Sunday, March 4, 2012

Poverty and Rand

The following contains my ramblings on some posts elsewhere about Ayn Rand, her views on poverty, and particularly how her ideological followers (whether they call themselves Objectivists, Randians or not) view and treat poverty. I have edited these slightly to make them make sense on their own, and for some grammar errors, or for clarification. Additions will be marked {thus}.

If you want to see a simulation of how an Objectivist society would go down, play Bioshock.

Enjoy!

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When I first read (Ayn) Rand as a teenager, I loved her "perusing your own skills/ideals/whatnot to your own perfection" world view, but even then had trouble with her economics. As an adult, I do think there are things in her writing worth considering. My enormous trouble with her comes not from the fact that she has a economic ideology that I vehemently disagree with, but from what she does with it and how she expresses it. She had a fanatical hatred for the poor, calling them parasites and insisting that the world would be better off if they were removed from it (not lifted out of poverty by opportunity). That is more than a simply economic philosophy. She had a pathology about it. The irony is that when in dire straits herself she made use of the same safety net that she pontificated so loudly against.

And do not get me started on her Objectivist followers, they are such a hot mess it would take days to spell out everything wrong with their stances.

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{On hating someone for being poor and apparently slothful.} Okay, but does that make any sense, either? Hating someone for something like that? And the very idea "people who were happy to remain poor" is bizarre, it makes no sense and has no reality in it whatsoever. But she did seem to think that such existed, and were a blight.

You are fine - I did not see it as semantics. And this is why it is important to really analyse literature, particularly when the author is openly promoting a particular world view. The saddest thing about Rand (besides the hypocrisy of her later life) is that it is really difficult to have a conversation like this where we talk about the ideas and do not degrade each other.

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You cannot expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they have no boots.

In one hundred percent of my lived experience and anecdotal experiences I have been able to pursue, there is always a reason for not being able to take advantage of an opportunity. No one, I assert, no one is "happy" being poor. Some are making the best of their circumstances, and good for them if they can. Usually, people making that claim have no idea of the chasm between being on state sponsored assistance and becoming self-sufficient. Often, the job openings available cannot help bridge that chasm. But now we are getting past common perceptions of poverty and getting into the reality of it, and I do know know if this is a venue where that is desired, or if it is a part of the conversation worth getting into right now.

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Eh, given that most state's assistance is not enough to live on, let long live a life of leisure, I have a hard time believing that. Are their some cases of welfare fraud? Sure. But the myth of the Welfare Queen, living a life of luxury courtesy of the state is just that: a malicious, ridiculous, and downright stupid myth. But the Randians eat it up and have made it a central pole in their tent of misguided self righteousness.

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Ah, I see now. Thanks for the discussion, but you have some dead give a ways in your last two posts that lead me to believe we are not going to actually get anywhere with further discussion.

Because we could get into the weeds and prove that if you have children to care for, or conditions that require constant medical coverage, or any number of situations that make the gap between getting your first couple of paychecks and when the state cuts you off simply too wide for too many people - but you illustrate above that such would not really mean much to you. {I have done the math before, for multiple states - usually the new aid for an additional child will not even cover diapers, let alone be "extra money" in any way.}

I have lived, and am currently, living these situations. I am finding this a unique phenomena, the linking of morality to financial success or lack of it. It is bizarre. Not to knock you, specifically, I mean that it is a weird cultural thing. 

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{The conversation mostly devolved at that point. Reading the above, the poster took what I said and turned it into a tirade against them. It was a beautiful illustration of both missing the point, and turning logic into a personal attack. The poster also was apparently unaware that I am disabled, that that, yes indeed, they were talking about me. But this issue was bigger than that.}

Hmm, in my two paragraphs I do not see any twisting or manipulating - or even any of the extrapolation that would allow such. Hell, I did not even say that you were one of the people comfortable punishing poor people, only that perhaps you could educate me on their mindset. You do protest too much, I think.

And it is about me. It is about you. It is about everyone. It is about the poor. It is about the people that have been poor. It is about the people that will be poor. It is about everyone. And so, yeah, I am pretty damn uncomfortable with blanket moral judgments towards "the poor" as a group. Especially "slothful" - because that has to come from someone that has never been poor, because being poor is damn hard work. I do find it a convenient landmark, though, because the people that throw the word around obviously are completely disconnected from the work of just being poor. The running around, the appointments, the paperwork, the requirements just to receive any kind of aid - they do make you work for it. Hell, Disability alone takes an average of two to three years to resolve a case.

Most USian households are one paycheck, one health calamity, one car accident, from suddenly being poor. Do they deserve your moral indignation? No, they do not. But it is far too common to find your own "Welfare Queen or King" and decide that this morally bankrupt person is the face of the poor. Never mind that most aid is given to white house holds that simply had that one paycheck calamity. Or were downsized. Or became disabled. The true face of poverty in the US is us, you and me, not your "morally bankrupt" scapegoats. Much like in war, the dehumanization of the poor allows us to treat them as this other deserving of what ever they get. lucky for the scraps thrown their way.

There is a preponderance of evidence supporting the fact that we are the face of poverty. Or more appropriately, that you cannot generalize the way you would like to. If I thought I could change your mind, LMGTFY {Let Me Google That For You}, but you can easily do so if you want. You could have done so before this discussion, or during it.

Side note: I do not know about all states, but in mine if you are working on a 4 year degree you are disqualified from receiving help maintaining your household from the state. I know that for a been there, done that fact. Because your full class load keeps you from looking for full time work - so you are not eligible for aid. How is that for irony? Again, the result of policy makers having no contact with reality.