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Thomas Sowell: "Us" or "Them"
Creator's Syndicate ^ | October 25, 2005 | Dr. Thomas Sowell

Posted on 10/25/2005 2:24:39 AM PDT by RWR8189

A reader recently sent me an e-mail about a woman he had met and fallen for. Apparently the attraction was mutual -- until one fateful day the subject of the environment came up.

She was absolutely opposed to any drilling for oil in Alaska, on grounds of what harm she said it would do to the environment.

He argued that, since oil was going to be drilled for somewhere in the world anyway, was it not better to drill where there were environmental laws to provide at least some kinds of safeguards, rather than in countries where there were none?

That was the end of a beautiful relationship.

Environmentalist true believers don't think in terms of trade-offs and cost-benefit analysis. There are things that are sacred to them. Trying to get them to compromise on those things would be like trying to convince a Moslem to eat pork, if it was only twice a week.

Compromise and tolerance are not the hallmarks of true believers. What they believe in goes to the heart of what they are. As far as true believers are concerned, you are either one of Us or one of Them.

The man apparently thought that it was just a question of which policy would produce which results. But many issues that look on the surface like they are just about which alternative would best serve the general public are really about being one of Us or one of Them -- and this woman was not about to become one of Them.

Many crusades of the political left have been misunderstood by people who do not understand that these crusades are about establishing the identity and the superiority of the crusaders.

T.S. Eliot understood this more than half a century ago when he wrote: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

In this case, the man thought he was asking the woman to accept a certain policy as the lesser of two evils, when in fact he was asking her to give up her sense of being one of the morally anointed.

This is not unique to our times or to environmentalists. Back during the 1930s, in the years leading up to World War II, one of the fashionable self-indulgences of the left in Britain was to argue that the British should disarm "as an example to others" in order to serve the interests of peace.

When economist Roy Harrod asked one of his friends whether she thought that disarming Britain would cause Hitler to disarm, her reply was: "Oh, Roy, have you lost all your idealism?"

In other words, it was not really about which policy would produce what results. It was about personal identification with lofty goals and kindred souls.

The ostensible goal of peace was window-dressing. Ultimately it was not a question whether arming or disarming Britain was more likely to deter Hitler. It was a question of which policy would best establish the moral superiority of the anointed and solidify their identification with one another.

"Peace" movements are not judged by the empirical test of how often they actually produce peace or how often their disarmament tempts an aggressor into war. It is not an empirical question. It is an article of faith and a badge of identity.

Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace -- not for actually producing peace but for being part of what was called "the peace process," based on fashionable notions that were common bonds among members of what are called "peace movements."

Meanwhile, nobody suggested awarding a Nobel Prize for peace to Ronald Reagan, just because he brought the nuclear dangers of a decades-long cold war to an end. He did it the opposite way from how members of "peace movements" thought it should be done.

Reagan beefed up the military and entered into an "arms race" that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union if they didn't back off, even though arms races are anathema to members of "peace movements." The fact that events proved him right was no excuse as far as members of "peace movements" were concerned. As far as they were concerned, he was not one of Us. He was one of Them.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: moralabsolutes; sowell; thomassowell
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To: counterpunch

Funny. For years, I was somewhat mystified over the actions and behavior of the left. I thought to myself, even a child can see this specific course of action is wrong. I came to realize they care nothing for the country - past, present, or future. It is just about them!


21 posted on 10/25/2005 3:32:41 AM PDT by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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To: Pusterfuss
I rank Dr. Sowell right up there with Mark Steyn.

Yes, he's that good.

I became acquainted with Steyn way back when he was the movie reviewer and media critic for the old American Spectator, but he really shot up in my esteem around 1997 or '98, with an article in the WSJ titled "In defense of Tabloid Sleaze."

Naturally, it was about Little Big Fraud™ and his "can't keep it in his pants" scandals of the time.

22 posted on 10/25/2005 3:33:53 AM PDT by backhoe (The 1990's? The Decade of Fraud(s)...)
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To: RWR8189

BTTT


23 posted on 10/25/2005 3:35:26 AM PDT by Kay Ludlow (Free market, but cautious about what I support with my dollars)
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To: johnny7
I think the best description of Sowell's work is 'sobering'.

He makes you think.

I also like Dr. Walter Williams, who makes a point of trying to educate his audience.

24 posted on 10/25/2005 3:36:20 AM PDT by backhoe (The 1990's? The Decade of Fraud(s)...)
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To: Pharmboy

Pharmboy wrote:

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Sowell even quotes people better than anyone else.






" -- The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression. -- "

H. L. Mencken


25 posted on 10/25/2005 3:36:31 AM PDT by airborne502
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To: counterpunch
Or the violent pacifists of today.

You might have something there. Maybe that's why today's pacifists are so violent -- verbally, physically, and in attitude.

They don't go bonkers b/c we are for (fill in the blank), but b/c they perceive our opposition to (fill in the blank) as an attack, first and foremost, against them. And that, in turn, spurs a kind of aristrocrtatic/"the anointed" outrage calvery-to-infantry sort of thing. And also, maybe, just maybe, in their heart of hearts, opposition may stir the fitfully slumbering genie of doubt.

26 posted on 10/25/2005 3:38:32 AM PDT by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: Bahbah
The man writes with a scalpel.

