Another Open Letter to an Aggressive E-Mail Correspondent

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Dinner Table Economics, Hubris and humility, Other People's Money

Dear Mr. or Ms. WorkingAmerican:

In your e-mail – inspired by my account of my grandfather – you speculate that my late grandparents and parents would be “ashamed” of me were they still alive to see me (as you put it) “apologize for multinational corporations, the mega rich and other economic vermin.”  Unable to “fathom” how I “join ranks with the sworn enemies of poor and working Americans,” you speculate that I am “paid well” to be a “mouthpiece for the exploiters.”

In fact, because (as I gather you’re aware) my parents both died only very recently, I can report confidently that neither of them were ashamed of me.  Quite the opposite.  Save for my support of open immigration and my disgust at most of the ways the U.S. military has been used in recent decades, my public writings enjoyed the strong approval of both of my parents.

A true story: when my father was laid off from his shipyard job in the mid-1970s, a neighbor who came to my parents’ house for coffee one evening encouraged my mother to apply for Food Stamps.  I’ll never forget the look on mom’s face and her response.

Her face alternated between expressions of disbelief (that anyone would suggest such a thing to her) and anger (that anyone would suppose that she would stoop to living off of the dole).  “Jenny!” mom said firmly, “I don’t care how bad things get, I’m not about to apply for Food Stamps.  I’d be ashamed to use those things.”

And ashamed she (and my father, and my grandparents) would indeed have been.  It was shame sparked not from reading Milton Friedman or listening to Rush Limbaugh (neither of which they ever did); it came from the values that were instilled in them since childhood.

The world needs more people, like my parents and grandparents, who are ashamed to live off of government welfare.

So in fact, Mr. or Ms. WorkingAmerican, the values that you find so disagreeable in my writings are not values different from those of my parents; they are the very same values that guided mom and dad and that they passed on to their four children.  My parents would be ashamed of me if I were instead (to again use your word) a “mouthpiece” for all of those who encourage individuals’ dependency upon the state.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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