Book Monitor

The Pity Party:
A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion 

William Voegeli

Modern American policies are often decided based on emotions, particularly that of pity. "A nation increasingly dependent on heartrending anecdotes to focus and activate its sense of justice is one that's losing the capacity for moral and abstract reasoning," according to William Voegeli.

Voegeli says that to speak of self-discipline and self-reliance, instead of promoting victimhood, is considered mean-spirited and lacking compassion. Yet, those are just the qualities that would provide solutions to our problems and stop us from becoming a socialist, government-dependent society.

Conservatives want America to have an excellent economy, with safeguards in place for one "to be poor briefly," but liberals see government dependence as a lifestyle. And so it has become. Liberals prefer a "welfare state," and work to assure that no responsibility is placed on the "victims" of poverty. Voegeli says that promoting lifestyles that don't include jobs is to "enable some citizens to lead lives amounting to great sapping nullities." Ironically, dooming some citizens to a destiny lacking purpose and fulfillment doesn't seem to distress those who claim to be so full of compassion.

Voegeli says, "The liberal project consists in large measure of having the government give people stuff -- money, goods, and services." He continues, "The liberal contradiction . . . is caring compassionately about victims of suffering situations while accepting complacently government programs that discharge their core mission -- alleviating that suffering -- ineffectively and inefficiently."

Since 1965, taxpayers have spent $180 billion on Head Start preschool programs for poor children. Despite data that HHS released in 2010 showing that Head Start fails to prepare children for success at school, in 2011 President Obama called Head Start "an outstanding program and a critical investment" and sought to expand it. According to progressives' flawed thought processes, if we are compassionate towards children, we will continue to throw money into Head Start, although it is a failure. The author points out that when conservatives refuse to fund failure, they are unfairly demonized.

William Voegeli demonstrates that these same flawed thought processes are seen in immigration policy, welfare, green energy, gun control, and other favorite Democrat programs.

As a nation, we must decide if we really want to succeed and survive, or simply wish to demonstrate our empathy. Unless we can change the conversation and "clarify the mission," we will fail to protect democracy from itself. Voegeli says we must "subordinate" compassion and empathy in favor of "justice, honor, liberty, and security."

(Broadside Books, 2014, 289 pp., $26.99)