Facebook libertarian claptrap

So, I saw this in a wall post of a friend of mine on Facebook…

I was in my neighborhood
restaurant this morning and was seated behind a group of jubilant
individuals celebrating the successful passing of the recent health care
bill. I could not finish my breakfast. This is what ensued:

were a diverse group of several races and both sexes. I heard the young
man exclaim, “Isn’t Obama like Jesus Christ? I mean, after all, he is
healing the sick.” The young woman enthusiastically proclaimed, “Yeah,
and he does it for free. I cannot believe anyone would think that a free
market would work for health care. They are all crooks and thieves and
don’t deserve all of that money.” Another said, ‘The stupid Republicans
want us all to starve to death so they can inherit all of the power.
Obama should be made a Saint for what he did for those of us less
fortunate.” At this, I had had enough.

I arose from my seat,
mustering all the restraint I could find, and approached their table.
“Please excuse me; may I impose upon you for one moment?” They smiled
and welcomed me to the conversation. I stood at the end of their table,
smiled as best I could and began an experiment….

“I would like to give one of you my
house. It will cost you no money and I will pay all of the expenses and
taxes for as long as you live there. Anyone interested?” They looked at
each other in astonishment. “Why would you do something like that?”
asked a young man, “There isn’t anything for free in this world.” They
began to laugh at me, as they did not realize this man had just made my
point. “I am serious, I will give you my house for free, no money what
so ever. Anyone interested?” In unison, a resounding “Hell Yeah” fills
the room.

“Since there are too many of you, I will have to make a
choice as to who receives this money free bargain.” I noticed an
elderly couple was paying attention to the spectacle unfolding before
their eyes, the old man shaking his head in apparent disgust. “I tell
you what; I will give it to the one of you most willing to obey my
rules.” Again, they looked at one another, an expression of bewilderment
on their faces. The perky young woman asked, “What are the rules?” I
smiled and said, “I don’t know. I have not yet defined them. However, it
is a free home that I offer you.” They giggled amongst themselves, the
youngest of which said, “What an old coot. He must be crazy to give away
his home. Go take your meds, old man.” I smiled and leaned into the
table a bit further. “I am serious, this is a legitimate offer.” They
gaped at me for a moment.

“I’ll take it you old fool. Where are
the keys?” boasted the youngest among them. “Then I presume you accept
ALL of my terms then?” I asked. The elderly couple seemed amused and
entertained as they watched from the privacy of their table. “Oh hell
yeah! Where do I sign up?” I took a napkin and wrote, “I give this man
my home, without the burden of financial obligation, so long as he
accepts and abides by the terms that I shall set forth upon consummation
of this transaction.” I signed it and handed it to the young man who
eagerly scratched out his signature. “Where are the keys to my new
house?” he asked in a mocking tone of voice. All eyes were upon us as I
stepped back from the table, pulling the keys from pocket and dangling
them before the excited new homeowner.

“Now that we have entered
into this binding contract, witnessed by all of your friends, I have
decided upon the conditions you are obligated to adhere from this point
forward. You may only live in the house for one hour a day. You will not
use anything inside of the home. You will obey me without question or
resistance. I expect complete loyalty and admiration for this gift I
bestow upon you. You will accept my commands and wishes with enthusiasm,
no matter the nature. Your morals and principles shall be as mine. You
will vote as I do, think as I do and do it with blind faith. These are
my terms. Here are your keys.” I reached the keys forward and the young
man looked at me dumb founded.

“Are you out of your mind? Who
would ever agree to those ridiculous terms?” the young man appeared
irritated. “You did when you signed this contract before reading it,
understanding it and with the full knowledge that I would provide my
conditions only after you committed to the agreement.” Was all I said.
The elderly man chuckled as his wife tried to restrain him. I was
looking at a now silenced and bewildered group of people. “You can shove
that stupid deal up you’re a** old man, I want no part of it” exclaimed
the now infuriated young man. “You have committed to the contract, as
witnessed by all of your friends; you cannot get out of the deal unless I
agree to it. I do not intend to let you free now that I have you
ensnared. I am the power you agreed to. I am the one you blindly and
without thought chose to enslave yourself to. In short, I am your
Master.” At this, the table of celebrating individuals became a unified
group against the unfairness of the deal.

