ON-Lion Letter

When liberals don't have reason, authority, or the American people on their side, they turn to the one thing they never run out of:  pity.

For decades, conservatives have chafed at being called "heartless" and "uncaring" by liberals who maintain that our essential choice as a nation is between the politics of kindness and the politics of cruelty.  In his new book The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, political scientist William Voegeli turns the tables on this argument, making the case that "compassion" is neither the essence of personal virtue nor the ultimate purpose of government. 

Voegeli is a senior editor of the Claremont Review of Books and a visiting scholar at Claremont McKenna College's Salvatori Center.  The Claremont Review of Books is published by The Claremont Institute, which is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

Over the years, according to Voegeli in The Pity Party, liberals have built a remarkable edifice of government programs that are justified by appeals to compassion:  Head Start, immigration reform, gun control, affirmative action, and entitlements, to name only some.  As he amply demonstrates, the liberals who promote these massive programs are weirdly indifferent as to whether they succeed.  Instead, when the problems they are intended to solve fail to disappear, liberals double down, calling for yet more programs and ever greater expenditures in the name of "compassion."  Meanwhile, conservatives who challenge the effectiveness of these programs are slandered as "heartless right-wingers." 

Yet rather than challenge this tendentious liberal argument, Voegeli writes, the many conservatives it intimidates feel it necessary to insist that they really do "care."  However, liberal compassion's good intentions consistently fail to translate into good results.  In the book, Voegeli walks the reader through a plethora of programs that have become battlefields between conservatives fighting for more efficiency and liberals fighting for more budget-busting federal programs to address an ever-expanding catalog of social ills.  Along the way, he explains the underpinnings of the liberal philosophy that reinforce this misapplied ideal and shows why today's self-described compassionate liberals are ultimately unfit to govern.

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