Saturday, November 06, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Links

From the wide world of weekend reading...

- The story of David Rotor and Douglas Tipple is aggravating enough on its face. But does anybody want to guess how many more similar situations didn't get investigated because the workers involved didn't have the same opportunity to set the record straight?

- Boris nicely criticizes the "free rider class" for wanting to pay nothing for vital public services:
Social science uses the term 'free rider problem' for individuals or groups that participate in or use something that others pay for. If you sneak into a show without paying for a ticket, you're free rider.

The Timmies anger crowd, free market fanatics, and Cons among us raise all sorts of noise about this. Free riders are welfare recipents or big government, receiving income and support from their taxes (my hard work you ungrateful bastard! Get a job!), universal healthcare, and all sorts of things where people or groups might be seen to benefit from the collective resources of a society. It's really easy to see how this appeals to the perpetually angry.

But see, here's where they get it wrong. They are compelled by their very existence to participate in the society they live in. They don't have to volunteer at a soup kitchen, but they at the very least must pay taxes and such that provide the basic infrastructure for the collective welfare. The more they argue for lower taxes and this and that, the more they essentially argue for right to be free riders, because somebody still has to pay for all that. Just not them.
But it's worth adding another similar concept into the mix to note an odd contradiction: how is it that the free rider class so frequently makes common cause with the rent seeker class in parties who seek to cut taxes while at the same time directing money toward corporate interests?

- Though maybe the answer is that neither has any appetite for funding actual worthy activities.

- Finally, following up on this post, there's another fascinating result in Ipsos Reid's most recent federal polling:
Harper was also the preferred political leader when Canadians were asked who was most likely to spend tax dollars wisely; three in 10 respondents gave him top marks for this, while NDP leader Jack Layton and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff were virtually tied at 18 and 17 per cent, respectively.
Now, it's noteworthy enough that Harper doesn't seem to have a great deal of trust on the issue compared to his party's standing in the polls. But the positioning of the opposition parties is especially striking: if the Libs are falling behind the NDP in issue terms on what's (however wrongly) seen as an Achilles heel for the New Democrats, then is there anything at all other than inertia keeping them in second place for voter preferences?

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