Author Topic: Ask A Liberal  (Read 2639 times)

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2010, 04:36:24 am »
Ah, MsBlack! I knew I wouldn't get away with just that from the likes of you! I was on deadline and didn't have much time to spare, but now deadline is over and the work is finished, so allow me to reply in turn...

This seems to me to presume that all campaigns would be allotted the same campaign resources. Were this the case, this would mean that all campaigns (regardless of size) would receive the same resources. So we might have campaigns of sizes (in persons) of different orders of magnitude but that would still receive the same resources. Is this desirable?

If you're talking about the difference between, say, a House district election and the presidential election, then, no, there should be different levels of funding. A presidential race is decided by a hundred million people. A House race, more like a hundred thousand.

If you're talking about giving a slice of the pie to any old schmuck who decides to run for office, we can impose a few simple barriers to entry, petition signatures being an obvious choice, since that is already widely used in state initiative processes. Also, it would be unnecessary to place more than a few restrictions on volunteer work.

That aside, I don't see that how well a campaign is run correlates with the preferability of that campaign.

You misunderstood. I was simply covering my bases--always sound practice with you! A well-run campaign is no indication that the candidate is preferable, although the two can correlate.

You mean that public financing is presently naive because it automatically favours the incumbent, not giving a fair shake to challengers?

Among other things, but that's the big one. It favors the incumbent, or anybody who goes into the race with superior name recognition. It's also naive on account of how money can be spent on behalf of a campaign, but not actually by a campaign, and it turns out that that kind of political spending is very hard to limit without infringing upon freedom of speech. A recent decision by our conservative Supreme Court enshrined into permanent law the right of corporations to spend money freely on behalf of political campaigns, as actual human individuals can. Only a Constitutional Amendment or another Supreme Court decision can change that now.

Also, how would you reconcile term limits with your own political ambitions?

Well, all of this pertains to liberal democracy, not the imperial meritocracy I prefer at the philosophical level. But, I will say this: With time, I have begun to appreciate power's corrosive influence on even the incorruptible. In an ideal society, nobody would want the burden of it, and would strive to discharge their obligations and move on. I have come to admire those who knew when to walk away from the stuff, like Washington, whose Farewell Address was poignant in this regard. One of the things that's wrong with politics is that it attracts not only people who want the job, but people who want the job and want to keep it till they keel over from old age. I have a different view of political power, which is that it is a public service. In this narrow but crucial sense, I think democracy is essentially correct. We should strive make the offices of political power fairly austere, with no opportunity for politicians to amass wealth while in office, and as little incentive as possible for the wealthy to enter politics for the purpose of eventually increasing their wealth. If an officeholder were given a stipend from which they would have to pay all of their non-catastrophic living expenses for the duration of their term of office, and were disallowed from using private wealth to supplement that life, I think we would attract a few fewer freeloading plutocrats. Much of this would translate over to the meritocracy, although in an ideal meritocracy the use of term limits would be unnecessary.

Although, would there not also be a lot more government work created to ensure compliance with the rules governing use of campaign resources and to ensure that private funds weren't used?

There would need to be a considerable expansion of the FEC, or perhaps even the creation of a whole new body. This is certain. But consider the money that is lost on elections now. It's in the ten figures in America. That's crazy. That money does not increase economic output. It does not increase standards of living. People would still get elected even if no money at all were spent on campaigning. To spend billions instead of a few million is extravagant. Also: All of the time that people spend fundraising and volunteering...that's a tremendous opportunity cost to the nation, on top of the directly lost money. Compare that with the expense of overseeing publicly financed elections, and I think the numbers would work out favorably with room to spare.

MsBlack

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2010, 12:03:01 pm »
If you're talking about the difference between, say, a House district election and the presidential election, then, no, there should be different levels of funding. A presidential race is decided by a hundred million people. A House race, more like a hundred thousand.

If you're talking about giving a slice of the pie to any old schmuck who decides to run for office, we can impose a few simple barriers to entry, petition signatures being an obvious choice, since that is already widely used in state initiative processes. Also, it would be unnecessary to place more than a few restrictions on volunteer work.

