The View From 1776

C.S. Lewis and ObamaCare

The Wall Street Journal’s October 31, 2013, Quote of the Day:

From C.S. Lewis’s essay anthology “God in the Dock” (1948):

My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/01 at 09:32 PM
  1. Thomas,

    Lewis's description of the cruelty of robber barons perfectly captures the outlook of today's Republicans who insist on cutting food stamps for the poor, using the excuse that those folks "need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to become rich like us!"
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  10:07 AM
  2. J. Jay,

    You give new meaning to the phrase 'knee-jerk reaction'. It is obvious Lewis' point comparing robber-barons to 'do-gooders with power' went right over your head. And, once again, you twisted a perfectly good, honest, broadly accepted observation into a divisive stereotype. Possibly there is something about the disordered liberal-mind that renders the incontestable unacceptable. But, having lived among liberals, I know that isn't exactly the case other than many liberals steadfastly refuse hearing anything that conflicts with their cherished notions; despite this particular truism is comprehensible to most third-graders (until they grow up to become liberals, at which point reason becomes the stuff of 'evil forces').

    Lewis' observation is hardly new, nor is it controversial. It is a well-founded, well-documented observation of the course of all democracies (and even republics) from limited self-government to tyranny; and is a truism independent of the usual partisanship because applicable to all forms of government and to all parties. Despite which, you managed to find a partisanship that just isn't there accept in your fevered brain. It is a given 'power corrupts' even the best intentioned of us, and that one form this takes is legions of busybodies now controlling our lives, invading our privacy, and generally pushing us around. Call this 'soft-fascism'. Lewis made this remark during WWII explaining the Nazis rise to power, but also regarding the creep toward socialism in his own Britain. This is a truth even the more savvy liberals recognize if only as a cudgel to be used against the party they regard more more guilty of evils they, themselves, sow in such profusion. If anything, this is trait far more common to liberals convinced of their own infallibility than of 'limited-government' types (libertarians and conservatives) who, by the very nature of our political thinking are in total agreement with Lewis.

    Like most liberals, J. Jay, you regard conservatism and conservatives as some kind conspiracy waged against that which you regard holy (i.e., stat-ism, socialism, endless progress). We are, indeed, allied in our resistance to your program, but it is not, as you believe a conspiracy to do evil but to combat evils; to provide damage control against the perennially reckless. It is as if, to you, conservatives (and anyone else objecting to your programs) were in league to inflict as much harm on humanity as is humanly possible ( altogether forgetting we, too, are in this boat); and believe us capable of any wickedness rather than concede ours is a difference of opinion only regarding the best means of achieving the greatest good. Ask yourself, what conceivable reason could we have for such behavior? The answer, of course, is none, and the mere assumption of it absurd. But, of course, your real intent was to vilify and, thereby, derail all discussion of subjects you find uncomfortable, and to substitute your own version of 'revealed truth'.

    Now, as to your “Republicans who insist on cutting food-stamps for the poor, using the excuse that those folks "need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to become rich like us!” remark. Please show me where any prominent Republican or conservative has called for such cuts (hence, the stereotyping). Yes, we want greater accountability of those demanding benefits, which is not unreasonable; and we have proved that beyond a doubt a great many who are legitimately needed can be helped to get off welfare. And, we believe, that private charities are superior to government-charity as the best means to helping. I am sure you can find cases of self-described conservative and/or Republican bloggers who disparage the poor the way you misrepresent us, but it is hardly a Republican or conservative trait; and certainly no more than it has been a Democrat trait. If you need proof of this, I will give some famous examples: Huey Long, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Robert Byrd. Though never disclosed, Archie Bunker could only have been a card-carrying, union-stalwart, FDR adoring Democrat. And, here are some examples of indisputably liberal Democrats who have, at some point, opposed welfare policies: Jefferson, JFK, and James Webb. There is no lack of Republicans, moreover, who wholeheartedly endorse affirmative-action as much as Democrats. Indeed, it was a Republican (Nixon) who gave us affirmative-action. A recent poll (see ) found that while 90% of Republicans opposed giving benefits to illegals, 65% of Democrats did also. Other polls at different times found that, even among Democrats, welfare-state misgivings are substantial. At most, then, conservative opposition to food-stamps is only one of degree, and not of kind.

    This is so typically of you J. Jay. Failing to field a real argument, you resort to invoking pathetically victimized caricatures [allegedly] under attack by equally inconsequential conservative boogeymen at whom to rail instead. Is your argument so weak you must resort to vicious fictions?
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  09:56 PM
  3. Thomas,

    You asked for evidence that Republicans have in fact called for cuts to food stamps.

    On September 19, 2013, the House voted 217 to 210 (along party lines) to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp budget. The bill was written by Eric Cantor, Majority leader. House speaker Boehner said of the bill, "This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our Nation's welfare programs."

    And on this Veteran's day, we can note that cutting the food stamps (SNAP) budget will slice 170,000 veterans off the program.

    This is not my "conspiracy theory" or a "caricature" of Republicans, Thomas. It is the Plain Truth.

    (See for the New York Times article.)

    Whether or not you consider my viewpoints appealing, you cannot alter the facts that during this term, the Republicans have repeatedly passed measures to cut food stamps.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/12  at  04:41 PM
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