I think I've had my fill of moral hypocrisy. We routinely hear stories of evangelical ministers who "mentor" hookers at $500 an hour, "family values" politicians who like the cut of a congressional page's jib, or senators who love to press the flesh, one bathroom stall at a time. And, given the times, we increasingly hear stories about progressive politicians and columnists who -- gasp! -- have bigger carbon footprints than they want the rest of us to have: CO2 emissions for me and not for thee! For shame.
The press loves stories of moral hypocrisy. Catching a finger-wagging politician violating his or her own moral code warms the cockles of every reporter's heart. Indeed, sometimes journalists confuse hypocrisy for the real crime. "If a politician murders his mother," the late Washington Post editorial page editor Meg Greenfield once said, "the first response of the press ... will likely be not that it was a terrible thing to do, but rather that in a statement made six years before, he had gone on record as being opposed to matricide."
The crusade against moral hypocrisy necessarily hits conservatives harder, not because conservatives are more immoral but because they uphold morality more publicly, making them richer targets. The left aims much of its moralizing at moralizing itself -- "thou shalt not judge." Meanwhile, the right focuses on the oldies but goodies -- adultery, drug use, etc. I think we're right to uphold a standard even if we sometimes fail to live up to it.
What I don't think we hear enough about is intellectual hypocrisy. What's that? Well, if moral hypocrisy is saying what values people should live by while failing to follow them yourself, intellectual hypocrisy is believing you are smart enough to run other peoples' lives when you can barely run your own.
I know many smart liberals for whom no idea is too complex, no concept or organizational flow chart too hard to grasp. They want government to take over this, run that, manage some other things, and in all cases put people exactly like them in charge of pretty much everything. Many are geniuses, with SAT scores so high you could get a bloody nose just looking at them.
But you wouldn't ask one to run a car wash.
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