TCS Daily


Poor Performances

By Christopher Lingle - March 20, 2007 12:00 AM

Newspapers around the world recently carried an item that seems to be a damning indictment of the US government and the American people. The 2005 US Census indicates that the percentage of poor Americans living in "severe" poverty is at a 32-year high. This put the proportion of poor people in deep poverty at 43 percent of the total of 37 million.

As such, the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005 so that 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. This is defined as a family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903, or one-half of the federal poverty line.

On their face, these figures sound ominous and suggest that the US government and the American people have turned their backs on the weakest citizens. But truth and reality are much more complex than the raw data suggest.

The US government has spent close to $10 trillion (current dollars) on domestic welfare programs since President Johnson launched the "War on Poverty" in 1965. These include Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now Temporary Assistance to Needy Families—TANF); food stamps; Medicaid; the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); utilities assistance under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); housing assistance under a variety of programs, including public housing and Section 8 Rental Assistance; and the free commodities program. And then state and local governments engage in welfare spending that includes free medical care for the impoverished through charity hospitals.

Spending on all social programs is up by 22 percent (inflation-adjusted) since 2000. In 2004, total government spending on low-income families was $129 billion, or $9,058 per poor family.

Besides all this public-sector spending, private charities and religious organization offer considerable aid to the indigent ranging from soup kitchens to housing and so forth.

Now let's look at the official poverty rate for the US as estimated by the Census Bureau from data on poverty and income collected in an annual survey and defined according to household size and makeup. The average poverty threshold for a family of four was $18,392 in annual income in 2002.

The official rate combines the money income of individuals and families before taxes with cash assistance received from government programs that is compared with established poverty thresholds. These thresholds vary according to the size of the family and are adjusted annually to account for the effects of inflation.

But this official estimate does not include non-cash government benefits, like public housing, Medicaid, free or subsidized medical care, or food stamps.

In all events, it turns out that the financial resources of the poor in the US tend to be undercounted. For example, the poor tend to underreport income to the Census, perhaps because they fear it will be reported to the IRS. Consequently, Census figures on income relative to spending indicate that the poor spend $1.94 for every dollar of reported income.

Poverty measures ignore the value of household assets like housing. Consider the following facts about the poor in America. Data from 1995 indicate that 41% of all "poor" households owned their own homes with an average size of 3 bedrooms, 1 ½ bathrooms and most had a garage and a porch or patio. Among the poor, 750,000 owned homes worth over $150,000 (an amount that should be much greater given the US housing bubble).

The average poor American lives with 1/3 more living space than the average Japanese, 25% more than the average Frenchman, 40% more than the average Greek and 4 times more than average Russian. Among the poor of America, 70% of "poor" households owned a car and 27% had two or more cars.

Since the poor of America live better than many of the rich in most other countries and so much money has been spent to improve their condition, it is right to ask what must be done.

In the first instance, income is an inexact indicator of poverty. Consumption, or the lack of it, provides a far better picture of how well off people might be. Given that many of the poor in America tend to be obese is an indication that they are not deprived of sufficient food.

If absolute poverty is considered the lack of access to sufficient resources to satisfy basic needs, there is not much of this in the US. In the US, as in most countries, relative poverty is a bigger issue.

But relative poverty can never be fully resolved through incentive-destroying policies of everyone receiving the same income regardless of effort or talent. History provides little evidence that forced income redistribution through taxation can alleviate mass poverty.

Perhaps a better response to poverty would be to reduce the reliance upon governments. The slack could be made up by elements of civil society like private charities that are more effective than public welfare programs in serving the poor.

As it is, 85 million American households give a total $250 billion dollars to charities each year. Interestingly, private citizens in the US gave more to the victims of the Asian tsunami than the federal government provided in aid. It is wrong to think that Americans citizens are shirking their obligations to needy neighbors or that the US government should do more.

Christopher Lingle is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi and Visiting Professor of Economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.


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56 Comments

Cut foreign aid, use funds domestically!
"Newspapers around the world recently carried an item that seems to be a damning indictment of the US government and the American people. The 2005 US Census indicates that the percentage of poor Americans living in "severe" poverty is at a 32-year high."

Perhaps the world news would prefer the United States to cut all foreign aid and used the funds to cure our perceived domestic poverty!

Good idea
If we had this to include all of the money Americans give to foreign countries by charitable contributions, in addition to what our government gives, I would like it even more.
This bashing of America sure gets old after awhile. We have freed more people from oppression than any civilization in history. In gross spending, I would challenge anyones charity, home and abroad to ours. We have a political dialog in this country that gives rise to those who loathe us. The discourse is counter productive in so many ways, it does tend to sway the lazy minds of many Americans, so the politicians keep doing it.
I think we should continue our charitable ways regardless of the American bashers. Alot of what helped found our great country was gained from the generosity of others.

Simplify
I saw a great proposal a while back. I'm not sure who to attribute it to, but it goes like this. Take all the money spent on domestic welfare programs. Simply divide it out based on reported income to bring as many as possible on the bottom up to a base level.

We currently only deliver a fraction of the money spent in this area to the people. Each program has oversight, fraud prevention, rent seekers, management, and the like.

Get it down to one mechanism and then focus on fraud prevention and you're all set. This would nearly double the effect of the money spent and everyone could understand how it worked.

Dreams
The dream of a poor father in Calcutta is to be a poor father in America. America is the dream that sustains many, many of the world's poorest people.

Yes!
Many times yes! We cried for America to save us and America come to and did save us. Life is not so easy here, but I must tell you their is life and their is future and their is plenty. Never before have I my own car. American people have been very good to me and my family. I say thank you God so many times every day.

No Subject
The problem is that the system is disigned to be a safety net, we do a fairly decent job at keeping people from dying of starvation, providing medical care to those with no resources ect...

What we don't do is drive people back up the economic ladder and out of the safety nets. Job training with child care for single mothers trying to get ahead. Social workers with the time, skill and resources to make families and individuals self sufficient.

Example:

Jane Doe was on assistance but recently got a job working at a call center for $8 an hour, she can't afford health care, child care, transportation, rent and food on that salary and still buy health insurance so she doesn't have any... her daughter get's sick and needs to go to the doctor.. the only thing Jane Doe can do is quit her job and use the free health care provided by the safety net.

The system is designed to handle emergencies, not to prevent them from happening. We need to shift our focus away from just the safety net and balance it between the safety net and the ladder that takes them back up to the point where thier supporting the system instead of being a drain on it.

Each dime you donate...
"Perhaps the world news would prefer the United States to cut all foreign aid and used the funds to cure our perceived domestic poverty!"

Freely-- Good idea. But I'm thinking the princely sums we bestow on the world's poor won't go very far in addressing poverty in the US.

Check this out. In the past three fiscal years we've spent only $2.68 billion for AIDS, TB and malaria prevention, of which $445 million went to the Global Fund-- the president's much-ballyhooed "$15 billion" AIDS program.

House Joint Res. 20 would increase current levels of funding by $105 million to combat malaria-- a disease killing one million people a year. It would increase funding for maintaining peacekeeping forces in fourteen countries, including the Congo, Haiti, Lebanon and Sudan by $113 million. Wowsie wow!

Another $50 million would go toward maintaining African Union peacekeepers in Darfur. In Iraq terms, that would buy us around fifty minutes of warfare.

World refugees? $75 million, of which $20 million would go toward assisting iraq refugees. These now number two million who have fled Iraq, and nearly another two million internally displaced inside the country-- that is, trying to get out.

If we put these funds exclusively toward the internally displaced we can alleviate their light for a sum amounting to ten dollars per person. But in fact I've seen these kinds of programs from the inside. The entire amount will go toward payroll-- political appointees being granted plums to push some paper around.

http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200701/013107b.html

In short, we're talking about total funding for foreign aid that would give us maybe another two B-2 bombers. We lose forty times that amount behind the cushions of the federal sofa each year. Sorry, it won't do diddly toward alleviating poverty.

Ladder
Let them climb. They can do it. If they can't, no training is going to help.

If Jane Doe has to quit for her daughter, she's already made a lot of bad decisions. Job training doesn't change that. If she had the support structures responsible people build into their lives, she'd have had a parent, sibling, or friend who could help.

I'm arguing that we just carry them, but as efficiently as possible. If they refuse to walk on their own, we simply take a deep breath and let them pile on our backs. Heck, I've got four or five families up their now... what's another one to me?

Safety Net only treats symptoms, we need to address problems
"Let them climb. They can do it. If they can't, no training is going to help."

I disagree, mentoring by Social Workers or Volunteers can make all the difference in the world. Especially if those mentors have the ability to allocate enough resources to overcome some basic impediments to an individuals progress. Impediments like transportation issues, tutoring or childcare.

"If Jane Doe has to quit for her daughter, she's already made a lot of bad decisions."

I think that goes without saying, what's important is that Jane Doe is now trying to make the right decisions.

"Job training doesn't change that."

Getting a job that will allow Jane Doe to put money into the system, instead of taking money from the system will usually require some sort of training.

"If she had the support structures responsible people build into their lives, she'd have had a parent, sibling, or friend who could help."

If Jane Doe doesn't have those structures available then she's just stuck with the results of her bad decisions, a permanent drain on the system. If she were the only one suffering that wouldn't be so bad, unfortunately people don't live in a vacuum. Her child suffers, society suffers and she becomes a permanent drain on resources. If she's willing to struggle to improve her situation, it benefits us all to help and insure she's successful.

