Friday, March 21, 2014

Liberals Swatting at Gnats

I was dining with some liberal friends the other night and they were all tut-tutting about "Switchgate," GM's recall scandal.  GM knew for years that it had defective switches in up to 1.7 million vehicles, but refused to recall them.  About 12 people have died in accidents because of this defect.

There are two aspects of the scandal: the defect itself, and the bureaucratic coverup.

Yeah.  It's terrible.  But how many people have died as a result of Obamacare, already?  I mean, here's a story of a guy who claims his cancer medication has gone up from "$100 a pop" to "$600 a pop."  Suppose there are a mere 10,000 folks out there like him?  How many, do you think, have already decided they can't afford it?

Yeah.  Liberals are quick to rage at the horrible corporate greed in GM trying to save a few bucks on defective ignition switches.  Or the monstrosity of the Keystone XL pipeline that will put the crimp on Warren Buffett's railroad profits, or the hell of fracking.  Boy can they strain out a gnat.

But then they swallow camels by the dozen.  What about the millions of lives ruined by welfare?  What about the millions of retired Americans devastated by the government's crazy zero interest rate policy?  What about the millions of lower-income children denied a decent education by half a century of liberal special interest pandering to teachers' unions and liberal education fads?

I will tell you what this is all about.  It is about tribalism.  Let us start with John Derbyshire at Takimag:
The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal.…Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens regard with dislike and mistrust.
 No quite, John.  Don't forget "tribal."  And the difficulty humans have with scientific ways of thinking also applies to economics and markets.

Collectivism is tribal and political.  We hesitate to criticize our own tribe.  That is why it is so hard to criticize "our teachers" in the public school system; that is why it is so hard to reform a government program.  All these things are part of our collective identity in our tribe of America.  To criticize them is to criticize America, or as the Obamis say "who we are."

But individualism, the market, the corporation, science: these are brand new concepts in the cultural experience of humans.  People are not at all sure about them and do not hesitate to criticize them for the least mistake.  We give government the benefit of the doubt while ragging on corporations for the least little thing.

We ought, instead, to give individuals and markets and corporations the benefit of the doubt and come down on politicians, bureaucrats, and political action groups like a ton of bricks.  Why?  Well let's start with the fact that politicians and bureaucrats come armed with the power of force.  Corporations and markets only act indirectly through the power of money.  You can say: I refuse to buy at Walmart.  You cannot say: I refuse to pay my taxes.

Maybe after another year of Obamacare there will be a lot of people, even a few liberals, ready to start tut-tutting about the universal scandal of government programs that kill people, and the government officials that cover up their mistakes.

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