by force from those who produced it by pouring their own lives into the effort.

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