After a few moments of
unrepeatable comments and slurs, I revealed my true intent. “What I did
to you is what this administration and congress did to you with the
health care legislation. I easily suckered you in and then revealed the
real cost of the bargain. Your folly was in the belief that you can have
something you did not earn; that you are entitled to that which you did
not earn; that you willingly allowed someone else to think for you.
Your failure to research, study and inform yourself permitted reason to
escape you. You have entered into a trap from which you cannot flee.
Your only chance of freedom is if your new Master gives it to you. A
freedom that is given can also be taken away; therefore, it is not
freedom.” With that, I tore up the napkin and placed it before the
astonished young man. “This is the nature of your new health care

I turned away to leave these few in thought and
contemplation and was surprised by applause. The elderly gentleman, who
was clearly entertained, shook my hand enthusiastically and said, “Thank
you Sir, these kids don’t understand Liberty these days.” He refused to
allow me to pay my bill as he said, “You earned this one, it is an
honor to pickup the tab.” I shook his hand in thanks, leaving the
restaurant somewhat humbled, and sensing a glimmer of hope for my
beloved country.

Use reason,

Clifford A Wright

Isn't that cute?

Aside from the fact that this has probably been floating around a while (the recently-passed healthcare reform bill didn't include a public option, which was the only aspect of the legislation which could have conceivably been referred-to as a government takeover of healthcare, and it's clear, despite the story, that the author himself has not read the healthcare bill that was eventually passed), and aside from the fact that it probably never took place (it's always easier to win an argument when you get to write both sides, and frankly, it reads like a typical libertarian fantasy), there are several aspects of this libertarian screed that are notable.

You could replace the topic of this fairytale with pretty much any government action or regulation, and it would still apply.  This parable is less about healthcare reform in particular than it is simply an anti-government rant.

To most of us not of a libertarian persuasion, some of the ideas in the piece above may seem a little alien.  But let's bring some of the problems with it to the fore.

First of all, several of the premises don't stand up to scrutiny.  For example: libertarians are fond of the idea that they earn their money in a vacuum, on the strength of merit alone.  But this is a fantasy.  No one earns a dime without the government regulations and programs that make our modern capitalist system function in the first place.  As George Will notably once said:

A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously
from society's soil as crabgrass springs from suburban lawns. Rather,
it is a complex creation of laws and mores… Capitalism is a
government program.

And what pays for those programs and the regulation?  Well…that would be taxes.

Which leads to the second point: very few of us get something for nothing from the government.  Far from the mistaken notion expressed in this story, government spending — whether it be for healthcare or anything else — is generally paid for by pretty much everyone.

Conservatives are fond of pointing out that only some people pay federal income taxes.  And this is true: some folks (generally lower income, but some wealthy Americans, as well) pay little to nothing in federal income taxes.  What they neglect to mention is that income taxes are only one category of taxes.  Others include payroll (Medicare and Social Security), excise and capital gains, sales, state and local income, and property taxes (to name a few).  Add it all up, and lower income folks generally pay an equal or greater percentage of their incomes in taxes.

What's more, for a significant number of taxpayers, not paying income taxes is a function of engaging in behaviors society finds beneficial, and government is essentially paying them for it.

What it comes down to is this: whether we're talking about a public option healthcare plan, social security or virtually anything else, most of us aren't getting "something for free".  We're paying for it.

Most of the rest of the quoted story consists of little more than fevered Glenn Beckian ravings about the Obama admininstration and totalitarianism.  At the root of much of this baloney is actually political fear that people will find government solutions a net gain, which will be a setback for Republicans and conservatives/libertarians in general.

The cure for such paranoia lies in removing one's head from Fox News' backside.

Folks, there's a lot of crap making the rounds out there.  Most of it is motivated by politics (Republicans evidently believe the path to power is in telling one over-the-top baldfaced lie after another) or by greed (see, for example, millionaire Beck's recent statements about how he doesn't really care at all about politics, and this is all, in his view, just about entertainment).  We'd all be well served by turning a critical eye toward what we're being told.

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