I like Eric Mink’s columns in the Post-Dispatch. I have praised them in the past and I am sure I will do so again. The Post gives him plenty of column space to flesh out his ideas and his columns are usually very well researched, which forces you to give his ideas strong consideration even if you are rarely inclined to agree with him. Today’s column is not ones of his better ones, though. Instead of a thoroughly researched piece we have an article full of poor logic and begged questions. It is deserving of a Fisking, or at least a partial one, as it’s a long column.
Mink starts out by misquoting a legislator. He takes the unnamed legislator’s quote,
"that they have no responsibility to take care of themselves or their neighbors and that it’s the government’s responsibility to care for them."
and restates it, "How much nerve does it take for an elected official to accuse his poor constituents of not caring whether they or their loved ones get sick?" There is nothing in the one sentence Mink gives us where they legislator says what Mink says he said. I agree that people need to take more responsibility for themselves and their families, it does not logically follow that I don’t care if people get sick. I’ll move on, and skip over the part where Mink complains about the State now acting as a bill collector for hospitals, which serves as the MacGuffin of his article and on which I share his concerns.
I will further skip over his comments on education, which I again agree with him on. See, I told you I liked his columns! Education is indeed its own reward and every child deserves an opportunity to receive the best education possible. It is at this point that the heart of the article kicks in, and really gets bad at the same time. Mink writes:
Government obligation? That seems to be a foreign concept in an age that regards government either as a treasury to be plundered for the benefit of special interests or as an inherent evil to be undermined, dismantled and laid to rest. Yet the obligation of government to serve its people is the most American of values, a concept embedded in the founding documents of the nation.
Aside from being a little hackneyed in its phrasing, nothing too bad there. He follows with some quotes from the Constitution and then opines:
But no reasonable person could contend that we promote "the general Welfare" of American society by allowing working families to be crushed by global economic shifts well beyond their control. The pursuit of Happiness is a cruel joke to a child living in poverty who has no opportunity to learn about the forces that shape her society and the creative impulses that elevate human experience.
We can trumpet Life and Liberty as unalienable Rights, but there is no meaningful freedom and no quality of life for people suffering from physical and mental illnesses who lack access to care that can restore their health, whose families founder in the absence of income and whose inflated medical bills become oppressive debts subject to preemptive collection by the state.
Where should I begin? "No reasonable person could contend" is a very weak form of argument. It assumes everyone agrees with you (the writer) except for extremists, and he follows up that logical error / lazy writing with a very general line about global economic shifts and the government ‘allowing’ people to be hurt. There are many good arguments about how globalization is good for economies and, more importantly, the people who make up economies – Mink needs to address those arguments and not assume he is on the side of everything good and nice.
Mink continues with a litany of social welfare requests stated as self-evident: