Two World Views

“It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”-Penn Jillette

“At some point if Wayne takes the social justice agenda seriously he doesn’t just want to give money away or spend it on political campaigns, he wants to be forced to cough it up. It’s a concept not just of contingent human betterment, but of constructing some kind of better society. A just society in which public needs are met, as a matter of public policy rather than volunteerism, by those with the means to meet them.”-Matt Yglesias

I sort of am attracted on a personal level to the first quote-that’s the way I want to live my life-but I’m not sure it can ever be established in this fallen world. It’s somewhat easier for me to imagine living in the world of the second quote. But I don’t know. It’s really hard for me to imagine an American government that actually has an effective social justice agenda. Almost as hard as it is to imagine a world in which everyone embraces Penn’s agenda. But not quite. Yes, I’m a bad libertarian.

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About irreparabiletempus

God have mercy on me, a sinner.
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One Response to Two World Views

  1. David says:

    1. The first quote is a selfish and self-centered interpretation of virtue. Compassion isn’t virtuous because there’s great joy in helping people; otherwise, playing in a ball pit or winning the lottery would be one of the most virtuous activities out there. Compassion is most virtuous when it isn’t easy or joyous and when it is in response to the need of someone else. It also can’t be evaluated without regard for the other person’s needs — that’s the whole point of the Golden Rule.

    2. The first quote ignores the flip-side. Choosing not to help someone clearly in need is not only not compassionate, it can rise to the level of cruelty. Obviously the government is morally obligated to stop cruelty in some instances. It’s not enough to say that government is immoral because it forces people to be compassionate if what it’s actually doing is trying to prevent the cruelty that results to innocent people who suffer from others’ cruelty.

    3. This quote from MLK is much more interesting:

    “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

    I don’t think this quote necessarily contradicts some versions of libertarianism. Roads don’t exist or have meaning without government setting up rules of traffic and society accepting that. Without stoplights and traffic cops, we’d probably have a market failure. It is not inherently immoral to say that road conditions should be restructured by government when necessary to correct market failures. MLK’s analogy makes sense in that framework.

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