Freedom, government encroachment, and compromise

The range of options between pure socialism and pure capitalism is a spectrum which includes free market capitalism and the welfare state. Sometimes advocates of capitalism accuse their opponents of promoting socialism when those opponents only want more restrictions for the benefit of workers and consumers without desiring socialism. Sometimes people even call for socialism without realizing that what they truly want is not socialism but merely a more comprehensive welfare state. Labels can be slippery tools in our hands, especially when we exist on a spectrum of options.

One of the clearest guides to distinguishing capitalism and socialism is intent. Those who want a few more regulations to protect workers and consumers are still working within the free market system. Those who want to spread the wealth—to take money away from the rich and give it to the working classes, or to give away for free what was formerly bought or earned—by taxing and penalizing wealth are clearly working for socialism and against capitalism.

Here is one example I have seen online: imagine a society where the wealthiest people are earning $50,000 a year and the poor are earning only $25,000 a year. Imagine a change that brings the wealthiest people up to $100,000 a year and lifts the poor to $50,000 a year. Someone inclined to support capitalism will rejoice that all the people in the society have seen improvement. Someone inclined to socialism will complain that the disparity—the difference between the wealthy and the poor—has doubled because of the change, and that disparity is not fair.

Kurt Vonnegut, in one of his novels, imagined a society that tried, by law, to make life fair for everyone. People stronger than average were forced to carry weights. People smarter than average were forced to wear earpieces that distracted them with random noises. People more attractive than average were forced to wear clothes and makeup that made them ugly. Such efforts to make us more equal in every way clearly cause more harm than good. Bringing the higher-level people down to average does not necessarily help lift the lower-level people up to average. In fact, every attempt to reduce the wealth of the richest people through taxes and other legislation only causes them to move their wealth away from the places where it is vulnerable. It discourages them from making more wealth by selling improved products, hiring more workers, and performing other tasks that increase the wealth of the rich and also add benefits to the working classes and the poor.

Government’s job is to protect the rights of all people and to defend citizens from those who would harm them. A right to life includes protection from invasion and from crime; reasonable people still differ and debate whether that right to life also includes guaranteed food, clothing, and shelter for all citizens. In a democracy, the government is chosen by the people to do the will of the people; however, doing the will of the people means more than following and obeying the latest opinion polls. Those elected to govern are expected to learn and understand what is best for the people. Elected officials and their appointed staffs consider proposals, research them, and ultimately vote whether to enact them. Opinion polls might show that more than half the population wants college to be free for all students. Elected officials must still study and learn whether free college would be a benefit to most citizens or whether the cost of free college, assumed by the government, would become a burden to most citizens. Those who govern balance benefits and burdens. They speak to each other about these benefits and burdens. Their votes represent, not only the opinions of the people they represent, but also the best interests of those they represent. As a result, their votes often disagree with the opinions of the majority of the population.

Moreover, a representative government cannot condone injustice, even if the majority wants to be unfair to the minority. In protecting human rights, the government considers all the people, not most of the people. Even though the government has fallen short of it duty in the past, permitting oppression and abuse of some of its citizens, the solution is not to be unfair to a different group. (Two wrongs do not make a right.) We cannot change the past; we can only start with the current situation and move forward, seeking to make things better for all people.

Every person running for office states positions to attract like-minded voters. Different candidates have different priorities among the number of issues that matter. Elected officials work together for the common good. Each official holds some positions that cannot be compromised and others that can be compromised. Negotiation and compromise are part of the art of politics; they are necessary skills for anyone who seeks and gains elective office.

When a government gives each benefit that some citizens wants and then forces all the citizens to pay for all the benefits, that government cannot last long. The value and cost of various benefits must be considered; agreements and compromises must be reached. The more a government encroaches upon the freedom of its citizens—even with the encouragement of many or most of those citizens—the more that government fails to govern wisely and successfully. Sooner or later, the government that offers too much and promises too much and charges too much will collapse. The social contract is canceled when government demands too much of its citizens, because they still retain their basic rights to life, to liberty, and to property. Government does not give these rights to people, and it cannot take them away. J.

21 thoughts on “Freedom, government encroachment, and compromise

  1. J, I’ve been following this series with interest. Haven’t commented until now because you’ve been covering all the bases to this issue in a fair and balanced manner.

    Something that I have yet to hear come up in all the commentary surrounding “The Great Reset” is the idea that it is not “on the way” but “underway”.

    Something I’ve been puzzling over is the fact that the lockdowns and restrictions to commerce being put into place, ostensibly to “fight the pandemic”, are disproportionately harming small business, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why the government would wish to do so given the devastating effect it has on the economy.

