“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire? Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.'” – Zechariah 3:1-4
I caught about 2/3 of an HBO special on Ronald Reagan just the other day. It had interviews with folks who were close to Reagan, or who were politically active or important back in the 80s. Just about everybody had an angle. There were the Reagan defenders and the detractors; but on the whole the piece was fair.
Probably the most prominent contributor was Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan – who is a liberal. (Interesting that his other son, Michael Reagan, and ardent conservative, was not part of the dialogue – oh well.) Toward the end, Ron expressed some faux confusion about his father and some of his political opinions – and trotted out a standard canard which will be the subject of this post.
The point had to do with New Deal era government work programs. Ron said (I’ll get the quote as right as I can remember it) – “There were some things that were confusing about my father. You know, he and his father both got jobs through government work programs during the depression; but he very much opposed such programs during his presidency. So, were they good then but not good now? It was a little strange.”
On the one hand, this could be no more than a simple logical flaw in progressive argumentation; but it could also be more. The simple flaw is that availing oneself of a government program is an endorsement of the validity of that program. As we’ve noted in the past, this is nonsense. If you punch me in the eye and then offer me an ice-pack, my acceptance of the ice-pack in no way condones the eye-punching. I only accepted the ice-pack because you first punched me … and this is the least you can do given the mess you have created.
The government taxes everybody and gives various amounts back to the people through programs designed to herd as the benevolent legislators see fit. To accept government aid when you qualify is not an endorsement of the program itself. It is no more than rational behavior in choosing actions that benefit oneself.
However, I suspect that the general line of reasoning is somewhat more sinister for a number of reasons.
First, there is this attribution of morality to the program. It is a “good” program because it “helps” people in need. It is often the case that people will use a moral argument (even a twisted one) to subvert logical and rational debate. This concept held by so many progressives that their programs-of-choice have a moral defense may be a good political tactic, but its actual use is to short-circuit the debate – even upending the consideration of the moral ramifications of said policies.
By the same token, the notion that a policy should be labeled moral at all based on the number of people who support it (or are guilted into supporting it) is absurd from the Christian standpoint. Morality is not subject to a vote; and support of the majority in no wise gives a program or policy moral justification. (No matter what the Moral Majority says.)
I say that it is a good political tactic because it has all the trappings of shame and abuse and compulsion. If you have ever received government assistance, as many have, you are told that you must support continued government largess or you are a hypocrite. After all, you didn’t mind taking the aid when you needed it, but now you oppose it for others who need it?
What a weapon! The ability to totally subvert the rational thought of millions with shame. Truly every theocrat in the world should be proud.
The drug dealers should be proud to. The ability to give away money to those who are desperate, and then use that as a means to ensure their continued support down the road echoes the “first hit’s free” approach to creating new addicts.
While we’re at it, let us consider even deeper implications. Those who would break free of continued government assistance are accused of past iniquity (needing help – and taking it) in order to secure the desired behavior in the now (tacit support for more spending programs). They are accused of being unworthy to speak out against a system that once helped them – a system in which they once participated. They are accused of being sinners, unable to find grace and hope for tomorrow because of where they’ve been.
We know who the accuser is. These are not the ways that should be chosen. They are sinister indeed.
And this is what the do-gooders have become. They choose the way of the theocrats, the drug dealers, and the accuser of the brethren in order to gain political power for their continued do-gooding. Ahhh, what a wondrous corruption it all is.