The Ants and the Grasshoppers
I long to grasp the liberal paradox offered in your last issue and despite my previous failures, to correct some of the misconceptions you hold concerning the relationship of government to the governed.
Let’s illustrate the government/governed relationship first with a fable familiar to all, that of the ant and the grasshopper. For our fable, let’s say ants are net taxpayers, workers who pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits.
The grasshoppers are tax consumers. They do productive work but receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. These are the Paul’s who benefit from the robbing of the Peter’s. They are a reliable voting block for whatever elected party is robbing Peter.
Politicians and government officials are a special class of grasshopper, total tax consumers. They, with the rare exception of police, firemen and a few others, don’t produce anything. They rely on ants for their support. They also have a nearly exclusive right to the legal use of force -- grasshoppers with a SWAT team. Let’s call this special class of grasshopper the “Boss Hoppers.”
"Boss Hoppers" extract loot from ants and use it to buy votes. In the name of “fairness” Boss Hoppers can extract large amounts of loot from a few of the most productive ants. Payments to many grasshoppers and a reliable group of guilty ants are plenty for an electoral majority in favor of grasshoppers. Boss Hoppers keep most of the loot for themselves and their closest pals.
A reduction in payments of ant-loot to grasshopper-voters is not "mean-spirited," any more than an increase would be "compassionate." It is simply a gesture by the Boss Hoppers designed to keep the ants from halting production of loot, or heaven forefend, choosing a new mob of Boss Hoppers. Governments grant tax cuts for the same reason a man stops beating his mule -- for fear he will have to carry his own load.
Tax cuts are not robbery from government treasuries. A highwayman who deigns to allow his victim to keep his wedding band has not been robbed of a wedding band.
To the paradox, I’ll never understand how one could bitterly lament reducing payments to the Boss Hoppers, while knowing full well that they shouldn't be allowed to run an operation as simple as a ferry terminal. The implication, which is correct, is that they should stick to what they do best -- extortion, vote buying and meddling. How could a group of Boss Hoppers incapable of running anything more complicated than a parking lot solve problems like "affordable housing," or "universal medical care" or “education” or anything at all that doesn't make the very problem worse while expanding the power of Boss Hoppers? It’s a paradox that only the liberal mind can comprehend.