The late firebrand Oriana Fallaci coined the term “Goodists” for those who employ politics as a means of self-congratulation. Goodists, writes Bret Stephens, put a higher premium on their moral intentions than the efficacy of their actions . . . . Above all, the Goodists are people who like to be seen to be good.”
Which is more virtuous – to give other people’s money through income redistribution to the have-nots or to give one’s own money through private charity? Are the poor better served by government hand-outs that foster dependence or by have jobs that provide the work ethic to escape poverty?
The tendency of many on the left to view politics in terms of a Manichean struggle between good and evil begets many pernicious consequences. Too frequently the goal of leftist politics becomes affirmation of one’s essential goodness; it is a form of self-soothing. Because conservatives emphasize the private realm over the public, they are less likely, though hardly immune, to equating politics with morality.
THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES of viewing politics as a morality play, a struggle between good and evil, are many. For one, it makes the search for pragmatic, non-partisan solutions to problems almost impossible. As an example, everyone acknowledges that the United States social security system, predicated on actuarial assumptions of the 1930s, when few workers lived much past 65, is no longer viable. In 1960, there were 5 workers for every beneficiary; today, the ratio is 2:1. For all practical purposes, Social Security is all but dead.
Paul Ryan once proposed a plan for revamping it on a fiscally sustainable basis. There was no doubt that his plan would be tweaked to pacify the left’s so-called “experts,” but the left made it political assuring that any attempt to save Social Security would be null and void. His plan, like others since then, are attacked as nothing more than a conservative attempt to push granny off the cliff. And so, it will ever be with any proposal to alter Social Security and Medicare, or welfare or housing or food stamps. The more any political agenda or social reform is seen as a choice between good and evil, the less finicky will the forces of “good” be about suppression of all of those “evil” opposing opinions.
Politics as a morality tale narrative should bind one to reality but these days, it has become increasingly polarized. Despite the evidence of threats to our Republic, the majority of people seem to take comfort in the delusion that shared humanity and moral commitments will keep political tides at bay. Let us hope and pray that these people will only be willing to follow the left so far before the moral brakes kick in.
Politics is, after all, not a profession that encourages moral reflection or insight and when political ideology is in the driver’s seat, a more extreme, polarized political landscape readily gives way to a more depraved moral reality or as the left loves to say, the end justifies the means.
The so-called blue model of high taxation, heavy regulation of business and labor markets, generous pensions for government workers, executive orders that by-pass Congress and the judicial system, the defunct economy, attempts to turn our health care choices and decisions over to the World Health Organization, social justice, pitting the races against one another, etc. is not going to save our Republic. In fact, it is an agenda to give power to a one world government that respects no freedom.
As George Will once observed, values are cheap: anyone can proclaim hundreds of values. Virtue is much harder to attain. The acquisition of virtues requires hard work and self-denial. It cannot be achieved by pulling a voting lever or putting a Free Palestine bumper sticker on the car.