For my write-up today on Clear and Present Dangers: A Conservative View of America's Government (copyright 1975), I'll comment on something that M. Stanton Evans says on pages 362-363:
liberal urge to absorb and deploy power will continue to its logical
conclusion----which is the authoritarian state...In the chapter
immediately preceding, we have observed the most alarming symptom of
this development----a growing indifference toward the value of human
life. As liberalism has drifted further and further away from our
traditional conceptions of human worth and individuality, we find a
growing hostility not only to personal freedom but to the very concept
of life itself."
Evans has in mind here abortion and euthanasia.
I don't think that holding certain liberal positions is inconsistent with believing in the value of individual human beings.
Why do liberals support anti-poverty programs and efforts to eliminate
hunger and malnutrition among poor children? Why are they for a health
care policy that they believe ensures that more Americans will receive
adequate health care? Why are they against the death penalty? Why do
they oppose pollutants that they think are damaging to people's health
and life? Why are there extreme leftists who criticize capitalism for
dehumanizing people and treating them as means to an end? I
realize that Evans would argue that liberal policies don't work, but, in
my opinion, a number of liberals hold their positions out of respect
for the value of life and of the human individual.
looks at the history of American liberalism and notes the influence of
John Stuart Mill and utilitarianism----the belief that we should pursue
the greatest good for the greatest number, a notion that, according to
many conservatives, compromises the rights and dignity of the
individual. But I doubt that a number of people who hold
liberal positions would see themselves as part of the stream of
utilitarian thought, assuming that they even know much about John Stuart
Mill. My hunch is that they'd say that they support liberal policies
out of compassion.
That's not to say that I think Evans is completely
wrong. There have been authoritarian states that championed compassion
for the poor and the working people, but they were despotic and killed
people they thought stood in the way of the revolution. I think of a
number of communist governments. But not every government that pursues
compassionate policies is like that: consider European social
democracies that don't even have a death penalty. What keeps them from
becoming despotic regimes that take life with cavalier indifference?
Could their commitment to compassion be a part of the solution rather
than a part of the problem?
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