Please Wipe My Ass For Me, State

Maybe I just haven't read enough comment threads lately, but some of these responses (presumably British) surprised me, given my perspective from this side of the Atlantic. Americans are not usually so explicit, fully aware, or forthcoming when they embrace paternalism. Instead, paternalism of this magnitude is usually couched under some other justification more palatable to actual adults - adults who don't consider themselves children, at least not publicly.

Here is the wisdom of AllyF, for example:

This is why the type of individualistic materialism advocated by the author and his friends is actually at the root of the problem. Neoliberal economics sets each of us against the other, it assumes that we should all be happy to trample on our neighbours to get to our goals. This doesn’t make us happy, however materially wealthy it might make us. When one person gets rich by making a second person poor, it damages them both. When those two people co-operate to increase both their wealth, it makes both of them happier.

Amazing. “Neoliberal economics,” i.e. free trade, apparently consists of a series of zero or negative-sum interactions in which people trample upon their neighbors in order to improve their own lot. Why the trampled-upon accept these terms willingly, enthusiastically, repeatedly--practically - no, literally begging for the freedom to trade with their own exploiters--is not explained. Perhaps they are masochists. Perhaps false consciousness is involved.

The negation of free trade, by contrast, we learn, involves positive-sum interactions of cooperation. The cradle-to-grave welfare state enables this cooperation by interfering with and ultimately preventing trading partners from voluntarily exchanging value for value with each other, thereby somehow increasing the wealth and happiness of all involved. This mechanism is not well understood or easily explained, but--trust us on this one--we know what’s best for you better than you do.

Or, consider these deep thoughts by “CharlieMcMenamin“:

My personal ‘budgetary space’ would be improved by:

- Higher state pensions & free personal care so I don’t have to pay so much to support my elderly mother;
- No university fees so I don’t have to put something away for the kids’ college fund;

That’s just two very practical examples of how a higher tax economy would benefit me. I accept, in my case - middle class, middle earner - this might simply be a way of re-distributing income & positive outcomes through out my lifetime. This won’t always be true for everyone. Some will want a high tax/ high services economy precisely to fend off the risk of falling off the gravy train due to illness, family break-up or a thousand other possibilities.

Notice how Charlie distills the core of his own argument with the concession that cradle-to-grave welfare statism improves his life by doing his saving and investing for him. He clearly understands that he is a fully grown adult asking to be treated like a child. Which wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if he didn’t insist that everyone else be treated like a child as well.

The world is a scary place, full of illness, family-breakups, and a thousand other possibilities. Therefore, please live my life for me because I’m too frightened to responsibly deal with life’s many challenges myself. And don't just do this kindness for me, but extend this kindness to all, despite their many protests to the contrary. They simply don't yet realize that they are incapable of living responsible, challenging, adult lives. The kindly state--an independant, external entity that does not suffer from the same human limitations we do--must live our lives for us.

[Hat tip: Will Wilkinson]

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"This is why the type of

"This is why the type of individualistic materialism advocated by the author and his friends is actually at the root of the problem. Redistributive policing sets each of us against the other, it assumes that we should all be happy to trample on our neighbours to get to our goals. This doesn’t make us happy, however materially wealthy it might make us. When one person gets rich by making a second person poor, it damages them both."

There, fixed.