Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Collision of Theory And Reality


Give them credit: most (true) libertarians are principled, interested in exchanging opinions with the sensible world, and relatively non-partisan.

The latter virtue extends to Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, authors of "The Objectivist" on forbes.com. They accuse Republicans for promoting cuts which "have been puny to non-existent" because they "share the Robin Hood morality."

This alleged Robin Hood morality, apparently co-existent with the net worth of the 400 wealthiest households in the U.S.A. being greater than that of 60% of American households, is condemned by one of the philosophical fathers(mothers) of libertarianism and founder of the objectivist movement, Ayn Rand. Brook and Watkins are unable to resist the temptation to quote one of Rand's novels and summarize their own (and identical) view as

you earned your wealth and it belongs to you, and no politician has any business talking about how much of your money he can “afford” to let you keep.

Libertarians invariably neglect to remind us that, in addition to withholding assistance from the undeserving poor and middle class, government would be unable to finance such services as police, fire, and highway construction and maintenance. It would be tough to get your car to your job without roads- and libertarians, as you know, consider financing of public transportation anathema.

Brook and Watkins, who as objectivists as well as libertarians owe a particular debt to Rand, reserve special animus for Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, though preferring the term "entitlements," the better to demonize them. But Medicaid is financed by general revenues; Medicare is supported primarily by the payroll tax, though partly from other sources, including beneficiaries; Social Security is self-financing, from the payroll tax and the interest earned by that money in its trust fund. They have different (though somewhat overlapping) beneficiaries and different forms of financing.

That should give pause to libertarians and members of the mainstream media, who similarly demean these popular government programs as "entitlements," suggesting those aided are merely selfish and privileged. But then, both libertarians and the traditional media are prone to oversimplification.

The attack on Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security from libertarians, principled and misguided, is above all, silly. Though owing in part to Rose Wilder Lane and "Pat" Paterson, the ideology is above all beholden to Rand, as its adherents would proudly proclaim. However, Ayn Rand herself accepted Social Security payments and Medicare benefits, as "Ann O'Connor," the wife of Frank O'Connor.

Like Rand, most people like the idea of limited government in the abstract. But as with millions of Americans, Ayn Rand faced the possibility of mounting medical bills that otherwise would have been impoverishing. As Joshua Holland has noted, she ended up facing reality,

succumbing to the imperatives of the real world – one in which people get sick, and old, and many who are perfectly decent and hardworking don't end up being independently wealthy.



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