Blogs > Liberty and Power > Fascism or Broccoli?

Jun 30, 2004 10:12 am

Fascism or Broccoli?

Hillary Clinton’s remark yesterday that “We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good” is already getting lots of attention in the blogosphere, but if I’m understanding this stuff correctly, that’s a reason why I should comment on it also. The comments thread at Yglesias is particularly instructive, as well as amusing. A couple of the commentators there observe that this is an uncharacteristically honest way of talking about redistribution, coupled with the frank admission that Hillary Clinton and her colleagues know better than you do how you should spend your money (which isn’t really yours after all), and explain why this is objectionable. Other commentators earnestly defend the idea that the property isn’t really “yours” and claim that it’s really about taxing the “wealthy.”

One aspect that calls for emphasis is the understanding of property rights at work here. Her remark could be interpreted as meaning that there really is no such thing as private property. It is actually the possession of the State – we let you use some of it, but we’ll take what we want to as we see fit. I think this is logically implicit in her claim, but I wonder whether she actually thinks this, or whether she thinks that there is such a thing as private property (e.g., her house), but that massive redistribution is a good thing anyway. The former would be more frightening and morally mistaken, but logically consistent. The latter might seem less scary, because it leaves open the possibility that she could be persuaded otherwise, but since it’s logically contradictory, there’s no reason to be optimistic about rational persuasion. People who are rational but who hold principles that (you think) are wrong can be persuaded otherwise. But people who are willing to entertain contradictory beliefs are virtually impervious to rational persuasion. As Aristotle put it, it’s like arguing with a plant (Metaphysics 1006a15). You really can’t have it both ways – either there is such a thing as private property, or there isn’t. If there is, then Hillary’s attitude is wrong. If she really thinks that all property belongs to the State, or society, or what have you, well, let’s talk.

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Max Schwing - 7/1/2004

Perhaps, they have not really a definition what is in the category of property. In some way, I believe they see money and other properties (like House, car etc.) as different things, not belonging in one category...