Challenge from Old School Grump!

Old School Grump sent the following challenge earlier today, and I think it’s a good way to start talking about what a liberal stands for:

Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m not exactly the reader you dream of. But remember, I’m the one who refers to CF [Chris Fountain of FWIW] as a FATMR (foaming at the mouth republican), and who often categorizes myself as a “Dem in despair.”

If I had to state the core of the despair in one sentence, it would be this: Why have the Ds let the Rs completely hijack the idea of personal responsibility?

If I were given the chance to elaborate on that, I’d ask … a whole bunch of stuff. Why shouldn’t public school teachers be evaluated by classroom results, and rewarded, or not, or fired, accordingly? (I understand the system of evaluation would have to be quite different from that in any for-profit situation, but it could be done.) Why should anyone be immune from layoffs, and why should anyone enjoy an ironclad pension agreement? (I was a 1990 Drexel Burnham refugee, one of thousands with an unimpressive salary in the five figures, so I’m gonna be a tough sell here.) Why am I supposed to help people who “got in over their heads” with their mortgages, when I see their bass boats and four-wheelers whenever I drive past their homes? (Remember, I don’t live in Greenwich anymore!)

You get my drift. Somehow, helping people who have been genuinely, often profoundly, disadvantaged has morphed into helping people who have decided to abdicate their responsibilities as adults. I want to help the former, but I seem to have been drafted to provide financial clean-up services for the latter. Not happy ’bout this.
Please advise. Remember … I’m on your side (or, at least, I want to be).

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3 Responses to Challenge from Old School Grump!

  1. Grump,

    People will quickly discover that I’m not the all-out liberal my name might suggest. Yes, I tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans, and I’m drawn to bleeding-heart approaches much more strongly than to tough-love, “cry me a river,” or libertarian mantras. But I don’t automatically sign every pro-teacher, pro-union, pro-welfare, pro-government, pro-regulatory, pro-spending petition that comes my way.

    I don’t think crappy teachers ought to be protected; the teachers’ union should feed the really bad ones to the dogs. I don’t think people who bought houses they couldn’t afford should get to keep the houses, especially if they were flagrantly underqualified from the get-go.

    But bad teaching and irresponsible mortgage signing are not always a snap to diagnose. Some teaching is merely “not so great” and can be improved at far smaller expense than a wholesale fire-and-hire policy would involve. As for unqualified homeowners: The fact that plenty of people signed up for something beyond their means doesn’t mean there weren’t a slew of predatory lenders who hoodwinked, bamboozled, and stole. Should every single sad-sack borrower get booted, while the hordes of unscrupulous profiteers sit on their sacks o’ cash?

    So, this isn’t a great answer to your challenge, but it’s a start. I can’t reassure you that liberals, or democrats, or progressives, or other people of my ilk can fix what’s wrong with the world. But we’re not naive, excuse-making, spend-crazy fanatics as certain folks would like to portray us.

    • Old School Grump says:

      Hmm, two days later, and no one seems interested in our debate but us! I guess we’re not sufficiently incendiary. Anyway, my liberalism will alway be of the moderate (tepid?) type because my belief that governments can and should address suffering and injustice is largely offset by my very dim view of human nature. Have you ever read any P.J. O’Rourke? You don’t have to agree with his politics to agree with his insights into human behavior.

      • Grump,

        Thanks to the link I included on Chris’s site, there were 116 visits to the website when you posted two days ago–but you were the only one who left a comment! And there were far fewer visits yesterday and today. So I guess you’re right: People want something radical and outrageous. I’m not sure I can or want to provide that, just for the sake of more traffic.

        This is a work in progress; I’ll put up a notice or two when I think there’s something people will want to read, consider, and argue about.

        Your “very dim view of human nature” is shared by individuals of all philosophical stripes, and often by me. I think the difference between a liberal, a conservative, and a libertarian is largely a matter of what conclusions we draw from the “very dim view.” That is, if you find yourself thinking that way too many human beings are lazy, self-pitying, deceitful, self-deluding, greedy, and so on, what do you then decide is the best way to live your own life? Will you spend it “minding your own business” in various senses? Will you fight the good fight despite the odds against succeeding? Will you bury yourself under a layer of cynicism, refusing to acknowledge others’ occasional acts of generosity and courage? Etc. etc. etc.

        P.J. O’Rourke? Nope. But I’ll look him up in the library. Thanks.

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