Friday, June 12, 2015

Semantic Encroachments Dept.

     Yes, yes, Fran is on the warpath about the meanings of words again. Rather, in the case at hand, the meaning of a word: one I’d like to see used properly and honored as it deserves.

     The word is free.

     The scrofulous Abbie Hoffman, who thought himself a massively clever fellow, once said:

     “America: the land of the free. Free means you don’t pay, doesn’t it?

     ...thereby revealing his Marxism to those who had failed to notice it before that. But of course, “free” doesn’t mean “you don’t pay,” except in a sharply delimited set of cases: those cases in which someone offers you something without demanding a price for it.

     Poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish once wrote:

     What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.

     ...which comes much nearer the mark, but still omits an important qualification. That qualification is under attack as we speak.


     Have a gander at a recent obscenity from the Housing and Urban Development Department:

     The Obama administration is moving forward with regulations designed to help diversify America’s wealthier neighborhoods, drawing fire from critics who decry the proposal as executive overreach in search of an “unrealistic utopia.”

     A final Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule due out this month is aimed at ending decades of deep-rooted segregation around the country.

     The regulations would use grant money as an incentive for communities to build affordable housing in more affluent areas while also taking steps to upgrade poorer areas with better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as part of a gentrification of those communities.

     “HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” a HUD spokeswoman said. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”

     “Barriers to access to opportunity.” Sound evil, don’t they? But in fact, the “barriers” which HUD proposes to “break down” are property values. With the exception of inheritance, one doesn’t get into a high-value neighborhood without paying the price of the property therein...and one doesn’t stay in such a neighborhood without continuously meeting the price of remaining there: property taxes, water and electrical rates, the prices charged by local vendors and artisans, and so forth. So what HUD is proposing is the use of federal funds to compel high-value neighborhoods to accept so-called “affordable housing” developments.

     When I was a young sprat, we called them “the projects”...and for the sake of our well being, we stayed well clear of them.

     The folks who live in “affordable housing” are there because they can’t afford better. Their incomes and savings are less than what’s required to live in Bedford, or Beverly Hills. Therefore, they cannot “choose” to live in those exceedingly affluent neighborhoods, or in many others of similar opulence. Does that make them “unfree?”

     For a somewhat less controversial version of the question, consider another consumer durable: the automobile. He who lives in “affordable housing” is highly unlikely to be able to afford a Bentley Continental GT or a Mercedes S550, no matter how many of them can be seen on the roads of Bedford and Beverly Hills. He cannot “choose” to drive one of those cars. Does that make him “unfree?”

     Or consider the sort of choices one makes for one’s dinner table. I cannot afford to dine on Wagyu beef, or have Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee at breakfast. Therefore, I cannot “choose” those things. Does that make me “unfree?”

     Take all the time you like over it.


     I once stated the case for individual freedom as follows:

Man must be free because nothing else can be.

     This seems irrefutable to me. No good or service is unlimited in quantity or accessibility. Therefore, all goods and services will have a price – and he who cannot or will not meet that price cannot “choose” them. But that has no bearing on individual freedom: MacLeish’s “right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.” If Smith cannot create the alternative he’d like best, that does not give him the right to compel Jones to create it for him. That would be a violation of Jones’s equal freedom.

     In our day, Smith goes to The Omnipotent State for that service, on the grounds that he should be “free” to live wherever he wants. And the Omnipotent State, which is always happy to oblige such demands, leaps into the fray with “affordable housing” imposed on a neighborhood against its residents’ preferences and with funds taken from them and other taxpayers by force.

     Gives a whole new meaning to “the pursuit of happiness,” doesn’t it?


     As even a casual guest of Liberty’s Torch can easily see, I lack all “compassion” for “the poor.” In point of fact, I’m sick of hearing about them. When someone attempts to rub them in my face, my immediate response is either “How poor are they, and why?” or exceedingly profane. I must confess that I find the shocked face that usually produces somewhat gratifying.

     I’ve been acquainted with persons who were really poor: unable to obtain their next meal without the intervention of charity, divine providence, or a favorable outcome to a bet. That’s not what “poor” means in America today. America’s “poor” are the best fed, best sheltered, and best housed “poor” in the history of Mankind. Moreover, all the opportunities of American society are open to them, if they can muster the price. In many (not all) cases, the price is effort, or thrift, or the sacrifice of one’s indulgences, or all three. Why, then, do they remain “poor?” Are they not as “free to choose” as you or I?

     Don’t be alarmed, Gentle Reader. It’s just a Friday morning rant, a brief cleansing of the bile ducts before Mass. You see, I’m a Catholic, and lately the prelates of my church have been harping on “our duty to the poor”...without taking notice of their actual material condition or the things the Omnipotent State does to keep them “poor.” Apparently there’s no room in certain clerics’ heads for the concepts of work, thrift, self-denial, and the self-respect that once declined offers of charity – especially government-modulated “charity” – as a poison to the soul of a free man determined to remain free.

     Let each have freedom to do all that he wills provided that he infringes not the equal freedom of any other. – Herbert Spencer

8 comments:

  1. Last Summer we bought a Hyundai Sonata 2.0 Turbo and paid cash for it. This was the result of some considerable overtime and a Weltanschauung of frugality. I guess this must mean that Leviathan should buy cars of at least equal value for the Free S**t Army to ensure their votes.
    _revjen45

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  2. "harping on our duty to the poor"

    A priest once told me that we can't expect moral behavior of the poor. It was the beginning of my inability to respect him as much as his orders would seem to require. I told him that our duty was to teach them right from wrong and "teach them to fish" so they could have the dignity of being responsible for themselves. Their choices are their choices.

    He totally lost me when he told me that muslim suicide bombers go to heaven because they're following the dictates of their consciences.

    Pray for our clergy.

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  3. It's a crazy friggen world, isn't it? And not good crazy. Psycho, red headed, been cheated on and out for revenge ex-girlfriend crazy.

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  4. This fair housing nonsense has completely ruined 3 smallish school districts here in Central PA. On a positive note though, it has provided stark, bloody evidence which has caused a number of Progressives in the local teaching community to start questioning numerous fallacies that before were beyond reproach.

    Matt Bracken wrote a blog post some years ago at this point about revolutions and insurgencies in general, but specifically why America's second Civil War would likely be the bloodiest ever witnessed on earth. He specifically mentioned this forced integration of thugs among normal folks.

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  5. The semantic encroachment that bothers me the most is the conflation of "sex" and "gender."

    Nouns have gender; people have sex. Nouns that have gender are declined; people who "have sex" made offers that were evidently not declined.

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  6. Free in this context is the opposite of coerced. You can only be coerced by another will, in all usual cases an evil will. I'm not coerced into having to drink water.

    Exploiting - coercing - the poor is a sin.

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  7. Anonymous beat me to it. Obama phones, to be followed by Obama Internet, Obama McMansions, and Obama Bentleys and Mercedes.

    I once had a young co-worker - who supported Obama and Obamacare because, at one time in his life, he and his mother could not get the medical care they wanted, perhaps even needed. He was a nurse in the VA system (as was I at the time Obamacare was being discussed), a compassionate fellow who treated all the veterans on our unit as his friends, and was living with and caring for his diabetic mother.

    I was able to introduce him into the gun culture, which he maintains an interest in (including more training and practice), but could not convince him that Obamacare was theft. I warned him that, when the government ran out of resources to give to illegal immigrants he and his mother might - as Matt Bracken fictionalized in one of his books - very well find themselves sharing his small condo with a large family of Mexicans or Guatemalans, if the Left had its way. Sadly, he would not consider the possibility, even going so far as to threaten to stop responding if I continued with that sort of political monologue.

    Not wanting to alienate him, as he still might see the light, I have not asked him if he had signed his mother up for Obamacare, or if he was able to add her to his Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy which he gets at work ($460 a month for family coverage).

    If there was any justice in this world, the Left would be made responsible for all of the "benefits", the "equality of outcome" for which they want the rest of us to be responsible. "If it is important to you, then _you_ pay for it." Of course, that is a concept which completely escapes most of them, and is laughed off by the elite.

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  8. Yes well...I watched a segment on "food banks" on WLKY last night. The first thing I noticed was that ALL of the "hungry poor" were VERY fat black women with several children. No "homeless". No whites. The next segment was a spot on the need for "free Wi Fi" in the same "hood" so that the same welfare parasites could have more "opportunity". All this and more for the same 12 square block "hood" that has featured 75% of the total murders in the state for the passed five years running. --Ray

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