Dragging people down instead of trying to make things better

Perhaps I’ve blogged about this before. The tendency has existed long before social media, but social media makes it even easier to broadcast one’s ressentiment. Today this one popped up in my newsfeed, edited because Facebook and Twitter will use it as the image for this post:

Epipen Ressentiment

See what I did there? The original post suggests that because children’s parents are being charged nefarious costs, drug users should also be charged nefarious costs. That’s, of course, either idiotic (in most cases) or evil (if you’re selling epipens). By crossing out the second sentence, I changed the message. That people are being gouged of their limited resources because they or their children need epinephrine to not die is screwed up.

One might object that they think children are blameless and that drug users deserve worse. Even thinking that, to try to drag the conditions of drug users down instead of to raise the conditions of children up is at best an expression of bitter ressentiment.

And this is, of course, just one form. This shoddy rhetoric also comes up with the minimum wage. Some people will say that, for example, nurses only make $13 an hour, so clearly people working cash registers should make less than $13 an hour. Thinking and speaking that way only drags everyone down. If you want to hold onto that nurses should make more than cashiers, then instead reason that since everyone working should make at least, say, $15 an hour, nurses should make at least $20 an hour. And instead of saying we should make drug users pay up or die, instead say nobody should be forced into such a bad situation.

Contradiction: Democracy and business

Another contradiction I noticed (five years ago, forgot, and was reminded of today): Some people say we should run the government like a business. They often say voting for a certain person for political office is good because the person has experience in business. At the same time, many of these people will express adoration for democracy. And, no, they are not suggesting business ought to be democratized. (For leftists who want to democratize the workplace, there’s no contradiction here.)

Running the government like a business is silly enough on its own. States have many purposes. Ideally the well-being of the population is high on the list. For most people, that’s at least an ideal to aim for. Businesses aim to profit. Some have subsidiary aims, but monetary or capital gain is the primary aim. (There are some businesses, like Sears, that have been seized and abused for personal gain, but that’s even further from what we want from a state.)

Inherent silliness aside, extoling democracy (and equality) at the same time is paradoxical. Businesses are almost all run in a very hierarchical model. And in practice you usually see them ignoring democratic ideals for the sake of reverence to the structural hierarchy. (But you also see the opposite—like many of these paradoxical pairs of beliefs, usually the convenient one for the moment is the one that comes out. If the structural authorities are in their favor, the respect for structural authority comes out. If not, suddenly a need for more democratic freedom is needed. There is, at bottom, no principle.)

Cars and guns

People have posted a lot about guns and the control of guns over the past several days. I’d say that this happens every time there’s a shooting that makes the news, but that’s almost continuous. There’s a constant competition for attention between the stupidity and evil of Trump and friends on the one side and people killing each other on the other.

As usual, the charge against guns is they are rather effective means of killing people. The defense is cars are also an effective means of killing people. The response to that is that, yes, cars are possible deadly weapons, and they are heavily regulated. Foolish gun-lover, you have fallen right into a trap!

See the source image

The exchange is so common now people just skip to the third step and share this image on social media. However, the chart is misleading. The entire “let’s treat guns like cars” proposal doesn’t give the person against gun rights what they want because:

  1. Gun regulations would look pretty different from car regulations. The purpose of gun regulations is to keep them out of the hands of people who would do bad things with them. Skill is usually secondary. Car regulations are far more skill-oriented. We let felons drive.
  2. The training, tests, etc. are requirements to operate a motor vehicle. Presumably the target of restrictions with regard to guns is on ownership.

If car regulations looked like gun regulations, anyone would be allowed to go out and buy a gun. Actually using the gun would require a license. This entirely thwarts the goal of making guns less available to people who want to do bad things with them. They could still buy them. Their mode of use is already illegal, so nothing there has changed.

Perhaps there is something salvageable. You do need a license to take a car out. Likewise, a license system could be implemented for taking guns out. This would hardly stop anyone who wants to grab a gun and kill a bunch of people, but it might stop someone with anger management problems from ill-advisedly taking a gun out and killing someone in a fit of rage. Or stop someone who can’t aim from trying to be a hero and instead killing more people.