- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

Left vs. right

“Conservatives tend to see the world as a place teeming with freedom and opportunity, conditions best advanced by individual initiative and most impeded by governmental action. Liberals, by contrast, typically see a world made up of undeserved inequalities to be remedied, ideally through private service-providing elites and government agencies acting in concert. …

“It’s not much of a surprise that, when it comes to social interventions to reduce suffering and advance happiness, the typical conservative stands up … for equal opportunity for individuals. … Meanwhile, the left characteristically points to ‘objective’ factors: economic conditions, social institutions, environment and material development — all in the context of a powerful mantra, ‘History.’

“The left regularly invokes this word to ensure that the offspring of formerly oppressed persons are entitled to declare themselves ‘historically’ oppressed in present time, even when previous objective oppressive conditions have become ‘history’ in the conventional (past tense) sense of the word.”

Keith Thompson, writing on “Reborn on the Fourth of July,” Thursday in Front Page at www.frontpagemag.com

Plucky Brits

“The news has stopped getting worse, at least. There were just four bombings, not six or eight or 10. The three Tube blasts have killed about 30 people and injured hundreds. The casualty reports from the lone bus bombing are still very sketchy and will probably turn out to be horrible. The bus was apparently packed with commuters who had been forced to evacuate the Underground. That bomb was so devastating that many, if not most, of those passengers were surely killed.

“Still, the feeling of the city … seemed muted, inconvenienced rather than heartbroken. Four years ago, every one of us who lived in Washington and New York had our lives changed by 9/11. We discovered we had a new enemy; we started a new war; we had the face of our cities changed forever. But Londoners already knew who their enemy was. Their cops and soldiers were already fighting this war. And their city looks exactly the same today as it did yesterday. London was not surprised today; it was put out.”

David Plotz, writing on “Dispatch from London,” Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

Hume vs. Marx

“People of Scotland, it is more than your patriotic duty to help crown your 18th century countryman, David Hume, as the greatest philosopher of all time. For once, naked nationalism and good rational sense both lead us to same conclusion: among all great thinkers, Hume reigns supreme. …

“Radio 4’s In Our Time programme is currently conducting a poll to determine the world’s greatest philosopher, and although its presenter, Melvyn Bragg, has let it slip that Marx is the early leader, inside sources tell me Hume is hot on his heels. …

“That Hume is even a contender is testimony to the strength of his philosophy and the intelligence of the voters, since he lacks all the necessary requisites of a popular hero. Marx has the advantage of some seriously memorable sound bites: ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’; ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ … Hume’s most famous quotes, in contrast, are completely baffling to the uninitiated. There is wisdom in his saying: ”Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.’ But you’d be forgiven for not spotting it.”

Julian Baggini, writing on “The Greatest Thinker in the World Ever,” June 26 in the Glasgow Herald

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