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Gabler Needs Some Scottish Enlightenment

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Discussing the past 30 years, Neal Gabler asserts that “Conservatives are pushing aside compassion” (“America the stony-hearted,” May 22).  In doing so, though, he simply assumes his conclusion – namely, that a people’s compassion is expressed only, or at least chiefly or best, through government programs and regulations.

Conservatives (or, more accurately here, skeptics of the welfare state) argue that government programs, because these rely upon taxation and force, are not the product of a people’s compassion.  These are instead the product of force-backed greed masquerading as compassion (Ever reflect on why the Food Stamp program is run by the Department of Agriculture, or why labor unions oppose free trade?), as well as of the wide acceptance of the myth that society and state are synonymous with each other.

We welfare-state skeptics perhaps are wrong to argue that true compassion can be expressed only when done voluntarily and that, when compassion is done voluntarily, it’s more effective than is ‘compassion’ compelled by government commands.  But Mr. Gabler certainly is wrong to write as if the argument on this front is settled in favor of those who suppose that a people’s compassion can be expressed only through the state.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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