Sunday, July 27, 2008

Success is always a two-edged sword: on the impossibility of avoiding the government in a Statist society

I'm truly thankful that readership here has gone way up, even if it brings out the complete ideologues.

You can visit my recent post on state-run health care and view the comments, which pretty much indicate that for allowing my adopted, disabled daughter and her son (scandalously born out of wedlock to a 20-year-old; yes, I know it happens, but to admit it--what could I be thinking?) to go on Medicaid, and then to write about how poorly the government administers the system, is ... well, it's just awful.

So for drew and josh and anybody else out there who's thinking similar holier-than-thou thoughts, cut the crap.

Let's dance.

We have arrived at a point in a Statist society wherein it is virtually impossible to avoid receiving benefits or subsidies from the State whether you want to or not. That is the problem.

You say you sent your children to private school? Great, but did you know that 99.9% of all private schools line up at the trough to accept their portion of the Title I funds for "non-public schools." They don't have to; they choose to do so. Moreover, in most States (like Delaware) the State (my taxes) subsidizes the school nurse in your private school. Or better yet, private school parents have been a powerful lobby in this State to keep the government from extending the legal lives of public school buses (Delaware has one of the shortest allowable lives for such buses in the nation) so that they can buy perfectly good buses at State surplus for their own children to use.

Oh, but you home-school your children, don't you? Of course most home-schoolers demand (and have even sued to get the "right") to have their children added to gym classes, sports teams, extracurricular activities, etc. etc. Independent, my ass.

Besides, most home-school parents want their kids to go to college. Tell me, please, that you don't accept the in-State tuition rate if your child goes to school near home. Otherwise you are accepting a government subsidy, because it doesn't cost my university one penny less to educate an in-state student--it's just that the General Assembly transfers tax dollars to compensate, so that everybody who doesn't go to college in-state helps pay for those who do.

You go to church and brag about the separation of church and state? And yet your church took full advantage of the tax code, didn't it? Probably even got preferential treatment on its mortgage by trading on its non-profit status, using--once again--government subsidies.

Send your children to day care? Do you make sure to seek out non-State licensed day care so you can avoid doing business with people who have accepted a government near-monopoly on their services?

Beginning to get the picture? This is not a progressive/liberal rant on why government should be providing these services or subsidies. I would like to see them pushed out of the way and replaced by better functioning market-based alternatives.

But at this point the government interference and intervention in our lives has become so pervasive that you can only minimize it--you can't get away from it.

And the people--especially radical libertarians--who claim they are somehow doing so are, for the most part, simply deluding themselves.

Dismantling this system of government-mesh is a long-term problem, and will start--if it is to be effective--in two ways:

1) We actually organize to elect people to office who will work to achieve some Libertarian goals--incrementally. I tend to believe than American imperialist foreign policy and government-mandated discrimination against certain American citizens are my first priorities, followed by drastically reducing the tax burden on American citizens. But, hey, you can have your own priorities.

2) We have to encourage people to begin to question the (a) the efficiency with which government provides the services it claims to provide, and (b) to reduce as much as possible in our lives the dependence on those services. Key phrase there: as much as possible. In my daughter's case she has been removed from a State facility that was keeping her institutionalized to the tune of $75,000/year. We have paid for all her additional educational needs. We have paid for vocational training. We have paid for day care. We have refused thousands of dollars of direct State subsidies to which the government said we were entitled, because we didn't want them to be able to tell us how to raise her.

Doing so has required, among other things, foregoing a number of luxuries and taking extra jobs. We did not dump her on the system when she became 21.

As for Medicaid: if the Statist government allowed inter-State competition in health insurance that was not tied to employment, the free market would have provided me an alternative that would have allowed me to bundle her insurance with mine at a rate we could afford. But it doesn't. Nor has the State allowed for changing license rules to allow nurse practitioners or physician's assistants to set up low-cost cash alternative services (Wal-Mart clinics). in fact, my State has moved to protect the insurance industry/pharmacy lobby monopoly on controlling drug prices by moving against internet pharmacies.

So a rational human being does the best he or she can, and works for change while trying to survive.

And gets shit from ideologues like you for trying to do so.

If you were to make a cost/analysis on the number of State and Federal tax-payer funded subsidies we have turned down in raising our daughter, you would discover that the number comes in the high six figures over just the past ten years.

How many of those subsidies have you turned down?

Libertarianism will never succeed in making any changes until we realize that it took us decades to reach a culture of government dependency, a culture so pervasive that most Libertarians don't even realize the extent to which they are relying on government largess. It will also take us years and decades to change this, because you don't change a culture back over night, especially when the corporations and bureaucrats who are profiting from the existing system are willing to throw in millions of dollars to secure the status quo.

