Dissecting “This I believe: A post in defense of rational liberalism,” by Lori Gallagher Witt, January 2018
(Found at: Flexible Reality, http://bizmarts.com/blog/?p=2239)
Analysis by Greg Raven
I saw this piece posted on Facebook, with a introductory paragraph not found in the original, misattributed to Ron Howard. I was so struck by the horrible logic that I had to respond. The author is entitled to her opinions, but not to her own facts, nor is she entitled to shift from one point to another unrelated point because it sounds good.
This is presented as an example of something called “rational liberalism.” This a problem right off the bat. If something is rational, it is neither liberal nor conservative. It is rational. The author seems to be trying to wrap modern-day liberalism (AKA progressivism) in rationality to give it the intellectual weight it does not have. As an aside, when I looked up “rational liberalism” on DuckDuckGo, the first response on the list was the website Rational liberal, which has as its motto “more feelings, more outrage.” Feelings and outrage certainly are part of today’s liberal / progressive mindset, but neither is rational.
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
Response to belief 1
This is typical of liberal dogma: “A country” (or some variation) should do XYZ. What this really means is that the liberal feels that certain things should be done, but rather than funding or even doing them herself, she wants others to do — or at least finance — them. One interesting aspect of this is that it never matters whether the steps taken to satisfy the feelings of the liberal are efficacious or damaging. As long as something is “being done,” it rarely matters if the people who the liberal aims for others to help are being helped or harmed. Should it ever be noted that the situation is getting worse, there is never reflection that the original impulse was wrong. The response is always to redouble efforts, results be damned.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
Response to belief 2
False. Rights are God-given (or natural, if you prefer). If someone else has to provide something to you, it is not a right. As far as that goes, healthcare is way, way down on the list of things that humans need. If you are over the age of about 30, you probably went through several years after leaving home when you knew about healthcare but did not buy health insurance because 1) you did not want to spend the money on it, and 2) you felt invincible, as youth does. Humans need water, food, and usually some kind of shelter for years before needing healthcare.
There are other alternatives between mandatory government healthcare and letting people die in the streets. This type of false dichotomy is another hallmark of the liberal mindset.
Healthcare should be cheaper and better than it is. The solution is to get the government completely out of the healthcare business. As with so many things, government intervention in the healthcare marketplace introduces waste and inefficiencies that drive up costs and reduce services. To the extent that our healthcare system is subject only to the forces of free-market capitalism, it is affordable and thriving (think laser eye surgery). We already have the best healthcare system in the world, and it could be much, much better by removing government interference.
3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
Response to belief 3
Another example of conflating disparate issues, and using feel-good sentiments instead of logic or rationality.
Education is affordable and accessible to everyone in the United States from K-12. There is no requirement that anyone go to a college or university. There are plenty of other options. If you choose to incur a five- or six-figure debt for higher education, you are then responsible for paying your bills. That is part of what becoming an adult is all about. As a child, your parents paid for everything. As a teenager, you begin to pay your own way. Once you attain adulthood, you become responsible for your bills.
The alternatives to this are 1) forcing teachers into involuntary servitude (AKA slavery) to reduce the price of higher education, and 2) forcing those who opt not to go to college to pay for all or part of the bill for those who do go to college, which is also a form of slavery. Let’s not pretend that slavery is a valid — let alone rational or liberal — alternative, please.
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
Response to belief 4
More conflation of unassociated facts. There are those in our society who are neither starving, nor freezing, nor dying, but who are nonetheless part of the generational welfare system. If you want to look at something that is not humane, look at welfare systems that create generational welfare recipients. There are hundreds of thousands of “poor” persons in America today who are morbidly obese and have jewelry, a flat-screen TV, a car, a cell phone (some of them provided “free”), subsidized food, medical care, monthly allotments, and subsidized housing. The poor in America have a better standard of living than the middle-class in most other countries.
Others do have a lot of wealth. (Side note: This is not a fixed group, as some drop out while others join. Thanks to free-market capitalism, we have economic mobility in the U.S.) Typically, wealthy persons in the U.S. became that way by providing goods or services to others. That is, they provided one or more benefits to society, and reaped the rewards, as they should. To say that people get wealthy by forcing others to starve or freeze or die is mendacious. Also, due to our “progressive” income tax system, the wealthy pay far, far more than their “fair share,” and roughly the bottom half of Americans (by income) pay little or no income taxes (while receiving the blessings and benefits of living here).
