Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A reader takes exception to my stance on affirmative action

I received two emails from an individual who took exception to my article on affirmative action. Here is the first email:
It would appear that Pundit Press Editor Dan Butcher thinks that the poor should stay poor and the wealthy should stay wealthy ad infinitum just because their parents were poor or wealthy to start out with. It appears he is advocating that those that begin with advantages should always be advantaged.

Sounds to me as if Mr. Butcher is advocating all the freedom inherent in a feudal society.

It is true that there is no way that we can assure an equal starting point for all, but if we truly believe in a democratic society, then it behooves our society to look for ways to ameliorate the disadvantages that a significant portion of our population faces.

Here is my response to the first email:

There is nothing in a free society that assures equality of starting point. In fact, it’s utterly antithetical to the principles of self-determination and self-ownership that are the bedrock of a free society. If you do well, and have kids, you’re extremely likely to want to do well by your kids. Better neighborhoods, better schools, assistance if they need it, better colleges, perhaps a job in the family business or a job through an acquaintance, perhaps an inheritance.

None of this is the government’s business. Don’t like the outcome? Too bad.

The only thing government should do is get out of the way. No barriers, no cronyism, no wealth transfers. Equality of freedom.

Your comprehension has taken a distant back seat to your ideological predilections. I did no such thing. I observed the conditions that exist and noted that imposing an equal starting point is contrary to the essence of liberty.

I noted that it is human nature to want to take care of one’s offspring, and thence the kids of those who’ve achieved greater wealth are likely to get a leg up from their parents.

Nowhere did I make any statement or indication of statement that people’s socioeconomic strata should remain as they are. In fact, the essence of a free society lies in removing barriers from the paths of those who want to work to improve their lot. If you want to help people who aren’t at the front of the pack, advocate that government get out of the way. And, yes, that includes the cronyism that is the hallmark of this and previous administrations of both political parties.

What I conclude from your email is that you believe that people can “democratically” vote to confiscate that which others have earned through their own efforts in order to “ameliorate the disadvantages.” If so, you’ve mistaken this nation for a democracy. It is not, it is a constitutional republic, where the majority doesn’t get to decide that the minority is for dinner.

And, again, if you want to help those who start at a disadvantage, but don’t want to do it out of your own pocket or through your own efforts, advocate that the government get out of everyone’s way. That’ll do more to help them and level the playing field than anything else.

This person also sent a 2nd email in response:
Your article basically says that children who are born into well-off families are of course going to have advantages, and so be it. In fact you go on to say “NONE of this is the government’s business. Don’t like the outcome? Too bad.” That is the part of your email that sounds like the promotion of a feudal society.

I guess my saying that our society should seek to ameliorate the disadvantages that some children face qualifies me in your mind as a wild-eyed liberal, which I can assure you is quite far from the truth.

Do I believe that we owe all our children a good education? Yes.

Do I believe that means some students and some schools need programs that not everyone needs? Yes.

Do I believe the government has all the answers and will magically solve all our problems, including the inequities that exist in our country? No.

Do I think the free-market economy will wave its magic wand and solve all our problems, including the inequities that exist in our country. No.

I do, know, however, that where we invest our time, money, efforts, and good will CAN and DOES make a difference.
Here is my response to the 2nd email:

You are free to help anyone you wish, either directly or by contributing to the charities of your choice. I do both, (not that it’s germane to the discussion). There’s this tendency to falsely conflate things that are nice to do with a demand that government do them.

The history of this nation is one of those at the bottom climbing their way up to success. Most of the immigrants that came to this nation, especially those who arrived in the great waves of the 20th century, were poor, uneducated, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t have much beyond what they carried with them. The nation is awash in those who lifted themselves out of poverty.

Again, you refer to “society” when the strong implication is “government.” My post is about getting the government out of the way, not declaring that “society” shouldn’t do anything. You use the word “we.” To whom do you refer? Individuals acting as they choose, or government imposing the will of some upon others?

You write of schools. Throwing ever more money at them isn’t working. Expenditures per student keep going up and up, yet results don’t change. Want to fix them? The answer is easy – introduce the free market economy you deride into the monopoly that is public education. School choice, the more robust the better. Whether it be charter schools or a full-blown voucher/backpack funding program, it imposes the discipline of market forces and gives freedom back to the parents.

There’s also another reality. Nothing “we” do will ever level the playing field. There is no utopia, there is no magic bullet, and all the well-intentioned people in the world will never be able to solve all the problems that exist. No, not even the free market. But, there’s mountains of evidence that the free market advances societies, and mountains of evidence that statism destroys them.

What I see is that half a century of the “war on poverty,” half a century of “great society,” and decades upon decades of government growth haven’t helped the poor. “More government” isn’t working – why insist on even more government?

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