You, sniping at a blog post and feeling self-righteously like you've done your bit in "calling out" someone else, are not part of the solution.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the student what that makes you part of.


Josh83 said...

I am not part of the solution, but neither are you.

I, however, do not pretend to be part of the solution. I do not know what the solution is.

Neither do you.

I can state, however, that your arguments, as presented, are flawed, and notably so. They are full of red herrings and petty personal attacks. Time to drag out those old logic books and have another crack, don’t you think? Aren’t you supposed to be an academic?

The issue here is not one of public assistance. I could care less about public assistance, and I suspect most persons could care less about public assistance. I fully endorse the safety net, as most reasonable persons do.

Further, your public-funding of education discussion has no relevance here, any more than does public funding of The National Gallery Of Art or NASA or The National Transportation Safety Board. Every person in this country has been subsidized in one way or another, in some manner, to some degree, and I am no different than anyone else in this regard and I have not claimed to be.

The issue here, raised by you and addressed by me, was the unseemliness of someone howling at the moon over a state aid program and its bureaucratic inefficiencies—and aren’t bureaucracies, by their very nature, inefficient?—in a case in which, had the person doing the howling done his job in the first place, the need for state aid would never have arisen. As things stand, your own shortcomings have now been passed down to two additional generations of your family, and the government is being called upon to lend assistance. Don’t you think the government is entitled to administer some controls so as to insure that its funds are not being abused? Your daughter and grandson are getting the aid. Why are you yelping?

This is a matter about which you would have been far better off keeping your mouth shut.

So, to answer the final question you posed to me: No, I am not part of this problem. But you certainly are.

Steven H. Newton said...

Josh, if your reading comprehension skills were any worse, you'd be dangerous.

Thankfully, you're only a cranky ideologue who has now reversed his own argument several times.

But feel free to visit and comment whenever. Pretty much everybody likes comic relief.

FYI I don't think I have ever called anyone on this blog a "fucking idiot" before, and I have been called names by the best of them. You, however, earned that epithet by taking an unwarranted cheap shot at my daughter in your very first comment.

Good day, sir. I can assume that since I am part of the problem, I won't be troubled with your presence again.

Steven H. Newton said...

And for everyone else, lest anybody think that my original post drew the ire of two different Libertarian ideologues who happened to agree that I was nuts--josh and drew publish a blog together, live together, and blog about the kind of life and privilege that few of us could dream of affording. So when I stung josh with my original comment, it was drew who rushed in to his defense. Click on either of their names to check out their blogs.

However, I will give josh that he has done some excellent posts on the beauty and history of German churches.

Such is the nature of trolling here and everywhere.

Josh83 said...

Every time I demolish your arguments, you claim to make an exit, only to return later.

Perhaps you will take advantage of your current absence by checking the definition of "ideologue" as well as brushing up on your Strunk and White.

You have a commendable command of swear words, but you are more than a little shaky when it comes to the meanings of words of abstract content, and you are not skilled in expressing your thoughts in writing.

My reading comprehension skills, alas, were only good enough to get me admitted into Harvard Law.

Tragically, I lacked the necessary qualifications to be admitted at Dover. Consequently, I did not even bother to apply.

Josh83 said...

Andrew and I are not Libertarians!

Drew80 said...

Ours, indeed, have been lives of privilege and luxury.

My father was born and raised on a farm near Pella, Iowa. His family was dirt-poor. He worked like a dog to put himself through Yale and the University Of Chicago Law School, and he has worked like a dog his entire adult life to provide for his family.

My two brothers and I inherited his strong work ethic, and we have worked like dogs through school and we have worked like dogs throughout our young professional lives in emulation of our father.

Joshua’s father was born and raised on a farm near El Reno, Oklahoma. His family, too, was dirt-poor. Josh’s father worked like a dog to put himself through Southern Methodist University and the University Of Chicago Law School, and he has worked like a dog his entire adult life to provide for his family.

Joshua and his younger brother and younger sister inherited their father’s strong work ethic, and they have worked like dogs through school in emulation of their father.

Other than that, of course, life for us has been nothing but truffles and bon bons . . .

Now, Steven Newton, if you are going to post foolish things on your blog, as you are wont to do, you cannot be surprised that people challenge you.

If you dislike argument—a field in which you are not skilled, I must point out—you should disable your comment feature.

Steven H. Newton said...


I sense some hurt feelings.

"Andrew and I are not Libertarians."

No kidding. That's pretty obvious.

