Friday, May 24, 2013

Condoms, Human Flourishing and the Meaning of Life...

...or Houston, we have an existential problem:

Nor is it clear what this has to do with a government that occasionally lends a hand to deserving individuals in distress. For all those who need a condom to “keep them from falling,” as well as those whose “ability to succeed in modern America [is] imperiled” for want of a rubber, here’s my crude, heartless, I’ve-got-mine-Jack advice: pursue your dreams and buy one. We are not talking about paraplegic orphans. We are talking about Georgetown law students—the most privileged members of our society, who are training for their future calling (government, or hanging on to it) by haranguing us: you owe us.
I don’t suggest for a moment that Henry actually believes this claptrap. The point, which I think he underestimates, is that a country that doesn’t simply laugh the “free condoms” crowd out of town—without need of explanation—is in serious trouble. The very fact that clever pols can turn this no-brainer into a “wedge issue” makes you wonder about the reservoir of good sense out there.
Maybe conservatism has become disconnected from the thought that “the average person has a moral life that is worth leading and pursuing,” and maybe it neglects or slights the fact that government can at times foster that pursuit. But even if so, that ain’t the major problem. The contemporary transfer state is not about moral worth and aspirations. The administration’s “Julia” had no aspirations and no coherent plan of life, and the government in her story had no objective beyond assuring her that whichever way she might drift or be tossed, there’ll be a government program. To put the point in a sentence: while one can perhaps imagine a government that would help “average” people to realize their transcendent hopes and aspirations, our actual government is designed to wring any meaning out of life. The cheap, nasty free condom campaign encapsulates that agenda.
Henry Olsen is searching for a distinction between a hand up and a handout—between the uplifting and the tawdry, the compassionate and the grasping. But that’s hard to articulate even on paper, and harder still to observe in practice. And against it stands liberalism’s limitless, all-encompassing ethos: If I can’t have my condom, you might as well kill widows and orphans. If conservatism and the GOP often seem disconnected from “average persons” and their need, in distress, for government help, maybe that’s because they sense that before you can explain the needed distinctions, you have to explain that enough is enough and indeed, altogether too much. That strikes me as the right impulse. The hard question is whether even that much, or that little, can still be explained.//

What if, in the effort to make sure that Georgetown law students don't have to shell out a couple of bucks on a Friday night, the paraplegic orphans - who, lord knows, have less political pull than Georgetown law students - get lost in the taffy yank?

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