Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Talking politics

Whenever I have any kind of political discussion with people, I always notice a common phrase being used by those who lean toward the right (conservative) side of the political spectrum. "I don't want the government telling me what to do."

This statement confuses me, because I don't relate to government 'telling' me to do anything. So when I ask for clarification of that statement, I typically get explanations like "I don't want government forcing me to participate in programs I don't want." This gets me curious. I ask what programs they're being forced to participate in. "EI (Employment Insurance). I should be able to opt out of paying into (and subsequently - collecting) EI. I should be able to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan. I'm not going to get much out of them anyway." I see where this is going, but I suspect there is a deeper issue at the heart of it all. After asking some very focused questions I get to the root of the problem. These people don't want to give up any more of their money to the government. When we open up the discussion and explore the real problems, it turns out that it's not that people don't want to belong to EI or CPP. It's that they don't feel they're getting good return on their investment. They pay a lot in premiums, but too many obstacles are placed in the way of getting the benefits.

The problem is that since people tend to group things into black and white, once something has been deemed broken, they just give up on it and want out instead of trying to get it fixed. Of course, if you talk to anyone on the right about these 'forced programs' while they're reaping the benefits of those programs, the story changes dramatically. Now they identify what's broken and have all kinds of solutions, but maintain that they have to be zero cost. In other words, yes, this needs fixing, but I'm not agreeing to fund any of the fixes. Find a way to do it for free.

Therein lies the principal flaw in conservative thinking, in my humble opinion. It's not that the right doesn't want the programs, it's that they want them for a song. That just doesn't work. So once a program falters due to being insufficiently funded (or poorly managed), their solution is to keep slowly killing the program. As long as the people making the decisions aren't affected by those cuts, they do not care. As long as we don't raise taxes, everything will be alright.

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