Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Like I Was Saying: More Trouble With "Principle"

From the comments section at Pandagon:

There's no way for progressives to win the Big Argument about the role of government without challenging the reactionary idiocy that all results of the capitalist economy are by definition just. The basic goal of the New Right has been to persuade everyone, even the poor, that rich people deserve to keep their money as a matter of principle. Well, guess what: the moral claim of 45 million citizens to basic health care is greater than the moral claim of a few thousand rich kids to inherit the entirety of the fortunes they had nothing to do with getting in the first place. Does that make me imperfectly committed to property rights? Yes. Tough shit, Sully. The disparity between the material wealth of the rich and poor in our society can't be justified by some Protestant Work Ethic appeal to their moral desert.

We have every right as a people to set up basic systems to gather wealth progressively from the population to fund common programs, and, yes, to redistribute that wealth to correct the inevitable injustices of rapacious markets. We've tried it the libertarian way, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries American business proved itself totally incapable of voluntarily ameliorating the mass misery caused by their profiteering.

This is a moral argument, but also a practical one. We've already tried it the Neo-Liberal/Libertarian way, and it was the mother of all fuckups.