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A response

Okay, so Ryan posted his reasons for not agreeing with Bush, and since I think we’re both arguing from the same foundation (that of a Judeo-Christian morality), I figured I could address his issues, and maybe get a good discussion out of this, as well as some clarity.

For those who still contend that morality has no place in politics, the questions still stand.

But let’s get to it:

1. "Bush gives tax breaks to the wealthy and the corporate while increasing taxes and cutting programs for the poor and the weak."

This one SOUNDS like a good argument, but when you critically examine it, I feel that it comes up short.

Right now, ~95% of the current tax revenue comes from the top 2% of earners in the country. That means that any even handed and fair tax break will give millions more to them than to others.

Let’s just do the simple math:

Bob RichieFancyPants is making 2 million dollars a year, is married, and has no children. Let’s say, for the sake of the discussion, that his current tax liability is around 50%. That means he owes one million dollars in taxes every year.

Joseph HoboHasNoPants earns $30,000 dollars a year, and for the sake of discussion, say that his tax liability is 25%, which means that he owes $7,500 dollars.

So let’s say that Bush cuts everyones taxes by 10%.

So now, Bob RichieFancyPants now has an extra $200,000 floating around in his pocket, while Joseph HoboHasNoPants has an extra $3,000 in his bank account.

So, yes, Bush just gave a fat tax credit to the rich. But is it immoral or unfair?
I don’t think so, and here’s why:

One, is that it was a completely even tax break. Two is that taxing someone harder because they make more money is just as unfair and immoral as taxing someone harder because they make less.

However, there are many moral benefits to giving this money back to the person who earned it in the first place:
Bob RichieFancyPants, even if he only spends a portion of that, will most definitely put it back into the economy.

So let’s look at the options:
Give the money to someone else
Give the money to the person who earned it

Now, on a moral level, the person who earned the money has the rights to that money.
If we give it back to him, he will either spend the money on something he wants, which in turn helps everyone, or he could put it in the bank, where the bank will take the money, and use it in the economy, which again, helps everyone.

Both of these options (spending or saving) actually benefit the poor much better than a direct handout in the form of welfare, or other social programs.

Why?

Because one method gives gainful employment and work to people who might not otherwise have it, and the other does not. This is fairly easy to prove.
Bob RichieFancyPants takes his extra $200,000, and splurges on a yacht for himself and his wife. While this purchase was not a noble one, and would be considered selfish and extravagant by many, this purchase actually provides quite a few moral benefits to others.
First is the boat builder, who is now able to feed his family, provide for adequate housing, good health care, and even luxuries.

But the boat builder must get his supplies from somewhere, so he buys his materials from his different suppliers, who are now able to buy those same necessities and luxuries for their own families.

And this effect will trickle down to each of their suppliers, and spread out around through the economy.

This means there will be more jobs and more goods for the poor, who, if they so choose can take advantage of that.

The other option is to take the money from Bob RichieFancyPants, and use it to give it directly to the poor. This may seem like a good solution until you account for the middlemen who are all hired to process this money, and keep a portion for themselves.
Now, the end effect may be similar, but the problem with this scenario, and socialism in general, is that the method of money transfer in socialism does not spur new technologies, new services, new goods, new resources, etc, that it does in the capitalist system.
Instead, the money develops new ways of skimming from the top of that capital, without contribution back for that skimming.
A middle man in the capitalist scenario at least provides goods in return for his skimming. The middle men in socialism have no incentive to provide anything.

In the end, this is not a problem with Bush, and this is not a problem with tax cuts, it’s about socialism vs. capitalism.

And capitalism, when not abused (anything abused will go bad), can accomplish much more “morally absolute” good than can an equally socialist system.

Also, socialism’s basic premise violates a standard rule of morality, so inherent to the foundation of morality that it’s called the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Socialism does follow that halfway: By giving money to some people, we’re doing unto them as we’d like them to do to us.
But the second half, the taking of that money, directly violates that rule. We would not like people coming up to us, and taking that which we’ve worked for, and giving nothing back.
And as such, without the taking, there isn’t much to socialism.
Now would a morally good system, or even a morally neutral system, expressly and intentionally violate that moral law?

