Thursday, August 13, 2009

Democracy is Theft

At a conservative blog that shall remain nameless, a conservative commenter who insisted that "Obama absolutely wants to destroy America" suggested that "nationalized health care is theft!" Presumably, he was referring to Obama's plan, though I'm unsure what that had to do with nationalized health care.

And of course, his big complaint was that we won the election and are doing things he doesn't approve of with his money. And on the one hand, he's got a point. If I took your hard-earned money and spent it by buying a car that I sometimes let you use, you'd probably be pissed and accuse me of stealing your money. And if I had no legal claim to your money, it definitely would be theft.

But on the other hand, if we were roommates and had already agreed to pool our money together and take turns buying whatever we wanted to buy, and when it was my turn I decided to buy a car that we could both use; that wouldn't be theft. Because it was within the agreement that we had previously decided upon.

Our Democracy

And that's exactly what we have now. Our form of government is an agreement where by we appoint people to represent us to do what we think needs to be done. And we pick these representatives by voting, with the people who get the most votes becoming the representatives. And these representatives get to decide how much money is collected and what it is spent on.

And this agreement only makes sense if everyone agrees beforehand to do whatever these representatives decide, even if we don't agree with their decision. I mean, it wouldn't be fair if I agreed to help pay for the video games and pay-per-view wrestling that you chose to buy if you refused to help buy the car that I chose to buy.

But hey, maybe you really hate cars or don't have the money or simply think I'm insane for buying a car. That's cool. This isn't a death pact. You can either break the agreement or you leave the apartment. And to move this back into our real world situation, you either break the agreement or you leave the country. Those are the only two options.

Settling Disputes in Our Democracy

And of course, it would be pointless to have such an agreement unless it was enforceable, so it's part of the agreement that anyone who breaks the agreement can be severely punished. And anyone who seriously attempts to permanently end the agreement can be put to death. And again, this is all in the agreement. And if you choose not to follow the agreement, yet don't want to face punishment, you have only one option: Leave. Unless you get caught breaking the agreement, it's never too late to leave and no one will stop you.

And that's what we're talking about. There is no "theft" here. This is the agreement which we all agreed to by living in this country and the only way out of the agreement without facing punishment is to leave the country. Or, we can break the agreement and be punished in accordance with the agreed upon rules. Or, we can just wait until it's time to elect new representatives and hope that more people agree with us this time.

And that's it. Those are the options and you already agreed to them. And there's no special clause in the agreement that says that "real" Americans get special privileges or have veto power if their representatives don't win. We're all equals in this and need to play by the same rules. No one is exempt. And again, if you don't like it, you leave. That was my option when I was forced to pay for a war I disagreed with, and that's my option now.

This is our democracy. This is how it works. And anyone who thinks what Obama is doing is "theft," clearly doesn't support our democracy. I guess Obama isn't the only one who wants to destroy America.


Mel said...

Only one problem. All too often our elected officials don't serve us. Many of us don't even bother to vote, much less pay attention so they have to stay honest.

By your logic, I would have to shut my mouth as my tax money goes to bail out Goldman Sachs (which was definitely theft, in my opinion) or leave.

Most of the truly progressive things that happened in this country happened precisely because people didn't sit back and accept what their reps wanted to do.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Mel - This isn't my logic. This is our democracy. I was merely using an analogy to explain how our system works. But this analogy is most definitely the system we're using.

Essentially, your complaint is that we can't trust the people we elect to represent us. Well, that's certainly a flaw in the system. But, that's part of the system you're agreeing to by staying here. But all the same, you are still bound by the decisions they make, even if they weren't the decisions you agreed to. Our system ensures our ability to elect representatives, but it's still our job to pick the right ones. And if your representatives don't win, you're still bound to follow the rules picked by the winners; including the bailout of Goldman Sachs.

And in no case are you required to keep your mouth shut. In fact, the terms of the agreement explicitly state that you cannot be punished for expressing your opinions. I wrote nothing to suggest that anyone should "sit back and accept" anything. And I assure you, all of the truly progressive things you're referring to were done in accordance with the agreement. Our labor laws, regulations, and safety net were all created within the terms of the agreement. They were often achieved because people pushed the boundaries of the agreement, sometimes outright violating it; and in accordance with the system, those people were generally punished for these violations.