"I'm arguing that we just carry them, but as efficiently as possible. If they refuse to walk on their own, we simply take a deep breath and let them pile on our backs. Heck, I've got four or five families up their now... what's another one to me?"

I'm arguing that we should focus on and treat the problem instead of just dealing with symptoms. Over the long term teaching people to walk is less difficult than simply allowing them to ride on your back indefinitely.

I haven't seen it
I just haven't seen people willing to do this who haven't already. It's not so hard to make it here. It just takes a little self discipline and focus. You can make a living mowing grass if you just get out there and do it.

I've never seen social workers do more than help with the red tape to get money from the myriad of gov't programs.

Concurrent causes
"In the first instance, income is an inexact indicator of poverty. Consumption, or the lack of it, provides a far better picture of how well off people might be. Given that many of the poor in America tend to be obese is an indication that they are not deprived of sufficient food."

Uncle Sugar got fat on poverty, too. Now we've got an obese federal government that can't consume enough cash to spend on a cohort of "poor" who can't consume enough Taco Time.

Brilliant. Government really is the solution to all problems, isn't it?

So much for Ben Franklin
Consumption of cheap crap has certainly kept pace with production, even though incomes have eroded. What bridges the gap? Readily available consumer credit.

Money has found its way uphill to the degree that there are now huge sums at the top looking for employment. This money is only too happy to stimulate the economy by forcing home prices upward and providing mortgages, or by mailing everyone credit cards for their convenience. Even Ford now just sells its cars as an adjunct to its real business-- placing loans.

We still spend money just like we always did. Only now it's more likely to be borrowed, rather than earned. Our median family savings rate has only recently dipped below the zero mark.

Uncle Sam certainly has acquired a taste for that pleasant drug, borrowed money, as well. It's the American Way.

Who are these 16M in "severe poverty" ?
I would like to know who makes up these alledged 16M people in "severe poverty". The article linked to states that "About one in three severely poor people are under 17, and nearly two out of three are female. Female-headed families with children account for a large share of the severely poor."

Why didn't these women wait until marriage to have kids? How many of the severe poor are addicts (alcohol, gambling, drugs, etc.)? How many are mentally ill cause we can't force a mentally ill person to take their medication? How many are criminals?

Let's get these kids under 17 out of the severe poor homes that are dysfunctional so they have a shot at better life choices. I would bet that of the remainder, more that 60-70% have made life choices that led them directly to where they are now.

The remaining few that are trying to turn their lives around or had some misfortune (illness, lost job, etc.) are the ones that should be the focus of our assistance, which is probably done best via the private charity route.

Look at nations which provide a better ladders and see what percentage require assistance
I think we need to rethink the orientation of our social workers. Thier primary objective should be helping someone who is a drain on society, become a productive member of society. They will need resources and tools not available to them now, however over the long term I believe we could dramaticly reduce the number of people who need assistance.

They seem to be everywhere, why not just ask one?
Many of our poorest have criminal records or are single mothers recieving no support from another parent. I don't think anyone here is arguing that most people in these situations aren't there because of poor decisions made by themselves and/or thier parents. Although some are there because they couldn't afford adequate medical insurance, had too much money for state assistance and then ran into a real medical emergancy, others are struggling with some form of mental and/or physical handicap.

I'm actually surprised that the number of people in sever poverty isn't over 30 million, obviously not all states are as bad as Mississippi or Arizona.

"The remaining few that are trying to turn their lives around or had some misfortune (illness, lost job, etc.) are the ones that should be the focus of our assistance, which is probably done best via the private charity route."

There are some areas where private charity has the potential to work much better than public charity. In a fairly prosperous area I'm certain that churches and other private charities could make a big differance in the lives of people who need a helping hand getting back on thier feet. However in areas where extreme poverty is endemic I doubt the ability of charities and churches to be able to fully address the problems of the people living there and to help them get on thier feet. Government has the resources and ability, it just doesn't seem willing to take a long term view and do what it takes to solve the problem.

Freakynomics
"Consumption of cheap crap has certainly kept pace with production, even though incomes have eroded. What bridges the gap? Readily available consumer credit."

If some people want cheap crap, others will produce it.

Cheap crap isn't cheap at 18% interest, and consumer bankruptcy laws have changed to disallow discharge from "all debts. This means the old paradigm of a seven-year-time-out from credit cards for the profligate has faded into the sunset.

Do you hear that, rb? I do ... it's weeping and the gnashing of teeth, that is, the death of the demand for cheap crap bought at ruinous credit rates. You got a better way to do it?

"Money has found its way uphill to the degree that there are now huge sums at the top looking for employment. This money is only too happy to stimulate the economy by forcing home prices upward and providing mortgages, or by mailing everyone credit cards for their convenience. Even Ford now just sells its cars as an adjunct to its real business-- placing loans."

What goes up must come down. That's why economists use the terms "growth" and "inflation" instead of "gravity" to describe the upside of economic developments.

If Ford can't make good cars, what makes you believe Ford can make good loans?

"We still spend money just like we always did. Only now it's more likely to be borrowed, rather than earned. Our median family savings rate has only recently dipped below the zero mark."

This would mean someone in the chain of natural resource extraction to midden heap is a getting the shaft. Hence the 18% credit card interest rate - the bane of the honest, working poor. Yes indeedy, the poor always get the shaft, which is why it's so easy to feel sorry for them.

But don't despair, rb, because the median family savings rate doesn't include home equity (how could it?), the American family's preferred saving vehicle. Oh, but if only the universe would keep its accounts on a cash basis, what?

"Uncle Sam certainly has acquired a taste for that pleasant drug, borrowed money, as well. It's the American Way."

It certainly is. But so is optimism, which is why no American is really a bad credit risk ... even Uncle Sugar.

Borrowing from the future
I never find it easy to follow what you think you're saying. It would seem I prefer a system where people were paid adequately for their labors, and so didn't require revolving consumer credit to get through the year. And you prefer one in which they mortgage the future to lenders, who loan them the money they were once able to earn in wages.

That way when the prices for necessities, such as health care, rise above one's ability to pay, no problem. The debt can just be rolled over and paychecks from future decades be dedicated toward the payment of old debts.

It's an interesting model, but an unsustainable one.

My parents and their neighbors
The researchers probably included my parents in their statistics. They only filed income taxes in one of the last 5 years. Because they saved and invested all their lives and haven't had to have any very much current income to live comfortably.

Establishing priorities
You're talking about unemployables-- the drug addicts, criminals and schizophrenics that make up our underclass. But there exists a growing class of working poor whose lot could be improved by intelligently crafted public policy.

One statistic worth contemplating is the one that shows a majority of personal bankruptcies and home repossessions as having been precipitated by an illness, where very large hospital bills (the equal of several years' pay) were incurred. Once one loses one's home, and possibly the vehicle as well, it is surprisingly hard to still show up for work every morning, ready to put in a full day.

Both classes-- the permanent undercalss and the working poor-- would benefit from intelligent policy. I think we would both agree that mere handouts do not constitute an intelligent policy. One thing that would be of benefit would be to offer day care coupons for working mothers. When you compare day care premiums to low wage incomes you find there is nothing left in the budget for items like food, rent and utilities.

For ambulatory schizophrenics, deinstitutionalised to save the state money, public hotel/clinics would be a smart approach.

In any event, I find merely blaming someone for their plight to be an unproductive approach. Even in the event that their fate is something blameworthy, blame is not going to fix them. Where we see a problem we need to devise a useful solution, and evaluate whether it is worth the projected cost.

For instance if we had a spare billion dollars, would we prefer to use it in extending low cost loans to the uninsured and expensively hospitalized? Or would we prefer to buy another B-1 bomber?

another phoney issue
American poverty is just another phoney issue. Just recently I heard a report from the BBC who is known for being left wing and anti-american, and looking for ways to show americans as dummby rubes. This report though travelelled all round recently as reported that he could hardly find and really poor people. That is, people that most of the world would call poor; sure some europeans might, but the rest of the world would envy even poorer americans their plasma tv, microwaves, cars, houses, etc.

Cheap crap
"I never find it easy to follow what you think you're saying."

Ditto. It would seem one moment you're lamenting the working poor's borrowing, spending and appraising habits, the next you're donning the sacred vestments of the left to perform the ablutions required for straying to common sense from dogma.

"It would seem I prefer a system where people were paid adequately for their labors, and so didn't require revolving consumer credit to get through the year."

People are paid adequately for their labors, just not adequately for their desires for cheap crap. Hence the credit.

"And you prefer one in which they mortgage the future to lenders, who loan them the money they were once able to earn in wages."

Not so, and never so. Having always been either poor or middle class, I clearly remember never having been able to earn in wages the purchase price of a home. I'm not sure what universe you refer to when you think and write that the average guy used to have enough cash on hand to buy a house, but it isn't any universe I'm familiar with.

"That way when the prices for necessities, such as health care, rise above one's ability to pay, no problem. The debt can just be rolled over and paychecks from future decades be dedicated toward the payment of old debts."

I can afford 1950's health care expenses out of pocket, and I bet you can too, rb. What we can't afford out of pocket are today's health care expenses. I wonder why? Could it be that all of the nifty new technologies are all so expensive? And isn't it their arrival that's created the necessity of pooled financing together with all the conundrums arising from aforesaid?

I've yet to see a progressive honestly and intelligently address this issue, to whit: Medical advances make health care too expensive and a driver of unacceptable inequality. Why not be the first, rb?

Your false choice - I'll take the B1 bomber
Since we as a country have spent over 10 TRILLION dollars (author's figures) on the poor over the last 40+ years, your false choice of the B1 bomber and subsidized loans is a silly one.