I'm sorry Harvard has dropped its standards.

Hope you find a good caterer for the next little family affair with mumsy and dadsy.

If you of the Strunk and White on the brain fellows would go back and look, you'd find that for all your verbiage and outrage (funny, how it's ok for you to make assumptions about my family and my daughter, but just awful when I do so), you'd note that you have never actually dealt with or refuted any argument I made.

All you have done is assert you have done so.

Again, the decline in standards at Howard Law must be terrible.

Face it, boys, you have no idea what you're talking about, no idea about the issues I'm discussing, and you're just upset because somebody didn't defer to your snarky little troll comments.

You wouldn't know how to engage in a battle of wits without having PG Wodehouse there to consult.

But you're welcome to keep trying; it helps pass the time and entertains everybody else.

Or you can run back to the People's Republic of Minnesota, and talk archly about "public assistance" as you sniff in disdain at people actually discussing real issues instead of medieval German churches.

Your choice, trolls.

Drew80 said...

I thought you had taken your ball away and exited the playground, like any child, as you had stated—twice.

Welcome back, for the third time.

You are so funny.

Today is my father’s birthday, and you are giving him the great gift of mirth on his birthday, while the rest of us prepare his birthday cake and special birthday dinner. He is enjoying you very much, and we thank you on his behalf. Josh and I thank you on our own behalves as well.

Oddly enough, exactly one year ago, some damn fool from Canada presented my father with a similar birthday gift, claiming quite insistently that Arnold Schoenberg’s musical composition, Verklarte Nacht (1899), had been inspired by the events of Kristallnacht (1938). My father cannot decide whether this year’s gift or last year’s gift was the dumber offering. I think he is prepared to call the contest a tie.

If you add my age and Josh’s age, we do not even equal your age, and yet you cannot begin to match us.

Please read your posts and comments again carefully. You are a man of frightening lack of intellect. I grieve for your students.

At 11:14 a.m., you called us “Libertarian Ideologues”, and yet two hours and twenty minutes later you could not even remember your earlier statement.

There is a substantial difference between Harvard and Howard, but I would not expect you to know the difference between the two or be capable even of keeping the two institutions straight from paragraph to paragraph.

Your questions have been answered, more than once, and we cannot help you further if you are too obtuse to follow a simple text, analyze that text, draw rational conclusions, and stay roughly on topic. Your powers of analysis and response are limited to name-calling.

Class envy is not pretty, is it? I thought from the very beginning that’s what you were all about, and I said as much to Josh very early this morning. Thank you for confirming that my instincts were correct.

It eats away at you that other people have worked hard and made a few bucks, doesn’t it? It makes you constantly ask yourself, “What failings do I have that prevented me from enjoying similar successes?” In your self-examination, you need to ask yourself whether the base emotion of jealousy is the primary cause of your concern, or whether your own inadequacies are the root of your fears.

If you knew how hard our fathers and Josh’s mother have worked in their professions, you would be ashamed of your envy. If you knew how tirelessly my mother worked at various charitable causes, including our church’s medical and educational outpost in Africa, you would be ashamed of your pettiness.

Intellectual envy is not pretty, either, is it? My father says that your intellectual envy is far more insidious—and the much likelier cause of your deep bitterness—than your class envy.

When my immediate family and Josh’s immediate family gather around the table, we have distinguished graduates from Carleton College (my mother), Michigan (Josh’s mother), Yale (my father), S.M.U. (Josh’s father), M.I.T. (my older brother), Iowa State (my middle brother; he is an engineer and Iowa State is noted for its engineering school), Princeton (me), American (Josh) and Cambridge (my British sister-in-law). Around that same table are advanced degrees from Chicago Law (both of our fathers), Kellogg Business School at Northwestern (Josh’s mother), Stanford Business School (my older brother), Colorado State (my middle brother, again attending a school noted for its engineering program), Georgetown Law (me) and Cambridge University Medical School (my sister-in-law). Soon enough, degrees from Harvard Law (Josh) and Vanderbilt (Josh’s sister) will be represented around that same table. Josh’s younger brother, still in high school, thinks he wants to go to the University Of Texas at Austin, but he has a few more months in which to make up his mind. He is in demand as an athlete, recruited by football programs from all over the country.

Not bad, all in all, for families that, with the exception of my mother’s family, have in two generations all worked themselves up from the soil. Not much here to make fun of, is there?

It’s too bad the same cannot be said of you and your family. Perhaps you can convince one of the Delaware caseworkers to join you and your family around the dining table sometime soon to raise the tone of the household.

