A Runaway Slave
November 9, 2010 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Freedom Works, a non-profit conservative organization lead by Dick Armey, is producing a documentary entitled A Runaway Slave, aimed at exposing "the economic slavery of the Black community to the Progressive policies of the US government and how Black Conservatives are leading the fight so all Americans can be 'free at last.'" This is on the heels of their last documentary, Tea Party: The Documentary Film.

Visitors to the site are urged to make a tax-deductible donation towards the film.
We need you to help us free all Americans from the slavery of tyranny through the underground railroad of conservatism to the blessings of liberty, click here to make a tax deductable donation.
posted by mccarty.tim (140 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Teaser not recommended for epileptics.
posted by box at 6:02 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's kind of cute, in a pathetic way... like watching a wide-eyed, furry little puppy with a lame leg try to make a complex, historical statement about economics and race. Except it's not a puppy, it's a grown man.
posted by shii at 6:04 AM on November 9, 2010


And instead of being cute, it just makes you kind of sick to your stomach.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:06 AM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's no way this could go wrong! Are they getting Charles Murray to narrate?
posted by OmieWise at 6:10 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up in an inner-city, welfare dependent neighbourhood.

The Tea Party's macro-economic policies do NOT help
poor people, regardless of race.
posted by jb at 6:11 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, I think this is a laughable project. It looks to be a feature-length version of the conservative argument that they can't be racist, because welfare and affirmative action are the real racism.

Just couldn't put that in the post without framing it poorly.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:13 AM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


So now they're aiming for the Dems' base itself? That's chutzpah.
posted by the cydonian at 6:15 AM on November 9, 2010


I almost wonder if Freedom Works is funding this thing to be a dog whistle to their base: "Be less racist, and maybe we could get a few black people to vote Tea Party."
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:19 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


the economic slavery of the Black community to the Progressive policies of the US government

"stop taking money from the government to buy food and instead be forced to take an abusive/dangerous/degrading/underpaying job, if you can even find that much" = freedom
posted by DU at 6:22 AM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wow, the people who funded this movie must be REALLY mad at how Rand Paul thinks that blacks don't need to get jobs or bank accounts or home loans if business owners and the rest of the private sector don't want them to. Because y'know they hate economic slavery so much and they think it's so important for Americans to have jobs.
posted by XMLicious at 6:25 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's probably meant to be a self-denial of racism, for internal consumption.
posted by Brian B. at 6:26 AM on November 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Their next production will no doubt be how Custer & the 7th Cav led the fight for the Sioux people's successful social integration into the new West. The mendacity here is just jaw-dropping.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:29 AM on November 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


You can't say these oligarchs in the Tea Party aren't ambitious. Now that they've successfully brainwashed poor white people into advocating against their own self interest, it's time to do the same thing to blacks. Why can't people see that the Tea Party Express won't take you anyplace worth going to?
posted by Daddy-O at 6:30 AM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


In retrospect, this seems like a waste of time, but the rhetoric in that trailer is so transparently manipulative and full of childish cognitive dissonance, that it bears highlighting:

If this is too disrupting for the thread, feel free to nix it

Transcript:
[Heavy breathing, clip suggesting a slave escaping from a plantation]
[Words in caps are flashed across the screen]

ARE YOU WHITE
CONSERVATIVE
FASCIST
BLACK
LIBERAL
SOCIALIST
REPUBLICAN
DEMOCRAT
SLAVE

I'm C. L. Bryant
PASTOR
ACTIVIST
FORMER NAACP RADICAL
And I am a runaway slave
Wake up America! Tell me why you're great! Is it because of our government? Or is it because of your people?

Run america
Run away from socialism!
Run from statism!
Run away from progressivism!

Who holds your liberty?
Who holds your freedom?

We don't get our freedoms from Republicans.
We don't get our freedoms from Democrats.
We lend them our power!

America is perhaps the greatest success story that the world has ever known. And here I am, the grandson of former slaves. I encourage Americans everywhere to run away from economic slavery and run toward the blessings of liberty guaranteed by our Constitution. So join me america, as we travel the underground railroad and we seek to free ourselves from the slavery of tyranny

Pre-1960, most African Americans were Republicans. After Martin Luther King was freed from jail by John F. Kennedy, the African American vote has gone Democratic. What exactly did we get in exchange for our 95% Democratic swing vote. We gave up 3:1 odds in abortion.

14 million black babies have died since 1973.

...dependent on welfare systems...

They begin to take young women, and they begin to tell the young women "We will give you money if you just stay home." But what if I want to get married? You lose your benefits.

When you remove the black men out of the house the likelihood of the young black men going to jail increases by 60%.

This is what this party has given on a platter to African Americans. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between now and 200 years ago. And we by 95% support this.

Go on back to the plantation. You have a group of people on the plantation, and we run away. We ran away - we got free.

The more the government gives us, the more debt and more control we accumulate.

But here we come back to the plantation. And we're telling them "Y'all can be free!"

Anyone that comes along and talks to me about taking away what I've given you, they must be evil, they've got to be Republicans.

You have 40 or 50 years the entire culture of people - this is all they know - they don't know anything else.

Because see in the black community there's always someone's gotta keep them niggers in control.

You can call it slavery in the slave quarters or now in the urban ghettos of America.

Life is about the future and making decisions that you feel like will serve you best.

We have an opportunity in this nation as blacks that we could not find anywhere else.

We the people are [unclear]

We joined up with these people who are haters and..and they're racists...but they're not! All we're doing is telling the others that are still on the plantation, "you can be free!"

This is not the land of guarantees, but it's the land of opportunites.

They sky's the limit as to what we can achieve here.

But when you say racism is the problem, you put the power for your future in someone else's hands.

What we need in this country today is more black men to confront it, because you have the white man who can't confront it. Right now you say anything to the black community and you will be accused of racism.

...I guess I'm racist too, right?

Tyranny is colorblind!

White or black!

It will control you!

Run America! Run faster! Don't give up! Don't give in! Are you tired yet? Run harder!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:36 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've always believed that the Dems didn't do anyone any favors by creating the welfare class in the mid-20th century, when they were in charge and actually had some power. Giving people just enough fish to survive (means-based monthly support that people lose if they actually get a job that pays a decent wage), but not teaching them to fish for themselves (high-quality public education & comprehensive mentorship/apprenticeship programs) guarantees a chronic welfare state.

What's needed in response to that reality is not for the market to take over; market-based approaches assume everyone is on a level playing field to start with. What's needed --- what's always been needed --- is to do what it takes to create a level playing field. Unfortunately I can't imagine a time when there was less political will to do that though.
posted by headnsouth at 6:36 AM on November 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


It also saddens me to just see more pointing and laughing in this thread. Look how well that worked with Sarah Palin. Or against the antisocial-ist anti-taxers in the 50s and 60s.

And now someone will say something about how treating it seriously just legitimizes it, as though being produced by Dick Armey and distributed around to the Tea Party, who just increased their legislative power, isn't "legitimate" enough already.
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


the cydonian: "So now they're aiming for the Dems' base itself? That's chutzpah"

This has actually been a long standing argument in conservative circles - you'll hear Limbaugh roll it out pretty regularly. But it only gets mentioned when preaching to the choir. The "liberals actually hate blacks!" argument is never pulled out into the light where it can be debated, probably because it is only defensible if you swallow some major presuppositions and ignore human suffering.

The Tea Party movie was pretty far off the radar and I'm imagining this one will be, too. You don't get to ask the movie questions and I doubt there will be any attempt to make this into a public debate. They'll just throw it out there to codify the talking points and maybe convince a few suckers (if they're lucky).
posted by charred husk at 6:42 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of the true believers think that if just "real Americans" support the Tea Party then they will take over the country, because everyone they know, everyone who comes to their rallies, are "real Americans" so with so many of them supporting their movement how could they lose? But the grown ups, and face it Dick Armey is a complete asshole but he's not dumb, can read the demographic writing on the wall and they know that they cannot build a sustainable movement in this country with only the support of Southern, blue collar, middle aged and elderly whites. They can win big in the midterms with just those people if the rest of the country stays home for the most part, but every day that coalition gets smaller. There is simply no future in conservatism unless they can find some other group to align with them. The anti-immigration folks are in the process of making sure it won't be Latinos and it's not going to be young people as long as they want to keep the social conservatives in the fold. So where do you go? They are floundering around trying to find some group that some member of their coalition hasn't completely alienated to prevent becoming a permanent minority party and if they think it will be African Americans then they are truly desperate.
posted by ND¢ at 6:43 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does anybody else conjure up a swastika when looking at that symbol they use on the website?
posted by caddis at 6:43 AM on November 9, 2010


Does anybody else conjure up a swastika when looking at that symbol they use on the website?

No
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:49 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]




Medicare is also socialist tyranny/slavery, and I expect to see Armey and his armies tearing up their Medicare cards and rejecting coverage any day now. Also, the army is socialist and should be disbanded.
posted by Mister_A at 6:55 AM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anybody else conjure up a swastika when looking at that symbol they use on the website?

