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It Starts with an “A”

November 28th, 2010 by Jim May · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

Over at Hot Air, Jimmie Bise Jr. piles on to the reaction against a group of wealthy individuals who are lobbying the Democrats for higher taxes:

“They have “I can” confused with “You must”. This confusion is at the very heart of the progressive mindset. Folks like Saperstein and Buffet believe that because they can easily weather a big tax increase, everyone else has to, or it wouldn’t be “fair”. But what is fairness if it is coerced?

I’ll give you a big hint, Bise.  It starts with an “A”.

As I have explained, the key difference between altruism and benevolence, is altruism’s duty component — i.e. the idea that we have some sort of unchosen obligation, or duty, to someone other than ourselves.

For those who see duty as the essence of morality and the collective as morally sovereign, the issue of the use of force has no real grounds in any facts he recognizes; it is a fragment of a diametrically opposed worldview (one where individual exist and possess moral significance), a floating abstraction which eventually loses its meaning and fades away.

This is how people like Buffett can blithely complain about not paying enough taxes in full view of the fact that there is nothing stopping them from simply writing bigger checks in April… and how a wealthy German can state flatly that freely given charity usurps the moral prerogative of the “democratically legitimate state”.

Bise is the one who is confused here.  The Left knows full well the difference between “I can” and “you must”; the former is an observation of personal capacity, the latter is the moral obligation that governs and overrides the former.

Once more, let’s trot out the money quote from the guy who coined the damn word, Auguste Comte:

[The] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service…. This [“to live for others”], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely.”

(additions in “[]” are from the source.)

Unfortunately, with all these clues sitting right in his face, Bise misses the mark in the usual manner of conservatives:

Ultimately, these millionaires illustrate more about the central conceit of progressivism than they do fairness of “social justice”.

On the contrary, sir: these sanctioning victims are making the true meaning of “social justice” all too clear.

Thomas Sowell (a conservative, yes, but who often transcends it despite himself) once remarked that when the Left seeks to negate and/or invert the meaning of a term, they append the prefix “social” to it.   This negated meaning of “justice” IS Leftism’s central conceit: that the collective is morally sovereign over the individual.  Because conservatism also holds this to be true (differing from their Leftist siblings only in regards to the form of that which is morally sovereign over the individual), Bise and his commenters avoid going all the way down the rabbit hole lest they discover too much.

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Mike N

    I agree with Michelle Malkin’s point: these men are waving the flag of “Go ahead, tread on me.” I would only add “and everyone else too.”

  • Beth Haynes

    Thanks for this post. Several very nice gems in it:
    “the difference between altruism and benevolence, I can vs. you must, the Comte and Sowell quotes.

  • Inspector

    Good one Mike.

    “in full view of the fact that there is nothing stopping them from simply writing bigger checks in April”

    This is the real elephant in the living room. I’m amazed at the number of people to whom that fact is apparently not in full view. If it were, I think more people would start asking questions.

    One such question: Why does mister Buffet feel the need to coerce others by force into paying more taxes when he has not yet given up all of his own money? If more people investigated the answer to that question, they’d be a good way on to questioning altruism itself.

  • Roxanne A.

    Thank you for this post. Very well said and delineated out, and going to the source is always excellent.

    Why does , as Inspector says, Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates not just give all their wealth away, as “good examples” to the rest of us? Is it possible they think by throwing everyone under the bus of altruism that they will be left a few extra dollars by their new overseers? Or is it they are just concerned that we all become as moral as they want to see us become?

    Neither man understands who and what they are up against. In the field of morality they are deaf, dumb and blind. Adolph Eichman said, to his captors, “If Adolph Hitler had told me to shoot my mother, I would have done so.” I think Eichman was trying to make a point that of all people, his mother was last on his list to shoot, but being the selfless (moral in his own eyes) man he was, he knew where his duty lay.

    As Jim May has written, the altruists are not kidding, and Rand was not exaggerating and we are in deep trouble when men like Buffet and Gates not only don’t see this but are working to make it come about.