Monday, June 23, 2014

JQ and Entitlements

Mix Bake Shop
Decaf Americano
Almond Croissant

I should back-up.  I realized after trying to explain the last blog to my mom that I didn't explain things very well last time.  I did ramble the hell on, and made some points, but even I was pretty confused with the flow of thought upon rereading it.  Let me try to be clearer.

The question is, "What are we entitled to?"  The answer depends on the context.  In a state of nature, the answer is, "Bupkis!"  But that is the state of anarchy - of freedom in its purest state.  That's not the democratic answer.  But interpretations of what democracy is differ, so we'll focus on ours in particular.

All men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, chiefly: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Paraphrasing, but these are our guiding principles.  Everything we set down specifically is derived from this premise.  So, then, what logically follows?

The equal protection part seems pretty obvious.  Equal protection, equal participation in this society and the government created by it and for it.  Should have been obvious from the start.  People keep trying so hard to screw this one up, though.  It should also be obvious that it's not enough to have equality in theory, but in real practice, too.  For example, saying that black people have the right to vote but then creating special rules and circumstances designed to keep them from exercising that right - that directly violates the foundational idea of this social contract.

The harder one is that Pursuit of Happiness part.  Interpreting gets a little more fuzzy, but you can still make arguments that tie back to it.  I think that's where we derive our New Deal type social benefits.  These so-called entitlements - social security, medicaid, unemployment insurance, minimum wage - whether or not they are universal Federal policies, are all attempts to compensate for those anarchic forces that prevent equal participation.

("Naa, naa, naa, na-na-na-nah... hey, Jude..."  The music here is so much better than wherever I was during my last blog.  Much better for thinking.  Where was I?)

Financial insecurity undermines any individual's ability to participate in society, and to pursue their happiness in a real, meaningful way.  In theory versus in practice, again.  It can also shorten their life, and certainly impact the quality of the life they do have.  So there's two founding principles that demand some kind of action to provide financial stability for any J.Q. American.  And, no, just "creating more jobs" does not provide financial stability, Mr. or Ms. Politician.  Because, as I have said many times now, labor is an inelastic good, you have to take some measures to ensure that those who sell their labor do not have their goods exploited.

Which brings us around again to how minimum wage should be set.  But I think I might be over-doing it again.  Save it for next time.

Rhetorically, this is about where people scream, "Socialism!" and start thumping their copies of "Atlas Shrugged."  Calm your twits, people.  Extreme imbalances of power (such as monopolies, for instance) are undemocratic because they limit or eliminate equal protection and participation.  That means it's appropriate for the government to intervene in some way to mitigate the disparity.  That doesn't mean the government should step in to eliminate all disparity.  As long as everyone is protected from infringement upon their liberties, and as long as they have a meaningful chance to participate.

I'm not well-read enough to have a nuanced discussion of what socialism really is.  I know enough to say that socialism as Marx and Engels envisioned it has never actually manifested.  The governments that have called themselves socialist have actually been authoritarian or despotic.  Submitting to a single party rule without the ability to dissent or challenge or change the policies governing you does not produce a society that is construed for the greatest good for the society as a whole.  Socialism, if it's about anything, is about about caring for all members of society, not suppressing all members but the few in power in the name social good.

I prefer democracy.  I know I'm biased it's what I grew up with.  I like to think it makes the most sense.  With anarchy, there is free will and only free will, and liberty is not guaranteed.  The strong can act upon their will, but if you are the less fortunate, it can make no difference what your will is, if the mighty can keep you from acting upon it.  Likewise, the collective strength of a united society could be used to care for the members thereof, or it can be used to blunt their liberties.  In either case, your well-being is uncertain.

With democracy, we strive for the middle ground.  Enough security gives us the stability we need to exercise our freedom to achieve our will, though we sacrifice just enough that we do not impede the freedoms of others.

That's the idea anyway.

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