Tuesday

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Another great Santayana quote from Epstein: “humanitarians have an intense hatred of mankind as it is.” Epstein then continues Santayana’s thought: “which is of course why they are always so hard at work trying to change it.”

It’s a poignant point that every progressive and reformer ought to consider carefully before they launch another crusade. Just as every Christian should ask himself whether he is about to do X, Y, or Z out of love, every activist ought to ask himself whether Law X or Reform Z is motivated by hate. Every law and reform, of course, is motivated by some level of dissatisfaction with the way things are, and hatred is a sub-set in the circle of dissatisfaction. I think if every politician looked at himself honestly and detachedly, he’d realize the vast bulk of new laws that he favors is motivated by some level of hatred: something isn’t the way he prefers it, so he implements a law to change it to fit his preference. He never, of course, admits this, either to others or himself, instead opting to dress it up in terms like “public safety” and “for the children,” but if he were an honest man, he’d admit that he’s passing these laws because, “Damn it, that really makes me mad.”

Related: Joseph Epstein quote about the thought of Paul Valery: “Valery could think of nothing in the realm of thought ‘madder’ or more vulgar ‘than wanting to be right,’ which is of course what politics is chiefly about.”