Communities and Politics in the Age of Internet

2013, May 05, 04:33 pm

When speaking politics, some of the most disingenuous statements begin with the words "not everyone". Here's why.

But Not Eveyone ...

When speaking politics, some of the most disingenuous statements begin with the words "not everyone". Especially sly is the phrase "not everyone can afford ...".

Three assumptions are generated.

  1. The good or service under discussion is a necessity or, even worse, a 'right'.
  2. The lack is widespread and / or serious enough to require an intervention.
  3. Those who deny the issue or the need to act are callous at best.

Sometimes one or more of these assumptions is actually true, but usually not. More critical to consider is the standard solution proffered. Namely, that the government should provide the difference.

This is the preferred answer because it ostensibly guarantees that anyone lacking can be provided for. It ignores the fact that the government is an inefficient, slow moving, and uncaring bureaucracy, and instead focuses on its reach and capacity to redistribute wealth. Fine, let's go to wishful thinking land for a minute, so what about the social ramifications?

Social Ramifications

To preface, although we are living in the wealthiest and more comfortable time in human history, unhappiness and discontent have not diminished.

On whom do we rely?

Historically, local community has been vital to the welfare and well-being of its members. A social obligation existed for them to assist one another in times of need. It was difficult, if not impossible to abandon your family and community. The world was dangerous and cruel, and they were all you had.

Happiness vs. License

In a very real way, conformity was survival in the days of yore. Because you were similar you belonged, and as a member you were supported when necessary. Curbing your desires was the key to your survival and acceptance. In general a diminution of license is a precursor to happiness. If when you feel anger or depression you lash out and make no attempt to curb you emotions, others will be driven away and abandon you.

The Slavery of Freedom

The most basic definition of freedom is license, a lack of restraints. Yet many of the desires of mankind are depraved or destructive. Restraints, both self imposed and coerced by others, are all that keep society civilized. Rabbi Chanina says in Pirkei Avot 3:2 that we should "pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, people would swallow one another alive."

Government Sustained Liberty

True liberty is, in many ways, the opposite of anarchy. It springs from a well enforced set of rules and regulations which maintain decorum and mitigate bully tactics. This occurs when role of government is, as Alexis de Tocqueville described, to assure equality of opportunity, and not equality of outcomes.

Destroying Community

When government reaches into the minutia of daily life and provides assistance to meet every basic need, it extirpates our necessity for community. It allows us license by removing our need to conform to local standards of behavior and contribute to the welfare of our neighbors. We become worse people, and more isolated.


Why let a sad truth, how much more so a lie, drag us into supporting destructive and corrupting policies? We should endeavor to think clearly and in depth about political issues. Politics is the realm of lies, half-truths, and misdirection. Don't get sucked in.


chana plotke 2013, May 05, 09:30 pm

I agree to a certain extent, but I think that the government can also provide assistance that makes the difference in quality of life for a family and allows the family to become more productive and able to be better community members themselves. Whether family or community or government we have to be compassionate and do everything we can to support the needs of the people around us. Freedom as lack of rules is a complete fallacy, that I agree with.

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