He writes with the precision of a scalpel. Sometimes though I see or feel the impact of a more powerful tools or implements. Sowell is indeed a weapon of mass instruction.

27 posted on 10/25/2005 3:40:05 AM PDT by jimfree (Freep and Ye shall find.)
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To: backhoe
He's one of the clearest thinkers ( and writers ) I've every run across- I just wish the larger public were more exposed to his work. He has a way of clearing the decks and framing whatever issue he's discussing in simple, stark terms.

I agree. "Why didn't I think of that?" is a common reaction to his writings.

28 posted on 10/25/2005 3:41:39 AM PDT by decimon
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To: RWR8189
Dr. Sowell is one of the best thinkers/writers in America and it's a shame, a tragedy and extraordinarily dangerous that liberals don't recognize his basic common sense. They will never realize that it's better to have Ronald Regan's peace through strength and be accused of having "lost all your idealism" than to be 6' under with one's "personal identification with lofty goals and kindred souls" intact. As a political philosophy, liberalism wins the Darwin award.
29 posted on 10/25/2005 3:47:55 AM PDT by GBA
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To: RWR8189
Tom Sowell is right, precise, and insightful -- par from him. He is wise as well as educated.

What he has described is a cult "belief" system (on the left) currently hiding under a political identity.

Recurrent over past 10 years? Whether or not churches should have their tax exempt status removed. Other argument: Whether religions CAN or CAN NOT speak politics.

What if a political identity group forms under such a "religious" filing? (and they have, and currently continue to do so.)

I know he sees where all this is heading. IMHO, of course.

30 posted on 10/25/2005 3:48:04 AM PDT by Alia
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To: decimon
"Why didn't I think of that?" is a common reaction to his writings.

One of the definitions I heard of "genius" many years ago was "the art of taking something hard or complex, and making it look easy." He does that, and does it very well.

31 posted on 10/25/2005 3:55:36 AM PDT by backhoe (The 1990's? The Decade of Fraud(s)...)
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To: RWR8189

Wow

BTTT


32 posted on 10/25/2005 4:03:46 AM PDT by RedEyeJack
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To: RWR8189; Bahbah; dirtboy; counterpunch; backhoe; Pharmboy; airborne502; 7thson
Here is more "Environmentalism as Religion" in a speech by Michael Crichton.

http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote05.html
33 posted on 10/25/2005 4:08:49 AM PDT by Jacquerie (Democrats soil institutions)
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To: 7thson
Funny. For years, I was somewhat mystified over the actions and behavior of the left. I thought to myself, even a child can see this specific course of action is wrong. I came to realize they care nothing for the country - past, present, or future. It is just about them!

It is almost a form of religious fanaticism with the left. (Some fanatics blow themselves up on buses others martyr themselves by voting for Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy.)

I had never thought of the aspect of self elevation, however. It makes sense, though, if you think about it.

In their view: If the government represents the people and you are the people and the government becomes more powerful, then you have become more powerful even though you have relinquished your individuality to the government.

34 posted on 10/25/2005 4:12:30 AM PDT by Gordon Pym
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To: Jacquerie

Thanks- I'll use that link.


35 posted on 10/25/2005 4:15:14 AM PDT by backhoe ("It's so easy to spend someone else's money." [My Dad, circa 1958])
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To: RWR8189
Now I understand. There will never be peace on men's terms.

Only Jesus christ will bring peace, and it will necessarily be preceeded by the destruction predicted in Revelation.

We are in for a very rough ride.

Be prepared: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16

36 posted on 10/25/2005 4:31:58 AM PDT by millefleur (No KING but Jesus !)
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To: RWR8189

"...they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

....By dint of having first placed THEMSELVES at the center of the universe


You WILL serve Heaven or Hell, but you WILL NOT sit it out.


37 posted on 10/25/2005 4:53:57 AM PDT by TalBlack
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To: Bahbah

:-) He is a favorite. Would that he had been in charge of the Fed for the past 18 or so years instead of Alan Greenspan.

Alan Greenspan, who hiked up interest rates three hundred basis points in 2000. Yeah, that's brilliant.

Then after 9/11, he realized that he had to start lowering interest rates to get the economy going. And he raised it by how much? You guessed it. Three hundred basis points.

And who would throw things at the television set if anyone dared to say anything about the Fed that he didn't like.


38 posted on 10/25/2005 5:00:05 AM PDT by saveliberty (I did not break the feed. I may have lost it, but I did not break the feed.)
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To: saveliberty

Sort of off topic, but I saw Andrea Mitchell yesterday, and then later saw Greenspan when the Bernanke appointment was announced and I realized the truth again of how some couples come to resemble each other. I wonder how Andrea feels about that?


39 posted on 10/25/2005 5:08:06 AM PDT by Bahbah (Tony Schaffer is a hero)
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To: Bahbah

LOL! You are right! They do resemble each other!

Do you remember the fit that Mrs. Greenspan had when she was given a hard time in the Middle East (following Condi Rice)? But instead of giving the new Secretary of State her due for standing up for Mrs. Greenspan, we heard editorial commentary in news that it wasn't enough.


So the Greenspans are well suited, as both do not work well with others.


40 posted on 10/25/2005 5:13:50 AM PDT by saveliberty (I did not break the feed. I may have lost it, but I did not break the feed.)
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