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Pharisaism and Nanny-State Liberalism

Maryland does the right thing for the wrong reason

The state of Maryland is sending out signs with a large pumpkin and the words “NO CANDY AT THIS RESIDENCE” to sex offenders and requiring them to post it on their door during Halloween trick-or-treat activities. Additionally, the sex offenders must stay at home, keep their outdoor lights off, and not answer the door. Violations of this directive could be viewed as a violation of parole.

Good idea. Take steps to prevent the possibility of a problem. Prevent the “near occasion of sin,” as Catholics would put it.

But then the Maryland peeps reveal their internal Pharisee.

The letter which accompanies the sign says, “Halloween provides a rare opportunity for you to demonstrate to your neighbors that you are making a sincere effort to change the direction of your life.”

Full stop. Sex offenders may in fact want to demonstrate that they are making a sincere effort to change the direction of their lives, but taking action under threat of a parole violation doesn’t qualify. All compliance demonstrates is that the sex offender wants to avoid jail time — which, with our modern prison system, is a really dangerous place for sex offenders. Compliance demonstrates self-preservation, not “I’m trying not to be a sexual predator.” Coerced activity, by definition, is not honest, sincere activity. Our courts accept coercion as a mitigating factor in guilt. Christianity accepts coercion as a mitigating factor in culpability for grave sin.

It’s the same idiocy as the liberals’ notion that the only way the poor can be helped is if the government steps in to “spread the wealth around,” to quote the liberals’ current standard bearer and most committed, most prominent, politician. They say, “You’re going to help your fellow man, or you’re going to go to prison… There. Now aren’t you a good person for helping your fellow man? Aren’t you patriotic?” To which the response is, “Well, not on this score. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint so some bureaucrats could do with less efficiency and at greater overhead cost what I would do on my own if left to my own devices. I am patriotic, but this has nothing to do with my patriotism.”

Liberals fail to see the inherent contradiction in forcing people to be good and then thinking it denotes a good disposition. Liberals are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time: good external actions (performed under threat of punishment) are what’s important. “The masses” cannot be trusted to have good motives and do good deeds, even if they screw up occasionally. And, like the Pharisees, they seek to quash the ideals and activities of those who think differently — i.e., those who think more people ought to be trusted with their own resources to do the good on their own with their own conscience as guide.

Seems like Liberals assume humanity is fundamentally evil and must be coerced to good action. Conservatives, OTOH, assume people are fundamentally good and will help each other out. As far as government, liberals think government is the tool by which those-who-know-better force the good outcome they seek; while conservatives see government as the last check to protect society from those individuals who go bad in one way or another. Which is the more hopeful vision of humanity? Which characterizes the USA — by far and away the most generous and giving nation on earth in private charitable donations? Which encourages personal responsibility and rewards individual accomplishment? And then, which discourages and punishes those?

I don’t know if it is possible completely to rehabilitate sex offenders. I think it prudent to take practical steps to keep them apart in some way, or at least keep people aware of their presence and whereabouts. But it’s counterproductive and misleading to ascribe “a sincere effort to change the direction of your life” to actions which are really only compliance with directives given under threat.

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