Bob Herbertís Blind Spot
Tibor R. Machan
by Tibor R. Machan
time I read an article by New York Times Op Ed columnist
Bob Herbert, I am told by the author that others must be given portions
of my income, via the political process. Herbert seems to be the
quintessential welfare statist, wedded to the doctrine that the
government must expropriate and extort from Peter so as to hand
some of it over to Paul (and, of course, pay a good deal to its
own employees who perform this "wealth transfer").
puzzles me is that in none of his articles does Mr. Herbert even
consider the possibility that quite a few of those who are on the
receiving end of this wealth redistribution policy brought about
their own economic demise, or at least contributed to it in significant
ways. I personally know that there are folks who do that. Just for
starters, my younger daughter has dated several of them (she used
to collect what I have come to refer to as "strays").
I have also personally known quite a few people in the course of
a now quite long life who have refused to seek out productive work
even though they were fully equipped to do so. More pertinently,
a friend of mine at Harvard University studies recidivism among
violent criminals and has now concluded, despite what she had hoped,
that there are innumerable folks who simply will not respond to
rehabilitation but want to remain criminals.
realize that some folks are unlucky, even kept down by the system
in one way or another. But how is it that Herbert never, never gives
any acknowledgement of the complicity of some in their own bad lot?
My suspicion runs in the direction of Mr. Herbertís being captive
of a certain view of human nature. In this view everything that
people do is actually just something that happens to them. No one
is ever responsible for anything, not the good, nor the bad they
do. The world is simply a complicated daisy chain of unstoppable
events, started off at the beginning of time and moving along impersonally,
folks, under this perspective, become economically solvent because
that is their fate or lot or destiny whatever you wish to call
the inevitable outcome to which the process has led in their case.
Others, however, become economically destitute or at any rate
not sufficiently well off and this, too, just happens to them
with no contribution from their own decisions, thinking, self-direction
or whatever you might wish to call it when people act and bring
in such a world view no one deserves anything, either their good
or their bad circumstances. None make any contributions to their
lives either of a positive or of a negative sort. Violent criminals,
Enron executives, lying politicians, unethical journalists yes,
even misguided columnists are simply being shoved around by impersonal
factors to behave as they do and personal responsibility has no
place in the process. What is, of course, paradoxical about Mr.
Herbertís evident embrace of this outlook is that he then completely
abandons it when it comes to blaming us all for failing to accept
it too. And he leaves it aside, also, as he implores everyone to
come to the aid of those who have fared ill in this world and blames
them all for their refusal to help out.
Mr. Herbert doesnít see is that the world view of que sera, sera
goes all the way down and if the causalities he cares about can
never help themselves, neither can anyone else.
him mail] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most recently, The
Passion for Liberty
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).
Copyright © 2004 Tibor Machan