Happy Fourth: On Libertarianism, Citizenship, and Social Responsibility

I was raised a libertarian. I believed the government was the problem. I thought that the smaller the government was, the better off everyone would be. Taxes were a bad thing, something to be resented and, if at all possible, opposed. I was raised in an environment where the idea of an individual person and his property seceding from the country was bandied about as intriguing and talk of abolishing the public school system was normal.

Individualism was a key value and individual rights were upheld as most important, even when they came at the expense of the community. When I was a kid, I heard it said that the ideal citizen was a homeowner who ran his own business and homeschooled his children, because that citizen would be wholly independent from the government. Independence and individualism were paramount.

One term I never heard emphasized – or even mentioned, I believe – was social responsibility. The idea that we might have a responsibility to our fellow man, a responsibility that involved a social contract and civic duty and a representative government, was foreign.

Now of course, my parents and church community would have argued that individual churches and charities should step in and feed the hungry and clothe the poor. But the idea was that all of that should be voluntary and individual, never required or communal. Taxes were likened to stealing, the government stealing money from those who worked hard to give it to the lazy poor. “Voluntaria” was held up as the ideal, and contrasted with “Malvolia” and “Mandaat.” The government, in sum, was anathema.

It was only when I began thinking my politics and religion through on my own as an adult that I realized how fraught with problems this all was. I realized that paying taxes is part of our civic duty, and that it is those taxes that pay for our roads, justice system, and parks, and that it is those taxes that provide a social safety network for those in need. I realized that the libertarian individualism I had been raised on is at its heart selfish. It says “I have what I need, screw those who don’t.” There is a painful inability to see outside a privileged box. I may have been fortunate enough to have been raised in a family that was never in financial need and that sent me on to college on a scholarship, but others weren’t so lucky. I realized that we have a social responsibility to the society we are a part of, and that things like public schools, roads, and unemployment payments are a part of that.

Something about all of this is highly ironic, because my parents were also as patriotic as they come. Flag waving, pledge reciting, military supporting – it was all an important part of my upbringing. We believed that we loved our country, and those liberals hated it. We were true citizens, true patriots, and those liberals were Marxist wannabes off on a failed social experiment.

And now I wonder. Who is the true citizen? The one who talks of abolishing public schools, rails against taxes, toys with the idea of seceding, and yet waves a flag and recites a pledge? Or, the one who believes in social responsibility, sees taxes as her civic duty, and yet questions whether foreign wars are necessary? I’m seriously not sure how the right stole the robe of patriotism. I’m not sure how flag waving became more important than social responsibility. I’m not sure how speaking of seceding is somehow more patriotic than questioning a foreign war.

But on this Fourth of July I do know this. I believe in social responsibility. I believe in civic duty. I understand that it is my duty to do my part for the good of society, and I embrace that. And somehow, I feel so much more at peace, so much more kind, so much more connected to something greater than myself than I did when I was a libertarian angry about everything and only interested in asserting my own individualism and independence.

On Indiana
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Did Ted Cruz Actually Ejaculate into a Cup? Some Thoughts on How We Cover Politics
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on the paying taxes front and I’m quite happy with my rather high Canadian tax rate. HOWEVER, as an American expat, I have to say that the US does taxes wrong.

    The US is one of only two countries in the entire world (the other being Eritrea) that has a citizenship-based tax system. That means that I am expected to pay taxes even though I have very little access to what those taxes provide, and even though I am already paying taxes on that same income to my country of residence. The argument is that I get to use a US passport when I travel, but I already pay more for my US passport than I would if I were getting it from within the US, so even that seems problematic.

    Anyways, that’s me totally derailing your very worthwhile discussion with my personal concerns!

    (Note: there is an income exclusion for lowering tax rate – Any money you pay in taxes to your country of residence on income up to about $90K can be deducted from your US tax obligations. Living in Canada and being rather on the poor end of the earning spectrum, that means that I don’t actually owe any US taxes. However, I am still required to file, which can be quite onerous. Filing as a non-resident is complex enough, finding an accountant who is qualified to file US taxes in Canada can be rather difficult. The cheapest option is H&R Block, at $200/year, but a real professional charges more in the $1-2K range. Add to that the risk – an error, even one made honestly, can result in crippling fines. Also, the US does not take different economies into account – expats living in Switzerland, for example, where $90K gets you very little, end up being heavily dinged in US taxes. And then there’s all the issues with the IRS not recognising the tax deferred and tax free status of accounts like TFSAs or RESPs – and since Canada doesn’t collect taxes on these (at least not within the year that interest income was earned, in the case of tax-deferred accounts), we do have to pay taxes on those earnings. In the case of RESPs, that literally means that the US is stealing money from children.)

    (Note 2: And, unfortunately, the US has also made it quite difficult for individuals to renounce their citizenship. The process involves multiple interviews and can take over a year. Whether your renunciation is accepted or not depends largely on the whim of your consulate officer. There’s a base fee of $450 to leave, plus you might be subject to a hefty “exit tax.” Even then, if you were born in the US, it can be very difficult for you to travel in the US (even just passing through the airport) for the rest of your life, and many who have renounced their citizenship have reported being harassed by border guards.)

    • Anat

      At least you get to vote. As an Israeli expat I would only have to pay taxes in Israel if I had income there (say, from investments) or if I went back for at least 6 months. But I also need to travel there in order to vote.

  • machintelligence

    It says “I have what I need, screw those who don’t.”

    I prefer the slightly harsher (and more double take inducing): “I’m doing fine, fuck you very much.”
    But you are quite right.

  • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

    Actually on topic, I was reading through the Voluntaria blurb and I got to the part where the land is shown to be “realistic” because it has certain failings, such as: “Sometimes donations slack off and facilities fall into disrepair—but that, as their host points out, only strengthens the society in the long run.”

    I work in the not-for-profit sector, and this is exactly what we’ve seen since the crash in 2008. The economic crash led to two separate trends: 1) A whole lot of people were downsized and therefore needed to make use of the safety network, and 2) Because so many people were being downsized (or felt that their future was threatened), donations to safety network organizations went way down. Combine this with our conservative Harper Government cutting a lot of public funding for social programs, and guess what the result is?

    That’s the problem I have with the Voluntaria model – it’s easy to give when the economy is strong, but when things go south on a population-wide level, you have both a greater need for resources and fewer of them.

    And then there’s that last bit: “but that, as their host points out, only strengthens the society in the long run.” WTF? Like, what? Let a few of the poor and other “undesirables” starve to death and we’ll all be better off? Am I reading too much into that?

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

      I think what they mean, the “undesirables” get really desperate and start rioting and stealing, so the “desirables” get to shoot them. Permanent removal and population control!

      But I’m one of those Evil Pinkos so you can’t pay attention to what I say.

  • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

    Okay, one last comment – I swear I’m not spamming!

    On the description of Malvolia, you see all the teaparty crazy: “[T]hey have adopted policies to undermine economic incentives, destroy families, weaken character, and increase social tension. The crowning achievement of the politicos is a “prosperity fine,” a punishment levied on citizens for earning money. And–you guessed it–the fine is proportional: the more you earn, the higher the fine. The whole idea is to discourage people from working, saving, investing–an excellent foundation for misery.”

    And then you get to the reviews, where one guy says: “For those of us who see through the subtlety, it is both constructive and amusing.”

    Subtlety? I have Inigo ringing in my ears. “You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means..” ROFL!

    • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

      “Subtlety? I have Inigo ringing in my ears. “You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means..” ROFL!”

      Well, there is an archaic definition of subtlety that is a sort of decorative novelty food item served in medieval feasts. Maybe that’s what they meant, as both that and the article are, in the old sense of the word, fantastic.

  • Caitlin

    Libby Anne, I’m curious as to how your parents justified your accepting a scholarship to a state school. Was your scholarship private? Were public colleges acceptable in their eyes? I think it’s great that you went and I think public colleges are wonderful–I’m just wondering how that fit into your parents’ world view.

  • http://riliansrlog.blogspot.com Rilian

    I don’t believe in social responsibility. I don’t have a responsibility to a concept of “society”.
    I want to help other people. Someday, when I actually have my own money, I’m going to use whatever I don’t need to help other people.
    I don’t have a right to force other people to help other people.
    The only thing that makes a country is having one group of terrorists exert control over it. I’m not happy or “proud” of that, or of that I live in the human-farm called america.

