But Who is Supposed to Pay for it?

One hears this a lot: Universal health care:  “But who is supposed to pay for it, and why should other people have to blah blah blah.”  Welfare.  Unemployment insurance.  Public education.  “But who is supposed to pay for it, and why should other people have to blah blah blah.”

Okay, I need to get the snide answer out of the way first:  Anyone who asks that question is probably someone who should be paying for it.

There.  I feel better.  Now, let’s get serious.

The inspiration for this post was when Cory Doctorow tweeted a link to this.  Please take a moment to look it over.

My problem, as always, isn’t with the original post–such filth is part of our lives and will be as long as private property defines human relationships.  No, my problem is with the replies.  One thing that is common to them all is an attitude that goes like, “I can justify having this nice thing, even though I’m on welfare, because of…”  And, yeah, all of the justifications are perfectly reasonable, and some of them are tremendously moving.

But why the fuck does it need justifying?   To justify having something nice, decent, useful, means you’ve accepted the fundamental argument:  It is perfectly okay for some people to be rich while others are poor, and the rich must have somehow earned it, and the poor somehow deserve it, and that’s just how the world is.  To accept that argument is to accept the morality handed to us by those who keep their privileged position by exploiting the rest of us.  It makes exactly as much sense as the slave-holder explaining to the slave how wrong violence is.

Let us be clear: Wealth means an accumulation of commodities (generally in the form of money).  Commodities are produced socially.  No individual–particularly the speculating banker, but even the semi-mythical Man-With-A-Vision-Whose-Hard-Work-Turned-His-Vision-Into-A-Fortune-500-Company–ever created wealth.  Wealth is a social phenomenon, and the creation of wealth happens by people working together.  And this, by the way, ignores the whole question of infrastructure:  Your “personal genius” is able to make money because his employees are able to get to work on roads built at public expense, and use basic skills learned at schools run at public expense, and avoid cholera because of water kept pure at public expense, &c &c &c.  Skip all that.  It isn’t the point.

The point is, we, human beings, society, got together and made everything.  Those with vision enough to see how things can be better are important and deserve praise, because they make vital contributions to making things better.  This does not mean they deserve the lion’s share of the wealth created by the rest of us.

One result of an economic system based on private property is that the system will take some number of individuals it can’t use and discard them.  These people do not need to justify having nice things–we need to demand of those who have appropriated our wealth how they justify denying things to these people.  The poor did not create the system that discarded them.

And, for fuck’s sake, when the Working Class gathers its strength and fights for and wins things like social security, unemployment insurance, better public education, public cultural institutions like libraries and museums, and, yes, welfare, do not try to act as if these are gifts of a magnanimous government that is too generous.  The Working Class fought for those things, and paid in blood.

So, reactionaries like the OP above can take their “But Who is Supposed to Pay for it” morality and shove it up their individual asses.  We have earned it all.  We deserve it all.  And someday–I believe sooner rather than later–we will have it all.

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68 thoughts on “But Who is Supposed to Pay for it?”

  1. Lovely post, and very moving. Something that shouldn’t be forgotten about poverty is that, past all the scraping to survive, if you can’t enjoy something out of life, what’s the point? Hopelessness is a terrible curse.

  2. LOL, skzb. Yup, agree completely. I’ve run into people who are just a**holes trying to justify stealing from others while not paying taxes. I’ve run into people who truly earned their wealth (and didn’t forget their employees). And I’ve run into lots of people who are scraping by who are looking for some justification for not paying taxes. I feel sorry, in a way, for the latter who are clueless that they are being used.

    The media acts as a tool of the wealthy to try to keep the average person under control and to not seek more money. I wonder what happened to the idea that the fortunate should treat others fairly and that they have a responsibility to pay back something to society? Even the Republicans believed this at one time.

  3. Anybody non-hypocrite who asks “who will be paying for it” obviously is against any and all insurance. (But health care isn’t really insurance). Insurance is about others paying for your disasters. Do they want the public to pay for epidemic prevention (which saves them and theirs?).

    But it isn’t about logic. It’s about the wrong people getting which only the (en)Titled used to have.

  4. If you want anything at all from the state, you should have policies that increased the taxpayer base. Which means the middle class (unless you believe the 2% will pay).

  5. @Howard – wrt entitlement: as far as I can see, people have a, call it, tribal instinct that makes them want to be on top. Civilization is about channeling this instinct into useful channels. When it stops getting channeled in a useful way….

