Warped ‘Compassion’ Destroys Society

Thousands of years of civilizations (of all sorts) have demonstrated that there are certain foundations a society must have in order for humans to flourish and prosper generally. Human life must be valued. Property rights need to be respected. The nuclear family — father, mother and children — must be protected. People should — for the most part — keep their promises, including the payment of their debts. Laws and the legal system must respect these structures, enforce and protect them.

America is in the process of dismantling the foundations of our society as quickly as our pandering politicians can come up with ways to do it, and if we continue, we will collapse.

One of the most common and pernicious justifications for our unraveling is a warped definition of “compassion,” and proof of the damage this is doing is everywhere.

The homeless populations exploding in our cities is a perfect example. Michael Shellenberger, a former Democrat activist turned successful author (and a recent candidate for governor of California), has written extensively about the mistakes his state has made that have turned a problem into a crisis. Virtually all are textbook examples of misguided “compassion”: arguments that poverty is a “social construct”; eliminating involuntary commitment and mandatory treatment for the seriously mentally ill; creating “injection zones” where drug users can shoot up “safely” (Gov. Gavin Newsom just vetoed that legislation this week); insisting upon luxury accommodations for homeless instead of bare-bones safe housing.

The list goes on and on, and California is suffering terribly. The homeless population in Los Angeles County is now in the tens of thousands, with third-world diseases running rampant in areas where the homeless camp. San Francisco has become infamous for used needles and piles of human excrement in the streets. It shouldn’t need to be pointed out that letting people live, sleep, poop, shoot up, convulse and die in the streets isn’t “compassionate.” Nor is it right that Californians should have to endure this in the cities where they live and work.

Another of California’s misguided efforts based upon “compassion” is Proposition 47, a law passed in 2020 that reduced theft under $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor. As a practical matter (given the volume of cases state attorneys’ offices have to handle), this has turned into a license to steal. Thieves commit “smash-and-grab” crimes with impunity knowing that they will never even be identified, much less prosecuted. Worse, they can steal $950 from store after store after store (amounts are not aggregated), and “flash mobs” of thieves are regularly caught on video. Each individual thief is effectively “free” to steal almost $1,000 in inventory.

The results have been catastrophic for property owners, who can neither stop the thieves themselves nor count on any law enforcement. Citizens who own businesses that are stolen from are helpless and furious at what’s been described as a “con job”; voters were told that cost savings from reduced sentences would be moved into treatment for mental illness and drug addiction.


One would think that other states would learn from California’s woes. Alas, that appears not to be the case. Oregon decriminalized drug use in 2020. Encampments of homeless people and drug addicts — many of whom suffer from severe mental illness as well — have moved into some of Portland’s most popular neighborhoods, causing property values to decline. City residents are up in arms about filth, crime and disease.


In 2019, New York eliminated cash bail for most crimes. Activists who pushed for the change in the laws defend it, saying that bail “penalizes poverty.” But those being penalized now are the innocent victims of criminals who are back out on the streets within hours of their arrest — and in a number of high-profile cases, committing crimes again.


Now President Joe Biden has gotten in on the action, issuing an Executive Order “forgiving” $10,000 in indebtedness for people who have taken out student loans. This, too, is being sold to Americans as a “compassionate” response to those in debt.

One question is whether the president has the constitutional authority to modify contracts by executive order. (I maintain that he does not.) But it is not simply a matter of the president unilaterally changing the terms of the loan agreements between lender and borrower; Biden’s action would transfer the repayment obligations to people who never signed those contracts. Because it’s not that the $10,000 will not be repaid. Instead, those sums will now be repaid by taxpayers. As only about a third of Americans attend college, this means that the bulk of the taxes repaying these loans will fall on Americans who, on average, make significantly less than the people who took out the loans.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a supporter of this manner of student loan “forgiveness,” was confronted two years ago by an angry constituent who stated that he had saved money to pay for his daughter’s college education and asked if he would be getting his money back. “Of course not,” Warren sniffed.

“So,” he retorted, “you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?”

That’s an accurate — if earthy — way of summing it up. No one forced anyone to take on student loan debt. But the government will now force others to pay those obligations. Even those who have borrowed money to pay for college and repaid their own debts will be forced to repay others’.

When politicians use the word “compassion” to describe their policies, it’s a safe bet that those who need genuine assistance won’t get it. And everyone else — except politicians, of course — gets screwed.

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Laura Hollis

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is a native of Champaign, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in English and her law degree from the University of Notre Dame. Hollis' career as an attorney has spanned 28 years, the past 23 of which have been in higher education. She has taught law at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has nearly 15 years' experience in the development and delivery of entrepreneurship courses, seminars and workshops for multiple audiences. Her scholarly interests include entrepreneurship and public policy, economic development, technology commercialization and general business law. In addition to her legal publications, Hollis has been a freelance political writer since 1993, writing for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine, and the Christian Post, on matters of politics and culture. She is a frequent public speaker. Hollis has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education. She is married to Jess Hollis, a musician, voiceover artist and audio engineer, and they live in Indiana with their two children, Alistair and Celeste.

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