Buying Consent

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A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state of Washington, Clint Didier, made the front page of the Seattle Times on May 18, because of a juicy contrast: he was opposed to farm subsidies but had been collecting them himself. Readers piled on him in the comments section of the newspaper’s web page, charging him with hypocrisy. Typical right-wing Republican, several said.

As I read the comments and listened to people talk about it, a pattern emerged. The people who were most likely to charge hypocrisy were those who supported subsidies. To them, the antisubsidy position was impractical nonsense, and this candidate’s actions confirmed it.

The more I thought about this position, the more it annoyed me. The first thought was that by their standard, only people who supported the program, or at least didn’t contradict it, had a right to get the money.

And I thought, “That’s convenient.”

The next thought was that almost everyone who qualifies for a subsidy is going to accept it. The government is giving out money: you’re not going to take it? And if accepting it means you have lost your moral standing to oppose it, then what? You’ve been bought and paid for. Indeed — we have all been bought and paid for, here, there, or somewhere. And the supporters of subsidies aren’t protesting that.

They like it.

So I don’t denounce people like Clint Didier. He took the subsidies and he’s still against them? Good for him!

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