Cory Doctorow, at BoingBoing, reproduces this great chart, showing the number of people who, after receiving the benefits of a government social program, still believe they are not using government social programs:
It’s the “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” phenomena writ large: a society of people who subsist on mutual aid and redistributive policies who’ve been conned (and conned themselves) into thinking that they are rugged individualists and that everyone else is a parasite.
While I am second to none in slamming those in the ”Keep your government hands off my Medicare” crowd, this graph doesn’t exactly say that. Doctorow says “subsist on” but that’s not really what the chart says. It just points out that one is receiving a government benefit of any value, not that one subsists on it, or even enjoyed net benefits from it. To take a specific example, as far as I can tell (I don’t recognize all the items listed), the only one that I have received is the mortgage interest deduction. Yet, as a crazy libertarian, I would indeed say “I am not on a government social program.”
You can say that’s me being hypocritical, but when you compare the amount of money I gain from that tax credit, compared to the money I pay in taxes to support all those other things that I do not benefit (you can argue that I may one day benefit, or that they provide a protective net) from, it’s hardly fair to say that I benefit from (much less subsist on!) government programs as a whole, as the net benefit to me of them is negative. In fact, for at least some relatively large section of the population, the net benefit must be negative, in order to balance the other section (those for whom the social program is surely designed) for whom the benefit is positive. I would gladly forgo that tax credit if I could get out of even one or two of those other programs — social security being top of the list. The endpoint of this logic is that we would claim that a person who pays 1o dollars in taxes to support “government social programs” and only receives 2 dollars in benefit from them is a hypocritical jerk for not thinking they were beneficiaries of these programs. (more…)