I meant how funding would be allocated in light of differences in campaign sizes within the same race. I can't find any figures for it, but I suppose that the size of McKinney's campaign (in units of persons), for example, in the 2008 Election was at least one order of magnitude less than Obama's or McCain's. In such cases, should all the campaigns receive the same absolute resources--on the understanding that the smaller campaigns could be more 'extravagant' pound-for-pound--or should there be a more complicated function for allocating resources?

Then there is also the question of whether or not these funds are allocated from an election kitty to each campaign at the start of the 'race', or if they are handed out to particular campaigns as their campaign grows in number.

I would suggest that each campaign should be promised specified amounts of resources for every milestone. For example, the first thousand people might have the campaign given very roughly a million dollars (with consideration of start-up costs); the next ten thousand another ten million and so forth or something. (This would be quite complicated due to all of the considerations of qualitative differences in campaign size progressions (a complicativity for which I offer no proof other than its very name--'qualitative differences in campaign size progressions'. Jesus. Fucking. Christ.))

This is because this seems superior to giving out resources at the start of the race, because such a system would be overly naive. Such an allocation would have to go on campaign size predictions, which would be based on precedent. However, I would guess that a small campaign could change in size by a significant fraction between elections, meaning that their allocation could be a significant misestimate. Big campaigns could change by smaller fractions between elections but, due to their relative enormity, even a small misestimate of size could lead to a substantial disparity in allocation. And the size of newcoming campaigns would be very hard to predict.

This would also seem to rule out just having an election kitty, because the size of this kitty would have to be based on campaign size predictions.

And then a third question that occurs to me is whether this would actually be done in terms of campaigns or if it would be done in terms of parties (presumably with independent candidates being an individual party for the purposes of this system). I don't know enough about the merits and demerits of having parties in the fist instance to have a strong position, but I would probably lean towards what seems to be the more idealistic approach, and try to break from parties and therefore do it on a campaign basis, as opposed to a party one.

And then there's the question of whether it should be done on campaign size or something else...

Thought

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2010, 01:24:09 pm »
A non-military national service should be integrated into the public education system such that students in the middle to upper grades can perform practical work for part of the school year in lieu of classroom instruction.

While I am not sure about the "in lieu of classroom instruction," I must say that I absolutely love the idea of non-military national service. If you are not saying that such service should be required, then I will: such service should be required. Perhaps a "year of service" after high school. Ooo, this just makes my fingertips tingle with excitement. And not the single from the Zelda games, either.

The Fairness Doctrine should be reintroduced, and the government should set stiff boundaries on what can qualify as "news."

Alas, here my enthusiasm for your response must waver. As this is not an "Ask Whatever-it-is-that-Thought-should--be-politically-identified-as" thread, I will not argue the point but rather simply say this: if in order for truth to be free society must also suffer the slander and sludge of a thousand falsehoods, then it is a fair price and one I would gladly pay.

Every -ian is another count against you, and I'll remind you that the Ides are on their way.

Haha, avoiding the question I see!
As a side note, I've always found the Kalends to be far more worthy of caution than the Ides.

Money advantages the richer candidates.

To note, money provides more of an advantage to richer candidates than just in the election itself. As riches provide ease of living, and ease of living can be capitalized in terms of intellectual pursuits, the richer the candidate the more likely they are to have had governing experiences of some sort before. While publically financing elections, to create equal coffers, might help, to be fair we also need to improve the experience opportunities of poorer individuals, so as to help overcome the experience-bias between the classes.

My solution: Eliminate the dangers of incumbency by imposing term limits.

What if there weren't term limits per say but rather bans against consecutive terms? No incumbent could ever run, then, and so it seems like this would also eliminate the dangers of incumbency while preserving the possibility of the government capitalizing on the experience of competent and skilled "statesmates."

If an officeholder were given a stipend from which they would have to pay all of their non-catastrophic living expenses for the duration of their term of office, and were disallowed from using private wealth to supplement that life, I think we would attract a few fewer freeloading plutocrats.

Such a turn of events! Paid government positions started as a way to allow the poor to participate, and but this function rarely comes into play.

