Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 7, 2011

in Nanny State, Other People's Money

… is from pages 168-169 of H.L. Mencken’s priceless 1956 collection, Minority Report; I recalled it upon reflecting on Pres. Obama’s warning, in a speech a couple of weeks ago to his supporters in San Francisco, that (quoting Mr. Obama) “The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own.  If you get sick, you’re on your own.  If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own.”

Imagine being responsible for yourself.

Anyway, here’s Mencken on FDR:

Roosevelt transformed millions of Americans from citizens into clients.  The direct effect of this was evil, and the indirect effect was even worse, for all these people were robbed of their self-respect.

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{ 126 comments }

Jay DiNitto November 7, 2011 at 8:57 am

“you are on your own. If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own.”

I love the false dilemma of politicians. “Without us, you have nothing!”

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

“Without systemic institutionalized violence, you are on your own.”

Dan H November 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

I’d have more respect for him if he were honest and said “If it weren’t for us stealing money from people on your behalf, how in the world would you survive!”

Invisible Backhand November 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

Hey Dan H, I mentioned you and vidyohs at another blog yesterday:

http://i.imgur.com/J0XVn.png

Blackhand 20019 November 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

Hey Creepy!

“What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”

“The early advocates of the education of Negroes were of three classes: first, masters who desired to increase the economic efficiency of their labor supply; second, sympathetic persons who wished to help the oppressed; and third, zealous missionaries who, believing that the message of divine love came equally to all, taught slaves the English language that they might learn the principles of the Christian religion.

Through the kindness of the FIRST class, slaves had their best chance for mental improvement.”

Sincerely,
Carter Woodson

PhD Historian from Harvard, inspiration for Black History Month, and all around Uppity Negro.

Invisible Backhand November 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

You’re quite active for someone who died in 1950. I’ll just say yours is a minority opinion.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

Yeah, but we also have a dead former president and a dead Russian mobster posting, so anything is possible here.

Ken November 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

And yet they continue to deny that the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us….

Dan H November 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

If you would have tried to attribute that directly to me, I would have sued you for libel and defamation of character.

Tread lightly IB. Last year I threatened a lawsuit to someone who did something similar (who as it turns out was a professor at a University close to me). I dropped it after he removed it, but not before my lawyer gave him a nice letter.

Invisible Backhand November 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Tell me how to attribute it directly to you. Now.

Invisible Backhand November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

Still waiting.

vidyohs November 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Hey stupid troll,

Looks like you finally learned the lesson on where it started. Once all the other socialist inclined deadbeats (I know, redundancy, socialist inclined and deadbeat are the same) of various colors and ethnicities saw what was going on they just had to get in on it, and we wind up with the financial collapse.

Where you go astray, again, is in thinking that Dan H and I blame the blacks. We don’t. We blame the government.

Got that, stupid troll, we blame government.

Invisible Backhand November 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Actually what I found most WTFish is you think that’s even plausible. Those mortgages are the tiny switch that can make the evil masterminds entire fortress explode, like in a James Bond movie? That’s what you get for listening to Rush Limbaugh for years on end, a headfull of implausible racist mush, followed by the backpedal and the playing of the victim card. (Rush does this what, bi-weekly or so?)

You and Dan H can cling to your rationalizations tighter than Ned Beatty clung to his underwear in Deliverance, but it’s not fooling anybody.

FWIW, it’s up to 8 points now and has a comment:

http://i.imgur.com/bPudz.png

vidyohs November 7, 2011 at 9:47 pm

To a person as stupid as you, my little troll, nothing is plausible until government tells you it is.

Fortunately where I hang out, you are known for the broken brain you are.

Government opened the door at the request of the sleazy few and then the immoral rushed right through.

Jay DiNitto November 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

Another translation: “Without the very tiny minority of us politicians, the vast majority of citizens and humanity will not interact voluntarily and peaceably!”

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

The power to govern is achieved from a mandate from the people, not some God-given right. So, in order to maintain that power, politicians need to make the people think they are reliant on the government; that without the government, the people would be helpless. So that’s what they do. Through intimidation (like Nazi Germany), racism (like Stalinist Russia), over-burdening “social programs” (FDR), fiscal fear-mongering (Obama), or just outright politicking (every politician since Hammurabi), they convince the people they’d be dead without them (or slaves). And thus people willingly give up their self-respect and their right to choose all for security.

He who would give up a little liberty for a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Methinks1776 November 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

I do depend on government.

