I was talking to a woman who is a liberal public educator the other day. She asked me about my politics. I briefly explained that I supported laissez-faire capitalism, the complete separation of state and economics. Her reaction? "But you’re such a nice guy!"
While I am gratified that she thinks I’m nice, I must judge her reaction not nicely at all. First, this liberal obsession with "nice" and "mean" annoys me. It reduces complicated political and philosophical concepts to the language of a playground. Liberals are nice, right-wingers are mean; this renders politics as idiocy. These childish concepts are a badge of ignorance in a political discussion.
Second, the premises underlying her statement are entirely wrong. The only social system that treats all people fairly and justly is one that protects and defends individual rights. Once you replace individual rights with the individual’s duty to serve the collective — as both Democrats and Republicans have done — then the state can trample over individual rights in the name of a "greater good." This puts a nation on the road to serfdom. And if you want mean, totalitarianism is mean.
Benevolence — people being nice to one another — is possible only in a free country. When people must trade values with one another, it is in their self-interest to treat the other fairly, as one would want others to treat him. Good humor and hospitality thrive in such a society.
In a free country wealth is created, not taken from other people. The great wealth created by entrepreneurs ends up raising the standard of living of everyone. The poorest people in America today have riches that kings and queens did not have a century ago, from technological wonders, digital technology and improvements in food and health care. These riches did not come about through charity, but from greedy "robber barons" striving to make as much money as possible.
In a socialist country everyone is fighting for a piece of a static pie. If Peter gets a bigger slice than Paul, it comes from what Paul should have gotten. Could one devise a better system to set Peter and Paul against one another?
There have been studies showing that charitable giving is highest in "red" states and lowest in "blue" states. Why is this? Because Democrats have been taught to look to the government for handouts. This mentality makes them less likely to give to charity. Collectivists are less likely to take the initiative to help other individuals. Why should they when the state is supposed to take care of all that? (Charity is a minor issue, and it’s fine if one wants to give, but it is not an issue of morality as altruists think it is.)
Collectivism destroys moral behavior. In a totalitarian state the individual is expected to follow the orders of the state — without subjecting those orders to the examination of his conscience. There is no place for individual conscience in such a society; that is why it is called totalitarian.
America is not yet a totalitarian state; it is a mixed economy, or welfare state with a growing aspect of fascism. But America has already taken the fundamental step of replacing individual rights with the premise that the individual must sacrifice to the collective. Both Obama and McCain made statements upholding the collectivist morality in the last election.
Altruism, the notion that one must sacrifice value to a non-value, is a prescription for a society in which everyone is a threat to everyone else. Instead of regarding others benevolently, hatred and suspicion grow in an altruist-collectivist society in which all look to the state for favors at the expense of everyone else.
If one seriously wants a "nice" society, one should fight for laissez-faire capitalism. Only a free people are motivated to be nice to one another. All other societies put chains on individuals to some extent. That sounds mean to me.