Perhaps a need-based stipend might further help this cause? If you're poor, the government actually will help you out. If you're not poor, you still can only use so much of your money on living expenses, but the government's not the one footing the bill.

Truthordeal

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2010, 05:01:43 pm »
J, there's one thing you considered a "flaw" in your argument that wasn't really a flaw. You claimed that public financing would favor the incumbent. This is not so. The incumbent in pretty much any election(except in that very rare case were the incumbent or the party thereof is despised) will get more money through "private financing" than his or her opponent. Public financing would knee-cap the monetary advantage that the incumbent has.

Radical_Dreamer

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2010, 04:45:47 am »
, I think democracy is essentially correct. We should strive make the offices of political power fairly austere, with no opportunity for politicians to amass wealth while in office, and as little incentive as possible for the wealthy to enter politics for the purpose of eventually increasing their wealth. If an officeholder were given a stipend from which they would have to pay all of their non-catastrophic living expenses for the duration of their term of office, and were disallowed from using private wealth to supplement that life, I think we would attract a few fewer freeloading plutocrats. Much of this would translate over to the meritocracy, although in an ideal meritocracy the use of term limits would be unnecessary.

Making elected offices worse jobs will (I strongly suspect) improve the character of those who seek it. Or rather, those who seek the office when it is a poor job rather than good job will be more likely to use their power for good than in our present situation.

How harsh a job should elected office be so as to maximize the quality of the individuals seeking it, but not so harsh as to make it a job entirely for masochists? I have considered freezing assets and a lower salary (no greater than the median income of ones constituents) as basic and simple changes that would be a step in the right direction, in addition to the stripping of all benefits, including health insurance, including a freeze on whatever private insurance they may have purchased. Is this going too far? Not far enough?

Also, what are your thoughts on corporations being granted personhood?

Arakial

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #20 on: March 13, 2010, 04:56:37 pm »
Q: In your opinion, what would be the best way for our government to mitigate the deforestation of the Amazon?

That's a good question, and unexpected. The first thing to do is lead by example when it comes to managing and protecting our own forests at the governmental level, and respecting and preserving their health the individual and entrepreneurial levels. Because America is so influential, American ideas are inevitably exported, so it does good to lead by example.

The best direct solution, in my opinion, would be to negotiate a treaty with the Brazilian government, either bilaterally or through a world organization, under which Brasilia would agree to preserve the most substantial portion of its forests in exchange for whatever incentives. The second-best solution would be to restrict the import of anything that is produced on the grounds of cleared forest--a sticky proposition, and guaranteed to light the free trade people's heads on fire.
I'm not sure that would be enough. Granted, I do not disagree with anything you have said, I simply feel it is incomplete.

Consider that, things like exportation of hardwoods, bribery of government officials and police, and slavery are already illegal and are still as prevalent as if there was no law against them. I would say that these problems are wrapped in more complex social issues--mostly due to distorted national policy over national debt and the massive division of wealth. The division of wealth is itself, a consequence of the government paying off national debt, and not investing in law enforcement to prevent things like slavery/exploitation, land exploitation and bribery (which allows all of this to happen).

Speaking of which. A couple years back (I'm not sure what it's at now), Brazil ranked 80 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. While it's not the worst, it's pretty bad to make the top 100. Further, it's no coincidence that quite a few other South American countries (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay) scored in the top 100 as well, as their situations are not too far from Brasilia's.

That said, it is my take that we should also forgive, in part or whole, their national debt to us so that they can focus their funds on internal issues of social justice and most importantly, the preservation of the rainforest. As it stands now, more of Brazil's GDP goes to paying off national debt (nb limiting exportation would only exacerbate this) than it does for law enforcement. So I feel it is an important stroke of mercy on our part.

Do you agree with this addendum?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #21 on: March 15, 2010, 12:39:05 am »
J, there's one thing you considered a "flaw" in your argument that wasn't really a flaw. You claimed that public financing would favor the incumbent. This is not so. The incumbent in pretty much any election(except in that very rare case were the incumbent or the party thereof is despised) will get more money through "private financing" than his or her opponent. Public financing would knee-cap the monetary advantage that the incumbent has.