Not exactly
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2010


This works the same way the "Hispanics are natural Republican" meme (used to) work. You take some aspect of ethnic culture that superficially aligns with conservative boilerplate ideas, such as religious devotion or dislike of bureaucracy, and then declare how this minority fits in with so well with conservatism. And forget how actual conservatives treat minorities as threats to culture and national security to such an extent as to justify things like mass incarceration and/or deportation without any thought at all.

Do tea partiers really think this feeble attempt at "Wake up, sheeple!" will make African Americans ignore the dog whistles and outright race baiting from the conservative foundations?
posted by 2N2222 at 7:00 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pre-1960, most African Americans were Republicans. After Martin Luther King was freed from jail by John F. Kennedy, the African American vote has gone Democratic.

Well, that's part of it.
posted by electroboy at 7:01 AM on November 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've always believed that the Dems didn't do anyone any favors by creating the welfare class in the mid-20th century, when they were in charge and actually had some power.

The pittance that is TANF is not enough to create a welfare class. The people you describe are poor.

When the Dems were in charge and "had actual power" as you describe it, they did a huge thing the GOP turned against--giving blacks the ability to vote and not to live in segregation. "Welfare" was all that they could get for them after that monumental struggle. No way was whitey going to also give them decent schools and the like, especially when the new "Christian" private schools were set up to prevent desegregation from really happening. Why then would anyone in a local area agree to a property tax increase to build schools and opportunity which their own children would not use?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:07 AM on November 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


Also, the idea that blacks should vote Republican is a pretty common meme in conservative circles. It seems to hinge on a few points:

1. Blacks are/should be anti-immigration because illegal immigrants take jobs from black workers.
2. Black churchgoers tend to be conservative on social issues like gay marriage.
3. The welfare state has enabled the destruction of the black family by encouraging out of wedlock childbirth and financially penalizes black men for marrying the mothers of their children or financially supporting their children.

I don't endorse these views, but I've heard them from both black and white conservatives.
posted by electroboy at 7:10 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
posted by yerfatma at 7:12 AM on November 9, 2010


Ironmouth is so right. U.S. Schools are more segregated today than in the 1950s.
posted by caddis at 7:14 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slavery. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It also saddens me to just see more pointing and laughing in this thread. Look how well that worked with Sarah Palin.

You mean the Sarah Palin who lost a national election and then quit her public sector job two years before her term was up and is now gearing up to be a reality teevee star?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


As a corollary to #3, there's also the idea, popularized on billboards in Atlanta, that legalized abortion is black genocide.
posted by box at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2010


I've always believed that the Dems didn't do anyone any favors by creating the welfare class in the mid-20th century...
That "class" already existed. They were already chronically poor and destitute and utterly ignored by most of society. Welfare payments are barely enough to make sure they can get some food into their kids. You know...a safety net.

...but not teaching them to fish for themselves (high-quality public education & comprehensive mentorship/apprenticeship programs) guarantees a chronic welfare state.
Yes, well, you should blame the conservative's umpteen-decade-long war against public education and the taxes that support that effective level of education. Are you advocating for greater funding for public education? That's cool. Might have to raise some taxes, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:18 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


The American Right has just managed to unleash the power of a split neuron on the world.
posted by srboisvert at 7:19 AM on November 9, 2010


I have a whole box of slavery here with your name on it.

But now that that's out of the way.... FreedomWorks?

Oh right. The Rachel Maddow Show was reporting on FreedomWorks back during the Summer Of Shoutiness right before health care reform was passed. In fact, her reporting led to Dick Armey's resignation from the lobbying firm he used to work for.

Yeah, makes me wonder who's footing the bill for what cause that is underlying this new "free the blacks" movie.
posted by hippybear at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do tea partiers really think this feeble attempt at "Wake up, sheeple!" will make African Americans ignore the dog whistles and outright race baiting from the conservative foundations?

Well, it seems to be working pretty well for other demographics. Since Republican strategy in general consists largely of paying news outlets to shout talking points at credulous viewers until they're accepted as truth, this is a natural progression. And once you've discovered that you can trivially manipulate voters into voting for people who openly hate them, why not expand your horizons?
posted by Mayor West at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2010


It's like writing history with lightning!
posted by Iridic at 7:26 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like writing history with lightning!
Someone watched TCM last night...
posted by Thorzdad at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2010


As pointed out by Brian B this is a vehicle to make self identified Tea Partiers feel better about themselves and less about recruiting African Americans to their cause.

Although with the new bogeymen of the right being Islam and illegal immigrants maybe the right is finally conceding that African Americans aren't the enemy anymore.

But i think they'll have a hard time convincing 44 % of our current gulag... err prison population that they are genuine in their efforts.
posted by Max Power at 7:33 AM on November 9, 2010


You mean the Sarah Palin who lost a national election and then quit her public sector job two years before her term was up and is now gearing up to be a reality teevee star?

And in the meantime promoted several winning candidates as well as the Tea Party in general, yes, that's the one.

Being ridiculous and being something it's a good idea to merely laugh at are two different things.
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


They'll just throw it out there to codify the talking points and maybe convince a few suckers (if they're lucky).

Yup, that much is clear. This is pretty much a codified set of talking points to "fight back" against accusations that the Tea Party is racist, when the reality is that even in 2008, just about the only White demographic which supported Obama in 2008 in the majority was males in the 18 - 35 age-group. The timing is also just nice; no matter how much you put this shit up on repeat, it'll take a bit of a time to drill down the populace. After which, the NAACP leadership and Dems will be defending against this shit, thus ignoring the real problem that this whole land of opportunity crap was never really meant for anyone other than people of Germanic origin and that African-American advancement, an afterthought even at the best of times.

It also goads an entire population to completely ignore the stirring moment that this Indian had yesterday, when he saw someone stand in the well of his Parliament and say, "I'm here because of Gandhi and Martin Luther King".

This would have been hilarious if it weren't so farcical.

It also saddens me to just see more pointing and laughing in this thread. Look how well that worked with Sarah Palin. Or against the antisocial-ist anti-taxers in the 50s and 60s.

And now someone will say something about how treating it seriously just legitimizes it, as though being produced by Dick Armey and distributed around to the Tea Party, who just increased their legislative power, isn't "legitimate" enough already.


I'm with you on this, but I'm not at all sure what anyone can do at this point. I was inching towards this position all of this year, but now I've more or less realized: the Repub capture over instruments of power is not just complete, it has been theirs for a long time. POTUS may shift for a term or two, but SCOTUS is theirs, the Executive is theirs, state legislatures are theirs, interest-groups are theirs. They know every loophole in the system; they've gotten judges removed, crooks reinstated. They've been shameless in loss, brazen in victory. There was this thread yesterday on how income inequality makes US a banana republic; it doesn't, single party rule does.
posted by the cydonian at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, well, you should blame the conservative's umpteen-decade-long war against public education and the taxes that support that effective level of education.

No, I shouldn't. The conservatives have stood by their principles, and the progressives/liberals/democrats have not. That's why what's considered the "center" in American politics has moved so far to the right that Richard Nixon wouldn't recognize it today. I blame the left for the failures of the left.

Are you advocating for greater funding for public education? That's cool. Might have to raise some taxes, though.

I am all for higher taxes, but I am in the minority.
posted by headnsouth at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


FORMER NAACP RADICAL

Wow, the tea party is hoping black people will be as ignorant about black history as they are. I mean, the NAACP hasn't been considered "radical" by the mainstream in a long time, and, in fact, "an organization fighting for equality and freedom of Americans" is radical only if you still subscribe to... well, let's just say NOT FREEDOM.

There'll always be some Uncle Ruckus' folks out there, but seriously, if you want a mainstream push? "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is not a new message, and certainly not one that's going to hold for long in the face of stuff like actually going for jobs, or loans to start a business and having people clearly discriminate.
posted by yeloson at 7:45 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, this is basically The Tea Party Can't Be Racist, We've Got A Black!: The Movie.
posted by kafziel at 7:52 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Just to be clear, I think this is a laughable project. It looks to be a feature-length version of the conservative argument that they can't be racist, because welfare and affirmative action are the real racism.

Just couldn't put that in the post without framing it poorly.


No shit you think it's a laughable project. Don't worry about it, your poor framing does indeed convey that quite well. You couldn't be bothered to post a link to someone actually making a case for why blacks should be far more distrustful of government. Perhaps that would have slowed down this circle jerk of outrage over someone daring to question whether the government's actions have resulted in gains for blacks.

Terrible post.
posted by BigSky at 7:52 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, it seems to be working pretty well for other demographics.

Wow, just wow. Haven't these guys heard what the Repubs / conservatives / $$$$-wallahs did to those poor judges in Iowa?!
posted by the cydonian at 7:56 AM on November 9, 2010


14 million black babies have died since 1973.

