Saturday, May 21, 2016

Travel Reading

We read different things when traveling than when at home.  For me, this means both smaller, more portable volumes, and things written in a pick-up-and-put-down style that is amenable to quick changes.  For the trip to Vegas I had My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber and Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis.  From the latter, discussing "judgement," and the seeming self-righteousness of the psalmists. Italics mine.
  1.  The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair. (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition. That may be true, but it is an untimely truth. An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.) We need therefore by no means assume that the Psalmists are deceived or lying when they assert that, as against their particular enemies at some particular moment, they are completely in the right. Their voices while they say so may grate harshly on our ear and suggest to us that they are unamiable people. But that is another matter. And to be wronged does not commonly make people amiable.
I am seeing modern parallels here that are political masquerading as spiritual.


Texan99 said...

"An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism." He said a mouthful there.

In contrast, my FB feed included a lovely video clip about an elderly lady who was mugged and robbed of $700 as she left the cemetery, where she had been mourning her recently departed husband. The man who mugged her turned out to be the mostly absentee father of a local teen, who had recently received a $250 cash gift from his dad to go on a much-desired band trip. The teen went and gave the money to the elderly lady, saying he couldn't be sure the money wasn't stolen. She accepted it graciously, noting that it was hers now and she was free to do what she liked with it. What she liked to do was give it back to him so he could go on his band trip. The whole story (perhaps entirely made up, I realize) only works because the lady and the teen both acted voluntarily, disposing only of riches that were theirs to dispose of. Imagine a social worker trying to enforce the same result on them, explaining that public policy required it, because it was unfair that their lives were more pleasant than that of the mugger, or because the lady was richer than the kid, or some other such nonsense.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Great example. From a purely practical standpoint, it matters a great deal whether it is true, because if it is not then it illustrates that voluntary exchanges do not help the poor enough to matter. Yet from an eternal POV it doesn't much matter, as it illustrates what real righteousness, not cheapjack guilt-avoidance, really is.

It is easy to find people harmed by the free market and rescued by socialist-lite policies. They are not illusory, they are quite real, and it is really an evil for conservatives to pretend they don't exist. Of course they do, and alternative arrangements should be part of conservative solutions. But the real question on the practical front must include some evaluation whether more where helped or more were harmed, and to what extent. That is seldom measured, and even more seldom regarded as real. It's all NPR anecdote, not fact.

I remain post-liberal, not conservative. I don't find it that objectionable to take from the rich to give to the poor, as the rich always overestimate their agency versus their luck and seldom understand how hard it is for some people. But one of my requirements is that such unfair interventions actual work, actually result in fewer poor people. My experience is that the first intervention actually helps a lot, grabbing the low-hanging fruit of the suffering, oppressed, and unlucky and improving their lives. After that it is law of diminishing returns. The illusion that the second billion dollars will recsue as many as the first billion is ludicrous.

Texan99 said...

I don't doubt that many of the rich over-estimate their agency and under-estimate their luck, but I can't get from that conclusion to the idea that it's good to take they money from them. I suspect that many un-rich people under-estimate the rich's agency and over-estimate their luck, and that's equally not a good enough reason to commander money from the poor to give to the rich. There should be better reasons before we ever commandeer anyone's property. But I don't think it's a terrible idea, either, in a democracy, for people to vote for a certain level of public taxation support for public assistance. That's a rather benign form of commandeering, if it's done right, and a good case can be made for doing more good than harm if it doesn't get too out of hand, and if it doesn't degenerate into a system where people fantasize that they can have all the collective charitable spending they want as long as it's completely financed by those other guys. That's where I think the rot really begins. Very few of us are up to the task of resisting that temptation.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It leads to a next-post question.