Archive | May 13, 2012

But Some Think Our Attitude Should Be One Of Gratitude

Here’s what I wrote in the comments section of this article:

If one prison guard beats you twenty times a day while the other guards beat you fifty times a day, then you’ll certainly prefer the first guard to the others – but should you be grateful to him? Or should you jump at the chance to switch to a guard who beats you only ten times a day? All the examples of things for which Saverin “owes” the u.s. are respects in which u.s. laws are less oppressive than the laws of many other countries. Being less oppressed is like being beaten less often.

Gratitude is an appropriate response to receiving a favour or a privilege. Freedom is a right, not a privilege; demanding that people be “grateful” for not having their freedom violated so much is morally obscene. In any case, the freedom that Saverin enjoyed in this country was the result not of the government (which would happily expand to totalitarian dimensions if it could) or of the ruling class (ditto), but of many generations of citizens working to restrain both. So asking Saverin to feel grateful to the government, and surrender his money to it, is like asking a patient to be grateful to a virus because, thanks to inoculations, he doesn’t suffer too badly from it.

Jingoistic, hyper-nationalist rants like Manjoo’s are incompatible with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Governments owe allegiance to their citizens, not vice versa.

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