The Tyranny of the “Right Thing to Do”

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A recent Investors Business Daily editorial lays out the fiscal circumstances wrought by our profligate government and points to a more socio-political problem that affects us at the state level, too:

So 75 cents of every dollar the government collects will go to those three programs[, Social Security, Medicare, and disability]. That doesn’t leave much room for stuff like defense, infrastructure and all the other things government now does. And our national politics will turn into a long, vicious battle between those who get checks from the government, and those who don’t. It won’t be pretty.

Rhode Island and its municipalities already experience that “long, vicious battle,” although it’s tempered by the fact that those on the losing end (that is, taxpayers who pay more in than they take out) can just leave the state.

That fact requires those who get the government checks or collect services in excess of their contributions to have the presence of mind to reduce the taking in order to avoid calamity.  Watching local and state politics as I do, I’m not confident that people behave so rationally.  Until crisis hits, it’s much too easy to ignore problems and justify one’s actions for emotional or ideological reasons.

This struck me while listening to East Bay Democrat Senator Lou DiPalma on RIPR’s “Political Roundtable” and the associated “Q&A.”  Lou’s a smart guy with an interest in understanding facts, but genuine concern and a practical bent simply don’t rank against that insidious phrase that he repeats several times about “the right thing to do.”  By the end, that phrase becomes a talisman for him, warding away wicked objections.

One can tell that the senator determines what that “right thing” is first and then applies practicality to rationalize it and then get it done, sidestepping questions about broader effects and government’s legitimate role.  Is it “the right thing to do” to insinuate government into every area of our lives and to make it so difficult to advance in this state that families suffer and leave?

I wouldn’t say so.



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