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Location: San Diego, California, United States

Thursday, January 22, 2009

John Stossel questions "liberals" (Democrats) philosopy

Liberals like to tout their love of "choice". Stossel's third paragraph summarizes the point of this column:

"Choice is good. As a libertarian, I'm all over choice. But strangely, today, liberals are mostly about what Americans should not be allowed to choose."

Read it here.

A challenge to my liberal friends: justify any of the points Stossel criticizes. If you can't, how can you continue to vote Democrat?

I'm with Stossel: let's take back the word "liberal".



Blogger Curt said...

What I find interesting is that both sides have their issues where they want to limit people's choices for various reasons.

For whatever reason, people seem to fall into one camp or the other, and it's a package deal, unfortunately. If you agree with part of the program, but not other parts, then you're kind of stuck voting for a party that will not win... thus most people end up sticking with the party their parents supported, I suspect.

Just as a semantics thing, note that most of the world does consider the word 'liberal' in the 'free trade' sense.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

An example or two of where the "conservatives" (Republicans) want to limit people's choices...", please.

Am I to assume you agree with Stossel's criticism of the Employee Free Choice Act, the lack of school vouchers, the excessive control by government of business, the inability to make any racial or sexual comment, the Democrat planned attack with the Fairness Doctrine, the lack of ability to sell life-saving organs, the excessive FDA involvement in our medicinal choices and the fact that "liberals" do not want us to own guns, a big car or our money?

If it is simply that it is a package deal, what part of the package do you disagree with? By the way, I agree with him on all his points - as we discussed earlier, I think I am becoming more Libertarian as I grow older.

Finally, my favorite dictionary defines "liberal" as (and you have to go to the 6th definition to get to it):

"6a favoring individual liberty and political and social reform."

Don't know what you think, but certainly the Democrats - today's liberals - in no way represent the first half of that definition and push the second half mostly for their own gain.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

A few examples:
- numerous states have passed medical marijuana bills, yet at the Federal level they fight against implementation
- abortion
- stem cell research

(Not to say that only Republicans or all Republicans support restrictions in these areas, but that in general I think the GOP supports restrictions in these areas. Correct me if I'm wrong. Really I don't think either party is all that enamored with 'individual liberty' when push comes to shove - i.e. in a crisis the civil liberties are quick to come under attack.)

Please don't assume that I agree with Stossel on all his points. Just to pick something, I think that 'hate speech' or 'sexist speech' laws are bad ideas. I think people can say what they want, and if it is truly repugnant, those who find it so should use their own voices to say why. On the other hand, I don't have much argument with the FDA.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

Couldn't resist pointing out something else...

Stossel writes: "If low-income parents were allowed $11,000 vouchers (that's about how much government spends per student), that would give poor parents a choice. But liberals don't want that."

I'm not saying he's incorrect, but isn't this the suggestion of a massive income redistribution scheme to provide 'school choice' to low-income people? Is that what the libertarian Stossel is actually proposing as a good policy?

I think there is widespread acknowledgement on both sides of the political spectrum that on average our schools are not what we'd like them to be, but it's a complicated situation to change. I doubt if many Republicans will be lining up for Stossel's voucher plan either.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Your second comment first:

The money has already been redistributed! The government takes money from all of us - you and I don't have any kids in school! - and redistributes it to the Teachers Unions - oh yeah, through the schools that are supposed to educate our kids.

So Stossel is not proposing redistribution - but redirection of the government funds for the good of the society - and I think you would agree we would all like to do some of that (like the $500 dollar toilet seats we always hear about).

As a Libertarian, I am sure he would like to stop government intervention in the education system, but the toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube so he must work within the current structure.

And I think you are wrong on Republicans and the voucher plan he mentions - I think there would be almost 100% support from the Republicans and even some from the Democrats (those not dependent on teachers union votes).

It is not a "complicated situation to change". Think about it. $11,000 per student. Since we hear our teachers are so overloaded with students if you assume an average student load of 30, that means each teacher has $330,000 to teach those 30 students for 9 months. By the way, it is $15000 plus in Washington D.C. - $450,000.

Let's pay the teacher $100,000. Let' depreciate each childs equipment (schoolroom furniture and common school infrastructure) at $1000 per year ($30,000). Let's support each child with $1000of supplies -books, pens, paper, etc ($30,000). Let's pay rent for the schoolroom (900 square feet @ $24/foot per year - $21,600).

And let's throw in another $18,400 for things we have forgotten. I think all those numbers are generous.

Of the $330,000, that consumes $200,000, leaving $130,000 - or 40%for what? THE WASTE AND ADDITIONAL BUREACRACY WHICH GOVERNMENT ALWAYS BRINGS! I would suggest our medical costs are excessive for the same reason.

Would you on a personal level be willing to teach 30 kids for 9 months if I would give you a check for $330,000 (or better yet $450,000) and you go into the free market and see they get educated? I think you would!

Enough for now.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Debbie Thomas said...

Why are these always the examples?

A few examples:
- numerous states have passed medical marijuana bills, yet at the Federal level they fight against implementation

ILLEGAL DRUGS -- which often have a negative effect on society, families and individuals.

