I’ve seen two examples this week of jaw-droppingly appalling liberal logic which, I figure, just have to be shared in the same way that unusual specimens belong in a museum.
The first one appeared in Salon on Tuesday, and it purports to be a treatise on the necessity of “positive” rights. It says that the original Bill of Rights doesn’t go very far, and conservatives are foolish and “short-sighted” to insist that those rights are essential and shouldn’t be tampered with. According to the author of the piece, Michael Lind, what we really need is to endorse FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights”–which includes things like the right to a job, to a good home, and to medical care and good health. Lind writes: “FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, and similar proposals, are not intended to replace the original bill of rights, but only to supplement it. Progressives believe that we should have both the right to free speech and the right to minimal healthcare at public expense.”
Lind’s article uses both appeals to authority (FDR and Cass Sunstein) and some sleight of hand to avoid tackling the very real contention that we can’t demand “positive rights” at other’s expense without in some sense enslaving those who are tasked with providing or paying for those “rights.”
The negative/positive rights debate is brilliantly explored by Richard A. Epstein in his book Mortal Peril. He begins with a general discussion but his focus is on American health care. He points out that the positive rights frenzy contains “certain remnants of a discredited socialism” and that “…the protection of these newly minted positive rights invests government at all levels with vast powers to tax, to regulate, and to hire and fire the very individuals whose rights it is duty-bound to protect.”
The story, of course, is one we’ve seen over and over. The government continues to bloat itself as the social welfare state grows and in the process more rights are trampled upon than created.
The title of Epstein’s treatise can apply just as easily to the second, even more stunning example of liberal logic, which I saw linked by several folks on Facebook today. It’s an article in Slate entitled “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person: A Manifesto.” The idea behind the article by Allison Benedikt is that public schools are ruined because students whose parents care enough about educational quality to devote their own resources to education aren’t forced to remain in the public school system.
Nowhere does it occur to this genius that perhaps the real problems with the public schools have to do with the teachers’ unions or with the educational bureaucracy which has arisen at public expense. No, according to this author, the solution to all the problems with the public school system is that if everyone has to go, they will get better because parents will demand it, even if some large number of kids who would or could have had better options has to be sacrificed for the sake of liberal mediocrity. (You really do need to read the article to believe it is not some sort of ridiculous hoax. Even the usually liberal crowd of commenters at Slate are put off by the article.)
A much saner, contrary view appeared several days ago (before the absurd Slate article was published) at the Sippican Cottage blog (hat tip Transterrestrial Musings). The whole piece is worth reading, but this excerpt nicely encapsulates the tone of the piece:
You see, there are no public schools in America that I know of. They’re reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school. A public school is a really expensive, but shabby and ineffectual, private school that collects their tuition with the threat of eviction from your house.
To liberal “thinkers” like Allison Benedikt and Michael Lind, unfortunately, that sort of a situation apparently sounds like a “great society.”