Friday, September 19, 2008

Brummett Deconstruction Time Again

Jim Walton: Brummett disagreed with Walton's action, but in a tepid, measured, respectful tone much different from the acid-throwing style he uses on us non-billionaires.
I am normally thankful for John Brummett's attempts at writing. Having them as a foil make this a better blog than it would be without them. At least it used to. Frankly, he has been on a run lately where what he was writing actually made some sense. That alarmed me. There was nothing to take issue with, much less offense to. What a killjoy the man was becoming! Finally, that slackard has churned one out that has my juices flowing again. Thanks John.

I refer to his "We're all in a Lottery" column. The header to this post already hints at my first objection- the vast double-standard in tone when he objects to the actions of a billionaire with a penchant for buying newspapers vs. when he is using his platform to shout down relatively powerless private citizens like Lori Taylor or Debbie Pelley, or even his continued piling on of the now-private citizens called Holts and Duggars after practically making a living off of bad-mouthing them.

But that is mere hypocrisy. The only ones among us who don't have at least a little of that in them are the shamelessly wicked. It is the logical processes, or lack thereof, along with the flawed premises, that interest me here.

Let's start with his statement, "I merely wish to point out that you could say that Walton already won his lottery.

His winning number was to come into this world as the son of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart."

His reasoning seems to be based on the premise that wealth is morally neutral. That is, it makes no difference how it was attained. The Walton Family wealth was attained because they found a better way to serve people's wants and needs than did their competitors. A lottery winner's wealth is attained by the luck of the draw. They served no one. The money they won was simply money that everyone else lost. They did not trade for it in a vast number of mutually beneficial transactions as did the Waltons.

Brummett's point seems to be that since John Walton came into earned wealth by inheiritence, he should not oppose some one else getting a chance to come into unearned wealth by winning a lottery. It is true that John Walton did not earn the whole of his fortune, but that fortune was well-earned. Any of us have the chance to improve our lot by finding a better way to serve the needs of our fellow citizens, and leaving our estate to our progeny.

It is bad for society to equate inheiriting a justly-earned fortune with winning a lottery. Once it becomes stuck in the people's minds that one form of getting money is just as worthy as any other, the idea of getting wealthy through service to others will be completely gone. And that willingness to serve, before the scamsters and government thieves crept in, is what once made our economy great. "It is a pleasure to serve you" is a saying that was once common in the United States and an alien concept to most of the world.

Ayn Rand said it well in "Atlas Shrugged": " Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth – the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it.

Jim Walton is no worthless heir. Readers of this space know that I am a Wal-mart critic when I think they are in the wrong. And when I do, I don't tip-toe in like Brummett does. I let them have it with the bark on. Still, Jim Walton is not smaller than his money. He has not corrupted his money. How many stories have we read about lottery winners who then make a complete mess of their lives? Walton not only inheirited the fortune, he inheirited a great measure of the virtue that made the fortune possible.

(continued on the jump)


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

So Brummett starts off with an error in premise which ignores the value of virtue. One can come to a wrong conclusion even with sound logic if one begins with a flawed premise, but Brummett does not use sound logic either. Consider this jewel...

"There are many well-meaning reasons to oppose such a lottery. I respect those reasons. I simply reject all of them, some on account of their hypocrisy."

Does that mean he respects even the reasons that he rejects on account of their hypocrisy? So if he respects things on account of their hypocrisy, does this not imply a respect for hypocrisy itself? Ah well, as I mentioned before, every person trying to be decent has a touch of it, so I suppose the mild hypocrit should be more respected than the shamelessly wicked.

OK, how about this from Brummett, "If encouraging people to wager their meager earnings on an outside chance of enrichment is wrong, then we're wrong already with these casino monopolies we've bestowed on the horse track and dog track.

Anyway, it's unclear why we would deny a poor man's right to a lottery ticket while we bail out with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars a large financial corporation's failed gambling on fancy lottery tickets called derivatives."

Brummett seems to think that if we ever do something wrong, then that means it is A-OK to do something else wrong along the same lines! I tell you, this man is a champion advocate of hypocrisy- the trait which he so strongly practices in his disparate treatment of rich and poor in his tomes.

At least he is not a hypocrite about it! He doesn't try to say hypocrisy is bad and then practice it. He both practices it and writes of his respect for it!

Of course, the bail-outs and casino monopolies are not really arguments for a state lottery. Those things are wrong too and I wish we could stop them as well. A more rational person would say, "let's not add to our error, because no civilization can prosper with too big a load of error". Brummett seems to think that one error gives permission for more.

He does it again with a tax comparison.....
If encouraging people to wager their meager earnings on an outside chance of enrichment is regressively unfair to poor people, which it is, of course, then that merely is in keeping with our established state and local tax policy of maintaining microscopic income tax rates and hammering the poor people with the sales tax every time we need money.

So since we hammer the poor with sales taxes anyway, its OK to do it again with the lottery! Why not use the space to argue that Beebe should push through the rest of that Grocery sales tax reduction instead of advocating another policy that will extend our state's predatory practices on the poor?

Amazingly, he then turns around and writes, After 54 years of life, here's what I've decided about happiness: It's all about having something to look forward to.

In one paragraph he rightfully equates the government lottery with our government tax policy that "hammers" the poor, and in the next he says we should have the lottery so they will have something to look forward to! What? A lie? Getting "hammered" by the state?

I can only conclude that Brummett just loves big government, even at the cost of hammering the poor even further. If all he wanted was for people to have a chance to participate in the lottery, he could simply advocate that the state allow private entities to sell lottery tickets under certain conditions.

He is not doing that. It is the GOVERNMENT lottery that he cheer-leads for, even though he rightfully equates it with a policy which will "hammer" the poor. What a sweetheart! What a paragon of rational thinking!

Back to flawed assumptions, he also unquestioningly buys into the premise that scholarships for college are underfunded in this state. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest that is wrong, but I'll not go over that again here.

Now I'll move into conspiracy theories just because its fun for me and a part of human nature to conspire. Maybe the reason Brummett is unable to write an intelligent column for this lottery is because even he is not really that into it. The Newspapers for which he works stand to make tons of money because this lottery commission will almost certainly buy newspaper ads in a steady stream.

In other words, the hint has been dropped at the office that it would be in their best interests to get this lottery passed. He can't find a way to use good logic to support it, but in his own self-interest he uses bad logic!

This might explain why there has been a total dearth of responsible coverage of the issue from his "News"paper.

11:34 AM, September 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In one paragraph he rightfully equates the government lottery with our government tax policy that "hammers" the poor, and in the next he says we should have the lottery so they will have something to look forward to! What? A lie? Getting "hammered" by the state?

He must be referring to the reported "euphoria" experienced just before death when everything is numb and when one is no longer cognizant of the things of this world. Perhaps that's why he advocates taxing the poor to just shy of death- it's his form of compassion!

2:21 PM, September 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who buy lottery tickets don't "lose" their money. It is not taken away. They are giving it away.

8:00 PM, September 19, 2008  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

They are getting conned into a bad deal- and it is the state that is doing the conning! Normally, the state can be counted on to stop con men from taking advantage of disadvantaged persons, but not when they are in the business themselves!

Remember how many of these blow-hards went on about "predatory payday lenders"? Those check-cashing stores were less of a scam than the lottery.

5:16 AM, September 20, 2008  

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