I have written before about the fact that I am a beneficiary of Obamacare, not as a young adult on his parents’ plan. I have insurance as a direct result of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. One of my friends, a right-wing leaning friend is not happy about that. I had the hardest time trying to understand why.
Governor Rick Perry probably did more damage to his campaign by supporting the idea that children of undocumented workers should pay resident rates to attend state universities than he did by saying, “Oops.” Again, I wondered why this should be the case.
Then the thought of the Zero Sum Game came to me. In the interest of disclosure, this is not my concept. Zero Sum Game theory stipulates that there is a finite amount of stuff to go around, and therefore, when someone gets more stuff someone else gets less. So, by simple definition, my benefiting from Obamacare, in some abstract way, is costing him. He cannot define how it is costing him, it simply must do so. Likewise, even though Governor Perry has not raised taxes, offering undocumented children in-state tuition is costing other Texans money
There is a parallel in the Right’s philosophy of government. In this case the Zero Sum Game is between government and Freedom. If there is more government, by definition there is less freedom. However, government is not really the antithesis of freedom. Tyranny is. The air that tyranny breathes is power. Sometimes government wields that power. Sometimes we need government to be a check on that power.
Some years ago, Japan would not accept imports of US beef (I do not know whether or not they accept it today). The reason was that our standards were lower than theirs. One beef company asked the government for stricter standards even offering to pay the difference so that they could sell to Japan. This company was fought by both competitors and small government advocates. In the name of freedom they had cost themselves another market for their product.
We are told that the market will ensure food safety. After all, if someone died by eating contaminated food, the company responsible would never sell again. Even if that reasoning held up, would you want to be the one who died? Would you be willing to allow that person to be your child?
Let’s talk about the free market for a moment. The financial collapse that almost brought us into another Great Depression was caused largely by failed mortgages that were used by Wall Street as collateral for other financial transactions. Some of those mortgages failed simply because they do. Others failed because the demand for mortgages by Wall Street increased. This led to banks creating riskier mortgages; No money down loans, No income verification loans, Interest only mortgages. Some brokers illegally steered people into subprime loans when they qualified for better loans. The Freedom people will tell you that nobody forced anyone into these loans. However, the mortgage lenders spend millions on lawyers figuring out how to game the system.
The individual borrower cannot afford the legal expense required to protect them from this gamesmanship. They should not have to. Governments primary responsibility is to protect its citizens from tyranny.
The other problem with the Zero Sum Game theory is that if somebody wins, then again, by definition, somebody loses. America is not a Zero Sum Game. Quite the opposite. Perhaps more than any other nation, we achieved greatness by understanding that when others win we all win.