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Pathological Altruism

LowDown

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When people claim that they are acting out of altruism but it may reasonably be foreseen that their actions will hurt rather than help then their altruism is pathological.

Pathological altruism is central to understanding the motivations of the liberal left.

Pathological altruism is at the root of the liberal left’s crisis of authority, which we discussed in our May 20 column. The left derives its sense of moral authority from the supposition that its intentions are altruistic and its opponents’ are selfish. That sense of moral superiority makes it easy to justify immoral behavior, like slandering critics of President Obama as racist–or using the power of the Internal Revenue Service to suppress them. It seems entirely plausible that the Internal Revenue Service officials who targeted and harassed conservative groups thought they were doing their patriotic duty. If so, what a perfect example of pathological altruism.

Oakley concludes by noting that “during the twentieth century, tens of millions [of] individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism.” An understanding that altruism can produce great evil as well as good is crucial to the defense of human freedom and dignity.
Liberals will often advocate programs on altruistic grounds without even seeming to care whether the programs will do any good or not. The only really important thing about the programs for liberals is that it gives them the sense of moral superiority they crave, and warnings about possible negative consequences are scorned. So such programs often turn out to represent pathological altruism.

Best of the Web Today: Pathological Altruism - WSJ.com
 

RabidAlpaca

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I find this to be very true. The left generally has nothing but the best intentions, they just fail to operate in reality and refuse to contemplate the unintended consequences of their ambitious ideas.
 
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Velvet Elvis

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Well, it's always the "best intentions," but for other people. Liberals can't keep their nose out of other people's business.
 

shlunka

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While I agree with some of it, I find there to be a fallacy of division, in assuming that all libertarians supported the actions mentioned in the OP.
 

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Yeah, I don't consider pandering for/buying votes altruism.
 

Dittohead not!

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While I agree with some of it, I find there to be a fallacy of division, in assuming that all libertarians supported the actions mentioned in the OP.
Libertarians wouldn't be the ones supporting the actions mentioned in the OP. The "altruism" of government would mostly be supported by liberals/progressives/statists, while the snooping into people's personal lives would mostly be supported by self described "conservatives", actually also statists. Libertarians would be more likely to support the idea that altruism is best left to private charities and that individual liberty and responsibility are best left alone as long as that liberty doesn't infringe on the liberty of others.
 

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Please. I ask conservatives and libertarians for evidence that their ideas will "work" all the time. 99% of the time, they avoid the request and respond instead with some deflection. I also provide my own evidence in defense of or in opposition to conservative and libertarian ideas. 99% of the time, they respond with a deflection. Why? Because they're lazy, uncritical thinkers who just want their way without regard to consequences. They're morons who believe that everybody's "opinions" are equally valid - who refuse to see the difference between an opinion backed by evidence and an opinion backed by nothing but irrationality.

Now, there are plenty of people on the left like this too. This isn't a problem that is exclusive to any part of the political spectrum. It's a problem that is endemic in a country that has a huge problem with critical thinking.
 

Dittohead not!

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Please. I ask conservatives and libertarians for evidence that their ideas will "work" all the time. 99% of the time, they avoid the request and respond instead with some deflection. I also provide my own evidence in defense of or in opposition to conservative and libertarian ideas. 99% of the time, they respond with a deflection. Why? Because they're lazy, uncritical thinkers who just want their way without regard to consequences. They're morons who believe that everybody's "opinions" are equally valid - who refuse to see the difference between an opinion backed by evidence and an opinion backed by nothing but irrationality.

Now, there are plenty of people on the left like this too. This isn't a problem that is exclusive to any part of the political spectrum. It's a problem that is endemic in a country that has a huge problem with critical thinking.
While it could be argued that an extreme authoritarian government, China for example, "works", which of us would choose such a regime over one that respects individual liberties?

Freedom works. It might not be perfect, does produce some unhappiness from time to time, but is still preferable to having Big Brother telling us what to do.
 

iguanaman

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I find this to be very true. The left generally has nothing but the best intentions, they just fail to operate in reality and refuse to contemplate the unintended consequences of their ambitious ideas.
So you are saying that the Right has less then the "best intentions" in mind? That's what I see too. Selfishness does not lead to good outcomes.
 

ThePlayDrive

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While it could be argued that an extreme authoritarian government, China for example, "works", which of us would choose such a regime over one that respects individual liberties?

