My next couple posts continue a theme begun in my earlier posts regarding Larry F. Sternberg’s book Why Jews Should NOT Be Liberals (2001, rev. 2006). If you haven’t read them, please do; then come right back here.

Liberals love to quote statistics that demonstrate great differences in income between classes in the U.S. The fact that statistics actually show increasing improvements — e.g., almost one-third of poor families in 1975 had moved to the top brackets by 1991 (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas report) — doesn’t stop them from complaining that the system only works for a lucky (or corrupt) few.

Thomas Sowell in his office

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell in The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
points out another argument used by liberals to emphasize class differences. There is a class of people, the “benighted,” that require the superior wisdom of the “anointed” to carry on with their lives. Whatever their problems may be — poverty, irresponsible sex, crime, inability to rise above their inborn status — are all caused by society and therefore must be remedied by society, and not through individual efforts. There is increasing recognition among thinking and perceptive black Americans, such as Sowell, that one of the results of all of the myriad of welfare programs has been to create a “dependent class” that is easy prey for those politicians regarded as the benevolent grantors of government’s largess.

Judge Robert Bork writes that modern liberals think in terms of groups, not individuals. A free society such as America will always produce disparities in success and achievement, but liberals appeal more to class envy, rather than truly encouraging individual effort….

In making their case, liberals, either purposely or not, attempt with some success to pit class against class in this country. By grouping people into classes, such as black, Hispanic, gay, poor, or females, liberals seek to create an antagonism for one group against all others who seem to be doing better than they are. Bork writes that envy shapes our political culture, and the thrust of the liberals is to bring down the more fortunate instead of encouraging those below to rise to higher levels.

Liberals, who on the one hand are great defenders of individual liberty when it comes to satisfying any personal desires, seem to forget that we as individuals are members of a group only by someone’s definition. There are good and bad within any group. One of the big mistakes in trying to solve problems through government action is that people are not treated as individuals, but rather, are included as members of a group whether they like it or not. The result is that because there are such great differences between people, one cannot apply the same remedy to all and expect successful outcomes.”

I wish Sternberg had given a nicely illustrative case in point here. Oh, well…

Judaism recognizes that there are differences in people, in their status in life and their incomes, but stresses that they all must be treated with equal justice. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor favour the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15) The notes to Soncino Pentateuch make the point that [neither the poor nor the rich shall be given special favors when he is in the wrong]….

Certainly the implication of this is that each case must be considered on its own merits, each person as an individual, regardless of his status in life. Justice requires no less than this. No mention is made of classifying people in groups, other than to describe them in general, but there is to be no special treatment for them because of their being so described. The notion that members of one class owe something to those of another class is so contrary to Judaism that it is amazing that the idea has not been more strongly challenged by our Jewish leaders.”

Note the middle of that last paragraph. Sternberg indicates that it isn’t the classifying of people in groups for descriptive purposes, per se, that is objectionable. No harm in that, really, as long as they are fair groupings and non-pejorative descriptions. The problem is when people are given “special treatment” — and in a one-size-fits-all manner, even when inappropriate — because of the group they have been assigned to. In the next post, Sternberg (and we) will look at why this should be particularly alarming for Jews.

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