I do not ONLY blame people for their plight, but I do assign blame. I blame them when their OWN bad decisions led them to where they are. Without assigning blame and responsibility, all you are doing is enabling the "victim". Certain behaviors and life decisions must be pointed out again and again as damaging. It doesn't mean that I don't want to help them when they ask and are ready for help.

I also want to segment the poor to better understand how effective help can be provided to each particular segment.

I also believe that the govt is not the most effective distributor of funds. I do not give to any charity that has overhead expenses above 20% (usually not more than 15%). I would argue that for every $100 in tax money that goes towards programs for the poor, about $35-$40 is eaten up by govt (federal, state, local) bureaucracy doing the administration.

My suggestion would be to that every income tax payer would be able to designate 10% of their tax owed to the govt be re-directed to the domestic charity of their choice.

Blaming the worker for his low pay
I am assuming the figure of ten trillion dollars--a suspiciously round number-- includes all payments from Social Security and Medicare-Medicaid. Actual welfare payments are but a fraction of that figure. And I disagree that programs intended for retirement insurance and medical insurance should be included under the category of welfare. We the American work force have paid into these programs-- and at other times have taken from them. Likewise with unemployment insurance.

I also disagree with you that a censorious outlook is helpful in assessing what needs to be done about our deteriorating incomes in the labor market. The plain fact is that American labor has been undercut by the removal of factory jobs overseas, as well as the effects of a number of other policies. The fact that someone can work full time and still be unable to support themselves should not simply be something we blame them for. It points to structural problems in our economy.

I would agree with you that any charity spending more than 20% of income on overhead is not worth giving to. But your contention that government must be spending 35-40% of their program funds on administration is pure guesswork.

For example Social Security spends a little under one percent of revenues on administration-- a fact easily checked. Were the program to be privatised (an objective much desired by the major fund managers of America) fees, commissions and expenses would likely be in the 5-6% range, or six times as much.

Why? Profit. That's the one thing that's missing from government work. The middleman's hand that gets between you and your money.

Secondly, there is no motive for business to inject itself in programs that alleviate poverty among the labor force. Their mission is to make a profit, pure and simple. They would be working at cross purposes if they did anything but run up salaries and overhead, while trimming benefits. In short, they would act like the current administration in its profligate spending of federal funds without being able to show any received benefit from their efforts.

The remedy for that would be a protected civil service, immune from being subverted by political appointees. Currently the country is being run like the Katrina relief effort. They throw our money at every problem without evaluating results. Good civil servants do a far better job than do political hacks. But that, of course, relies on the voters making good choices.

Not easy to follow
I was just being polite. What I'm actually saying is that statements like this

"It would seem one moment you're lamenting the working poor's borrowing, spending and appraising habits, the next you're donning the sacred vestments of the left to perform the ablutions required for straying to common sense from dogma"

don't make a lick of sense. They're just babble.

Other statements you make are merely opinion. "People are paid adequately for their labors, just not adequately for their desires for cheap crap. Hence the credit."

So where exactly is the line between a necessity and a desire? You may be out of touch with American costs, but off the top of your head would you say someone raising a family on $12 an hour, or 25K a year, is able to meet their requirements for rent, utilities, transportation, food and insurance without ever having to borrow?

Your only response is to look down your nose at this loser. I find that approach spiritually wanting.

Health care costs have gone up for a variety of reasons. And among them are the costs of medical research and technology. Those costs, providing improved outcomes, are well worth the price. Other costs, such as bloated profit margins and the failure of government to monitor price inflation effectively, are not. Malpractise insurance is another thing that has gotten out of hand, adding immensely to our overhead for medicine. Medicine is a complex issue, with no simple answer.

In any event, we have wandered rather far afield of my original comment, which suggested that we really don't spend a lot of money on foreign aid and wouldn't save much if we just shut it down.

If you want to add to the dialog, give us a figure for foreign aid for nonmilitary purposes. That would at least be a concrete addition to the debate.

Which discussion?
I thought the article and string are about how the poor are doing. Startlingly enough, so are my comments.

"People are paid adequately for their labors" isn't a statement of opinion, but a statement of fact because if people weren't paid adequately for their labors, they'd do something else. Unless, that is, "people" are those benighted masses you imagine, you know, those countless millions of Americans trapped in lousy jobs and thus lousy lives due to the "system", or capitalism (which is nothing more than freedom itself), or the evil "profit motive".

These are the people I look down my nose on because they're figments of your imagination rb: They don't exist in near the numbers you state. I have nothing but disdain for fantasies that aren't at least amusing, that is, your fantasies, rb.

Like you, I've known plenty of poor Americans. But unlike you, I've learnt that for most of them, poverty is only a temporary condition, as the data I've reviewed on the subject of poverty in America corroborates. Moreover, I've learnt that to an American, "poverty" actually means "not doing as well as I have done or could do". It's that last part of the definition that's dangerous because the measure of how well a day laborer could do is not how well a dentist does. And while you progressive class warriors know this very well, you nevertheless obscure it beneath mountains of crap about how unfair, inequitable and greedy the "system" is, or capitalism is, or the profit motive is. Not so, rb?

Now, back to my challenge. Isn't it so that medical technology is a risk venture, meaning investors apply today's cash in researching tomorrow's advances? And isn't it true that once those advances are made, investors want to recoup their investments, thereby rendering said advances expensive, along with their rarity, of course? And isn't it true that these life saving advances are available to the masses instead of just the wealthy few because of insurance schemes? So isn't it true that the present "system" of health care financing has enabled the same life-saving advances that are bringing the health care "system's" finances to ruin?

"Yes" to all of the above. It follows that the best way to fix the health care "system's" financial woes is to outlaw medical research until the poor are once again able to afford health care, not so? Ironically enough, this is exactly what socialized medicine does, for the health care market that drives most of the world's medical advances is the American one.

Care to add to this dialog, rb?



Strange...
I don't normally bump into them as I go about my day, however I don't have to look hard to see them either... dilapidated trailers with half a dozen children playing out front in the dirt, old men in run down boarding houses, I've never had a hard time seeing them... perhaps your not willing to look them in the eye and see them. It's not an easy thing to do.

I do see, people living in poverty with no hope of escaping that poverty. They may have a microwave and a TV from Salvation Army or St. Vincent DePaul, they don't always have a car and if they do it's a piece of junk that's not always running. I do what I can to help out those who I believe are trying to help themselves but there is only so much I can do. What I do see is government dumping billions into Defense while putting forth a **** poor effort to help it's citizens who need it most.

Not a lot of common ground here
You're in your usual mood with this: "People are paid adequately for their labors" isn't a statement of opinion, but a statement of fact because if people weren't paid adequately for their labors, they'd do something else."

To be more specific, everyone normally selects the best choice among all his or her possible choices. Many do not have a very attractive set of choices. And this largely has to do with intelligence and background.

There's not always much someone can do about either. I happen to know a lot of damaged people, and can assure you they're not figments of my imagination. Nor are they the sort of people you would ever hang out with. Not everyone can count on having native intelligence, or resourcefulness, or just the background that comes from knowing people who have careers. In many neighborhoods there are no role models. Hardly anyone has a regular job. They live lives you and I would consider to be emotionally and intellectually stunted.

People who come up in those places, even if they hold the potential for becoming a productive citizen, have no experience of what it takes, hence no understanding of what is required. Many can't even express themselves well in an interview. The kinds of options you take for granted are unavailable to these people.

Your choice would be to ignore them and let them go their own way. Mine would be to work with those who were amenable to suggestion and held the potential for sustaining focused ambition. And in fact even though retired, I find myself still doing volunteer work in this area.

That's about all we have to say to each other on this subject.

Regarding medicine, American pharmaceurical wonders lie mainly in the fields of weight loss, depression, impotence and other conditions the fortunate will pay good money to rid themselves of. There is no market in the American drug industry for research into things that poor people get, like malaria or dengue. That illustrates a great fallacy in purely market-driven approaches to research. The rich are exceedingly well served-- and those in need, not at all.

As for emergency room technique, nothing improves it and trains the next generation of technician like war. It's about the only good thing that ever comes from war-- the ability to save life when the body is massively insulted.

You madam
are a saint! It is indeed far better to dump billions of dollars on alcoholics, crack addicts, meth heads, and schizophrenics than to stalwart and sober soldiers, airmen, and sailors. Just your presence before the poverty-stricken must be a comfort to them. You go girl - clap - clap - clap

trailor trash
Did you know some people prefer to live in filth and degradation? But you don't approve of it, so would prefer that a nanny state cleans them up, right? Did you know some people have different lyfstyles? For example, let's say that some people are poor, would this also mean that they have to be dirty? What prevents a hilbilly family, or those black ghetto guys, or the red indians on reservations, from cleaning up their from gardens instead leaving the trash all over? If you and I like to clean up and plant a few flowers, why do we expect that everyone wants that on their place. Just because you wipe the snot off your brats nose, I've seen many people who just don't care about it.

Broken people
Everyone's broken to some extent, rb. Everyone.

How did it happen? We people did it, and we'll keep on doing it, and nothing we've got the power to do on our own will ever stop us doing it or fix it once it's done. Not government, not charity, not even if every person on this planet became a part-time social worker. Still, you fight the good fight and believe, rb, which is nice to see.

Now to my point: You measure how broken people are by how much money they make. That's not a good standard of measure, for as you've said yourself, there are some near whole people out there living on a shoestring. So consider whether your class war crusade ought not fly another banner instead of the hammer and sickle.

