David R. Henderson  

Please Advocate Your Special Interest Rather than Sticking up for Taxpayers

PRINT
One multiplier to rule them al... Did Mortgage-Security Professi...

In response to something I wrote in January, I received a letter last week, postmarked January 30. Well played, U.S. Postal Service.

It's like many I've received over the years when the writer doesn't like an article or blog post I wrote or a statement I made on radio or television. I've gotten used to them, but I was thinking about it and realizing what the implicit--and almost explicit--message is.

To his credit, the author, Richard Giordano, signed his name and even provided a return address. Also, it was more polite and less nasty than most such letters I receive from people who disagree with me.

Here's the whole letter:

Professor Henderson,
It seems strange to want to do away with public schools when you teach at one totally or partly subsidized by the Navy. Made me chuckle when I looked it up [I think the word is "up"] on the web.
God bless you sir and I hope there aren't any more like you teaching there & filling heads with those ideas.
Thank you,
Richard Giordano

Here's what I find interesting. It seems clear to me that had I advocated government-subsidized schools, Mr. Giordano would not have written that letter. So his upset is that I, although a member of a special interest benefiting from government subsidies, have not become an advocate of those subsidies.

So his message is: Please advocate the government subsidies that benefit your special interest.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (16 to date)

Therefore, if government nationalizes food production, proponents of freedom should not eat.

Now wait, comrade Lenin, comrade Stalin and comrade Mao already had that idea and put it in practice. Starving millions.

So brilliant and humanitarian. There ought to be an ideological test for every job, says the "non-ideological" left.

nzgsw writes:

I take significant pride in the fact that I consistently agitate and vote for policies that would eliminate my current job.

Ted Levy writes:

Good work, David, for not allowing your bread to determine which way it is buttered.

Not all are so principled. I recall an outspoken local libertarian radical who I first heard express public concern about "our country's promises" to the elderly, who have based their financial plans on it, just after his 61st birthday...

[One more piece of evidence, BTW, that you and Prof. Hummel are correct to think default more likely than spending cuts.]

Steve S writes:

Maybe he thinks you're dumb enough to not realize you are advocating for the elimination of your current position.

At my past job there were several anti-war people who would rationalize the fact that they worked for a defense contractor and that their company was an exception (and thus, should stay open even in the face of budget cuts) and not the rule.

I am confident you are wise enough to not take that position, but to be charitable to the letter writer, he may have thought you would shrivel up at the thought of actually closing your public school.

Also see Roderick Long on this.

Trevor H writes:

I advocate eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction. But as long as it's the law I will keep claiming it - I'm not a sucker.

James writes:

It's right out of the statist's rhetorical playbook: If a libertarian has paid more in taxes than he's received in subsidies, it's because he's too wealthy. Criticize him as out of touch with the common man. If he collects a subsidy, call him a hypocrite. Treat any interaction he may have had with the state as though it undermines his position on what the state should do.

Eli writes:

Good point. You're stuck either being a special interest or a hypocrite I guess. You can extend that kind of logic to all industries I guess. How dare I work for Starbucks and not support fair trade coffee!

He makes one of these "seems like" arguments that only works if you don't think about it for more than 5 seconds. It seems like if you're a part of an industry and you don't want government privileges for it, then there's something inconsistent going on. Of course it seems like if some men are mortal, and you're a man, then you must be mortal.

You know how to deal with these kinds of things; keep it cerebral. Thoughtful people seeking to understand are paying attention to you. Way to be a good example.

Jamie Newman writes:

So Mr. Henderson is advocating for the abolition of the Naval Postgraduate School? And for the abolition of the Navy, too, presumably? I seem to have missed that part of his output.

I'm curious: Has he been in some way compelled to teach for the Navy? Are his life prospects so limited that he has no choice but to teach for the Navy? Poor dear. In either case, my heart goes out to him.

I think his message is clear: Tenured, publicly-funded sinecures, with lavish salaries and benefits, for me, but none, alas, for thee.

Worrub writes:

I agree 100%, but I see many conservatives arguing that people shouldn't buy health insurance (or that they themselves are not) to protest Obamacare (see Matt Drudge) so people definitely follow this type of logic to their own detriment regularly.

Cari Beth writes:

One of the first concepts we learned in critical thinking class was that being hypocritical is not fallacious. One can make perfect arguments while not personally following the arguments. The key fallacy is inconsistency, which I do not detect at all with Mr. Henderson's or most Libertarian's positions.

Mike Rulle writes:

Logically, you are correct, of course. That is, just because you engage in an activity which benefits you, but which you believe is wrong, does not mean it is not wrong. But do you really think that was his point?

He implicitly raises the question of just how strongly and how important you believe your argument to be. If subsidies really were so bad, would you continue to engage in it? How wrong does something have to be before you stop engaging in it?

Glib utilitarianism is not very appealing. I would have at least given Mr. Giordano a little bit more respect, even as I too disagree with him.


vikingvista writes:

I wonder if a communist is a hypocrite if he respects another's property, earns an income as an employee of a company, or purchases and consumes products or services by capitalist enterprises.

It seems that it is always those who oppose state violence that are supposed to either shut up, or else crawl into a hole and die for their beliefs.

There is no inconsistency in simultaneously choosing to live as best as one can in a world one did not create in accordance with one's aspirations wherever economic signals lead him, while simultaneously identifying and critiquing some actions that may influence those signals.

There is however hypocrisy in demanding that others live completely isolated from all beneficial influences of their perceived evils, while not doing so oneself.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Mike Rulle,
I would have at least given Mr. Giordano a little bit more respect, even as I too disagree with him.
I’m not clear how you think I disrespected him. I think there’s very little doubt that he thinks I should advocate government funding of schools. That’s not disrespect. It’s interpretation.
@vikingvista,
There is no inconsistency in simultaneously choosing to live as best as one can in a world one did not create in accordance with one's aspirations wherever economic signals lead him, while simultaneously identifying and critiquing some actions that may influence those signals.
Well stated. Thanks.
@Jamie Newman,
I think his message is clear: Tenured, publicly-funded sinecures, with lavish salaries and benefits, for me, but none, alas, for thee.
You got the message badly wrong.

Ben Gross writes:

Few free-banking libertarians among us would consciously walk over a Federal Reserve Note lying flat on a parking lot, just as few fractavists publicly complain about their lower natural gas bills. Both are beautiful examples of folks behaving in accordance with their individual economic interests, despite the dissonance with their proclaimed policy goals.

LD Bottorff writes:

I don't see Mr. Giordano's logic. The United States maintains a Navy for several good reasons. The fact that some of our wars were not good decisions does not mean that we shouldn't have a Navy. And, as long as we have one, we will have schools that train the members of our military. That is totally different from the public funding of basic education.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top