Monday, January 02, 2006

Performing the Ritual

Today's Detroit Free Press carries an editorial "Renew the Push Against Smoking" which calls for the State of Michigan to use the money it helped extort from the tobacco companies to promote anti-smoking campaigns. Evidently only 4 states are using the settlement money for that purpose. The rest,including Michigan, are using it for a variety of other reasons. It's my understanding that the tobacco settlement was justified on the grounds that the money would be used for anti-smoking campaigns.

Well, it looks to me like a lot of governors reneged on that requirement. Why? Probably because actually helping people quit smoking is not required. This phenonomon is what I call "Performing the Altruistic Ritual." In today's political environment, all that is required is that you go through the motions of publicly declaring pure intentions, avering something like "It's not for me but for others." If you perform the ritual convincingly, anything goes.

You can loot deep pocketed corporations claiming you will use the money for a specific altruistic purpose. Then when you get the money you can use it for what ever you want as long as you continue to perform the ritual of "It's not for me but for others." You can use it to give handouts to people with some kind of needs. There will always be some people with some kind of need so there will always be a supply of "others" for you to hold up as the target of your pure intentions. These "others" are the justification for your continued looting. So you look around searching for others to loot and you see fast food or big pharma or big oil or big whatever, it doesn't matter.

Performing the ritual is going on all around us every day. We saw it in the recent G8 meetings in which the "democracies" agreed to give massive amounts of aid to the poor and needy in Africa by handing them fish (money) rather than teaching them how to fish (be free and productive people, but that would require changing their corrupt governments). All that matters with these people is that they go through the motions of helping others and they can take billions of our tax dollers and give it away. Does this really help the poor Africans? Not in any meaningful sense. After the Africans have eaten the fish handed to them they will still be there with the same needs next year so the next G8 can perform the same ritual. And the media will shower them with praise for their noble and virtuous efforts. More billions will be spent. The corrupt governments will still be in power and ripping off most of this aid. And the Africans will still need.

Actually helping the Africans is irrelevent. Performing the ritual is absolutely essential. A government that is limited to protecting individual rights including property rights doesn't need any ritual. A government that has replaced the protection of rights with the servicing of needs absolutely needs a ritual to justify the looting that will be required to satisfy those needs.

To halt this ritualistic suicide of a great nation, there needs to be a campaign to restore the government's legitimate function of protecting rights and get it out of the business of satisfying everyone's needs.
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