There are Worse Things than Hypocrisy

Ross Douthat had an interesting column, “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism,” that included this:

They can’t see that paeans to multicultural openness can sound like self-serving cant coming from open-borders Londoners who love Afghan restaurants but would never live near an immigrant housing project, or American liberals who hail the end of whiteness while doing everything possible to keep their kids out of majority-minority schools.

Putting aside the rest of the essay, which I liked (anyone who praises Rudyard Kipling as embodying “genuine cosmopolitanism” is obviously near-and-dear to my heart), I think attacking upper middle-class liberals as hypocritical is mistaken. This is both because I don’t think liberal parents in big cities are really quite as hypocritical about race and schooling as is often alleged by both left and right  and because there are worse things than hypocrisy to begin with.

Perhaps it is true that well-educated liberals insulate themselves from the effects of liberal policy and cultural agendas. But there are limits to insulation, especially for parents.

The people running the world and the country right now, by and large, are still married, propertied people with children. They have some skin in the game, and it keeps things from going truly off the deep end. The retreat from lawlessness in many of the largest cities over the last twenty years is due, by and large, to influential liberals getting mayors elected with a mandate to be tough on crime. You can call that hypocrisy, as many of those who decry the criminal justice system do, but my old precinct in Crown Heights went from 99 rapes a year to 0 in twenty years. Thanks, hypocrisy.

On the other hand, I’m skeptical that the next generation of elites are going to be married with kids at all, and their capacity to create mischief will be much larger consequently.

Hypocrisy is a far better thing for the world than true belief unhinged from the consequences of actions.


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