You’re Better Than This

I am nonpartisan.  I am pro-public service.  Stories like this are both disingenuous and unethical. The idea of a public social policy is that those who qualify, ahem, qualify. There is no “well, do you support this policy?” addendum.  Prohibition of such eligibility tests, however and by whomever conducted, is the basis of a liberal democracy qua equal protection. If we as a people say “these citizens qualify for these benefits,” that’s where the sentence–and the qualifications, as they might be—stop.  I strongly support social safety nets, and I stipulate that I understand the theory and empirics of incentives. That said (and a fortiore), a classical political liberal–someone who sees both the direct and indirect values of dissent and public discourse—should not only be, but seek to be seen as being, above the ultimate hypocrisy: proclaiming support for free speech and implicitly requiring speech conformance for the receipt of public benefits. 

Shame on you, gawker. The true argument is won without demonizing the (family of the) opponents. That’s game theory 101: a game won by dissimulating is a game won not for long.

With that, I leave you with this.

4 thoughts on “You’re Better Than This

  1. The point isn’t that he should be kicked off of Medicaid. The point is that as an aspiring elected representative of the people who is campaigning against this and similar elements of our social safety net, the fact that his personal actions contradict his public statements is a fair topic of discussion. In fact, as someone who believes in the social safety net, I believe this helps the discussion.

    We want and expect to know what our representatives believe, and what they plan to vote for and against. We also want to know if their personal and public actions match their rhetoric. How else can we evaluate someone’s character, the soundness of their policy, and overall qualification for office?

    • Thanks for the comment, Crystal.

      I don’t think his personal actions contradict his public statements. For example, someone who believes taxes are “too high” has a clear argument for why his or her payment of those taxes doesn’t contradict that position. Analogously, someone who doesn’t believe it is good public policy to offer subsidies need not deny himself or herself (and, a fortiore, their children) the personal advantage of those subsidies in order to publicly campaign against them. To hold otherwise is to impose an undue burden on public discourse. That is illiberal, in the classical sense.

  2. Greg Collett says this (

    “Good government is based on the concept of individual, God-given rights. (Evil forms of government entertain the nonsensical notion of collective rights.) . . .
    Our rights are limited by the rights of others. If we violate the rights of others, we have committed a crime. We hire government to help us secure our rights. If we assign any power to government that we do not have a right to as an individual, then government becomes tyrannical. In fact, if we support the use of government to do anything that would be considered a crime if we were to do it individually, we are no more or less than a criminal at heart.
    Government is force, and using government to force men to do good works takes away the agency of man. We must put an end to the redistribution of wealth– to legal plunder.”

    In my opinion he has the right to speak as he wishes, he has the right to go to parks and accept Medicaid for his children unconditioned on his speech. But he seems to be saying above that those who visit a public park or accept welfare are criminals. I suggest that’s relevant to his candidacy and therefore newsworthy. (His exhibited lack of understanding of government is a larger issue.)

    Yours was a thought-provoking post. Thank you.

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