You didn't exactly phrase that as a question, but, hey. You're right that the incumbent is inherently the favorite in most election dynamics, but what you overlook here is that private financing can give challengers the opportunity to money-bomb the incumbents; historically that's been an important mechanism of seat-changing in U.S. elections.


How harsh a job should elected office be so as to maximize the quality of the individuals seeking it, but not so harsh as to make it a job entirely for masochists? I have considered freezing assets and a lower salary (no greater than the median income of ones constituents) as basic and simple changes that would be a step in the right direction, in addition to the stripping of all benefits, including health insurance, including a freeze on whatever private insurance they may have purchased. Is this going too far? Not far enough?

I think we're in the same neighborhood on this question. For me the overriding concern is not necessarily that we punish officeholders, but rather that we make elected office be conspicuously non-profitable for those who would occupy it. I like your salary and wage-freezing proposals, though I imagine legislation would be required to close the inevitable spate of loopholes. I would also propose a ban on elected officials holding positions in lobbying firms for a significant period of time both before and after their term in office. Again, the overriding concern is that would-be candidates not see public office as a means of advancing or enriching themselves personally.

Your healthcare stipulation is too specific to be agreeable; besides, I'm not against good healthcare for anyone--even those who would vote against it for the rest of us.

Also, what are your thoughts on corporations being granted personhood?

I am totally against the concept of legal personhood as it presently exists for entities which obviously do not possess a sentient will, because of the abuses which so easily follow, and would prefer that a completely different concept be used to summarize the legal status of these entities. In particular the word "person" rubs me the wrong way, because of its implications. However, I approve of most of the key individual elements contained in legal personhood and would support those statuses being reconstituted in another form.


Consider that, things like exportation of hardwoods, bribery of government officials and police, and slavery are already illegal and are still as prevalent as if there was no law against them.

This ("as prevalent as") is not the case in America, and reflects upon the effectiveness of the Brazilian government (if indeed that is the perspective from which you are coming) rather than the inherent functionality of law.

That said, it is my take that we should also forgive, in part or whole, their national debt to us so that they can focus their funds on internal issues of social justice and most importantly, the preservation of the rainforest. As it stands now, more of Brazil's GDP goes to paying off national debt (nb limiting exportation would only exacerbate this) than it does for law enforcement. So I feel it is an important stroke of mercy on our part.

Do you agree with this addendum?

Forgiving debt en masse should generally be limited to urgent emergencies, due to the risk of serious economic repercussions that exists when creditors are made to be unable to recover their loans. However, I am also aware that certain nations have exploited and indebted other nations to a virtually irrecoverable degree, and that this is a significant factor in the perpetuation of poverty and disorder in the developing and undeveloped world. Additionally, I understand that many governments do not or perhaps even cannot contain the exploitation of their interior resources. Lastly, many of the economic-based solutions to these kinds of problems tend to lose sight of the real prize, which is the protection of flora and fauna.

My preference, when faced with some combination of an incompetent or intractable government and / or national population vis-a-vis an environmental catastrophe, is physical intervention in the country's affairs. Because that is not a practical position, my second choice is to continue to focus intensively on treaty negotiations and ventures with landowners and entrepreneurs inside the country in question. Loan forgiveness would be ineffective in the short-term, and would provide no direct incentive (and only one indirect incentive, in the form of the availability of more money) to address the environmental problem.

ShoeMagus

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #22 on: March 15, 2010, 02:33:59 am »
What's your opinion of libertarians and fiscal conservatives who are quite frankly not the fundamentalist nutbags that most of the Republican Party caters to?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #23 on: March 16, 2010, 06:25:27 am »
What's your opinion of libertarians and fiscal conservatives who are quite frankly not the fundamentalist nutbags that most of the Republican Party caters to?

