Maxing Out the Good

You don’t get the best from people by hurting them. You get the best of people by allowing them to be their best. You do that by making things good for people. By making things good for people, you make things good for yourself and the rest of the country.

You don’t try to establish laws that punish certain classes of people, which has become a popular pastime in red states. One stupid and hateful law after another, most of them designed to “get even” with immigrants, poor people, gay people—whatever group the ugly conservative mood determines are not worthy at the moment. Arizona’s recent attempt to punish gays would not stand even if it hadn’t been vetoed, as it is obviously unconstitutional, like all the other ugly “getting even” laws in Republican-land.

You don’t get the best from people
by hurting them.

You don’t carry guns around on the off chance you’ll find someone suitable to shoot. Someone like, say, a noisy kid who happens to be black. Or just a black kid. Or some white kid, if you happen to be an angry gun-toting black guy (and yes, there are such cases).

The way to achieve a just society is well known. The way is equality, equal treatment. It means people have to be able to live off their earnings. It means everyone’s children must have the same educational opportunities. It means nobody dies because they can’t afford health insurance. It means young men don’t turn to crime because there are no opportunities for them.

All these things are best achieved by the most efficient means we have available. For some things that means you are free to better yourself. Want to start a business? We as individuals or as a society have no obligation to help you, although we might choose to. Want to be a star athlete or scholastic achiever? Bravo, but that doesn’t give you any right to my money.

Equality is the way to a just society.

But there are many things that are most efficiently gained by going in together. Want a neighborhood baseball team, playground, or street fair? These things are available when people are willing to chip in or help out. These days it’s possible to chip in just a little bit online to help all kinds of worthwhile business and social endeavors. Startups, and various causes.

The most efficient way to chip in for goals that are for all of us, the entire population, is through government and taxes.

This is something conservatives claim is not true. But these same people are quite happy to take advantage of all the government has to offer that benefit themselves. One of our main social problems today is that rich conservatives have rearranged government so it benefits only themselves.

Want good roads? It would be stupid to try to build them yourself. Want safe water? The EPA and suitable regulations are the cheapest and most effective route. Want equal opportunity in education, not the system of giving more money to the privileged that we have now? That means government steps giving every kid in school the same support, like all the other advanced nations. Think we need an army? Could we support one with bake sales?

The military and public education
cannot survive from bake sales.

We kid ourselves if we imagine that things like equality of opportunity can be achieved without governmental participation. We end up with unequal education, as now. We end up with many millions of people who work full time, but cannot make ends meet, thus giving the lie to conservatives’ ardent belief that everyone poor is lazy and refuses to work, particularly if they’re black. We end up with workers who have done everything right, but are so poorly paid that they cannot provide basics for their families, let alone protect them from unexpected health problems.

In the modern world, education and health care are rights, not privileges to be reserved for the wealthy. You want peaceful cities? Make it possible for the ordinary people who live there to earn a decent living, live in decent housing, send their children to decent schools, and take care of their health. These are the very things that spell egalitarianism. These are the very things that spell democracy. They cannot be achieved through private enterprise or the so-called Free Market. And they certainly cannot be achieved through minimal government, that false god of the right.

The conservative wealthy want everyone
to stand on their own two feet
—except for themselves.

These are the very things that right-wing conservative Republicans do not want to allow. And why? Because we must all stand on our own two feet, no matter how grossly unfair and inefficient the whole concept is. We must all stand on our own two feet. But of course they kid themselves if they think they themselves stand without support. They are very good at arranging the government and the economy so money is extracted to support themselves and their large capitalist enterprises at the cost of the rest of us. The right is very good at demanding things from people—”responsible behavior”, regular work, self-improvement, etc. But they do everything possible to prevent people from doing exactly those things.

You don’t get the best from people by hurting them.


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