In general there are two types of critics of the social insurance state. One type--Milton Friedman, say--claims that the social insurance state is bad policy because its benefits misalign incentives and the reduction in the size of the pie outweighs whatever distributional benefits are attained. A second type--the Robert Nozicks, the Ayn Rands, the Robert Borks--say that the social insurance state is immoral because its benefits are theft by parasites and loafers.Too often the religious moralizers are shown to be a Jimmy Swaggarts or Jim Bakker or Ted Haggart. I got a chuckle that Karl Marx was a mooch his whole life, a sex maniac, a Jewish anti-semite, and loved to keep the airs of the bourgeoisie while claiming to be a friend of the working man. Hypocrites! All of them were hypocrites. And Brad DeLong points out that big shot libertarians were hypocrites as well.
That is why it is noteworthy when Robert Bork files a tort lawsuit of a type he has denounced against the Yale Club of New York, why it is noteworthy when Robert Nozick uses the Cambridge Rent Control Board to extort money from Eric Segal, and when Ayn Rand accepts Medicare because otherwise her lung cancer surgeries would bankrupt her.
Joshua HollandAyn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them: Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well. Her books provided wide-ranging parables of "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor).... Her ideas about government intervention in some idealized pristine marketplace serve as the basis for so much of the conservative rhetoric we see today. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” said Paul Ryan, the GOP's young budget star at a D.C. event honoring the author. On another occasion, he proclaimed, “Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” “Morally and economically,” wrote Rand in a 1972 newsletter, “the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull.”...
Rand... believed that the scientific consensus on the dangers of tobacco was a hoax. By 1974, the two-pack-a-day smoker, then 69, required surgery for lung cancer. And it was at that moment of vulnerability that she succumbed to the lure of collectivism. Evva Joan Pryor... interviewed in 1998 by Scott McConnell, who was then the director of communications for the Ayn Rand Institute.... “She was coming to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn’t like, which was Medicare and Social Security,” Pryor told McConnell. “I remember telling her that this was going to be difficult. For me to do my job she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory. So that started our political discussions. From there on – with gusto – we argued all the time. The initial argument was on greed,” Pryor continued. “She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world. Doctors could cost an awful lot more money than books earn, and she could be totally wiped out by medical bills if she didn’t watch it. Since she had worked her entire life, and had paid into Social Security, she had a right to it. She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”...
[A]t least she put up a fight before succumbing to the imperatives of the real world – one in which people get sick, and old, and many who are perfectly decent and hardworking don't end up being independently wealthy....
A central rule of the U.S. political economy is that people are attracted to the idea of “limited government” in the abstract—and certainly don’t want the government intruding in their homes—but they really, really like living in a society with adequately funded public services.
That's just as true for an icon of modern conservatism as it is for a poor mother getting public health care for her kids.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Brad DeLong Takes Down the Hypocrisy of (Some) Libertarians
I was very much amused as I read this post by Brad DeLong. It matches my picture of the hypocrisy of many who would "preach" at us, especially the nutcase libertarians: