Not really hypocrisy of the day

Think Progress is accusing Ron Paul of hypocrisy for criticizing social security but taking it (they also suggest that he compared social security to slavery, which he did and didn't:  He did in the "immoral" sense, but not in the "social security is a type of slavery sense):

Paul is, of course, not the only conservative to benefit from government programs that he or she opposes. But his crankish view of the Constitution has brought him to the conclusion that Social Security is altogether unconstitutional, which also hasn’t stopped him from collecting benefits.

Any critic A's criticism of policy x naturally leads critic B of critic A to see whether A is consistent with regard to x.  Since x is government policy, or law, it's very easy to spot alleged inconsistencies.  I'm against, at least I think I am, various tax breaks for people who make over a certain amount of money.  These tax breaks might benefit me.  I'm not a hypocrite for not writing a check to the federal reserve.  I'm a hypocrite if the policy I advocate goes into effect, and I do not abide by it.

People might remember that this is, in essence, the Buffett criticism (we talked about it here and here and here and here): if you like taxes so much, pay voluntarily.  Such criticism was bad then, and it's bad now.

It's bad in part because it would make it practically very difficult to criticize laws and policies without engaging in civil disobedience of one form or another.

4 thoughts on “Not really hypocrisy of the day”

  1. It seems pretty unfair to criticize Ron Paul for taking his social security payments just because he didn't agree with the money being forcibly taken from him to begin with. 

  2. John,
    I do think an argument can be made that someone who assumes a certain posture toward a policy, and this posture is so hostile as to see the policy as a moral abomination, taking on the benefits of that policy might credibly count as hypocrisy.  I know too little of Paul's fulminations against SS to argue whether they qualify him for this definition of hypocrisy.  But I don't think he's necessarily out of the woods by your argument.
    Also, I think I find something wanting in your analogy about tax breaks.:  Your disapproval of those tax breaks rests, I presume, on their aggregate effects and on the way they promote a regressive distribution of income (I'm making assumptions here).  Your disapproval, I suspect, does not rest on the claim that the tax breaks directly sustain an unconscionable and proximate moral danger against which we must struggle for the very sake of our freedom.  I'm not sure I'm right that the analogy doesn't work, especially concerning the limited use to which you're putting it.  But I think I might be able to imagine situations where it might not work. 
    Back to Ron Paul:  a better argument, to my mind, is even if it is hypocrisy, that hypocrisy does not necessarily mean Paul is wrong about SS (although I, personally, disagree with him).

  3. HI PC.,

    I think we're in agreement here, though I think you put the matter better than I do.  I had thought of writing something like "a better argument would be" but then I had to go to class.


    Money "being forcibly taken from you" is a pretty darn silly way to characterize taxation in a democracy.  "money being taken from you because you are on the losing end of a vote" is more accurate.

  4. Yes, and in other news, I had a self-described "libertarian" student who saw no irony in his taking advantage of the Stafford Loan program.  It's not exactly hypocrisy, but it does show just how useful these programs are for those who need them. But that may not be the real issue.  Take, for example, the fact that as a (struggling) vegetarian, I try not to eat food with animal bodies in it.  Sometimes, I'll eat a burger or some bacon, but, you know, that's what happens when you're hungry and surrounded by burger joints.  Now, if I had my druthers, I'd rather not eat that stuff, because it comes from an immoral practice — that of unnecessarily killing animals.  Now, consider the use of federal funds like eating meat, if you're a libertarian… money's a good thing, and sometimes you find yourself in need and using it, regardless of its source.  The libertarian isn't objecting to using government funds, but rather to their collection.  (I once said, in a moment of burger-weakness that the cow's already dead… might as well eat it!)

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