Friday, May 30, 2008

Gersonism redux

The execrable Michael Gerson is back with another "compassionate conservatism" sermon, prompting James Antle to observe that Gerson "has turned support for activist government into a test of one's compassion":
Compassionate conservatism's biggest problem is that is seeks first to establish the good intentions of the compassionate conservative and only secondarily to actually have any results for the poor.
In its moral narcissism and its preference for good intentions over effective results, Gersonism is indistinguishable from the liberal attitude so brilliantly limned in Thomas Sowell's The Vision of the Anointed.

What is striking in all this is how Gerson and his ilk are starkly different from Ronald Reagan, who was able to dismantle the charitable pretensions of liberalism with a few simple phrases. For example:
We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning.
-- "A Time for Choosing," Oct. 27, 1964
Reagan grew up in a home plagued by his father's alcoholism. Reagan would not have been able to go to college without an athletic scholarship. Reagan managed to find work as a radio announcer in the depths of the Great Depression.

Having lived through tough times and succeeded despite hardship and disadvantages, Reagan was able to see through the liberal rhetoric that portrays the poor as helpless victims whose greatest need is sympathy. Reagan liked to say that the best welfare program in the world was a job. Government can thus do more to help the poor by pursuing free-market policies that foster economic growth and job creation than it can by welfare disbursements.

Gerson seems not to understand this essential Reagan insight. Knowing that his boyhood idol was Jimmy Carter tells us most of what we need to know about Gerson's ideological leanings. However "compassionate" he may be, Gerson has never been a conservative.

I hasten to add that it is important to distinguish Gerson's nonsense from neoconservatism. David Frum can't stand Gerson. Whatever their faults, most neocons are sound on basic issues of political economy. On the other hand, Frum has not yet denounced Gerson as "un-patriotic."

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