Most American conservatives want to live their own lives and spend their resources mostly on themselves and on people who give them something back in return. Even if what they’re getting back in return is just one more day of not paying alimony.
Conservative compassion is something like a magnetic field: it weakens exponentially with emotional distance. Not so for liberals. Liberals are passionate about helping people they’ve never met, never will and would never want to.
Both liberals and conservatives believe in Promiscuous Compassion (PC). Why do liberals take this ideal more seriously? Or, at least, why do liberals try harder to ensure its universal application?
Because conservative PC is circumscribed by the institutions that conservatives think are appropriate for expressing compassion. Conservatives think church, family and community are the legitimate venues for practicing altruism. (In that last sentence, community refers to Rotary Club and JayCees, not local government.)
Liberals see no reason why government shouldn’t be the front line in the PC army. In America, family and church are too local, fractured and ungovernable to satisfy the liberal desire to solve problems for once and for all.
Liberals think of government as the perfect hammer to pound down every nail. They lust to hold the hammer and wield it wisely.
Conservatives grant government grudging tolerance and limited allegiance. They are deeply suspicious of whoever is swinging the hammer and are always watching to see if they’re going to need to swarm the bastard.
Conservative PC is deeply personal and local, even in support of a mission half way around the world. There are many little platoons, as Charles Murray puts it, each with skin in the game and deep local knowledge of the facts on the ground.
Liberal projects, casting their nets too widely, are hammer handed. Liberals promise that nobody will slip through the cracks of their system, without realizing that the rest of us consider that a threat rather than a promise. Liberals respect no bounds when it comes to using whatever power they can leverage in teaching the whole world to sing in perfect totalitarianism.
Liberalism (Americant-style) is totalitarian.
Let’s get clear here about what totalitarianism is: It is the notion that an external authority should be allowed, for whatever reason, to control all aspects of individual choice, including the most intimate and personal aspects. Forcing a racist to hire or rent to black people is totalitarian. Denying gays the right and honor to serve in the military is totalitarian. Forcing people to separate their trash in different colored bins is totalitarian.
Sure, it’s small “t” totalitarianism. It’s the condo association board, being nice to black people and being mean to gays in uniform, not Stalin-totalitarianism. But it’s the same nasty root impulse and the people on the condo board are easy pickings and henchmen for a Stalin. Excusing them is like excusing the little brat down the street who always smells like pee and smoke and has cat blood on his t-shirt, and then wondering where serial killers come from.
Yes, American Christians are, philosophically, and I use that word loosely when applying it to Christianity, technically totalitarians. But, more deeply than ideologically, most Christians have become cultural Americans. Were push to come to shove, the majority of Christians would abandon The Bible before giving up The Bill of Rights. They see no conflict between the two, and good luck trying to convince them there is one. God knows, I’ve tried and I’m glad I failed.
I’m fine with accepting a split decision in the battle between Jehovah and Jefferson. Christians are more than welcome to think their doG won that fight. In any case, J & J have shaken hands and are tag-teaming the terrorists, and that’s good enough for me.
Ok, so where were we? Oh, yeah-What do we owe the poor?
to be continued, pt iii