Fiscal conservatism is more subtle than social conservatism, but its effects are comparably deleterious. My general opinion of fiscal conservatives is that they are either ignorant or malicious. Of course there are exceptions--there always are--but generally any ideology which promotes hunger and homelessness as a punishment for those who do not try hard enough, or, alternatively, discourages any systematization of welfare and prefers that it remain purely dependent upon the goodwill of the well-off, to say nothing of the double-faced charity of the churches, on the grounds that nobody should be obliged to have an interest in the welfare of others, is an ideology guilty of senselessness. It is my conclusion that all the dead weight in our society should still have food and shelter, always, and that if this is not fulfilled then we will continue to have Americans living in third-world conditions. So long as that remains the case, we cannot truly think of ourselves as a developed country: for they are our countrymates. It is this liberal's opinion that it is the responsibility of an "enlightened" society to guarantee a minimum material quality of life to all its denizens. We are rich enough to do that, and we should; and we should absorb the cost of it gladly, as the ticket price of being humane. I should also note that a "minimum material quality of life" is not such a disincentive to work that everybody would quit their jobs and live on the dole; thus conservative fears are baseless.

"Small government" may be as popular as ever as a conservative principle, but in the crucible of reality the concept of a small government presiding successfully over an advanced society has been thoroughly discredited. Conservatives lament government waste, and there is definitely waste in the execution, but when it comes time to naming actual programs that are inherently wasteful, that turns out to be hard to do. You have to start saying things like "It's okay if nobody inspects this drinking water for quality," and "Who really uses a weather radar, anyway?" That's a problem because people have come to rely upon the services which government provides or regulates. Public services would generally not exist were they not provided by the government, and if they did exist they would certainly not be accessible to the general public. Government-regulated services provided by the private sector, meanwhile, would become unstable and exploitative were it not for that regulation. We have seen all of these things before our very eyes, right here in the present day. We have refused to pay for a universal healthcare net. We have refused to demand that government oversee the banks which control our money. Where did that get us?

I was never a fiscal conservative, but I used to be fiscally moderate. That has changed over time as I have learned more about how a society works. I am very, very keen on that Ayn Rand extollation of the individual. I really like to see it when people rise up and need no government assistance. But many people never will rise up; what of them? Let them suffer? And those who do rise up to greatness..wouldn't have been able to do it without the government here to expand the possibilities curve of economic success. That's why, folks like Carlos Slim Helu and the Sultan of Brunei notwithstanding, great wealth arises overwhelmingly in individuals who are themselves the product of successful countries.

Libertarianism is another story. The label is too broadly used to be very useful. A large segment of "libertarians" consists of conservatives who don't like the Republican Party. Those aren't really libertarians. Real libertarians often complain about the government protecting people from themselves...and then are left completely speechless when presented with endless stories of people undermining themselves. Libertarians never recovered from the simple fact that seatbelt laws save lives. We don't like to admit it, but we often need to be protected from ourselves. To the extent that government can and sometimes does overstep its powers here, I make common cause with libertarians. But, on the underlying principle as to whether or not government should actually intervene in the fashion of, as its detractors would call it, a "nanny," I think libertarians are wrong.

Radical_Dreamer

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2010, 03:35:58 am »
I am totally against the concept of legal personhood as it presently exists for entities which obviously do not possess a sentient will, because of the abuses which so easily follow, and would prefer that a completely different concept be used to summarize the legal status of these entities. In particular the word "person" rubs me the wrong way, because of its implications. However, I approve of most of the key individual elements contained in legal personhood and would support those statuses being reconstituted in another form.

I also asked a libertarian friend of mine his thoughts on this topic. You may be amused to learn he considered it similarly absurd. Speaking of which...

Quote from: Lord J Esq
Libertarians never recovered from the simple fact that seatbelt laws save lives. We don't like to admit it, but we often need to be protected from ourselves.

To what extent do you think that the government has a right to override the individual's right to make decisions harmful to themselves?

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2010, 03:59:08 am »
To what extent do you think that the government has a right to override the individual's right to make decisions harmful to themselves?

That's a good question. What I would like is for people to have wide latitude to endanger themselves (but not necessarily others) if they do so in full knowledge of the risks and potential consequences. When people do not possess this understanding, I would prefer they have much less freedom, so as to avoid inadvertently causing themselves some kind of harm.