I depend on it to defend the realm, to protect my property rights and to maintain rule of law.

It turns out, the politicians who make up “government” are actually the dependents – dependent parasites and I’m one of their hosts. They depend on me continuing to produce so that they can continue to rob me in order to keep the rest of the country dependent on them.

The world is awash in examples where the parasites have killed (or scared off the host) the host. Guess what happens to those who allow themselves to become dependent on politicians.

Economiser November 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

“The power to govern is achieved from a mandate from the people, not…”

I thought you were going to say “not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

I was going to :-P

Dan H November 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

Well, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

Imagine if I went around claiming I was the Emperor just because some moistened bink lobbed a scimitar at me. They’d put me away!

txslr November 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Not necessarily…

http://tinyurl.com/92mt8

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Ah, I miss Emperor Norton

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

“The power to govern is achieved from a mandate from the people”

It is achieved from acquiescence from enough people.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

Right, but I was going for the Monty Python reference. Which is actually “mandate from the masses,” but that sounded a bit Marxian to me

PappyD November 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

LOL, I’m a White Male, I’ve been “on my own” forever.

Greg G November 7, 2011 at 9:13 am

So “all these people” who had been unemployed and then found work as a result of the New Deal suffered a loss of self-respect as a result? That is even worse as psychology than as economics.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 9:41 am

Not so much some of the shovel projects, Greg, as the social welfare programs. Rather than depend on ourselves for our own betterment, it’s dependence on the government, which leads into the idea “If things aren’t going my way, it’s not my fault.”

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 9:51 am

its dependence on the government

Jon, I thought you were going to a public university

let me get this straight, you are part of the elite and may depend on the gov’t, but not so others

Dan H November 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

That’s an example of not having a choice. Pretty much every university in the country – even private ones – receive SOME funding from government. Doesn’t mean Jon or I are in favor of it. I still would have gone to Ohio State if it didn’t receive any government funding because it was the best option for me in terms of academic quality and proximity to home. Trust me, I’m not sure my education in economics cost $9,200 per year. The price of my education is higher than the real cost to offset the costs of educating doctors, engineers, etc, that are more expensive thanks to labs, technology, and higher priced professors.

Also, the cost of edcuation would be much lower if government just got out of it entirely.

Greg G November 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

Fair enough Jon but I thought it was clear I was talking about those who found work as the result of New Deal projects, not those who found welfare. The quote referred to “all these people” as suffering a loss of self respect.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

True, and then there is the nitty gritty ethics of that, which neither of have time to get into. I understand your point, though.

Sam Grove November 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm

They may have found work through New Deal, but they lost jobs due to monetary expansion, the resulting boom, and the inevitable bust when the extent of mal-investment became apparent..not to mention the monetary contraction policy pursued by the Fed in attempting to damper the boom

Randy November 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

That’s a good point Greg G. Obviously they maintain “self” respect. The human mind has an infinite capacity for rationalization. But they have lost my respect.

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

Government diverts resources from self-sustainable private control to subsidized state control. Massive government works projects take away from workers choices of productive independence, and replaces them with dependence. Those employed by the government know very well where their meal ticket lies–in the confiscatory institutions of the state–and become advocates for the whole institution of state extortion and subsidy. Just look at any SEIU or public teacher union rally to see what it does to people. The psychology is stark.

Josh S November 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

The New Deal did a lot of things. Solve the unemployment problem was not one of them.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

How about a 100% inheritance tax then? That should help us all be responsible for ourselves

dsylexic November 7, 2011 at 9:41 am

how does theft improve the sense of responsibility in the one being robbed?

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

because I know I will only be rewarded for my own work, not those of my forbears

Unless we’re saying “You’re on your own….unless you parents (or someone further back) worked really hard and earned a lot of money, in which case…lucky you!”

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

It needn’t have to be lots of money. What if I am left my parents house when they die? Lower middle class folks. Not rich but not poor. If we had a 100% inheritance tax, I’d not be able to get the house.

Not to mention family heirlooms.

You’re talking the confiscation of private property. We don’t want that.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 10:27 am

I’m not actually an advocate of a 100% inheritance tax. I’m just saying that if we’re to maintain intellectual integrity, we must admit that government leaving people “on their own” leaves some people a lot more on their own than others

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:35 am

As opposed to…?

khodge November 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

Included in “intellectual integrity” is the concept that the government is not entitled to 100% of one’s estate, or for that matter, 35% of corporate earnings.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

hmm, seems I can’t reply beyoned here so from this point on our dialogue may look a little odd.

I don’t quite understand your question.
If you mean “Have you ever heard a libertarian deny the point you are making?”
I would respond “No, and to be honest, I’ve read shockingly little libertarian writing. Bits of Smith and Hayek is pretty much the sum total. However, I understood the gist of Don’s post to be that people being responsible for the successes and failures is a good thing (which I would broadly agree with, though I’m a big fan of mercy), and that if government got out of the way, that would be how the world would work.

Here though, we come something that I see as a pretty fundamental dilemma in the philosophy of economics. If I work hard and amass a fortune (lets assume for the moment I got my fortune as Smith (I think) says, by doing everything I could to get to the finish line first, except pushing other people back), then it is surely my right to use that fortune to enjoy my life. As a parent (N.B. I have neither kids nor fortune – this is all hypothetical) I gain enjoyment from giving my kids a good start in life, and the thought that, when I’m gone, they’ll be able to enjoy the fruit of my hard work. Perfectly reasonable I’m sure you’ll agree.

But then we have a generation of my family
a) getting access to all sorts of early-years advantages, like a really good education (all the more so if education is entirely private, as some people here advocate) which give (other things equal) them a headstart in the marketplace
b) less likely to learn responsibility than if they were only able to enjoy the fruit of their own labour

and all this without any sign of the distortinary government.”

If in fact your question meant “What, then, are you an advocate of?” I would apologise for all the waffle and respond, in short “Government not leaving people on their own”.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:02 am

@khodge

I disagree. I think what you say there is an opinion. By “intellectual integrity” I mean following our opinions and arguments through to their conclusions, which is what I’m trying to do here. Not very well though apparently

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 11:03 am

I see where you are coming from Michael.

I think the bigger question here is about private property.

For the sake of the discussion, we’ll keep you in fortune. I believe (as do most Libertarians), that it is your right to do with that fortune as you please (as long as it doesn’t infringe on another’s natural rights).

I think the idea of “you’re on your own” still applies here. Assume that your fortune is vast. So vast you employ Bill Gates as a towel boy and the Google Guys mow your lawn. After a long and fulfilling life, you die peacefully. You leave all your fortune to your son. He’s a deadbeat. Doesn’t work, parties all day, drinks all night, non stop.

Eventually, that money will disappear. He may be in a better position than a poorer drunk, but he’ll end up in the same place.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 11:04 am

My point is not quite what I want. My point is the deadbeat will eventually blow through all the money and wind up broke. After all, you can only keep paying Gate’s billion dollar salary for so long.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

Yeah, that’s fair enough (and thanks for the long and fulfilling life by the way :) ), but my dilemma (and I mean the real me here) is that super rich Mike Bourne’s son has done nothing to earn the “live-fast-die-young” lifestyle that many would envy. So if government wants to step in and use some of that money to try and give to others the same (non-monetary) advantages that Mike Bourne Jr had (and apparently squandered), then I (real me here – this is a question about the sort of society I want to leave in, not just about my will) don’t have a problem with that.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

Which is the basic idea behind the inheritance tax.

Although, if you wanted to go the full “no government” route (let’s assume there is no inheritance tax), you could just add a clause in the will that places conditions on inheritance.

My future children will have to spend a night in a haunted house for my fortune :-P

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

Thanks, enjoyed that. Wish I’d had more debate practise as a kid. Maybe if I’d gone to a better school….;)

Only kidding. Appreciate the thoughtful exchange of views, nice one.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 11:50 am

I am not a good debater. But with a degree in philosophy and economics, you learn fast.

I always enjoy a thoughtful exchange of ideas rather than ad hominum attacks, logical inconclusions and outright hostility.

lamp3 November 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

@Mike
If you amass great fortune and choose to gift it to the next generation, those beneficiaries get a better start in life. This is true for trade and straight gifting I would expect.

Since it is your private property, and you feel the need to do this action voluntarily, the reasons for doing so are greatest in your own mind. Outside parties witnessing this have less information and less of your self-interest in mind.

Inheritance tax violates the individual’s right to determine what happens to their property, especially since in this case, gifting their wealth doesn’t infringe on someone else’s right. I understand that it promotes inequality, but equality of outcome isn’t guaranteed as a right. With that, I don’t see inconsistent internal logic.

