Friday, May 8, 2009

Preggers and Old Uns: Hit the Bricks!

Mustachio'd libertarian mouthpiece John Stossel showed up on The View today. (Yes, ducks, I was watching--I overslept today.)

I've long held that libertarianism is a luxury only the privileged can afford; if you're a victim of institutionalized prejudice, you tend not to be so sanguine about the idea of folks just doing what they want to do--like, say, issue literacy tests before you can vote, or decide that a penis was the most important instrument in a symphony orchestra.

Among the views Iron John elucidated:

There should be no laws to protect pregnant women in the workplace, because of the "unintended consequences." You might not hire a woman! Because of the Babies! Even Elizabeth Hasselbeck--Elizabeth Hasselbeck!--had a problem with that. "If you don't protect these women, aren't they more at risk?" she asked. Whoopi asked why the laws should be chucked instead of "tweaked." "Because tweaking never works," huffed John. I could swear I saw him twirling the ends of his mustache, but that might just have been me being blinded by outrage.

We protect seniors waaay too much because we spend 6-1 on the elders versus the young. Oh, and Ponzi scheme! Medicaid-paid for Viagra! The elderly have a higher net worth than the rest of the population! (Well, yeah, John, and if Bill Gates and I are in the same room together, our average net worth is higher than yours; most seniors I know are very worried about making ends meet nowadays.) Joy asked if he would income test Social Security at this point; when John said he would, she told him he was taking a very "liberal" position. "I'm a classical liberal," he smirked.

Sherri then wondered "If the government isn't taking care of seniors, then who is?" John's reply was that we should take care of ourselves, by saving. Let me tell you, ducks: my parents worked very hard in their lifetime; they each had made a major change in vocation in their thirties, and so had to make up a lot of time. In addition to the full-time jobs they both held, they taught college part-time, and for years had their own test prep side business. Because of that, when they retired they had a tidy little sum to carry them through their old age--my dad was even able to retire early.

Of course, the two Bush stock market crashes caused their net worth to drop pretty precipitously each time; both of them now work part-time. And they're the kind of success story Stossel wants everyone to have! Oh and Free Markets! Yeah!

Poverty is the natural state of all human beings. This came towards the end of the segment; the discussion of social security naturally blended into general social policy. Stossel gave the classic libertarian answer as to the purpose of government: it should do what only it can do: keep us safe, keep people from stealing things. (I've noticed that American libertarians always make national defense a priority, even though it would seem to be a logical inconsistency: shouldn't we all be able to defend ourselves? Certainly the Founding Fathers thought a standing army was the greatest instrument of tyranny known. Oh well.) In any case, Joy wondered about the Great Depression, and asked John about that, leading to the quote above, plus: "free markets!" (Ah, history blindness is another great privilege of the privileged; a lot of people at the time of the Depression saw it as proof of the failure of capitalism--and it certainly wasn't free markets that lifted us out of it, but massive government spending, first from the New Deal, then from World War II.) Oh, and private charities. (Whoopi: "are there no workhouses? are there no orphanages?")

Professional atheletes should be allowed to use steroids, oh and by the way the link to heart disease and cancer hasn't been proven. Right. Whatever.

The way to save endangered species is to eat them, since there's no shortage of chicken, and by the way when we allowed people to raise bison for food, didn't that bring them back from extinction? Of course, the great cause of extinction nowadays is habitat destruction--I wonder how you're supposed to build a rainforest to keep your valuable, edible frog herds alive?

I first encountered Stossel way back when I was in high school. I think I thought he made sense, until he did a piece on why giving to charity was counter-productive. (He told Ted Turner, who has given millions to the UN, this theory in an interview, and Turner nearly decked him; I'm aware that it doesn't take much to do that, but still.) He's been dishing out his libertarianism-light for years now, and getting praised for being a maverick and "telling uncomfortable truths." And yet, there's not a similar position from somebody on the far left: 20/20 doesn't have any segments where a socialist talks about the evils of government non-intervention. But I'm assured that the media has a liberal bias.

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