Conor wrestles with Bastiat Beasts.
Conservatives and libertarians sometimes face a disadvantage in policy
arguments. We're attuned to the indirect effects and unintended
consequences of certain policies, whereas our liberal interlocutors
concern themselves primarily with direct effects. Why is this a
disadvantage? Because the liberal can say, "Look at David from Detroit,
who is going to lose his job, and his home, if GM goes bankrupt."
Whereas the best conservatives and libertarians can do is to say,
"Somewhere in America there is an unknown person who will lose their
job, and their home, if the automakers are bailed out, due to the
inevitable effect of egregious economic inefficiencies that will course
through the financial system."....
The person who is hurt in the
liberal narrative and the one hurt in the conservative narrative are
both real human beings. But the fact that the former is identifiable is
often used by liberals as an emotional bludgeon.
I'm still struggling with whether I think the tyranny of the specific hard case makes conservatives systematically worse off in argument; I think it does, but I'm not ready to commit on that yet. Surely on taxes, for example, it works the other way around.
While I'm maundering, I offer you the poem all this wrangling made me think of: The God Who Loves You, by Carl Dennis.
It must be troubling for the god who loves youTo ponder how much happier you'd be todayHad you been able to glimpse your many futures.It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday eveningsDriving home from the office, content with your week--Three fine houses sold to deserving families--Knowing as he does exactly what would have happenedHad you gone to your second choice for college,Knowing the roommate you'd have been allottedWhose ardent opinions on painting and musicWould have kindled in you a lifelong passion.A life thirty points above the life you're livingOn any scale of satisfaction. And every pointA thorn in the side of the god who loves you.You don't want that, a large-souled man like youWho tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointmentsSo she can save her empathy for the children.And would you want this god to compare your wifeWith the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversationYou'd have enjoyed over there higher in insightThan the conversation you're used to.And think how this loving god would feelKnowing that the man next in line for your wifeWould have pleased her more than you ever willEven on your best days, when you really try.Can you sleep at night believing a god like thatIs pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternativesYou're spared by ignorance? The difference between what isAnd what could have been will remain alive for himEven after you cease existing, after you catch a chillRunning out in the snow for the morning paper,Losing eleven years that the god who loves youWill feel compelled to imagine scene by sceneUnless you come to the rescue by imagining himNo wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friendNo closer than the actual friend you made at college,The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonightAnd write him about the life you can talk aboutWith a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.