Two notes that I would like to attach to this admittedly simplistic explanation:
Capitalism has a bad side, and I think any system that does not keep a moral focus will go bad. People can corrupt and pollute any good or neutral thing, and make it bad.
That’s not a problem with the thing itself, but with its implementation.

Secondly, that I do think it’s fair and right for people to agree to set aside resources for the sick, poor, and those unable to provide for themselves.
However, tax cuts actually contribute to that pool of resources. By lowering income tax, people spend more freely, and let the money flow through the economy much more readily, thereby increasing tax revenues from purchases.

Why does it do that? Because when you raise the income tax, you lower motivation (and, no matter how moral you are, chances are that you’re going to work harder for your own family than for someone else’s. That’s not immoral, that’s just reality.), as well as increase the chance that people will hide their income, and stagnating the flow of money through the economy.

But when income tax is lowered, the extra money increases the flow of capital, and results in greater tax revenue from that resultant flow.

2."He sends other people’s children into war while he dodged service himself."

I can’t really speak about this, since I know he was in the air force, but didn’t see actual combat. I don’t know the reasons behind that, and I wouldn’t be able to claim that he "dodged" the service, or used his father’s position to avoid going to war.

But for the morality of this argument, we can look to another president who we know did actively dodge even being in the military, and that is Clinton.

Would I, and did I support Clinton when he sent troops to fight, and possibly die? Yes.
Why? Because he’s the President.

That may seem convenient to some, but consider this:
Did Roosevelt see any fighting in any war? Did he ever even join the military? No.
But he sent troops to die in WW2.

In fact, our Presidents have many times required and ordered people to do thing that they themselves haven’t done.

But is that morally wrong? And if it is, where do you draw that line?

The statement that a president must have done everything he ordered to be done is a moral rule that knows no precedent anywhere else, and where is the cut off?

Does George Bush have to go and fly a helicopter in Iraq before he has the moral authority to order a soldier to do so?
Must he kill and die before he has the authority to order someone else to do the same?

If so, then that same moral rule must be equally applied to every President, and every decision. He must serve jail time before he can have people arrested.

The fact is, our society entrusts every President with powers and privileges, without requiring the above rule. We ask that they make wise decisions, but we’re not stupid enough to think that wisdom can only be attained by direct experience.
If that were the case, everyone would be dead, because no one would have gained the wisdom to avoid jumping off of a cliff, or swallowing hydrochloric acid without first doing it themselves.

3. "He claims we’re fighting for freedom while authorizing imprisonment and torture."
To come to grips with this one, and this one is tough, I think we need to ask ourselves, are freedom and imprisonment and torture mutually exclusive?

Personally, I don’t think so, but I can understand if some people may feel differently.

Well, first off, imprisonment in and of itself is not mutually exclusive to a free society, any more than a toilet is mutually exclusive to a clean house.

That may seem denigrating to our "fine" men and women behind bars, but it’s not meant as an insult, but as clarification.

Imprisonment exists to quarantine those individuals who have expressed a desire to not live with the rest of society.
Sometimes imprisonment is unjust, but is it unjust to imprison a person with stated intentions to harm others? Again, that’s what imprisonment is for.

I think you’re saying that Bush has imprisoned people with no ties to Al Qaeda, and I agree that would be an injustice.

But is that a moral crime, or a moral mistake? The difference being that one requires forethought and intention, and the other is something that happens beyond our intentions.

Do you truly believe that Bush wishes to imprison every Muslim, even peaceful ones?
If you do, then I’m sorry, I don’t know where you’d get that information from, or how you got such a personal insight, but it makes no real sense.

As for torture, is it ever okay to torture people?
I would argue that it is sometimes morally necessary to torture people.
I wouldn’t say that it’s ever something that should be entered into lightly, or that it is something that should be used other than in extreme situations.
But to declare that it’s always and absolutely wrong?

The first counter argument I can anticipate would be that it violates the Golden rule, and the same could be said for imprisonment.

In fact, discipline of any sort violates the Golden rule, and so we either have a contradiction, or a mere paradox.