Again, we are being presented with a falsely dichotomous outcome. Simply because the government isn’t there, and we wish to internalize the costs of living to private individuals, does not mean that private individuals cannot help each other out. Food banks, homeless shelters, and Union Gospels around here are privately run, and use wealth to transfer goods freely to poor persons.

There’s other economic implications from what I’ve heard before — preventing people from voluntarily investing human capital, into their children, would lead to immediate consumption of these resources on luxuries and so on.

khodge November 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I am less concerned with the being responsible for yourself than the “solution” that government has a right to whatever it chooses it has a right to. In the end, we are responsible for whatever we receive whether it is $1 billion inheritance, great looks, loving parents, country of birth. A consistent argument posited on this website, and in economics, is that we are dependent on others. This dependency should not be confused with responsibility.

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

“because I know I will only be rewarded for my own work, not those of my forbears”

What good is it to earn your rewards when a bully tells you what you must do with them? And how is the receiver of those taxes being rewarded for their own work? And how is it that persuading someone to give me capital, whether in the form of a loan, investment, or inheritance, somehow not my earned reward?

Nothing about what you say makes any sense.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

“You’re on your own….unless you parents (or someone further back) worked really hard and earned a lot of money, in which case…lucky you!”

Some people aren’t as bright as others and will not have the same earning potential. I suppose they should be penalized, just as those with parents who accumulated wealth should be penalized.

Anything can be fixed with sufficient force.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

@vikingvista

I’m very sorry I’m making no sense whatsoever. I’ll try to do better:

My point is not that government will ensure people are rewarded for their own work, it is simply that a lack of government won’t ensure that either.

As to “persuading” someone to give you an inheritance. Well, that might happen sometimes, but outside of Shakespeare’s plays I don’t think it’s all that common for offspring to have to argue their case to their parents. It’s usually unearned in any way – the only qualification being “not getting disinherited”.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

@Fred

Ah, now you see it as “penalising” because those whose parents accumulated wealth would lose more than those whose parents hadn’t – which is unfair on them as they had no (or little) control over how much wealth their parents accumulated. But this is exactly my point. If inheritance is not taxed (if, in fact, it’s not taxed at 100%), then those whose parents accumulated wealth gain more than those whose parents didn’t – again from something over which they had no (or little) control.

Could you clarify your first sentance? I’m afraid I don’t get it. Seems to me the market system does penalise those who aren’t as bright as others…

Fred November 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

MB, you would like my father. He absolutely despises anyone who has more wealth than him and even more despises trust fund kids with unearned wealth.

Because of this he has willed everything to charity. I won’t see one red cent.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

MB, I have little use for this notion of “fairness”. Is it fair that one person’s parents willed them a fortune and another’s did not? No.

But what is the alternative other than using force to take that inheritance away?
Is that the proper role of government? To relieve people of their wealth because it satisfies someone else’s sense of “fairness”?

Seems to me like nothing more than institutionalized envy.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

Fred

Whoa there. All this is much easier to theorise about. I’m not saying I’m gonna demand my kids pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I’ve a lot of respect for your father though, sticking to his principles. Bummer for you though.

As to “fairness”, yes, that’s where it all gets a bit subjective isn’t it? I think it is fair that government “uses force” (I’ll use your language, cos otherwise we’ll get into a whole new huge debate that I’m not at all up for right now) to distribute some money from those who have much to those who have little – especially if those who have much have not earned it (or have “earned” it by nefarious means). Thus I will vote for representatives who will do that. You’re free to vote for represantives who won’t or, if none exist, become one yourself.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

MB, say your neighbor didn’t like the fact that you have more wealth than the guy down the street, and decided to rob you so the guy down the street wouldn’t feel so bad about himself.
What would you do? You would likely call that organization with the monopoly on the use of violence to come and administer some justice.
But what if it is the same folks you call for help that are the ones robbing you?
What happens to justice when those who administer justice are the very ones committing injustice?

When force is involved what you may think of as charity or philanthropy becomes neither.

It is plunder. Nothing more, nothing less.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Fred

See not above about not wanting to get into that right now. I apologise for my speech marks, I guess they were kind of provocative, but you’ll have no constructive reply from me this evening (I’m in Europe).

Thanks for the exchange though, I enjoyed it.

Michael Bourne November 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

*note. I wasn’t trying to go all Yoda on you “See not above, young skywalker”

John Dewey November 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

michael bourne: “My point is not that government will ensure people are rewarded for their own work, it is simply that a lack of government won’t ensure that either.”