As for the author not being a communist, it is a slippery slope from socialism (taking money from the productive for the benefit of the unproductive) to fascism (government control of private enterprise, which the author advocates) to communism (government ownership of everything). Once you grant that the government can take money by force, subsequent steps in that direction are incremental, not revolutionary.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m retired and on a fixed income, but I still pay taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
Response to belief 5
Taxation equals theft equals slavery. I find it illuminating that the author is once again voicing a pro-slavery position. As Gerald Ford (and others) have said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” If you don’t want a government big enough to invade and bomb other countries, then you can’t simultaneously advocate for a government big enough to control our healthcare, which represents one-sixth of the massive U.S. economy.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
Response to belief 6
Great news. In a free-market economy, you get to start any business you want and run it any way you want (as long as you do not harm others, of course). So instead of demanding the authority to control the way someone else runs his business (a form of fascism), you can start any number of businesses, pay the employees as much as you want, provide them with whatever healthcare coverage you want, give them as much time off as you want, etc. You can lead by example and show your knuckle-dragging competitors how it’s supposed to be done (according to you). Of course, you’ll be broke in short order, but think of the virtue signaling!
There is a truly corrosive aspect of the “living wage” nonsense, though, and that is that if you make others comfortable at a minimum level of achievement, they often do not aspire to more, let alone to greatness. Who among us has not faced the situation where we had a job but wanted more for ourselves? Workers who are provided with unearned rewards are less likely to improve themselves, start their own business, or even work harder. Removing the desire for upward mobility would lead to ossification and economic stratification, and be the death of the middle class to the benefit of a fixed upper class. This is why financial inequality is greater under various forms of socialism than under free-market capitalism.
7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; compulsory prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to my beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
Response to belief 7
Anyone who equates Christianity and Islam is either ignorant or a liar.
The rest of this point may sound reasonable. The problem is that it is not the liberal position but rather what liberals would have you believe their position is as they wage war on Christianity. Virtually every aspect of Christianity is under relentless attack in this country. For what it’s worth, I am not a Christian but support Christians and Christianity for one simple reason: Without Christianity, we would not have Western civilization and the manifold benefits it has brought to the world. Christianity is not perfect — nothing man-made is — but it is centuries ahead of whatever is in second place.
8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the same rights as you.
Response to belief 8
Another disingenuous statement, presumably made in hopes that the reader is unfamiliar with reality — or rejects it outright. There are laws on the books that give special status to all manner of deviants and mutants. The only persons in America with no inalienable rights are heterosexual white citizens. Everyone else has been granted dispensations. LGBTQ+ persons clearly have more rights that heterosexual white citizens, Christians, etc.
If you disagree, please tell me how we transitioned from “keep government out of our bedrooms,” to “you must accept what we do in our bedrooms,” to “you must support what we do in our bedrooms,” to “what we do is superior to what heterosexual cisgender persons do in their bedrooms,” to “you must celebrate what we do in our bedrooms,” to “the government must promote what we do in our bedrooms.”
9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).
Response to belief 9
The author may not believe in certain things, but that does not make them less real. America long ago began its descent into socialism, to the point that nowadays anyone who drags his sorry carcass to our shores has the world as his feet because it is given to him by numerous government agencies at all levels, and by private agencies, too, even though giving such aid is (and long has been) against the law. These laws are routinely not enforced, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or not paying attention.
(By the way, illegal aliens are not simply “undocumented.” They have broken the law. Handling them as anything but criminals is also against the law. Using deceptive terminology such as “undocumented immigrants” changes nothing.)
As for the handling of “undocumented” immigrants in a humane way, why is it that humane treatment only becomes a factor after they break numerous laws — often including child trafficking? Why are they not responsible for treating themselves and each other in a humane fashion? Why are other countries not responsible for treating their citizens humanely? Is the U.S. the sole source of humane treatment on the planet? If so, it is time to give thanks that we do, rather than heap condemnation on underfunded agencies that are trying to make the best of a horrible situation.
It would also help to acknowledge that in many if not most cases, illegal aliens in the U.S. — including minors — are treated better than citizens, and certainly better than military veterans, despite assurances to the contrary by demagogues and media agitators.
10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
Response to belief 10
This is a bare-faced call to fascism. Individuals are greedy, so we need to turn control over to an all-knowing government. This is so stupid that only an intellectual could convince herself that it makes sense.
Let me be clear: Greed is good. Greed is what compels us to accomplish things in life. As for controls on greed, we already have those in the form of laws that state that no one can legally use force or fraud against another. Anything beyond that is fascism. And as for the government being responsible and accountable, I refer the reader to any country run by communists or dictators. This is important because the difference between a communist / dictator and power-mad unelected bureaucrats cannot be detected with the naked eye.
11. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
Response to belief 11
The current administration is fascist only because all previous administrations going back to FDR were fascist, if not those that went before. President Trump is the only president ever in the history of the U.S. to substantively cut back the administrative — i.e. fascist — state. Note that Trump is doing this even as the country undergoes extremely trying times, which is when wanna-be dictators always attempt to seize more power.
