Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that it's Rush Limbaugh's birthday, and Ann Althouse's too. Feh. Why note these annoying birthdays when there's a much better cause for conservative celebration? Do you know whose birthday it is?
Ah, for the good old days, when conservatives were conservative, and wonderfully perceptive students of human nature to boot.
I thought of citing one of his more famous quotes, but decided to go with this instead:
"I hope there are none of you corrupted with the doctrine taught by wicked men for the worst purposes, and received by the malignant credulity of envy and ignorance, which is, that the men who act upon the public stage are all alike; all equally corrupt; all influenced by no other views than the sordid lure of salary and pension. The thing I know by experience to be false.
Never expecting to find perfection in men, and not looking for divine attributes in created beings, in my commerce with my contemporaries, I have found much human virtue. I have seen not a little public spirit; a real subordination of interest to duty; and a decent and regulated sensibility to honest fame and reputation. The age unquestionably produces (whether in a greater or less number than former times, I know not) daring profligates, and insidious hypocrites. What then? Am I not to avail myself of whatever good is to be found in the world, because of the mixture of evil that will always be in it? The smallness of the quantity in currency only heightens the value.
They who raise suspicions on the good on account of the behaviour of ill men, are of the party of the latter. The common cant is no justification for taking this party. I have been deceived, say they, by Titius and Maevius; I have been the dupe of this pretender or of that mountebank; and I can trust appearances no longer. But my credulity and want of discernment cannot, as I conceive, amount to a fair presumption against any man's integrity.
A conscientious person would rather doubt his own judgment, than condemn his species. He would say, I have observed without attention, or judged upon erroneous maxims; I trusted to profession, when I ought to have attended to conduct. Such a man will grow wise, not malignant, by his acquaintance with the world. But he that accuses all mankind of corruption, ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one.
In truth I should much rather admit those, whom at any time I have disrelished the most, to be patterns of perfection, than seek a consolation to my own unworthiness, in a general communion of depravity with all about me."
I completely agree with this. I think I should be willing to condemn evil, corruption, and incompetence when I see them, but to begin with the view that everyone is corrupt has always seemed to me to be a wholly unjustified slander on the human race. I suspect it's due to cowardice: to the fear of being taken in. Though why it should be worse to have thought to highly of someone and been wrong than to have wrongly condemned her is beyond me: in the first case, I am mistaken, but in the second, I have wronged someone.
I have always particularly disliked the idea that all politicians are necessarily corrupt. It seems to me both to excuse individuals far too easily: if all politicians are corrupt, then there's no reason to blame this or that particular politician for sharing in this universal condition. Moreover, it perpetuates the problem it purports to name by preventing us from recognizing any decent people who might ever decide to run for office. And I wonder, at times, which of the bloggers who have been good at spotting hypocrisy or evil will turn out also to be good at spotting courage, honesty, and virtue.
I can only hope that enough courageous, honest, decent, generous, and noble politicians appear to let us answer this question.
Note: Mac users who would have wanted to know that it's Edmund Burke's birthday even if I hadn't posted about it can download my utterly pointless Philosophers' Birthdays iCal here.