What's Wrong with Benevolence: Happiness, Private Property, and the Limits of Enlightenment
Is benevolence a virtue? In many cases it appears to be so. But when it comes to the enlarged benevolence” of the Enlightenment, David Stove argues that the answer is clearly no. In this insightful, provocative essay, Stove builds a case for the claim that when benevolence is universal, disinterested and external, it regularly leads to the forced redistribution of wealth, which in turn leads to decreased economic incentives, lower rates of productivity, and increased poverty.
As Stove points out, there is an air of paradox in saying that benevolence may be a cause of poverty. But there shouldn’t be. Good intentions alone are never sufficient to guarantee the success of one’s endeavors. Utopian schemes to reorganize the world have regularly ended in failure.
Easily the most important example of this phenomenon is twentieth-century communism. As Stove reminds us, the attractiveness of communismthe emotional fuel” of communist revolutionaries for over a hundred yearshas always been exactly the same as the emotional fuel of every other utopianism: the passionate desire to alleviate or abolish misery.” Yet communism was such a monumental failure that millions of people today are still suffering its consequences.
In this most prescient of essays, Stove warns contemporary readers just how seductive universal political benevolence can be. He also shows how the failure to understand the connection between benevolence and communism has led to many of the greatest social miseries of our age.
Brilliant explanation of what went wrong
By Geoff Puterbaugh - July 20, 2011
I owe Roger Kimball a lot for his "discovery" of the late Australian philosopher David Stove. Stove is very definitely a man in near-total disagreement with the "received ideas" of his time.
In other essays, Stove makes intelligent attacks on Darwinian evolution and the equality of women, if you can imagine such things! (!! Even "worse," reading those essays may make you wonder whether he is actually right.)
In this book, Stove takes on the unquestioned virtue of benevolence, and by the time he is done with it, it is a pathetic, pretentious thing with its clothes in tatters, desperately needing something to cover its ugly core --- which is, of course, our inborn need to feel good about ourselves. (I mean, who really cares about the poor? And, really, what is to be done about the poor? Writing a check to the government relieves so many anxieties!)
But Stove goes back to Malthus (and makes me really want to read Malthus, but not the first edition)... read more
What's wrong with the "Enlightened Benevolence" of the self proclaimed intellectual elite
By Donald J. Keck - September 5, 2011
Australian philosopher David Stove hits the nail on the head with this treatise on what he calls "Enlightened Benevolence," a term of art which encompasses a vast array of liberal and radical thinkers from Voltaire and Rousseau in the 18th Century to John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx in the 19th Century to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Lord Beveridge, and V.I. Lenin in the 20th Century, to the entire cast of 21st Century Liberals, Social Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Welfare Statists and other brands of Marxist fellow feelers. He illuminates what all of these true believers in Enlightened Benevolence have in common - something that is usually obscured by the obfuscations of liberal politicians, the media, and academia. He demonstrates that they are all sleeping in the same intellectual bed, and why they are so comfortable sleeping together (although they will, of course, deny it when accused of sleeping around.) It is the conviction of their own superior intelligence which enables them... read more
Shockingly Different Paradigm
By Alexander 162 "Bronx book guy" - September 3, 2012
The author explains a paradigm that is so entrenched, so unquestioned, so universally assumed that it takes a while to wrap one's mind around this obvious glaring fault in European progressive thought. He writes clearly in layman's terms and gives historical context. Members of ethnic groups(I myself am African American) who are the recipients of much enlightened benevolence and its co-morbid dysfunction will be truly enlightened.
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