Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Very Interesting and Distrubing Article

      Theodore Dalrymple is a British doctor who has voluntarily worked in slums and jails for the past fourteen years.  He writes about things he's learned in the latest City Journal (Hat tip: Wretchard):
Intellectuals propounded the idea that man should be freed from the shackles of social convention and self-control, and the government, without any demand from below, enacted laws that promoted unrestrained behavior and created a welfare system that protected people from some of its economic consequences. When the barriers to evil are brought down, it flourishes; and never again will I be tempted to believe in the fundamental goodness of man, or that evil is something exceptional or alien to human nature.

. . . In 1921, the year of my mother's birth, there was one crime recorded for every 370 inhabitants of England and Wales; 80 years later, it was one for every ten inhabitants. There has been a 12-fold increase since 1941 and an even greater increase in crimes of violence. So while personal experience is hardly a complete guide to social reality, the historical data certainly back up my impressions.

      After describing in detail some patients he finds illuminating, Dalrymple says:
This truly is not so much the banality as the frivolity of evil: the elevation of passing pleasure for oneself over the long-term misery of others to whom one owes a duty. What better phrase than the frivolity of evil describes the conduct of a mother who turns her own 14-year-old child out of doors because her latest boyfriend does not want him or her in the house? And what better phrase describes the attitude of those intellectuals who see in this conduct nothing but an extension of human freedom and choice, another thread in life's rich tapestry? . . .

A necessary, though not sufficient, condition is the welfare state, which makes it possible, and sometimes advantageous, to behave like this. Just as the IMF is the bank of last resort, encouraging commercial banks to make unwise loans to countries that they know the IMF will bail out, so the state is the parent of last resort—or, more often than not, of first resort. . . .

So while my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, and worse than wrong, they are encouraged nevertheless to do it by the strong belief that they have the right to do it, because everything is merely a matter of choice. Almost no one in Britain ever publicly challenges this belief. . . .

Ultimately, the moral cowardice of the intellectual and political elites is responsible for the continuing social disaster that has overtaken Britain

      The whole thing is very much worth reading.

      Dalrymple reminds me of something I've thought ever since I saw the eagerness to kill Terri Schiavo: the welfare state is postulated on compassion and caring, but its actual result is to make people more selfish.

      Once you have no personal responsibilities to your family or neighbors, you start regarding all your money as rightfully yours.  Then you start resenting the taxes you pay to 'help people.'  Then you turn your back on them.  And in the end, you want to kill them off, so their care won't waste your money.

      I hope our country can turn away from this in time. I fear Europe is lost.



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