...dependent on welfare systems...


Which we, on the right, have done everything in our power to keep broken and designed to keep the poor down, but hey, that was then, this is now. You can trust us, there is no way we have some kind of ulterior, pandering motive here.

Nope.
posted by quin at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure Dick Armey and his fans will be taking on the prison-industrial complex and "three strikes" laws as an affront to personal liberty.
posted by benzenedream at 8:03 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps that would have slowed down this circle jerk of outrage over someone daring to question whether the government's actions have resulted in gains for blacks.

I don't think the silly part of the argument is that the government has harmed the African American community. The silly part is suggesting that joining the conservative movement is somehow a solution to this.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:05 AM on November 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


This might work better for them if there wasn't a (democrat) black president in charge of this country. I mean, who are you going to listen to, this clown or the fucking President of the United States of America?
posted by ob at 8:12 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


From BigSky's link: Tragically, most Americans, including black people whose ancestors have suffered from gross injustices of slavery, think it quite proper for government to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another. That’s precisely what income redistribution is: the practice of forcibly taking the fruits of one person’s labor for the benefit of another. That’s also what theft is and the practice differs from slavery only in degree but not kind.

Taxation is slavery!
posted by box at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2010


BigSky, the post itself seems pretty neutral, "here is a thing, made by the folks who made this other thing". You may be railing against the options of the commenters (in a pretty attacky, pejorative fashion).

Perhaps that would have slowed down this circle jerk of outrage over someone...

yeah... that someone is Dick fucking Armey, tell me some unqualified good about him that outweighs the Contract on America, Focus on the Family and unmitigated sexual harassment. This is the moral conservative we are suppose to give deference to?
posted by edgeways at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Circle jerks should never be about outrage. They should be about love.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:18 AM on November 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Perhaps that would have slowed down this circle jerk of outrage over someone daring to question whether the government's actions have resulted in gains for blacks.
Dude. The movie you're defending doesn't make the case that "government's actions have resulted in losses for blacks," it proposes very specifically that the election of liberals and democrats have led to high black abortion and incarceration rates. The same crowd that is promoting this movie argues that policies that Republicans have advanced over the past several decades as an explicit, deliberate part of the "Southern Strategy" can't possibly be racism. Either case can be made carefully, but making both of them is pretty disingenuous. Even silly.

I mean, even the reasonable level-headed "smart people can make a case for this" article you linked to doesn't do what you claim it does. It just rattles off a bunch of stats about how african americans get the short end of the stick, then announces that taxation and slavery are literally the same thing.

The question of post-segregation government policies on minorities needs to be carefully discussed. From what I'm seeing so far, this is not it. Not by a long shot.
posted by verb at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Taxation is slavery!


Being an investment banker is exactly like forced agricultural work.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:24 AM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


This might be local bias speaking, but I think that the Tea Party are seriously underestimating the intelligence and political activism of the African American community. Here in DC, they're easily the most engaged and politically active demographic (which also creates some unique dynamics, given that DC is one of, if not the largest majority-black jurisdictions in the US).

Although our new mayor got elected on a wave of Tea Party-esque sentiment, I find it far more likely that there will be a separate black populist movement, rather than the Tea Party picking up nonwhite voters in any meaningful numbers. Although a lot of the rhetoric is very similar, the underlying ideals and motivations are completely different.

That said, DC (and most other major metropolitan areas in the US) is undergoing a rather profound demographic flip-flop. For the first time in several decades, big cities are becoming whiter, and minorities are flocking to the suburbs (many of them buying houses for the first time, thanks to low real estate prices). I hesitate to use the term "diverse" here, as the minority suburban communities that are appearing tend to be rather sharply defined. Although we could discuss the implications of this trend at length, it's most notable that the Tea Party (and Republican base by extension) tend to be vehemently anti-urban. It will be interesting to see if we begin to see an uptick in minority Republican voters in the suburbs over the next decade or so (or if a new party will emerge to represent this increasingly-populous demographic).
posted by schmod at 8:25 AM on November 9, 2010


I got to the part where the black man in the suit says, "Sometimes you can't tell the difference between now and 200 years ago," and shut off the video, deciding that it had reached maximum farcitude.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


...a case for why blacks should be far more distrustful of government run by white conservatives

FTFY
posted by DU at 8:39 AM on November 9, 2010


Circle Jerks are about the music, man!
posted by Redhush at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2010


the practice of forcibly taking the fruits of one person’s labor

I have my doubts there's a libertarian alive today who has the first damn idea of what the fruits of "one person's" labor looks like.

That’s also what theft is and the practice differs from slavery only in degree but not kind.

It never ceases to amaze me that libertarians can perform these mountain-removing feats of analogical leveling. That is, in the public sector. Strangely, they seem completely unable to process parallel issues in the private sector.
posted by weston at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


BigSky, the post itself seems pretty neutral, "here is a thing, made by the folks who made this other thing". You may be railing against the options of the commenters (in a pretty attacky, pejorative fashion).

Neutral? Then why the section below the dotted line? Quoting the request for donations in this context is ridicule. Apparently it is an item of note that a foundation is taking donations to support a film project. Well since that's what foundations do, the implication is more along the lines of "Look! People actually give $ for the funding of this project. OMG!".

And no that "someone" is not Dick Armey alone. I have no idea why you think that a) I would be interested in defending him to you, or b) anyone wants you to defer to him.

-----

I mean, even the reasonable level-headed "smart people can make a case for this" article you linked to doesn't do what you claim it does. It just rattles off a bunch of stats about how african americans get the short end of the stick, then announces that taxation and slavery are literally the same thing.

The article does not announce that taxation and slavery are the same thing, it says that they are both instances of theft. Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have written many pages on the failures of U.S. policy to benefit blacks, the interested reader can easily find more on the subject.

-----

I have my doubts there's a libertarian alive today who has the first damn idea of what the fruits of "one person's" labor looks like.

Well, damn. Sounds like you, for one, know! Please share.
posted by BigSky at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2010


Taxation isn't theft. It's payment for services rendered.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 AM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


I have my doubts there's a libertarian alive today who has the first damn idea of what the fruits of "one person's" labor looks like.

Well, damn. Sounds like you, for one, know! Please share.


Here you go.

Personally, I'd rather work together and do a bit more than spend 6 weeks reinventing one tiny part of the entire output of human technology (let alone all the science, art, music, etc).
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article does not announce that taxation and slavery are the same thing...
That is precisely what the article says. It claims that they differ only in degree and not kind. It's just as reasonable to say that employment, panhandling, and being born are instances of theft. Perhaps not in degree, but at least in kind.

Really, I think you might be in the wrong thread.
posted by verb at 8:58 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taxation isn't theft. It's payment for services rendered.
posted by hippybear at 11:50 AM on November 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


I agree that taxation isn't theft, but it's not as simple as payment for services rendered. You MUST pay taxes, or you will be deprived of your liberty. I'd argue that it's part of the social contract that since we've formed this union, we're going to take care of ourselves and each other. That involves a government providing services, which requires funds, which requires taxation.

Personally I'm a fan of that social contract, so I'd rather not pretend it's just a business transaction.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Personally I'm a fan of that social contract, so I'd rather not pretend it's just a business transaction.
Either is slavery. MORE PROOF THEY'RE THE SAME!
posted by verb at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2010


Hey, it's their own words. I don't think it's sinister that they want money. So does MoveOn.org. That's par for the course. It's the way they asked.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2010


Taxation isn't theft. It's payment for services rendered.

Using language that implies a voluntary transaction (payment, services rendered) to refer to taxation is pure horseshit. If someone was to put a gun to my head, empty my wallet of a few hundred bucks and then stick a two liter bottle of Big K's Red Kreme Soda in my hand, I wouldn't describe it as "giving payment for goods received".
posted by BigSky at 9:02 AM on November 9, 2010


Yeah, I know it's not that simple. That's just my go-to response any time anyone says that the government is stealing from them by making them pay taxes. If you don't pay the plumber, there are consequences which also result in a loss of liberty. Granted, it's a different kind of loss of liberty, either through direct compensation being ordered by a judge because you've been taken to court, or through degradation of your credit score which will result in fewer opportunities for you to exert your liberty to buy things on credit. The government can throw you in jail for not paying your share, but then, articles are appearing regularly these days about the reemergence of debtor's prisons (or the modern equivalent), so it's all interestingly related in strange ways.

I do agree with you, however. It's not just a business transaction. I just grow weary of people pretending that they get nothing back for what they pay into the social contract. Calling it "theft" is as wrong-headed as calling the social safety net "slavery" or calling access to abortion "genocide".
posted by hippybear at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2010


If someone was to put a gun to my head, empty my wallet of a few hundred bucks and then stick a two liter bottle of Big K's Red Kreme Soda in my hand, I wouldn't describe it as "giving payment for goods received".
You wouldn't describe it as "taxation" either.
posted by verb at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Using language that implies a voluntary transaction (payment, services rendered) to refer to taxation is pure horseshit.

