I’m on vacation on Cape Cod, where the media continue to canonize Senator Kennedy. Day after day, the Senator’s life and death dominate the front page. (Except for today, in which the lead story in the Cape Cod Times begins with the sentence: “The sun poked through to say a final goodbye to President Barack Obama...”
As usual, GMU Economics Chairman Don Boudreaux offers a different perspective on the coverage of politicians, here in his letter to the Los Angeles Times about Senator Kennedy’s “compassion”:
You say that Ted Kennedy's "most enduring legacy is that he kept reminding us of how great we could be if we chose compassion over complacency" ("Ted Kennedy, America's conscience," August 30).
Words are cheap. Anyone can preach compassion, and even be free and generous with other people's money... But surely what truly matters is how generous Mr. Kennedy was with his OWN money. Sadly, the answer is "not very..."
Sen. Compassion ... contributed a whopping one percent of his income to charity. This percentage figure is a paltry one-forth the size of the charitable contributions, made at the same time, of the less-wealthy Ronald Reagan.
And in this letter to the NY Times:
Ted Kennedy's canonization is too much. Every day brings the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority of whom are known only to their families and friends. These people aren't mourned by politicians, t.v. reporters, or the general public.
Yet almost every one of these unheralded persons has been more productive than has Ted Kennedy - or Chuck Grassley, Nancy Pelosi, the Georges Bush, or any other politician you name, whether he or she be still breathing or buried.
Who installed the windows in my house? I don't know. Yet he provided value to me and never forced his hand into my wallet or his nose into my eating habits. Who will fly the plane that will carry me home tomorrow from Michigan to Virginia? I have no idea. Yet that pilot will render unto me (and dozens of others) a valuable service in exchange for funds that I voluntarily paid to his or her employer. That pilot doesn't force me to fly. Nor does he or she presume to know better than I do what is best for my family and me.
Who caught the fish that I will eat tonight? Who trucked it from the sea to my hotel? Who will cook that fish? Who designed the dishwasher that cleaned the plate and utensils that I will use?
I know almost none of the millions of people whose daily efforts make possible my life and that of countless other Americans. These people don't have grand plans for arrogantly re-working society. They offer only to deal voluntarily with me and with others, never pretending - unlike Mr. Kennedy - to be endowed with a mysterious genius and a saintly inspiration justifying haughty intrusions into my affairs...
- Pre-October 2009