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The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.

The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, by William Voegeli, hardcover, 320 pp, $22.05, ISBN 978-0-06-228929-2, Broadside Books, 2014.

This is the second book by William Voegeli, who is currently senior editor of the Claremont Review of Books. His first book, Never Enough, explained why the welfare state always keeps growing, and this one concerns the importance of empathy and liberal cant in the socialist utopian crusade.

The monster administrative state was spawned by stupid liberal ideas, he writes, and if we are ever to rein in the insanity, we need to get into the minds of the well-intentioned but misinformed champions of incompetent "good deeds" whether they come from the left or the right.

Chapter 4 is bluntly entitled "How Liberal Compassion Leads to Bullshit." It borrows from the work of Princeton philosophy professor Henry Frankfurt a theory that is now 70 years old and not a crude recent invention. Frankfurt settled on the phrase to describe the bull-session nature of the liberal project--exaggerated tales, failure to recognize evidence, and puffery.

Bullshit, writes Frankfurt, is defined by its "lack of connection to a concern with truth." In some circumstances, a lack of concern with truth is not simply the result of a speaker's phoniness, but is a shared communicative premise.

Voegeli and I agree enthusiastically with Frankfurt's thesis that liberals just spout the necessary bullshit and never ever check the evidence to see whether their ideas work--they just move on to some other proposal.

Voegeli does a fine job of explaining the attractions of liberalism: how it is built on delusions, and why the good feelings generated by liberal advocacy are rewarding though not based in reality. Liberals care about big general concepts--like social justice and elimination of oppression, but they do not really care about real people. They are utopian and selfishly devoted to their grand ideas--not to benefits that could be achieved in the real world. False empathy is a cheap form of self-congratulation and gratification.

Voegeli has repeatedly reminded us that we can't stop the welfare state. The welfare administrative state continues to grow, just a little more slowly when conservatives are in charge. That's because the liberal project offers a seductive thing--the state as guarantor of safety, happiness, and ease. Voegeli quotes George Orwell, who said that, given a choice between freedom and comfort, most people want comfort and security rather than the uncertainty of freedom.

When an administration changes, many programs are still on auto-pilot, and the means-tested programs grow without any restraint. Republicans lack the will to say no. The dynamic is to give more and never take back. Margaret Thatcher said it best--"The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." That reality apparently doesn't temper the continued attraction of the seductive ideological lie.

It is hard to imagine a solution to the problem, but restraining the welfare state is essential.

The reader might enjoy an interview of Voegeli by Peter Robinson, available at http://library.fora. tv/201 1/02/09/Uncommon_Knowledge_William_Voegeli.

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D.

Brownwood, Tex.

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Author:Dunn, John Dale
Publication:Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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