Tom McLaughlin: The Tragic Vision

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The Tragic Vision
Wed, 01/02/2013 - 8:08am
Posted by tommclaughlin

Violence. Avoid it whenever possible but be prepared to use it. Why? Because there will always be others to use it against us. That’s the conservative view. I’m a conservative too, and that’s our view of how humans interact. The human race can improve, but it will always be imperfect.

If you’re a secular conservative, you know there will always be sociopaths, and you should be prepared for encounters with them. If you’re a believer, you know there will always be evil this side of heaven, and we should be prepared when we meet it. Both the secular and the theist views are based on something we conservatives call “The Tragic Vision.” It’s the concept first coined by economist Thomas Sowell that there are no ultimate solutions to problems in the human condition, only trade-offs. This contrasts the liberal view that a utopia is attainable, that we can perfect both ourselves as individuals and the societal human condition as well - and government is the vehicle to attain that perfection. The conservative refrain is: “Human nature being what it is . . .” whereas the liberal refrain is: “If only . . .”

Which brings us to the newly-renewed gun control debate. Conservatives believe that “Human nature being what it is . . . we need armed guards in schools.” Conversely, liberals believe “If only . . . we could ban guns altogether our schools would be safe.” The conservative looks at what happened at that Connecticut school and thinks what Wayne Lapierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A liberal looks at Connecticut and thinks what John Lennon said: “Imagine all the people living life in peace."

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