One of the RW memes that seems to have emerged in the Ayn Randian universe is that government money (what little of it there can be any legitimate reason to collect, of course) should be spent to maximize benefits for the greatest number of people, and that misuse of public money to actually help people is clearly wasteful and therefore obscene. But one person’s waste is often another person’s salvation.
By way of analogy, I offer the following story of a seemingly simple high school science project with an unwitting political bias.
I reviewed a high school science project recently that studied the public transportation system in a major metropolitan area. The study determined that an optimization algorithm deploying the same resources as the existing system could have resulted in a transportation system that would reduce the AVERAGE commute from 45 minutes to 39 minutes. The optimized system located more stations in high population density areas and fewer in low density areas. It was an excellent student project, properly using a mathematical optimization scheme to allocate scarce resources to achieve a well stated objective. But I noticed that it had a decidedly political flavor that the students almost certainly overlooked. They had assumed that optimizing the AVERAGE commute, while neglecting the LONGEST commute, would result in the most efficient system and therefore the greatest community outreach. In fact, the simple outcome that the students failed to notice was that saving 6 minutes from the average commute penalized the longest commute from just over 2 hrs to more than 3 hours. In other words, by taxing each average commuter 6 minutes, the less optimum system enabled the least favorably located to reduce their commute by over 30 percent.
Consider the recent controversy over why Repubs really hate Obamacare. It is a clear example of some people having to pay a little more (the wealthy, mostly) so that less fortunate people (the poor and the sick, mostly) can have access to health care. This seems to set off the outrage trigger in the RW brain. I refer you this statement from blogger Avik Roy (quoted by brainwrap) about liberals’ careless abandonment of their fiduciary responsibility to protect the taxpayer from inefficient waste of public money:
Some on the left are dismissive of higher costsWait – let's ignore the hypocrisy of RW complaints about government inefficiency (brainwrap addressed that very well in his diary) - but, really, since when is the government obligated to spend money efficiently? I don’t remember “Liberty, Equality, Efficiency” as being the rallying cry of democracy – am I missing something? It would be far more efficient to allow the mentally ill to roam the streets without resources. To let the unemployed starve. To put children to work at the youngest age possible. To build transportation systems that favor the well-positioned, at the expense of the least favored.
I’m struck by how contemptuous the left can be about these issues, especially given the moral obligation of government to spend taxpayer dollars in the most efficient possible manner.
If efficiency were our guiding principle, it would be far more efficient to let sick people die quickly than to spend money on Obamacare. Why should anyone have to pay more to help out his fellow traveler in need? Never mind the obvious societal benefit of improving the nation’s health, and the plethora of ancillary benefits (think lower crime, fewer sick days, more economic benefits, reducing the burden on the routine use of emergency services).
In the liberal worldview, it makes sense for lots of people to chip in a small amount to help out the few who are truly hurting. In the conservative worldview, it doesn’t. In a nutshell, this is why I am a liberal. My mother raised me better than that.