Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's not about "empathy"

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:09 AM |  

With the liberal tendency toward feelings, Flash calls this the Empathy Test --
"How would I perceive the same or similar behavior if the party affiliation was reversed."
Regarding the Republicans proposed "nuclear option" to end the Senate filabuster on the president's judicial nominees, he asks --
But where is a mind set that thinks they [Republicans] can just change the rules to benefit only themselves. Do they think they will be in the majority forever . . . . What would you be saying if, say, the Democrats controlled the Senate and President Hillary Clinton was able to have this power?
Flash's point is well taken, but it has nothing to do with as mushy a concept as "empathy" or as subjective a notion as "behavior." It's about power.

The lesson we should take away from Flash's observation is not that when confronted with a contentious political issue we should all metaphorically walk a mile in someone else's shoes singing "Kumbaya." Rather we should be careful what power we grant to government on the assumption that at sometime, somehow, somewhere, someone will misuse it. And that's where, as a professed liberal, Flash's "Empathy Test" fails. He also writes --
I have always commented that the difference between the two sides is that the Right lives for today, whereas the Left lives with a vision towards tomorrow. And the actions that are being displayed by both sides on this issue certainly supports that theory.
The "vision thing" is nice, but this country already has a vision that is based on the unalienable right of each individual to pursue happiness in his or her own way without the coercion of others, including government. Government's job is to protect individual rights, not lead us to some promised land.

I don't want to live in the totalitarian world the Left envisions -- for one cannot have the kind of equalitarianism it preaches without coercion. Nor do I want to live in a conservative world so lacking in conviction in its own beliefs that it quakes with fear at new ideas however threatening they might seem.

Consequently, I advocate limiting government the power to do either, something neither the Right nor the Left is willing to do. With the faith of teenager that thinks he will live forever, both sides do act as if they will be in the majority forever. Both sides view the power of government, the Constitution, and individual citizens as but means to the civilization they envision (which surprise, surprise, they control). Neither side trusts the "invisible hand" of people acting in their own self-interest to produce good.

And so the bottom line becomes if government has the big sitick, I want people like me swinging it. But the better option (rather than arguing our "feelings" toward how they should use it) is taking the stick out of government's hands whenever possible and certainly not giving it new and bigger ones.