You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want. I hope you don't use any public roads while you leave the country however. That would be theft if you're not paying for them.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2010


It's a nice trick to the the middle class in the dark/confused about what the government is doing for them, by associating any/all legislation aimed at protecting the middle class (their own interest) with the poorest citizens, welfare recipients, "the other".

You really can't hate Republicans for doing what they do, they are servants to enormous corporate interests. You really have to blame the people who voted for them for not being able to free their mind.
posted by four panels at 9:09 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If someone was to put a gun to my head, empty my wallet of a few hundred bucks and then stick a two liter bottle of Big K's Red Kreme Soda in my hand, I wouldn't describe it as "giving payment for goods received".

I assume you must be posting this from the Libertarian Utopia of Somalia and there are no government thugs robbing you of your hard-earned cash to try to forcibly provide you with police protection against theft.
posted by DU at 9:09 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want. I hope you don't use any public roads while you leave the country however. That would be theft if you're not paying for them.
Actually you can't, not easily. That's one of the fundamental complaints that a number of anarchist and hardcore libertarian friends of mine point out. There is no good way to emigrate out of the United States and "opt out." We will continue to try to tax you unless some other country is willing to give you citizenship.

It's a pretty edgy edge case, because I've met perhaps two people in my life that like the idea of camping out in a deserted wasteland and bootstrapping their life from scratch without societal support. But philosophically, the impossibility of opting out of civilization makes it an imposed choice.
posted by verb at 9:11 AM on November 9, 2010


I mean, who are you going to listen to, this clown or the fucking President of the United States of America?

As if being the President of the United States of America qualifies someone as an authoritative voice on anything other than what it's like to be President of the United States of America.

I don't disagree with most of what's being said in this thread. But the MetaFilter political echo chamber that generally shouts down anyone who doesn't chime in with righteous agreement in threads about politics gets really annoying.
posted by The World Famous at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2010


And no that "someone" is not Dick Armey alone. I have no idea why you think that a) I would be interested in defending him to you, or b) anyone wants you to defer to him.

er, well he is the fellow who heads up the organization producing the film, what other "someone" am I suppose to infer you are alluding to? This is yet another of Armey's pet projects, just because he isn't gaffing the lights does not mean he is not up to his ass in it. He is the producer, he is responsible for it, it will not be a daring film that runs counter to what Dick wants.

a) because you shot a load of vitriol at the post, ostensibly in defense of the film, b) because you are forcefully advocating for Armey's film POV.

I don't know BigSky, what exactly are you doing? I'm guessing from your responses you consider yourself a strong Libertarian, in which case you got a tough row to hoe here. Please consider not turning this into a big fight fest where you take on all comers, no amount of exclamation marks will save us lost souls.
posted by edgeways at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2010


In other news, I have the feeling this might turn into a BigSky pile-on. I think it's probably fair to say that most of the posters participating right now disagree with his position. Let's try to be conscious of the fact that he's not the avatar of the people we are annoyed at in the main story, just someone making an argument that a fair number of us think is flawed.

If we want this to be a discussion about the morality of taxation and the nature of the social contract that's cool -- I love those! -- but let's not muddy that with gnawing on BigSky like a chew toy, either.
posted by verb at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


the MetaFilter political echo chamber that generally shouts down anyone who doesn't chime in with righteous agreement in threads about politics gets really annoying.

I think it's less about not chiming in with righteous agreement and more about those who do chime in with contrarian views often don't express themselves in a way which leads to genuine discussion. Often it's just repetition of talking point catchphrases and other shallow expression of opinion.

If there's one thing MetaFilter always seems to respect, it's someone who takes the time to fully develop their ideas. Even if those ideas are unpopular, if they're well stated and have actual content, they won't be shouted down. They'll be discussed. It's those who don't seem to have thought through their arguments who get shouted down, no matter which side they're on.
posted by hippybear at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Comparing taxation with chattel slavery circa 1840 is completely insane.

You heard me. It's insane.

Things I can do despite being an OH NO slave of the government via ~taxes~

--Live where I want to
--Travel freely
--Work (or not work) as I so choose
--Keep my children, name them, and raise them
--Not be forced to have sex with someone who "owns" me
--Stay with my partner without worrying about us being forcibly separated

Taxation is slavery...completely insane.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:18 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, damn. Sounds like you, for one, know! Please share.

DU's example is getting close, and O'Shea probably has a better appreciation for what I'm getting at than most, however, there's a bunch of inputs into his (awesome) experiment that I don't think quite qualify him. Can you spot them?

You MUST pay taxes, or you will be deprived of your liberty.

Are there any actual taxes that you have to pay just for existing in the U.S., outside the recent health care tax (which, honestly, I could see an argument for having an opt-out)? Because it seems to me that by and large, taxes are essentially participation fees for a bunch of economic activities, which is by no means the kind of thing that'd go away if we did have an anarchic system.
posted by weston at 9:21 AM on November 9, 2010


Republicans are bitter that they haven't been able to get black voters to vote against their own self interests based on nonsensical fear tactics. They've been so successful getting working class whites to vote to cut taxes for the rich, cut funding for social programs and cut regulations that would protect them from corporations but they can't seem to get black voters to do the same. They even trot out black candidates like Lynn Swan or Ken Blackwell to run as Republicans and are shocked that black voters vote overwhelmingly for the candidate who's policies they agree with.
posted by octothorpe at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's those who don't seem to have thought through their arguments who get shouted down, no matter which side they're on.
Having been shouted down, I can say this is sometimes (perhaps even "often") true. The difficulty is that groups with rarely-overlapping circles of discourse tend to arrive at conclusions and consider them givens. When these groups collide, their respective givens appear to be terribly silly statements of dogma -- things that haven't been "thought through."

Sometimes, that is a correct assessment. Just because 9/11 truthers all believe that the case for government demolition of the twin towers has been made conclusively doesn't mean that they're correct. And in many cases, this demand that everyone drop back to first principles and argue from the ground up is simply untenable: we're not philosopher majors, and shorthand references to the well-analyzed conclusions of other thinkers is sometimes far better for discourse.

The problem, though, remains: a group whose most vocal members agree with each other are more likely to consider their own ideas well-thought-out, and opposing ideas less-well-thought-out. It's a human tendency and there's no real way to escape it. We can just try to remain aware of it and approach potentially fighty conversations with open eyes and open minds.
posted by verb at 9:26 AM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Republicans are bitter that they haven't been able to get black voters to vote against their own self interests

That assumes that all blacks have the same interests, which they clearly don't. Upper middle class blacks may have good reason to vote Republican if they're social conservatives. The assumption that social safety net programs = black self interest is not a good one.
posted by electroboy at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2010


Comparing taxation with chattel slavery circa 1840 is completely insane.

And comparing the social safety net with slavery and access to abortion services to black genocide is also insane. Those seem to be the central argument of the film from the FPP.

Now, I can certainly see some of BigSky's point, from the article that he linked and how it relates to this film. Black citizens certainly have gotten the short end of the stick, from inadequate education to bad laws and law enforcement and a legal system seemingly set against them to poorly maintained neighborhoods... There's a deep systemic problem with how this sizable minority seems to be treated in this country, for reasons which are difficult to tease out of our national heritage of institutionalized racism (and probably caused largely by it).

I would welcome and support quality discussion of those failures and how they can be addressed in a meaningful way that has a lasting impact. I would love to hear about solutions which create a level playing field for all who are born as citizens of this country and let anyone succeed without impediments such as bad schools and poor neighborhood conditions.

I'm just not convinced that this film is going to actually make those points. It seems to be working from a hyperbolic stance that "the blacks are being kept down by welfare", which is just an echo of Reagan's mythical Welfare Queen argument. The end of the transcript of the trailer seems to speak about a new black power movement, one coming from the Right instead of the Left. But FreedomWorks isn't a real grassroots organization. It's a party tool used to incite astroturf demonstrations based on the interests of very powerful, rich men.

Maybe we do need a new black power movement of some sort. I don't think this is it, however.
posted by hippybear at 9:28 AM on November 9, 2010


DU's example is getting close, and O'Shea probably has a better appreciation for what I'm getting at than most, however, there's a bunch of inputs into his (awesome) experiment that I don't think quite qualify him. Can you spot them?

The biggest one is that someone has to had the idea of the telegraph in the first place, then figured out how it would work. The guy in the video is just implementing it. Naturally a True Libertarian would shun Enslaving Others by using their ideas and would have to have invented it entirely from scratch by himself.
posted by DU at 9:29 AM on November 9, 2010


Um... the BS politics and faulty logic of this whole thing aside...

I have to believe that there is no way they actually got permission from Trent Reznor to use that music.
posted by cirhosis at 9:30 AM on November 9, 2010


Republicans are bitter that they haven't been able to get black voters to vote against their own self interests based on nonsensical fear tactics.
It's interesting that Martin Luther started out imploring Christians to be kind to Jews, condemning European anti-semitism and enthusiastically sharing the gospel with them.

