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Sharing Toys

[Thursday morning bump]

What a stupid analogy Obama made today.

The McCain campaign's response should be, "No, Senator. If you shared your toys and sandwich in kindergarten, we'd call you generous and selfless. If you forced another child to share his toys, that would make you a communist."

[Update on Thursday morning]

John Hood elaborates: this passage Obama revealed precisely why he is vulnerable to such charges: he can't seem to tell the difference between a gift and a theft. There is nothing remotely socialistic or communistic about sharing. If you have a toy that someone else wants, you have three choices in a free society. You can offer to trade it for something you value that is owned by the other. You can give the toy freely, as a sign of friendship or compassion. Or you can choose to do neither.

Collectivism in all its forms is about taking away your choice. Whether you wish to or not, the government compels you to surrender the toy, which it then redistributes to someone that government officials deem to be a more worthy owner. It won't even be someone you could ever know, in most cases. That's what makes the political philosophy unjust (by stripping you of control over yourself and the fruits of your labor) as well as counterproductive (by failing to give the recipient sufficient incentive to learn and work hard so he can earn his own toys in the future).

Government is not charity. It is not persuasion, or cooperation, or sharing. Government is a fist, a shove, a gun. Obama either doesn't understand this, or doesn't want voters to understand it.

I think he does understand it. He just hopes that we don't, at least long enough to put him in power.


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Tom wrote:

It seems you are clueless. The point Obama was making was that McCain would say things that aren't true (what is called a lie) no matter how innocent and selfish. Calling the small changes in taxes as 'socialist' even after McCain himself supported the exact same thing just a few years ago is being dishonest.

Jim wrote:

I can only hope the McCain campaign takes Rand's advice, and dives into the question of whether Obama was a 5 year old communist.

The Clinton campaign took similar bait in the primaries, bringing up an Obama elementary school essay -- they looked petty, mean-spirited, and worst of all ridiculous.

Rand Simberg wrote:

I can only hope the McCain campaign takes Rand's advice, and dives into the question of whether Obama was a 5 year old communist.

They don't have to "dive into it." The Obama campaign stupidly invited it by going there first themselves.

Obama Derangement Syndrome wrote:
Allan wrote:

Excuse me? Making others share their toys is communist?

That is EXACTLY what kindergarten teachers do. Sharing is encouraged. It promotes social activities. So, kindergarten teachers are communists.

And parents encourage their children to share. Have you ever been in a park where a parent has not encouraged, nay forced, their child not to share. Parents are communists, too.

What is frowned upon is hording your toys. What is frowned upon is bragging that you have more toys. What is frowned upon is taking toys from your peers. Hmmm. In kindergarten they don't like Republicans. It seems.

pst314 wrote:

More precisely, not "If you forced another child to share his toys" but rather "If you forced another child to give away his toys".

Eric Weder wrote:

[QUOTE]Allan wrote:
Excuse me? Making others share their toys is communist?

That is EXACTLY what kindergarten teachers do.

If you read "Liberal Fascism" I think Goldberg makes this exact point. The socialists developed kindergarten as a means of "socializing" the children.

[BOLD] Ban Kindergarten!! [/BOLD]

Jim wrote:

Yes, the Obama campaign has invited McCain to talk about kindergartners and toys. So it would be perfectly legitimate for the McCain camp to respond as Rand has suggested. It would also be entirely self-defeating. Do you really think this is an argument that will do anything but make McCain look silly?

The point isn't whether it's an accurate analogy. The original socialism charge is entirely inaccurate -- each candidate, and indeed the entire U.S. political mainstream, supports tax rates and spending programs that redistribute wealth. What are McCain's health care tax credit, or mortgage buyout proposal, if not examples of taking huge amounts of money from some citizens and giving it to others whom McCain considers more needy?

So the original charge is silly, and rather than dignifying it with a serious response Obama makes it into a joke. If McCain starts nit-picking about the accuracy of the joke he's already lost the argument.

