judicious liberality

It’s a phrase that just popped into my head out of the ether the other day. And, sure enough, Google has a handy reference in a book by a Scottish minister, David Gilkison Watt, who died in London in 1897, after having visited both India and St. Petersburg, Florida. Watt was a missionary, so it’s perhaps not surprising that in his writing he promoted the wisdom he found in the Book of Ezekiel — i.e. long before his time. I don’t know if his “Homiletic Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel” was timely when he wrote it, but it sure seems timely now.
A homiletic commentary on the Book of the prophet Ezekiel ..., Volume 25 By David Gilkison Watt, Thomas Henry Leale

The law which protects property also limits the exercise of the owner’s power over it.

I couldn’t agree more. It is, however, the principle which the advocates of private property rights prefer to forget. They’d like their power to be absolute.

Can’t disagree with the Scot’s perspective on indulging generosity, either.

The prince was amply provided for that he might be generous both to his family and his servants; but he was prohibited from indulging generosity by seizing the possessions of others. Some are generous enough with what belongs to others. It is mistaken generosity; it is fraud and robbery.

But that’s not exactly what I had in mind when the phrase occurred to me. My perspective was more that of the generous person who, while he’s obviously dependent on having willing recipients — recipients who, in turn, have no obligation to be grateful, but aren’t entitled to be indulgent, either — does not deserve to be devalued, to have his generosity indulged, like some foible, and then liable to being summarily rejected when his usefulness wears off.

That does seem to be the attitude with which the Cons consider liberal behavior. The Cons not only take what’s on offer; they do so grudgingly, barely indulgent of generosity, and then, when usefulness wears off, they reject it and declare themselves proud. It’s as if not beating the child were a sin.

On second thought, if the Scot’s use of the phrase was sarcastic, it is just this attitude of his, predicated on the belief that taxation is theft, which is shared by the Cons – -and the justification for deprivations to be inflicted on an “undeserving” populace. In which case, I guess I definitely disagree with the Scot.

How easily justice is perverted. Look how quickly the Scot transits from “just regard to the rights of others” to “judicious liberality.” Generosity is to be tempered, not indulged in wholeheartedly.

On another level, “indulging generosity” is sort of like “damning with faint praise” along the way to the full-fledged aggression we have in recent years identified as “Swiftboating” — i.e. the tactic of holding a person’s virtues and achievements against him. The motive? Power. It is perhaps telling that the Scot is considering generosity from the perspective of the “prince” and proceeds from the assumption that power is just.

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Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."