Freedom works. It might not be perfect, does produce some unhappiness from time to time, but is still preferable to having Big Brother telling us what to do.
You're getting very abstract to the point where what "works" is entirely dependent on what one is aiming for. I'm talking more specific. For instance, a libertarian who advocates an entirely privatized school system as a solution to the problem of educational inequity never provides evidence that his plan will work - most likely because there is no evidence that his plan will work.
 

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So you are saying that the Right has less then the "best intentions" in mind? That's what I see too. Selfishness does not lead to good outcomes.
The right is concerned about others also. (They certainly give a lot more to charity than the left!) It's just that their ideas are tempered by the realization that 1) there isn't always a viable solution to a problem. 2) negative consequences have to be considered. 3) efficacy has to be determined and corrections made when needed. Remind a member of the left with some brilliant idea or another of all this and he will usually accuse you of being motivated by selfishness, of not caring, etc., which was the whole point of the idea in the first place -- the sense of moral superiority he gets out of it.

We could have skipped most of LBJs Great Society and poor and minority people would have been much better off in the long run. Their families and cultures would not have been destroyed for one thing. But from that day to this liberals will insist that the important thing was that they meant well.
 

Dittohead not!

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You're getting very abstract to the point where what "works" is entirely dependent on what one is aiming for. I'm talking more specific. For instance, a libertarian who advocates an entirely privatized school system as a solution to the problem of educational inequity never provides evidence that his plan will work - most likely because there is no evidence that his plan will work.
No, an entirely privatized school system won't work. I can see where an extreme libertarian might advocate for such a thing, but it practical terms, it is not workable.

A school system in which the parent decides which school to patronize, one in which the money collected for education goes to the school rather than to the layers of bureaucracy that control the school system, one in which there are individual choices to be made, that would work.

But, we can't have a free society without having an educated populace, so the imperative is to fund schools collectively.
 

Occam's Razor

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I find this to be very true. The left generally has nothing but the best intentions, they just fail to operate in reality and refuse to contemplate the unintended consequences of their ambitious ideas.
Well, it's always the "best intentions," but for other people. Liberals can't keep their nose out of other people's business.
I guess myopia and self deception rule both parties.

Did prohibition have good intentions? Which party spear headed that?
How about the war on drugs?
No child left behind?
How about "clear skies" act?
Clean coal?

I don't think the left has a monopoly on failure, or good intentions gone wrong. Oh wait... that's assuming good intentions. Acts like clean skies were called the opposite of what they did... repeal emission regulations...

So if I had to choose between people who thought they were doing the right thing failing, and people who know they're not doing the right thing, but whitewashing it... I'd choose the former...
 

RabidAlpaca

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So you are saying that the Right has less then the "best intentions" in mind? That's what I see too. Selfishness does not lead to good outcomes.
No, the republicans have their own issues, for sure.

I just find the left tends to push through ambitious, yet insanely naive legislation without any real concern for the unintended consequences.

Unchecked, the left would take 100% of everyone's wealth, pool it together, then divy it out. Sure, that sounds great in theory. No poor, no rich, everybody has enough, but it just never works out that way.

A government powerful enough to take and do whatever it thinks is best, will soon be doing things it thinks is best but the people find horrifying.
 

Paschendale

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A driving desire to help people, even if it is misguided, sounds like a much better philosophy than rabid selfishness to me.
 

grip

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A driving desire to help people, even if it is misguided, sounds like a much better philosophy than rabid selfishness to me.
I disagree because a selfish person will eventually get tired and leave you alone. While a person driven will hound you to no end in their attempt to do good.
 

iguanaman

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No, the republicans have their own issues, for sure.

I just find the left tends to push through ambitious, yet insanely naive legislation without any real concern for the unintended consequences.

Unchecked, the left would take 100% of everyone's wealth, pool it together, then divy it out. Sure, that sounds great in theory. No poor, no rich, everybody has enough, but it just never works out that way.

A government powerful enough to take and do whatever it thinks is best, will soon be doing things it thinks is best but the people find horrifying.
You mean like Social Security, the Civil Rights act, Medicare etc.? It seems you had it right the first time, the right does not even have good intentions with what it proposes. Only self-centered greed and hatred seems to drive right wing ideas. All good ideas spring from good intentions, therefore Republicans have NO good ideas. "I've got mine" is not a way to run a Govt. Perhaps that is why conservatives are so poor at it.
 

thinkforyoursel

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The right is concerned about others also. (They certainly give a lot more to charity than the left!) It's just that their ideas are tempered by the realization that 1) there isn't always a viable solution to a problem. 2) negative consequences have to be considered. 3) efficacy has to be determined and corrections made when needed. Remind a member of the left with some brilliant idea or another of all this and he will usually accuse you of being motivated by selfishness, of not caring, etc., which was the whole point of the idea in the first place -- the sense of moral superiority he gets out of it.