    • Elise

      Wow. I’m surprised at you.

      The concept of society is something that we are all part and parcel of, performing it, learning it, shaping it. The sort of people who are smart enough to realise that also know the importance of protecting it, helping it, supporting it. And by ‘it’, I mean not only the constituents, but also the goals of the society as a whole.

      Taxes are problematic in application, but when I think of how it benefits others: the roads that carry a sick person to hospital, the firefighters who rescue people in Colorado. I don’t know them, and I’m very glad that there is an entity that ‘forces’ monetary support out of limited people like you seem to be.

      • http://riliansrlog.blogspot.com Rilian

        What do you mean by “limited people”?

    • Noelle

      It takes a lot of work to run this joint. Society is people. People are society. You are the government. The government is you. There is no us and them.

      We all need good and safe roads. We all need clean water and plumbing. We need electricity. We need the structure in place to fix this stuff when it breaks and improve it when necessary. We need a good public school system. The more everyone knows, the better. We all need a military. We all need a police force. We all need fire fighters. We all need a sanitation system. We all need a public health department. We all need health care. No point in keeping the rest of the world from blowing us up if we’re gonna sit by and let heart disease, diabetes, and cancer kill us off. And the healthier everyone is, the more they can work and be beneficial members of society and pay their own taxes.

      Has nothing to do with charity. This is our country. We do it right, and keep doing it right. We’re in this shit together, whether we all like each other or not.

      Now who wants to go watch some fireworks?

      • http://riliansrlog.blogspot.com Rilian

        The government is not me. The government is a group of people, and I’m not a member of that group, and I haven’t consented to anything they do, and they haven’t asked for my consent. They don’t care what I want.

      • Noelle

        But they do. Very much so. You start voting when you’re of age. Never miss a chance. Are you younger than 18? The people we elect will still listen to you. I’ve met them. They are only people doing a job. We don’t live in a post-apocalyptic YA novel. You are the government. It is your responsibility to know how to contact your state and national representatives and senators. I’ve done it. It’s as simple as ordering music on iTunes. You are the government. It is your responsibility to know when something is up for a vote, to learn everything about it, and get yourself to the polls. You are the government. It is your responsibility to know when city council meetings are held if you wish to be a part of it. I come from a town where an 18 year old was elected mayor after hearing how simple the process was in his high school history class. That young man’s teacher went on to be mayor himself several years later. They both did a great job.

        I’ve voted on millages, sales tax, fire worker funds, library funds, public pools, and all types of elected officials. I write my congress critters.

        Your voice absolutely needs to be heard. Are you younger than 18?

      • Azel

        They perhaps don’t ask you before acting, but they ask your representatives, that you elected in the post, and they asked you for the post, by way of their own election.
        P.S. : Here, the “you” is a general you, not specifically addressed to Rilian. After all, one may have voted against their government but it asked and received from the majority of the population the reins of the country/region/city…

  • Shane

    My feeling is this: churches are opposed to social contracts not out of love of individualism, but because they want to be the source of charity. They *literally* want you on your knees to them for any help you might need. Insofar as any government provides a safety net for its citizens, the churches see that as a threat to their power. If they really hated intrusive government as much as they say, we wouldn’t see the endless attempts to enshrine religious morality into law. Of course, they have no problem with a controlling government, just with a charitable one.

    • Carol

      Yes, this, exactly. If the government provides they generally aren’t close enough to shame you about accepting charity and it’s typically better economics. It’s more effective economically to provide food, education and healthcare than lifetime imprisonment or quarantining entire towns due to infectious diseases , and so forth. The church is not about economic effectiveness, but it is always at the ready to provide that necessary blame and shame.

      In “Grapes of Wrath” Tom Joad turns to a priest, offering handyman services for food and the priest chides him saying “now, we can’t just give you money that would be charity, and you don’t want to take charity that would lead to laziness”. Or something to that effect.

      Speaking of infectious diseases, that’s another way libertarians take advantage of society without participating, believing that since other kids have their vaccines, their kids will be OK. They think they’re above society when they’re just a bunch of users.

    • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

      And we see this in practice – people with content, stable lives don’t, as a rule, “find Jesus.” The people who turn to God are the people who have hit rock bottom and are desperate. On a social level, we can see that countries with the most comprehensive social programs and the highest standard of living all have extremely low rates of religion.

      I have a friend who argues that religious conservatives deliberately target sources of social stability (such as public education and safety net programs) because they want to help people hit rock bottom, so that they can then steer them towards Jesus.

    • Maggy

      My casual observations lead me to suspect that religious charities do not provide services and resources without some strings attached to lead people in need back to them. Some folks (e.g. LGBTQ folks) are denied help or pressured to “pray away the gay.”

    • Jaynie

      This reminds me of a quote I saw in an article in Scientific American Mind recently. The article was talking about the advantages of religion and suggesting that at least part of it came down to the sense of community the church provided. The quote in question said something like “Danish people don’t need to go to church to feel part of a community; they live in Denmark.*” Of course, looking after people in need is part of the community that church is (supposed) to provide, that is instead being provided by the (EVIL! SOCIALIST!) government. Now mind you, the Danish clergy doesn’t seem especially bothered by this on the whole (and many clergypeople are atheists anyway), but I can see how it might frighten the increasingly obsolete American clergy.

      *not an exact quote, and I’ve no idea who to attribute it to, but I liked it all the same.

      • Carolyn the Red

        The Danish clergy are civil servants, paid by the government. Even the Danish Lutheran minister at the church here in Toronto is sent by the Danish government.

        School classes are confirmed together. Classes aren’t done in the school, but at least in some places, they walk over together. At least as of a few years ago, ministers are the ones who register births and approve names (of children from all families).

        While they may not go to church, membership in the church is part of the identity. I’m not Danish – just married a Dane, but the church is clearly part of what it means, at least for many people there, to be Danish.

  • Carol

    I can always tell when someone telling me a story is talking about a libertarian. It’s easy to tell because the end of the story always includes a call to the police by the libertarian or a lawsuit brought by the libertarian, or threats. Always. A friend of mine’s son had some friends over, they were 11 at the time. 2 boys started fighting, but it wasn’t serious. When the mother found out, she threatened to call the cops and called the mother whose husband was in the hospital, dying of cancer and threatened her, saying she didn’t care that her husband was dying. Guess what political leaning this woman has, go on, guess. I don’t even know this woman and I could tell. Libertarians are the first to use taxpayer funded services and the first to complain, the first to feel society owes them something, the last to clean up their own yards or shovel snow from their own walks. That’s why they feel that helping other people should be voluntary, just as long as you’re volunteering to help them.

    Test it out next time you hear a story like this, and I bet you have already.

    • Carol

      My writing is terrible, sorry, I was trying to make a long story short. There were 3 mothers involved in this story, my friend, the woman whose husband was dying (died last fall) and the other, libertarian, mother who threatened to call the cops. I don’t know if she actually did, they probably would have laughed at her and hung up the phone anyhow. All I know is, this lady was the talk of the town, and not in a good way.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    every time I read about how charities are the ones who should take care of the poor or the disabled I cringe because I don’t think they deserve care out of charity, they deserve it because they are your fellow human beings. I don’t have anything against charity in itself, they do great work and they are necessary but I think a good society will provide for people who need it as a norm because it’s their right as citizens and not in an elective way like we are doing a great favour donating them stuff and giving money to the charities that take care of their needs.

    I’m very happy that in my country, health care is free, university is affordable without loans and a lot of other social stuff but overall I’m happy that if I one day I end up disabled I will have access to governmental resources, if I have kids I can take a long paid break from work and if I’m laid of I have safety nets to name a few examples. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that I pay through my taxes for this stuff even if I personally never need it because that’s what makes a society where the well being of all citizens is the priority and sure some people will abuse the system and the checks to try to avoid will fail many times but I still think this is the best way.