Furthermore, if you did not complain about fascism under Slick Willy or Barry Soetoro, I invite you to zip it until you know what you are talking about. There are no similarities between the Third Reich and the Trump administration. None. You are thinking of the Obama administration. I challenge anyone to produce facts to the contrary.
12. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
Response to belief 12
This is word salad that leaves the reader starved. The U.S. is the least racist country in the history of the human race. It is also the well-spring from which has flowed rights for modern women.
As for “white privilege,” there is no such thing. Straight people are not “privileged,” they are the reason we have a civilization at all. Males are not “privileged,” as they suffer more than women in any number of life and career categories. And what the heck is economic “privilege,” anyway, but an attempt to shame those who have succeeded? Successful persons should not be shamed, they should be held up as examples of what can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance.
The very persons pejoratively singled out by the author in this section are those who have given us virtually everything we enjoy in our modern society. To attack them without even a hint of acknowledgment for what they have provided each of us is the height of ingratitude. To the extent that they are privileged, it is because what they do, works. White, Christian people create societies that have both the prosperity and the freedoms without which there would be no discussion of these issues. Straight people create subsequent generations. Males throughout history have provided and protected. These and other factors are why persons in these categories are in the majority. Calling for those fitting this description to step aside is a cloaked call for the extermination of the White race, and the end of Western civilization.
13. I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun. (Got another opinion? Put it on your page, not mine).
Response to belief 13
False. There are plenty of demagogues in politics and the public eye who are calling for the confiscation (under one form or another) of weapons that are currently in private hands. We already have thousands of laws on the books regulating guns and gun ownership, and believe it or not, criminals do not observe the law. What the author is calling for is more controls on law-abiding citizens, while allowing criminals a free hand. And this massive abridgment of our rights is called for because it might save one life? Please. And please stop calling your senseless policy proposals “sensible.” Just stop.
One thing the author does not mention is what else we might do that might save one person’s life? I bet there is a long list, and that most would not be willing to give up the items on that list that deal with things other than guns.
Per capita, the U.S. has a relatively high number of guns in private hands, and relatively few instances of mass shootings. Anyone who is serious about reducing the numbers of shootings further has to look at reducing the number of fatherless households (an unintended consequence of our generational welfare system), eliminating the mind- and mood-altering drugs given to children, and for bonus points, breaking down perpetrators and victims by race. Any way you slice it, though, the average legal gun owner is not the ones committing gun crimes.
It is also useful to compare point 11 — “the current administration is fascist” — with the author’s stance on gun ownership. Apparently, the author thinks that the Trump administration is intolerable, so someone else should do something about it … someone with a gun, presumably … after she and her friends infringe on our gun rights. Cuckoo.
One more thing: This version of “gun control” does not work in the real world. In the real world, bad persons with guns are stopped by good persons with guns. If you think this means that only the police should have guns, then you are advocating turning us from citizens to subjects. There is no other way for one class of persons to have the right to bear arms while the underclass that supposedly grants them that status does not itself have the same right.
Finally, everyone needs to bear in mind that without the rights to bear arms guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment, we would not have our other rights as expressed in the other nine original amendments.
14. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
Response to belief 14
Another shift from the real issue to a straw-man issue. If Charles wants to be called Charles, that is normal. If some random guy on the street corner wants to be called Henry VIII, that is not normal. Only by conflating the normal with the abnormal can the author make her point. A biological male who wants to be called by female pronouns is not normal. When you attempt to normalize the abnormal, you degrade society.
15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
Response to belief 15
There are no sustainable options that even begin to replace coal and oil. The only way to make this claim is to 1) be unaware of how much energy it takes to run a first-world nation such as the U.S., 2) be unaware of how much coal and oil energy are required to allow us to play with wasteful trinkets such as solar energy (in its current incarnations) and wind farms, 3) be unaware of how much pollution and environmental damage are being displaced to other locations in the pursuit of so-called “sustainable” energy, and 4) be unaware of the many supply and environmental shortcomings of so-called “sustainable” energy sources.
16. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
Response to belief 16
If you believe this, then you must advocate for the reduction of compensation for women, who often make more for equal work than do males. The problem is that men and women usually do not do equal work — with women working less (or being worth less in the marketplace) than men — while they demand to be paid the same. Look at it this way, if women were such a bargain for employers, why would any employer ever hire another man? The answer is that when you look at the facts and factors, women are not compensated less than men.
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
More word salad. What does this even mean, beyond being an attempt to virtue signal just how very much the author cares, regardless of the facts? And who gets to determine what suffering is preventable? Maybe another massive government bureaucracy?