Susan Ryder is not a conservative. Just in case you were confused.
“(It) is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
I was never a socialist. The younger ones of my acquaintance tended to be painful in the extreme, bleating allegiance with the oppressed, suppressed and depressed while living rather comfortably in the greater scheme of things. They certainly had bugger all in common with the striking miners and black Africans with whom they were apparently soul-mates. Their tertiary educations were largely paid for by those of us at work, while the older graduates chose to ignore the irony of living in the (very) nice part of town while claiming psychological sisterhood with the state housing suburbs, into which they’d never set foot in a lifetime. I found the hypocrisy a hoot. Still do.
But their opposite numbers irritated me, too. I felt no kinship with people who were obsessed with minding others’ personal business. Opposing a gay couple from legally setting up house was just as loathsome and senseless as stopping a business from trading any day it pleased. As I saw it, the problem could always be sourced back to central control, no matter its political colour. The problem was the state flexing its iron muscles and telling people what to do.
Which brings me to a recent spat with a conservative.
I often visit Crusader Rabbit, a local blog featuring several conservative contributors who nonetheless acknowledge libertarian philosophy from time to time. It’s fair to say that there is some common ground, but every so often we markedly disagree. See what you make of this.
Towards the end of last month author “KG,” in a short post entitled ‘How cool is this!,’ reported the news that Oxford University was reserving two places for Australian Aboriginal students from next year, the scholarships being set up by the ‘Charlie Perkins Trust for Children and Students’ and funded by the Australian and British governments, together with mining giant Rio Tinto.
The interlude began with my brief comment that it would be “cooler” if two governments were not involved. That Rio Tinto could do as it pleased, but that I could never hail government involvement or taxpayers’ forced subsidisation of other children’s prestigious education as being either desirable or moral.
KG disagreed. Over the course of several exchanges, his argument can be summarised by the last words of his last post:
“Since the state will be involved, whatever we may think about it, I’d sooner applaud one microscopic example of it doing some good than indulge in hand-wringing about it on ideological grounds. Absolute consistency is a virtue of fools, in my humble opinion.”
Over the years I have been reading Crusader Rabbit, I recognise and accept that KG has had considerable experience with the Aboriginal community. It is clear that its parlous overall state is a subject dear to his heart, as is his constant opposition to the philosophy of socialism. And yet here he was, openly advocating socialism for a pet cause. In his defence, he noted that the public expense of two Aboriginal scholarships was insignificant relative to numerous other areas of wasteful government expenditure and that ideological opposition to something positive by comparison could be seen as “looking mean-spirited and negative.” Hold that thought.
A year ago I received some shocking news. My best friend’s sister has five children in their teens and early 20s. Last year, she and her husband learned that three of them were diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. I’d never heard of it. When I learned about it, I was numb to the core.
Briefly, it’s an inherited disease that affects the nervous system as a result of degeneration of nerve tissue in the spinal chord. Symptoms range from increasing clumsiness and gait disturbance to speech problems, blindness, deafness and heart disease. Life expectancy is a pitiful 35 years, with nearly all ending their short lives in a wheelchair.
The couple concerned are in their late 40s. Short of a scientific breakthrough in the interim, over the next 20 years they will watch their children progressively suffer and die a horrible, premature death.
If I had my way, I’d donate as much money as I possibly could to both research into the disease and the affected couple directly, who are presently altering their home at great expense to accommodate the coming changes. Instead, I’m forced to annually hand over thousands of dollars to the IRD with which the government happily plays political games, after firstly keeping a heap for itself.
In Australia and the UK, the two race-based tertiary scholarships are just one more example of these political games. Just as I should be free to fund the causes of my choice, KG should be free to donate to his, with neither imposing upon the other. I cannot see how that is either negative or mean-spirited.
The problem is, of course, that we currently don’t have that individual choice. But here’s a thought for those conservatives who rightly tear socialism to shreds except when they agree with it. Two wrongs do not, and never will, make a right, no matter the issue. There is nothing virtuous in playing political games, particularly in crucial industries such as health and education. On the other hand, absolute consistency in upholding a principle is a virtue. To do otherwise is frankly hypocritical.
Winston Churchill would get it.
* * Susan Ryder’s regular column will be irregular for a few weeks. Hey, we’re all allowed a life, you know! * *