Quote of the Day


Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, in the essay The Frivolity of Evil (included in Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses) written on the eve of his retirement from 14 years of hospital and prison work, speaks plainly about the impact of moral decay on the have-not-as-muchs. (I can't quite call them have-nots, as what is currently called poverty is not -- in my mind -- poverty.)

First he speaks to depression, which was quite thought-provoking to me, as I take my daily daily "happy pill" and started doing so during a period of great unhappiness in my life which occurred during the dark and gray season of our year. Indeed I was unhappy, and in addition, I was concerned about getting depressed and not being able to properly care for my family.

There is something to be said here about the word "depression," which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one's state of mind, or one's mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one's life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct.

Well that certainly is something to think about. Dalrymple goes on:

There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

The consequences to the children and to society do not enter into the matter: for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility, and to ameliorate the emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors, and the like, who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.

I recently ran across this quip, from Henry Brown:
Government cripples you, then hands you a crutch and says, 'See, if it wasn't for us, you couldn't walk.'

So, what are we going to do about it?


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