09 November 2009The political process is a sure-fire way to take people who otherwise have no reason to be upset with each other and make them bitter foes.
In the real world (the free, private, voluntary non-political world) I have friends with completely different tastes, preferences, and priorities. This does not prevent us from associating and it rarely results in heated debate or offense. Others can express their preferences by their lifestyles and personal choices - if they believe in something they will support it and encourage me to do the same. If I disagree I simply don’t support it. Rarely is this reason enough to sever a friendship.
There are those who love certain types of music or certain sporting activities; they would be willing to spend a great deal of money and time to sustain those activities - and they do. The fact that they care more about the activities than I do is no cause for alarm or enmity.
Every one of us has had money taken from us, whether we wish it or not, via taxation. The looters then “offer” us a variety of ways which they could spend our money. Since every person has different values and preferences, it is inevitable that each of the proposed expenditures make some people happy, since they get more value from them than the taxes they put it, and make others angry since they were forced to pay for something they value less than the taxes taken. Both sides advocate their position (although those benefiting from expenditure, though smaller in number, will always lobby much harder than those who are harmed, since the harm is spread in small bits among millions and the benefits concentrated in large chunks on the few) and in the process become political enemies.
The debate becomes, wrongly, about the merits of the proposed expenditure. Proponents describe how much better the world would be with project X; opponents describe how project X is a waste. Both argue the wrong thing. The project itself need not be bad or good and we needn’t attempt to settle such a subjective question once for all people. Yet advocates of the project will claim that any who oppose tax-funding oppose the project itself or even it’s noble goals. This is simplistic and incorrect. Music is a wonderful thing. Does it follow that if I prefer not to have my money taken by force and spent on the symphony that I hate music and therefore I hate wonderful things?
Both proponents and opponents of particular government projects should realize that it is not the project itself that deserves to be debated, it is the fact that it’s funded with money forcibly removed from innocent citizens. Without government getting in the way, supporters can promote their favorite projects by soliciting voluntary donations and public interest. Opponents can simply choose not to fund them. Both can remain on peaceful terms. Not so in the political market.
I was reminded of this sad reality earlier this year when the old Tiger Stadium was to receive several million in tax dollars. Those who loved the stadium were offended by those who voiced opposition to this use of tax dollars. Stadium preservationists tried to make it a debate about the merits of the project, knowledge of the details involved and the love of baseball, Detroit and history (and even about economic development - the silliest argument of all for government spending).
To call opponents names and claim they simply didn’t know or didn’t care about the rich history and heritage of the stadium or the particulars of the project was wrongheaded. The debate was not about the project itself, but about the way it was being funded. I loved old Tiger Stadium yet I believe it is immoral to force taxpayers across the nation to pay for its restoration, even if it would benefit me. Nor do I want to pay for similar projects in the other 49 states, which were inevitably included in the same massive budget.
That is what the debate should have been about - freedom and choice vs. command and control.
If you still insist on forcing others to pay for things you think are wonderful, remember; politics is a fickle game. Even if your favorite hobby or project is benefiting from government largess today you can rest assured that tomorrow another competing project will be the political flavor of the month. Do you really want to spend your time stooping and groveling before the political class begging for money to continue your project instead of everyone else’s?
I prefer to keep my dignity and go out and raise support and awareness peacefully and voluntarily. If a cause is worthy it will survive without the use of force; the last thing a noble cause needs is the muck of politics to drag it down.