March 31, 2009

What Makes a Life?

Justin Katz

Charles Murray's piece appearing in yesterday's Providence Journal is sure to spark distinct lines between people of different worldviews:

The stuff of life — the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships — occurs within just four institutions: family, community, vocation and faith. Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. The European model doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

Drive through rural Sweden, as I did a few years ago. In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. The nations of Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their "child-friendly" policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. They are countries where jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And with only a few exceptions, they are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest. ...

... It conformed to both journalistic and scholarly accounts of a spreading European mentality that goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to wile away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.

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Are you suggesting that the attitude should be other than whiling away the time as pleasantly as possible?

What exactly do you mean when you say that the "European mentality ... goes something like this: Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. I suggest that you are calling the Europeans soulless, but you don't quite have the cajones to say it outright.

Really, Justin, what's the purpose behind your post?

P.S. I'm not addressing Little Sir Echo.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at March 31, 2009 5:54 PM

Old Time Lefty
Free Child Care is just wrong,

Droping bombs on children in Iraq,is OK

It is in the Bible

Signed, Your Friends on the \"RIGHT\"

Posted by: Antidisestablishment-nut at March 31, 2009 8:26 PM

Just for the record:

>>Signed, Your Friends on the \"RIGHT\"

Doesn't speak for me.

"Droping bombs on children in Iraq,is OK"

That's an idiotic statement and just feeding Lefty and his side exactly what they want.

Posted by: Patrick at April 1, 2009 7:51 AM

I know you didn’t write it but your post and title assumes that you support it. That didn’t strike you as extreme hyperbole? I actually share the same response as OTL (not a comfortable feeling). Are you saying that Europeans don’t really love their fellow human beings as much as we do? Or that people in favor of more socialistic policies don’t value the soul? Please no. Isn’t it ironic that some lefties Europeans criticize our capitalistic economy using the “greed for money over sharing with others” rhetoric? Empty churches are not only a European problem.

That view about European mentality is in the same class as the views about our culture made by Muslim extremists.

Posted by: msteven at April 1, 2009 1:45 PM


I don't know from whence you draw the specific examples of brotherly love and socialism, neither of which is mentioned in the exerpt. What Murray's getting at is a materialism that makes the provision of creature comforts the goal of society.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 1, 2009 10:56 PM


The excerpt does refer to excessive government subsidies, mandated benefits and regulation. I associate those with socialism, not pure socialism but more socialistic than ours which is what Europe is known for. I felt Murray was saying that government-paid entitlements and regulation create the mentality of individual comfort as a societal entitlement. And I wouldn’t totally disagree with that in general but I think he went way over the top at least in the excerpt you provided.

Posted by: msteven at April 2, 2009 11:38 AM
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