Rebirth of Reason


Government Holding Kids Hostage
by Joseph Rowlands

[Written in 2012]


The state of California is once again having budget problems. It is spending far more money than it can extort through taxes. Instead of cutting spending, politicians have announced that without higher taxes, they will be forced to cut spending to public schools. "Your money, or your children's future!"


Of all of the spending programs that the state finances, are all of them really higher priority than school spending? And higher priority by what standard? It is the same game that politicians always play. When they need more money, they threaten to cut those programs most favored by the voters. If they instead said we need higher taxes in order to pay ridiculously ludicrous benefits packages to public unions, it wouldn't go over as well. So instead, they threaten the most popular programs.


Politicians love to threaten children because people are willing to go to extremes in order to save them. The stronger you value something, the easier it is for them to use it as a weapon against you. Along with holding children hostage, they also threaten to put people's lives in danger by cutting back on police and firemen. They may as well say "Your money or your life." That's the politician's campaign motto.


This highlights an argument against government that isn't heard very often. The typical belief is that if something is important, like healthcare or food or schooling, government should be involved. The hope is that their involvement will somehow improve the quality and quantity, and provide guarantees that people wouldn't have if they were forced to pay for it themselves. If healthcare and schooling is important, government should provide it for free to make sure everyone has it.


But as we can see with schooling, what this really does is put these values in the hands of people who are willing to hold them hostage and extort money out of you. Sure there are lots of other reasons to dislike government involvement in these areas, but this reason is significant. By handing control of some of the most significant values in our lives over to others, we place our lives in their hands. Why wouldn't we expect them to threaten those values to profit themselves.


It's the recipe of every villain. They always try to use your own values against you. By putting those values under the control of others, it is offering an extreme temptation. You've already handed them control. All they need to do is hint at the possibility of destroying those values.


Why doesn't it happen more often? It does. In these cases, the politicians are using the threat of harm to your values to extort higher taxes from you. But there's a cost to it. If they are too cavalier with their hostages, they might lose their jobs. So they prefer threats where they can shift the blame. In the case of a budget deficit, they blame a lack of tax money, carefully hiding the fact that it is their choice about which programs to cut.


In other cases, they use the threat to your values as a way of getting votes. They suggest the opposition will harm your values if they win. If you vote Republican, they'll gut social security and leave all of the retired people to die. It's crazy that people believe that, but that's not important. The fact that they can use these values as leverage is because the government has acquired control over these significant values.


When the government taxed people so they couldn't save enough for retirement and promised to provide for them, they took control over a significant value. And then they used that control to milk votes through a process of threats and scare tactics. To the extent they control the healthcare industry, they do the same thing. But it's only because control is in their hands instead of ours that they can use these tools of manipulation. If it were our money, in our hands, there would be no threats.



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