September 05, 2004

Kind to the Cruel = Cruel to the Kind

I have seen it written in a number of places that the heart of the Right-Left divide is their views on responsibility. I would rather put it this way (from David Warren):
It is an axiom of human nature, true in all cultures at all times and places, that if you reward bad behaviour, you will get more of it. This is not rocket science, and yet in the name of "compassion" or from lesser desiderata, the fixed principle of those who are weak in heart and mind, is to go right ahead. "Liberals" I call them, but the reader may call them anything she pleases. They are the people who can always find a reason to reward bad behaviour -- invariably at the price of punishing the opposed good behaviour. This in turn leads to transvaluations of good and bad, demanding additional cartloads of "nuance".
Or, as the Talmud puts it:

כל מי שנעשה רחמן במקום אכזרי
סוף שנעשה אכזרי במקום רחמן 
Kol mi shena`asa rahaman bimqom akhzari 
Sof shena`asa akhzari bimqom rahaman 
All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel 
In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate

Qohelet Raba, 7:16
More colloquially translated: Those who are kind to the cruel, in the end will be cruel to the kind. It is no coincidence that this sort of conservatism is associated with family values. Being a parent is one long object lesson in this truth. Any parent who shows “kindness” to his children in a way which rewards bad behavior will inevitably get more of it. Sometimes this sort of “cruelty” is the kindest thing you can do for you children. The trick to being a good parent is not in deciding “how strict” to be, but in figuring out when you must be strict, and when it is possible to be lenient. Those who shy away from this task – often on supposedly moral grounds, but actually reflecting moral cowardice – will not be doing their job. The same is true in economics and politics. In being compassionate you have to carefully consider the possibility that you are rewarding, thus encouraging, bad behavior. 

UPDATE: It turns out that today is an appropriate day for this post. This is just what I mean (via Alisa in Wonderland).

UPDATE: Amritas responds with a transliteration and a “robo-translation”.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 5, 2004 05:16 PM
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