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Belmont Club

Dear Leader

April 25th, 2012 - 2:33 pm

New sets of “rights” are being manufactured; slowly at first, but now with increasing speed.  Though they cover diverse areas, all of them in common create claims between one set of people and another. All of a sudden people find themselves charter members of sets many and manifold: young or old, man or woman, religious or secular besides others too numerous to mention.  But they all share one relation: they are between someone who has something and someone who needs something.

Take “generational fairness”.  This is a doctrine now coming into vogue in Britain in which, according to Theodore Dalrymple, employers may dismiss older workers for public policy reasons. Cause or inefficiency is an invalid ground, but reasons of state are not.  The reasoning is that the old “owe” the young and hence, employers may dismiss the old in order to make way for the young to advance the common interest. Dalrymple explains the recent jurisprudence.

The partners had agreed by private contract to retire at the age of 65, but when the partner who subsequently brought the case reached the age of 65, he found that he could not afford to do so. In the meantime, age discrimination had been outlawed, so when the other partners refused to allow him to continue in the practice, he brought a case against them. The Supreme Court has ruled against him, not on the grounds that he wanted to break the contract, but on other, potentially sinister grounds.

The judgment is complicated, but the overall impression it gives is that a person may be lawfully dismissed on grounds of age if such dismissal meets social objectives as laid down by the government; for example, to meet the need for “intergenerational fairness” in the distribution of jobs, or to reduce unemployment among the young. But people cannot be dismissed if it is for “purely individual reasons particular to the employer’s situation, such as cost reduction or improving competitiveness”.

The old, or so the Intergenerational Foundation argues, haven’t fully funded their welfare entitlements. The architects of the Welfare State overlooked this little detail. Therefore the challenge, should society decide to accept it, is how to keep the welfare system going even after society has discovered that it is unsustainable.  The answer of course is for the state to get  more money. That can be done by taking old people’s homes as a requirement for keeping them in the welfare system.

As such, we tend to believe that care is part of the implicit social contract at the root of the welfare state. But long term care was not included in William Beveridge’s vision for welfare in Britain – the services have instead emerged in a piecemeal and messy fashion – and today’s crisis results from a longevity dividend that had not been anticipated.

Today’s older people cannot therefore be said to have invested in any meaningful sense in the future costs of care. If the state were to agree to fund an expansion of care services through general taxation, by necessity it means the young paying for the old, despite younger people facing tougher economic circumstances than anything experienced by their parents’ generation …

The main alternative is a version of social insurance, whereby at retirement individuals pay a one-off fee which would cover their lifetime care costs. This system minimises the role of general taxation, but relies on the state to pool risk. The baby boomers have made unprecedented gains from property wealth, and this model therefore assumes housing wealth would be used to pay fees.

It’s amazing how much free stuff costs. But at least it’s free! And take heart, it’s for the children. Too bad that they’ll someday be old themselves and have homes to lose.

The other imperative right that is all the craze now is the right of institutions to tell you who your friends should be. The National Review describes the controversy at Vanderbilt University, occasioned by the University’s policy of requiring religious groups to accept non-religious persons as officers in their religious association, or lose accreditation. It is called the “all comers” policy.

Unfortunately, Vanderbilt never thought “all comers” meant “all comers”.  Opponents of the Vanderbilt policy in the Tennessee legislature have required the university, as a recipient of state funds, to apply the “all comers” policy to everyone, including fraternities and sororities. This is manifestly unfair and politically vindictive because “equality” only produces equality when unequally applied.

Under that policy, it is our understanding that Vanderbilt will not accept for official recognition student religious organizations in which membership and leadership positions are not open to every student. But, it is also clear that the University has chosen not to apply that same criterion for University recognition to fraternities and sororities. The exemption of fraternal organizations is contary to the statement by your spokeswoman Beth Fortune, reported by Channel 4 News April 11th, “We want evervone to have an opportunity to be a member of a group and the opportunity to run for leadership positions.”

Because fraternal organizations have been exempted from the all-comer’s policy it appears that the University’s so- called all-comers policy is being selectively applied to religious student organizations. We understand that Martinez involved a public university, but since the University’s administrators want to point to it for justification of its policy, we would like to also point out that the decision makes it very clear that the policy must be applied to all student organizations.

But that is alright. Two wrongs can make right if it equalizes the misery, because  misery ain’t misery if everyone is miserable.

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Now, not only is it necessary for the state to intervene in the war between grandpa and his family, or mediate between religious associations and people who don’t even want to join that religion — only the association. The recent discovery of the War on Women makes it imperative for authorities to ensure that sexual harassment complaints are investigated without regard to due process, as this burden would presumably impede the exercise of women’s rights against men. Minding the Campus writes:

Inside Higher Ed brings interesting news today about how the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama education department–which requires all sexual assault and harassment cases to be judged by the lowest possible burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence–has affected one university campus. In response to the letter’s mandate, the University of North Carolina has reconfigured its disciplinary procedures, in part due to a desperate hope to retain some semblance of due process for accused students.

UNC has decided to remove sexual assault cases from the jurisdiction of its Student Honor Court, on grounds that students can’t be sufficiently trained to fairly handle such cases. IHE quotes Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, noting that UNC’s shift in part reflects a broader concern from universities “about the change in the burden of proof dictated by the Dear Colleague letter.”

And while this move might seem like a victory for due process, quotes from UNC administrators paint a far more troubling picture. Melinda Manning, an assistant dean of students, celebrated the shift on grounds that the previous system discouraged “victims” (as opposed to accusers, at least in the article’s paraphrase) from coming forward, since the system was “requiring victims to be judged by a roomful of peers.” A jury of one’s peers, it seems, doesn’t reflect the approach of many student life administrators. Another Honor Court veteran points to the current system’s high burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) as a negative.

You have a right not to remain silent. You have a right not to have counsel. You have so many rights that it is impossible to shake a stick at it. The sudden discovery of so many rights reflects the increasing role of the State in almost every aspect of life. Government transfer payments have made almost everyone someone else’s Dear Colleague.

People now find themselves related through class attributes. They discover to their astonishment a whole host of obligations to people they don’t know from Adam. But don’t worry, everyone’s wallets have already been introduced. This may seem burdensome, even sinister; what a relief it is to know they are actually “rights”.

The great thing about wiring together a society in an almost medieval system of guild rights and privileges is that it requires a Byzantine bureaucracy to administer it. When everyone is a Dear Colleague there is naturally a requirement for a Dear Leader. And maybe that is the point.

And don’t imagine that these obligations curtail freedom? These entanglements have all been enacted to make you truly free. Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto that previously we only thought we were free. None of us will really be at liberty until there is no place to hide.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.

You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

Confess. Confess to wanting to be left alone, that ultimate in bourgeois selfishness. You won’t be free until everyone is everyone’s Dear Colleague. Let Marx continue.

Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.

But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.

And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, &c.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

Yes! Perhaps that is why the Department of Labor has bestirred itself into banned rural kids from doing farm chores.

“Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

Glenn Reynolds says that now illegal immigrants can be employed to do jobs that farm kids won’t do. This would be an improvement. But unfortunately there is no way to measure the benefit. At a Supreme Court hearing at which the administration argued that Arizona had no right to enforce immigration laws, Chief Justice John Roberts remarked, “it seems to me the federal government just doesn’t want to know who’s here illegally”.

And what is wrong with that? John Roberts is behind the times. No one should be barred, except for farm kids on their own parents farms. Vanderbilt was there before him. We are all Dear Colleagues in the great big tent. It’s called the “all comers” policy.


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