Thursday, September 09, 2004

For Once, I Agree With Keyes

Truth Girl posted an excerpt from Scott Thomas' interview with Alan Keyes on WYLL regarding his now infamous "selfish hedonist" remarks:
THOMAS: I contend that when someone buys a $70,000 luxury car when a $18,000 Saturn will get you where you need to go, that that's selfish hedonism. When I have a second piece of cake for dessert when I really should go out and walk off the first piece, that's selfish hedonism. One way or another, we're all selfish hedonists, aren't we?
KEYES: Couldn't it be, though, that part of the reason why that phrase kind of makes people uncomfortable is because it reminds us of the fact that the decision we're taking in this area of marriage actually reflects a larger problem that exists in this society as a whole, where we need to start asking ourselves--and there are large problems, like deficits and other things like this, where we would look around saying, "Are we sacrificing the future for our own short-term interest? Are we putting a burden on our future generations because we want to indulge ourselves today?"I think that that problem of selfishness is one of the key challenges on a lot of these public policy issues in our time, and maybe it's one we're uncomfortable with.
Selfishness is a huge problem in modern society. When people cut off other drivers or refuse to let them merge, that's selfishness. When people want to lower their own taxes and cut welfare programs for others, that's selfishness. When people shop at Wal-Mart to save money despite knowing that the store is screwing over its employees, that's selfishness. It keeps getting worse. People are so selfish that they cannot be bothered to interrupt their cell phone conversations to interact with the grocery store cashier. Self-interest has always been a prime motivator for humans, and capitalism is the ultimate in selfish economics, so I suppose this was inevitable. Still, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that the world would be a better place if we were all less selfish.

This is something that has been bothering me for quite a while now (probably since the 1980s), so kudos to Keyes for having the audacity to call us on it. It is certainly not a popular stance for a politician, as it offends nearly everyone. But it only offends us because we know he's right.

That said, I still don't agree with Keyes' moral opposition to gay marriage. However, I think the whole issue is a red herring that the Republicans are using to draw attention away from the administration's many failures in economic and foreign policy. One can easily see Karl Rove telling Bush to make this a constitutional issue in order to get Iraq off the front pages. The media bought it; the plan worked brilliantly. Rove is scum-of-the-earth, but I hope he writes a book someday.

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