What most mass murderers — and, for that matter, ordinary murderers — share is a form of solipsism, a mental landscape in which other people have no innate value but exist, rather, merely as props to facilitate the action in the murderer’s own self-scripted and self-focused drama.
That would appear to be the result of a moral disease, not a psychological one.
It is true that people — not only ignorant self-described “conservatives” but also many ignorant self-described “Socialists” — often throw the word “Socialism” around without seeming to understand what it means. But,it is also true (OK, it is at least my not-so-humble opinion) that the many articles published recently trying to explain why various brands of “liberalism” are not actually the same as “Socialism” have been overly narrow and parochial in their view of what Socialism is and entails, limiting their argument to the simplistic (and flawed) formulation that it can’t really be Socialism if the government doesn’t “own” the means of production.
But, if that isn’t the defining nature of “Socialism”, then what is? For that matter, what is the defining nature of “Capitalism”? And how do either interact, for better or worse, with the moral premises and practical structures of our Liberal Republic?
In five parts:
That is why America is more risk tolerant than other countries and societies in the world: because to guarantee security, you must always sacrifice some amount of liberty; and in assessing that sacrifice, Americans have traditionally factored liberty higher in the equation than have most other peoples.
I don’t like the current administration and its boosters any more than you do, but really? In what country are you living where they control “nearly every element of our government and society?”
It seems to me — and much to their obvious chagrin — that there are vast swaths of society — and even significant portions of government — over which they exercise very little control at all…
Since I gave Greg Weiner a shout-out for his New York Times piece about what it means to be an American liberal — and since the topic is dear to my heart — I’ll give David Brooks’ take on what it means to be an American conservative equal treatment. It’s worth reading.
For my part, anyone paying attention will know that I made my choice — conservative over Republican — many years and many presidents ago…
The uproar over President Obama making a speech to school kids is ludicrous and, once again, undermines efforts to steer the liberals away from their most harmful and anti-liberty projects by making the conservatives, by association with such paranoia, look like idiots. The response, even to well-reasoned and principled opposition, is now the general-purpose dismissal, “Oh, it’s just those crazies again”; and a Republican party (and any Republican office-holder or aspirant) that wants to reclaim any moral authority and/or intellectual integrity should be up front in telling those people, “Get over yourselves! And stop claiming to speak for me!”
But I have to ask: Wasn’t the root of this paranoia established by the left during the Bush years?
The wingnuts complaining about Obama’s speech are failing to distinguish between the Office of the President and the man who occupies it. They so dislike and distrust the man that they can’t accept any action of the Office, no matter how proper and reasonable.
But wasn’t that precedent set by those leftist nutters who utterly refused to accept George W. Bush’s legitimacy — “He’ll never be my President!” — and who did everything in their power to undermine anything and everything he did just because he did it, even if it undermined the nation in the process? Did they not create the template of contempt for the Office that we are now seeing? Did they not set the pattern of refusal to respect the Office because they did not respect the man? And, if we are honest about it, was that not, in itself, a continuation of the pattern they set during the administrations of Nixon and Reagan (and, to be fair, embraced by the right during the Clinton years)?
Those born to the lower class that are now living by upper class values and norms have made a conscious choice to do so. In a sense, they have repudiated their roots, declared by their actions that the way they live now is better than the way they lived then. And believe me, those on the other side of that divide are aware of the choice and feel it as a challenge. When you’ve actively chosen one way over another, it’s hard to make the argument, even to yourself, that the choice was merely between two equivalents rather than between a better and a worse.
I think that, 90% of the time, business (and I use the term loosely here) brings regulation upon itself by tolerating and even embracing sleazy practices. If we want less government regulation, we need a lot more ethical sense among the business community in particular and among the public generally.
…’Conservatives’ have always offered a different compact than ‘liberals’. ‘Liberals’ say:
Cede some of your political and economic liberty to us; in return we will protect you, both from bad guys and from yourselves, and grant you all the cultural liberty and irresponsibility you can stomach.
We offer you political and economic liberty, but in return you must agree to take responsibility for your own well-being and everyone else’s; and, in particular, you must agree to exercise cultural restraint, both by controlling your own base impulses and by being willing to judge others’ indulgences of theirs.
It seems we are about to embark on a long overdue “dialog on race”…
I believe that, fundamentally, we don’t want to talk about it. Some of us like to rant about it, for sure, but if the rest of us actually talked about it calmly and rationally we would steal their spotlight. And really, it would be uncomfortable. Americans aren’t used to being uncomfortable and are, therefore, bad at it. We will go to any lengths — even selling our own liberty — to avoid it.
When Bill Clinton raised this topic, I went out on a limb. I opened myself to the inevitable vitriol and wrote about race (and gender and ethnicity and class) from a middle-aged white guy’s perspective.
It seems in this, as in many things, we have seen a reasonable impulse lead inexorably to an unreasonable, and perhaps disastrous, outcome….
…As much as “conservative” talk of “values” and “social decay” has been derided as paranoia and prudery over the last decades, this is what they were talking about: that, compassion aside, if you consistently and persistently relieve people of responsibility for their own circumstances, then, over time, you inevitably create a culture in which people will not take responsibility for their own circumstances — and, in the end, you create a culture in which people not only will not do so but are incapable of doing so because no one has ever taught them how.