Eventually it became clear that they weren't going to convert en masse simply because he wasn't trying to kill them, and he decided that this experiment was a failure. He started writing tracts like the infamous "On The Jews And Their Lies" and eventually became one of the intellectual "heavyweights" deployed to prop up later european antisemitism.

Which is to say, I wonder if a time will come when the number of blacks voting for liberal and/or democratic candidates will be pointed at as evidence that blacks are not, in fact, possessors of "American Values."
posted by verb at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2010


You wouldn't describe it as "taxation" either.

No, of course not. Such an instance of theft would be better termed "robbery" instead of "taxation".

-----

I do agree with you, however. It's not just a business transaction. I just grow weary of people pretending that they get nothing back for what they pay into the social contract. Calling it "theft" is as wrong-headed as calling the social safety net "slavery" or calling access to abortion "genocide".

I'm not much on the concept of a social contract, the term is deceptive. But that said, I think Williams and many other libertarians overstate the argument against taxation especially when they focus on its similarity to theft. Their underlying assumption seems to be that it is possible to have a world without coercion, which just seems naive.

On the other, other hand:

You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want.

LOL

-----

er, well he is the fellow who heads up the organization producing the film, what other "someone" am I suppose to infer you are alluding to?

I could certainly be wrong, but I suspect that few people particularly care that Armey is involved. I meant a circle jerk of outrage that anyone makes this argument at all.
posted by BigSky at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2010


Using language that implies a voluntary transaction (payment, services rendered) to refer to taxation is pure horseshit

It's totally voluntary in the exact same way any employee/employer negotiation is voluntary. You do not have to participate in any taxed activity.

If someone was to put a gun to my head, empty my wallet of a few hundred bucks and then stick a two liter bottle of Big K's Red Kreme Soda

Load your analogy much? Do the soda-wielding muggers that you've postulated also invite you to meetings to discuss and vote on how much they should take from your wallet, under what precise circumstances they require payment, and how much Red Kreme Soda you get in return?
posted by weston at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do the soda-wielding muggers that you've postulated also invite you to meetings to discuss and vote on how much they should take from your wallet, under what precise circumstances they require payment, and how much Red Kreme Soda you get in return?

Sure, they listen. But I wouldn't call it a negotiation.
posted by BigSky at 9:39 AM on November 9, 2010


I have to believe that there is no way they actually got permission from Trent Reznor to use that music.

Oh, that's hilarious. I hadn't noticed that. So much of his later work has been released under a Creative Commons license, but certainly not The Perfect Drug, which is what that initial drumbeat is from.

Maybe someone with a twitter account should make sure @nineinchnails is informed. Trent might be interested to hear about it.
posted by hippybear at 9:41 AM on November 9, 2010


I meant a circle jerk of outrage that anyone makes this argument at all.
Sadly, that would make your posts a simple jerk-off of outrage that someone disagrees with the argument.

How about this? "Llibertarianism is rape. If not in degree, then in kind." I'd be just as annoyed if someone made that argument, not because I'm a libertarian, but because it's a maddeningly stupid argument.
posted by verb at 9:42 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ, you people let the libertarian hijack the thread again.
posted by klanawa at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2010


You already owe society for all the services & protections you have had since birth. Taxes only go a small way to paying some of that back.
posted by jb at 9:45 AM on November 9, 2010


You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want.

LOL


Wait...why can't you move to Somalia?
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait...why can't you move to Somalia?

Ugh. Can we not play Objectivist bingo, please?
posted by electroboy at 9:49 AM on November 9, 2010


I have to believe that there is no way they actually got permission from Trent Reznor to use that music.

Okay, I just started a new thread at the NIN.com forums about the use of that music in their video. I know Trent reads that. But I don't have a twitter account, which may be the fastest way to communicate with him. Perhaps someone else can take care of that bit of this nonsense.

That's just outstanding. Maybe they think that conservatives and black people don't listen to NIN enough to identify such blatantly obvious music clips.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM on November 9, 2010


I have to believe that there is no way they actually got permission from Trent Reznor to use that music.

They found it on the Internet, so that means it's public domain.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know Quakers who opt out of paying taxes by keeping their income levels low enough that they avoid being taxed.

LIVING YOUR PRINCIPLES LOL
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:09 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


...a non-profit conservative organization...

How is that possible!
posted by chugg at 10:11 AM on November 9, 2010


There is something to be said about welfare fucking people up, though.

I will give them that.

Welfare, as it currently stands, is cruel and punitive.

We wouldn't take a nursing kitten away from its mother because it would be inhumane.

But we require women to go back to work and leave their infants in daycare, or we take away needed assistance.

We limit it, as though once you've gotten a certain amount of welfare, you stop being hungry when you run out of food.

It's really sickening.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


As if being the President of the United States of America qualifies someone as an authoritative voice on anything other than what it's like to be President of the United States of America.

I don't disagree with most of what's being said in this thread. But the MetaFilter political echo chamber that generally shouts down anyone who doesn't chime in with righteous agreement in threads about politics gets really annoying.


I was actually speaking about what I believe most black Americans are going to think about this. Based on, you know, actually hearing what people in disenfranchised cities have to say about Obama. But hey, don't let me stop you get your drive-by snark on.
posted by ob at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2010


But hey, don't let me stop you get your drive-by snark on.

While you have every right to criticize me for not engaging in a drawn-out argument, I think I'm going to leave it at just that one comment for now.
posted by The World Famous at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2010


Sure, they listen. But I wouldn't call it a negotiation.

If nothing else, this would be a ridiculous argument considering which which way the needle's generally moved on the tax burden gauge over the last 40 years. There's plenty of negotiation going on.
posted by weston at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yup, this definitely looks like it was designed for internal consumption and justification rather than recruitment.

electroboy wrote Ugh. Can we not play Objectivist bingo, please?

I'm not seeing that here. I certainly agree that Somalia does not represent what Libertarians claim their ideal scenario would be. I do, however, have to point out that wasn't what BigSky dismissively laughed at:
On the other, other hand:

You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want.

LOL
I see nothing LOL worthy about the statement that if someone truly and firmly believes that they are being oppressed by the taxation imposed by the US government they can leave that system.

They might not have a particularly pleasant place to go, but they can leave if they choose to do so. Right this second Somalia is the only place they can go and be completely free from taxation. I agree 100% that this is hardly an ideal place to move, or a place most would want to move to.

I do, however, think it illustrates some significant flaws in the Libertarian philosophy that the only place on Earth that has no taxation is a hellhole. I don't think the two are unrelated. Yes, there are places with taxation that are also hellholes, obviously taxation alone is insufficient to assure non-hellhole status. But the absence of taxation a) hasn't produced a paradise, and b) doesn't appear to have done much, if anything, to prevent Somalia from being a hellhole. Self evidently ending taxation does not make a country a good place to live.

If BigSky, or any other Libertarian chooses they can opt out of the tax/government system. The alternative isn't particularly attractive, but it exists, they are not forced to stay here by anything but their own distaste of the reality of what a tax free, government free, place really looks like.

I'd like to see BigSky explain why he thinks the very concept that he's free to opt out is LOL-worthy, because I don't understand his position. Does he ask that the government provide him with a nice Libertarian paradise before he considers himself free to leave?
posted by sotonohito at 11:22 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see nothing LOL worthy about the statement that if someone truly and firmly believes that they are being oppressed by the taxation imposed by the US government they can leave that system.

How so? The U.S. taxes earned income earned abroad by U.S. citizens. So just by moving out of the country does not make you out of reach of the IRS.
posted by gyc at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2010


I certainly agree that Somalia does not represent what Libertarians claim their ideal scenario would be.

Come on, don't defend a throwaway comment. Every time Libertarianism comes up, we get half a dozen "Why don't you move to Somalia LOL" comments, or alternatively "Oh yeah, well taxes pay for the ROADS". Neither of which contribute to the conversation.

Somalia didn't degenerate into a lawless, failed state because everyone decided they didn't want to pay taxes. They had a series of civil wars, supported by Ethiopia.
posted by electroboy at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do agree that welfare (more precisely, aid for families with dependent children) has created a number of unintended consequences. I'm 100% okay with abolishing it for those people who are able bodied and able to work. In it's place, what I'd like to see is a government Jobs Guarantee in conjunction with single payer healthcare. It would be a more productive use of our resources to put people to work, and also allow people to have a stake in society as well as removing some of the negative unintended consequences of the welfare system.

Hyman Minsky (PDF) actually warned LBJ in the 60s, that creating "jobs training" as a pathway off welfare was doomed to failure if LBJ didn't actually create the jobs. Minsky said that it would lead to cynicism amongst the people receiving the training if no jobs materialized. And this has been the case.
posted by wuwei at 11:50 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


yeloson: "I mean, the NAACP hasn't been considered "radical" by the mainstream in a long time, and, in fact, "an organization fighting for equality and freedom of Americans" is radical only if you still subscribe to... well, let's just say NOT FREEDOM."

