Post Modern Serfdom

by digby

Today, Amy Ridenour of Townhall is touting the idea that Michele Malkin has the right to dig into every private detail of your life if you take any money from the government. Watch out social security recipients. Watch out veterans. She's going to be putting all your personal information on the internet if you open your mouth in a way she doesn't approve. You give up your right to privacy --- even from shrieking harpy bloggers --- if you receive any money from the taxpayers. In fact, Amy Ridenour and Michele Malkin personally own you.

(In their typical creepy fashion, Townhall have put the name and picture of a kid wearing stickers saying that he's a "health care voter" up next to the article. It makes it more convenient for the freaks to hunt him down, I suppose.)

Ridenour's post (among others) reminds me of a well-off acquaintance of mine who agreed to give an aging relative a hundred dollars a month. He made sure that everyone knew how generous he was and then he would regale us all with stories about how he would go over to the old fellow's house once a month and inspect it to make sure he wasn't doing anything "bad" with the money. After all, he gave him a hundred bucks a month. He forced the old guy to stop buying cheap beer and made him quit smoking a pipe and pored over his bills to make sure he wasn't overusing the utilities. He had a right, you see. The man was taking his money.

The question to me when he would tell me this stuff was why this very well-off man (a Republican, by the way) took such pride at controlling the behavior of one sad old man through a meager offering of a hundred dollars a month. I could only conclude that it was because his sadistic joy at making someone else miserable was coupled with his inflated belief in his own goodness and pride in his superiority. He was allowed to deny this man his freedom in the name of helping him. The authoritarian's path to heaven.

And this impulse (which is not confined to the right although they're the ones who seem to make a fetish of it --- at least since the temperance movement ran out of gas) is why government programs were developed in enlightened, modern Western societies in the first place. Charity robs the recipient of the dignity and personal liberty to which all people have a claim, rich, poor or in the middle. Using government to act as the safety net instead of the good will (or good mood) of those of means allows that. Citizen pays in, and someday, god forbid, if he needs some help, he won't have to kiss the ass of some rich busybody or self-righteous hypocrite who thinks he or she has a right to dictate his behavior on the basis of a couple of bucks. (And considering the moral example set by both the private and public scolds these days, that concept is even more distasteful than it used to be.)

The old guy finally told his nephew to bugger off, by the way. Nobody needs a hundred bucks that much. But what if he had?

Update: Tom Tomorrow says it so much better.