PeterH wrote:

The evil of socialism is not in the collective nature, but in the coercive nature. It is coercion we are referring to when we call Obama socialist, and his kindergarten comment completely missed that.

While McCain is more left leaning than those of us of the libertarian or conservative persuasion would like, his proposals remain far less coercive than Obama's.

I share of my means, that's charity.
Someone else picks my picket for the same purpose, that's theft.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Sharing means that the individual retains outright ownership of the resource. So, if the owner lends a resource they are entitled to eventually get it back or be re-compensated in some way. If someone tries to ask for something they lent out to be returned to them and they are denied/ignored then it becomes theft and thuggery.

For those that have a hard time understanding this they should visit a local library -- you know the place where they keep books. Check a book out and then refuse to return it. I'm certain the librarians will succumb to one's logic that it is okay to keep the book since they already have so many to begin with.

II wrote:

George Will on McCain's socialism among a variety of other insults:

McCain-Palin - Fools come in pairs! It took one to find the other!

clazy wrote:

"Excuse me? Making others share their toys is communist? That is EXACTLY what kindergarten teachers do. Sharing is encouraged. It promotes social activities. So, kindergarten teachers are communists."

Yes, government knows best, and the rest of us are children who apparently never grow up.

Robert Horning wrote:

In response to Jim and his suggestion that "each candidate, and indeed the entire U.S. political mainstream, supports tax rates and spending programs that redistribute wealth."

Hardly. Google the concept of flat tax/fair tax some time and you will discover a major political movement that is indeed in the "political mainstream" that actually wants to abolish the entire Internal Revenue Code and disband the IRS. I'm not talking a few lunatic fringe 3rd party candidates but several congressmen and senators who support this concept and actual legislation that has been written up and has co-sponsors.

I'll have to agree that McCain isn't one of those supporters for the abolition of the IRS, but then again there are several Republicans who can barely stand the fact that McCain is even the nominee. The only reason conservative Republicans are even going to vote for McCain is to support Palin and to oppose Obama, who they see as worse than even a McCain presidency.

Obama and his supporters are angry about the label "socialist" mainly because it is a deal killer with the American people if he aggressively took on this label and made it his own. Americans really don't like socialism, but they can stomach some socialist programs every now and again.

BTW Rand, your commentary here is spot on, and I would accuse a Kindergarten teacher of being a communist if they forced kids to share their toys with one another. It took me decades to unlearn some of the socialist teachings of my kindergarten teachers and realize just how bleeding liberal they really were. Oh, they cared about the kids, and I had fun in class which I guess is the good thing about the whole experience. But my kindergarten teacher was a communist as she did force me and other kids to share their own toys and things they brought from home. I also get mad at some of the teachers of my own kids who try to pull the same thing, but at least I can teach them about capitalism at home.

Pro Libertate wrote:

I'm all for generosity and caring about your fellow man. What I'm not for is having my money taken from me by people who will spend it less effectively than I, with political motivations and goals that I find distasteful.

Whatever one wants to say about the candidates, only Obama has talked openly about redistributing wealth. As bad as McCain is, this type of mentality, paired with a Democratic Congress, is dangerous. If he wins, I don;t expect Obama to declare a socialist state, but I do expect some New Deal/Great Society-type activity. Of course, both parties have the bibertarian impulse these days.

Carl Pham wrote:

each candidate, and indeed the entire U.S. political mainstream, supports tax rates and spending programs that redistribute wealth.

Yes and no, Jim. The key question is: for what purpose? The US political mainstream does indeed support redistributing wealth from, say, taxpayers to interstate highway construction crews, and to National Science Foundation funded research scientists, and to victims of disasters. In each category, you see, the distribution is to cure some unusual ill (a one-time act of charity in the face of disaster) or is in the nature of a public investment (roads, research) that would not ordinarily get done because of what's called the "collective action" or "you first" problem.

That is fundamentally different from the redistribution of wealth for its own sake, that is, for no other purpose than for the wealthier to subsidize the poorer just because, well, they're poor. That is, indeed, a socialist point of view, and differs tremendously from the mere act of public investment.