Biggest problem with the NAACP: insuffiently radical.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:56 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


My best guess is that this video is not designed for internal consumption, but that the producers are so clueless about anything other than their group culture, they think it's a recruiting video.
posted by electroboy at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2010


Related to electroboy's link:
"Swallowing the Elephant" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times (19 September 2004):

Gates discusses why, on the whole, African-Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic, even though many tend to be social conservatives.
posted by dhens at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I don't think people understand is that a "welfare state" was not created which then enticed people from their good-paying jobs into a life of idleness. Public assistance was created because there were many, many poor people in this country -- of all races -- who were living lives that were shameful in a first world country.

I think that a permanent life on welfare is not a healthy thing, but in order for that to change, we need good paying jobs in this country for people of all skill levels. Instead of throwing people off welfare, we should make welfare unnecessary. Public assistance is not the party that conservatives make it out to be.

Cash public assistance is typically not avaialble to able-bodied men, but those men still can't/don't get good jobs, so that is why what people call the "welfare culture" has evolved, because women with children *can* get welfare and other public assistance. Men are not allowed to officially be a part of that lifestyle, so they just hang around the fringes.

Imagine if welfare was instead created as a guarantee of a living wage job for anyone, male or female, who wanted to work it. Not a cushy job, but a fair wage for a fair amount of work. I have to imagine that the social incentives would be very different.
posted by RalphSlate at 1:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


TAX THE SLAVES!
posted by Mister_A at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2010


RalphSlate I'm not at all certain that full employment is possible any longer. And it certainly won't be in another 20 or 40 years. Either we'll have to redefine "full time job" to mean "about 20 hours of work a week", and make that 20 hours of labor pay and have benefits like a full time job, or we'll have a significant number of people out of work on a permanent basis. Automation marches on.

electroboy the point is that if Libertarians find taxation/government/"Stateism" to be intolerable they can leave. The alternative isn't particularly nice, but it exists. No one is keeping them here, no "men with guns" are forcing them to continue to live here.

I, for one, would be delighted to see them leave and see if they really can make a livable Libertarian society. I'm betting not, but I don't know for sure and the experiment would be valuable.

As I said, I fully understand that Somalia is not their ideal scenario. The USA isn't my ideal scenario. As the great philosopher Jagger once said, "you can't always get what you want".

But I'm tired of hearing Libertarian whining that somehow they're trapped in "Stateism" and have no escape. That's nonsense. Somalia is right over there, they can go and there won't be any dread State to send men with guns to impose things on them. I understand that it isn't ideal, or even particularly close to what they want. I fail to see how a less than ideal situation means that they're somehow not free to leave.

gyc If they renounce their US citizenship they are expected to pay their current tax bill, and then after that the IRS will have nothing further to do with them if they aren't earning their money inside the USA.

It's a rather final step, you can't change your mind after you renounce your citizenship, but it is an option. They aren't trapped, the IRS won't keep hounding them (unless they have unpaid taxes at the time they renounce), they can leave.
posted by sotonohito at 2:41 PM on November 9, 2010


Sotonohito:
I don't want to assume that you live in the US. From my perspective as a US resident it would seem we still have lots of things that people could be doing right now. For example, I live in the Bay Area and I ride public transport often. Often the buses and subway/streetcars get pretty dirty throughout the day. We could certainly hire people to go onto the bus/subway/streetcar and clean them at the end of each line. Heck, a lot of local bus services have been cut, we could use more frequent bus service, which would mean more buses and thus someone has to make those buses. Also we seem to have a lot of old libraries and public schools, I'm sure those could use some upgraded windows, new wireless networks, more efficient HVAC etc. There's also a shortage of affordable childcare, and people I know with sick family members could probably use a home healthcare aid to help out when they have to go to work/school. Automation isn't addressing any of the job tasks I listed above.
posted by wuwei at 2:53 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This might be local bias speaking, but I think that the Tea Party are seriously underestimating the intelligence and political activism of the African American community. Here in DC, they're easily the most engaged and politically active demographic (which also creates some unique dynamics, given that DC is one of, if not the largest majority-black jurisdictions in the US).

And (surprise!) their votes don't count.

This is the same old right-wing horseshit that we've been hearing forever. "Blacks switched to the Democrats!!!!"-well, no shit, the parties switched places in a ton of ways. "We're still on the plantation!!!" - no, not by a long shot. "America is not about equality, it's about opportunity!!!!"- I guess that automatically means we're all about jumping off the high dive and fuck-all about filling the swimming pool.

Platitudes is all they have - and they're not even good ones. Slavery is a gross and horrible stain on our history, and we still suffer from repercussions of it. Race has been card that has been played by the powerful for ever and ever, but race and "inferiority" were not the motivating factors for them. Slaves represented cheap (free) labor. This is class war. It's always been class war. It's not white and black, it's have and have not.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2010


wuwei I am in the USA, and yes there are things that could be done that aren't yet automated. But that's a short term solution to a long term problem.

Don't misunderstand, I'd like to see a new WPA-eqsue program put into place rebuilding our infrastructure, reworking old less efficient buildings to save energy, etc. And I'm absolutely certain it would be beneficial right now.

But it isn't a long term solution to the objections people have to welfare. Eventually it'd turn into busywork rather than productive work, and I fail to see how paying people to do busywork is better than paying them not to work.
posted by sotonohito at 4:56 PM on November 9, 2010


sotonohito's comments remind me of Bertrand Russell's "In Praise of Idleness" (1932):

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?
posted by dhens at 5:24 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


electroboy the point is that if Libertarians find taxation/government/"Stateism" to be intolerable they can leave.

Ah, right. The "Go Back to Russia" argument. Well played.

The Somalia suggestion is a complete strawman for any reasonable definition of Libertarian ideas and is pretty much exclusively used to score cheap points in lieu of any honest debate.
posted by electroboy at 7:03 AM on November 10, 2010


I'm not much on the concept of a social contract, the term is deceptive.

This is a big part of the reason why I could never call myself a libertarian anymore. All I hear from you guys is roundabout ways of justifying selfishness, although it sure sounded seductive for a while.

If you believe that taxation is theft and that there is no such thing as the social contract, you've pretty much given up on the things that make egalitarian society work, and egalitarianism is a major effect of democracy.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:47 AM on November 10, 2010


The Somalia suggestion is a complete strawman for any reasonable definition of Libertarian ideas

It's more reasonable than equating taxation with slavery. And speaking of argument, you keep repeating the idea that Somalia is a strawman, but you don't seem to be bothering to make one as to why.

Somalia is place where the state has been essentially drowned in a bathtub of bankruptcy and violence and is therefore no more powerful than a number of private parties. If the biggest threat to liberty is the state and its consequent marginal claims on various economic activities, then why shouldn't Somalia be a libertarian paradise?

It is, of course, obviously not. The Somalia argument is a way of pointing out that the absence of state power and taxes doesn't seem to create a better standard of economic well-being or environment of freedom than our ostensibly oppressive western social democracies, which by and large provide a rather high degree of economic and personal liberty.

The funny thing, though, is that there are libertarians arguing Somalia is better off without a government. I think their arguments are somewhat credible. You can have a oppressive/predatory state, and they're no fun. You can have decentralized/customary law, and it can work out OK... though some people would say that an informal economy won't deliver you the results a formal one will, and I think they're probably right. But perhaps they're not, and in either case, I don't think it's too out of line to suggest that if libertarians are earnest, they might do as well to go and demonstrate their ostensible principles in a place where the state will not impede on their experiments in building a private and free society as to try and further privatize the hybrid public-private systems that have already generated phenomenal wealth for their citizens.
posted by weston at 9:19 AM on November 10, 2010


It's more reasonable than equating taxation with slavery.

I never equated taxation with slavery. I'm not even a libertarian. I just think the Somalia trope is a lazy way to score points without actually contributing anything to the conversation. Do you think it does? Your justification mostly seems to be it's "less ridiculous" than the absurd idea that taxation is slavery.

you keep repeating the idea that Somalia is a strawman, but you don't seem to be bothering to make one as to why.

Because:

1. The idea that Somalia is a paradise (libertarian or otherwise) is forwarded almost exclusively by people opposed to libertarian ideas. The most common position I've seen by libertarian economists is that Somalia is somewhat more stable than its neighbors.
2. Somalia's absence of government was created by the collapse of a highly oppressive government, and subsquent outside efforts to install another government, not by some experiment in libertarian ideas, or by popular support.
3. Somalia has the "men with guns" and marginal claims on economic activities, just not elected ones.

