Posts Tagged ‘libertarian’

My response to Penn Jillette, Libertarians and compassion…

March 16, 2012

I happened to see a quote on Facebook from an article by Penn Jillette on CNN Opinion. In it he made the following statement:

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.

It resonated with me as something an Ayn Rand acolyte might say. So, here’s the response I left on my friend’s Facebook post (with edits and corrections):

Wow! Penn sounds like an Ayn Rand acolyte. I sure am glad these kinds of ideas are not mainstream, at least not today. Perhaps if enough people like Penn educate enough children who become adults and choose to take care of themselves and all those around them who are less “gifted” or explicitly disabled, then and ONLY then would what he (and Rand) is saying might work.

Contribution, either chosen, obligated or forced, has been the story of man since long and deep into is tribal ancestory. The idea that there is now enough excess capacity such that individualism is even possible to hold socially and psychologically is a testament to the previous systems’ ability to elevate homo-sapien’s survival.

Luckily, the very thing that psychologically drives Penn (and Rand) is the very thing that diminishes their ability to generate and sustain social cohesion to the point of their being politically irrelevant. There’s an equilibrium between socialism and individualism. Slide too much to either end of that spectrum and one becomes psychologically incongruent and dysfunctional. I don’t know about Penn, but Rand was clearly at the dysfunctional control-freak end of the individualism end of the spectrum.

Penn gets to say what he says only because so many people before him fought to survive so that he now floats in the excess resource capacity to say it without ever having to directly experience the full consequences of his assertions. I’m glad he’s an entertainer. It’s provides the most elegant ironic background to his “serious philosophical statement”. {smirk}

I find his “moral credit” and “joy” assertions are arrogant. He can assert those values for himself. However, who is he to claim they are universal values and then claim the “proper way to evaluate” both morally and joyfully. What a tool.