Voters Reject Libertarian Lie of Self-Made Millionaire

The 2012 elections have been seen by many as a bold refutation on the part of voters to extreme religious conservatism: marriage equality made big strides in four states, women’s rights took a small step forward as the Senate is now comprised of 20% women and reproductive rights were supported as voters saw fit to reject Aiken, Mourdock and others who said unbelievably objectionable things about rape and abortion.

But the voters also rejected the other half of the Republican Party’s conservative agenda. They have rejected the libertarian lie of the self made millionaire in favor the reality that we all get where we are going with the help of others. While libertarians create elaborate schemes of minimal government and free market utopias, voters in the real world recognize the need for things like infrastructure and education investment.

Here in Rhode Island, voters approved a host of important bond issues. These bond issues are very different in character, but their approval demonstrates that in our heart of hearts, we are a kind and compassionate people who really want to help each other achieve our goals, not a group of ruthless competitors battling it out for supremacy in some sort of Darwinian financial Thunderdome.

Putting aside the first two questions, as to whether or not to expand gambling in the state, we can look at Question 3, Higher Education. 65.5% of voters decided that even in these financially difficult times, Rhode Island College is worthy of $50 million for renovations to key buildings and an expansion of the nursing program. At a time when conservatives are looking to corporatize and outsource education, Rhode Islanders have decided to support public education at a college level, because a commitment to education is a key value.

Question 4, provides funds for a new veterans retirement home. With 77% of the voters approving, this vote shows that we are a people committed to fairness and gratitude. Veterans sacrifice for this country, and one of our great shames is the second class treatment we afford our country’s heroes after they are dismissed from service. Yet this vote shows that we are in fact committed to honoring our debts to these men and women, despite the priorities of the politicians and bureaucrats who prioritize our veterans differently.

Question 5 deals with clean water, and since everyone wants that, the vote, with 73.2% approving, could be interpreted as being selfishly motivated. $20 million is to be spent on waste water facilities and drinking water infrastructure, but the Clean Water Finance Agency also provides low-interest loans for communities and utilities to undertake improvements. Rhode Island is of course proud of its amazing drinking water, and caring for this vital resource is a gift to future generations, as well as to each other.

Speaking of gifts to future generations, Question 6 concerned environmental management, and 69.3% of voters approved. Local recreation projects, open space and farmland preservation and improved water quality in the Narragansett Bay will all become realities due to this $20 million bond.

The final ballot measure, Question 7, passed by the lowest margin but with a 60.6% approval the vote wasn’t really close. This bond provides $25 million that will be matched with $225 million from other sources to provide affordable housing. As a strong supporter of and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, such housing is a real priority for me, and at least 6 out of 10 Rhode Islanders concur, even in, or perhaps especially in, these economically difficult times.

Libertarians believe that education and environmental issues are best solved through the free market. If people want education, they’ll pay their way through private schools. If they want to breathe clean air they will purchase it in containers at the store. If they want large swaths of nature to be protected from development they should save their money and buy it before some developer strip mines it. If veterans want to retire in comfort and dignity they should have saved their money or found employment that paid them more and if people can’t afford decent housing they should live in a box and work harder.

But voters this election cycle, not only here in Rhode Island demonstrated that they don’t really believe in that. Elizabeth Warren, Senator elect from Massachusetts, said it well:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

This is the America that most Rhode Islanders believe in. For the libertarian policies to win acceptance by the greater public economic conservatives will need to convince us to turn away from our sense of fairness, our sense of charity and our duty to care for each other and for the future. To achieve their goals, economic conservatives need only to convince voters that the only thing that matters is our own short term self-interest and to reject the very values that best ennoble us.

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Voters Reject Libertarian Lie of Self-Made Millionaire, 10.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

Steve Ahlquist is a writer, artist and current president of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.

His photos and video are usable under the Creative Commons license. Free to share with credit.

Steve is happy to accept PayPal donations from those who feel his journalism is worth something. You can use the email address below.

Email: atomicsteve@gmail.com
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"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” - Elie Weisel

15 responses to “Voters Reject Libertarian Lie of Self-Made Millionaire”

  1. jgardner

    1. Love the misrepresentation of libertarianism. Apparently you believe people can only be charitable with other people’s money and not their own. Hint, that’s not actually charity, that’s theft. And what about all these non-profit foundations and scholarship programs and all manner of other actual charitable groups? Aren’t those people doing what they believe is in their self-interest? Or do you only view self-interest in terms of money?
    2. Plenty of ink has been spilled refuting the drivel that is that Elizabeth Warren speech should you care to educate yourself. The long and short of it is there is no “social contract”, the business owner produced a good or service that enriched the lives of the people who traded with him, and the business paid the same taxes everyone else did to help educate, protect and all that other crap she mentions.
    3. Do you think the avg voter could tell you that a bond will result in an increase in his taxes or a decrease in gov’t services? I don’t. Additionally, if those projects are so wonderful, why do we have to borrow the money at a huge cost (read the bills — in some of them the borrowing cost was approaching 50% of the total bond) to pay for them? Why couldn’t we just pay for it in cash?

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  2. PinkHatLib

    “For the libertarian policies to win acceptance by the greater public economic conservatives will need to convince us to turn away from our sense of fairness, our sense of charity and our duty to care for each other and for the future.”

    Steve, I think you miscategorize this as well by framing it as a question of charity. As you can see you threw a softball to the anarcho-capitalists who claim their version of libertarianism is the only one. It’s not charity we’re talking about but justice.

    “It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together.”
    — Thomas Paine, 1795-96

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    1. cailin rua

      “As you can see you threw a softball to the anarcho-capitalists who claim their version of libertarianism is the only one.”

