Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Liberals And Choice 

My first encounter with liberalism's confusion over choice occurred five years ago. I was sitting at a lunch event for the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy and I started talking to those around me about my hope that school vouchers would be implemented in Washington, D.C. All of those sitting in my vicinity immediately disagreed with this point of view. They based their opinion on an argument I have heard expressed many times by the opposition. They said that vouchers will not be successful because citizens of the nation's capital would never have the ability or knowledge to make good decisions about where to send their kids to school. So here were gathered supporters of an institution that families and students must choose to attend, explaining to me that school choice is doomed to failure.

Two nights ago this contradiction came up again. I was talking to a black staff member of the WEDJ Public Charter School about the recent Presidential election. I told her that the Democratic Party was taking her race for granted. I said that if I could talk to blacks collectively I would urge them to support Republicans for the sole reason of gaining the ability to invest some of their social security funds in a private account. The current system, I explained, is especially unfair to people of her color because their life expectancy is shorter than that of whites, and therefore as a whole they do not receive retirement payments for as long a period. Private accounts, I assured her, would partially alleviate this disparity by providing funds which could be passed down from one generation to the next.

In response I was hit with the same reaction I experienced in the cafeteria of Cesar Chavez in 1999. "I'm not in favor of social security privatization," she replied, "because the public could never make intelligent choices about how to invest their money."

And yet if you ask those around my lunch table or the WEDJ employee about the subject of abortion, then the script becomes flipped. These same individuals would defend to their last days on earth the right of a woman to determine whether to terminate a pregnancy. So when it comes to the most important decision a person can make, one of life or death, then liberals suddenly find that humans are rational beings. But when it comes to issues which are slightly less consequential, then the dignity to make up one's mind must be turned over to those who know best.

I am of course not the only one to notice this hypocrisy. George Will writes about it in the November 22, 2004 issue of Newsweek Magazine (I'm sorry, I could not find a link to the column). He concludes:

As the American public has become more educated, American intellectuals have become more disparaging of the public's intellectual incapacities and more shortcomings. In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had only an eight-grade education, or less. Now that 85 percent are high-school graduates, 53 percent have some college education and 27 percent are college graduates, it is an article of faith among the progressive intelligentsia that the public is becoming increasingly obtuse, bigoted and superstitious.

There was a time-say, from the early 1930s to the mind-1960s, the period of the Democratic Party's ascendancy-when progressives thought their job was to increase the material well-being of ordinary Americans. It is not mere coincidence that the Democratic Party's strength has waned as its intellectuals' disapproval of ordinary Americans has waxed.

PermaLink | 4:47 AM | |

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?