Everybody's young days are a dream, a delightful insanity, a sweet solipsism. Nothing in them has a fixed shape, nothing a fixed price; everything is a possibility, and we live happily on credit. There are no obligations to be observed; there are no accounts to be kept. Nothing is specified in advance; everything is what can be made of it. The world is a mirror in which we seek the reflection of our own desires. The allure of violent emotions is irresistible. When we are young we are not disposed to make concessions to the world; we never feel the balance of a thing in our hands—unless it be a cricket bat. We are not apt to distinguish between our liking and our esteem; urgency is our criterion of importance; and we do not easily understand that what is humdrum need not be despicable. We are impatient of restraint; and we readily believe, like Shelley, that to have contracted a habit is to have failed. These, in my opinion, are among our virtues when we are young; but how remote they are from the disposition appropriate for participating in the style of government I have been describing. Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own. Some unfortunate people, like Pitt (laughably called 'the Younger'), are born old, and are eligible to engage in politics almost in their cradles; others, perhaps more fortunate, belie the saying that one is young only once, they never grow up. But these are exceptions. For most there is what Conrad called the 'shadow line' which, when we pass it, discloses a solid world of things, each with its fixed shape, each with its own point of balance, each with its price; a world of fact, not poetic image, in which what we have spent on one thing we cannot spend on another; a world inhabited by others besides ourselves who cannot be reduced to mere reflections of our own emotions. And coming to be at home in this commonplace world qualifies us (as no knowledge of 'political science' can ever qualify us), if we are so inclined and have nothing better to think about, to engage in what the man of conservative disposition understands to be political activity.
The Tour de France starts Saturday and ends on 24 July. It's the most prestigious stage race in the world. If you'd like to follow the action, here is a good site. It's the one I use for reports, results, course maps, and course profiles. Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador will be trying to win his third consecutive Tour and his fourth overall. Yes, he's still under a cloud of suspicion from the 2010 Tour, but he's being allowed to participate as his case is adjudicated. His main rival this year, as in 2010, is Luxembourgian cyclist Andy Schleck. To win the Tour, one must excel both at climbing steep mountains and in individual time trials. Contador is a natural-born climber, and to my amazement he has made himself an excellent time trialist. I believe the Tour is being telecast live on Versus.
Serious illness should never be made light of, nor should it be used as a tool for government propaganda ("Labels Give Cigarette Packs a Ghoulish Makeover," U.S. News, June 22). Yet that is exactly what the government is doing by mandating graphic images of ill people on cigarette packs.
Not only have these "nanny" approaches not worked where previously tried, but no other industry in America has had to endure such draconian, loss-of-freedom decrees.
What's next? Photos of diseased obese people on candy-bar wrappers? Diseased livers on wine bottles? Burned human skin on fast-food coffee cups?
The general object which all laws have, or ought to have, in common, is to augment the total happiness of the community; and therefore, in the first place, to exclude, as far as may be, every thing that tends to subtract from that happiness: in other words, to exclude mischief.
But all punishment is mischief: all punishment in itself is evil. Upon the principle of utility, if it ought at all to be admitted, it ought only to be admitted in as far as it promises to exclude some greater evil.
(Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart, in The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, ed. F. Rosen and Philip Schofield [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996], chap. 13, secs. 1-2, p. 158 [footnote omitted] [book first published in 1789])
Note from KBJ: Bentham viewed punishment as intrinsically bad, and therefore in need of justification. Retributivists disagree, saying that deserved punishment is intrinsically good, and therefore in no need of justification.
One mark of an intellectually dishonest person is his or her inability (or unwillingness) faithfully to represent the beliefs, positions, or arguments of others, prior to criticizing them. Our president, besides being alien and incompetent, is intellectually dishonest. See here.
The “roar” and “popular political crusade” that Frederick R. Lynch calls for in “How AARP Can Get Its Groove Back” (Op-Ed, June 24) appear to be only a slightly veiled call on the elderly to resist any and all significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
That might be possible with Social Security, but policy analysts have for years shown that a sustainable financial future for Medicare will require a sharp cut in benefits, and no less necessary for deficit reduction.
That need will of necessity be painful, but need not be disastrous: more money has never guaranteed good health care.
Moreover, a continued rise in Medicare costs will have to be paid for by the children of the beneficiaries.
As someone who has reached the age of 80, I would hope that if there is any wisdom at all among my peer group, it will be to recognize that our duty is more to those coming after us than to ourselves. We have made it to old age, and if AARP can bring about a sober dialogue between the young and us about how best to allocate resources fairly while saving Medicare, that would not be a roar, but common civic sense.
DANIEL CALLAHAN Garrison, N.Y., June 24, 2011
The writer is president emeritus of the Hastings Center and the author of “Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society.”
Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter, as part of our new Sunday Dialogue feature. We plan to publish a sampling of responses in the Sunday Review, and the original letter writer will be given a chance to reply. E-mail: email@example.com
Mark Spahn keeps me in links. He sent along a link to this blog post by Steve Sailer, about aging baseball players. One player not mentioned is Nolan Ryan, who pitched into his 40s. I have never heard anybody suggest that he was juiced.
The New York Times opens its blog posts for comments so that its readers, many of whom appear to be deranged, can abuse Republicans. Here is another post about Michele Bachmann. Read the first 10 comments. All are abusive. Think about this. Either the Times is refusing to approve comments by supporters of Bachmann or the only people who read the Times are progressive thugs who lack the courage to identify themselves. Without a doubt, it's the latter. The New York Times is an echo chamber. I read it so you don't have to.