As to health care, I can't take much of what you say seriously until you deal with the environmental movement's (1) banning of DDT, which directly lead to the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, (2) desire to ban fossil fuels, which will directly lead to the re-impoverishment and continued poverty of hundreds of millions of people, and (3) Thalidomide, whose tragi-comedic history you can catch at Wikipedia.

By hustling tree-huggers, class warriors, and consumer advocates under one tent, the left has gathered the deadliest enemies of the poor in one place. Gotta love the ironies of this world, what rb?

Your answer is protected govt workers?
You rail against private enterprise making money and think that govt workers, proteced in their jobs, are the answer. Civil servants have zero incentive to help solve problems. If the problem starts to go down, their budgets go down. At least in the private sector incentives can be used to say that success can lead to higher rewards.

My previous post was about those who had made poor decisions in their lives. You don't even address that at all.

You rail about the loss in manufacturing jobs and imply protectionism. Manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the global workforce is most likely dropping. Look at the production of food, one of the most basic needs we humans have. I bet that 30-40 years ago (I remember you once saying you had grandchildren so I am assuming an age over 60) you complained about the loss of agricultural jobs. Yet today thru productivity, the production of food is done with far fewer people for far more people.

I would agree with you that those whose jobs are lost via trade, should get significant help.

Finally if you think that social security is anything but a govt run Ponzi scheme, you are not thinking correctly. It will definitely not be around for all seniors come your grandkids retirement, it will have to be means-tested.

I'm sure you will post again on this topic, but I will not.

Govt workers ussually the least expensive & most efficient option
"You rail against private enterprise making money and think that govt workers, proteced in their jobs, are the answer. Civil servants have zero incentive to help solve problems."

I believe your wrong there, especially with the advent of performance based pay for civil servants. All you need to do is give them the tools they need to solve the problem, insure they are motivated to solve the problem, and then keep track of thier performance. Why become a civil servant if your not interested in serving your country and solving problems, certainly not to make a lot of money...

From USA Jobs:

" SOCIAL WORKER

SALARY RANGE: 43,731.00 - 68,787.00 USD per year
OPEN PERIOD: Friday, March 02, 2007
to Friday, March 23, 2007
SERIES & GRADE: GS-0185-09/11

Minimum Qualification Requirements: BASIC REQUIREMENTS: Must have a Master’s degree in social work from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and be licensed or certified at the Master’s level to independently practice social work in a state. "







do unto others
I'm no Saint, I'm a retired soldier and DoD contractor... nor am I female, nor am I saying that we should spend more on social programs than Defense. What I am saying is that I expect government to be ready and able to enable those who are willing to work for a better life to attain that better life.

I'm more concerned with the degredation caused by greed and loss of compassion...
There are people from all economic classes who choose to live dirty. There is also a lot of depression and hopelessness in places where poverty is overwhelming, a significent portion.. sometimes even a majority of people who have lost all hope and live to escape in drugs or alcohol.

We can't solve all the worlds problems, however we can struggle to make the world a better place.

Clearing up a few matters
It appears we are on radically different wavelengths. Perhaps some clarifications are in order.

"You rail against private enterprise making money and think that govt workers, proteced in their jobs, are the answer. Civil servants have zero incentive to help solve problems. If the problem starts to go down, their budgets go down. At least in the private sector incentives can be used to say that success can lead to higher rewards."

My background is exclusively in private enterprise. In that capacity I have had dealings with governments on all levels. I think I have a feel for the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

A well directed civil service can accomplish remarkable feats, without requiring the goad of the profit motive at the top. What effectiveness relies on is dedicated and talented leadership-- something government offices often lack. The solution is not to just give up on government-- we need it for the regulation of the affairs of a complex society. The solution is to improve the leadership, making it more professional.

On the other hand in private industry, the incentive is to make money. There is no incentive to spend money wisely on programs that benefit some class of people. To invite private contractors in would be to enshrine deceit-- as we have seen with the ill-fated faith based initiatives and many other new programs. These people know as well as anyone in government how to push paper around while masking the hollow core in their programs. The tipoff that they are running a rigged game is the fact that such programs have been run without oversight and without metrics being required to evaluate their effectiveness-- two requirements for effective programs. The concept of inviting the foxes in to guard the henhouses is as bad as anything in nonprofit government, with the extra evil of costing much more.

"My previous post was about those who had made poor decisions in their lives. You don't even address that at all."

It would do no good to do so. If they make bad decisions, by definition they will need some sort of education before they will be able to make good ones.

How does it improve the situation to just say so and so has made a bad decision? If you want to improve their position in the great game of life, you help them make better ones.

"You rail about the loss in manufacturing jobs and imply protectionism."

I do not. Protectionism would save many jobs-- but at the cost of radically raising the price of most manufactured items. Globalism works fairly well, and is here to stay.

Instead, I point to a large segment of America who are good at manufacturing work, and not much good at anything else. Other than the construction trades there's not much for them to do. If you advocate just leaving this mass of people to their own devices, do you think they will not become problematic for society?

"I'm sure you will post again on this topic, but I will not."

Consider, then, that you have had the last word.

The desire to help has a pragmatic side
I don't exactly agree that everyone is broken. We're all housebroken, so to speak, when we are infants. That way we are made to fit into the standard mold, and be fit to be seen in public. But many of us have emerged from all the issues of our youths with personalities and capabilities intact. I, for instance, don't feel broken in the slightest.

And, being a cynic to some extent, I feel the world is made up in large part of those who get broken, and those who do the breaking.

In any event, it's a matter of degree. Tomorrow I'm going to be spending some time with a family that is profoundly broken. It's a commitment I've made.

***

Parenthetically, you have chosen a very poor trio of grievances to lay at the feet of the liberals. The DDT ban has been disavowed by virtually everyone, in light of facts that were not in evidence when it was first proposed.

Nor does anyone anywhere of any intelligence want to ban fossil fuels (for shame! That was dumb of you). Re thalidomide, I see no point to your comment.

***

But let us return to the main point under discussion. Specifically I was commenting on the fact that some of us work a great deal harder than others to amass money. And in a universe where we are all equal, and only God is above us, maybe that's a reason for the successful ones to congratulate themselves and heartly blame the less successful for their problems. It is presented in their minds as being an eternal condition, and thus OK.

But I don't live in that universe. We came into my world with no guidance from above, from below or from sideways. We found ourselves here without a clue as to what we should be doing with our lives. Therefore we need to invent ourselves.

And in so doing, devise a society where the needs of all are recognized. In my universe there is something fundamentally wrong with complacency in the face of an economic system that enables the swiftest to accrue everything-- every last dime that's not nailed down.

They deserve to be compensated for their efforts, which have been of inestimable help in creating our current world-- one of unparalleled personal wealth and convenience. But they don't deserve everything.

And quite aside from moralizing over this issue-- which I certainly do, as do you. Reality is giving us a lesson about this. And the lesson goes by the name of Al Qaeda.

The more the winners of the world win, and leave nothing behind for the less swift, or the less intelligent or motivated, billions who share the planet with them, the more they will meet with problems they do not have any demonstrated capability of addressing.

It's like they used to tell the newbies in the halls of the DC government: "Be careful who you step on as you mount the ladder of life. You'll be meeting those same folks on your way back down."

struggling...
But struggling to make the world a better place can take on different forms, and lead to some problems. For example, some people think they can approch the trailor trash hillbillies and talk to them about wiping the snot off their kids noses, mock them into cleaning up all the trash all over the places, etc. Other people think that the best solution is to get government paid, armed thugs(the organs of govnmt like police, etc.) to raid the places and force the people to become more civilized. But I think that it's better to leave them alone, if it's like; 'there goes the neighbourhood', then you should just move instead of insisting that they cut their grass and wash their windows in a way that meets your approval. And oh my god, what if some of those immigrants paint their house pink and yellow!!!!!

Broken molds
Let's see ...

"I, for instance, don't feel broken in the slightest."

Then you're the paradigm, the pattern, the rest of us ought to follow. You're the ideal, rb, the guy who's made it through life having done no one wrong and having weathered other's wrongdoing with his capacities fully in tact. Bravo, rb.

Thing is, I don't believe you. For one thing, you've measured your own wholeness against other's brokenness and not against someone more whole than you.

"We're all housebroken, so to speak, when we are infants. That way we are made to fit into the standard mold, and be fit to be seen in public."

If the standard mold is broken, and if you're the product of a broken mold, then you're broken, too. Unless, that is, you're clued into some illogical belief system, like progressivism, that allows you to transcend your broken mold, particularly the WASP one, if you publicly denounce all the evils of your mold while proclaiming the purity of all other molds. Of course, this nonsensical ceremony changes no-one's brokenness.

€€€

"The DDT ban has been disavowed by virtually everyone, in light of facts that were not in evidence when it was first proposed."

This is why I've disavowed progressivism in advance, rb, and why you should, too. Your progressive zeal to save the world, the environment, and society has instead caused early death and crippling disease for millions in poverty, even contributing to continuing poverty in much of Africa. And to what end? Thicker bird eggs? And I'm supposed to let you off the hook because you didn't know any better. Hmmm.

Simply put, the world your progressive dogma produced is worse than the one that would have resulted if you and all your fellow travelers dabbled in gardening instead of politics. Moreover, those of us endowed with the ability to think and emote rather than just emote are justified in believing that you progressives will continue to produce worse worlds than the ones that would have otherwise resulted had you just satisfied yourselves with ruining your own lives.