I don't think it's too out of line to suggest that if libertarians are earnest, they might do as well to go and demonstrate their ostensible principles in a place where the state will not impede on their experiments

I think it's out of line. Should people that want nationalized healthcare move to England or should they engage in a robust public debate on its relative merits? I generally don't think much of Libertarian thought, as I think it's a little simplistic and would cause massive suffering, I don't think "go back to Russia" is much of a response to it.
posted by electroboy at 10:14 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not exactly a libertarian. But I would gladly move to Monaco if I could afford it. Sure, Monaco's no Somalia. But it doesn't tax individuals. And that's good enough for me.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2010


I never equated taxation with slavery.

You didn't, but someone else did, and that's when Somalia came out.

Your justification mostly seems to be it's "less ridiculous" than the absurd idea that taxation is slavery.

That's certainly one point that I made, but if you think that's "mostly" it, you didn't read my entire comment carefully. Some will be reiterated as I respond to the rest of your comment.

1. The idea that Somalia is a paradise (libertarian or otherwise) is forwarded almost exclusively by people opposed to libertarian ideas.

Yes. Precisely because it serves well as a comparison between a place with a state power vacuum and the supposedly oppressive western social democracies, precisely because of the suspicion that a libertarian paradise actually can't exist.

2. Somalia's absence of government was created by the collapse of a highly oppressive government, and subsquent outside efforts to install another government, not by some experiment in libertarian ideas, or by popular support.

I don't think it matters why the vacuum is there. It's there, there are certain consequences and privileges that are predicted by libertarian philosophy. It's fair to ask if they're observed, and, for that matter, if people who believe the state is the central obstacle to liberty believe this deeply enough they'd be willing to experiment with the idea of moving somewhere where it's not.

3. Somalia has the "men with guns" and marginal claims on economic activities, just not elected ones.

This is actually part of the point of invoking Somalia. Yes indeed, libertarians don't want unelected mens seeking rents with guns, and seem to believe there won't be a private attempt to fill a civic power vacuum, and that mere economic accountability and "popular support" will somehow serve a more effective set of reigns than electoral accountability.

. Should people that want nationalized healthcare move to England or should they engage in a robust public debate on its relative merits?

Personally, I semi-regularly do consider moving out of the United States over this issue, among others which are similar philosophically. But even if I didn't (and though I'm only marginally likely to actually do it), I wouldn't be offended if people invoked England as a point of comparison while in a discussion of nationalized healthcare, or Canada while in a discussion of nationalized insurance, or Switzerland or Germany while in a discussion of a well-regulated and arguably functional private insurance system.
posted by weston at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a specious comparison. Somalia has been a failed state for decades, there's no legitimate comparison to stable western democracies. It's like saying that since Iraq had an election, democracy doesn't work. You're taking a relatively short period of time with no functioning government that was preceded by a very long period of authoritarianism, civil war and interference by foreign powers that goes back to World War II.

libertarians don't want unelected mens seeking rents with guns, and seem to believe there won't be a private attempt to fill a civic power vacuum

I think you're misrepresenting mainstream libertarian thought and stretching it to an absurd conclusion, like a Tea Partier forwarding emails about health care reform.

Personally, I semi-regularly do consider moving out of the United States over this issue

So then since you haven't, I can only conclude that you don't really believe in those things. After all, there's no men with guns stopping you.
posted by electroboy at 11:43 AM on November 10, 2010


This is a big part of the reason why I could never call myself a libertarian anymore. All I hear from you guys is roundabout ways of justifying selfishness, although it sure sounded seductive for a while.

Please. "All I hear"? Sounds like you're projecting.

From here:

"Back in the days when I was a Marxist, my primary concern was that ordinary people deserved better, and that elites were walking all over them. That is still my primary concern, but the passing decades have taught me that political elites and cultural elites are doing far more damage than the market elites could ever get away with doing.

...

While my desires for a better life for ordinary people have not changed from the days of my youthful Marxism, experience has taught the bitter lesson that the way to get there is the opposite of what I once thought."

If you believe that taxation is theft and that there is no such thing as the social contract, you've pretty much given up on the things that make egalitarian society work, and egalitarianism is a major effect of democracy.

I'm not certain if you're talking to me or not as I stated earlier that I don't see much benefit in emphasizing the similarity between taxation and theft. But yes, I certainly do think the social contract is a fiction. The relationship between the state and its citizens is coercive. Describing the relationship as contractual implies that it was reached by independent parties and that there was an offer and an acceptance of that offer. The word 'egalitarian' has been taken over by the Far Left where it appears to be most frequently used in advocating the proportional representation of some aggrieved demographic slice. So given that, I'm not concerned with what you feel "make egalitarian society work".

-----

For those interested in black conservative criticism of federal government policies, the Wikipedia page on Thomas Sowell has several paragraphs summarizing his position with a number of citations to the works discussing the subject in more depth. Go halfway down the page and read the sections, "Government action is too often perceived as beneficial, just and noble, when in fact it often hurts those it is purportedly trying to help." and "On several measures, black progress was much more positive prior to the significant rise of the welfare state, and prior to the rise of affirmative action.".
posted by BigSky at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2010


My only point is that BigSky was in error when he claimed that he couldn't leave the "Statist" system if he so desired. This is demonstrably false. The alternative is not particularly pleasant, but it exists.

That is my **ONLY** point. I do not and have not claimed that Somalia represents the Libertarian ideal. My only point is that Libertarians who whine about not being able to leave "Stateism" are lying, they can leave they simply choose not to because the only non-state area they can go is not nice at all. But they can leave if they so choose, and the don't.

Whether or not this says anything particularly insightful about Libertarianism is debatable, but it does say that every one of them is lying when they pretend that they're cruelly oppressed by "Stateism" and have no place to flee. They can leave if they want.

I'm not strawmanning Libertarian philosophy by claiming that Somalia represents their desired goal, but it does represent a place they can to and be free from "Stateism", taxation, etc.

And I'd still like to see BigSky either retract or clarify his LOL at the very concept that he is free to leave if he so chooses. I don't see anyone or anything forcing him to stay in the USA or other "Statist" regimes.
posted by sotonohito at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2010


Somalia has been a failed state for decades, there's no legitimate comparison to stable western democracies.

Stable democracy without over foreign interference and civil unrest is a recent development in much of the western world. Heck, it's a decades-new, complete with recent civil war and foreign interference, in cases like Costa Rica.

It's like saying that since Iraq had an election, democracy doesn't work.

It's actually a lot like that. Again, this is part of the point. The Somalia comparison is actually intended to induce discussion about other factors in the health and well-being of citizens and success of a society on a basis other than a simple measure (whether it's the holding of elections or the presence/absence of a potent state).

I think you're misrepresenting mainstream libertarian thought

What is "mainstream" libertarian thought? If you can come up with moderate libertarians who merely want some minimalization of state power to compare against the libertarians who are total anarchocapitalists, how will we decide which ones are "mainstream"?

So then since you haven't, I can only conclude that you don't really believe in those things. After all, there's no men with guns stopping you.

Again, I have to conclude you didn't actually read what I wrote. There's a whole sentence after the first one in my response to your question "Should people that want nationalized healthcare move to England?" And I think that if you read it again, you'll realize that what you just said doesn't really work as a response, since I addressed how I feel about these comparisons even leaving the complex inputs into my personal ability and inclination to emigrate aside.

The point of saying "Why don't you move to country X?" is generally to invite people to seriously consider that in spite of whatever political/policy Y is missing in their current country Z, they may not find a better standard of life in a place in X that has Y, and to examine their beliefs about Y more closely based on this. Rather than finding it utterly out of bounds for discussion, it's something I'm not only happy to confront on most fronts, I've satisfied myself and am fairly cheerfully ready to have discussions about on the specific front you mentioned.
posted by weston at 1:05 PM on November 10, 2010


The Somalia comparison is actually intended to induce discussion...

Eh, it's pretty clear that you're going to engage in the most charitable reading possible of a throwaway comment. I'm not a Libertarian, so I'm not going to mount a longboat offensive on this, but I generally find that the Libertarian viewpoint can be a useful counterpoint in discussions about the role of government in American life. Then inevitably someone throws out the Somalia one-liner and things head south from there.
posted by electroboy at 1:48 PM on November 10, 2010


@sotonohito

No, I do not consider the "Hey Libertarian, if you don't like it, go to Somalia!" rejoinder a serious response deserving a reply. Not that I ever said I was unable to leave, but sure, you're quite right - I could renounce my citizenship and move to Somalia where there is little in the way of a state. So what? The point is irrelevant. My pointing out that taxation can not be considered similar to a voluntary transaction doesn't mean that I believe my own personal liberty would be maximized by moving to the state with the weakest government. Nor was there a claim on my part that taxation was unbearable and I could get no relief.

If I make a remark that crime in my home town is unacceptably high, and someone responds "Well if you don't like it you can get the fuck on. Obviously the crime isn't all that high. After all you're still here.", they might be right but they are not responding to me. That's playing to the crowd. Similarly, reminding me that I can renounce my citizenship at will, doesn't have anything to do with my argument against portraying taxes as the equivalent of a business transaction. It's just playing to a friendly crowd.
posted by BigSky at 1:59 PM on November 10, 2010


electroboy: " I generally find that the Libertarian viewpoint can be a useful counterpoint in discussions about the role of government in American life. Then inevitably someone throws out the Somalia one-liner and things head south from there."

