Monday, January 26, 2004

The Altruism Nexus
Michael Marriott

The advent of the presidential race serves to remind us of the true nature of major American political parties. Democrats push an agenda that is best summarized as collectivist/altruistic. Republicans, as demonstrated in President Bush’s State of the Union address, are at root mystic/altruistic. The nexus between the two parties is altruism, which means that both subscribe to the idea of self-sacrifice as our highest moral duty. Given this common ethic it is hardly surprising that both parties compete to see who can take more from the productive to give to those less so. For those of us who rely on reason to guide our lives, 2004 promises to be a depressing year.

Democrats are never so happy as when they advocate massive wealth transfer programs. A quick survey of the current democrat field confirms this. John Kerry drones about how he would tax the “wealthy”. Howard Dean dislikes the notion of tax cuts for anyone. John Edwards has developed a John Grisham-like theme of dividing America into two unequal parts: the sinister, privileged few versus the mass of passive, poor yokels. That Joe Lieberman is less strident in his altruism does not mean he is any less a believer. Wesley (Wes) Clark is horrified that some folks walk the earth without health insurance. Dennis Kuscinich and Al Sharpton are more true to the altruistic creed. They are unabashed in their desire to steal from the “rich” to create universal health care, “free” college tuition programs and whatever else their whims dictate. All these candidates want to use all or some of the Bush tax cut to fund some particular government program. The difference between them is a matter of degree, i.e., how much each would spend on their favorite program.

For years Democrats have pushed the notion that America is a collection of special interest groups. Indeed, they have created such groups through law. Labor unions, environmentalists, minorities, women and the poor spring to mind. Democrats adore collectivism, especially when the groups they create can be used to garner votes. Like certain insects and plants, a symbiotic relationship has developed allowing both Democrats and the various collectives to survive by feeding from each other. This is why a Democrat candidate as Dick Gephardt bonds with labor unions. To a Democrat, the individual is only important insofar as that person belongs to group dependent in some way on the government. The logical extension of this idea is not difficult to envision. Welcome to soviet America.

President Bush and congressional republicans are no less dedicated to wealth transfer as a principle of public policy. The term compassionate conservative is nothing more than an euphemism for intellectual adherence to altruism. A party that passes AIDS subsidies to Africa, increases medical subsidies to the elderly and prattles endlessly about duty to our neighbor hardly qualifies as a party of rugged individualism. Bush seems to have ignored a basic contradiction: if one cuts taxes, one needs to cut non-military spending as well. Altruism however forbids this. Wealth must be shuffled regardless of economic laws.

Regarding foreign affairs, the Bush administration has waged altruistic warfare. In Afghanistan, the goal of destroying Al-Queda took backseat to dropping MREs from the sky, avoiding civilian targets and allowing Bin-Laden to escape. Iraq demonstrates another selfless pursuit. Despite our overwhelming military force, we abstained from destroying targets that might offend Iraqi sensibilities (e.g., mosques) even though we risked our troops’ lives in the process. This policy undoubtedly allowed Saddam’s supporters to melt away into the populace to fight another day. Perhaps the biggest show of Bush altruism is in the area of Iraq’s petroleum industry. Despite critic claims to the contrary, President Bush hardly fought the Iraq war for oil. Rather than use oil revenue to reimburse American taxpayers, a logical and just action, Bush has decided that only Iraqi citizens have a claim to oil pumped from Iraqi soil. Further, the United States has decided in favor of Iraqi nationalization of the oil fields based on the Saudi/Kuwaiti model. The rational self-interest of capitalism is not a tenet of modern Republicanism.

While Democrat altruism stems primarily from secular philosophies, Republican altruism comes directly from religion. Mysticism explains many other things concerning Republicans. Who else could defend a blob of unformed cells at the expense of the mother in the abortion debate? Who else can blame Islam for the 9/11 attacks and simultaneously defend religion (including Islam) in general? Who else could assert that man’s morality stems from an unprovable being rather than man’s mind? Who else would direct federal money to churches as an acceptable method of distributing alms? Mysticism has no place in policy debates since it relies on revelation, faith and intuition rather than reason.

This election presents no good choice for the rational man. Either way, our wallets are liable to be picked, our freedoms diminished and our productivity punished. Either party will give us a good dose of altruism by using the State to force us to be compassionate. At the margins, Republicans are less inclined to collectivism while the Democrats are less likely to invoke God in policy debates. The deciding factor, therefore, is the willingness of either to use force in our self-defense. In this regard the Republicans are clearly superior as they have demonstrated this willingness in practice. Democrats seem bent on making us vassals of the United Nations before we can protect our lives. Further, Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, sat content to lob a few missiles at our attackers rather than defend America vigorously. Democrats believe that being nice to and understanding of our enemies will make them nice and understanding in return. Even mystics believe that the physical world exists; Democrats, as the Clinton impeachment demonstrated, gave up on reality long ago.

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