IMO, many more people will be rewarded for their own work in a nation with a limited government. A redistributionist government eliminates the motivation for achievement. Why should I work my tail off to build a business if the government is simply going to confiscate the fruits of my labor? Why should I train my children to be productive and continue building that business if said government is going to take it away upon my death? What’s the point of even trying in a redistributionist society?

On the other hand, fear of hunger and desire for material wealth are increble motivators. As a nation or as a species, we are much more likely to all realize the highest standard of living when the possibility of reward motivates us to achieve.

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

“My point is not that government will ensure people are rewarded for their own work, ”

Then I don’t understand why you think a 100% inheritance tax should help us all be responsible for ourselves. Sounds like a contradiction.

“As to “persuading” someone to give you an inheritance. Well, that might happen sometimes, but outside of Shakespeare’s plays I don’t think it’s all that common for offspring to have to argue their case to their parents. It’s usually unearned in any way – the only qualification being “not getting disinherited”.”

It was not an arbitrary ancient event that led to the custom of children inheriting property. It is because it is almost always the choice of property owners. That is, if the default were for the state to inherit, unless otherwise specified, then the custom would be for people to establish wills from an early age.

And it also isn’t arbitrary that people choose their children as heirs. Parents have control over the upbringing of their children (as especially focused on the expected heir in the case of primogeniture), and their children almost always reflect the parents’ values. Because of the parents’ efforts and close relationship, the children almost always DO earn their inheritance, as the only relevant judges of such earnings–the property owners themselves–will tell you. And when the children don’t persuade, disinheritance occurs.

Voluntary inheritance is absolutely NOT unearned wealth. Involuntary inheritance, in the form of illegal theft or legal taxation (the latter being no less offensive than the former), ALWAYS is unearned.

Darren November 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

How about a 100% inheritance tax then?

Why not just tax everything at %100 up front? Is there really any reason to wait until someone dies to confiscate their belongings?

Randy November 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

“We’ve come for your liver”.

Richard Stands November 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp-pU8TFsg0

(Disclaimer: not suitable for viewing during a meal, without a strong stomach, or without a liver).

Brad Petersen November 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm

It’s NOT the government’s role to make us responsible for ourselves any more than it’s the government’s role to take care of us.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Brad

Sorry, but if some poor sole is driving on wet pavement without a helmet and his motorcyle falls down, sliding his head into the curb, I want no part of a society that will leave him there on the street or, if he survives in a head injury unit, will unplug him and roll him out to street if he has no insurance (or when his insurance is exhausted).

If you want to life in that kind of society, go to Africa or India (or China)

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

You wouldn’t get that in the US, either. If you don’t have insurance, you are not denied coverage. His medical bill will be higher than someone who does have insurance. What we object to is then the government coming in and bailing him out with taxpayer money.

But, the question I should have asked earlier is: why is a shoe driving a motorcycle?

HaywoodU November 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Fish can drive?

brotio November 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm

:D

Richard Stands November 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm

What if the sturgeon won’t treat him?

Randy November 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Michael; 100% inheritance tax.

There already is a 100% inheritance tax, that is, I sure won’t be taking any of it with me. The question is who gets to collect, and I see no reason why it should be a political organization. They didn’t earn it, they already got their cut, and there is nothing holy or superior about their intentions.

Josh S November 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Not only that, but politicians are more likely to spend the money blowing someone up in a foreign country than anyone you could leave it to.

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm

It is the property owner who determines the rightful claim on his property. If he accepts the well known default since ancient times–his children–then they have the rightful claim. The ONLY time the state has a rightful claim, is if they are specifically willed the property.

Josh S November 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Do you also advocate a 100% gift tax? Because choosing to bequeath your estate to someone when you die is no different than choosing to give a gift to someone, either.

vikingvista November 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Exactly. Really, it is no different than any peaceful voluntary interaction, in the sense that it is nobody else’s business, least of all the state’s.

W.E. Heasley November 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

“Roosevelt transformed millions of Americans from citizens into clients. The direct effect of this was evil, and the indirect effect was even worse, for all these people were robbed of their self-respect“. – H.L. Mencken

Mencken is exactly correct.

Roosevelt took the concept of political constituency building through the use of taxpayer dollars to new heights. The new deal programs, executive orders, social welfare state plans, etc. had nothing to do with the general welfare of the “constituents” or as Mencken refers to them as “clients”. Nay, nay! It had everything to do with building a voter block of dependent constituency aka recipient class. It was a political scheme of constituency building not a concern about the particular “clients”.