  6. Speaking as someone who has taken advantage of the social “safety net” and the public university system, I say, good on you, sir.

  7. Falco > Tribal instinct. Yeah, they used to call that human nature. Yet millions of people lived with a tribal instinct like the Xsosa, whose fundamental social concept is said to be “I am because we are,” or the Zulu warriors who are said to greet each other by asking “How are the children?” (I’m not an anthropologist; maybe these stories are not 100% factua) The point is, there are many cultures based on equality and sharing, or were until capitalism and Christianity collaborated to recreate “human nature” as original sin, a nature that is competitive and back-biting and always wanting to scramble to the top.

    I think it is possible to reorganize society in a better way, though not without struggle and resistance. If the annual pay of just one CEO could stabilize Social Security funding, we know that we have the ability to feed, shelter and provide health care and education for every person in the world. iPads might not be the entitlement of choice, but there is no need any longer for people to accept that they must be deprived of luxury and access to culture just so a few individuals can continue to amass wealth at obscene levels.

    What Anne said. Because hopefulness.

  8. “Lion’s share” is a good metaphor here. The lion got his share by selfishness and violence. Lions don’t have economic safety nets. They also don’t have oral or written transmission of culture and information, or the ability to ask what-if questions and so plan for the future. Humans aren’t lions, and act like them only at the risk of their humanity.

    Human society is a reverse Ponzi scheme: we constantly create more wealth and knowledge than previous generations, and pass that on to subsequent generations. Preventing the wide distribution of that wealth and knowledge impedes one of the fundamental characteristics of human beings (and I suspect intelligent beings in general).

  9. Beat me to it, Roger. That very intriguing article came immediately to mind. A somewhat more popular idea in a country with a falling birthrate, of course. But imposing the consequences of poverty on helpless women and children is the damnedest way of trying to encourage population control ever, um, conceived! Wealth and fairness notions take such interesting shapes in honor culture. Grotesqueries.

  10. I do get very cross when people talk about the NHS as if it were a gift from the powers that be; it wasn’t.

    Instead, people who fought a world war came home and fought a different kind of war to establish it, along with the whole structure of benefits for those who needed help…

  11. We’ll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps
    In honor of the great good luck that favors you.
    We know that when good fortune favors two such men,
    It stands to reason we deserve it, too!

  12. Incidentally, I usually deal with the “Who’s Going to Pay for It” wail by referring people tto the Italian City-states from the 13th century onwards…

  13. I wish I could live in this nice, fair world along with the rest of you. There is just one thing wrong with it, till we can change “human nature” back into “tribal instinct” (good luck with that) there is no way a nice, fair world can exist. Everyone (all of you too, unless you live in a commune or give all of your earnings away) wants a little bit of their OWN. How can you tell someone “I’m sorry but you can’t make any more this year because everyone else in your profession has already matched you.”
    You speak about the wealthy, but any other financial system than capitalism ends up being unfair to EVERYONE. They stomp on creativity, personal ambition, and a drive to be all we can make ourselves.
    There should always be help for those who really need it (I know I have an adult son with Autism) but the rest of us, those who can MUST provide for ourselves, even if someone else gets more. You can’t pay a doctor the same thing you pay a kid who flips burgers, that wouldn’t be fair. Instead of changing our economy WE need to change our mind set.
    WE need to be raising our children with charitable hearts, not greedy ones. WE need to participate in community projects that benefit those in true need.
    WE the people of the United States of America should take care of our own. NOT OUR GOVERNMENT. Charity begins in individual hearts. It should be given with individual hands.

  14. Susanne: Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. You speak as one who wants to reform society. Historically, those who want to reform society have seen that society as permanent. So far, no society has proven to be permanent. I think we can do better. I think we have to do better. I think a scientific understanding of society is the basis for doing better. I think throwing away the morality of those who do not want to do better is a good place from which to begin the fight for this understanding.

  15. I am uncomfortable with your positions on many subjects, Mr. Brust.

    This isn’t one of them.

    (The preceding comment was occasioned by Tobold mentioning the other day that few people post “I agree” so there is a tendency for replies to blog posts to be negative, so, I agree.)

  16. Susanne: I would also like to live in that nice, fair world. Perhaps the first step on the road to that world is admitting that we should strive to change the status quo.

    You speak of changing the human nature as if it were something impossibly hard. Yet, I can see the society has evolved over the time. Why should we suddenly decide that this evolution has reached its pinnacle and no improvement is possible?