But again, the actual reforms were made in accordance with the agreement. For you to suggest otherwise would be for you to suggest that these progressive laws violate the Constitution; a claim I doubt you'd make. And so everything you're describing fits perfectly into my analogy.

Mike Goldman said...

I'm not sure you can force someone into an agreement by virtue of their birth alone, absent some willing consent. But then, I don't believe people have an obligation to vote or pay taxes, after all if you keep your income low enough you aren't even expected to file a return.

Mel said...

I take your points. And I in no way agree with the lunatics talking about succeeding from the union or other such nonsense. But having elections (even without considering Bush election fraud and the like) is not enough.

Your analogy is two roommates. Presumably, those are two people who decided to live together. We didn’t choose to live together. Most of the rules we are subject to were not agreed to by us. None of us were around when most of them were made up. And even if I was around, I would not have been allowed to participate.

Lets say you are a 17 year old African American kid. Because of some dead guy named Harry Anslinger, marijuana is prohibited. You get caught with a ton of it. You get tried as an adult and sent to prison (on federal charges) for a very long time. You end up in a prison that puts people to work making clothing for export. You get paid .60 an hour while the prison (and govt) makes money off your labor. You’ve never had an opportunity to vote. You didn’t make up the law. The law is absurd. Prison labor steals not just from the people working in the prison, but from the people who would have those jobs if they weren’t in prison. You can’t leave. I think that’s theft.

Saying like it or leave it is cruel. The people who have usually suffered the most from law and government haven’t had the means to leave. And it would be ridiculous to tell a Native American to like it or leave it. And where are people supposed to go that is outside the scope of U.S. power exactly?

Doctor Biobrain said...

But Mel, you HAVE chosen to live here. While you were born here and had no choice about that, your parents entered you into the agreement when you were born and kept you here. Minors aren't considered savvy enough to enter into binding agreements, so their parents always do that. That's how it works here.

And once you became an adult, you could have moved. You didn't. Therefore, you agreed to everything in the agreement the moment you turned eighteen. And you continue to be bound to the agreement until you leave. And why not? You've GREATLY benefited from the agreement, so why SHOULDN'T you be bound to it? You expected conservatives to pay for your education, even though they didn't want to, so why shouldn't you pay for their wars?

As for the 17 year old, he knew what the rules were and chose to violate them anyway. While I don't agree with these rules either, I agree to the system that created the rules. And my only recourse is to elect representatives who change the rules, or leave. That's it.

As for this being "cruel," that's not the fault of the system or my analogy. That's the fault of the people who made the rules. The system is only as fair as the representatives we elect. And let's remember some of the alternatives: Monarchy, dictatorship, theocracy; all of which bind you to the rules, but don't bind your leaders and give you no control over the rules. By comparison, are system is EXTREMELY fair.

As for Native Americans, I fail to see how they have any special claims to the land. Every piece of land has had an "original" native who saw it first and it's impossible to identity them. Do the "original" Britons have special claims to England? I don't think so. And of course, who is to say which tribe "originally" owned which area? All we know is how things were once we arrived. But there were thousands of years of history before that. We don't know who the "original" owners of this land is. It's quite possible that the tribes which first roamed America were killed off by later tribes.

Like it or not, the rules are whatever you can have enforced. Might DOES make right, unless you agree to a better system and are able to enforce your claims to the agreement. The Native Americans lost and have now been incorporated into our rules, and that's how it works. Similarly, before Europeans conquered this land, Native Americans engaged in warfare, conquered one another, and enslaved them. The winners forced their rules on the losers, just as we did. The Mayans, for example, are known for this sort of thing and I'm quite sure they destroyed other tribes. I fail to see why the rules are any different when Europeans did the same thing.

So yes, I believe that if a Native American doesn't like the system we have, he should also leave. I find nothing ridiculous about that. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that we ALL have some "original" claim to some piece of land and need to just find where our land is. That's the far more ridiculous argument. Everyone alive descends from someone who has lost land by aggression.

Mike Goldman said...

Leave and go where?

By what permission, and with what rights?

