Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Pity the child, but not forever; not if he stays that way

Brian Tiemann has a spectacularly good (and Den Beste-ishly long) rant on the nature of politics and expectations. Short version: Personal freedom and responsibility are the antidotes to a political culture of victimhood. It's all golden, but the key graf: [...] It's got something to do with giving the people around me the benefit of the doubt, acknowledging that all people have their own lives and their own valid opinions, and believing firmly that very few people are as stupid as we might like to call them. It's about trusting your fellow man to do the right thing. It's about believing that every person is entitled to exactly the same opportunities, regardless of how they might act upon them—nobody should have any externally-imposed handicaps OR advantages over anyone else. It's a conviction that people are fundamentally competent, and that furthermore we all ought to be held to a higher standard of conduct and conscience that is within the reach of all of us if only we commit to stretching ourselves upward to take it. It has to do with respecting others' beliefs and opinions, spiritual and political, even if I disagree with them—and not fantasizing about visiting violence upon them or banning their thoughts because I don't find them agreeable. It's about the belief that equality, fairness, and opportunity arise from the natural evolution of society left to its own devices, rather than from undemocratic rulemaking that seeks to restrict the way in which we conduct our lives. It's about understanding that increased wealth is a boon to all people, and technical innovation and the value it creates reduces the divide between rich and poor, especially in the public's estimation of the value of a person's character. It's about realizing that self-determination is the key to the uplift of a downtrodden stratum of society, and alms and pity are no way to dispense self-determination. It's about a belief in earning your claim to freedom and wealth and happiness, not blaming others for withholding those things from you, and it's about taking personal responsibility for failure and recognizing it as a risk that's fundamentally inseparable from the freedom to succeed. It's about the realization of a world where success is and remains the touchstone of a life well lived, for a successful person will inspire, encourage, and invest in those around him, out of self-interest, civic responsibility, friendship, and because human beings are, I believe, good at heart. ...In other words, yes: I'm a Republican. Now that's a platform to run with. I don't have anything to add, really, beyond that I've come to much the same conclusions and arrived at much the same place, politically. I may not agree 100% with my party (be it the CPC here, or the GOP vicariously) on every particular issue - there are a number which I'm somewhere between indifferent to outright negative towards their stance - but at least my party acknowledges this, more or less: You can do and be whatever you want. We're not going to subsidize your dream, but hey, go for it! That's the key. That's what's important, first of all; all further discussion of the social contract is coloured by one's stance on what can best be summed up as liberty, tempered by responsibility. That's what's precious about America. If the artist/poet/author on the other end of Brian's conversation wants to live in a welfare state where freedom of expression is limited for his opponents, to be praised for trite and vacuous hatred of those he blames for the failures of his life, to be treated as a victim - well, Canada isn't that far away. The Liberals thrive on this kind of baseless angst, and I'm sure they'd be happy to rescue him from all that terrible personal responsibility.


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