January 14 2005
ARE GOVERNMENTS COMPASSIONATE? Earlier this week
Alberto Montaner argued in the Miami Herald that they are
have no heart; they have only rules and laws. The politicians
and bureaucrats who manage them have only interests, clients
and voters. The huge drama provoked by the tsunami was
a matter of the heart, of deeply affected people who wanted
to help fellow humans who had been battered by nature.
It was the moment for compassion, and emotions do not
fit within the cold institutional structure of states.
certainly an interesting and complex question. Generally
speaking, small-government conservatives would tend to associate
themselves with the idea that compassion comes from individuals,
the other hand, it's impossible to look at the larger picture
and not conclude that certain types of government are more
compassionate than others. Democracies versus fascist dictatorships,
for example. Governments may not have "heart"
but they definitely have "spirit" - and in many
cases that spirit is defined by the dignity and respect
with which they treat their own people.
the case of the United States, those cold, heartless rules
and laws Montaner refers to are the spirit that protect
the individual freedoms and rights that make America one
of the wealthiest, most free, most tolerant, and yes - most
compassionate - places on earth. Put another way, America's
great wealth and compassion is due in large part to an adherence
to the belief instilled by the Founders that we are a country
of laws, not men.
America's tradition of compassion is also built upon the
strength of the Judeo-Christian value system that undergirds
our system of laws. But it would be a mistake to underestimate
the influence democracy has on fostering a culture where
compassion is represented in both the people and its government.
this in the context of the historic tragedy of the Asian
tsunami. Is it a coincidence the top four donors (Australia
billion, Germany $650
million, Japan $500
million, United States $350
million) are all democracies? But, you say, they're
also four of the wealthiest nations in the world. True,
though that's just another argument in democracy's favor.
what about China, which currently has the world's second
largest economy and has at least as much strategic interest
in the region as Japan and Australia? To date the Chinese
government has pledged only $62
million in aid. And why have the governments of oil-rich
Gulf states ( a few of which are among the wealthiest in
the world on a per capita basis) been
so slow to respond, especially considering much of the
suffering is occurring in a predominantly Muslim country?
answers to these questions becomes clear by asking yet one
more question: why should we expect the governments of China
or the Gulf states to make a big display of compassion to
people in Asia when they aren't even compassionate towards
their own citizens?
Middle East is the
least free region on the entire planet. The Chinese
government remains ruthlessly repressive and a serial abuser
of human rights. It's simply unrealistic to expect regimes
that spend such a great deal of energy depriving their own
citizens of fundamental rights to react to the world around
them with compassion and benevolence.
it much harder to harness the compassion of individuals
in societies that aren't free. Abdullah al-Faqih, professor
of politics at Sanaa University in Yemen, explains in today's
Christian Science Monitor:
in mind that the Arabs live these days in extraordinary
circumstances. They lack the freedom to organize and to
express opinions, and consequently the freedom to initiate
positive responses to crises.
culture of giving is associated with a culture of tolerance,
equality, openness, and respect for others' freedoms and
rights. Therefore, a culture hospitable to giving is still
largely missing in the Arab world."
is yet another reason why President Bush is on the correct,
but very difficult path of supporting the spread of freedom
and democracy around the world. Democracies further the
cause of peace and stability. They promote enterprise and
create wealth. And they help generate a respect for individual
rights and freedoms which is, in many ways, the most compassionate
act of all. - T. Bevan 11:00 am Link
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January 12 2005
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Metaphorically
speaking, of course. And no, I haven't been off hiding in
a self-induced cone of silence because Kaus
ridiculed my last post as "flabby" and
"cartoonish" (He also called you
"estimable" - though that adjective was, quite
conspicuously, sans bold. - ed.).
Truth be told we've had some other obligations that needed
tending to, and that tending is now done.
WILLIAMS & CBS: On one hand we have a rather
obscure conservative commentator who already favored a certain
piece of legislation, took money and continued to write
favorably about it. Regardless of Armstrong's prior feelings
about No Child Left Behind, taking the contract was a mistake
and it has been rightly denounced by people across the ideological
spectrum as an example of "paid propaganda."
the other hand, we have a group of individuals working for
one of the largest, most influential news organizations
in the country who presented themselves as "objective"
reporters and who violated almost every rule (ethical and
otherwise) in the book of journalism to slap together a
report intended to influence the outcome of a Presidential
election. Even more damning, these same people then spent
two weeks defending the original report by churning out
yet more misrepresentations and distortions.
we don't dare call this propaganda. Many of the best and
brightest can't even bring themselves to call it "political
bias." Instead, the entire sordid affair is officially
chalked up to "haste"
and "competitive pressures."
is it so easy for people to call the first case by its proper
name but not the second?
FIGHTS FOR 'ELECTORAL JUSTICE': Here's another
question worth pondering. Last week Senator
Barbara Boxer made an historic and tearful
objection to to the certification of Ohio's electoral
votes in Congress:
we have men and women dying to bring democracy abroad,
we've got to make it the best it can be here at home,
and that's why I'm doing this."
said her protest was "not designed to overturn Bush's
re-election" but instead came from a desire to "fight
for electoral justice" and to "cast
the light of truth on a flawed system."
shouldn't Senator Boxer be holding a press conference in
Seattle to "cast the light of truth" on the Washington
Governor's election? After all, in a race decided by only
129 votes we have documented cases of dead people voting,
military absentee ballots being excluded, etc. - not to
mention that the Democratic stronghold of King County continues
to have trouble reconciling the fact they
counted about 1,800 more votes than the number of people
who are known to have signed in to vote on election day.
such obvious passion and such a deep commitment to 'fight
for electoral justice' you'd think the problems in Washington
state would have Senator Boxer more than a little verklempt.
Then again, maybe not. - T. Bevan 1:00 pm Link
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