You're focussing on the means, not the goals, and saying that, gee, since the means (taxation and government payment) are the same, it must be that our government (or indeed any government at all that taxes and then spends) is "socialist."

Hardly. You might as well say that someone who spreads poison around on his lawn, just because he enjoys seeing things die, is exactly the same as the person who fumigates his house to get rid of termites. The fact that the means are the same is very unimportant, compared to the goals.

What are McCain's health care tax credit, or mortgage buyout proposal, if not examples of taking huge amounts of money from some citizens and giving it to others whom McCain considers more needy?

The health care tax credit is a national investment. Its purpose is to wean us off of employer-based healthcare, which is one of FDR's most stupid fucked-up legacies. Because health care through your employer is massively tax-subsidized, it's impossible for coverage you purchase yourself, directly, to compete. So the only way you get healthcare is through your employers, which means (1) your choices are very limited -- as a rule, only your CEO or board gets to choose what healthcare plans the company offers, (2) the healthcare company is paid mostly by the company, not you, which means, of course, their primary loyalty is to your employer, not you. Think that doesn't affect their decisions? Ha ha. And, (3) you are utterly screwed if you are out of work for a few months, work part-time, or are self-employed.

What McCain's plan does is remove the tax break for employer provided health care plans and transfer it to you, the employee. He's worked out the numbers (or rather his economist experts have) so that tax-wise and your paycheck wise, it's a wash. You end up with the same net pay as befoer, and the government ends up with the same net tax. But now, since you have the tax credit, and your employer doesn't, the big motivation is for health-care companies to sell to you, directly.

What would happen is that you'd say good-bye to "open enrollment" or wondering, when you take a new job, whether you'll like their health-care options, or being jealous of someone else's health-care options at a different job, or worrying about what will happen if you take 12 months off to have a baby, or go part-time for a few years, or want to start a business.

You'll just buy your healthcare plan directly, from the same people who are selling them to your employer right now. You'll get to choose from all the healthcare plans that are offered to all the companies in the nation -- instead of just the 1 or 2 your CEO thinks are top-notch. You'll pay the premium yourself, and collect the tax break yourself. So the healthcare company's loyalty is to you, the paying customer, and no one else.

When you switch jobs, go part-time, or even just quit work for a while, you just continue paying the same premiums, since there's zero connection between your work and your healthcare plan. If you go to work for someone else, you just continue on the same plan.

So is this "charity" or wealth redistribution? Not hardly. It's a method -- a method endorsed by all competent health-care economists -- to take out an unholy unfairness built into our current healthcare system by leftover stupidity from the New Deal. It's a public investment, just like building an Interstate. Not the least bit socialist.

Of course, McCain is actually interested in solving the problems, because he lives on public regard, on cheers and stuff. If you were instead, say, a Chicago machine politician who lived on scratching the back of government employees and unions, so they scratched yours (with huge online credit-card donations, and lockstep voting), then you have different motives. You don't want to reduce health-care costs and increase choice to consumers, because that doesn't do squat for your constituents (e.g. SEIU employees, or the IRS). What you want is merely to transfer the management of that huge sector of the economy into the hands of your people, namely the government employees and unions. That way they have jobs for life, and you have influence and control over a much larger part of the economy.

Carl Pham wrote:

Also, in re the fatuous comments about the fact that both kindergarten and the family are "communist."

They aren't. Look again. Or try to remember back when you were actually a kid. What they are is totalitarian dictatorships. The people with the toys, about whom we're talking about, the kids, have zero choices about anything. There's a Supreme Dictator For Life (the teacher, in the classroom, or Mom, at home) and she makes all the decisions, and there is no right of appeal, and no ability to vote to recall her, and no obligation at all that she listen to your petitions. (Indeed, you're strongly encouraged to see her point of view at all times, which is called "acting mature," in preference to your own.)

