It's because I <i>care</i>

A while back I wrote:

It is astonishing how often I have arguments about environmental issues, and a few others, in which I state a belief that the political and economic realities mean that some pet solution won't happen, and am rewarded with an angry/exasperated "Well, then how do you plan to fix the problem?" It is as if they believed that to state a problem, is also to imply a solution.

There are plenty of problems in the world, from unrequited love to people with stubbornly obnoxious beliefs, that I have no plans to fix because the solutions, if there are any, seem self-evidently worse than the problems they would replace. Yet many people seem to believe that if I refuse to state such a plan, or agree to theirs, it must be because I don't want to solve the problem--that I hate people who are unlucky in love, or the environment, or at the very least selfishly wish to continue harming same--rather than from any honest belief that sometimes life's a bugger and there's not much you can do about it.

Julian Sanchez has come up with a more pithy name for this phenomenon: the care bear stare.

For those of you who didn't grow up (or have small children) in the 80s, the reference at the close of the previous post is to the cartoon Care Bears. The Care Bear Stare was a sort of deus ex machina the magical furballs could employ when faced with some insuperable obstacle: They'd line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.

In politics, Matt Yglesias has identified the neocon's version of the Care Bear Stare, which he's dubbed the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics. It holds that, like a Green Lantern's power ring, the American military can produce just about any effect imaginable if only the Will of the American People is strong enough. When any foreign intervention fails, this is proof that our will was insufficient, presumably due to the malign influence of fifth columnists in the media.

The left, of course, has its own version, which can be seen in claims that we know perfectly well how to solve problem X, if only we cared enough or had the political will to address it. A common variant holds that some vital function can't be left to the market, since only government can guarantee the right result, presumably by putting the word "guarantee" somewhere in the relevant legislation.