October 10, 2003

Compassion and Coercion

Posted by shonk at 01:54 AM in Politics | TrackBack

In my daily blog routine, I came across this post over at Catallarchy. It's an excellent analysis of what political compassion is. I especially liked this part:

Exactly who is being compassionate in the case of coerced charity? The giver certainly isn't; she doesn't have any choice in the matter. The taker isn't; he is simply doing his job. Is the politician acting compassionately when she votes for additional social welfare benefits? If the politician is acting as a representative of the voters, then her congressional vote is not compassionate; her act is no different than when the IRS agent does his job. Are the voters acting compassionately when they push for increased benefits?

Not if we understand this act according to the expressive voting model, which posits that voters are simply expressing support for one thing or another when they cast their ballots. Saying that you are for compassion is not the same as actually acting compassionately. Compassion requires a certain level of self-sacrifice for it to be truly meaningful, else it is nothing more than lip-service.

A society that socializes charity is not truly compassionate, because the choice of compassion has been taken away from the individual and turned into just another job for government bureaucrats, no different than delivering the mail or processing income tax returns. We no longer need to care for each other as friends, family and neighbors; instead, we can all treat each other as part of a larger statistic. I know I've done my part if I paid my income taxes; I no longer feel morally obligated to help my fellow man.

His last point is, in my view, especially strong. Curt and I have both touched on the issue of law serving as a surrogate for or replacement of reality, and I think this is another example of where that goes awry.

Thank goodness I managed to get in a halfway serious post tonight; this is likely to be my last post for a few days. I'm going to Toronto tomorrow and fully intend to make the most of my time there, which entails rather a different routine than my usual one. But fear not, I shall return sometime next week. Until then, Curt's in charge around here (let me tell you, those are words I never expected to come from my mouth...er...fingers, I guess).

P.S. Be sure to check out the "expressive voting" link above. It's really an excellent article and is highly relevant to some of the points I've been trying to make in the last few days.