Mrs. T and I had the good fortune of reconnecting with one of our oldest and dearest friends yesterday, a fellow who might be fairly described as “unusual”, in the strictest sense of the word. Naturally, that always makes for good dinner conversation.
“Andre”, as I’ll call him, is an intelligent, well-read, and articulate bachelor in his 50’s who lives with his dogs, “at anchor” in his traditional wood schooner, that he helped to build and which he’s sailed offshore, solo and engineless, to distant parts of the globe. It that weren’t enough, he’s also unusual in that he typically appears to welcome the opportunity, however rare over the past few years, to engage in a battle of wits with yours truly.
Less unusual, Andre, unfortunately, suffers a bit of the sort of “cognitive dissonance” that we’ve occasionally had reason to discuss in this forum in the past. Notably, when pressed, he will admit that his generally libertarian perspectives are mixed with what I’ll kindly describe as “a casual fondness” for the J.K. Galbraith strain of progressivist socialism. As he himself stated, “you know I’ve always been ‘a little bit of a socialist'”, which – for me – is something akin to being “a little bit pregnant”.
To his credit, Andre doesn’t quibble with drawing the sort of feint distinctions between “progressive” and “socialist” with which we must typically contend. He’s willing to “call a spade ‘a spade'” and pony up to the full weight of it, even when fully cognizant of the “clear and present danger” those leanings pose to his erstwhile libertarian sensibilities. And this, really, is the crux of the problem.
You see, it is rather useful for us to actually face the all-too-human tendency towards self-destructive behavior. We know what we should do, we just don’t always do it, although most of us tend to resort to artfully gymnastic rationalization to justify that error.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15
Again, to his credit, Andre doesn’t quibble much with the notions that “redistributive” socialism – you know, the taking of property from one to give to another – is, in any meaningful sense, a “charitable” endeavor. Now, I might be inclined to call this intellectual honesty, if it weren’t, ultimately, paired with the apparent willingness to say, “I’m gonna do it anyway, because I think it makes a better world”. Which, sort of reminds me of those who think having an affair will strengthen their marriage. “No, it’s not love and, therefore, it’s not “cheating” per se, but it does help me appreciate my wife.” Hmmm. Right.
Well, friend, if it isn’t charity, what, pray tell, could it be? Might the word you’re trying to avoid be “theft”? And just how, exactly, can such a thing make for a better world?
To the like of Galbraith, you see, an Activist Government, teamed, of course, with Big Labor, is necessary to provide countervailing power against the abusive excess of Big Business. Sadly, this supposed pragmatic “Clash of the Titans” must, inevitably, ignore the Lilliputian cause of individual liberty that is crushed underfoot in the process.
Those evil capitalists MUST BE STOPPED!!!! From what, we should wonder? Making goods that we all want and, often enough, really need? From giving me a job so I can support my family? From “profiting from misery” as they coldly go about the business of serving the needs of those suffering such misery? God help us.
As Milton Friedman observed: “Many reformers – Galbraith is not alone in this – have as their basic objection to a free market that it frustrates them in achieving their reforms, because it enables people to have what they want, not what the reformers want. Hence every reformer has a strong tendency to be averse to a free market.”
Even more relevant, C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
As I’ve noted in past articles, the real problem is that we’ve allowed our system of governance to devolve into a bidding war between these powerful Titans, more akin to an old-fashioned “slave auction”, where we desperately cling to the hope that the kindest master will buy us. I’m sorry, but that was never good enough, not for me and, I hope, not for you.