by Michele Christopher
The following content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors of Faster Than The World.
Agriculture subsidies. Affirmative action. Diversity policies in school admissions. Universal health care. Welfare.
What do all of these things have in common? They're all examples of how liberals use victimhood to achieve their agenda. Confused? I'll explain.
You see, liberalism is something that has to be sold to the American people, for no independent citizen is going to agree to pay heavy taxes to have a big, bloated, invasive government. Most citizens, if asked generically, would undoubtedly rather have a small government and lower taxes.
So that's where the language of victimhood comes in. In order to convince Americans to vote for big-government, high-tax liberal policies they must be convinced that big-government, high-tax liberal policies are what they need. They must be convinced that they cannot do without these policies and that those who would tell them that they can do without such policies don't really care about them.
Consider affirmative action hiring and admissions policies, for instance. Liberals insist that affirmative action, basically race-based hiring favoring minorities, is necessary because minorities are victims and cannot succeed without such favoritism. To illustrate this, consider Michigan's efforts to amend that state's constitution (Proposal 2 in the last election) with the following language: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
Seems pretty straight forward, right? The law, as enacted, would prevent state employers and educators from showing favoritism to any race, sex, ethnicity, etc. Yet despite the clear common sense of this law, it was opposed by so-called “civil rights” groups from across the nation including groups like the NAACP and others. Why? Because those groups don't want the preferential treatment for their constituencies to end. Obviously they didn't phrase their opposition to Proposal 2 in that manner because it wouldn't have gained a lot of traction with voters, so instead they used the language of victimhood. They claimed that the proposal would hurt minority groups. That it would prevent them from having the same opportunities as everyone else since, without government help, these minorities can't get ahead on their own.
Which is complete balderdash. The key to helping minorities get ahead is to give them better opportunities for education (see: school vouchers, another policy “civil rights” groups oppose), not to deny education opportunities to “majority”students. Yet many minorities remain convinced that they cannot get ahead on their own, so they continue to vote for liberal interests who promote things like affirmative action.
Many working in the agriculture industry have bought into this same line of thinking.
Farming is a tough job, with a lot of risk involved. Thus, many farmers have fallen on hard times when the growing season has gone poorly. So to “help” the farmers politicians have instituted policies that subsidize their industry with billions upon billions of tax payer dollars. Now many farmers have been convinced by these politicians sending them all the money that they cannot get by without subsidies.
Again, the language of victimhood. These farmers are “victims” who must be helped because they cannot help themselves.
Which, again, is complete balderdash. These farmers could help themselves by changing their business models and using different growing strategies. Many farmers could band together and form business groups to farm the land. Such groups would allow them to share resources like equipment and money, more easily diversify crops and allow them more leeway to absorb losses during tough growing seasons. Yet in some states (like North Dakota) such business arrangements are actually banned. Why? Because the politicians like it better when farmers are dependent upon the government to get buy. It makes it easier for those farmers to be manipulated for votes.
Which is really what is at the heart of all this “pimping victimhood” the big-government types do. When people are convinced that they need government assistance to get by they are more inclined to vote for the people who will provide that assistance. Yet who is that most beneficial for, the people getting the assistance or the politicians using the assistance to buy votes?
I'd say the politicians.
There is an old proverb which states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” What that boils down to is the idea that we should help people help themselves.
I think that's the approach we need to utilize when it comes to government assistance. Rather than simply giving people things (like preferential treatment for minorities, or endless subsidies for farmers) we should be looking at policies that encourage them to succeed on their own.
School vouchers, for instance, would do wonders for minority students. It would allow their parents to get them away from the shoddy inner-city public schools that do them such disservice and get them into better schools in other neighborhoods, or even private schools.
Ending bans on corporate farming and ending many of the most burdensome regulations on the agriculture industry would go a long way toward allowing farmers to adapt their business models to changing markets and survive lean years like any other business.
These are common sense solutions that would allow these “victim groups” to succeed without unduly burdening tax payers. Yet liberals will have none of it, and they'll give a litany of reasons why. They'll talk about how callous it is to deny help to those who need it and accuse those who oppose government handouts and entitlements of being cold or uncaring.
Yet what they'll never want to talk about is how cold and calculating it is to create and promote government dependence among citizens.
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Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
I killed that man and took all of his fish.
Posted by: Paul | December 29, 2006 1:23 AM
Nice Editorial man.
I called myself a liberal for many, many years, but these days I'm leaning more towards progressive/libretarian for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. Affirmative Action? What the fuck stupid idea is that?
There are, however, a few things that I think a government SHOULD do, for the good of it's people. Many of them I think we would agree on, but one you mentioned but did not explain was health care.
With the costs of health care being what they are (I had minor, very minor, knee surgery in November and, even with excellent health insurance, I paid $1500 in bills) I think access to health care is something that everyone should have. If you're struggling to make ends meet and then you break your leg, you are fucked 6 ways from the Kama Sutra, my friend - and it's not right.
The other stuff, the dependence on government stuff, I would have previously fought you on, but you explained them excellently. This editorial showed me a bit of the other side of the fence. Kudos.
Posted by: Ian | December 29, 2006 1:31 AM
I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I do think the modern day cult of victimhood is MUCH larger than just some liberal agenda for America.
The only really recognizable military "heroes" for most Americans are Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman. I wouldn't slander either one of them -- but it's a fact that both achieved their noteriety through circumstances beyond their control in which they became victims.
Also, the term "hero" has been applied many times in phrases like "special olympians are the real heroes." Nothing against special olympians either, but I do seriously long for the days when "the real heroes" were people who did something proactive and had a vision they followed, rather than defining hero as someone who suffered something beyond his or her control. It takes no great heroism IMO to get accidentally shot or be born under tragic circumstances. These things just randomly happen to people. Neither reflects badly on anyone -- it just isn't the measure of heroism.
Looking at a hero as someone you should strive to emmulate or at least be inspired by, I guess the lesson for kids these days is to get victimized.
Posted by: Kory | December 29, 2006 4:04 AM
Ian, I appreciate your comments.
I'm not with you on health care, though. As I said in the article, I think it is better for the government to empower people to provide for themselves than it is for the government to provide something for them. Everything government provides is usually provided inefficiently, and at greater expense than necessary for the taxpayers.
As far as health care, I'd like to see greater emphasis on things like health savings accounts, which would introduce more market forces into the health care industry.
Right now, do you really shop around for a doctor? I don't, because the hospital near my house provides adequate care and I don't care what it costs because I'm not really paying for it. At least not directly. But if I were more directly responsible for paying my health care bill (i.e. through a HSA) I'd be more careful about where I went. I'd shop around a bit and find a hospital that provided adequate care and reasonable prices.
IF millions of other people did the same thing health care prices would come down, and more clinics competing for our health care money would spring up.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for helping people who truly cannot help themselves (the disabled, etc.), but too often we're just subsidizing people who won't help themselves or provide for their families.
Call me cold hearted, but those people who are too busy getting high or drunk or sitting in front of a television to provide for themselves can starve in the gutter for all I care.
Posted by: Rob | December 29, 2006 11:41 AM