We could have skipped most of LBJs Great Society and poor and minority people would have been much better off in the long run. Their families and cultures would not have been destroyed for one thing. But from that day to this liberals will insist that the important thing was that they meant well.
Bravo...bravo ...great little joke ....great zinger....and OH ....your little monster avator goes well with that joke . Listen to Limbaugh, Hannity for a day and you know just about everything this guy knows!! This is why this country is dying ....because there are so many petty people out there seething all day long about their neighbors!
Oh wait ....don't tell me I know ...Liberals are emotional .... never you ....you got logic!
You people are so empty ....so full of S$hit .....so conditioned and incapable of original thought!!

I say it before and I'll say it again ....the liberals may get it wrong....they may elect unqualified candidates ...but they do so always thinking of their self interest and the country for that matter.
Not people like you .....you do everything out of SPITE....you constantly seek ways to cut off your nose to spite your face!!
Maybe thats why your avatar has no nose!!
 

beerftw

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You're getting very abstract to the point where what "works" is entirely dependent on what one is aiming for. I'm talking more specific. For instance, a libertarian who advocates an entirely privatized school system as a solution to the problem of educational inequity never provides evidence that his plan will work - most likely because there is no evidence that his plan will work.
actually the privatized school system was tried in sweden,and sweden ranks among the best schools in the world,so infact it not only was tried but succesful.
 

ThePlayDrive

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actually the privatized school system was tried in sweden,and sweden ranks among the best schools in the world,so infact it not only was tried but succesful.
1. This is incorrect. The vast majority of schools K-12 in Sweden are public. However, private and "free" schools (aka "charter schools") have been growing in the country and been getting a lot of attention. The Swedish school system, though, is not privatized.

2. The United States is not Sweden.
 

beerftw

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1. This is incorrect. The vast majority of schools K-12 in Sweden are public. However, private and "free" schools (aka "charter schools") have been growing in the country and been getting a lot of attention. The Swedish school system, though, is not privatized.

2. The United States is not Sweden.
the swedish system is not fully privatised,but the privatised schools are given the same funds as public schools,which shows fully he system can and does work,regaurdless of whether its the us or not.

also the largest advantage of swedens systemis that it gives public schools competition,forcing them to perform better or lose favor in favor of private schools,since in sweden they have a choice of public or private.
 

ThePlayDrive

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the swedish system is not fully privatised,but the privatised schools are given the same funds as public schools,which shows fully he system can and does work,regaurdless of whether its the us or not.

also the largest advantage of swedens systemis that it gives public schools competition,forcing them to perform better or lose favor in favor of private schools,since in sweden they have a choice of public or private.
In my post, I said "an entirely privatized school system". That's what I meant. Sweden does not have that. Therefore, Sweden is not evidence that such a system works anywhere, let alone the United States.
 

beerftw

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In my post, I said "an entirely privatized school system". That's what I meant. Sweden does not have that. Therefore, Sweden is not evidence that such a system works anywhere, let alone the United States.
but the privatised portion does work quite well,so there is no evidence a purely privatised system wouldnt.
 

Neomalthusian

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When people claim that they are acting out of altruism but it may reasonably be foreseen that their actions will hurt rather than help then their altruism is pathological.

Pathological altruism is central to understanding the motivations of the liberal left.
There's a difference between altruism (a selfless desire to help others) and the types of things liberals support, which is a desire to help others not selflessly, but by harming others. Robin Hood was not an altruist.

Liberals will often advocate programs on altruistic grounds without even seeming to care whether the programs will do any good or not.
I disagree slightly. I think they mistakenly believe the good outweighs the harm. Overall I think they fail to see downsides (e.g. dependency) of the "good" they believe they're doing, and so it's not that they don't care whether the ideas "work." It's that they steadfastly believe they work, and they deny or minimize the negative consequences.
 

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but the privatised portion does work quite well,so there is no evidence a purely privatised system wouldnt.
That's nice, but that's irrelevant as it relates to my original comment.
 
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