A good government must be a predictable government. As with parenting, it’s more important to be predictable than to be fair. It doesn’t matter so much what the rules are as that the rules are enforced impartially and predictably.
Human beings are good at games. They’ll adapt and thrive under most any set of impartial rules. Of course, impartiality itself is not morally neutral. Any set of rules that achieves impartiality is likely to be a halfway decent set of rules.
Impartiality is a fundamental attribute of justice. It’s also a fundamental goal of PC (Promiscuous Compassion). According to PC, we should care equally about Starvin’ Marvin and our own childen. It’s a moral weakness, if not an outright moral failure, to feed our own brats while Marvin gets no mac ‘n’ cheese.
Let’s think about this: Does Marvin feel hunger any less than our own adorable little carpet-rats? On what decent moral basis can we justify nurturing our own little Birth Control Failure while Marvin’s starvin’?
Here’s the moral basis:
Fuck you. I got your moral basis right here.
Seriously, you’re going to tell me that I should let my own kid go hungry unless I feed everyone else’s at the same table? Oh, and before I forget, and the horse you rode in on.
Any liberal still reading this: if you own a TV or a Cuisinart or a nice dining room set or an Internet-connected computer, shut up now.
Justice doesn’t work by the same rules as compassion, and it shouldn’t. The rules for justice are about the opposite of those for compassion. (Or why do you think people talk so much about mercy vs justice?)
Justice is all about impartiality and treating people as interchangeable units (all are equal before the law). Justice needs to ignore individual character and history and decide things based on adherence to the rules.
Justice shouldn’t care how pissed off you are because you took little Suzy to the junior prom and then wouldn’t put out. If you rape her and kill her and then take her home, we should lock you up. It doesn’t matter to justice that you were particularly vulnerable to sexual rejection because your mom was a Tennessee Williams horrorshow. Your shrink in prison can pat your head and be compassionate about all that and get you out of jail early, so you can dig up Suzy’s grave and build a cage with her bones. But the rest of us want you locked up. Preferably in the same cell as your shrink.
Compassion needs facts on the ground, personal judgment, intuition and deep interpersonal wisdom. Compassion needs to be smart and discriminating and know a basket case when it sees one. Compassion should not be promiscuous or indiscriminate, or it will become evil’s co-dependent little bitch. At best, promiscuous compassion corrupt the human spirit by starving it for justice, exactly like a spoiling parent.
Compassion, rightly understood, respects justice and then goes beyond to find the spiritual fire still burning at the center of the worst pile of human shit. This is dangerous business, in proportion to the crimes that compassion wants to forgive.
So I’m all in favor of compassion, but not when it trumps justice. This is how those 4 cops in Tacoma, Washington just got killed. Lazy bureaucrats, given cover by appealing to compassion, let out a guy out who obviously didn’t deserve to ever walk the streets. Everyone felt compassion because he started committing violent crimes so young. People in the justice system were stupidly compassionate instead of appropriately ruthless. Thank God one of those dying cops spent his last seconds ruthlessly putting a bullet in that guy instead of focusing on what might have driven him to act like that.
Most people who need our compassion don’t deserve it. They’ve shat where they ate. They’ve dumped on everyone who’s tried to help them. They need a rodeo cowboy instead of a social worker. Someone who can last for more than 7 seconds on top of their bullshit.
Competing for our compassionate resources are fertile girls with axes to grind and itches to scratch. People who give in to the urge to stay stoned rather than to pursue goals. Jerks with chips on their shoulders who’ve never learned to swallow and say, “Yes, boss!” Amoral punks who see the rest of us as marks or prey. So we should leave people to starve in the streets if they have an attitude problem? Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.
Sure, there are innocent victims who deserve our unguarded compassion–the children of those fertile girls, for the first few years, until they grow up to be psychopaths like their moms. People with serious birth defects and brain injuries, victims of horrible car crashes, some widows (not married to gangsta’s) and all orphans.
But these are a tiny minority of those who loudly compete for our compassion. Kick everyone off welfare who doesn’t meet real “I didn’t have much of anything to do with my plight” victim tests, and there’s hardly anyone left on welfare.
95% of the declared candidates for compassion in America are people who could have done better but didn’t. Actually, that’s a mistake: I should have said, people who should have done better but wouldn’t.
I went to a party last night. I talked to a good guy who helps with subsidized housing for all these CFC’s. (CFC = Candidate For Compassion). They have to put in extra strong drywall in CFC housing because the CFC’s tend to kick the shit out of their walls whenever they get mad. Stoves and ovens have timers that shut off after 30 minutes because the CFC’s would otherwise burn the building down every week. Getting CFC’s to pay their part of the rent, well… This good guy had lots of patience about this stuff. I have a different philosophy.
The first rule of help is: Change the batteries in your bullshit detector.
Most people whose lives are a mess are skilled liars. Not so much to themselves, but to everyone who has tried to help them. They are lazy, malicious and manipulative. They brandish contempt and resentment as fashion statements. Karen Horney coined the term “hostile dependency.” Great term.
The second rule of help is: Absent an unusual disaster, everyone who asks for your help is a fuckup and a huge pain in the ass. If someone doesn’t have obvious brain injury or no legs, and they are seeking your help, they are trouble. Are you up for trouble?
My third rule would be anyone who kicks a hole in the wall of their subsidized apartment wall is out of there, forever, die in the street. We catch you with an unpatched hole in your wall, you’re done. Better learn some drywalling skills, son, if you aren’t going to learn anger management.
It’s like being a parent. If you’re not up for a high level of uncomfortable and confrontational involvement, then get your tubes tied. Better to be barrren and selfish than to screw up other people’s lives to indulge your romantic delusions about them.
Justice really isn’t all that harsh in the vast majority of cases and it is a much better teacher for most people than compassion. Justice enforces rules and what most people demanding help really need is to learn to accept the rules.
Long ago, I read Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, his attempt to grapple with human evil. Peck proposed several DSM-ish criteria for identifiying evil (ultimately a wrong-headed approach, I think).
He talked about militant ignorance. Most people in need of unusual help from other people are obviously militantly ignorant. Compassion is mostly wasted on these people. They are fecal alchemists, turning help and everything else in their lives into shit. Are they evil? I don’t think answering that question matters, at least in this context.
Let’s just say they aren’t ready yet for help. Most people who demand our help are in need of moral toilet training before we start buying them big boy pants.