Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The ears have walls

The PBS NewsHour last night included a brief piece on the Dalai Lama. They titled it "Dalai Lama urges universal teaching of compassion." In the interview, he defined himself as a "Buddhist-Marxist."

There have been similar remarks about compassion from the Pope. In fact, many among the high-minded see themselves as other-regarding -- and therefore Marxist.  If not openly Marxist, then eager to involve the state (politics) in various redistribution programs.

They turn a blind eye to some very ugly (and well documented) history. But these are, for the most part, smart and well educated people so I can only speculate on what motivates them.

Arthur Brooks, in The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, addresses a similar conundrum. The moral high ground, he argues, belongs to those who emphasize that freedom as well as prosperity emanate from the anti-statist platform. He believes that conservative politicians have dropped the ball, having been unable to make a case, inexplicably surrendering their strong suit. Poverty in America declined steadily before the onset of the War on Poverty (chart on page 62). Since then, all there has been to show has been a flat-lined poverty trend and about $1 trillion per year spent on 80 or so ineffectual anti-poverty programs.

Despite a mountain of evidence on their side, and aside from Ronald Reagan, American conservatives have been unable to craft a convincing happy warrior-inclusive-big-tent platform. Brooks sees this as ironic because the evidence is wholly on their side. (The book was written before unhappy-warrior Donald Trump captured so many Republican hearts and became a godsend to the statists.)

Read Brooks' happy warrior book. But do not forget that there are also Jonathan Haidt's moral taste buds in play. The ears have walls.