Conservatives, Liberals, and the Worthy Poor

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The traditional wisdom is that the political left is better for people, the political right is better for business and the truth lies in the balance.  Obviously that’s complete bollocks. There’s no reason that the political right can’t contribute to people’s well-being or the left can’t be good for the economy.  Not to mention the political right is  going through a particularly acute bought of insanity right now.    I will tell you what both wings have in common. Both conservatives and liberals have a profound antipathy and mistrust of the poor. Aide programs designed by our society are completely premised on the idea that the poor are alcoholics or drug users, or are somehow incapable of leading a middle class life. Rarely, if ever, do liberals or conservatives, in general, come to the poor and ask, “what do you need to be successful?” I’m certainly not saying there aren’t individuals who feel this way, there are tremendously generous individuals on all sides of the ideological spectrum.  But there is naked hostility towards poor. It manifests in different ways, but it is shared by all.

The political right is clearly motivated from a standpoint of self-interest, unenlightened as it is. The political left is motivated by pity, or compassion or some other moral feeling.  Obviously, this is absolutely wrong. Quite frankly I’m surprised its constitutional. Liberals, you can no more enforce your morality in an economic sphere than Conservatives can enforce their morality in a social arena. I’m appalled at a movement that feels it’s empowered to dramatically negatively alter the lives of the population based purely on it’s sense of morality.

The government is empowered to collect taxes for the common good, not to benefit one group over another. I know, it happens all the time but it shouldn’t.  I may believe it’s moral to help others, but I can not inflict my morality on others. When we reduce someone’s economic potential, it is important that they get equal or greater value. For example we spend billions every year on basic science research, I feel extremely confident that I will benefit from these discoveries far more than if I had not agreed to pay taxes. Same is true of a bigger fish like Social Security. If you were to take it away, imagine the economic burden this would place on families, the glut on the housing market as legions of elders are made homeless, skyrocketing health costs, and lost economic productivity. No. Paying a tax to fund and manage an account that everyone will benefit from sounds to me like the height of fiscal and economic responsibility.

This doesn’t mean that we can not use tax money to help the poor and middle class. I simply do not consider helping the low and middle classes to be a moral issue. I consider this part of my own enlightened self-interest. This may seem like a fine distinction, but I think it’s worth celebrating.  For one thing it pits liberals and conservatives in a war of morals.  Not only is not a battle worth fighting, in this country it’s not a battle we can fight. Liberals need to get off their hypocritical moral superiority and advance policies that are genuinely universal in application. when we address poverty, helping the poor for the sake of the poor is an invalid moral argument.  I want to hear how helping someone will benefit the entire community. Let’s talk about how uplifting individuals will increase the economic productivity from the community.  If this isn’t our goal we are failures.  It’s a basic law of economics that increasing consumption (think food stamps) without increasing the means of productivity is ultimately self-defeating.

Consider Utah and a few other places where they have started giving homeless people homes and a social worker. No strings attached. Not only was it the compassionate moral thing to do but it also stabilized many of the individuals so they could return to economic productivity, but even if that benefit was not fully realized, these places are saving a tremendous amount on law enforcement and healthcare costs. This kind of contribution to society is definitely worth picking a man’s pocket over.

The government can not and should not consider “morality” in its governance, merely that which brings the most good to all its constituents.


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