And that is, indeed, the only way in which the "sharing of toys" espoused by communists has ever worked: when there's a Strong Man at the top to dictate the rules of distribution.

As soon as you get rid of the Strong Man, and allow people to freely decide how and when they share toys -- that is, as soon as you go out into the after-school playground, away from the teacher -- you find that the communist system evaporates, and a normal free market spontaneously arises. In that system, as noted before, sometimes you share for free, and sometimes you share for a price, and sometimes you don't share at all, and the major difference is that each person gets to decide what he wants to do himself.

So it really is a pretty good analogy. What amazes me, however, is that there are grown-up people who would prefer to retreat from the freedom of the after-school playground to the dictatorship of the classroom. It's hard not to surmise that they are mostly life's losers, who can't figure out how to make the other kids like them, and so they always have to pay top price to share other kids' toys. What they want is for teacher to once again force those mean kids to share the toys for free.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Jeez Carl, this is a comment thread. Not a challenge to your PHD thesis.

Anonymous wrote:

Failed physicist seeks demogoguing blow-gging job?

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

Actually, Carl, it goes further than that, because it seems to be the case that a non-trivial fraction of American adults wants to be treated like kindergarteners. It's nice, I admit, having no chance of failure. The problem is that you only get that by losing the opportunity to be a success, and everyone ends up trapped in mediocrity. Except, of course, for those officials who get to decide who gets handed what; those who hand the stuff out oddly enough seem to end up with a lot more of it than anyone else.

Carl Pham wrote:

That's what your mouse's scroll wheel is for, Josh. Zip. Gone.

Actually, I thought I'd throw up the McCain health-care defense just because I've hardly ever seen it in print -- so watertight is the media lockbox on this -- and I thought someone might be interested. What's his name, the economist, over at the Volokh crowd actually said this was the primary reason he was pulling the switch for McCain and that he was surprised to find out McCain had made such a sensible proposal. Because, of course, the media are very careful to bury McCain's sensible proposals, and instead serve up a load of fluffy cotton candy Should the RNC have paid for Governor Palin's new shoes or not? Is Obama truly transformative or will he merely lead us to greatness? Discuss! Mental chewing gum for us plebes to amuse ourself with, in lieu of troubling our pretty little heads about stuff way above our pay grade, like how we pay for our health care.

Failed physicist seeks demogoguing blow-gging job?

Actually, my jealous little anonytroll, you've mistaken which of us lacks the brainpower to put his mouth to a less degrading use. Now turn around and bend over. I'd like to practise for my new role helping The One turn you into a Citizen With Benefits, tee hee.

Carl Pham wrote:

No argument from me, Jeff. True, every word.

Bryan Lovely wrote:

Actually, I thought I'd throw up the McCain health-care defense just because I've hardly ever seen it in print -- so watertight is the media lockbox on this -- and I thought someone might be interested.

Excellent, Carl! Thank you. I had *not* seen a worthwhile explanation of the McCain health care plan before, so I'm glad you put it out here.

Jim wrote:

I agree that employer-provided health insurance is a bad idea, for all the obvious reasons. But individual coverage is even worse. Studies show that it's much more expensive, costing $2,000 more than group policies for the same coverage. McCain's plan is forecast to move 20 million people from group to individual coverage, leaving them paying more for less. The tax credit will make up for the lost tax break to start with, but it will be indexed to inflation, while insurance premiums have historically outpaced inflation; over time the credit will cover a smaller and smaller fraction of the costs.

McCain promises to let customers buy insurance from out-of-state firms, to give consumers more choice. But of course this also gives choice to the insurance companies, to pull out of any state that regulates their practices (e.g. requiring coverage for mammograms or contraception), while still serving customers in that state. Before long all the insurers will be operating out of the states with the most consumer-hostile regulatory environment, the same way all credit card companies are located in Delaware or South Dakota.

Overall it's an ideologically-driven nod to "consumer choice" that gives all the market power to the insurance companies, and leaves average citizens worse off.