Ditto with global warming: Jacking up taxes on fuel makes it too expensive for the poor to use - essentially banning it to the poor - while slowing economic growth, once again hurting the poor the most. That's why China, India and the US have thumbed their noses at Kyoto. At least the poor have the Big 3 in their corner.

And ditto with Thalidomide, which led to zealous and ruinous FDA drug approval regulations, which led to millions of Americans going to Canada, Mexico and Europe to get drugs they can't get at home because of FDA regulations, which also led to American Pharma basing its research facilities outside of America, none of which serves sick Americans well, but all of which has resulted from the left going politically insane over Thalidomide. Today this drug saves and improves lives, but it has taken an amount of time and patience American politics won't allow, particularly the progressive kind.

£££

"Specifically I was commenting on the fact that some of us work a great deal harder than others to amass money. And in a universe where we are all equal, and only God is above us, maybe that's a reason for the successful ones to congratulate themselves and heartly blame the less successful for their problems. It is presented in their minds as being an eternal condition, and thus OK."

Is physical labor harder than mental labor? Does the guy who walks behind the horse line at the parade work harder than the guy who organized it? This assumption of yours, that physical labor is harder than labor, is crap, rb.

Next, does everyone work to amass money? Or do some work for some other purpose, such as pleasure? Your assumption that everyone works for one purpose - to amass money - is also crap. Here's a rule of thumb you should apply to your thinking: The less pleasurable a man's work is to him, the more likely it is that his sole purpose for doing it is to amass money.

Since this invalid assumption characterizes most of your thought, rb, I heartily recommend you go back to the drawing board to redraw your universe.

"But I don't live in that universe. We came into my world with no guidance from above, from below or from sideways. We found ourselves here without a clue as to what we should be doing with our lives. Therefore we need to invent ourselves."

What happened to your housebreaking, your standard mold? Go back to the drawing board, rb.

"And in so doing, devise a society where the needs of all are recognized. In my universe there is something fundamentally wrong with complacency in the face of an economic system that enables the swiftest to accrue everything-- every last dime that's not nailed down."

What good is money that's not spent? Besides, you've yet to answer my challenge, to whit: Devise a law of contracts and property that enables people to implement their own purposes while also implementing a society where the needs of all are recognized.

"They deserve to be compensated for their efforts, which have been of inestimable help in creating our current world-- one of unparalleled personal wealth and convenience. But they don't deserve everything."

If they weren't compensated for their efforts, they'd expend them elsewhere, such as in politics where one merely takes what one believes he deserves. That's why you must resort to politics to get justice, rb, and not markets.

It takes two to Tango - two to set the value of labor, and then one to carry it out and another to pay. One more challenge is in order, then: Devise a logical law of value that appreciates the value of manual labor as you do. Give me something logical I can apply to the world to explain why employers and laborers all apply a value to manual labor different from the one you apply. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board for you.

"And quite aside from moralizing over this issue-- which I certainly do, as do you. Reality is giving us a lesson about this. And the lesson goes by the name of Al Qaeda.

The more the winners of the world win, and leave nothing behind for the less swift, or the less intelligent or motivated, billions who share the planet with them, the more they will meet with problems they do not have any demonstrated capability of addressing."

Hmmm. Al Qaeda isn't fighting a war of conquest but one of social justice? The world isn't just as they would have it, and so it requires adjusting? And if that adjusting includes terrorizing the world, that's OK with you, right rb?

Indeed, this is the progressive creed: The world is not just and requires adjusting by any means necessary. That you've brought Al Qaeda into your movement and under your left wing demonstrates this creed of yours in action. Moreover, the deaths, disease and impoverishment your creed has already caused makes Al Qaeda easy company for you, I bet.

But guess what, rb: The world you progressives and Al Qaeda want to produce will be much worse than the one that would have resulted had you devoted your attention to gardening rather than politics. This I guarantee you.

Cheers.


Your first four topics
It looks like this is one of our basic differences. I don't feel at all special or distinguished at not being broken. I think that is largely the norm-- although if a majority of us feel themselves to be intact and viable as individuals, it may be a bare majority.

The thing about the human physiology is that it can take a few dinks and scratches, and heal itself. "Broken" to me describes a state where this capacity becomes stunted, and the individual lowers his gaze to just a fraction of what he once thought he could attain. Slaves, and in some societies women, are broken-- deliberately so. But that is not our normal state.

The crux of our difference is your belief that there is no valid belief system other than your one, holy, ordained belief system. Every other way of thinking is flawed, apparently because it does not descend from God as you have imagined him to be. Sorry, this approach is primitive and very limited. An anthropologist would say you have limits you're unable to transcend.

Your comment about the evils of the WASP mold and the purity of other molds is rambling and off base. One needs to be aware of the full range and breadth of the human mentality, and to realize there are other solutions yet, not imagined in any of those existing philosophies. It doesn't pay to retain a narrow mind-- not when what we know is mostly what has already been tried and hasn't yet worked perfectly. We need to bring imagination to the practise of living fully and in harmony with one another.

***

The mark of an intelligent being is that he can commit himself to a course of action, and adjust his approach as indicated by the results. DDT was shown conclusively to have deleterious effects on higher organisms in the concentrations being disseminated. So a ban was enacted.

Subsequently it was found that an intractable infectious disease killing millions could be brought under some degree of control by using DDT in limited circumstances, at low dosage. Once this was shown to be the case, virtually everyone adopted it.

To me this is a sign of intelligence. The opposite would have been the case had they found back in the 1950s that DDT was harmful and then taken no action. But I know such an argument will cut no ice with the innately zealous.

Today we have a similar issue, with mercury coming from the smokestacks of coal-fired boilers. We know it's harmful. Should we then do anything about it? I know you will argue we should not.

One thing you studiously ignore is the improved outcomes in health we have enjoyed since we cleaned up our air and water. We live both longer and healthier now than we did sixty years ago, when pea soup fogs killed hundreds in London, everyone in LA was asthmatic and Pittsburgh was a brown pall throughout the year. You fancy yourself as being intelligent-- but you mistake a proficiency at academic argument with a deeper understanding of the actual issues.

More false choices: Jacking up prices on fuel? Has anyone been asking that we do that? A carbon tax would provide a stimulus to develop and adopt less carbon-spewing forms of energy-- and in any event would cost us far less than the inevitable increases we will see in any event in fuel costs.

Your thalidomide argument I just can't imagine. Are you saying there should be no controls on drugs, and the occasional thalidomide is just the price we pay for a free market? You are insane.

Before drugs were regulated, they were just homemade nostrums put out by blatant quacks. Regulation turned it into the highly professional industry we see today. We have actual standards by which we can evaluate efficacy and toxicity. I prefer we not return to the 19th century.

You go on and on from there. In the interests of brevity I'll send this now, and return to the rest later.

The remainder of your concerns
First let me say I admire your approach to the subject of damaged people. It's a traditional one, used by many religions, and goes like this:

1. You have a problem.
2. I have your solution for you.

Gullible people around the world have fallen prey to this insidious undertow, so the approach is undeniably a successful one. But I dally, and we have many topics yet to address.

On the distinction between physical and mental labor, it is certainly the case that lawyers work both hard and long. And mostly their subject matter is strikingly mind numbing. So, quite rightly, they are handsomely compensated for their efforts.

I think most file clerks would agree that they don't deserve a lawyer's pay scale. But when they take night courses to become office managers or secretaries, only to find our society already has a surfeit of office managers and secretaries who are a little more qualified than they are, they ask only for a living wage.

We're not talking about greedy people, just those with kids who need dental work, a car that needs tires, a house that needs a furnace. And we find their work is undervalued relative to their needs.

The reason this is, is because the standards are now being set by business, in a period of weak labor. And business does not care about needs, only that whenever you can get someone desperate who volunteers to work cheaper, you hire them and overwork them mercilessly. Because in a broken labor market, you can do that and get away with it.

So let's revisit the discussion.

You: "..does everyone work to amass money? Or do some work for some other purpose, such as pleasure? Your assumption that everyone works for one purpose - to amass money - is also crap."

Me: "..some of us work a great deal harder than others to amass money."

Your response does not fit my assertion. Those whose sole focus is to amass wealth generally succeed more than those who just want to get by and pay their bills. That seems self evident, to the non-tendentious.

***

Next we come to bla bla bla "What happened to your housebreaking, your standard mold? Go back to the drawing board, rb."

I'm successful and effective in most social settings. I can be acceptably genial with all sorts of people, can discuss things intelligently with anyone lacking a narrow and fixed focus, and can perform miracles like talking my way out of being mugged. As a result I can pretty much circulate in any human environment and achieve my goals. THAT is the mark of good housebreaking, and is called having socialization skills.

***

Next, this accusation, thrust like a dagger: "you've yet to answer my challenge, to whit: Devise a law of contracts and property that enables people to implement their own purposes while also implementing a society where the needs of all are recognized."

This is the first time I've heard this challenge. But I'll give it a try.

In the fledgling United States we devised a system that could productively devise methods of accomodating competing interests. That is the system of checks and balances. And if I were to sum up the basic stance of those on your side of the coin, it would be your deep seated hostility to the idea, as being inimical to your itnerest in controlling everything and screwing everyone else.

I applaud laws that strengthen the notion of private property-- even though they descend from the desires of the original European nobility, those robber barons who emerged from the Dark Ages owning everything and everyone-- to consolidate their ownership against the rights of others. That's our system and I'm fine with it.

We also need mechanisms to protect the interests of those who don't own much property. Stuff like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just because they don't own much doesn't mean they don't count. As the Bard offers, ***** us, do we not bleed?