I posit that it’s a paradox, and here’s why:
The moral good of preserving life trumps the moral rule of do unto others. I know for folks who haven’t codified their morality into an hierarchy, it’s both convenient and confusing, but it’s not without justification.

The Bible, and Jesus himself makes reference to a moral hierarchy. Sometimes doing the greater good means breaking a lesser moral rule.

A good example of this is that in Exodus, the midwives lied to Pharaoh, and God blessed them, as well as God blessing Rahab for lying in order to save the lives of Joshua and Caleb.

Why is God, the God of truth, okay with all of this deceit? Because the moral good in both cases, saving a life, trumps telling the truth.

This, however, is not "ends justify the means" morality. It’s a very tough rope to walk, and fraught with disagreement, and that I am fine with.

But it is a moral reality that sometimes you must kill to save a life, sometimes you must lie to protect an innocent, and sometimes you may have to break someone’s arms in order to save someone.

Some people find this contradictory, but these same people are okay with allowing a murder to happen in order to keep from having to make that tough decision.

And in the end, I’d rather face God with a couple of broken arms on my conscience, rather than facing Him knowing that I let someone be murdered.
In fact, I’d rather have someone’s death on my conscience rather than knowing that I let that person kill an innocent.

BTW, that’s not bravado. I don’t fool myself into thinking that I am some hardcore superhero, but just a statement of morality.

4. "He cuts countless regulations that are meant to ensure that we’re good stewards of this planet."

I have to rely on what I said in the last section about the moral hierarchy for this one.

I do believe that we have a moral obligation to this planet, and that we are to wisely use the resources we have, and to take care of that which was given to us.

But there are many socialist policies that are in fact opposite to being good stewards. For instance, allowing private enterprises to own sections of forest, and allowing them to cultivate it and profit from it actually increases forest growth.
The same for fishing, farming, raising cattle, etc. And yet socialist policies hamper that growth.

But that wasn’t your point, so I’ll try to clarify:
Man’s moral obligation to be good stewards of the earth should drive us to be efficient as possible, to care for the other creatures roaming the earth, and to in general take care of the planet.
However, man first has a moral obligation to man. If taking care of the earth is ever in direct conflict with taking care of man, then taking care of man has the moral priority.

To illustrate, if a society cannot feed itself, it cannot take care of the planet. Being good stewards of the earth first requires us to be good stewards of ourselves, otherwise, there will be no people to be stewards of the earth.

Some wacko extremists are okay with that happening, but if someone believes that, they’re a scientific and moral fool.

Let me point out though that mankind making an impact on the earth is not bad stewardship. For instance, when we level a forest to build houses, or we break up a mountain to retrieve valuable resources, we’re not doing anything inherently bad, anymore than a beaver who chews down trees to make a dam. They’re interacting with their environment, and we’re interacting with ours.

Now, all such decisions must be made in the context of wisdom, and good decisions overall.

If Bush passes a regulation that restricts environmental controls, but makes business prosper, and thereby allows the opportunity for a new, cleaner technology to come of it, then is that morally wrong?

Or, forget the new technology. If he passes a law that removes environmental regulations, and it kills 2 million fish, but now 1,000 humans are able to eat, is that wrong?
Or let’s look at it more realistically:
The environmental regulation saves 2 million fish per year, and stifles jobs in one industry, but another industry benefits, and 100 people are able to have gainful employment.
Is it better to have 2 million fish dead and 1000 people eating, or 900 people starving, and 2 million fish alive?

I don’t think it’s even as easy as that. But sometimes, in the face of multiple possibilities, you have to make a choice, and you have to make a choice that will benefit the greater good of people, not only in the short term, but in the long term as well.

Okay, that concludes my sleep inducing responses.

Ryan, feel free to respond here, or via email, or not at all, if you so choose.

I just thought it’d be fun to discuss this with someone who agrees to the playing field (morality in government), and who believes in opposite ways of achieving the moral good.

1 comment to “A response”

  1. Ryan Miglavs
    01

    Your response gives me no choice but to return in kind; my second will notify you when I have posted on my blog to defend my honor.

    [ryan]

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