Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wisdom From the Magician

Penn Jillette, in a CNN article:

It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

People try to argue that government isn't really force. You believe that? Try not paying your taxes. (This is only a thought experiment -- suggesting on that someone not pay his or her taxes is probably a federal offense, and I'm a nut, but I'm not crazy.). When they come to get you for not paying your taxes, try not going to court. Guns will be drawn. Government is force -- literally, not figuratively.

People have been linking this article this morning, but only the sections on atheism and belief. I think the sections I've excerpted are the more important ones.


wally said...

We're forced to give money to pave our highways, to educate our children, to provide ourselves with clean water. We're not a bunch of wild men living in the woods. It's called the social contract. We can argue about its degree, but saying it's immoral to even have one is dumb. And I like Penn Gillette.

And no one's ever threatened me at gunpoint to give money to poor people. The guy's delusional.

Bob said...

@wally: tax money goes to support Medicaid and food stamps, which do go to poor people. And implicit in the tax system is the threat that, if you refuse to pay, you go to jail, at gunpoint if necessary. Jillette was just simplifying the process.

This links in to the current media commotion over Warren Buffett requesting in a New York Times editorial that his taxes be raised. Note that he's not breaking out his checkbook and doing it out of the kindness of his heart, he has to have it required of him by Congressional action. And he wants it not only for himself, who purports to be willing, but his fellow billionaires, who may not be.

wally said...

Damn! I knew if I added that gunpoint comment, that's what you would focus on. What about my more important point, about the social contract? If we went around taking compassionate collections for road-building, what do you think our highway system would look like?

BobG said...

"And no one's ever threatened me at gunpoint to give money to poor people."

Try not paying taxes, and see how fast you have people from the government waving guns and slapping handcuffs on you.

wally said...

"People try to argue that government isn't really force." Who tries to argue that? Who disputes that government will force you to obey the law? I forget what fallacy he's employing here, but it's one of the big ones.

"There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint." The purpose of assisting our elderly is not to give joy to Penn Gillette.

wally said...

It's conceivable, BobG, that anyone who breaks a law could conceivably end up at gunpoint, but in the case of tax law, you'd have to be a militia nutball to let it get that far. If you don't like Medicare, you vote for representatives who agree with you, and if enough of them don't get elected, you get out your copy of the Constitution and remind yourself how our country works.