- abortion


- stem cell research


Abortion is wrong no matter what political party, religion, non-religion, etc. that you belong to. It's anti-human.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Curt said...

To take on one aspect of Deb's comments:

Illegal drugs - yes, there are certain negative effects. There are also negative effects of alcohol, which is legal (but restricted). People have voted to say they want certain currently illegal drugs to be 'more legal' in certain circumstances. Why should people not have that choice?

Again, my point is simply that both political parties have certain things where they don't believe people should have a choice. They may have very good reasons for their position, or they may not. I simply think it's very easy for people to decide that they are 'right' and those who disagree are 'wrong' and if they get political power they will often try to force their 'right' position on everyone.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I think you pushed Deb's button!!!

Let me make my comments on your examples.

When we talk about limiting peoples choices it is about "legal" choices. Laws obviously limit choices. There are Federal laws against marijuana, so I would say Republicans do not let the state laws stand because they are upholding Federal law, not that they "want" to limit peoples choices. States should work to change the Federal laws.

Abortion, again, I would not consider the Republican beliefs driven by not wanting people to chose. Remember, abortion was illegal until Roe v Wade, and there is still a question as to whether that decision should have been made. It has been legal since then, and I do not think the Republicans (save perhaps some fringe groups) do anything to stop access to abortion.

Stem cell research has nothing to do with letting people chose, only about federal dollars being used to support the research. And the motivation on the Republican is not limiting choice, but is related to the abortion issue and when does life begin.

So I see the three examples as legal issues, not limiting choices.

As opposed to: "Employee Free Choice Act" is motivated ONLY by taking the secret ballot away from workers to limit their free choice.

Being opposed to vouchers is limiting peoples choice, whatever you think about the issue.

Business's certainly have choices taken away from them by government, primarily by liberals.

"The Fairness Doctrine" is only to limit radio listeners choices - you can still turn off the radio, I believe.

Do you see the difference?

12:41 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

On the school vouchers:

Yes, certainly a lot of redistribution happens today; everyone pays taxes, those taxes are used to run a public school system.

But let's say we now simply redistribute the total pool of money in equal shares, and give vouchers, and let each parent decide what to do. For higher income folks, this is a nice tax rebate, and they can take that money, add some of their own if they wish, and send their kids to a nice school. The lower income folks will have to make due on their voucher.

Since many private schools cost more than that $11,000, they are still not accessible to the low-income people, so really they don't have a whole lot of extra choice. But they do end up at a public school that now has less funding than ever. Now maybe some fantastic education entrepreneurs will create great alternative options; but it will take some time to scale up, etc. But as always in new markets, many new entrants will fail... and what kind of results will this create for our kids?

Let's also think about some possible unintended consequences: with all this extra available education money flying around, would we see drastic inflation in costs at many private schools? Would there be common rules about admissions and so forth? What about special ed kids? Should there be any regulation at all on private schools?

Look, I'm not against local experiments in this area, and we'll learn a lot about how it actually plays out. But I do think that both education and medicine are areas that are more complex than buying widgets - you can't simply write a check and get great education or great health...

12:57 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

"...you can't simply write a check and get great education or great health..."

That is exactly what the government does in both areas, and you are absolutely right: it does not work.

Maybe vouchers would!

1:04 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

To Jim's points:

Yes, I see some distinction that you're making, and to be honest, I do think that the Democratic Party position does tend to believe that limiting choice on certain things is a good idea (that certain choices should not be allowed to promote the 'common good'). But they're not the only ones...

Here's something from the 2008 Republican Party platform:

"Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support the law prohibiting gambling over the Internet."
from: http://www.gop.com/2008Platform/Crime.htm

Now I happen to think that gambling over the internet is one of the more idiotic things you can do, and I'm not in disagreement with prohibiting it. But it is a restriction of choice, and there are people out there who really think it should be allowed, and see this as an infringement of their choice.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Re your first paragraph: I agree with your comment on the Democratic Party but would assign different motivation. That is, either pandering to their base or raising money to grow government (whoever is in power!). Check out Stossels list and see if you agree. But I am very cynical!

Your example from the Republicans is a better one, but they are not doing this for their own good; in fact, it is probably a detriment to the party because gambling money will not come their way - instead it will go to the Dems who I doubt want to repeal this. And the government will certainly not increase income. Gambling is another complex subject which we could discuss in detail at another time!

I will use you first paragraph reasoning to justify their infringement: "common good".

3:08 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

Well, I'm pretty cynical too, but I try to be 'equal opportunity cynical'... and as your post on the George Will article pointed out, the Republicans have provided some ammunition for cynicism too.

I believe each party has a somewhat different view of what the 'common good' is, and that leads to different types of policy choices. It also leads both of them to want to restrict peoples' choice in certain areas.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Let's both stay cynical in the current environment and keep discussing what happens over the next 4 years. It should be interesting.

By the way, Happy Birthday! I think I was told it was Friday (sorry to say I don't keep very good track of such things), couldn't even tell you how old you are!

8:34 AM  

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