Freedom v Fairness II: This time, it’s personal!

A sequel to yesterday’s post, framed around comments by Abbot of Arbroath, who begins thusly:


I can grasp the freedom = equality issue is a challenge. There rest is debatable.

Then let’s debate it! Although I’m not sure what the “rest” is.

“Let’s begin with the basic assumption at the root of our nation’s founding”

This is inaccurate. Freedom was for white males and don’t you dare forget that when you propagate a mythical history.

Agreed that freedom for white males was indeed the practice, but it was never the ideal. Jefferson recognized the disconnect between a slave-owning state and the concept that all men are created equal and tried to put language in the Declaration decrying slavery. Over 600,000 Americans died in a civil war for this idea. I think it’s mythical history to suggest that the founders cynically ignored the universal implications of the Jeffersonian language.

“All over the world, people have made the exchange, and the standard of living for everyone has gone down as a result.”

This is contestable. Check out the GDP per capita listings even from the CIA. Unsurprisingly, the top 10 – the US is ranked 10th. Small countries with banking backgrounds hiding money are the competition. The others are small European countries with redistributive systems. 

In fact looking at the listing – there is little difference, about 3000 USD, between most European countries which embrace mixed economy and higher tax burden (a bit like the current mixed economy which is presented as a bail-out in the US) but provide health care, schooling, university, pensions and employment protection.

I’m not convinced that GDP is the best way to measure freedom. These stats show Qatar with a per capita GDP almost twice that of the US, yet that’s because the oil-soaked Emir of Qatar has a personal GDP of approximately a gazillion dollars, which tends to skew the numbers a little bit. Qatar is home to the equivalent of modern-day slavery, even though its GDP can’t be beat.

In addition, 3000 USD is a 6.7% difference, which is not insignificant. Imagine a country with a 6.7% growth rate, and you’ll see what I mean.

It all depends on what you see the function of the state to be – to make money or to ensure equitable society with high levels of social cohesion and low levels of violence. 

I hope those aren’t the only two options available, as I don’t like either of them. The state shouldn’t exist “to make money;” taxation should only be a necessary evil to maintain the state’s basic and enumerated functions. That’s one of the reasons, incidentally, why Obama lost my vote early on. When it was pointed out to him that the state would make MORE money with a lower capital gains tax rate, he said he would still raise the tax because it was “a question of fairness.” So even if it means less money, he’s going to screw over the rich.

I’m all about “high levels of social cohesion” and “low levels of violence.” I get hives when you start talking about “equitable society.” Do you mean equal opportunity or equal outcomes? Because they are very, very different things.

You cannot afford to neglect the link between the creation of government as an entity to ensure autonomy and low levels of violence in societies that do redistribute. Murder rates for European countries average 1k per annum for around 60m compared to the US with 17k murders for 300m.

Correlation isn’t causation. I don’t see how you make the case that the reason people in the US shoot each other more often because the welfare state isn’t as bulky. I think this is a separate issue entirely.

There is an obvious concern. Also the UN reporting rates is of interest as the US only reports assaults crime which involve a firearm or end in serious bodily injury; other countries classify emotional or abusive assaults ( shouting in the street) as an assault. This is an “apple and pears” comparison but the intent behind the logic of report compilation is telling. 

Maybe it is, but I don’t know what it tells.

Is economic freedom the be all and end all of all of government?

Is that supposed to be a rhetorical question?

I suppose there’s more to it, but I don’t think you can separate economic freedom from, say, freedom. When the Declaration was first written, the three unalienable rights Jefferson cited were life, liberty, and property. The idea that economic freedom is somehow tangential to the overall freedom equation ignores the founding principles of the nation.

As for the be all and end all of government, it would be nice if government had an “end all.” It seems to define its role according to its whims, and the result is an expansion of government’s role and a diminishment of personal freedom. As Ronald Reagan once said, “no government has ever voluntarily reduced itself in size.”

Government exists not to grant freedom but rather to protect it. And, as Jefferson wrote, “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” That’s nice to know in theory, but I don’t see an economically intrusive government going away any time soon. 

Freedom vs. Fairness

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