The European Union: A Disaster for Equality, Etc.

Thursday, November 11, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

A lot of progressives seem to be afflicted with a weird form of ADHD. Try as they might, they simply can’t talk about poverty for more than 30 seconds without lapsing off into talking about inequality. Progressives claim to have a special care for the poor, but what really gets them animated is talking about the rich, and in particular how much more the rich have than anyone else (including their very not poor selves). Inequality, though, is not the same thing as poverty. A society where everyone is starving to death is highly egalitarian.

Should we care about equality as such? A lot of progressives say that we should. Here, for example, is a bit from Tony Judt’s posthumously published Ill Fares the Land (helpfully provided by my former co-blogger Morning’s Minion):

“Inequality, then, is not just unattractive in itself; it clearly corresponds to pathological social problems that we cannot hope to address unless we attend to their underlying cause. There is a reason why infant mortality, life expectancy, criminality, the prison population, mental illness, unemployment, obesity, malnutrition, teenage pregnancy, illegal drug use, economic insecurity, personal indebtedness and anxiety are so much more marked in the US and the UK than they are in continental Europe.

The wider the spread between the wealthy few and the impoverished many, the worse the social problems: a statement which appears to be true for rich and poor countries alike. What matters is not how affluent a country is but how unequal it is. Thus Sweden, or Finland, two of the world’s wealthiest countries by per capital income or GDP, have a very narrow gap separating their richest from their poorest citizens–and they consistently lead the world in indices of measurable wellbeing. Conversely, the United States, despite its huge aggregate wealth, always comes low on such measures.

Of course, if inequality leads to crime, mental illness, and so forth, then you might wonder: why the crime rate is higher in Finland than the U.S.,? Why is the suicide rate higher in Finland and Sweden than the U.S.? Etc.

I suspect that deep down progressives do not care about inequality. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

CS Lewis Explains Why We Honor Veterans

Thursday, November 11, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

 

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.  Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima.

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame.  CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

Sometimes simple questions can help illuminate great truths.   Why do we honor veterans? 

 Today is Veterans Day.  Ironically, many veterans will be working today as the “holiday” is mostly one solely for government workers, and most veterans in the private sector will be on the job today.  Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it.  After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans.   Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954.  All well and good, but why do we set this day aside to honor those who have served in the military?

One veteran of World War I, CS Lewis, perhaps can help us understand why we honor veterans.  Lewis served on the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in 1917-1918 until he was  wounded on April 15, 1918.  Lewis, the future Oxford Don, was an unlikely soldier and he wrote about his experiences in the War with humorous self-deprecation.  However, he had immense respect for those he served with, especially the enlisted men under his command, for their good humor and courage under the most appalling circumstances.  His war experiences had a vast impact on Lewis, as can be seen in his Screwtape letters, where Lewis writes about war. Read the rest of this entry »