Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tolerance and Poverty

Wikipedia gives this definition of tolerance:
Tolerance is a social, cultural and religious term applied to the collective and individual practice of not persecuting those who may believe, behave or act in ways of which one may not approve....It is usually applied to non-violent, consensual behavior, often involving religion, sex, or politics.
I would go further. One may tolerate persons who engage in certain types of harmful behavior, without tolerating the behavior. We do it all the time; for example, parents continue to love their children even though parents often disapprove of -- and punish -- their children's behavior.

Tolerance of a particular kind of behavior encourages more of that kind of behavior. That is why conservatives and libertarians oppose income redistribution, which is a legal form of theft. Income redistribution encourages the belief among those who are on the receiving end of it that rewards come without the acquisition of skills and the diligent application of those skills in gainful employment. (Income redistribution also discourages diligence, innovation, and job-creating investments among those who are on the "giving" end of it.) Conservatives and libertarians tolerate (and sometimes love) the poor, but conservatives and libertarians do not wish to tolerate the bad behavior of legal theft.

Liberals -- ironically, in view of their increasingly rude and thuggish behavior toward their political enemies -- often accuse conservatives and libertarians of being "haters," because conservatives and libertarians oppose the cheap "compassion" of income redistribution. That such opposition arises from a supportable belief that it actually harms everyone -- including its intended beneficiaries -- is of no consequence to liberals. They would rather impugn the motives of conservatives and libertarians than face two uncomfortable facts: (1) It is liberal policies that are largely responsible for poverty. (2) In spite of those policies, and in spite of liberal propaganda to the contrary, most of the poor manage to escape poverty, though the fact remains that everyone (including the poor) is made worse off by liberal policies.

It seems to me that liberals ought to go back to tolerating the poor (in their condescending way) and leave the business of helping the poor to those "intolerant" conservatives and libertarians.