    Once again, history sheds some light. I can’t help but notice the parallels between the current war on small business and the “dekulakization” that occurred in former-USSR under communism. I have yet to hear anyone else make the connection, but it seems very obvious to me – the wealthy peasants (ie. Kulaks, ie. small business owners) who are most likely to resist collectivization must be dealt with.

    In my neck of the woods (I’m in Ontario, just outside of the GTA) small business owners who defy the lockdown are being fined, and at least one defiant owner has been arrested and detained (illegally, I might add) and had his business seized by the government for remaining open.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on my observations. Sometimes I feel like I’m going a bit cray-cray (as IB says). Am I alone in seeing this or am I on to something??

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is no simple answer to your questions. It does appear that some government responses are well-meaning and yet harmful; but it’s hard to avoid the impression that some in government and politics are using the current opportunity to reshape our lives at our expense. We cannot swallow every conspiracy theory that comes along, but we also cannot ignore oppression and injustice when it happens. Our best answer, I suppose, is to deal with situations as they happen and not to assume that some master plan is being carried out under our noses. J.

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      • Yeah.. there’s truth in that. We might say one person’s conspiracy is another person’s complacency. Yet that assumes the conspiracy is real… and it is real to the person who holds to it. We definitely need much more critical thinking instruction in the classroom starting at an early age simply because we cannot possibly absorb all the information being tossed at us each day.. and process it. But I suppose I digress a bit.

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      • @ Doug Umm…I’m a bit stunned.

        The Great Reset is not a theory or a conspiracy. It is a name that the World Economic Forum uses to describe their proposed initiative to bring about a new “green” economy globally. The head of the WEF (I forget his name, it’s Klaus Something Or Other) wrote a book about it called “Covid 19: The Great Reset” in which he makes an argument that the Covid crisis can be leveraged to swiftly bring about the economic changes that the WEF wishes to see happen. The book is available on Amazon if you’re interested.

        The WEF is not shy about their intentions. Member delegates (such as our Prime Minister Trudeau) have publicly called the Covid crisis a “rare and narrow opportunity to reset our world”. That’s a direct quote, and call me crazy, but when people tell me what their intentions are, I tend to believe them.

        I’m not sure if your comment about “critical thinking” was meant as a dig towards me personally or just an overall observation – which I agree with, BTW; our sense-making abilities have been woefully (and perhaps intentionally) dumbed-down – but a key component to critical thinking and sense-making is access to all the relevant facts, and I would suggest that you are either ignorant of, or selectively filtering out, the facts that don’t fit your worldview. And hey, I get it, we all have our cognitive biases, and when I first heard of The Great Reset I dismissed it as “fake news” too.

        There is nothing I have said here that can’t be fact-checked and verified – and I strongly encourage you to do so, not to prove “I’m right” but so that you would have the facts you require to think critically and draw your own conclusions.

        Might I ask on what basis you have concluded that TGR is a conspiracy? Please provide the facts upon which you have drawn your conclusion.

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      • Ohh.. uh… I think comments and replies got mixed here perhaps. Your reply to me I completely had no frame of reference as to what you were talking about as I was sending my replies to Salvageable.. so I re-read this thread from the beginning…..
        Actually I am aware of The Great Reset and the WEM… and what Trudeau remarked. I see no conspiracy at all here. I never even addressed that specifically in this thread. Likely I planted a reply to Salvageable that ended up under your thread. Regardless… when I first heard of the WEM talks I took it all pretty much as wishful/hopeful thinking to take advantage of any post-Covid recovery. I am sure there’s some good ideas but for economics to work globally there has to be a global acceptance on a direction. It’s a desire to reform certain aspects of globalism.
        As for the critical thinking concept I tossed around.. I wasn’t even addressing my replies to you directly or in the abstract. I personally have two pet peeves regarding socio-political concepts and one is the pushing for a national mental health policy broad enough to encompass all aspects of mental health and medical brain exploration. Mental health is our greatest challenge (frankly, even over the current pandemic) but too few people understand the enormous affect across the board mental health has for society and the nation. In other words.. we need a NASA-like commitment.
        My other pet is teaching our young early on critical thinking skills.. continuous through all levels of education.. in order for future Americans to have a tool for processing the immense instant availability of information and trying to filter fact from fantasy… or even to understand the diversity of opinion in order to include compromise. It’s all about asking “what do I need to know?”, “why do I need to know it?”, “what sources are credible for me to reach a conclusion?”, separating opinion from news, etc. Anyway.. if things got mixed up I apologize.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, I see…that explains a lot!

        I share your concerns re: affordable/available mental health services and the sorry state of critical thinking – I actually have a hunch that the two are connected. It’s hard to be a critical thinker when you’re in a perpetual state of cognitive dissonance, and it’s even harder to get out of cognitive dissonance when you’re unable to think critically. It’s a viscious cycle.