Ashley wrote:

Ironically, the people who want to share are the ones who are prosperous; the people who reject redistribution are generally the ones who would benefit from it:

Rand Simberg wrote:

Ironically, the people who want to share are the ones who are prosperous...

Fine. Who's preventing them from sharing? Our only objection is to making them share. That's when it becomes communism.

Carl Pham wrote:

Off course individual health-care coverage is more expensive now, Jim. That's the point! It's not a level playing field, thanks to the monkey wrenches that government has thrown into the market with its leftover screwball New Deal tax policies.

But ask yourself this: is there any plausible reason why, in the absence of government meddling, it should be substantially cheaper to buy your medical insurance through your employer than directly? Of course not. The cost is the cost, whatever it is. There's no way funneling the money through your employer reduces the cost. If anything, it will increase it, since you've got one more layer of managers (your HR department, the healthcare company's business-relations department) whose salaries have to be taken out of your healthcare premiums. Who in their right mind imagines adding more managers to a process reduces its total cost?

Second, it's probably a very good idea that the tax credit offset of your health-care cost fades away over time. Jim, remember the fundamental rule of tax subsidies: subsidize whatever you want to get more expensive. Look at what government subsidy since 1945 has done to the price of a college education! Fantastic levels of price inflation. Look what government subsidy of home ownership has done to the price of homes! Would you want the same thing to happen to medical costs? (Not that it hasn't to some extent already, thanks to Medicare and friends.) What do you suppose would happen if government subsidized the price of gas? Would the demand go up or down? Would the unsubsidized price go up or down?

In general, the only thing that keeps prices down is the resistance of the end consumer in a competitive market. Exxon lowers the price of gas not because the price of oil falls and they're just Good Guys, but because people will buy their gas from someone else for less if they can. If you want prices in health care to fall as low as they can (which is the cost of providing them), then you need as open a market as possible, and you need to have the end consumers (us) paying the bill directly, and choosing to whom to pay, so we make all our health care choices with a keen awareness of their cost, and have the freedom to reward with our dollars those who provide those services for less, and punish with the absence of our dollars those who provide them for more.

Before long all the insurers will be operating out of the states with the most consumer-hostile regulatory environment, the same way all credit card companies are located in Delaware or South Dakota.

Don't overgeneralize. Do all oil companies operate out of Texas? Do all real-estate companies operate out of Rhode Island? Nope. Credit-card companies are a weird special case, because they need not have any physical presence at all in states where they do business. You can use your Visa in California -- and Visa doesn't have to have a single employee in California. Hence they can escape California law. Do you really think the same is remotely conceivable for Kaiser, whoever employs your local doctor, et cetera? Financial services are totally different from healthcare. You've got apples and oranges here.

Furthermore, the reason why people tolerate credit card companies that operate under laws that are particularly bad for you if you go into bankruptcy and try to get out of your crushing CC debt is because no one thinks, when they're signing up for a card, that they're going to be in that category. People pay a lot of attention to upfront fees -- and you'll note, without a single law to enforce it, CC companies all dropped their annual fees in the 80s. But they don't think about what happens if they get in deep trouble, because they don't think it will happen.

Now, if you're signing up for health care, what are the chances you're going to pay no attention to such details as whether they pay for reconstruction after mastectomy, or whether they cover immunizations for your kid, or whether your co-pay for ER visits is $100 or $500? I think zip. So I find it highly unlikely that all the healthco's are going to go headquarter in Texas (say), which lacks laws mandating them to pay for reconstruction, and trust that none of their consumers are going to be farsighted enough to notice that fact.

In essence, you're taking the position that people can't be trusted to look out for their own interests, that in the absence of Big Mommy in Washington supervising, they're just going to give their money to a bunch of con-men (instead of any honest competitors) and that therefore the con-men will flourish. You ought to have more faith in your fellow man, like John McCain, and not think that we're all dumfuk losers who can't be trusted with our own adult decisions, like the Democratic candidate.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 30, 2008 8:22 AM.

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