- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Liberals may think of themselves as people who believe in certain principles but, if you observe their actual behavior, you are likely to discover 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 to them when local politicians across the country bulldoze whole working-class neighborhoods, destroying homes 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” 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 they display when denouncing the “greed” 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 to get more taxes for programs to raise their re-election chances, are just meeting community “needs,” as far as many liberals are concerned.

Whatever the issue, usually the attitude and not the principle determines where liberals stand. Just rattle off a list of social groups — the police, blacks, environmentalists, multinational corporations — and you have a pretty good idea 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 override Florida law in the Terri Schiavo case were made by the same people who supported recent federal intervention to override the laws of more than a dozen states when the Supreme Court banned the execution of murderers not yet 18 years old when they committed their crimes.

You can count on the same liberals to cheer if the federal courts override both state laws and referenda opposing same-sex “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 pretty closely divided politically, it is not at all uncommon to find a whole academic department — sociology, for example — without a single Republican now or for the last 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 liberals’ passions because that engages their attitudes toward particular social groups.

Liberals have often been critical of college fraternities for their exclusiveness but have seldom criticized all-black student organizations or even all-black dormitories. Liberals have virtually eliminated all-male colleges but applaud the role of women’s colleges. Again, it is not principles but attitudes.

Among liberals’ most cherished self-images is that they favor the well-being of minorities in general and blacks in particular. But again, it depends on which minority segments are involved.

Black welfare recipients or even black criminals have received great liberal political and journalistic support over the years. However, the great majority of blacks, who are neither criminals nor welfare recipients but in fact the criminals’ main victims, have their interests subordinated to those 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 that have become the hallmarks of contemporary liberalism.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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