        I’m currently working towards certification as a cognitive behavioral therapist. I hope that one day soon I’ll be able help fill some of the services gap.

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      • I’d be interested in your course of study and how you envision your therapist role in that. My undergrad degree is in the Applied Behavioral Sciences, although I never pursued a career in that specifically, opting for management and entrepreneurship.
        Funny thing about conspiracy theories and critical thinking.. most of us think we have that solved for ourselves. It’s always the other guy. 🙂

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      • To both Our Lady and Doug: It may be missing an essential element of “conspiracy” when the Great Reset is discussed openly, as it has been in other countries. Naturally, most people in the USofA are oblivious. Inasmuch as the proponents of the Reset seem to favor a more socialist approach rather than trusting the free market, I am prone to discount much of what they want to accomplish. Efforts to end the Industrial Revolution for the purpose of rescuing the fragile ecosystems of the world sound good, but they end up costing a lot of money, hurting a lot of people, and not really helping any of the ecosystems.
        On the subject of critical thinking–all three of us agree that this skill is not being imparted in most of the classrooms of North America. The average citizen has not been taught how to measure the reliability of a source, how to distinguish facts from opinions, how to balance risks and benefits, or other basic elements of critical thinking. We live in a swirl of much information and knowledge and pathetically little wisdom. The best the three of us can do is model critical thinking and encourage others to approach life’s puzzles in a similar way. J.

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  2. Well, here’s the stickler to keep illusions of Socialism little more than name-calling in political debates…make sure the middle class experiences a measure of prosperity and equal opportunity as they are the bulk of any democracy. Then, within that middle class make sure minorities are included. That has not been done to any vast degree over the last couple decades. You can blame globalism policies if you want.. but actually it has been governmental short-sightedness as globalism was shifting the working demographic here domestically, displacing some traditional middle class industries while the rest of the country was helping with our record GDP’s and getting well-to-do doing it(in the decade or two prior to the pandemic, of course). This imbalance led to Trump snagging those rust belt states back in 2016. People will want a “spread the wealth” kind of thing when they don’t have any themselves. But, again, you have to differ between “socialism” or social programs because right now Trumpian Conservatives are screaming their fear of Dem Socialism.. when all of it is just political talk… largely about specific social programs.
    As to religion forming a moral persona within those inside government, I have no argument… but people not inspired to partake in faith-based spirituality can also align their morality to the Golden Rule… and achieve the same results of compassionate governance.

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    • Good points, Doug. I’d like to see some research, though, about minority participation in the American middle class. I heard that it was increasing in middle years. Was that a politically motivated lie, or is it a truth that the other side wants to ignore? My perception, living in a middle class community in a southern state, is that minorities are increasingly represented in middle class venues. J.

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      • Just spit balling here, but to determine the plight of the minorities as a greater contributor to the middle class we should start perhaps by asking the question.. what’s holding them back? I don’t mean that in a condescending way.. I am suggesting that there’s likely a number of contributing elements and for it to work each element has to have.. not so much a solution, but a plan of attack to remedy as best as possible. Also, I am not so sure the answer would be the same for all minorities as we have culture variances that can extend into work ethic, family influences, religious preferences, the list goes on. To solve one minority issue does not solve them all.

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      • I fully agree–we have a number of minorities, and each faces its own unique challenges. To be even more clear, each individual within these various minorities faces his or her unique challenges, which may or may not be shared with fellow members of that minority. One handicap facing such individuals is the patronizing way their problems have been addressed by some in government and by some in private charities. Rather than developing their talents and abilities and opening the doors for success, such individuals have been promised reparations–food and shelter and money for free, along with academic and work experiences for which they are not yet prepared. To quote a conservative cliche, we need more hands up and fewer hand-outs. J.

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      • Oh I agree. One of my current concerns is this.. well, you might call it a Leftist idea… not sure I would as I prefer to think ideas are spawned for reasons and not only politics… the paying for college thing. First off.. again the question.. why? What playing field we trying to level here? Back in the day I got my own financing and paid my own way. When raising my three kids I didn’t devote my wages to some “college fund”; my idea was, if I could do it then they can as well. Ended up one of my three got a four year and two of them got two-year degrees. The point being they went the route they chose based on their own incentive and drive and personal priorities. For sure tuition is much greater now… and the expectation for coming out of college and getting the so-called big bucks job is not the reality (for many other reasons). I’d simply pay for the first couple years providing they meet grade/commitment expectations. After that, they are on their own. And I think states should be saddled with that responsibility, not the fed. But here’s another take on that… everyone getting a degree just dilutes the job market with overqualified people stuck in mediocre jobs. But to your point, I agree the giveaways are just warm fuzzies.

