Sunday, September 23, 2012

On America's "Social Contract," the Source of Individual Character, and Romney's 47%

The flap over Mitt Romney's 47% comments continued, with the NJ Star-Ledger editorial board declaring that, because of that comment, Romney "can't be trusted with the presidency." They offered several choice opportunities for rebuttal activism. Here are a few excerpts, and my comments:


The next president, whoever it is, will have to strike a tough balance. He will have to be both hard-nosed and compassionate. He will have to impose painful spending cuts, while protecting the social contract that promises a decent life for those who play by the rules.


There is not and never has been any socialist "social contract" in America. This is a devious myth dreamed up by the Left to empower government. America promises the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness and well-being, and the individual liberty to act to achieve it by productive labor and voluntary free trade with others. There is and never were any "promises of a decent life" of material benefits provided by others, only of a life free from human predators out to take what property you have earned. There was never any guarantee of an equal starting point in life, where everyone is "born on third base," or even the same base. Equal opportunity, in America's ideals, is a political, not an economic, term. It means equal legal protection of everyone's rights to live and to set and pursue his own goals.


   “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” [Romney] said.   That is the view of a man who has spent too much time cloistered among like-minded conservatives, believing in a myth they have spun about the winners and losers of this country. In this view, the rich are the virtuous job creators whose success is an outgrowth of their superior character. It is galling to hear this from a guy who was born on third base...

This reference to character could be a back-door slap at Ayn Rand. If it is, it's a misrepresentation. In any event, here is my response:

I don't know of anyone who ever said that "the rich are the virtuous job creators whose success is an outgrowth of their superior character." Superior ability and judgement? Yes, and it's true that most people who grow rich in this country create plenty of jobs along the way. But character is not measured by how much money a person makes, and I never heard of anyone who ever made that claim. It is not the amount of money that indicates superior character, but that a person makes the money he lives on. A person of virtuous character understands that he must take responsibility for himself, live by his own judgement, and understands that his own need in not a moral claim on the lives and earnings of others. The independent self-supporting man of moderate means and the man who earns a fortune are moral blood-brothers. Those who expect and demand handouts from others are moral inferiors.


Romney misses a lot. He needs to get out more often and see that millions of Americans who receive food stamps, or college scholarships, or free health care are taking responsibility for their lives. Almost all of those getting this kind of help are either working, studying or retired. The problem is not that they lack virtue. They just don’t have much money.

There's some truth to this, even though there are a lot more parasites out there than the editors acknowledge. As Ari Armstrong notes over at The Objective Standard, "Romney is wrong in assuming that, just because someone takes government handouts, that person necessarily shares the entitlement mentality or advocates forced wealth transfers. For many Americans living under today’s rights-violating government, it is practically impossible not to receive some sort of government handout."

I left these comments:

Romney is wrong about the 47%. Many do not have an entitlement mentality. And many in the other 53% do. That's why corporate welfare exists, like the GM bailout and NJ's solar subsidy scam. The problem is that the welfare state turns honorable people into "takers." I collect Social Security "benefits," which will never match the value of what was taken from me in taxes over my 45 year working career. I'll soon be forced onto Medicare. But both programs are funded by younger workers, not the recipient's accumulated lifetime "contributions," which were funneled into some else's pockets. The best gift any senior can bestow on his grandchildren is to fight for the phaseout of both programs.

The whole welfare state is corrupt, as is any human endeavor that begins with theft. It is not the goals of these programs, but the means, that is evil. SS, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Pell grants--the whole un-American mish-mash--should be phased out and abolished. They violate the real American social contract--that each person owns his life, has the right to live and act upon his own judgement, keep the rewards of his own work--and that we respect each other's rights to do that. This is the very practical ideal that drew tens of millions of poor immigrants to these shores in the first 150 years after Independence, and that built this country.

I acknowledge that I am voting for Romney, because he is not Obama. But I am under no illusions. Don't expect this Republican ticket to muster the moral courage to take such an uncompromising stand against collectivism. They are watered-down welfare statists. I don't know why the editors are so worked up. Whoever wins, the welfare state can't lose in this election.

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