Moreover, this exact same political constituency building scheme, the FDR blue print, has been used over and over by politicos. A blue print of sorts for those politicos that came to power after Roosevelt. The blue print is in in use to this very moment.

One should note that the “client” has lost political power while the consistency builder has acquired power.

Finally, FDR used the class warfare argument to cement the recipient class as having a “right” to receive.

Ah, the evil of it all!

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

you have convinced me

let’s just have carts go around and have people throw out their dead and elderly

Economiser November 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

Another one!

Economiser –> has Monty Python on the brain.

Randy November 7, 2011 at 9:58 am

:)

Fred November 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

Because if something is not done by government, then it will not be done at all.

That explains why there is no food in the grocery store.

The government doesn’t raise food, therefor there is none and we’re all starving to death.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 7, 2011 at 11:17 am

The government doesn’t raise food, therefor there is none and we’re all starving to death.

I had a great uncle who was a grain and hog farmer in Iowa. HE used to take people to see his crops. Here’s the corn field, here’s the soybeans-and here’s the land where the government pays me NOT to grow anything.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

Nothing helps the poor more than artificially inflating the price of food, right?

W.E. Heasley November 7, 2011 at 10:11 am

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises:

How insightful!

Lets see, we create an argument with no arguments “….carts go around and have people throw out their dead and elderly”, being sure to paint the non-argument with verbal virtuosity, and throw in some vilification.

Maybe, just maybe, you better go check your Dr. Seuss Cliff Notes on debating.

Wait a minute, Nickolai spelled backwards is “I -a- lo-kin”. Yes, a rather “low kin” you are!

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

One quibble:

“Clients” pay for services received in an “arms-length” transaction.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 9:44 am

The worse thing about Mencken is that he is no anti-entrepreneur, proved by a simple thought experiment.

Which society will have more entrepreneurs?

A one with debtor’s prisons or one with very forgiving bankruptcy laws?

The social safety improves society because it lets people take risks which otherwise they would not take.

Our biggest problem now is a lack of entrepreneur of Keynes, “animal spirits,” and yet around here we want to discourage entrepreneurs.

Last, entrepreneurs don’t take risks (that is the purpose of a casino), as Drucker reminds us, entrepreneurs succeed because they avoid risk

Economiser November 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

>> “Last, entrepreneurs don’t take risks (that is the purpose of a casino), as Drucker reminds us, entrepreneurs succeed because they avoid risk”

Almost. Entrepreneurs place themselves in intentionally risky situations, then do all they can to minimize the risk in that situation. They’re more like a hunter, or a mountain climber, or a group of knights attacking a cave guarded by a foul, cruel creature with nasty big pointy teeth.

Damn it.

W.E. Heasley November 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

Economizer:

Remember, “That rabbit is Dynamite”!

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:03 am

So, what you’re saying is when Steve Jobs began Apple, he was avoiding risk? When Zuckerberg started Facebook, he was avoiding risk? When Gates premiered Windows, he was avoiding risk?

And Drucker never said that. He discusses unnecessary risk. It is ironic that you are using a (misapplied) quote from the man who essentially invented Outsourcing.

Bankruptcy laws to foster, to some extent, entrepreneurship. However, they should not get to the point where the inventor gets off scott-free.

Yes, social safety nets does allow people to take risks the would otherwise not take. Like driving more recklessly. Not going to a doctor. Buy a house they cannot afford. Not save for retirement. Not seek employment (become chronically unemployed).

However, risk-taking as a business entrepreneur is not the same as social safety net. Apples and oranges.

jack mcccutchen November 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm

hey all… this is my initial exposure to this forumn but accept higher risk of sayi ng something this group may value. as i get more familiar my risk is minimized accordingly… or i lose credibility and can anticipate the consequences

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

The social safety improves society because it lets people take risks which otherwise they would not take.

So why is it where “social safety” is most heavily used is where there is the least entreprenuerial activity?

Josh S November 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Because wreckers and scheming kulaks keep conspiring to ruin all our Great Leader’s visionary five-year plans.

khodge November 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

Little Nikki doing thought experiments?

Anna Khitrova, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

New marketing campaign for MADDAM. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Mencken)”

“The worse thing is that he is no anti-entrepreneur.”