    About taxing more the more rich you are making people decide to not make more effort to make more money… HA! That’s soooo true /snark

    There’s an important Spanish company president that some years ago was considering moving to US because of the lower taxes but in the end decided against it. He explained his decision in an interview by saying (completely paraphrased form memory): “Yes, I will save some money for taxes but here my children can go to good universities who cost veyr little compared to there [around 1000 euros for tuition ayear was the norm], if I get cancer or any other serious illness the hospital treatments are free, … What I may have to pay in taxes here I receive back in other ways. I don’t really think I’m saving money moving there”.

    • http://pslibrary.com MrPopularSentiment

      I had this argument with my father-in-law. His point was that if you have to pay more in taxes every time you get a promotion, what incentive do you have to work hard to get that promotion? My response was: “Cause you want money.” Duh. The rich are still richer than the poor. When you get a promotion, you’re still taking home more money than you were before. No one is seriously proposing otherwise.

      And the fact is that business owners were perfectly willing to work hard back when they were only making 10 times what their staff made, and I honestly doubt that a society that giving him 50 times his employees’ salary is realistically going to make him work 50 times harder.

      • Noelle

        Oh yes. I pay lots of taxes. But that’s because I make money. I live comfortably, and though it’s sweet some are concerned about my tax bracket, they really don’t need to be. I’m doing fine. I want to pay my country club dues to the country that gave me a public school education, free school lunch, loans for college so I could get a good job, and made this an overall safe and enjoyable place to live. Also, there is a tax break for charitable donations. I’m encouraged to give more to the causes of my choosing.

      • Rosa

        A lot of that argument comes from not understanding tax brackets, too. I used to have this discussion with coworkers, we’d make a goal and get a bigger bonus and someone would say “but the tax hike will just wipe it out!”

        No. Because you only pay higher taxes on that piece of income that puts you in the higher bracket, not over your whole income. It’s something most people don’t know, because even if you do your taxes yourself, you don’t have to do the math, you just use the little chart that says how much you owe.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        I took a new position that came with a significant pay rise last year. Bumped me up into the next tax bracket. I still bring home a lot more than I did.

  • Rosie

    I also find it ironic that those whose political leaning is extremely individualist have so little use for individual differences (unless they line up with their strict gender roles). In fact, they seem to work the hardest to quash the individuality of people, rather than foster it.

  • Carolyn the Red

    The one thing always missing in the libertarian narrative is that the homeschooling business owner affects others, no matter how they claim they don’t. They might find it cheaper to sell toxic foodstuffs, or just food produced with careless hygiene. They might use far more fresh water than “their share” in the manufacturing process, or leave an area of land toxic for decades. They might cut corners in the operation of their airline, leading to deaths. And each of their suppliers might do any of these things, leading to their products being tainted, and their reputation being destroyed.

    The libertarian answer is to sue. Well, usually, that’s after the fact, and can’t fix a lot of harms. It means having to prove the harm, without necessarily having any real power to investigate. And it puts the onus on the harmed party, who may have little power due to being an employee, or just poorer.

    Well, meh. I don’t have the time or the ability to analyze and research every meal I eat, and every car on the road’s safety systems, and the fire escapes of every building I enter.

    And I really think it’s my obligation to make sure all children can learn as much as possible. It’s not just my choice, but my obligation as someone who’s benefited directly and indirectly from the public education system, and from the health care system. If I start a business next year, I don’t have to teach my employees to read or even the basic physics behind the engineering work I might do. Similarly, I benefit from health care, transit, and so on.

    And I really hate the idea of the vulnerable not having protection and help. It’s not “fair” that struggling students get extra help, but it’s just. It’s not “fair” that the poor get help that richer people don’t, but it’s just. It’s not fair that I pay more for government services than average, but it’s just – not allowing children from poor families to access health care doesn’t set them up to pay tax on a good income as adults, it sets them up to be poor adults, possibly with health problems they might have avoided – and sets them up to be dependent. A little help at the right time, and they’ll contribute so much more.

    • Rosa

      I love that use of just vs. fair.

      I had this argument with an increasingly-conservative friend about bank regulation reform – she said “You can’t make laws based on the theory “people are stupid”.