    I also fail to find a self-evident truth in your claim that any financial system other than capitalism ends up being unfair to everyone. Your argument about giving the same salary to a doctor and to a kid who flips burgers presents a false dichotomy: you imply that the only alternative to avoiding extreme inequalities we witness in our current financial system is a financial system that forces everyone to receive the exact same compensation as everyone else.

    I do agree with you that “we the people” (of whichever country in the world) should take care of our own. I don’t agree that the government should not be an instrument of that care. I ask you this: if our elected government is not doing our will by caring for our own, is our so-called democracy truly serving its purpose?

  17. Vajislav: And, to continue, there is the assumption that the only reasonable difference between how society addresses a doctor and someone who flips burgers needs to be financial. And for that matter, I have trouble imagining a truly rational society in which someone flips burgers for a living.

  18. But everybody knows that from the beginning of time, God had the values *I* kind of have. Certainly not the values my grandparents had. And tragically, not the values my grandchildren have.

  19. Susanne, do you really believe there’s a single human nature? I believe there are many, and they are formed in accord or against many very different human cultures.

  20. My question is not “who” is gonna pay for it, but “how” we gonna pay for it? There are lots of social needs out there…some justified, some not.
    I think everybody in Amarica should have medical coverage. I think it should be paid for by a sales tax – that way, EVERYBODY pays something for a service everybody needs/uses. You by a loaf of bread, you pay a medical tax – you by a $100,000 car, you pay a medical tax. If we taxed EVERY transaction, the tax could possibly be as low as 1% (The Brittish are taxed 1% for their health care).
    I’ve said enough for now.
    from: A Simple Man

  21. My point is not that the portion of the tribal instinct that seeks status always wins out, but that it needs a useful outlet, or it’ll come up in some ugly, antisocial fashion. I think successful societies do this and that the current culture worships money, which, I submit, is not a healthy outlet. Of course, I also think that there is an arc to any civilization and that this one is on the downward side, with increased focus on security forces and tighter energy supply as evidence. So I might be a bit cynical about it all.

    @skzb – Although I’ve never actually flipped burgers for a living, I actually enjoyed a number of things about making pizza for a living. If the people who were attracted to management positions in food service didn’t tend to be such jerks and I could have actually made a living, I might have kept at it.

  22. Excellent post.
    Getting people to grasp that the wealth they have accumulated depends largely upon the work of society as a whole. Roads, clothes, food, etc. We swim in pools of comfort resting on the work of everyone who has gone before and continues to go on around us. After all of that is factored in, there is then the alignment of random factors. “Oh, you didn’t happen to get a devastating disease, get hit by a truck, … That’s nice for you, but not really a reason you deserve wealth.”

  23. “These people do not need to justify having nice things–we need to demand of those who have appropriated our wealth how they justify denying things to these people. The poor did not create the system that discarded them.”

    The ‘we all worked together to create this society’ concept ignores the fact that each has been compensated as per their level of contribution, if the amount of compensation wasn’t enough for you, then find a way to ‘contribute’ more and you will be rewarded. There may be charity given to those who cannot contribute, but that doesn’t mean the same should be done to those who can, thus the justification is simple ‘you have the ability to earn nice things and choose not to, it is in fact you who denies yourself, not I’

    “do not try to act as if these are gifts of a magnanimous government that is too generous”

    It’s not, it’s gifts from those who the government takes from, the government IS too generous because it’s not even earning it’s own wealth to gift upon you, others are.

  24. “The ‘we all worked together to create this society’ concept ignores the fact that each has been compensated as per their level of contribution, if the amount of compensation wasn’t enough for you, then find a way to ‘contribute’ more and you will be rewarded. ”

    Yeah, always loved this one. “You get what you earn, and the proof is, that’s what you got for doing it.” Brilliant logic. But if we were actually compensated as per our level of contribution, I know a lot of investment bankers who’d be on welfare, and a lot of school teachers who’d be living in mansions around Lake Minnatonka.

    So it goes on to the next step: “You had your choice of doing that work for that wage or not.” Invariably said by the same sorts of swine who tell others, “You could have a job if your standards weren’t so high.”

    It all falls under the general category of accepting the morality of the oppressors. We need to reject the sorts of thinking reflected in the above comment if we’re going to have a chance of creating a rational society.