      I have to agree with that statement.  Noam Chomsky says in the U S the term libertarian means the opposite of what it has meant throughout history.  He says it’s hard to talk here (the U S) because you can’t use terms like libertarianism or conservative because they’ve taken on their opposite meanings.

      Even Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul can agree on a few things.  

      “We have to start decoding our whole system of intellectual distortion of meaning.  If terms have lost their meaning, it becomes impossible to talk.  That in itself is an achievement.”

      Part I:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wriQGI5NGOM 

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  3. Ericka

    I have to agree with the author of this piece, the voters told the state and country what we wanted. To shrink government any more than it already has been in the last 30 years would cause nothing but harm. We need the infrastructure, such as roads, education and even decent homes for our veterans. We did not vote for those who believed that helping someone out of a bad situation was encouraging people to get in one in the first place. We did not vote for someone who believed that the elderly and disabled on Social Security and Medicare were moochers who should fend for themselves (because that is what would happen if they were privatized). We did not vote for those who thought that someone working full time at a minimum wage job should go hungry and homeless because they couldn’t afford a home or food on their pay. We did vote for new buildings at a state college, a home for veterans and for those on minimum wage. Clean water and open spaces are important for the state and country as well. Be it libertarianism or screw you greed, I don’t know. But we did not vote for that.

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    1. jgardner

      “To shrink government any more than it already has been in the last 30 years would cause nothing but harm.”

      What gives you the impression that gov’t, on the balance, has shrunk over the last 30 years?

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      1. Ericka

        I’m sorry, I meant the shrink in the government’s public investment in infrastructure and the like. We have been spending a lot less on this kind of thing. Federally anyway.

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      2. Ericka

        Sorry, what I meant was the shrinking of government’s public investment in infrastructure. Federally  at least it. We have not been investing in the types of things a country needs like roads, education and a clean environment. We have been spending pretty heavily on the military, so yes, government has not really shrunk on the whole.

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        1. jgardner

          I know we’re certainly spending more on education — we’ve hired more teachers (up 7% since 2001), and the avg class size has declined from 17.9 in 1985 to 15.4 in 2009. (source – http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28)

          I understand the federal gov’t is spending less on roads and bridges than in years past, but shouldn’t that be left to the states anyway?

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    2. DogDiesel

      It’s always intriguing how one derives mandates from a status quo election.

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      1. turbo

        “one derives mandates from a status quo election”

        ???

        You get a mandate from winning. The platform is irrelevant. How can you not understand what ‘mandate’ means? 

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  4. you know me

    I won’t respond to jgardner because as soon as I see his name at the top of a post, I simply skip over it.  His opinions are barely worth the time I just spent to write these two sentences.
     
    Pinkhat, I never have liked you.  The trouble is that I usually am too busy to catch you in your own deception.  This afternoon, however, I found some time to do just that.
     
    In the essay to which you allude, Paine discusses what he sees as the inherent unjust result of the civilization of humans — namely, that some people become wealthy while others remain poor.  Paine recognizes that this is a natural consequence of such societal development, but he nevertheless believes that it is in fact incumbent upon the wealthier in society to distribute share the wealth in such a manner as to balance the fact that they have been fortunate at the expense of everyone else.  Like it or not, Paine is arguing for a social contract.  IN the same article, he goes on to propose a framework for the creation of a public fund that would be utilized as a mechanism by which the rich would compensate the poor.
     
    It barely rises to being disingenuous that you should take his writings so out of context, and even worse that you have tried to twist it around to mean the exact opposite of what Paine was saying.
     
    I’m glad you exposed yourself on a day when I had some time on my hands.  Fortunately, for me, I don’t need to bother with you any longer.
     
    I am sure you will continue trying to con people into believing your blather, but I shall treat your comments in the same way I view those of jgardner (and dd, as well) — not even worth a look.

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    1. jgardner

      “His opinions are barely worth the time I just spent to write these two sentences.”
      lol… that’s a relief. Heaven forbid you engage in any kind of debate.

      p.s. would have responded sooner but your comment was held for moderation until today. 

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      1. DogDiesel

        “His opinions are barely worth the time I just spent to write these two sentences.”
         
        Translation: “I’m incapable of developing an intelligent counterpoint.”
         
         

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    2. PinkHatLib

      Oh, no! The trolls don’t like me! btw, time or no time, I have no idea what you’re driving at about Paine. Quite odd to suggest the quote is out of context. But since you seem confused, here’s the extended quote:

      *** quote ***
      It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good.

      I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled in the scene. The sight of the misery, and the unpleasant sensations it suggests, which, though they may be suffocated cannot be extinguished, are a greater drawback upon the felicity of affluence than the proposed ten per cent upon property is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid of the other has no charity, even for himself.

      There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

      The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national measures.

      To show that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe that the operation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same as if every individual were voluntarily to make his will and dispose of his property in the manner here proposed.

      But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the plan. In all great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not. Considering, then, the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act of the whole growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution, and the reputation of it ought to be national and not individual.

      *** end quote ***

      “In all great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not.” My point exactly.

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  5. davidc

    The environmental bond issue really bothered me.  I mean, who doesn’t want to support the environment, and I enjoy farmer’s markets as much as anybody and want to see small farmers thrive here?  But the bond was to borrow money (so total costs will be way higher than $20 million), and much of it gets given away as grants.  Seems to be grant money should not be financed.

    Also, while I did vote for the RIC bond, that bond represents a failure of sorts, because only a few years ago there was an initiative for URI and RIC to create a collaboration between their nursing programs, and the two school were looking to build in the RI Hospital / Hasbro area, near Brown Medical school.  You know, the “knowledge district”.  That fell through, so now RIC is once again competing with URI, and needs this building to do so since URI has new biotech and pharmacy buildings.

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