So I advocate balance in the system, where every faction is defended in law against the rapacity of every other faction. Thus neither communism nor capitalism, in their raw simplicity and absolutism, can do justice to the notion of a government that defends the interests of all against all else. The scales must be balanced-- else we would see Lady Justice with but one pan on her scale.

Once again, brevity compels me to draw this to a close. Maybe I'll be back to address your innumerable other comments.

But we need more

Narrow minds
I like your first three paragraphs, rb, I really do. But they're reverse-engineered dogma, which is the character of most of your stuff. Let's see why:

"I don't feel at all special or distinguished at not being broken. I think that is largely the norm-- although if a majority of us feel themselves to be intact and viable as individuals, it may be a bare majority."

If the average man is whole, what explains the world's brokenness? An evil conspiracy by the twisted few to grab every dime not nailed down? If the average man is whole, what explains the mass appeal of guys like the Buddha and Jesus? If the average man is whole, then everyone above average must be superhuman (e.g. Aryans - we know where this leads) or subhuman (e.g. slaves - we know where this leads). This can't be right either, can it?

Back to the drawing board, rb.

"The crux of our difference is your belief that there is no valid belief system other than your one, holy, ordained belief system. Every other way of thinking is flawed, apparently because it does not descend from God as you have imagined him to be. Sorry, this approach is primitive and very limited. An anthropologist would say you have limits you're unable to transcend."

Here you set up a straw man and then knock him down. Bravo! But your straw man isn’t a Christian. Unlike your straw man, Christians claim that theirs is the only true belief system. But what Christians don't claim is that others aren't possible. They clearly are.

So what are the differences? Cost & accountability. Christians claim that although certainly possible, the other belief systems are expensive because they lead nowhere, piling up corpses along their merry way. Now, I've called your progressive belief system to account based on its costs: It justified the murder of over a hundred million during the communist era, it justified the death and disease brought about by the banning of DDT, and it will justify the continuing impoverishment of a third of the world by touting protectionism, that is, "fair trade" and global warming.

So, rb, put your straw man back in the barn, seize accountability by its horns and answer my challenge: Guarantee that progressivism - your belief system which includes secular humanism - won't continue to slaughter hundreds of millions while leading mankind to a dead end. See, I don't challenge your belief system because it's not Christian, rb. I challenge it because it doesn't work. Why? It's broken.

Prove me wrong. Otherwise, continue to hide behind the notion that open-mindedness is a suitable cover for weak-mindedness and an escape from accountability.

"One needs to be aware of the full range and breadth of the human mentality, and to realize there are other solutions yet, not imagined in any of those existing philosophies. It doesn't pay to retain a narrow mind-- not when what we know is mostly what has already been tried and hasn't yet worked perfectly. We need to bring imagination to the practise of living fully and in harmony with one another."

Progressivism has failed miserably after a century-long trial run. Am I narrow minded for not wanting more of it? Similarly, theocracies have all failed, and I don't want any more of those, either.

So, rb, is a narrow mind one that discriminates between likely failure and success and advocates for latter? Is a narrow mind one that settles on tried and true answers to unchanging questions? Reading you, that would seem to be the case. It would also seem, then, that your progressivism is essentially dogmatic.

One of the dogmas of progressivism is that the answers to all of mankind's problems lie ahead, not behind; otherwise, man would already be living fully and in harmony. But of course, this dogma relies on the faulty assumption that there exists a fair and wondrous artifice endowing mankind with the power to produce this result.

Does such an artifice really exist, or are the major religions correct in pointing out that it doesn't? I say it doesn't, and moreover, I say that believing it does isn't the mark of an open mind but of a mind studiously ignorant of human history, human nature and the natural sciences.

"DDT was shown conclusively to have deleterious effects on higher organisms in the concentrations being disseminated. So a ban was enacted.

Subsequently it was found that an intractable infectious disease killing millions could be brought under some degree of control by using DDT in limited circumstances, at low dosage. Once this was shown to be the case, virtually everyone adopted it."

I just read the Wikipedia article on DDT, and it seems you're lying, or better put, sacrificing truth to dogma. It turns out the WHO began using DDT very successfully to reduce malaria in some regions in 1955, about 15 - 25 years before the environmentalist movement got it banned for agricultural use in most successful countries. So your assertion that the discovery that DDT could control malaria came after its ban is a lie ... ahem, a sacrifice of truth to dogma.

Moreover, many tropically located countries have never banned DDT because they found it so useful. Rather, they had their free or cheap supply cut off by the environmentalists. Millions of deaths resulted. Moreover, environmental groups are blackmailing countries that want to expand their use of DDT by threatening to isolate them from world markets or cut off their grant money. Isn't it true, then, that your green fellow travellers are anti-human life, more than willing to consign millions to early graves and poverty to save the world from man?

It would seem so to me. What awful company you keep, rb.

"One thing you studiously ignore is the improved outcomes in health we have enjoyed since we cleaned up our air and water. We live both longer and healthier now than we did sixty years ago, when pea soup fogs killed hundreds in London, everyone in LA was asthmatic and Pittsburgh was a brown pall throughout the year. You fancy yourself as being intelligent-- but you mistake a proficiency at academic argument with a deeper understanding of the actual issues."

Really? And medical advances, improved diet, and the reduction in smoking had nothing to do with longer life spans? Your one-dimensional take on things illustrates you as the pot calling the kettle black.

“More false choices: Jacking up prices on fuel? Has anyone been asking that we do that? A carbon tax would provide a stimulus to develop and adopt less carbon-spewing forms of energy-- and in any event would cost us far less than the inevitable increases we will see in any event in fuel costs.”

Hello, earth to rb, earth to rb, anyone there, rb? Ever hear of the Kyoto treaty? Ever wonder why fossil fuels are so cheap in the US but not in Europe? Hello?

“Your thalidomide argument I just can't imagine. Are you saying there should be no controls on drugs, and the occasional thalidomide is just the price we pay for a free market? You are insane.

Before drugs were regulated, they were just homemade nostrums put out by blatant quacks. Regulation turned it into the highly professional industry we see today. We have actual standards by which we can evaluate efficacy and toxicity. I prefer we not return to the 19th century.”

Now it’s you positing false choices, rb. Are you arguing that an unregulated drug market wouldn’t be highly professional? Who prescribes drugs, anyway? Do you actually know how anything works? I wonder …

Cheers.

Reverse-engineered dogma
I like that phrase. It means responding to questions whose wording reveals an automatic slant. First I must undo the slant, then proceed to answer the question.

"If the average man is whole, what explains the world's brokenness?"

We are in the grip of manipulative knaves.

"If the average man is whole, what explains the mass appeal of guys like the Buddha and Jesus?"

Most people need something in their lives more than they, their friends and families can provide. For this vacuum at the center, religion provides a satisfactory answer.

With religion, I would still maintain that most of us are reasonably whole and able to function without a lot of angst or doubt.

Me? I looked within, and found my center to be soft and chewy. Hence, no religion.

The rest of this paragraph ("If the average man is whole, then everyone above average must be superhuman (e.g. Aryans - we know where this leads) or subhuman (e.g. slaves - we know where this leads). This can't be right either, can it?") is facile, lawyerly posturing and not deserving of comment.

You certainly know you can manufacture tautologies at will, and many people will become ensnared in your terms and false choices. Don't try that with me.

Here follows some bla bla.

"Now, I've called your progressive belief system to account based on its costs: It justified the murder of over a hundred million during the communist era, it justified the death and disease brought about by the banning of DDT, and it will justify the continuing impoverishment of a third of the world by touting protectionism, that is, "fair trade" and global warming."

Of course, that's not my belief system you're so adroitly maligning. That's the demons of your own belief system.

Leninism and Stalinism were among the worst developments ever to happen in world politics. I've never felt any differently about them than that. These were criminal enterprises, cloaked in high-blown phrases about the brotherhood of man.

You equate these historic tragedies with such events as the introduction of a ban on DDT. There is everything wrong with this equation. And I must say, for a man used to handling the power of conceptual manipulation, you have yourself succumbed to some idiotic reasoning.

To blame millions of deaths from malaria on the DDT ban is equal to blaming millions of cancer deaths to failures to pursue research more speedily. Public health officials a\have been doing the best they can. And as soon as it became apparent that IRS was a safe and effective prophylactic, it was adopted everywhere. Including by the WHO.

You should remove this one from your repertoire.

Next you claim I "justify the continuing impoverishment of a third of the world by touting protectionism, that is, "fair trade" and global warming."

First, I will challenge you to find any statement I have made in favor of protectionism as a blanket approach to economic problems. What you will find is on a single occasion I mentioned that protectionism, limited in duration, is useful in establishing fledgling industries in developing countries so they can learn to stand on their own feet, before they are able to compete with the global giants.

And I believe that's true. In that regard, global trade agreements are written to hamper the development of home-grown industries in the Third World, so they can be maintained as cheap farms producing labor and raw materials for First World companies.

Global warming? Let's quote an authority you probably admire-- the late master, Ken Lay.

Joseph Stiglitz writes, in his The Roaring Nineties, "Interestingly, Ken Lay supported restrictions on greenhouse gases, so long as they were accompanied by trading; Enron had created a trading company-- they knew how to trade electricity, and they could make money trading carbon emissions just as well. This is an idea which most economists would have supported; Bush rejected it."

It doesn't sound to me like creating a market in carbon trades will destroy the pyramid built by capital... does it to you? I think Lay grasped the essential issue. While Bush, of course, was a failed business owner, and not all that sharp. Go with Lay on this one.

There. I think I've given you enough to work on for one post. I'll revisit the rest of your critique at some later moment.

