Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Yin-Yang Heart of Elspeth Gilmore

Laurence Vance just informed me (not personally, of course, but that's the great thing about the internet) about Elspeth Gilmore. He calls her "the dumbest of the 1%," referring to the now ubiquitous and probably mythical division of wealth in American society, the 99 and the 1,made popular by Occupy Wall Street. Mr Vance calls Elspeth Gilmore dumb because she apparently can't see the massive, glaring flaw in the logic she so proudly espouses in a recent commentary on NPR. Vance is correct in that the flaw is there—anyone can see that. Gilmore is begging—demanding, even—that the government help her give away more of her money. It does seem pretty dumb at first, but maybe she should get the benefit of the doubt until some further research can be done.

Here is Elspeth's plea from her sign at Occupy Wall Street: I inherited money at 21. I have had health and dental insurance my whole life. I want to live in a world where we all have enough. I have more than enough. Tax me! Rich kid for redistribution! I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%.

There are numerous questions that could be asked here, such as what health and dental insurance have to do with social justice, or what enough is, and what it is enough for. But the question I want to ask is whether or not Elspeth Gilmore is dumb. Isn't it possible that she just has a kind heart, and that when she sees a poor child with crooked teeth her heart breaks because it isn't fair for a child to go through life with crooked teeth? It could be that she is so selfless that she can't stand to see so many go without basic needs: "adequate infrastructure and roads, well-funded school systems, clean water systems, innovative transportation and health care for all." Way too nebulous, but well-intentioned, I'm sure, although I'm not sure that those are basic needs, let alone needs ("why are you crying little child?" "Because I don't have any innovative transportation!"). To provide for those needs she wants to close "loopholes for corporations" and "increase millionaire taxes." She wants to use her money to help others. How very nice of her. Her heart seems to be in the right place.

This apparent kindness is the yang side of her heart. Yang eventually turns into yin. Instead of choosing on her own how her money can help others (which is why Vance calls her dumb, in case you haven't figured it out yet), Gilmore wants her money to be forcibly removed by federal officials so they can decide how to help poor folks (note to Elspeth: shooting missiles and dropping bombs on poor people in foreign countries—which is what Uncle Sam would do with it—doesn't count as helping). It doesn't end there. She wants this choice to be made for everyone in her situation. Everyone with "more than enough" must be separated from a large portion of their wealth until they just have "enough." And then, apparently, everyone will have enough! The stupidity rears it head once again. Just in case you think the state doesn't forcibly take property, watch this hilarious video of Harry Reid in denial of that fact. So Elspeth wants people with guns to show up at the country club and threaten violence to raise a little revenue from the well-to-do. It only seems fair to her. They have more than enough!

Not realizing she can give her own money away is dumb. Not realizing that the state's only tool is violence is ignorance. Foisting this ignorance on the world in the name of fairness and equality is evil. The kindness of Elspeth's heart is also the darkness of her heart. I don't think she gets this. I can help her.

Last year the insurance company that we bought our dental insurance from decided not to cover orthodontia anymore. We had already agreed to the terms of contract, and we had already begun the process of installing braces. We had paid our portion of the cost. The insurance company had not paid their portion, and told the orthodontist that they didn't plan to pay it either. So we had to pay it. My wife was angry. Fortunately, Washington has an insurance commissioner's office to protect unsuspecting consumers from being victimized. This is what taxes are for, right? To pay for scads of lawyers to defend us from corrupt corporate predators, right? After weeks of waiting, an attorney from the commissioner's office informed us that the insurance company had canceled that portion of their service, and so obviously they couldn't be expected to pay for a service they didn't offer. This wise attorney also informed us that he had closed the case, which I assume is one of those extra mile services that can only be offered by a state-run institution. If it weren't for the insurance commissioner's office, we would be out $3500! Oh, wait, we were out $3500, despite all the efforts of the beneficent and magnanimous state to save us from that end. Huh. As an extra benefit, the insurance commissioner of Washington also protected us from similar dental plans because he had not personally approved them for our area of the state. You cannot imagine how protected I felt at that moment. I don't know if this is what Elspeth wants, but this is what her method would produce. Listen closely Elspeth—it was the very existence of this government agency that allowed the insurance company to act this way. Their corruption was protected by the state. It's a very simple process: the state violently takes money; the state violently entrenches agencies that promote a monopoly on services; the state violently enforces it's monopolistic policies; the state violently prevents individuals from breaking the monopoly; the state protects it's monopoly with violence. As an alternative, let's pretend there is some measure of freedom involved in the process. We buy orthodontic insurance. Our kids get braces as per the contract. So simple! Here's another one. We want to buy orthodontic insurance, or we want one of our kids to get braces. There is too much money involved. Elspeth sees this, and writes a check for the required amount. Simple yet again! No violence, no crony protectionist rackets, no fury. In the third scenario, three parties benefit. The orthodontist (or his wife) is able to continue spending large amounts of money on whatever, our kids gets straight teeth, and Elspeth feels good about using her inherited money to help the 99%. In the first scenario there is only violence.

If Elspeth Gilmore and other one-percenters really want to help the lowly ninety-nine percenters, they can start by not demanding that violence be done to us in the name of equality. We don't need more violence, we need more liberty. And people like her need more economic common sense.

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