  25. @skzb – if humans were rational I don’t think we’d be having this discussion, which leads me to wonder if a Rational Society isn’t just as much of a dodge as You Get What You Deserve. Both fail to address what we do with the greedy bastiches who refuse to be rational.
    Quick edit: Furthermore, I submit that most of us will act like greedy bastiches given the opportunity.

  26. Falco- but again, that presumes that a wealth based system of reward is the only one possible. Cultural blindness. Rewards for contribution to society can and have taken many forms with us humans. How about prestige divorced from material wealth?

    People have shown again and again that they are willing to go to great lengths just to “earn” a little praise and respect. In many cultures, that is the only thing they can expect, but contrary to Rand’s fantasies, that never caused all the go-getters to sit on their hands and refuse to play.

    It is a system of reward that can function perfectly well in an industrial society. Sweden and Norway are functioning capitalist societies with high taxation, generous governments, and respectable GDPs. The Internet is full of glory hogs willing to fix all your tech problems for a little ego-boost.

    So, can we be greedy bastiches and still share the wealth? I submit we can, as long as we shift the target of our greed to prestige.

  27. If the poor didn’t have plasma TVs and fridges, if they didn’t have bread and circuses. they would be at the doors of the rich with torches and pitchforks. Rich man, be glad of those sedating color TVs, they help keep you in power.

  28. Societies operate mostly by consensus. It’s too much work to follow people around and make sure they do the right thing, at least you can’t do a whole lot of that. In lots of US societies the consensus is breaking down. The old ways will probably fail, and that provides opportunity for new societies with new consensuses.

    Currently, libertarians have the biggest and most vocal alternative. But most of what they agree on is that they shouldn’t coerce each other. No viable society does a whole lot of coercing any more, beyond what the coerced have learned to accept, and if they try to make libertarian societies they will quickly find they need to coerce small disruptive minorities, and they will find ways to justify it. How they behave won’t be a whole lot like what they say they’ll do.

    There are others. Catholics. Mormons. Moonies. Fiawol. SCA. To me it looks like slim pickings.

    A group of people could consciously agree on goals for their society, and consciously attempt to make it workable. They would reinforce each other for doing the things they think are right. The better they did at that, the more other people would want to join them.

    I don’t know what ideas such a group would share, but here are a few candidates:

    “Hard work is good for you. It builds your strength and other capabilities. But nobody should expect you to do work that is dangerous or that tears you down.”

    “Luxuries are things your friends make you to remind you how friendly they are. If they’re particularly good for people, we should look for ways to make their benefits the norm that most people get.”

    “We should help anybody who needs help. But in the nature of things we won’t have a whole lot of contact with outsiders who need help; we won’t find them faster than we can absorb them.”

    Free market ideas are particularly well designed for an absence of society. You can’t depend on getting enough to survive, so you must jealously guard your right to keep what you have obtained. People who have a functioning society that gives them lots of opportunities to contribute and also takes care of them, might not be so scared.

    If you don’t like people holding desperately to those “rights”, create a society where they feel safe.

  29. @lars – That’s along the lines I’m talking about. Although I’d like to see less reverence for greedy bastiches in general, whether they’re being greedy about material or immaterial status symbols.

  30. Steve: “But why the fuck does it need justifying? To justify having something nice, decent, useful, means you’ve accepted the fundamental argument…”

    Yes, yes, yes, yessity YES!!!! And one of the insidious ploys of the privileged is to make the non-privileged feel like it’s THEIR FAULT!

    ‘Scuse me – I have to go spit the tacks out of my mouth now…

  31. Steven, you have beautifully expressed exactly what I have made many family members and friends understand about what I believe. Thanks. The old 19th century argument that the rich were rich because they were inherently more virtuous has come back and been disproved and come back again: it’s kind of the Count Dracula of arguments. It keeps coming back from the dead, and it is entirely fictional.

    I don’t even bother any more. When I hear about how the rich need more because they benefit the country by creating jobs, I always ask “How do the Swiss bank accounts fit in?” As for the “rich people are more virtuous and productive” BS I just say “Explain Paris Hilton.”

  32. I love the way “entitlement” is now seen as a bad word. Back when the entitled had titles (such as lord, earl, king), it was right and proper and blessed by God for them to be able to get away with stuff the people couldn’t get away with.

    There are psychology experiments that show that people believe they deserve whatever benefits we get. Even such things as playing with different monopoly game rules as our opponents that we just meant.

