In a West Wing episode a few years ago the (fictional) President of the United States had to resign his office temporarily when his daughter was taken hostage by terrorists.
This illustrates the important distinction between private and public duty. If my child were taken hostage, I would do whatever it took to secure his release — pay the ransom, publicly renounce my cherished beliefs, surrender my own life — but if I held political office, my duty would be first and foremost to ensure the general commonweal, and only secondly to consider the life of a single hostage.
It may well be morally and ethically correct to accept the death of one captive, and thus spare the lives and well-being of hundreds or thousands of future captives by discouraging the taking of hostages.
This kind of moral calculus is distasteful, but it is absolutely necessary in the conduct of public affairs. No one who is unprepared to engage in it should ever seek political office.
Unfortunately, in our modern feminized and media-driven culture this essential principle is often forgotten. The life of one child is worth anything — anything — if she can possibly be saved.
If the side-effects of a vaccine kill a single person, then that vaccine must be banned, no matter that hundreds of thousands of people may die as a result.
A tyrant must be allowed to remain in power, to invade his neighbors, to brutalize his people, to torture and kill as he pleases, if a war against him would cause even one civilian to be accidentally bombed.
Our modern tragedy is to have embraced the fallacy of the particular. For all practical purposes we have abandoned the venerable tradition of the common good, and replaced it with public posturing and emotional exploitation.
This topic arises because of a discussion here in recent comment threads. The conversation spanned more than one post, but I’ll quote a comment by Conservative Swede from “What is to be Done?” He was responding to Afonso Henriques concerning true ethnic diversity versus the false god of “Multiculturalism”:
I guess I’m something of a hippy too. I’m also thrilled by Chinatowns and Little Havanas. Whenever I meet a Jew when I’m travelling there is always this special connection. Jews are often exciting people and there is something like a brotherhood of the outcasts between us. I’m mentally prepared for my own people to live like Jews in the future.
I’m a hippy in many ways, and been called so by others. No TV, no car, alternative life-style. Extremely cosmopolitan. Always curious about other people and learning about their culture.
But politics is not about personal attitudes. To preserve a world of flourishing diversity, we cannot have hippies as politicians.
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Politicians must act as rulers. As Machiavelli pointed out: what is a virtue in private life is often a vice as a politician. For example, generosity: when a politician is generous he’s giving away other people’s money.
For me it’s simple. It’s about being able to keep two thoughts in your mind at the same time. Personal attitudes should not be mixed with politics. To govern a country is a profession, an art. I don’t have that job, but I can see how it needs to be done (a knowledge that is virtually gone among politicians today, but exists in our historical memory).
So no, I wouldn’t use the word multiculturalism (as Ioshka did) to describe my personal affection for diversity. Multiculturalism is a politicized concept. And as such must be discarded. What I am is a cosmopolitan, with an affection for the diversity of this planet. And multiculturalism is destroying this diversity and steamrolling conformism upon the nations.
Why do I call myself ‘Conservative Swede’? Because I’m conservative politically. Only (truly) conservative politics can save and defend the liberal life-style I prefer.