The Grand Liberal Fallacy (Part 1)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In brief, the Grand Liberal Fallacy is the belief that genuine, heartfelt, sincere, worthy emotions like compassion, empathy, and sympathy can operate identically on a massive statewide, nationwide or worldwide scale in the same exact way that they operate in one-on-one situations or in small group situations.  This disastrous category mistake (please look up the definition of ‘category mistake’ in Gilbert Ryle’s classic work The Concept of Mind) is the foundation principle of all liberal, left-leaning political views. This is critical, so let’s examine it in a little more detail.

Here’s an example.  You’re walking down the street and a homeless person approaches you, asking for some spare change to get a bite to eat.  You’re moved by their apparent plight, you believe they are sincere in their need, and you want to help.  So you toss them some change or a few bucks.  And that’s all there is to the story.  The complexity level of this compassionate act is zero.  Only two people are involved, the amount of money changing hands is negligible, and the capacity for fraud is minimal.  (What fraud could there be?  Perhaps they take the money and use it for something else, a pint of beer or a joint.  But that’s it. Nothing more serious is possible.)

Now, there seems to be a  general principle that the fewer the amount of people involved in acts of compassion, the less fraud there is, and the less chance there is that something can go wrong.  Notice – in the above example we’ve said nothing about our political leanings.  The fact is, in their own personal, private morality, virtually every person alive on the face of the Earth is a bleeding heart. Their political beliefs are irrelevant.   However, those who believe that bleeding heart-ness can be  successfully inflated from the status of  a characteristic of personal morality into the status of massive social prescription are making a grave mistake.  I would go yet further and say that believing that the perfectly valid and legitimate state of bleeding heart-ness in personal, private morality can be successfully elevated into some kind of mass produced social program  is like believing that if you flap your arms at your sides you can fly in the air like a bird.  It is that insane.

The plain fact is, emotions are not the kinds of things that can be distributed by the government.  CARE package are, but not emotions.

Consider the following amendments to our above example.  Our homeless friend goes out and tells ten friends, “You see this person over here?  They are compassionate.  If you ask them for spare change, they will give it to you.”  And so these ten all come over to ask for alms as well.

Let’s postulate that we have enough resources to give a little to all of the ten, but our resources are somewhat limited, so we ask each to fill out a form so we can keep records of who has already gotten money from us.

Here are  my first questions – does upping the number of people participating raise the capacity level for fraud and the complexity level of the enterprise?  Does the introduction of paperwork do so as well?

Now – what happens when each of the ten tell another ten, raising the total to a hundred?

TBC shortly