Jewish World ReviewApril 5, 2005 / 25 Adar II, 5765

Thomas Sowell

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Liberal attitudes | Liberals may think of themselves as people who believe in certain principles but, if you observe their actual behavior, you are likely to discover that most liberals have a certain set of attitudes, rather than principles.

Liberals may denounce "greed," for example, but in practice it all depends on whose greed. Nothing the government does is ever likely to be called "greed" by liberals.

Even when the government confiscated more than half the income of some people in taxes, that was not greed, as far as the left was concerned. Nor is it greed in their eyes when local politicians across the country bulldoze whole working class neighborhoods, destroying homes that people spent a lifetime sacrificing to buy, and paying them less than the market value of those homes through legal chicanery.

Even when the land seized under "eminent domain" laws are turned over to casinos, hotels, or shopping malls — places that will pay more taxes than working class homeowners — liberals can never seem to work up the outrage that they display when denouncing "greed" on the part of businesses whose prices are higher than liberals think they should be.

It is not the principle of sacrificing other people's economic interests to your own that causes liberals to denounce greed. It is a question of who does it and what the liberals' attitudes are to those segments of the population.

Politicians who ruin local homeowners, in order to get hold of more tax money to finance programs that will increase the politicians' chances of being re-elected, are just meeting the "needs" of the community, as far as many liberals are concerned.

Whatever the issue, it is usually not the principle but the attitude which determines where liberals stand. Just rattle off a list of social groups — the police, blacks, environmentalists, multinational corporations — and you will have a pretty good idea of which way liberals are likely to lean, even if you have no idea what particular issue may arise.

Recent liberal denunciations of federal intervention to over-ride Florida law in the Terri Schiavo case were made by the same people who supported recent federal intervention to over-ride the laws of more than a dozen states when the Supreme Court banned the execution of murderers who were not yet 18 years old.

You can count on the same liberals to cheer if the federal courts over-ride both state laws and referenda opposing gay marriage. It is not the principle. It is the attitude.

"Diversity" has become one of the crusades of liberals, especially academic liberals. But, in a country that is pretty closely divided politically, it is not at all uncommon to find a whole academic department — sociology, for example — without a single Republican today or for the past three decades.

Academia is virtually a liberal monopoly but they show no misgivings about the lack of diversity of ideas on campus. It is only physical diversity that arouses the passions of liberals because that engages their attitudes toward particular social groups.

Liberals have often been critical of college fraternities for being exclusive but have seldom been critical of all-black student organizations or even all-black dormitories. Liberals have succeeded in virtually eliminating all-male colleges but applaud the role of women's colleges.

Again, it is not principles but attitudes.

Among liberals' most cherished views of themselves is that they are in favor of promoting the well-being of minorities in general and blacks in particular. But here again, it all depends on which segments of the minority community are involved.

Black welfare recipients or even black criminals have received great amounts of liberal political and journalistic support over the years. However, the great majority of blacks, who are neither criminals nor welfare recipients but are in fact their main victims, have their interests subordinated to the interests of their unsavory neighbors who are more in vogue in liberal circles.

Whatever the merits or demerits of liberal principles, those principles are often far less important than the attitudes which have become the hallmarks of contemporary liberalism.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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