Saturday, March 24, 2007


At Jewish World Review Dennis Prager writes a column titled "Compassion and the decline of America" in which he discusses the values trampled by a misguided sense of compassion. He begins with a little story:

This past weekend, a friend of mine attended his 13-year-old son's baseball game. What he saw encapsulates a major reason many of us fear for the future of America and the West.

His son's team was winning 24-7 as the game entered the last inning. When he looked up at the scoreboard, he noticed that the score read 0-0. Naturally, he inquired as to what happened — was the scoreboard perhaps broken? — and was told that the winning team's coach asked the scoreboard keeper to change the score. He and some of the parents were concerned that the boys on the losing team felt humiliated.

In order to ensure that the boys losing by a lopsided score would not feel too bad, the score was changed.
Mr. Prager goes on to point how this "compassionate" act trashed four values: truth, wisdom, building character, and fairness. For example:

Truth was the first value compassion trashed. In the name of compassion, the adults in charge decided to lie. The score was not 0-0; it was 24-7.

He discusses all four values and shows how "compassion" creates far more problems than it might solve. The conclusion?
Compassion in social policy almost always produces unfair results. Compassion for murderers allows them to keep their lives after taking the life of another. Compassion for minorities leads to affirmative action, which means that individuals who are not members of a designated minority will be treated unfairly. Compassion for immigrant children led to bilingual education, which subsequently prevented most of those children from advancing in American society.

Compassion as the primary determinant of behavior is effective in personal life. In making public policy, it is a morally and socially destructive guideline. In fact, it is so bad that thinking people must conclude that its primary purpose is to enable policy makers who are guided by compassion to feel good about themselves.
This is recommended reading as an object lesson in thinking things all the way through instead of just acting on surface appearances.



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