Seat belt laws are a decent if not ideal example: Many people who reject them do so in ignorance of the benefits seat belts confer--or, to look at it another way, in ignorance of the tremendous extra risk that comes from not using or misusing them. And no one, regardless of their level of pride or indignation at the thought of a "nanny" government butting in, should die or maim themselves from falling down the stairs due to a lack of hand-railing.

I find it difficult to imagine how the government could efficiently test for an individual's knowledge, however. Most safely laws and other protective laws, rules, and policies apply to the general population without discrimination and with few exceptions or exemptions, many of which are laboriously acquired. One possibility is that we could computerize the entire process, but that would get the privacy people all atwitter and thus deserves more thoughtful consideration than I have yet given it.

Additionally, regardless of the level of understanding involved, I would favor limitations on risky behavior with ghastly expensive social, economic, or environmental consequences. This concern would conceivably apply to cases like tobacco products, and to the operation of Hummer-type land-hulks in a suburban environment.

Radical_Dreamer

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #26 on: March 22, 2010, 04:16:51 am »
A law mandating the installation of handrails is not equivalent to one mandating the use of seat belts. No one has to use a handrail, after all. And if people only use them to catch themselves, that's fine. The trouble with a seat belt is, by the time you need it, if you aren't already wearing it, it's too late.

Public use of tobacco products and pretending that trucks are acceptable (sub)urban commuter vehicles aren't quite analogous either; as they are both activities that harm others. If I don't wear my seat belt and wind up suffering great harm because of it, I am harmed by my own choice. If you smoke next to me, I am harmed by your choice. Likewise, driving a large truck or SUV makes driving all the more dangerous for those around you, because of their lack of ability to avoid accidents, and greater destructive force in an accident.

Your knowledge requirement on taking risky behavior is an interesting one, and I think a good one. But it can be dealt with, at least in the seat belt case, using existing processes. We have driver's ed and driving knowledge tests that are required to get a license to legally drive on public roads already. Just make a question about the effects of seat belts on injury and survival rates, and if someone gets it wrong, they don't get a license.

This notion can be expanded, in a society such as ours, which has a free and compulsory education system. You can essentially have a "free to fail" test, which when passed, provides license to engage in risky behavior so long as one only endangers oneself and other freely consenting "free to fail"ers. Of course, that's from the assumption that people don't have a right to fuck up in the first place.

I agree that it is tragic when people come to grief through ignorance of the consequences of their actions. But I still feel that ultimately education is a better method to prevent such tragedies than proscription of risky behavior. Saying "Action X is too dangerous; you may not engage in it" is far less useful to the individual considering taking that action than saying "Action X is very dangerous due to the following properties and potential consequences..." This equips them to deal with Action X, specifically, and contributes to a general knowledge base from which they can more accurately extrapolate the risks of other actions as well.

Lord J Esq

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2010, 05:18:27 am »
There is a good amount of distance on which I could move toward your position, although it would be ground riddled with asterisks. Ultimately, though, we of course disagree. You can read more about it when I launch my philosophy project.

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2010, 12:27:04 pm »
Would you prefer a more communistic, welfare state sort of system (I do not mean to use welfare state in a negative manner, though I realize some people understand it that way)? Or maybe I should ask, to what degree do you think that the State should support people who are just not contributing/producing?

I'm not so draconian that I think people with genuine problems aren't deserving of help (people who are actually disabled, for instance), but I see problems when the people who are alcoholics (who choose to drink, whether or not they are predisposed genetically to becoming dependent on alcohol AFTER they choose to drink) earning disability and social security checks. But do you draw a line where you say, "We cannot collectively support Group X."


Thought

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Re: Ask A Liberal
« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2010, 01:23:13 pm »
To formulate a statement in the spirit of this thread:

Josh, would you, as a liberal, support and encourage Radical Dreamer in the creation of an "Ask A Libertarian" thread, as this discussion between you two has been most interesting and his stance being one that individuals might eagerly desire to know more about? (it is here acknowledged that a "Discussion on Libertarianism" thread already exists, but the nature of that thread and this seem different enough to make this a genuine inquiry.)

Radical Dreamer, please see above.