To sympathize with those who are less fortunate is honorable and decent. A man able to commiserate only with himself would surely be neither admirable nor attractive. But every virtue can become deformed by excess, insincerity, or loose thinking into an opposing vice. Sympathy, when excessive, moves toward sentimental condescension and eventually disdain; when insincere, it becomes unctuously hypocritical; and when associated with loose thinking, it is a bad guide to policy and frequently has disastrous results. It is possible, of course, to combine all three errors.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Sympathy Deformed - Theodore Dalrymple on How Misguided Compassion Hurts the Poor
We're constantly told how society must take care of "those less fortunate than we are" and to a point, that is right. But what happens when instead of giving someone temporarily down on his luck a leg up until he can become self-reliant, we cut off his legs completely and make him dependent on aid? Theodore Dalrymple shows us how a society can be brought to ruin, armed only with the best intentions. Read the whole thing, but here is his introduction:
He goes on to give examples of how what seem to us like poor societies, as measured by GDP per capita, aren't really all that poor because people operate outside the "money economy". It is only when well-meaning wealthier nations start getting involved that they become truly impoverished. This is where the welfare state could, actually will, take us all eventually.