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      • I’m planning on covering the college matter in an upcoming post. By the way, I don’t know why I didn’t mention this sooner, but the “socialist” label is not merely a right-wing insult of the liberals–it has been cheerfully adopted by Bernie Sanders, AOC, and others. J.

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      • Fair enough, but those people are going nowhere, affect nearly nothing, have little or no influence over anything. Why would anything they have to say become some level of outcry with Trumpians, or anyone else for that matter.

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      • When I began this string of posts on November 24, I made note of comments made on Facebook that favored socialism–some of which were made by members of my family and people with whom I attended college. Granted, some of them don’t know what they are talking about. But Bernie & Co. have made some inroads; they have some people repeating what they have been saying. All the more reason to set the record straight. J.

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      • I dunno if it’s inroads as much as it’s easy to presume that of the 325 million people in this country a few might prefer a bit more “socialism” with their cup of democracy. But it doesn’t even compare to the things Trump says that his millions of minions believe without question. I’m more concerned with THAT number.. and not who’s siding with Bernie.

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  3. “Government’s job is to protect the rights of all people and to defend citizens from those who would harm them.”

    If you are speaking for our government in general, there’s some truth to that because that’s part of the design within the Constitution. If you are speaking to the concept of government in general.. I submit that is not a correct statement. In that case, government exists only to the extent that the citizens give it license to do so… and this includes a dictatorship. Sure, a dictatorship can be authoritarian and oppressive of its people… and people can submit to that, but in doing so they give it license… until such time as they get rid of it, if at all, as we did. It becomes a matter of will. You’re trying to assign government as being it’s own decision-making entity.. but that’s only to the limit we’ve given it. We have a representative government.. government does not stand alone.
    I also make note that it’s popular to vilify the Left with this idea that they are somehow going to convert the entire country into Socialism. One would have to completely change the Constitution and there are so many processes to achieve before such change might work so I am not sure what that babble is all about. Rather I think Trumpians are confusing spread-the-wealth Socialism with a social policy.. two different things. But Trump loves to spread the fear. Conspiracies abound.

    Recent post I made on the subject… you might enjoy the self-analysis.

    https://randompontifications.com/2020/12/12/what-makes-conspiracies-so-believable-to-so-many-people/

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    • Thank you for your comment, Doug. In part, I base my definition of government on Romans 13:1-7. From that point of view, the government’s authority comes from God, not from the people. But I also hold a both/and theory of government in which it draws authority from both God and the people (as Church leaders also have authority to lead in the Church that comes from both God and the people). I agree that the Constitution–framed by people who respected the teachings of the Bible–would make pure socialism impossible. But the encroachment of government upon human rights has consequences, whether we are talking about Roosevelt’s New Deal, Johnson’s War on Poverty, Obama’s Affordable Care, or an agenda held by some Democratic leaders today. As the Fabian Society hoped to introduce socialism gradually into the United Kingdom, so some leaders today have a path and an agenda that goes beyond supporting the free market which has served so well up to the present. J.

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      • Apparently free trade/free market has managed to alienate many, which in turn brought Trump into the picture. Seems to presume that not everyone benefits from free trade. If you are going to cite global free trade… doesn’t seem to make sense free trade is ok only domestically.
        Regarding your remarks about a religious perspective toward the responsibility of government.. I will not discuss that as I consider religion a personal thing and if that’s your perspective that’s ok by me. I am not qualified to judge anyone’s beliefs. But.. between you and me… I am completely amazed at all the debate online in all these Conservative blogs regarding religion. Just on the couple blogs you and I follow.. it’s amazing how many people seem to want to assert their meaning and definitions of Christianity. That’s ok.. their blog, and freedom of speech. But I can’t just get drawn into that stuff… and don’t get me wrong.. not questioning you. I’m just spouting off in general. I respect who/what you believe.

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      • And I respect who/what you believe. Bear in mind that, to the religious person (any religion), their faith is the foundation upon which they build. Politics, economics, morality, science, art, philosophy–they all stand or fall based on their ties to the foundation. So two Christians with different perspectives on their faith might agree or disagree on political matters, but their conversation and their debate will still reflect their foundational beliefs more than their political conclusions.
        That said, I question how many people capitalism/free market economics have alienated compared to how many people have been enticed by the illusion that socialism/welfare state economics can offer more. I’ve been piecing together a book, post by post, the way earlier writers created a book through a series of journal articles or pamphlets. I’m not sure how many of my dozen posts on economics you’ve encountered so far. (You’ve commented on only a couple.) I still have at least eight more to write. J.

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