      Why not? Nobody can be good at everything. So instead of educational programs to get people not to shit in drinking water, we have building codes and sewage plants. Instead of expecting everyone to manage their own health care and legal representation, we have professional and court recourse for professionals who do bad jobs. Instead of everyone having to sniff the milk and meat and make a judgement, we have food safety rules and inspectors. It’s not a very big jump to regulate which financial products banks can sell – you *have* to assume that the bankers are smarter at banking than the lawyers, janitors, and farmers that are their customers. Or else we should fire them all and put other people in charge of the banks.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        Rosa, I started to read your comment and your friend’s thought immediately had me thinking, right, so we abolish all the speed limits and driving blood-alcohol limits, because people are responsible, riiiiiight…. and then I realised you have plenty of excellent counter arguments.

      • Rosa

        Yeah, it’s endless, right?

        The crazy thing is these kinds of people are usually the most authoritarian parents (my friend isn’t but she certainly was raised that way.) Little children need CONSTANT discipline but adults should be able to do whatever they want because they will always make good decisions. Unless they are men and it involves sex…

  • JeseC

    I’ve found there’s a lot of victim-blaming mentality mixed in with this. I have a number of health problems, some from bad genetic luck and some from a history of sexual abuse. I’m considered disabled for education/employment purposes, meaning I can get certain services and accommodations from my university that others don’t. I also am considered “high-risk” for health care, so

    I can’t tell you how many libertarians I’ve talked to think I’m somehow “milking the system.” Either I need to just pull myself together and work harder, or I should be happy with whatever low-end charity job someone wants to give me (despite being in a top academic program in my field). It amuses me – they want to talk about how it’s your own fault for being poor, but the minute I try to get the kind of accommodations I need to complete a PhD, they’re up in arms.

    • Maggy

      That also sounds like a lack of empathy. It is hard for some folks to wrap their mind around the fact that the playing field is not level for everyone or that this lack of equity is caused by laziness or ineptitude.

  • Tisha

    I’m having a hard time swallowing the idea that people who are so enamored with authoritarian, dogmatic ways of thinking really value “individualism”. I don’t think they understand the meaning of the word.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    When I first read Ayn Rand at age 19, I was at first interested in her philosophy (an interest that waned well before the end of John Galt’s interminable speech), but soon after realized how profoundly anti-social and, yes, unChristian it was. Obviously society should reward excellence, but it can also legitimately care for “the least of these…” It’s like the whole social justice aspect of Jesus’s teaching just gets flushed down the toilet with these extreme-libertarian fantasies that the poor would get cared for because everyone rich would suddenly become generous enough with enough wealth to take care of all of them (they can’t –the burden is too great–Stephen King wrote a great article on that). But I expect very little in terms of disctinction-making from people who seem incapable of realizing that the choice they are making is between being taxed for the benefit of the rich and being taxed for the benefit of everyone–and that the latter is not actually equivalent to the worst implementation of Soviet-Style Marxism. It’s quite exhausting trying to explain even simple facts to some people of this philosophy (some of them are my in-laws–I’ve tried…)

  • Hibernia86

    Another point to bring up with libertarians is that the charity system ends up encouraging freeloaders. You have some people who give to charity and then you have everyone else who lives in a better world without having to donate any money toward making it that way. Better to have a tax system which makes sure that if the nation is improved, it is improved by the assistance of everyone.

  • Michael Busch

    Libby Anne,

    I’m curious: how did your parents resolve the disconnect between “taxes are stealing” and “we must support the military”? After all, DoD is about 20% of the federal budget, and some more in discretionary spending ends up supporting the military. Was the idea “taxes are stealing unless they’re used to buy tanks”? The second one would still miss all of the other things that the government does for everybody, regardless of their political views, but at least it wouldn’t be self-contradicting.

  • smrnda

    My take on charity versus government aid programs. I was on disability for a number of years because of mental health problems (rather severe. I have schizophrenia.) The State sent me a check every month, paid for me to see a psychiatrist and paid part of my meds. Aside from that, I was totally free to do whatever I felt like. Unless I proved to be totally irresponsible and unable to take care of myself, I was just given aid with few strings attached.

    Let’s say that there was no government aid for people like me. I’d have had to go begging some private agency for help. I’d have to take help from whoever would want to give it to me whether or not they were qualified to help me or not. Rather than giving me help on my terms, they would probably want to exert a lot of control over me and if I refused to comply, they would kick me out. Private charities are not so much built to address the needs of people who need help, but the pseudo-needs of the control freaks running them.

