Sunday, July 8, 2012

John Rawls vs Ronald Reagan and the Founding Fathers

In one of his most well known speeches "A Time for Choosing", Ronald Reagan said the following: (text)
But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government" -- this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.

This is the problem with wealth redistributors. They claim that they don't represent tyranny, they only want to secure man's economic certainty through redistribution, the "end of economic man".(Road to Serfdom, page 210) Yet in their books and speeches where they believe nobody is looking, they put pen to paper that give proof to his words. In "A Theory of Justice", John Rawls writes the following: (page 211)

It is reasonable to assume that even in a well-ordered society the coercive powers of government are to some degree necessary for the stability of social cooperation. For although men know that they share a common sense of justice and that each wants to adhere to the existing arrangements, they may nevertheless lack full confidence in one another. They may suspect that some are not doing their part, and so they may be tempted not to do theirs. The general awareness of these temptations may eventually cause the scheme to break down. The suspicion that others are not honoring their duties and obligations is increased by the fact that, in the absence of the authoritative interpretation and enforcement of the rules, it is particularly easy to find excuses for breaking them. Thus even under reasonably ideal conditions, it is hard to imagine, for example, a successful income tax scheme on a voluntary basis. Such an arrangement is unstable. The role of an authorized public interpretation of rules supported by collective sanctions is precisely to overcome this instability. By enforcing a public system of penalties government removes the grounds for thinking that others are not complying with the rules. For this reason alone, a coercive sovereign is presumably always necessary, even though in a well-ordered society sanctions are not severe and may never need to be imposed. Rather, the existence of effective penal machinery serves as men’s security to one another. This proposition and the reasoning behind it we may think of as Hobbes’s thesis 24 (§42).

So here we establish several things. First, John Rawls is without a doubt a formulator of some scheme of a centrally planned state, a "well ordered society". Second, this language of 'a coercive sovereign' comes right out of Hobbes' blueprint for tyranny, Leviathan.(far too few people IMO look at Leviathan as such a blueprint) But most importantly, we see the propagandizing angle of Rawlsianism(fear of the sovereign) as well as verification that Reagan was right all along. When government sets out to control things(distribution of property) it must set out to control people, and as we've been told, "the coercive powers of government are to some degree necessary".

He again uses this same language a few chapters later:(page 238)

Here the aim is to assure the cooperating parties that the common agreement is being carried out. Each person’s willingness to contribute is contingent upon the contribution of the others. Therefore to maintain public confidence in the scheme that is superior from everyone’s point of view, or better anyway than the situation that would obtain in its absence, some device for administering fines and penalties must be established. It is here that the mere existence of an effective sovereign, or even the general belief in his efficacy, has a crucial role.

Again with the scheming on how best to spend the public's money, and a coercive sovereign to keep the serfs in line. Page 236:

First of all, there is the free-rider problem.5 Where the public is large and includes many individuals, there is a temptation for each person to try to avoid doing his share. This is because whatever one man does his action will not significantly affect the amount produced. He regards the collective action of others as already given one way or the other. If the public good is produced his enjoyment of it is not decreased by his not making a contribution. If it is not produced his action would not have changed the situation anyway. A citizen receives the same protection from foreign invasion regardless of whether he has paid his taxes. Therefore in the polar case trade and voluntary agreements cannot be expected to develop. It follows that arranging for and financing public goods must be taken over by the state and some binding rule requiring payment must be enforced. Even if all citizens were willing to pay their share, they would presumably do so only when they are assured that others will pay theirs as well. Thus once citizens have agreed to act collectively and not as isolated individuals taking the actions of the others as given, there is still the task of tying down the agreement.

A little bit of socialism never hurt anybody. That whole 5th amendment thing, where the people are protected from arbritrary searches and seizures is outmoded. And in order to make all of this work, constitutional government will need to be fundamentally transformed. Page 244: (different link)

The allocation branch is also charged with identifying and correcting, say by suitable taxes and subsidies and by changes in the definition of property rights, the more obvious departures from efficiency caused by the failure of prices to measure accurately social benefits and costs. To this end suitable taxes and subsidies may be used, or the scope and definition of property rights may be revised. The stabilization branch, on the other hand, strives to bring about reasonably full employment in the sense that those who want work can find it and the free choice of occupation and the deployment of finance are supported by strong effective demand. These two branches together are to maintain the efficiency of the market economy generally.

The social minimum is the responsibility of the transfer branch

On the next page, the distribution branch is a real winner too:

The second part of the distribution branch is a scheme of taxation to raise the revenues that justice requires. Social resources must be released to the government so that it can provide for the public goods and make the transfer payments necessary to satisfy the difference principle.

This is what a pure economic dictatorship looks like, at least on paper. Your property is merely a dispensation of government. As I noted not long ago, Rawls is not generally in favor of socialism, and throughout the book is quite favorable to markets and market economies. If anything, these contradictions go only to show how right Hayek is in his discourse in Road to Serfdom about how economic dictatorships are still dictatorships and IIRC, end up moving toward total dictatorship anyways due to all the contradictions.

Economic liberty is political liberty. When one is successfully eliminated, the other isn't far behind. Our Founders knew this very well. Economic tyranny tries to cloak itself in stability and security via redistribution, but we know what Benjamin Franklin says about this. Wealth redistribution is what tyrants do, and "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither".

Ironically, Rawls states in chapter 1 that he isn't setting out to describe a particular form of government, yet as the above demonstrates that's exactly what he does. He also describes the ideal legislator: (page 455)

The best that the ideal legislator can do is to design social arrangements so that from self- or group-interested motives citizens are persuaded to act in ways that maximize the sum of well-being.

This is more along the lines of what I was taught about Rawls in my classes. Social justice and the necessity of it. Wealth redistribution. Just as Rawls relies upon Jean Jacques Rousseau and Hobbes without regard for the fact that these two men espoused tyrannical ideals in their writings, so too did my classes gloss over these facts. Which is why I have brought it up. You're gonna need to discuss with your college age kids why Rawls is a problematic "philosopher" for any number of reasons, and here's the page numbers and words so you can(if at a minimum start to) do it effectively.

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