I regret that you feel trapped in a fifth-rate educational institution—and is it really true, as you wrote one month ago, that you make so little money that you have to survive on red beans and rice?—but no one other than yourself is responsible for how your life has turned out. If a man in his mid-fifties is working at a fifth-rate institution, there is a very logical reason why this is so, and you should be able to figure out that reason on your own.

We would offer, half-heartedly, to organize a benefit on your behalf, but we earnestly believe that there are far worthier recipients of charitable endeavors than you. Instead, if I were you, to improve your station in life I would accept one of the many job offers from all over the world you claimed to have received one month ago (you know, you wrote about those countless global job offers in your classic “red beans and rice” post).

It must be gratifying to be in such high demand! Why in the world are you wasting time in Delaware?

Until then, you have a lot of catching up to do, reading widely and deeply in the fields of philosophy, European history, political science, economics, literature, and English grammar and rhetoric.

Meanwhile, we here in Minneapolis will continue to grieve for your students.

Steven H. Newton said...

Some day I may get around to reading your last little diatribe, but not tonight. It's enough for me that your insecurities require you (while taking a break from leveling those wonderful U-boat prints and folding your sweaters) to actually spend 26 K to explain your superiority to a total stranger whose opinion you protest you don't care about.

Good luck with that.

As for your dad, I expect he's amused that you're spending so much time in mental masturbation.

I know the difference between Harvard and Howard, you twit. You, unfortunately for your upcoming career as a law student, can't recognize an insult when you see one.

I don't bother to keep track of what I've said to you (oops, better get those dish clothes pressed), because you're not worth the attention.

Good night, little troll. Enjoy London; in the fall you will meet, and find yourself forced to compete with people who are actually intellectuals, and who know the difference between an assertion and an argument. I see several marginal grades in your future.

Josh83 said...

I guess I am supposed to answer this since it was directed at me.

Steven, we know who you are, and we know you are a nut, and we know all about your lack of reputation within your field.

One month ago, after your "red beans and rice" post, which was truly priceless, I called a former professor of mine at American University and inquired about all about you.

You are a piece of work, a hack, and everyone in your field knows it. Anyone who reads your blog cannot help but realize this as well.

Let me throw you a friendly tip: your Southern White Trash background is on display at all times, and there is no need for you constantly to go out of your way to reaffirm it to everyone. That particular personal quirk of yours is not helping your career prospects.

Thank you for spending so much time on our blogs, especially on a day in which you claim to be too busy to read our comments on your blog.

My test scores and my undergrad grades suggest I will fly through law school, but I thank you for your kind words of encouragement nonetheless.

If I flunk out, I guess I shall move to Delaware and go on public assistance--or perhaps take YOUR job after you have moved on to one of those many global positions you have been offered.

Steven H. Newton said...

I'm impressed--you've been planning this for a month?

I thought your life was pretty empty (based on the idea of all those U-boat prints), but that's amazing.

Good night, small troll.

Josh83 said...

I've not been planning anything.

However, sometimes when I read utter nonsense I cannot resist pointing it out. It does not happen too often.

I am not exactly small, and neither is Andrew. I am 6'0", and Andrew is 6'1"--and we can play basketball like demons, and drill three-pointers until the cows come home. In fact, with the group of guys with whom we routinely play, Andrew and I have to play on opposing teams because, paired up, it is unfair to the other players.

Our lives are anything but boring, I believe--and Andrew is one of God's angels on earth, the most remarkable person I have ever met. He brings nothing but joy to everyone he meets, a trait he acquired from his mother, herself a most remarkable women.

I do not bring joy to everyone I meet.

Brian Shields said...

Jesus H Christ. What a bunch of self righteous, pompous, self-centered windbags.

What a shame to work "like a dog" to get a better life and end up with a crappy attitude towards those not on the same level.

If my kids, when I have them, ever sound like the two of you I'll disown them, because they would have lost the meaning of the lesson they have accomplished.

To be so into yourself without being introspective is pitiful.

Josh83 said...

Andrew and I are both extremely introspective--too much so, in fact.

How many hours a week do you spend doing charitable work for the less fortunate?

We spend about eight to twelve hours a week on such projects, which do not include our church work.

We rise at 4:30 each weekday morning and at 5:30 on Saturday mornings in order to do so. We have to rise that early because Andrew's job is so demanding, and he must put in long hours. I put in long hours, too, but primarily for the overtime.

Providing assistance for the less fortunate has been ingrained into Andrew since the day he was born.

I enjoy the work, too, but I do not quite see it as the essential duty that Andrew does.

Myself, I would prefer to sleep in once in a while.

Brian Shields said...

You fail to realize that I really don't care.