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Sen. Compassion II

Posted By Don Boudreaux On August 31, 2009 @ 6:58 am In Charity,Myths and Fallacies,Other People's Money,Politics | Comments Disabled

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 [1],” 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

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[1] Ted Kennedy, America’s conscience: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gabler30-2009aug30,0,3766724.story


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