Friday, November 21, 2008


" invested, through taxes, in the public good."

There is a piece in this Sunday’s Outlook section of the Washington Post that is probably best described as a kind of cultural/political Rorschach Test. My reaction to what I consider the author’s performing an exercise in self-congratulatory sanctimony is of the eye-rolling variety but some of you may actually be impressed with her.

Save Now. Buy Never

In the piece, Judith Levine recounts a year of purchasing “…nothing but necessities: basic groceries, Internet access, insulin for our diabetic cat.” She was inspired to do this by a vision of holiday gifts “dismissed, disliked and discarded -- and moldering in landfills forever.” Like Nancy Pelosi, I guess she was just “trying to save the planet”.

This is one of those articles I would recommend to my lefty friends for insight as to why so many of us don’t take their stated good intentions at face value. While her whole piece is easily mocked, one part deserves special highlighting:

“We had to get out of the apartment. So we walked to free concerts and the Brooklyn Public Library. We took in museums on free nights. We trawled the public sphere with gratitude and glee -- but also with dismay, because the public sphere is in sorry shape.”

…and can you guess a reason for why the public sphere is in such “sorry shape”? (Hint: Judith Levine is a liberal.)

That’s right – Bush.

“We realized that there are only so many dollars, and they can either go to private consumption -- President Bush's concept of an "ownership society" -- or be invested, through taxes, in the public good. The latter can't just be entered as a personal-finance debit. We should see it as an asset, in the form of highways or health clinics, yes, but also in the feeling that we're in this together, a.k.a. community.”

Not sure how not paying a museum admission fee somehow contributes to the public good but the lack of such insight is probably why I’m not a liberal. I’m guessing her point is that if we would just invest in the public good through taxes, we can better build a community.

Now, if only there was someone out there with the necessary community organizational experience to make this happen...

Side Note: Luckily for her, not everyone decided to adopt this attitude. Case in point: Free Press, a book publishing company that gave Ms. Levine a book contract as she embarked on her experiment: Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping: Judith Levine

In other words, she got paid not to buy. I scanned a couple of the reader reviews:

“Levine and her husband have three (three!) cars, of which she classes petrol as a necessity. She admits that this is excessive, especially for such 'commited environmentalists'! She seems to miss the irony of this statement.”

As they say, you just can’t make this stuff up.

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