Donald's Blog

  This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.

«May 2012»

In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever, and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc. to:


May 15, 2012

Letters in the Wall Street Journal

Today's American so-called "conservatives" are often unaware of their own intellectual heritage. In a discussion about "natural rights" versus "social justice", they fall back on clichés about the "productive" and the "parasitic". In rebuttal, John C. Webb of Columbus Ohio wrote:

Not all conservatives and libertarians have been as dismissive of a government safety net [...]. In 1972, Milton Friedman wrote: "[F]or three decades, I have urged the replacement of our present collection of so-called poverty programs by a negative income tax that would guarantee a minimum [income] to everyone." And in "The Road To Serfdom," Friedrich A. Hayek wrote [in 1940-43]: "There is no reason why in a society which has reached the level of wealth which ours has attained the first kind of security [i.e., "security against severe physical deprivation, the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all"] should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom...[T]he case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong."

In a discussion about Chile and a turn back toward economic dislocation there of this or that kind, Professor Luis Saurez-Villa of the U. of California Irvine wrote:

Throughout history, inequality and social injustice have been a prime human concern--something that seems to have been forgotten during the past three decades. Freedom should not be considered an adversary of the fundamental human need to reduce inequality and injustice, but must instead be seen as an ally in the age-old struggle to build a just society for all. Freedom is only a mirage in a society ruled by a small, wealthy and privileged elite, where working people and the middle class find it difficult to gain access to education, health care or satisfy their basic economic needs. 

And of course a few days later, letter writers responded to Professor Suarez-Villa assuming that reducing inequality means trying to make everybody equal. It does not. It merely means providing equal opportunity. The market for human cleverness and ambition will sort out who gets rich and who does not, so long as all have equal access to education, health care and so on. (We believe in markets, don't we?) The whole history of the USA has been increasing equality of opportunity for all, which is what has made us the richest and most powerful nation that ever existed, and a magnet for freedom-loving people all over the world, who just want the chance to compete in our national marketplace.
      But for the last 30 years we've been throwing it all away, since about the time we elected a sleepy retired B-movie actor to the White House. Now we are watching China, India and Brazil get richer every day while we fall behind; the way we are going, clinging to our political gridlock and to our self-righteous ideologies, Nigeria will overtake us in this century.