Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On the Practical Meaning of Independence

There is a truly odious person in Texas politics named Michael Quinn Sullivan. He's a former aide to Ron Paul whose apparent end goal is a world where we are all "liberated" from the horrible evil which is government, at which point the free market will take care of us all, in a totally non-coercive way. In order to achieve this goal, he mass-emails people, usually with deceptive and misleading claims about state-level government waste. You can think of him as Texas's state-level version of Grover Norquist.

And, for whatever reason, I'm on his mailing list.

Today I got fed up after reading through his rant about how conservatives need to weed out the RINOs who might be weak-willed enough to support Medicaid expansion (which what we really need, Sullivan says, is to abolish it and all other programs like it completely). I replied to an email of his for the first time, saying simply:

"You use a lot of words just to say, 'fuck the poor.'"

After sending the message, though, I thought a bit about the passage that annoyed me the most in his exhortations to advance the destruction of small-d democratic government:

"Proving that Orwellian doublespeak isn’t confined to literature, the anti-responsibility/anti-liberty crowd is equating expansive government programs to independence. Precisely how 'independence' is increased by shackling more and more people to bureaucratic-run health care is anyone’s guess."

Fine. To those conservatives who shout about "independence" and "shackles," here's my answer.

How independent is a worker who dares not quit their job because they are paid too little for their work?

How independent is a worker who tolerates abuse, broken promises and contracts, sexual harrassment, injury and worse because they are only one paycheck away from being homeless?

How independent is a worker for whom any illness may mean bankruptcy, loss of home, loss of family, and permanent poverty, simply because they cannot afford health care?

How independent is a worker, when their employer can fire them for having a different religion, for voting the wrong way, or for asking for a raise?

In practical terms, the poor worker isn't independent at all. The poor worker lives in quiet terror and misery, because the kind of employer who pays poverty wages to the poor wants to keep them that way.

The abusive employer wants to keep the poor person from having any alternative to health care besides whatever minimal emergency-only policy they might offer after two years of steady employment.

The abusive employer wants to keep the poor person from building any financial reserve which would allow them to quit if the employer's shifting work schedules, unpaid overtime, hazardous work environment, and other abuses of power become too great to bear.

The abusive employer wants to control every aspect of the employee's life- family, religion, politics- so that the employer can wring the maximum amount of profit and power from the employee's labor.

The abusive employer wants to prevent unions and any other form of collective bargaining from gaining any power, so that he can continue these practices forever.

In short, the abusive employer wants to be able to treat his employees like slaves- and to keep them powerless to do anything about it.

And, since the abusive employer has money and the employees don't, the employer can pay for people like Michael Quinn Sullivan to ensure that the employees have no protection from the employer, no alternative to the employer, no freedom from the employer.

And the vast majority of corporations and businesses are abusive employers.

True independence begins when you can tell your boss to go fuck himself. If you're not able to do that because the only alternative is homelessness, starvation and death, then you are not independent- no matter what slimeballs like Sullivan claim.

Only government can protect the powerless from the powerful- if it's allowed to. When government protects the powerless, we have democracy. When it doesn't, we have a feudal state where the rich lords control the poor serfs with an iron hand.

And Michael Quinn Sullivan is on the side of feudalism.

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