Cherrypickings from P.J. O’Rourke’s, Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards, pp. 58-59—Selected lines excerpted, placed in italics if paraphrased. Closed parens ( ) used versus ellipses to indicate skipped portions of lines.
All political systems are redistributive. But: How much? Of what? To whom? By which means? And where the h*ll do we get it from? This is the crux of the liberal versus conservative argument in modern democracies.
Imagine that your family is matched by lot with five other families and the resulting half-dozen familial units must pool their resources and come to mutual decisions about how those resources are to be allocated. Now let’s institute a requirement that the other five families be poorer than yours.
And why is a small bad idea like this supposed to get better if you make it bigger?
Outlier: For those of you thinking “But this example is moot, because I wouldn’t be the richest one in the group, and the rich families are so rich they wouldn’t be hurting to miss some money to help the rest of us”—Well, if you’re thinking that, here’s what O’Rourke has to say to you:
Who’s rich? You are. To someone who lives in the slums of Karachi, you’re rich. I don’t care if you’re driving a 1990 Geo Tracker, haven’t had a job since Cher was a babe, and your trailer home just burned down…you’re rich. You’re farting through silk as far as that person in Karachi who’s looking for a job as a suicide bomber is concerned.
Outlier: And I’m just gonna add, if you’re literate and self-aware enough to be reading this, you’re definitely among the rich families. And the ant and grasshopper rules screw you if any of those other five families are poor because they chose to spend all their bucks on video games, premium cable, nightly meals out, movies out 3x/week, frequent trips to Vegas…
Another rule of restribution can be extrapolated from a family circle: Never do anything to (or for) a stranger that you wouldn’t do to (or for) your bum brother-in-law. You can’t let your sister and her five kids by ( ) different fathers starve, but you can try to make her husband get a job. And you can ( ) run him off at gunpoint if he beats her.
Or say your brother-in-law isn’t a bad guy, just drunk and crazy and high on drugs. He’s living on the street and talking to people who don’t exist. Do you pick him up by his collar and belt, heave him in the back of your car, and get him some help? Or do you respect his civil rights and let him freeze in doorways and get run over by a bus?
Outlier: I thought this “pretend it’s your own family” approach was the best illustration I’ve ever seen for why our current hands-off policy re: leaving street people free to roam the streets is the very opposite of Do Unto Others, good old common sense, and human decency.