    In the town I live we have lots of homeless people. We have several Christian organizations that offer free housing, but people have to sign ‘contracts’ agreeing to abide by nearly 100 rules and agreeing to attend church every day that the person is not working and attend ‘accountability’ groups. It doesn’t surprise me that people prefer the streets to that.

    And on self-reliance. It’s only possible with a low degree of technology. Even the most ‘self-reliant’ American is dependent on people and organizations from all over the entire world. The homeschooling small business entrepreneurs are dependent on ordinary people who participate in a more global economy for their customer base.

  • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

    As a person to receive social security in a “socialist” country, I can only tell you that the misconceptions are huge.
    The libertarian side of the deal makes social security out to be a perfect life in a huge house with a flat screen, a laptop and a golden toilet to flush away all those leftover lobsters. Social security is not meant to LIVE but to SURVIVE. There’s a major major difference. You’re supposed to get by without worrying how to pay for your next meal, but you won’t have money to spend on anything fancy and that’s ok. Take as much as you need and not more.
    Of course there are bad apples in every batch and abusing the system isn’t ok. But does that really justify punishing 98% of the honest (and really needy) receivers of social welfare, just because 2% might really avoid getting a job?

    I do understand, however, the anger people must feel – at the age of 26, having worked all your life while getting a university degree, and still ending up with several 100k dept for school, medical and living expenses… It’s not a good way to start your professional life. I’m so thankful other people studied and go to work every day to pay for my school and partially living expenses. So thankful. And I certainly will never cry about paying for their medical bills and living expenses if they ever end up sick, or disabled, or poor, or simply too old to work.
    I guess a lot of the anger comes from not having experienced social security. From trying to implement a pricy system on people who have been left alone with their dept and fears and problems. If you did experience it, it’s much easier to see the benefit of paying for other people’s old age as well as school expenses. After all, those future students will be the ones to pay for my old age.

    • Azel

      And even without that, something I never understood is Americans refusing a true Social Security on grounds of cost. Because, according to OECD’s numbers, the USA are by far the highest spender on health, be it in US$ per capita or in % of the GDP. Hell, even compared to France, whose model is so vilified by French politicians for its cost, the USA spend almost two times more per capita (7960 vs 3978) and more than 5% more of the GDP (17.4 vs 11.8). So, only on efficiency grounds alone, I don’t understand why would some Americans refuse socialized health care…unless they want their health care system to be on the standards of sub-saharian countries and to tell the poor “screw you !”.

  • katiesays

    My father ascribes to a more libertarian philosophy, and lately my mother has more and more political leanings that way as well. My bother and I are both very progressive (which surprises my parents, I think) and we’ll debate back and forth often. In all honesty, knowing my parents the way I do – that they’re very good people, kind, generous to a fault, and so on – it almost shocks me sometimes when one of my parents will whip out a precious little tidbit from “papa-bear” O’Reilly. ESPECIALLY as it concerns health care. I’m a Ph.d. student, and I’ve had a life-long auto-immune disease. It’s quite severe, with ongoing chemo drugs for almost my whole life, bouts of blindness (and the eye surgeries to correct that – 11 in all! Oy!), and so on. Meds, doctors’ appointments, and other medical costs are astronomical for me. So my parents help me out – I still work at a full-time job and go to school full time, but I still need help for the medical stuff. They KNOW that a healthcare system for everyone that espouses affordable care is not just about people who “want to milk they system” – its also about people like me, who have no choice. I can take my chemo drugs to suppress my immune system, or I can die. Hmmm…let me think.

    Anyway, sorry for the rambling post. I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter what system you have, there will always be those who really really need assistance, and that assistance can allow them to still participate and benefit society. We (in the USA) don’t have that type of system, and if I didn’t have reasonably wealthy parents I wouldn’t still be able to go to school or probably even see (those eye things are expensive, you know). Do I know of people who can and would take an “advantage” of a better-equiped system? Sure -(a few) but that’s life; there’s always going to be a real douchecanoe out there somewhere.