Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reply to Comment

Occasionally it is necessary for me to reply to a comment at great length, which is not possible given the limitations of the comments section. I wish to take all comments seriously, and so I shall reply to a recent one here...

--Thank you for your comment. Let me respond to each point in turn:

You find my analogy wanting.
Then let's return to the crux of the matter: cherry-picking.

--Cherry-picking is the crux of your matter, not mine. I did not say that I would withhold taxes for programs I disagree with or do not benefit from; rather, that I am prepared to pay a reasonable amount of tax to support legitimate activities of government. I do not consider 50-plus percent of my income reasonable. Neither do I consider many, perhaps most, of the government's activities legitimate.

You don't think you should have to help pay for the California public school system your "entire lifetime." Is not some of that tax money going to what is generally thought of as a rather good state university system? One you would presumably not be ashamed to enroll your own children in?

--The same point applies. I will support public education to a reasonable degree, which is not now the case. But the fact that the elementary and secondary school systems in California rank near the bottom in the nation for quality of education regardless of how much we are taxed rankles, and speaks to a larger problem. For too long public education in this state and in the nation at large has been the hostage of the teachers unions and their cronies in the Democratic Party. That iron grip must be broken before educational standards can rise. (On the subject of state universities: I learned recently that over fifty percent of the employees in the state system are administrators and not teachers. This is an absurd and disgraceful waste of money.)

On the non-university level, you might argue that substandard schools are not in the common good. Ok, they're in the common less-than-ideal. But what would you have your fellow citizens do? Stay home and work their way through Wikipedia entries -- assuming they learned how to read on their own at some point? (Assuming they have a paid-up electric bill and a computer, too.)

--Your alternative to government-sponsored education is glibly ridiculous. But the larger and more relevant point is this: Every argument you make contains the same erroneous assumption, which lies at the heart of the malaise from which our nation suffers; namely, that if government does not do it, it will not get done. This is the true crux of the matter, and it is a numb, counter-productive way of thinking into which too many of us have slipped. Lincoln said that the government should do nothing the people can do better for themselves. I agree emphatically. I consider myself the chief educator of my children – that is my primary responsibility. I taught them how to read, write and do math. That is part of my job as a parent, and part of the joy of parenting.

--Which brings us to the second crucial point: personal responsibility. It is my responsibility (and no one else's) to see to it that my children are well educated and well trained. That is every parent’s responsibility. What I resent is public interest groups using government to force me to take responsibility for other people’s lives, and using the cynical tactic of confiscating my income to do so. Government should be the educator of last resort, providing a quality education to the children of those who cannot provide it for them. Every statistic available shows that private schools do far better with far fewer resources than public schools. Thus, everyone should have access to private schools, and the way to do that is to work hard, save money and plan for your children's futures. Sacrifices must be made, priorities must be set, and that is the individual's responsibility. Those who cannot achieve such access for reasons beyond their control have a right to expect a good quality public education for their children, which is simply not now the case. Government is a failure as an educator, and again, I resent being forced to pay an exorbitant amount of tax to sustain that failure.

You think it's an unfair burden on your finances to help pay for stuff you don't personally use unless it's outstanding and/or of direct use to YOU? What a strange standard.
Does that mean that your taxes should not go for public libraries that may contain books that you, personally, have no interest in reading or have already read?

--Again, your point is so glib as to be absurd. I am prepared to pay a reasonable amount of tax to support the legitimate activities of government as outlined in the Constitution. I have that duty as a citizen. What I resent is being compelled at the risk of imprisonment to support the pet projects of special interest and activist groups whether they work or not and whether I agree with them or not.

In a recent posting you say that people who are unwilling or unable to care for children should not have any. Excellent advice -- but not compatible with your anger in saying "I am now told that under Obamacare, I will be paying for strangers' birth control pills?"

Surely you agree that the pennies of your earnings that might go toward making birth control available to all women is a far better investment than having to terminate or carry to term an unwanted pregnancy?

--No, I do not agree. (And bear in mind that those “pennies” will be on top of everything else I am compelled to pay for.) In effect, you are saying: Young women are getting pregnant and can't help getting pregnant, and so government must take money from me and give it to them. Viewed as this simple schematic, the idea appears preposterous. The logic of it (if there is any logic at all to it) breaks down at the point where you imply that they cannot help getting pregnant. Yes, they can, and they have a responsibility to do so. It is not my responsibility to see to it that you do not get pregnant or to pay for it if you do. That is your responsibility, and again, I resent the advocates of planned parenthood or any other special interest group using government to make it my responsibility.

So, in the interest of constructive exchange, if the nation were to return to these values you find so denigrated, how would you see to it that children are educated? What measures would you propose so that no unwanted child is ever born?

--The answer to both questions is: Take responsibility for your own life and the behavior of your children. Work hard, save money and put your children into private school, school them at home or, in any case, lower taxes and allow people to use the money to provide vouchers for private education. This last will reduce public school enrollment and allow competition to compel the public schools to do a better job, rather than using the tax laws to force me to support a failed system of public education.

--As for your question, How do I propose to see to it that no unwanted child is ever born? Again, it is absurd. No one can do that; certainly not government. What I can do, and what every individual can do, is to take responsibility for his or her own behavior and train their children to do so. And, if the unwanted happens, to take responsibility for that too, rather than shunt it off onto the government and the taxpayers. Once more: I am not responsible for your life and behavior. It is not my responsibility to provide for your birth control – that is your responsibility, and government should not be used to force me to become responsible for it. Confucius pointed out that if every person swept the sidewalk in front of his own house the whole city would be clean. If there is a solution to the question of unwanted pregnancies it lies in that – people taking responsibility for their own behavior and that of their children. But further on this point: To be born unwanted is not to lack value as a human being. Unwanted children may lead valuable, productive, even exceptional lives. Again, it is a matter of taking personal responsibility, and not simply blaming others and relying on government to run one’s life.

--As I said: Inherent in all of your arguments is the reflexive, mind-numbed assumption of the liberals that government is the answer, and that government should substitute its power for the responsibility of individuals. For too long we have lived this way, and now we see where it leads: to the bankruptcy of the economy, the denigration of personal responsibility and dignity, and to the depletion of the spirit of society.