Posts tagged ‘Obsidian Wings’

Recipients of Intellectual Welfare

Today, Kevin Drum quotes Obsidian Wings as saying:

The men in my family of my father's generation returned home after serving
their country and got jobs in the local steel mills, as had their fathers and
their grandfathers. In exchange for their brawn, sweat, and expertise, the steel
mills promised these men certain benefits. In exchange for Social Security taxes
withheld from their already modest paychecks, the government promised these men
certain benefits as well.

....These were church-attending, flag-waving, football-loving, honest family
men. They are rightfully proud of providing homes and educations for their
children and instilling the sorts of values and manners that serve them well as
adults. And if I have to move heaven and earth, now that they've retired, the
Republican party is NOT going to redefine them as welfare

First, I agree, whether I like the program or not, that people who contributed for years and were promised certain benefits should receive them.  The benefits the average retiree gets today were certainly paid for - in fact, over-paid-for given the implied rate of return they got for their forced "savings".  So I won't argue that these retirees are getting financial welfare.

BUT, I would argue that they are getting intellectual welfare.  Advocates for keeping forced savings programs like Social Security in place as-is by necesity argue that the average American is too stupid, too short-sighted, and/or too lazy to save for retirement without the government forcing them.  Basically the argument is that we are smarter than you, and we are going to take control of aspects of your life that we think we can manage better than you can.  You are too stupid to save for retirement, too stupid to stop eating fatty foods, too stupid to wear a seat belt, and/or too stupid to accept employment on the right terms -- so we will take control of these decisions for you, whether you like it or not.  For lack of a better word, I call this intellectual welfare

By the way, this is as good an answer as any to Mr. Drum's earlier question why liberals don't push the privacy issue harder.  He opines:

Whenever I talk about the underlying principles that should guide liberals, as
I did a couple of days ago,
one of the ideas that always pops up is privacy
rights. In fact, it comes up so often that it strikes me that we're missing a
bet by not making a bigger deal out of it.

I am all for a general and strong privacy right.  I would love to see it Constitutionally enshrined.  But liberals (like conservatives, but I am answering Drum's question) don't want it.  They want to allow women to choose abortions, but not choose breast implants.  They want the government to allow marijuana use but squelch fatty foods.  They don't want police checking for terrorists but do want them checking for people not wearing their seat belts.  They want freedom of speech, until it criticizes groups to whom they are sympathetic.  They want to allow topless dancers but regulate the hell out of how much they make.  Liberals, in sum, are at least as bad about wanting to control private, non-coerced individual decision-making as conservatives -- they just want to control other aspects of our lives than do conservatives. 

A true privacy right would allow us complete freedom over who we sleep with, what we do with our bodies, where we work, and what we pay for goods.  And, not incidentally, how we choose to invest for our retirement.  Both parties want the government to control parts of our lives, so don't expect either conservatices or liberals to be pushing the privacy issue very hard.

Update:  William Mellor of the Institute of Justice has some thoughts related to this topic in The American Lawyer:

Without realizing it, liberals and conservatives are
working from opposite ends of the political spectrum, under opposing
rationales, to reach the same end: expanded government power...

The Framers envisioned a system in which individuals enjoyed
rights equally, and the rights they enjoyed were treated with equal
respect under the Constitution. But in 1938 the U.S. Supreme Court's
ruling in United States v. Carolene Products Co. (upholding a
Congressional ban on interstate shipment of milk that contained added
fat or oil) created an artificial dichotomy under the Constitution.
Some rights, notably free speech, were elevated to a preferred tier and
now rightly receive vigorous constitutional protection. Rights demoted
to the second tier, specifically economic liberty and property rights,
wrongly receive far less protection....

Liberals, however, tend to reject the notion that the courts
have any role in seriously protecting economic liberty or property
rights. This is remarkable in light of the fact that many liberals
strongly advocate court protection for various rights-such as welfare
or abortion-whose constitutional pedigree is far more questionable than
rights to private property and economic liberties.