What is liberal?

When money’s the top priority, something is wrong with society

Bob Schmidt is a longtime journalist and occasional SN&R contributor

Why, I wonder, am I considered a liberal because I think no one, anywhere, should be hungry? Especially children.

Or that everyone, everywhere, should have access to quality health care. Especially children.

Shouldn’t everybody think that way?

How can it be acceptable that we don’t nourish the bodies of all the people who are hungry, although the world is more than capable of providing adequate food for every human being?

Or that we don’t repair or care for all the bodies of the people who are sick or injured, although we can prevent or cure almost every disease, heal almost every injury?

And, more profoundly evil and shortsighted, we don’t nurture the minds of all of our children.

It seems to me that simple common sense should inform people that it is in their own best, long-range interest for there to be fewer hungry people in the world, fewer sick people, fewer uneducated people, fewer desperate people. Simple common sense should tell us that desperate people do desperate things.

Isn’t it obvious that the bigger the pool of healthy, educated people, the bigger the subpool of people with the special intellectual gifts to ponder problems and find solutions for them?

Because humankind doesn’t follow simple common sense, we don’t assure the presence of that one most important element so that the people on our planet can be contented and optimistic: opportunity.

Each human being is different from every other human being. Some people are smarter than others. Some are stronger. Some can run faster, jump higher. Some are more determined. Certainly not everyone is going to make equal use of opportunity, and life is usually kinder to those who make the best use of opportunity, which seems appropriate. That, it seems to me, is one rational consequence in this otherwise irrational world.

But, somehow or other, the desire for money, profit, compensation, power, call it what you will, has become a restricting factor in the production and distribution of food and health care and education. Money is the higher priority, and that seems morally wrong.

Writer Margaret Gaskin, in her book, Blitz, about the German air raids on London in World War II, quotes the following passage from a booklet prepared by St. Paul’s Cathedral which lists our national sins and weaknesses which the war has laid bare.

We had perverted the true order of human life, by making wealth and profit, rather than the satisfaction of human need, the aim of our industry and commerce.

We had been blind to the continuance of needless suffering and waste in human life.

What would the world be like if that were not so? Better, I think.

Sure, there would still be individuals who kill and steal and cheat. But maybe not so many.