  33. Thanks for this reminder. The fallout of the “I-worked-harder-therefore-I’m-richer” mentality is unchecked racism, disenfranchisement, net loss economy, and eventually tyranny. USA has made it all the way to social tyranny, and now awaits revolution or third world status. All goods and moneys are a result of social exploitation of natural resources. Every dollar held by wealthy persons is made on the back of laboring persons and nature. Therefore, all power and wealth that is not used to benefit the masses is theft and exploitation. Every dollar.

  34. Also interesting that you chose healthcare as an example. Because in addition to everything you have said, the U.S. by choosing not to “pay for it” has the most expensive healthcare in the world,with quality rated as mediocre at best even for people who manage to get. Canada by no means has the best healthcare in the world. It is only slightly better than our if you go by results. But Canada spends as much per person total for health care as we do just on the government portion – cause they make sure private insurance is an add-on rather than the way core medical care is paid for. One exception. Canadian dentistry is mostly not provided for by Canadian medicare. (There are a few exceptions.) And Canadian dentistry is expensive and not particularly high quality. In short, private insurance and direct payment are terrible ways to pay for health care – not only morally but in terms of efficiency. Social provision of healthcare (or at least social provision of health insurance) works better – even in capitalist societies..

  35. Because health care is paid for by insurance companies and health care and insurance overlap, we often get the idea that they are the same thing. But mostly health care “insurance” is just a different way of paying for it – like leasing a car. Insurance is designed to have a group pay for extraordinary expenses. So there is a difference in paying a monthly fee for common ailments and checkups – and in having insurance to pay for big medical expenses.

    Dental insurance is mostly the former, and rarely the latter. We *can* find ways to pay for most any dental need ourselves without paying for “insurance” ahead of time.

  36. I have nineteen teeth because pulling teeth is the solution the US offers its poor. It makes me notice class comments about teeth. I’ve been lucky; I still have all my front teeth, so I can still pass for middle class (in the vague US sense).

  37. What Will said. Our society is extremely judgmental about dental care (and I was/am no exception). Only overweight is more harshly judged.

  38. Dental insurance is rarely insurance – it is just a different way of paying for dental care. Someone who can afford to pay for dental insurance can afford to pay for most dental care.

    If the state took over health care (as opposed to making us buy insurance/health care), certainly teeth should be covered.

    I wish state run health care would replace private insurance. And anybody using the magic word “socialism” against it should be ready to question whether they believe the government should allow epidemics to threaten them and theirs. (I doubt it – but isn’t the state moving against epidemics also “socialism”?)

  39. Our society (all societies???) is/are extremely judgmental against anything that is associated with the under classes. Which is why it punishes crack more than the cocaine that the upper class uses.

    Back when poor people were skinny, fat was attractive.

  40. The importance of dentistry to heal is often underestimated. An abscessed tooth can be fatal. There is some evidence that people who keep more of there teeth are at lower risk for Alzheimers. (No causative theory though. So we don’t know if the correlation is direct or a result of a third factor, like poverty. Also, if the correlation is direct, we don’t know the direction of causality.)

    And Howard a very good point. Another bit of data that reinforces you point: the way suntans were once considered ugly, then a sign of beauty.

  41. Dental problems can be just as calamitous as other medical problems. Right now we’re paying off more than $10,000 (yes, 4 zeroes) in dental bills for my wife. This was not from neglect or lack of care, but from the long-term effects of acid reflux. We’re on Medicare, but that doesn’t cover any of it, so we’re spending money we saved for retirement. Good thing we were able to save that money; too bad we won’t have it should we live into our 80s (and we’re both likely to; both our mothers are alive & reasonably healthy in their late 80s).

  42. I did say that dental care is only *mostly* a way to pay for care – but it has an insurance aspect as well, only it’s not as large as other medical care. A typical stay in ICU is more than an order of magnitude more expensive than your calamity.

    Since insurance companies sell medical care with some characteristics of insurance, it is called insurance. But I’d like to see the insurance companies out of it, instead of writing the laws for the Big Business friendly US politicians (And they call Obama an ultra-socialist?!?!?!). But Big Insurance and Big Pharmacy make Big money and invest some of the spoils by buying politicians.

  43. Thanks for the post, and for the thoughtful inversion of the “why do all the welfare recipients have cell phones?” complaint. Loud applause for tearing down the ‘self-made-man’ myth, which usually presupposes family resources, free public education, transportation, enough food to eat, etc, etc.

