Friday, January 28, 2005


Drawing out a quote from the Benjamin Barber article cited below:
...[P]rivatization tries to convince us that the consumer is simply another, more efficient, form of the citizen. The citizen who votes with her dollars rather than her ballots. But dollars don't deliberate. They don't seek common ground. They are not bearers of empathy and imagination. As education consumers in Chicago or Washington, we can select the "best schools" for our children, but as citizens we need public schools that help make us all public citizens. As consumers in Los Angeles, we can choose among hundreds of automobile models, but only as citizens can we make the choices that create a public transportation system serving all.

Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: It dissolves the bonds that tie us together. The social contract takes us out of the state of nature; it asks us to give up a part of our private liberty to do whatever we want in order to secure common liberty for all. Privatization puts us back in the state of nature where we possess the natural power to get whatever we can but lose the common power to secure everything to which we have a natural right.

Private choices rest on individual power and skills and on personal luck. Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities. With privatization, this administration is trying to seduce us back into the state of nature, where the strong dominate the weak and anarchy ultimately dominates the strong and the weak, undermining security for both. Under these conditions, Thomas Hobbes reminds us, we are perfectly free to do as we choose, but as a consequence we live lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Not an ideal recipe for social security.

The Social Security entitlement should not be toyed with and altered in accord with today's economic fashions. It is an emblem of civic membership and a reflection of the benefits that come with the responsibilities of citizenship.

For us as individuals, privatizing Social Security is probably a bad bet on technical grounds. But for us as citizens, it is a certain disaster. As prospective retirees and private consumers we may want to argue about it, but as citizens, if we care about our democratic republic, we are bound to condemn it.
Good stuff.

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, wonderful remarks by Barber, that remind us of our connectedness. Too bad he is such a nasty jerk, such a difficult person to work with.


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