Re: Working for love.

Charlie Wilkinson (
Tue, 7 Apr 1998 20:58:25 -0400

On Tue, Apr 07, 1998 at 09:25:00AM -0600, Paul Gilbert poured forth:
> You raise some interesting points. Life is complicated. It's not like
> some lab experiment controlled for all but one variable. I agree that
> the factors you cite regarding North and South Korea are also
> relevant. But I still think it's a good example because there are many
> similarities between the countries (e.g. race, culture, language,
> resources, weather are similar) yet the outcomes are starkly
> different. Even limited economic freedom leads to a better life for
> people in South Korea, while severe repression in North Korea prevents
> people from being able to take care of themselves.

As you said, life is complicated. Economic freedom is but one factor.
What about cultural freedom, emotional and ideological freedom?

Even if I accept that North Korea's "big problem" is a lack of economic
freedom, one of the basic tenets of free market thinking that is hawked
in this country is that people need incentive to work, to create,
to innovate. Doesn't that notion contradict the idea of democratic
schooing, which is build upon the fundemental belief that these things
are innate urges?

> I agree with your point that "Free market forces do not step in and
> make sure that children are fed." Freedom allows people to use their
> time, energy, and resources for what they believe is important. If no
> one cared about feeding children, they wouldn't be fed. But people DO
> care. If this weren't true, a democratic society wouldn't have
> government programs to help the disadvantaged. I'm convinced we could
> better care for the poor and disadvantaged with voluntary
> organizations rather than "government enforced compassion". I realize
> this is a minority viewpoint. And one I can't even begin to prove in a
> short email. For anyone interested in considering this, there are
> several good books on the subject. One I like is "The Tragedy of
> American Compassion." by Marvin Olasky.

Tell that to the common folks in NYC back in the 1700's who starved
while the warehouses sat bulging with food, so the owners could extract
a higher price. Tell that to the countless victims of the robber
barons in the late 1800's. Tell that to the striking workers mowed
down by Pinkertons. Don't kid yourself. The parties most interested
in reducing our "overabundance of compassion" are doing so not because
they think they can do a better job than the government, but because
government is the last impediment to ludicrous profit margins.

> By the way, doesn't the word "starvation" overstate the case a bit?
> I'm not aware of starvation in the United States.

Would "malnutrition" and "death" be overstating it? We are kicking
people off of welfare while the Fed carefully regulates a *minimum*
5% level of unemployment. That doesn't even count the underemployed.
This means that there will *never* be enough jobs for everyone. If we
are going to maintain a system whereby %5 of the workforce will be
idle and unpaid at any given time, shouldn't we support those people?
Or at least shouldn't we admit to cold, calculated social darwinism and
let people actively debate this policy in its face?

I don't have time to comment on everything you wrote. (Probably just
as well since it's not really topical to the list, and no one asked
for my comments...) Certainly in an ideal world, what you are saying
makes a lot of sense. Certainly there are problems with the practical
application of "enforced compassion." But the fact is, there are too
many people writing books, news stories, and policy that are ruled by
unmitigated greed and self interest. While they are busy making a tidy
living writing about how the rest of us are experiencing a "compassion
glut", they could stand to gain a little compassion themselves.


                Charlie Wilkinson -
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