By any other name
"Progressivism has failed miserably after a century-long trial run. Am I narrow minded for not wanting more of it? Similarly, theocracies have all failed, and I don't want any more of those, either."

Progressivism has actually been working very well since its introduction, in 1933, under the New Deal. What you are doing is confusing it with Communism, a god that failed before the Bolshevik Revolution was even consolidated.

Early on, in the Kronstadt Armory, we saw what Lenin actually thought about the principle of workers seizing control of their factories. And at every point during the years of sovietization under Stalin, true believers like Kirov, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Yakir and countless others like the patriot Tukachevsky were purged as soon as their usefulness had begun to wane.

But I understand your motive is not to understand actual Soviet history, but rather to just use it as a club with which to beat any notion of labor rights or social justice-- the very thought of which makes you cringe. You would be at home in the Europe of the 1920s and 30s.

So then. "What awful company you keep, rb." Company like FDR, not Stalin.

"One of the dogmas of progressivism is that the answers to all of mankind's problems lie ahead, not behind; otherwise, man would already be living fully and in harmony. But of course, this dogma relies on the faulty assumption that there exists a fair and wondrous artifice endowing mankind with the power to produce this result.

"Does such an artifice really exist, or are the major religions correct in pointing out that it doesn't? I say it doesn't, and moreover, I say that believing it does isn't the mark of an open mind but of a mind studiously ignorant of human history, human nature and the natural sciences."

You would be very much happier, I think, back in the fifteenth century, when life was still ruled by a monolithic Church, and everything on God's earth was perfect.

I, on the other hand, think we have a full century more to go before we even begin to make much progress. We're still bickering like dogs over who gets the bone.

"Hello, earth to rb, earth to rb, anyone there, rb? Ever hear of the Kyoto treaty? Ever wonder why fossil fuels are so cheap in the US but not in Europe? Hello?"

The insidious thing about this Kyoto Treaty is that it seems to have driven up fuel prices in Europe a full thirty years before it was even thought of or ratified. That is one bad treaty!

"Now it’s you positing false choices, rb. Are you arguing that an unregulated drug market wouldn’t be highly professional? Who prescribes drugs, anyway? Do you actually know how anything works?"

When we did have an unregulated drug market the drugs available were often harmful, or at the least non-efficacious. It is human nature to put out expensive nostrums for sale whether or not they're any good-- unless government or some professional board prevents the practise. The root of the word "progressive" is "progress".

And even under our current system, drug companies offer inducements like free vacations (deductible conferences in the Bahamas) to doctors who prescribe their favorite new drugs, rewarding them only when their prescriptions (which are closely tracked) amp up. This has been obvious for years, and I never keep a doctor who tries that with me. I bought a pill I didn't need precisely once-- and learned the lesson.

Yes, I do know how things work. And despite your objections to the contrary, I believe you do too.

The evils of capitalism
I really need to add a comment in amplification of your idea that stronger private property rights is the answer to the problem of poverty and prosperity. And mu example should of course be the pre-eminent one: the Soviet Union.

By all the metrics that have been gathered, living standards for the post-Soviet citizen plummeted disastrously after the Evil Empire's fire sale. And by the rules of your theory the opposite should have been the case. This is odd, considering the USSR should have been a very, very easy act to follow. It was mismanaged into a moldering heap of inconsequence under Brezhnev, and only resuscitated for a brief period under Gorbachev before the inevitable process of putrefaction set in, requiring the abandonment of the project.

Then what happened? I can find no better short version than this, from James Petras:

"Among the newest, youngest and fastest-growing group of billionaires, the Russian oligarchy stands out for its most rapacious beginnings. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of the current Russian billionaire oligarchs began their concentration of wealth in their mid to early twenties. During the infamous decade of the 1990's under the quasi-dictatorial rule of Boris Yeltsin and his US-directed economic advisers, Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar the entire Russian economy was put up for sale for a 'political price', which was far below its real value. Without exception, the transfers of property were achieved through gangster tactics ­ assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buyouts. The future billionaires stripped the Russian state of over a trillion dollars worth of factories, transport, oil, gas, iron, coal and other formerly state-owned resources.

"Contrary to European and US publicists on the right and left, very few of the top former Communist leaders are found among the current Russian billionaire oligarchy. Secondly, contrary to the spin-masters' claims of 'communist inefficiencies', the former Soviet Union developed mines, factories, energy enterprises were profitable and competitive, before they were taken over by the new oligarchs. This is evident in the massive private wealth that was accumulated in less than a decade by these gangster-businessmen.

"Virtually all the billionaires' initial sources of wealth had nothing to do with building, innovating or developing new efficient enterprises. Wealth was not transferred to high Communist Party Commissars (lateral transfers) but was seized by armed private mafias run by recent university graduates who quickly capitalized on corrupting, intimidating or assassinating senior officials in the state and benefiting from Boris Yeltsin's mindless contracting of 'free market' Western consultants."

Can you justify this transfer of wealth from the Soviet people to the pockets of, currently, 53 Russian billionaire bandits? How about the destruction of everyone's pensions and savings accounts, accumulated under the old system and now either vanished or in the pockets of these same 53 people?

As the resident avatar of capitalism, I think you've got some 'splainin' to do.

A mugging
Here comes the mugging you tried to talk yourself out of, rb.

"We also need mechanisms to protect the interests of those who don't own much property. Stuff like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"So I advocate balance in the system, where every faction is defended in law against the rapacity of every other faction."

"First let me say I admire your approach to the subject of damaged people. It's a traditional one, used by many religions, and goes like this:

1. You have a problem.
2. I have your solution for you."

How is your approach to the subject of a damaged America any different from my approach to the subject of damaged people? Why do you mock the one while adhering to the other? And why do believe that you can fix America without fixing Americans?

See, this exposes another of progressivism's flaws: Applying a political fix to a broken society will not fix broken individuals. Therefore, to fix a broken society, one must fix its broken individuals. Not so?

Do you really believe that politicians and laws have the power to fix people, rb, you smooth talker, you?

"So I advocate balance in the system, where every faction is defended in law against the rapacity of every other faction. Thus neither communism nor capitalism, in their raw simplicity and absolutism, can do justice to the notion of a government that defends the interests of all against all else."

Again, you ply vague but sweeping slogans in answer to my question, which is technical. Again, give me a law of contract that fulfills the purposes of the contracting parties while also providing "balance in the system", defending every faction "in law against the rapacity of every other faction." Give me a law of property enabling government to "balance" individuals' decisions regarding property while lending legal force to those decisions.

Give me those laws, rb. If you can't, then you have to rely on the tyranny of the majority, the tax code, and class war, all of which draw their power from legal imbalances to affect the rapacity of one faction against another. These are absolutist measures that function after people have made their choices and promises regarding their interests. How will you avoid imposing absolutist measures on people with whose choices you disagree?

If you can't pull this off, then your progressivism is nothing more than a pathetic Star Trek socialism - promising new frontiers for a made-over socialism that defies all efforts to distinguish itself from the rapacious butcher and impoverisher of mankind it's always been. And I suspect brevity is not the thing keeping you from answering my challenge.

"I think most file clerks would agree that they don't deserve a lawyer's pay scale. But when they take night courses to become office managers or secretaries, only to find our society already has a surfeit of office managers and secretaries who are a little more qualified than they are, they ask only for a living wage.

We're not talking about greedy people, just those with kids who need dental work, a car that needs tires, a house that needs a furnace. And we find their work is undervalued relative to their needs."

What is a living wage? What standard of living do apply to this slogan? Where did that standard of living come from? Where do you draw the line between need and desire, rb? Political exigency (I suspect)?

Soft and chewy you
When I write "you", rb, I mean "you progressives together with all of your fellow travelers on the left." This includes all AKA socialists regardless of what they call themselves together with the Greens.

The Greens & The Progressives

Your progressive gag is slippery one, distancing yourself from your fellow travelers the Greens when presented with their crimes, yet continuing to support them by working with them in the same political party.

But I don't buy it, rb. Either own the environmental movement's disregard for the value of human life or denounce it and quit working with the Greens. But denouncing them while continuing to work with them towards their goals is sophistry and cowardice - two labels I'd rather not have to apply to you, rb.

From each according to his ability ...

Next, how is your progressivism any different in its core mechanics from Leninism or Stalinism? Have you gotten beyond the following "high-blown phrase" about "the brotherhood of man"?: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs".

To reference another post of yours, how do "you" (see above) propose getting tires to an unemployed or underpaid secretary without taking them from someone with the ability to supply them? Moreover, how do propose expanding the scope of this to the entire economy, society and polity without breaking a few eggs?

If you can't answer these questions, rb, then you're ideas are no different from Marx's, Lenin's or Stalin's. Worse, you can't guarantee that your ideas, once implemented, won't result in the murder, impoverishment, or enslavement of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Religion

"Most people need something in their lives more than they, their friends and families can provide. For this vacuum at the center, religion provides a satisfactory answer.

With religion, I would still maintain that most of us are reasonably whole and able to function without a lot of angst or doubt.

Me? I looked within, and found my center to be soft and chewy. Hence, no religion."

To summarize your rants, the vacuum at the center of society, the economy and the polity is inequality, that is, hard-working people not getting as much money, insurances, goods etc. that they deserve or need or desire. This vacuum you would fill with a new-fangled secular religion known as "progressivism".

This religion of yours proposes that there is a solution to inequality out there in the future somewhere, which, when politically applied to America, will cure inequality without destroying prosperity and without resorting to the injustices that would drive men or their money to more hospitable shores.

