Thursday, May 22, 2014

Anti-Piketty: Because Conservatives Hate Compulsion

It's been a rough two weeks, but somebody had to do it. I just finished reading through Thomas Piketty's Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century and lived to blog about it.  You can start the blog commentary here. Now it's done and I've broken through into open country.

I get what Piketty is all about.  He's a bright young chap, darling of the French ruling class, and he's returning the compliment, as a good bribed apologist should.  What's needed, to save the authoritarian welfare state -- euphemistically called the "social state" or the "European Social Model" -- is force.  Its debt is way too large and so we must take money from the rich; that's OK, because their wealth is currently spiraling out of control. We must conduct a searching "financial cadaster" of all the world's private wealth and then bravely tax it.  Only thencan we resume the wonderful work of providing free education and health care.  And pensions.

No wonder our liberal friends love this Frenchy's ideas.

But I hate 'em.  The ideas, not the liberals.  Not so much because of the tendentious idea that the whole thing is due to r > g, that the return from capital is greater than the economic growth rate.  Of course it is!  Piketty's r and his g are apples and oranges.  The rate of return on capital is time discount + risk + surprise.  The growth rate is what's left.  They have nothing to do with each other.

No, what I hate is the compulsion.  Here we are, social animals as we are, and the only thing that a brilliant lefty can think to do in the current emergency is to bellow Captain Kirk's insistent request of Scotty for more power?  Just hand over 15-20 percent of your wealth and we'll fix everything?  You think I'm dumb or something?  Don't you lefties realize that your centralized one-size-fits-all model always ends up at the VA with secret waiting lists and people dying waiting for treatment?

But I can see the advantage of pretense, the pretense that this time with this trillion dollar program we have a perfect system to deliver... whatever: health care for our veterans, or to the uninsured, or to the traditionally marginalized.  Because then President Obama can always do the Casablanca line and be shocked, shocked that there are death panels going on at the VA.

Of course, I realize that we have our present centralized system because that's what most of the American people want.  They may be living in the modern capitalistic era but they think and feel like tribesmen. They look to the tribal leader as the powerful patron to keep them safe.  And so they whine and moan about the service and about "them".  But they are too cheap to turn away from the "free stuff" and pay their own way.

Let's turn away from this dysfunctional swamp and think beautiful thoughts.  Conservative thoughts.

Conservatism says that government is force.  So you have to face the truth that everything the government does is force.  If you do that it clears the mind.

You think educating little children can only be achieved confining them for twelve years in government child-custodial facilities with no time off for good behavior?  Really?

You think that the only way to get health care to the poor is by forcing everyone in society into a comprehensive and mandatory system run by bureaucrats and politicians?  Really?

You think that intergenerational solidarity means that old people get to vote to force young people to give them pensions?  Really?

That's the point about conservatism.  It starts with the faith, against all odds, that there must be a better way to deliver the benefits of society -- social services, if you will -- than force.

Because the problem with government is that the only thing that government knows is force.  And that means that it turns every question, every issue, into a war.  Now governments have always been pretty keen to go to war with the neighboring states.  No mystery about that: border war is in our genes, going all the way back to the chimpanzees.  Our problem is that if our government doesn't have a foreign war to fight it will stir up an argument at home.  It will conjure up some mortal peril, like inequality, or climate change, or the uninsured, that can only be overcome with the overwhelming force, mobilizing every citizen to fight the foe.  It could be spiraling inequality or it could be a rising sea level.  It doesn't matter, because the only thing needful is for government to have a war to fight.

Our lefty friends are firmly convinced that they are on the side of Peace and Justice.  Only first, of course, it will take a war on want, on poverty, on inflation, on bigots, on denialists, on racists, before the Heavenly Kingdom on Earth can begin.

Conservatives say that, if we are going to have a war, let's at least have a war against Commies in Russia or Islamists in the Middle East.  Let's not declare war on each other.

Why, we might end up in a real civil war and end up killing each other.

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