No blogger is an island

The other day, while discussing the hike in the minimum wage, one critic posed a fairly heavy question to me. It was a lengthy comment, but I’m going to reprint here the key part:

Jay, you are a very smart man. That is obvious. What I don’t understand is WHY people like you are so willing to advocate for a political system that works against your best interests. What’s so attractive about conservative ideology? Why do people in your position cheer when Rush says “Roosevelt is dead. His policies live on, but we are doing something about that.” Why is that attractive?

You’ve got health issues. A smart guy like you should be making more than mid 20K’s. Are you stuck because you don’t want to risk a move and lose insurance? So, why fight democratic healthcare reform? If you had a severe problem and were unable to work, wouldn’t you go bankrupt? Most people go bankrupt because of health reasons, not wild credit spending, like the meme. Why do conservatives cheer when bankruptsy laws are changed so if anything medical happened to them, they’d have no protection?

If you’re making in the mid 20Ks, and you have an appartment, you’ve got to be spending perhaps half of your net income on housing. Add to that insurance, food, utilities… Can’t be much left. Are you socking away what you need for retirement? If you have investments, it’s been a great couple of years, but you don’t have dividend income. Or probably much in the way of stocks that you’ve purchased. Don’t you want to be able to depend on Social Security for your retirement? Why don’t “conservatives” complain about the constant borrowing from the Social Security fund to make the budget numbers look more positive? There would not be a “Social Security crisis” in your lifetime if we were not removing surplus from the fund.

I don’t get it… I just don’t get it. Why does a smart guy like you, in your position, argue for a political ideology that works against your best interests in almost every way?

Could you please explain that to me?

John, it’s quite simple. Although I have repeatedly espoused my agnosticism, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own ethos that I try to adhere to. And I don’t have an overarching name or theme for it; it’s just something I can live with.

One part of it is that I abide by what I judge to be “right” or “wrong,” regardless of how it will affect me personally. You’re quite right, John, a lot of the things I oppose would benefit me greatly.

You cited the minimum wage. I actually make well over double the present minimum wage (presuming the raise hasn’t been implemented yet), but if for some reason this job goes belly-up, a raised minimum wage would benefit me.

You mentioned my health issues. Right now, I have a fairly mediocre health plan, but it’s better than nothing. If we did institute socialized medicine, I’m fairly sure that my employer would dump (or at least drastically curtail) that plan, and I’d be a bit better off under whatever program gets passed through Congress.

I spend a lot of time writing about the War On Terror. Realistically speaking, I am extremely unlikely to ever be directly touched by terrorism. Nor are any of those I’m closest to. Here in central/western New Hampshire, terrorism is something that happens far, far away to people I will never meet.

I get a lot of spam. Some goes to my private Yahoo account, some to my Wizbang account. I get bent out of shape a bit, even though it doesn’t take much time or effort to just delete it as it comes in. (With the notable exception of the ones in foreign alphabets, which always take FOREVER to load before I can delete them.)

So here are a bunch of situations that won’t ever affect me, or actually might benefit me. Yet I take strong positions on them. Why?

It’s not because of any religious beliefs. I have none. I acknowledge the possibility of a Higher Being, but there’s something in my personality that simply won’t let me take the “leap of faith” necessary to sign up. (Although my brief explorations into “Deism” have been interesting.)

It’s not out of concern for “leaving a better world for my children.” I won’t have any. Several years ago I looked at the genetic nightmare that would be my medical legacy, and said there is NO way in HELL I would inflict that on another generation, and had a certain operation to guarantee it.

It’s because I decided, very coldly and logically, that the best way I could leave my “mark” on the world would to find certain issues where I could make a strong moral and ethical stand, and fight those causes. And in each and every case, I would weigh both sides of the issue, see which one would be the more honest, the more fair, the one more likely to promote individual rights, and freedoms, and responsibilities, and take that stand. Even if it meant screwing myself over, in some way.

I believe that raising the federally-mandated minimum wage will help some people in the short term, but in the long run hurt far more. It reinforces the inappropriate (in my opinion) power of the government to intervene in what should be a matter between private individuals. Further, I have noted that with astonishing consistency, whenever the government meddles in the free market, it makes things worse. Recall the “luxury tax” of several years ago that virtually destroyed the domestic luxury boat business. How many highly-skilled craftsmen lost great-paying jobs in that attempt to “soak the rich?”

I believe that the assault by Militant Islam on the secular world is quite possibly one of the greatest threats to freedom and liberty in the world today, rivalling Communism in its heyday. I also think that, even if the United States and our allies do everything wrong, it will be years — if not decades — before it comes close to directly affecting me. And with my health issues, I’ll be lucky to make it another 20-30 years, so I personally should be safe from that.

I worry every day that spam — defined as “unsolicited commercial e-mail” — already represents a huge threat to the internet. According to one study, a full 94% of all e-mails sent in December were spam. Sooner or later, the “signal to noise” ratio will drop so low that e-mail itself will be useless. You want proof? Take a look at most web pages’ contact info. They’ve replaced an e-mail address with a form, most often because the spam problem has rendered that format worthless. I’ve had to “write off” several e-mail addresses I used to own because they simply became unusable — well in excess of 100 spams a day. And E-mail is one of the most amazing developments of the last 20 years.

I have a few other issues I believe in, but less strongly. I’m pro gay marriage, as long as it’s done properly and through legal channels — but that’s for pragmatic reasons, as I’ve seen first-hand what happens when it’s rammed through without the consent of the majority. It devolves into an extremely ugly fight, and usually sets back the cause worse than it was before.

I support the death penalty, because it is clearly sanctioned by the Constitution and does a hell of a job of preventing recidivism. Pragmatically speaking, it also prevents issues like a certain case in Massachusetts, where a murderer already serving life without parole killed another inmate. In that case, it was a scumbag pedophile priest who got snuffed, but there is literally nothing the state of Massachusetts can do to this guy. He’s already serving the harshest legal penalty, and as the song goes, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” He has literally nothing to lose, so why shouldn’t he try to kill anyone he wants? And what if the next would-be victim is a guard, a staffer, his lawyer?

I am pro-choice on abortion, but squishily. I think that it’s wrong, but I am not firm enough in my convictions that I want the full power of the government to back up that belief. I think that Roe v. Wade is one of the worst-crafted decisions the Supreme Court ever issued, that it’s a hodge-podge of rationalizations and suppositions that reflect “finding the conclusion, then working backwards to justify it,” rather than the more traditional. I think that it would be best settled by returning it to the Several States, where it would be decided by lawmakers who are (in theory) far more “in touch” with the beliefs of the people.

I am very much in favor of the right of the individual to keep and bear arms. I think that the 2nd Amendment is the worst-written part of the Constitution, but I believe that the Founding Fathers intended it to be an individual right, not a “collective right” (to use the term the ACLU made up to explain why they won’t defend individuals who try to exercise it). But I don’t own a gun, never have, most likely never will, and have fired one exactly once in my life.

When I was in college, I took a course in ethics. One thing that has stuck with me is how the professor said that for any ethical system to be legitimate, it had to be universal. The rules had to apply evenly to everyone, or it was not a truly ethical system. In that spirit, I’ve tried to discount my own personal self-interest when deciding where I stand on an issue.

So yeah, John, sometimes my own philosophical beliefs directly conflict with my own self-interest. That’s OK with me. Hell, in some ways, it’s reassuring. It tells me that I am not simply taking the most expedient, selfish, easiest way out of a situation.

So sometimes it gets a bit uncomfortable. But it helps me sleep a bit better at night.

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