Doctor Biobrain said...

Leave and go where?

I don't know. Whatever fantasy country allows people to be their own personal dictator, I suppose. Where your tax dollars only go towards government services you want provided and you don't have to pay for things you don't support.

I'm not sure any country like that exists, but it certainly doesn't exist here. We live in a country where we agree to follow the rules, and that means paying for stupid stuff we don't support. Again, if we expect them to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs, then we have to pay for their wars and corporate welfare. Those are the rules.

And I can't imagine how we could have a system that works any differently than that. Seriously, I'm entirely unclear as to what you think the alternative is. If you can rebel and change our system, go for it. That's your right as a human. But be aware that the system is designed to protect itself, including use of the death penalty. And that's a system I support. I don't want the South seceding any more than I want Massachusetts to break off. And even then, every system of government will require you to pay for things you don't like and I fail to see what the alternative is. Governments with voluntary taxation will most definitely fail.

Of course, I should make clear that things like illegal wiretaps are still illegal and the system should have punished that. But again, the system is only as good as the people running it, so this is no fault of the system. We just need better representatives.

Mike Goldman said...

Once again, as I said above, we have a voluntary taxation system in this country, and you are free to keep your income low enough that you are not expected to file any kind of return.

But somehow, you sound exactly like the Republicans when George Bush was in the oval office. If you don't like it, leave.

Fuck that noise, dude. We have the right to peacefully refuse to obey, to not support injustice, to deny legitimacy.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Mike - That's not a voluntary system you're describing. It's a mandatory system which has an exemption for low income people. I'm honestly astounded that you could believe that such a claim possibly had any legitimacy. By your reasoning, the use of handicapped parking spots are "voluntary" because anyone can park there if they cut off their legs and get a permit. If it's the government granting you an exemption, then it's not voluntary. That's like saying our laws are voluntary, because if you choose to follow them, you won't be punished. Again, that doesn't describe a voluntary system.

And let's not forget that federal taxes are built into everything you buy. You can't get away from them. Every purchase you make sends more money to Uncle Sam; assuming the item you bought was sold for a profit.

And no, you don't have the right to break the law, peacefully or otherwise. If you break the law, you can be punished. That's how it works. You know that. So I don't know what you're talking about. Even Rosa Parks got arrested.

And the reason the Bushies who told us to leave were wrong was because they wanted us to leave because we disagreed with them. And that's not what I'm talking about at all. As I've aaid repeatedly, our agreement with the government allows us to state our opinions publicly and the government can't punish us for it. We have the right to peacefully disagree, we just don't have the right to break the law.

And if you don't like the laws and don't want to be arrested, you leave. That's how you get out of the agreement. I fail to understand the alternative. Look, I'm not trying to tell anyone to leave. I'm just explaining how our system works.

Mike Goldman said...

Bzzt. Wrong.

I use cannabis. I do so legally under California law, but the federal government does not respect my right to do so. Nonetheless, it is my religious practice as well as medicine recommended by my doctor. When I am not in California, I say blessings and use cannabis anyhow.

I have the right to do so no matter what the government says, and they would be foolish to interfere.

Mike said...

So, praytell, what if the majority determines that people who call themselves "Dr. Biobrain" are illegal, and should at the least be sterilized, or better yet executed.

Both have happened to groups at least, in "democracies"....

You are granting support to evil, and what's worse I think you know it. I only hope karma exists.

For shame.

Doctor Biobrain said...

So, praytell, what if the majority determines that people who call themselves "Dr. Biobrain" are illegal, and should at the least be sterilized, or better yet executed.

Oh please Mike, explain to me your system of government which would prevent that from happening? I can't imagine what it could possibly be. And if it's anarchy (or "near anarchy") it needs to have a method which also prevents individuals from sterilizing and/or executing other individuals. Our current system punishes such activities, so your system would need to be able to do the same.

As for our "democracy," we have a system of checks & balances which says that one group of electors writes the laws, another group enforces the laws, and a third group determines if these laws are allowed as well as if they're being enforced properly. And yes, sometimes these aren't good enough and the democracy does bad things. But again, what possible system could prevent that from happening? Anarchy can't prevent evil.