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Sen. Compassion II

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Here’s a letter that I just sent to the Los Angeles Times:

You join legions of others in describing Ted Kennedy as having been compassionate (“Ted Kennedy, America’s conscience [2],” August 30).  Aware that I’ll come across as low-brow – as unable to appreciate the transformative magic of politics – I must ask: What’s compassionate about spending other people’s money and minding other people’s business?

Suppose Mr. Kennedy were my neighbor.  One day he arrives at my door with a handful of other neighbors (all carrying concealed weapons) and demands some of my money and tells me that he’ll regulate what I eat, drink, and smoke.  “And I’ll stop your teenage son from being employed if no employer offers him a wage at least as high as one that my friends here and I determine is appropriate.”

I gaze at him aghast.  “Oh, don’t worry,” he assures me.  “Because my undying dream is to help others, I’ll spend the money that I take from you in ways that will help you.  But I’ll also spend much of it helping people on the other side of the tracks.  And any restrictions that I impose on your behavior are ones that, you can be sure, spring only from my compassion for you and others.”

Should I regard neighbor Kennedy as great and compassionate – as a gallant champion of the interests of others?  Or should I regard him as an arrogant bully, as fraudulent as he is dangerous?

Donald J. Boudreaux