  44. Here is a quick rebuttal. The excesses and disparities in this country are not caused by Capitalism. We don’t have a capitalist economy, and haven’t for over 100 years. What we have is corporate fascism that has destroyed anything resembling liberty or equality in America. Communism is no better and always leads to the same end as we are facing now: Totalitarian police state. Here is short version of Socialism.

    Bill lives in small community of four neighbors. All four have small equal sized farms and make enough to feed their families and a little more to trade for other things that they need. One day Bills’ neighbor Fred comes and tells him that their neighbor Tim is having a difficult time and needs help. Bill says ok and agrees to give help to Tim. Then Bill and Fred decide to go ask Dave next door to help too. When they tell Dave, he say no. He says that Tim is lazy and he sees him all the time in town at the bar drinking and never at home working. Bill and Fred don’t listen him. They both pull guns and force Dave to give up a portion of what he has to give to Tim. This is social at its easiest and basest form. It is theft by thuggery by any definition. No better than what we have now. Who gives Bill and Fred the right to decide what Dave should give to anyone? The worst is, communist/socialist believers don’t have the integrity or balls to use the guns themselves. Then at least, it is honest robbery. They always pay uniformed thugs to to appropriate the money for them. Make no mistake, I think charity to others is a great thing and not to be disparaged. But, when forced at the point of a gun it is robbery plain and simple. Point your yourselves at the real problem in this country, The Federal Reserve and Crony corporate owned Government. A true free capitalist system is the only one that allows real liberty and freedom. All else is coercion. In the end all people who love true freedom will fight to death against any other form of government.

    We do need a new system, but not socialism or communism. There is no future in systems with no incentive. People will never strive to do better just so the guy next to them can have the fruits of their labor. Hard work and innovation have to be rewarded or they die.

  45. @ SKZB No Individual ever created wealth? How about the guy who went into the Arizona desert mountains in the late 1800’s worked for decades by himself and came out with a fortune in gold? He suffered privation and spent back breaking years of labor and solitude. You think you deserve part of what he found? He didn’t, and I say he’s right. No one knows where that find is located even today. You want a part of it, go find it and dig it up yourself. All the tools he had can be found at local hardware store for less than one months welfare check. I’ll provide the donkey for free as part of my Social contribution.

    Before anyone cries foul, I spent over half of my life far below the poverty line and spent more 12 to 18 hour days working, studying and busting my a$$ to get to where I am than anyone I know. I never took help from .gov so if you want what I bled and sweat for, come take it. Molon Labe

  46. Ken Archer:

    Regarding “Haven’t had capitalism in 100 years” see: #12 in the following link:


    Regarding your example, see #8

    Regarding your comment about wealth, if the guy made the gold, then, perhaps, he created wealth, but I don’t think he did. If he is responsible for creating the society that defines gold as wealth, then also you could make that argument. Finally, you MIGHT make an argument that he created wealth on his own if he did the mining with a pick and shovel that he made out of wood and metal he cut down and mined and shaped and forged, while eating food he grew without anyone’s help; failing this, the wealth was, indeed, created socially.

    And really, you’re going to get into “deserve?” Does he “deserve” part of the wealth? Sure. I have no objection to him getting part of the wealth. When he invests that wealth and opens a bank that engages in massive speculation that ends in hundreds of thousands of people out of homes, and the closing of factories where tens of thousands are employed, did they deserve that treatment? When, in order to protect his wealth, he uses his power and influence to start a war in which civilians are slaughtered by the thousands, did they deserve that? When, in order to add to his wealth, he uses his power to get society to cut back on social services that protect those thrown out of work by his speculation, did they deserve that? Don’t play the “deserve” game with me; you can’t win.