Yet you can't explain to me how your religion will procure this result. Rather, you bark homespun noises about balance and government defending everyone from everyone else.

Of course, this means that you believe in some force, some object, some substance that can produce your ideal economy, society, polity without being able to quantify it or describe how it will work.

So rb, it seems the vacuum yawning at your soft, chewy center is indeed occupied by an unholy ghost whose existence, character and purpose the religion of progressivism professes to describe.

Global Warming

My hero on this issue is Bjorn Lomborg. You should read some of his stuff, particularly about how dedicating trillions to reducing carbon emissions in the rich world will advance death, disease, and poverty elsewhere. Do you really care about poor people, rb? Then denounce the sophistry of Fat Al Gore and his global warming choir and stop working for their cause. Otherwise, own them.

"Fair Trade"

Due to freer international trade, the successful world's labor unions have seen their power and constituencies diminishing. They've responded with the "Fair Trade" movement, advocating requiring poor world employers to provide their workers rich world employment conditions. Of course, doing so will diminish the profit margin that's driving the rich world's unskilled and low-skilled jobs to the poor world, thereby keeping them in the rich world. This amounts to protectionism, i.e. protecting economic assets, relationships or positions by legally denying them the opportunity to change.

Are you for "Fair Trade" rb? Then you're also for protectionism. Either denounce it and stop working for it or own it.

DDT & Thalidomide

The environmental movement got going by whipping up the fear of DDT. It's first success was getting DDT banned in the rich world while making it too costly to use in the poor world, where it was needed most to save human lives from malaria. Millions died as a result.

See the political mechanics, rb? (1) Generate widespread fear of imminent environmental disaster, (2) thereby creating political capital for those politicians willing to ban, tax or regulate to extinction the offending thing, (3) thereby saving the world.

Same mechanics with Thalidomide, which resulted in the FDA drug approval process - a monstrosity that adds billions to the cost of putting life-saving drugs in the hands of people who need them, thereby saving the world.

Thing is, both DDT and Thalidomide turned out to be beneficial, life-saving substances. But these discoveries were delayed by decades due to the politics of fear, and millions died or suffered as a result.

Today, a large cohort of your fellow travelers relies exclusively on such politics to advance their causes. Yet they refuse to guarantee, just as you do, that millions won't suffer or die if the rest of us do as they advocate.

So, rb, either own these politics or disavow them and stop working to implement them.

Cheers.

Millions are dying
Oh, I'm not denouncing progressive goals, or the green movement. I just use a different language than you do.

In your world everything on the left-- that is, the left of you-- is monolithic. Saving the trees, collectivising the peasant farmers, it's all the same thing to you. This makes argument easy. If someone starts talking about the need for developing alternative fuels, you can just say "Oh yeah? How about the failure of Soviet production!?"

You really have a bug up your behind about malaria and DDT. For you this one mantra seems to be effective against anything to the left of Ludwig von Mises, like carrying your cross through Transylvania.

Well, it's a complicated world, and this is a simplistic approach. All this is doing is making me tire of the conversation.

I've read Lomborg, and admire his approach. But not while you're wielding him as a club. Calm down. I think this board is having an adverse effect on your BP. Not to mention your IQ.

One day you might even read what people are saying on the left, not just how they are caricatured. You would be surprised at the directions the actual dialog on energy are taking.

Sloppy reading
It amazes me how I can make a comment like

"We're not talking about greedy people, just those with kids who need dental work, a car that needs tires, a house that needs a furnace. And we find their work is undervalued relative to their needs."

And you can respond with

"What is a living wage? What standard of living do apply to this slogan? Where did that standard of living come from? Where do you draw the line between need and desire, rb?"

Either you're not as bright as you think you are or you're just not paying attention. Refer to the text!

How things work
Oh, but I do know how things work, rb. Particularly power:

Power and Human Nature

"Early on, in the Kronstadt Armory, we saw what Lenin actually thought about the principle of workers seizing control of their factories."

"But I understand your motive is not to understand actual Soviet history, but rather to just use it as a club with which to beat any notion of labor rights or social justice-- the very thought of which makes you cringe. You would be at home in the Europe of the 1920s and 30s."

"I, on the other hand, think we have a full century more to go before we even begin to make much progress. We're still bickering like dogs over who gets the bone."

I see. 100 years from now the workers will be able to seize control of their factories, office buildings and fast food restaurants without resorting to ... what? The leadership of a Stalin type? Violence? Strongly worded letters? And seizing control of the stuff one wants, needs or feels entitled to is not "bickering like dogs over who gets the bone"?

Now that I've got your ideas reduced to core principles and assumptions, rb, perhaps I can explain to you how ridiculous your progressive beliefs seem to me. Your contention is that what separates mankind from abusing power and thus a just economy, society and polity is (1) 100 year's time (2) the evolution of the species from what it is now to what it can be in 100 years, assuming (3) that this newly evolved man will use power justly, that is, apply power to providing labor rights and social justice instead of to decide who gets the bone.

And you're somehow more rational, more scientific than a right-wing Christian fanatic who sees the Rapture on every other page of the newspaper? Has human nature really evolved over the past 10,000 years, rb? In this longer period of time, has the human struggle for power ever transcended bickering over who gets the bone?

What's so different about humanity nowadays, that we're only a hundred years away from the dramatic evolution of our nature that will enable us to politically support social justice, even when that means somebody else gets the bone we dug up? Because Star Trek has made it to syndication? Because the discovery of the warp drive is only decades away, opening up whole new dimensions to mankind? Because we're going to be visited by an all-wise extraterrestrial race, who will become our arbiters and fix our disastrous utilization of power?

Give me a break, rb. Progressivism and Stalinism are no different because they both fantisize that power is a utility to justice without cost and accountability.

The Monolithic Church and Power

When the Christian church seizes and exercises temporal power, it loses its legitimacy. The Swedish Church used to collect taxes for the Crown, send armed men round to every house in the villages on Sunday to make sure that everyone made to church, and forcibly Christened every child. In those days, every Swede was a Christian. Today, now that they're freed from this tyranny of sectarian power, only 6 Swedes in 100 are Christians.

See how poorly power and faith mix, rb? This is why your assumption that all Christian want a theocracy is beyond idiotic. But I understand that for you truth is even less appealing than your dogmatic idiocies exposed to truth.

Kyoto

Gas prices are so high in Europe due to the high taxes the governments there have imposed on it, in some places up to 200% of the base price, plus carbon tax, plus VAT. That's why a gallon of gas costs over $6 in many European countries, grabbing food out of the mouths of the working poor and their families to control the weather 50 years from now.

And your argument is that fuel prices started rising before Kyoto? OK. Due to what, inflation? Right answer, but this doesn't explain why a gallon of costs less than a dollar in Saudi Arabia but over six dollars in the UK. (But I love your mendacious spunk.) Kyoto? Temporally impossible. The Green lunacy that led to Kyoto? Bingo.

Drug Market

Given today's technology along with it the standards it's raised, do you really believe that the drug market would support wayside peddlers selling pipe dreams to people desperate to escape their human frailties? I do. It's called pushing dope to addicts, and the FDA has done little to put an end to this, right rb?

But what does pushing dope have to do with that part of the drug market providing cures to sick people? Everything or nothing, depending on what the sickness is.

The false assumption bubbling under this particular morass of your belief system is that government regulation legitimizes the area of regulation, such that if government regulates the drug market, the drug market is legitimate, but if gubmint fails to regulate the drug market, it will all be the same as pushing dope. However, since it's clear that both markets, one white and one black, continue to exist regardless of gubmint regulation, something is wrong with your assumptions, as is usually true.

Human Nature and Progress

"It is human nature to put out expensive nostrums for sale whether or not they're any good-- unless government or some professional board prevents the practise. The root of the word "progressive" is "progress"."

I see. But doesn't this conflict with your evolution of human nature thesis? If all humanity needs to become better than it is now is more government banning this aspect of human nature and more professional boards banning that aspect of human nature, isn't it true that this progress you speak so glowingly of is nothing more than absolutism, and not evolution?

Back to the Drawing Board, RB ...

Freedom, Capitalism and Materialism
Rather than examining the several key false assumptions of your dogmatic cut-and-paste rant in answer to your challenge, I'll agree with your main assertion: Some people can't be trusted with freedom.

What differentiates Christian classical liberals from the secular ones is that we understand that freedom requires more of individuals than any other political state. To people whose virtue 80 years of scientific progressivism had crushed, freedom became what Thomas Hobbes described - a state of nature. But to a people who enjoyed a society endowed with a strong sense of virtue requiring self-restraint, hard work, charity and public decorum, freedom became what Reagan described - a shining city on a hill. Therefore, without the support of virtue, freedom is no boon to humanity.

Capitalism is freedom outfitted for market. But even thusly outfitted, capitalism relies on human virtue to create wealth - a relative concept. This is why your assertion that today's Russian worker would have been better off if he were still imprisoned behind the iron curtain strikes me as cruelly materialistic. By what measure? A purely material one? Does nothing other than money matter to you?

See, rb? It's as I claimed: To progressives, nothing matters more than money. This is why capitalist economies will never live up to your expectations, even though they ironically enable the creation of more money than any other kind. Why? Because capitalist economies trade "justice" as you would define it off against personal and economic freedom. And over time, the personal and economic freedom come to mean more, be perceived as more valuable, than all the extra money the capitalist economy creates relative to the others.

It's ironic that you can't see this, rb, but it's to be expected of a blinkered materialist, that is, one who can only judge value by money.

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