James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 11, 2007

Clash of Values

Small, impoverished nations can't really go to war against military superpowers in any case. But something about this statement from Bill Frist struck me as a bit odd: "People do not go to war with people who have saved their children's lives."

Right. People dependent on government welfare or foreign aid aren't resentful. They love the idleness and lack of opportunity. Cycles of dependency bring happiness and harmony. No riots, no terrorism. Good one.

Of course, he sensible solution to reducing poverty in places like Africa is to stop the foreign aid already! But the issue isn't about reducing poverty, it is about the moral insistence that government(s) must do something reduce poverty.

Imagine two options; a) declining poverty in a free market economy; b) a permanent and fairly high level of poverty with an activist government "committed" to eliminating poverty.

This is kind of like these options: a) declining drug abuse where drugs are de-criminalized; b) fairly high drug use with a government committed to eliminating poverty.

The problem with "a" in both instances is that it is value-neutral. At least "b" is a reflection of society's "values." Many people would prefer "b" in both instances even knowing they are bound to fail, because they don't want to live in a society where an a supposedly amoral government is unconcerned about poverty and drug abuse. Even if winning the "Wars" on Poverty and Drugs is impossible, we must still fight these wars to preserve our honor and integrity as a people. If we don't cling to ideals, what are we?

In actuality, however, this isn't a clash between immorality and morality, but rather a clash between the value of individual liberty and the value of collectivism. Even when collectivism fails on utilitarian grounds, collectivists press on. The thought of someone somewhere making a decision for himself or herself makes collectivists recoil in horror.

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