I have to agree. Over at the LoG, it was decided that Libertarianism makes a better vector than a destination. If you're dealing with someone who thinks a libertarian Utopia is possible then go ahead and fire away, but sometimes libertarian just means "less government is better when possible".
posted by charred husk at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2010


BigSky:
On the other, other hand:

You're free to opt out of the system anytime you want.

LOL
Are you, or are you not free to opt out of the system anytime you want?

You replied with LOL, which I took, and still take, to mean that not only did you disagree that you were free to opt out, but that you found the very concept laughable.

I quite agree that you are perfectly within your rights to agitate for Libertarianism in the USA and that this could be argued to be a better course of action than leaving. But that wasn't what was under discussion when you LOLed. I'm not particularly interested in having a discussion of the merits of Libertarianism, I'm mostly interested in trying to figure out what the heck you meant when you LOLed at the idea that you were free to opt out if you so choose.

If you believe, as your statement implied, that you are not free to opt out of the system anytime you want, I'd like you to explain what mechanisms the State is employing to coerce you into staying, because I don't see any coercion from the State in this instance. If you were a "citizen" of North Korea you'd be right, officially you wouldn't have the freedom to opt out if you so choose, but most nations do not prohibit emigration.

It is my position that you are, in fact, free to opt out if you so choose. Whether or not you should, or whether this would be particularly desirable is not the point.
posted by sotonohito at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is my position that you are, in fact, free to opt out if you so choose.

Free? Not really. The transaction costs of opting out are considerable.
posted by The World Famous at 8:54 PM on November 10, 2010


Are you, or are you not free to opt out of the system anytime you want?

I don't know why you think this is an open question when my prior comment included the following,

Not that I ever said I was unable to leave, but sure, you're quite right - I could renounce my citizenship and move to Somalia where there is little in the way of a state.
posted by BigSky at 4:12 AM on November 11, 2010


I'd like an explanation of the LOL is all. Had you simply not considered the issue rationally and thus gave a kneejerk response? I don't understand the LOL.
posted by sotonohito at 4:44 AM on November 11, 2010


I'd like an explanation of the LOL is all. Had you simply not considered the issue rationally and thus gave a kneejerk response? I don't understand the LOL.

Pointing out that I can renounce my citizenship and move to Somalia is irrelevant - that is the explanation. Also, from the earlier comment,

If I make a remark that crime in my home town is unacceptably high, and someone responds "Well if you don't like it you can get the fuck on. Obviously the crime isn't all that high. After all you're still here.", they might be right but they are not responding to me. That's playing to the crowd. Similarly, reminding me that I can renounce my citizenship at will, doesn't have anything to do with my argument against portraying taxes as the equivalent of a business transaction. It's just playing to a friendly crowd.
posted by BigSky at 5:33 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Similarly, reminding me that I can renounce my citizenship at will, doesn't have anything to do with my argument against portraying taxes as the equivalent of a business transaction. It's just playing to a friendly crowd.
BigSky, I definitely agree that "Oh yeah go to Somalia" is fundamentally unhelpful; it's like telling someone who wants to raise the minimum wage, "Oh yeah? Move to France, you socialist."

The problem is that you're skipping over the important middle part of the discussion in that summary. The "Why don't you move" is not in response to the objection to taxes, but the objection to the social contract that taxes exist to support. If someone thinks taxes are too high, then we can have a discussion about why, about how much is too much, about what trade-offs are necessary, and so on. But if someone objects -- on principle -- to the idea of an underlying social contract that all participants in a society consent to by remaining in that society... Well, I'm honestly not sure how they can be arguing in good faith.

At that point -- when the objection is to the very idea of a society that requires support from all of its members lest it collapse -- "You CAN leave, you know" feels like a slightly less snarky response and more of an exasperated throwing-up of the hands.

I'm not suggesting that you have taken it that far in this conversation, just noting that "Telling people who dislike taxes they should go to Somalia" isn't a fair description of what happened, either.
posted by verb at 8:29 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somalia? The abject failure of the Free State Project would seem to argue that most Libertarians can't be bothered to move to New Hampshire.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2010


The problem is that you're skipping over the important middle part of the discussion in that summary. The "Why don't you move" is not in response to the objection to taxes, but the objection to the social contract that taxes exist to support. If someone thinks taxes are too high, then we can have a discussion about why, about how much is too much, about what trade-offs are necessary, and so on. But if someone objects -- on principle -- to the idea of an underlying social contract that all participants in a society consent to by remaining in that society... Well, I'm honestly not sure how they can be arguing in good faith.

At that point -- when the objection is to the very idea of a society that requires support from all of its members lest it collapse -- "You CAN leave, you know" feels like a slightly less snarky response and more of an exasperated throwing-up of the hands.


OK. I understand this and I want to clarify my own position. I'm only objecting to the phrase "social contract" to describe the relationship between state and citizen, I'm not objecting to government, and I'm not objecting to taxes.

The idea of a social contract is an answer to the question of where the authority of the state comes from. It's a rhetorical fiction; there is no consensus to establish such a contract. Whether this contract is identified with a founding document, e.g. U.S. Constitution, or with some early, primal moment when a tribe self-consciously formed, does not matter. There is never an assent on the part of the governed. There's an interesting article on Lysander Spooner and his criticisms of the social contract that explores this in a little more detail. Spooner is pretty radical, but an interesting thinker and he does a good job showing that there is no consensus for the state and that the arguments for a social contract do not hold. I must also quote from this paper as this paragraph is relevant to the possibility of leaving the state,

"So Hume concludes that if we ground government in consent, a very low bar will have to suffice to be able to justify contemporary regimes. For example, we might have to argue that the fact a person did not flee a country somehow obliges him or her to accept its laws and rulers. Actually, Hume points out, the real nature of political power is such that nobody even has the ability to leave without a note from the government, otherwise known as a passport (193)."

I think you're conflating my obections to the idea of a social contract with the rejection of community. You don't need to love government to have a sense of obligation to others.
posted by BigSky at 12:40 PM on November 11, 2010


BigSky, thanks for the reply and thanks for responding to it in a spirit of discussion rather than assuming I was just snarking on you. God knows I sound snarky even when I'm being sincere. ;-)
OK. I understand this and I want to clarify my own position. I'm only objecting to the phrase "social contract" to describe the relationship between state and citizen, I'm not objecting to government, and I'm not objecting to taxes.
Fair point, and I'll admit that I was not using the phrase "social contract" in a very precise way. The obligatory trip to WikiPedia produced this definition: "The notion of the social contract implies that the people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law. It can also be thought of as an agreement by the governed on a set of rules by which they are governed."

I think if we can agree that's what a "social contract" consists of, my summary of your argument is imprecise, but your distaste for "the social contract" also rests on some rhetorical trickery as well.
The idea of a social contract is an answer to the question of where the authority of the state comes from. It's a rhetorical fiction; there is no consensus to establish such a contract.
Well, in the sense that there is not a literal piece of paper labeled 'Social Contract' with the signature of The State at the top and every citizen at the bottom, sure, it's a rhetorical fiction. The idea of "Natural Law" is a rhetorical fiction, too, along with "Rights" and "Freedom," but they're useful constructs for explaining the way things work.
I think you're conflating my obections to the idea of a social contract with the rejection of community. You don't need to love government to have a sense of obligation to others.
Actually, I referred specifically to society, not community -- "A large social grouping that shares the same geographical territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations" is what I was suggesting requires a willingness to support the structure. But now I fear we're veering into a war of definitions, so I'll move on.

Fundamentally, the problem is that by participating in a structured society each of us receives considerable advantages. Things like an immunized populace, sanitation, a surrounding structure of law and order, etc. Some people (I'm not saying you, I'm just pointing out the underlying problem with this line of reasoning) argue that they never consented to this "society" thing and thus demanding their support in the form of taxes constitutes theft. Essentially, they're suggesting that they were tricked into taking all of those things that benefitted them before they understood the cost, like someone who was handed a hot dog, told, "Enjoy!" and then billed for it.

The problem is that after their moment of realization, these people tend to continue using those resources, knowingly benefitting from the societal advantages, and so on, while arguing vigorously that taxation is theft because they never signed up. This, in my opinion, is where the "You can always leave" argument comes into play, and where I think it actually deserves attention.

IMO, remaining in the society after you have realized that its benefits have cost constitutes acceptance of the social contract. You can't ask for all of your back taxes and walk away, just as society can't ask for your immunizations and your use-of-roads back, but you don't have to continue consuming those resources either. This is not 'LOL why don't you go to Somalia,' but it is a serious question that I've yet to hear anyone answer.
posted by verb at 1:36 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


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