Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Compassionate Conservatism

This essay in City-Journal is excellent in its explanation of why compassion -- a form of love -- is distinct from pity. The author then asserts, unconvincingly to my mind, that liberals and liberal programs are motivated by pity, not compassion. While it might be true that the liberals' focus on changing social structures distracts their focus from the individual, liberals believe they're changing structures to enable people to focus on the individual. They want lower teacher/student ratios so that the teachers have more time to spend making individual assesments of each student's hopes, needs and ambitions.

To my eyes, liberals' weakness lies in their willingness to use violence and force to create a "loving community". It requires no compassion to offer a poor child someone else's money and resources. It is not compassion that motivates liberals to force others to give up their resources under threat of jail time (i.e., taxes) in the name of loving your neighbor. Compassion moves you to give of yourself. Only pity, as defined in the essay, allows someone to congratulate themselves for efforst to build a "loving community" on the back of threats of violence. The effect of liberals cheap, counterfeit notions of communities has been to weaken ideals of genuine communities: communities saturated in
love and concern for ones fellow man.

Bush would be wise to vocally encourage wealthy Americans (almost all of us) to do more to alleviate the suffering. He should explain that he hopes people will conscientiously use their tax refund money to bless the lives of others. This is what compassionate conservative should mean: recognizing the hope of building an inclusive, loving society, but showing that threats of violence (taxes) can't get us there.


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