May 21, 2010

One trick ponies

There are many meanings of the word conservative, and I like some of them a lot. One kind that I have no use for, however, is that branch which devotes itself to justifying the wealth, power and privileges of ruling groups.

Such ideologies, whether ancient or modern, pretty much all run the same. Those in dominant positions are there due to merit (or God's will) and are where they should be. Furthermore, any effort to reel in any of their excesses would only hurt people in the lower social orders. The same argument can be applied to feudal lords, coal barons, Wall Street speculators, CEOs, you name it.

This was another area where 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr nailed it:

Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.

He also had some interesting things to say about the philanthropy of the powerful, which he believed

combines genuine pity with the display of power and that the latter element explains why the powerful are more inclined to be generous than to grant social justice.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE SENATE, here's Ken Ward on the hearing about the Massey mine disaster and here are WV Senator Robert C. Byrd's opening remarks.

A LOST DECADE? Krugman waxes a bit pessimistic here.

I WAS NOT AWARE OF THAT. The musk turtle's tongue has weird properties that enable it to stay underwater for months. Try to work that into a conversation today.


1 comment:

Barry said...

Wow, that last line you cite here from Niebuhr, about why the rich are far more inclined to works of charity than justice, is a powerful and insightful one. Provides helpful fuel for an examination of conscience for most of us, I'd say (since we tend to identify the rich as "those who have more than I do").