Reciprocity and Irony: A View from My Bubble
By Bryan Caplan
Of course, if there were a big war, it would be nice to be defended by all those dreary Americans you despise.
And, the irony is, they’d do it, too, just because you are an American.
Unfortunately, when watching it [Idiocracy] at home on DVD, you miss experiencing
the horrifying Charlton-Heston-and-the-Statue-of-Liberty moment when
“Idiocracy” is over and you emerge from the theatre into the mall full
of shiny logos and sniggering pedestrians and you realize that reality
today looks just like 2505 does in the movie.
I can understand how Steve might conclude that I “despise” the people around me, but I don’t. They don’t live up to my standards, but I still wish strangers well. Indeed, I regard misanthropy as a strong sign that you are on the wrong track. Stop dwelling on others’ failings, and build a beautiful Bubble for yourself.
But doesn’t Steve make a good point about my lack of reciprocity? All these Americans stand ready to protect me. Don’t they deserve my appreciation?
Frankly, this is the kind of attitude I entered my Bubble to avoid. Three points:
1. I pay good money for these protective services. So I don’t see why my American defenders deserve any more gratitude than the countless other people – American and foreign – I trade with.
2. Since my American defenders are paid by heavy taxes whether I like it or not, they deserve far less gratitude than my genuine trading partners, who scrupulously respect the sanctity of my Bubble.
3. In fact, I think my American “defenders” owe me an apology. My best guess is that, on net, the U.S. armed forces increase the probability that a big war will adversely affect me. While they deter some threats, they provoke many others. If I lived in a Bubble in Switzerland (happily neutral since 1815), at least I’d know that I was getting some value for my tax dollars.