Stossel has a column on Brink Lindsay’s new book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture. To tip off the article, Stossel makes a simple, elegant point that must be repeated time and again:
"In political life today, you are considered compassionate if you demand that government impose your preferences on others. But what’s compassionate about that? Compassionate is "live and let live.""
I would add that the so-called compassion of state welfare also strips the most important aspect of our compassion — the impetus to help others. When government bureaucrats use the coercive state apparatus to help people in the manner they see fit (crowding out private charity, introducing government inefficiency, and social dependence), they invariably make individuals less inclined to direct resources or cares to causes they deem worthy. The onus of charity is removed from the citizen and given to the state. Social entrepreneurship and markets in benevolence suffer.
I’m looking forward to reading Brink’s book and hope that the upshot is that we can reconcile personal wealth and our sense of benevolence without government elites and philosopher kings. From Brink’s book:
"American capitalism is derided for its superficial banality, yet it has unleashed profound, convulsive social change," he writes. "Condemned as mindless materialism, it has burst loose a flood tide of spiritual yearning. The civil rights movement and the sexual revolution, environmentalism and feminism, the fitness and health-care boom and the opening of the gay closet, the withering of censorship and the rise of a ‘creative class’ of ‘knowledge workers’ — all are the progeny of widespread prosperity." -Max Borders