Brought to you by the A.D.D. Council.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

Taken to an extreme, this is what happens when people become too dependent on the government: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/party-links-voting-to-funding–again/447184.html

Greg Webb November 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

Excellent quote! Politicians create incentives that result in a boom and bust. Then, in a government-created crisis, the corrupt politicians give you a make-work job and some cash, then demand your “loyalty” in elections. This is known as the political crony system, which so many complain about today. Goldman Sachs is a well-known client of the US Government.

H. L. Mencken uses the term “clients” because that was how the political crony system was described as practiced by the ancient Romans. Most people are familiar with it today from the old Godfather movies, where people go to the Godfather to ask for help with something that the Godfather controls. The Godfather promise to fix the problem, but tells his client that he might later ask for a favor in return for his help now. It is corrupt whether practiced by La Costra Nostra or the United States government.

Such a political crony system is always corrupt and always steals the self respect of those subject to the Godfather’s rule. instead of creating crises, the government should remove obstacles to people engaging in activities necessary to make a living.

GiT November 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

But then, even mafia’s can exercise beneficial functions. See, for example, David Skarbek’s piece in the most recent issue of the APSR, showing how the Mexican Mafia (a prison gang) is able to leverage its position to provide property rights and dispute mediation in the drug trade, to sometimes beneficent effects, such as facilitating a decrease in inter-gang violence (in addition to the regulatory/rule of law functions it provides, which the drug trade, as a black market, cannot rely upon from the government proper.)

Anonymous November 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Wow! Someone arguing on behalf of the cruel and bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartels. Have you no shame?

Greg Webb November 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Yep. The benevolent Mexican drug cartels. Doing good by selling drugs, kidnapping innocent people for ransom, cutting heads of their victims and publicly displaying same, killing journalists, intimidating citizens, giving Mexican politicians and police the choice of receiving “silver or lead”, etc. A sweeter bunch of madcap do-gooders you will not find.

GiT, I would like for you to say this nonsense to some Mexican friends who escaped to the United States. You really need to be bitch slapped for your callous stupidity.

Ken November 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Roosevelt’s (the slightly more bad Roosevelt) apologists claim in his defense that he was staving off Red Revolution. He may even have believed it himself. At best (which ain’t much), he was doing what politicians do: buying votes and kicking the can down the road to some generation yet to be born.

jack mcccutchen November 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

free and unfettered access to the market

Rob November 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

So Greg Mankiw has a post about Keynes writing to FDR. Does it bother you Don that here is a guy who freely admits that he’s in the top 1% and to know that he has gotten there largely because of his Keynesianism or “neo-Keynesianism”?

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Does anybody think there was something bizarro about Keynes signing his letter as “you obedient servant”?

http://newdeal.feri.org/misc/keynes2.htm

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I wouldn’t read too far into it. He signed all his letters that way.

I do the same thing. When writing letters, I often sign them “your loyal servant.” It’s just a way those of us who love the Victorian Era write.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Rob,

I don’t think I understand your point here.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

One of Keynes better letters—it is why I am a Keynesian, not an Obamian

GiT November 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

One might have thought that whether or not someone has self-respect is a matter of their own opinion, not those of blowhards like Mencken and the chattering heads on Cafe Hayek.

Please, go inform the hundreds of millions out there across the world who benefit from public healthcare, public education, and other social welfare or charity programs how little self-respect they have. Perhaps you’ll excuse them if they laugh in your face. After all, you alone should be possessed of enough self-respect to bear their scorn.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

It is natural to feel some shame when receiving charity. Or at least it used to be. You are accepting an anonymous gift from someone who gave voluntarily to someone they didn’t even know.

The purpose of social programs is to take the shame away by taking the voluntary aspect out of it. It encourages people to believe that they have a natural right to the property of others.

So yeah, you’re probably right that these people suffer no lack of self-respect.

It takes a lot of self-respect to demand that your healthcare and education be paid for by someone else, simply because you deserve it.

A lot of self-respect indeed.

GiT November 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

There is nothing ‘natural’ about feeling shame for receiving aid. It’s as, if not more, artificial than not feeling shame.

Fred November 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

You use the word “aid” as if there is no difference between money donated out of kindness and money that is obtained under duress.

GiT November 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

And you act as if that analytical distinction can be unproblematically mapped onto practices of government as if legal requirement and moral intention were logically incompatible.

But, of course, the conditions which would obtain if an act were not performed have only a contingent, not a necessary, relationship to the reasons for undertaking the act in question. That money is allegedly obtained ‘under duress’ says nothing, logically, about the internal motivation for giving money. This is to say that donating out of kindness and donating under conditions of duress are not incompatible conditions.

