The Peculiar Logic of Collectivist-Speak
The governor of Maine’s letter accompanying the $850 “relief checks” sent to taxpayers contains interesting statements:
“This money comes from the record surplus that State government recorded this year. My Administration and Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Legislature agreed that, in the face of [the rising costs of everyday goods] it would be best to send most of that surplus back to you—the people of Maine—and to do in a way that allows you to use it as you wish.”
Mind you, the argument would have been equally valid even if the cost of everyday goods had been decreasing. Many economic-like statements in the letter are confused or debatable. Moreover, the beneficiaries only include taxpayers who earned an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 in 2021, which is discriminatory toward the other taxpayers who may have most contributed to the budget surplus.
Among questionable statements in the governor’s letter, I note the following:
You—the people of Maine—are our greatest asset.
Whom does the “our” refer to? If it is “the people of Maine,” the clause is a useless truism: the people of Maine are the people of Maine’s greatest asset. At worst, the clause is a collectivist statement reminiscent of the slogan repeated by Lenina in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New Word: “everyone belongs to everyone else.” A third possibility is that “our” refers to the government of Maine, which would mean that the people are deemed an asset belonging to the government. A charitable interpretation is that Governor Janet T. Mills is simply confused by what F.A. Hayek called our poisoned collectivist language (see his 1988 book The Fatal Conceit).