Thursday, July 5, 2012

Walter Williams hates Robin Hood with an almost unimaginable fury.

A few weeks ago Walter Williams decided it was time to lay out the central defining principle of his personal philosophy. What do we learn from this? That Walter Williams really needs to spend time thinking through his beliefs. Although the man's already closer to 100 than 1 - if this is as far as he's gotten with a lifetime of thought, I'm not optimistic that he can be turned around in what time he's got left. So what are the things that Walter believes in? Thought experiments! Poorly-conceived ones, at that!

"Suppose I saw an elderly woman painfully huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. She's hungry and in need of shelter and medical attention. To help the woman, I walk up to you using intimidation and threats and demand that you give me $200. Having taken your money, I then purchase food, shelter and medical assistance for the woman. Would I be guilty of a crime? A moral person would answer in the affirmative. I've committed theft by taking the property of one person to give to another."

Okay Walter, first thing - morality and law are two separate things. So don't go making them interchangeable by saying a 'moral person' would answer that a crime had been committed. Whether or not a 'crime' has occurred is a matter for a legal analysis, not a moral one. So let's just cut your conclusion entirely, since you've tried to trick us into accepting what you imagine is a 'moral' framework, when you're actually talking about a legal one.

Let's say, for example, that you took the money from me - that's me, personally, not some hypothetical person like the one you were dealing with - to help out the starving old lady. Would you have committed a crime? Maybe - but would you have acted immorally? I can't really say that you have. After all, the old lady obviously needs the money more than I do - I'm not the one freezing to death. In this hypothetical situation the most I could ask was that you, Walter Williams, also put up an equal 200 dollars to help the old lady out, so that at least we were dealing with a fair situation, and I could be sure that you really wanted to help the woman, and weren't asking for the money simply because you had a problem with me.

That's a concept we call 'shared sacrifice', Walter - you and I both put up money so that an old lady doesn't die. What could possibly be immoral about that?

Let's find out what Walter thinks is immoral about that!

"Most Americans would agree that it would be theft regardless of what I did with the money."

Theft, perhaps - although I don't know if I'd agree with 'most'. Maybe in the strictest '50% +1' definition, but even then.... there are more people in danger of becoming an old lady on a grate than in danger of becoming you, Walter.. And again, while it might be theft, it's certainly not morally wrong? God no. And hell, you haven't even considered who the money might be taken from. What if you were taking the money from Jamie Dimon, who makes an absurd amount of money by stealing from people? Then it wouldn't even be a little wrong. Sorry for interrupting, you were saying?

"Would it still be theft if I were able to get three people to agree that I should take your money? What if I got 100 people to agree -- 100,000 or 200 million people? What if instead of personally taking your money to assist the woman, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take your money? In other words, does an act that's clearly immoral and illegal when done privately become moral when it is done legally and collectively?"

There you go again, Walter, trying to use 'immoral' and 'illegal' interchangeably. Since I've never agreed to your central idea that being pressured to help a dying woman is 'immoral', why would I think that forcing millions of people to help other millions of starving people was immoral? Illegality is a question of what a government says it is - immorality transcends such simple classification. Hell - I'm a little shocked by your example, since being compelled to help the downtrodden is basically the definition of new testament biblical morality.

Of course, it's possible that you didn't know that, Walter - are you not a Christian? I honestly don't know, but I feel like that's something which would have come up by now...

"Put another way, does legality establish morality? Before you answer, keep in mind that slavery was legal; apartheid was legal; the Nazi's Nuremberg Laws were legal; and the Stalinist and Maoist purges were legal. Legality alone cannot be the guide for moral people. The moral question is whether it's right to take what belongs to one person to give to another to whom it does not belong."

No, legality doesn't establish morality. Which is why taking that money to help that old lady - while illegal - was never immoral in the first place. The weird part is that by bringing up Nuremberg laws it almost seems like Walter's close to understanding that helping an old lady is good, and worth some sacrifice to accomplish, but then he spins back and decides that the baseline of what he calls 'morality' is "What's mine is mine, and nobody can touch it but me!"

The moral philosopher that Water is basing his theories on, by the way, is 'Any random 3-year-old'.

"Don't get me wrong. I personally believe that assisting one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets is praiseworthy and laudable. Doing the same by reaching into another's pockets is despicable, dishonest and worthy of condemnation."

I don't think you do believe helping people is praiseworthy, though. I think you that on the rare occasions in which you deign to offer your largesse, you do it because you enjoy the feeling of superiority you get from looking down on someone less fortunate than you. If you ever see anyone else giving to charity/a poor person, I don't think you feel anything at all.

"Some people call governmental handouts charity, but charity and legalized theft are entirely two different things. But as far as charity is concerned, James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." To my knowledge, the Constitution has not been amended to include charity as a legislative duty of Congress."

No one calls government handouts 'Charity' unless they're trying to insult the people who receive those handouts. Hell, no one calls government support 'handouts' unless they're trying to insult the people who receive the support. Honestly, Walter, there are so many layers of contempt for the lower classes here that it's hard to cut through them and find your point.

Also, I thought we were discussing morality here? Why are you talking about James Madison? In addition to hating charity, here are some things that Madison approved of: slavery, deportation of free blacks, screwing over natives, and invading Canada. He's not exactly a paragon of moral authority - even among the founding fathers.

"Our current economic crisis, as well as that of Europe, is a direct result of immoral conduct. Roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of our federal budget can be described as Congress' taking the property of one American and giving it to another."

You've now expanded the word 'immoral' to the point where it becomes meaningless. You consider social security (keeping old people from dying frozen in a ditch - which we already established was moral) and medicaid (keeping children from dying from the measles) as 'immoral' because everyone in America pools their money to make sure those results are achieved. That's not what immorality is, Walter. It never has been, and it never will be.

"In the face of our looming financial calamity, what are we debating about? It's not about the reduction or elimination of the immoral conduct that's delivered us to where we are. It's about how we pay for it -- namely, taxing the rich, not realizing that even if Congress imposed a 100 percent tax on earnings higher than $250,000 per year, it would keep the government running for only 141 days."

There's something about those numbers that seems like a lie - maybe it's just that Walter is using statistics to prove a point, and he's almost always lying when he does that... Maybe he's not taking corporate taxes into account? Or estate taxes? That could be it...

"Ayn Rand, in her novel "Atlas Shrugged," reminded us that "when you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good.""

Which is why, Walter, we can never allow people to reach a point where the means of survival is for everyone to hoard all their money in a giant safe while the majority of Americans die of starvation and the flu.

Oh, wait, what she thought was 'evil' was taking a small portion of her money to ensure a clean water supply and sturdy bridges? Huh... why did anyone ever take this woman seriously? And how can anyone look at people who devote their lives to her gospel with anything approaching a straight face?

And for the record, Walter - you taking my money to help an old lady wouldn't be immoral. Me taking your money for any reason at all? Completely morally neutral. Because you sure as hell didn't earn it in a moral way, so you don't deserve to have it any more than I do. I don't expect you to understand this concept Walter - after all, Robin Hood would no doubt make your top-5 list of fiction's greatest villains.

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