And that’s only one blatant flaw in your reasoning. A subjective opinion with respect to receiving aid has nothing to do with an opinion about what ways of obtaining aid are permissible or impermissible. If one rejects receiving aid because it was gathered by coercion, one is rejecting coercion, not rejecting aid. One’s own self-respect changes not in response to whether or not one receives aid but whether or not one is complicit in what one would consider to be coercion.

This is to say that one’s self-respect vis-a-vis receiving aid is disconnected from one’s self-respect vis-a-vis being complicit in coercion. So if receipt of aid is only damaging to self respect via complicity in coercion, aid only damages self respect if it is obtained in a way which a recipient perceives to be coercive.

But what counts as coercion is, like shame, fungible. Guilting people with fear of fire and brimstone or a moral duty to pay tithe backed by other threats of exclusion from the Church can easily be construed as coercive, which would make vast swathes of ‘Christian charity’ fundamentally suspect.

Yet fear based forms of moral suasion are seen as consonant with freedom, generally. And, for most, taxation is similarly seen as consonant with freedom. The legitimacy of particular standards by which to arbitrate legitimate and illegitimate force are not pre-given. Even property, if it is to expand beyond straight physical possession, requires the respect of entirely conventional markers of abstract possession whose violation is taken to be coercive only by convention, not the actual violent physical interaction of persons.

Fred November 8, 2011 at 8:06 am

You use big words. You so smart. Me so impressed. Me go beat wife now.

Randy November 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm

As I mentioned above, “self” respect isn’t really the issue, as human beings are very good at rationalizing. Indeed, that’s the whole point of my personal campaign of subversion against the political class. Without question they have an overabundance of respect for themselves, but I have none, and I take every opportunity to let them know it. I’m thinking Mencken was on to this idea as well.

GiT November 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Well then say that you don’t respect people who receive aid, not that they don’t respect themselves. What Mencken, Don, yourself, or anyone else in particular does or does not respect has not very much to do with whether or not people respect themselves.

Misanthropes like Mencken could keep their petty name calling to themselves. But, of course, they won’t.

Randy November 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm

It has something to do with it. Social disapproval (i.e., disrespect), can be a powerful tool for destroying a rationalization (e.g., self respect based on a rationalization). And the politicians are well aware of this. It’s why they go out of their way to provide middle class cover for their patronage schemes.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Well then say that you don’t respect people who receive aid, not that they don’t respect themselves.

As a former Medicaid/Medicare auditor, these folks clearly don’t respect themselves, just based on the high proportion that engage in self-destructive behaviors.

Now, I’m sure many FEEL great self-respect, but that’s a delusion.

GiT November 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Funny to see a libertarian attack other people’s subjective estimations of value as delusional.

Josh S November 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

A sense of entitlement is not a sense of self-respect. Self-respect is being able to take pride in what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve become. When all you’ve “accomplished” is signing up for handouts, you might be arrogant, you might be entitled, and you might even think of yourself as noble. But you don’t have self-respect, because you don’t really have much of a self to respect in the first place.

jack mcccutchen November 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

shame is under rated. we know shame exists and carries the often glum reality that we will be accountable no matter how well we convince each other that we are victims who are entitled to renewal without facing the real fear: that we are alone. when nieztche criticizes the essay on the case of wagner, first written early in his career then revised in the last years, he concludes that triumph is defined by the existence of tragedy and vice versa. that clears the ring to face that which is of ultimate concern… individually, accountable for oneself. there nietzche finds empowerment through humility and grace. instead of declaring ‘god is dead’ he reasons that ‘god can only be denied oin the name of god’.

Jon Murphy November 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Again, a general point: this is not an argument against charity. It’s an argument against mandated charity (entitlements).

Dan J November 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I have been saying for quite some time that Obama is looking to emulate FDR…. Not out of respect or for some grandeur of the president in which he seeks, but to emulate the policies that assisted in FDR successes in getting re-elected despite the horrible economic conditions worsened by FDR and his cronies. To emulate FDR in controls over the industries and radio. Obama and team don’t put FDR on a pedestal out of respect for the man and America, whatever FDR highlights you can recall, but out of respect for the ability to accomplish so much growth of govt controls and so much progressivism that came about during his tenure. Look to FDR days to see what they look to apply next for their plots.

lameck November 14, 2011 at 8:58 am

thank for saying about risk

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