  47. Sorry but #12 doesn’t describe what happens in this country anymore. The crony fascism pervading the global economy is scientifically as far from capitalism as a pig is from a frog. You pretend to precision in your writings, you should really study what you are writing about before defining things erroneously. Capitalism has been dying since the Federal reserve came into being in 1913. The power of the .01% at the top controlling everything is the problem. Your solution is no better in that you would force everyone into a doomed experiment. You give the state absolute power to control everything in the name of the greater good. who gets to say what that greater good is. Every minority group has its own definition of that in every society. In the end it always comes back to a few psychopaths gaining power and destroying the system from within. As Susanne pointed out farther up human nature always rears its ugly head. Power always corrupts. I have never met one person who is altruistic day in and day out.
    As to deserve, if someone doesn’t want to work and lives only off the .gov teat because they can do they deserve my sympathy? Sorry dude, if you are able to work go do something. I know millions are out of work because our .gov has F**ked the whole thing up, but that is a whole other subject from the basic socialist theory of robbing Dave to pay for Tim.
    America has the government it deserves. We the people have let this monstrosity grow into a leviathan due to laziness and ignorance. We let them co-opt our political process, our schools and recently the entire internet. We could have stood up and fought them in the streets and hashed out our future afterward. But we haven’t and it is unlikely we will and as long as the EBT cards keep working. America is too stupid, too cowardly and just plain too lazy to affect the changes needed. To be fair, the powers that be know that boiling frog slowly is far better than dropping him into boiling water. I just don’t think enough people in America or the world are aware that the bubbles have formed on the bottom of our pot. In all of history, revolutions have been typically been fought by just 5 to 10 percent of the population. The rest just wait around to see who wins. Laziness and cowardice are one place where the human race seems to excel. Maybe that’s why socialism is so popular.

  48. Ken –

    Anyone that claims, “I never took help from .gov” is deluding themselves. That person is saying they never used a city street, an interstate highway, attended a public school, used a public library, read scientific papers funded by government grants or bought a single piece of merchandise that was only made possible by government research. Yeah, right. There are a thousand and one ways that people benefit from government that they either don’t realize or are unwilling to admit.

    As for your prospector: what gave him the right to take *anything* from the land? Doesn’t land belong to all of us? If not, who decided it was alright for him to take the gold? How did he manage to keep the gold without the first person that wanted it taking it from him? Did he expect the police or courts to protect him? Why didn’t the native population just kill him so they could keep the gold. Where were the natives, for that matter?

  49. Ken-

    “The crony fascism pervading the global economy is scientifically as far from capitalism as a pig is from a frog.”

    So you and Steven really have common cause. Both of you are against the criminals who run the current system.

    Why not work together to dismantle this travesty, and then look at what we should replace it with?

  50. JT – I would *not* say it’s far from it – it’s the logical consequence. When greed/profit is the motivating philosophy, how else could it turn out?

  51. There are variations on how greed can turn out. Partly this is because different people benefit by different things. One of the problems we have is people who want profit or votes or whatever – maximized for the short run at the expense of the long run. And we give power to people who have different wants and goals than we have. Stock holders ceding power to crony CEOs is no more capitalism than Stalinism is communism.

    Allowing politicians (or for that matter, CEOs), to make their mistakes Top Secret from their bosses past tactical needs means we no longer are their bosses.

    A Science Fiction solution may be an extrapolation of these groups dedicated to outing these secrets.

  52. “When greed/profit is the motivating philosophy, how else could it turn out?”

    Kevin, economics is not just a morality play, and there is lots of room for unexpected consequences.

    I recently started to review _Conceptual Blockbusting_ by James Adams, an old classic. He suggested that people have three main ways to solve problems. Sometimes they see things as pictures, maybe 3D moving pictures. Sometimes they manage to use math. Sometimes they think things out verbally, letting the english language think for them. The third way has a tendency not to work well.

    That aside, I agree that ideologies which say people should follow their short-run interest and not consider the bigger picture lead to trouble. That’s a cop-out whether it’s military men who just follow orders, bureaucrats who just follow procedure, or managers who just try to maximise profit.

  53. Thank you! Particularly for the new perspective around how “private property defines human relationships” esp. as I’ve recently been watching Treme and reflecting on the American Caste System.

  54. Pardon the late response. Terrific (oh wait, am I annoying Mr. Brust by using the evolved meaning of the word terrific?). I just found this blog because I love the books, and I’m pleasantly shocked to see the political sentiments here. Amazing.

  55. i’m sorry this conversation has wound down, i found it extremely thought provoking, and very well expressed. It succinctly expressed my feelings in a way i want to be able to express myself . . . this conversation recently took wing from a facebook post i was following that included a rather snide picture that proclaimed the following a truth – “if you can afford beer, drugs, cigarettes, manicures and tattoos – you don’t need food stamps or welfare”. it’s ugly in it’s absoluteness & ignorance.

  56. You’re right, that is revolting. But, I dunno, there’s nothing much more to say about it, is there? And people who are that backward cannot be reasoned with in any case.

  57. There are some people who can be convinced by numbers (showing the cost/benefits of a choice). But for the vast majority, values override reality.

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