The High Cost of Liberalism: Part I

Liberals advocate many wonderful things. In fact, I suspect that most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world envisioned by liberals, rather than in the kind of world envisioned by conservatives.

Unfortunately, the only kind of world that any of us can live in is the world that actually exists. Trying to live in the kind of world that liberals envision has costs that will not go away just because these costs are often ignored by liberals.

One of those costs appeared in an announcement of a house for sale in Palo Alto, the community adjacent to Stanford University, an institution that is as politically correct as they come.

The house is for sale at $1,498,000. It is a 1,010 square foot bungalow with two bedrooms, one bath and a garage. Although the announcement does not mention it, this bungalow is located near a commuter railroad line, with trains passing regularly throughout the day.

Lest you think this house must be some kind of designer’s dream, loaded with high-tech stuff, it was built in 1942 and, even if it was larger, no one would mistake it for the Taj Mahal or San Simeon.

This house is not an aberration, and its price is not out of line with other housing prices in Palo Alto. One couple who had lived in their 1,200 square foot home in Palo Alto for 20 years decided to sell it, and posted an asking price just under $1.3 million.

Competition for that house forced the selling price up to $1.7 million.

Another Palo Alto house, this one with 1,292 square feet of space, is on the market for $2,285,000. It was built in 1895.

Even a vacant lot in Palo Alto costs more than a spacious middle-class home costs in most of the rest of the country.

How does this tie in with liberalism?

In this part of California, liberalism reigns supreme and “open space” is virtually a religion. What that lovely phrase means is that there are vast amounts of empty land where the law forbids anybody from building anything.

Anyone who has taken Economics 1 knows that preventing the supply from rising to meet the demand means that prices are going to rise. Housing is no exception.

Yet when my wife wrote in a local Palo Alto newspaper, many years ago, that preventing the building of housing would cause existing housing to become far too expensive for most people to afford it, she was deluged with more outraged letters than I get from readers of a nationally syndicated column.

What she said was treated as blasphemy against the religion of “open space” — and open space is just one of the wonderful things about the world envisioned by liberals that is ruinously expensive in the mundane world where the rest of us live.

Much as many liberals like to put guilt trips on other people, they seldom seek out, much less acknowledge and take responsibility for, the bad consequences of their own actions.

There are people who claim that astronomical housing prices in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco are due to a scarcity of land. But there is enough vacant land (“open space”) on the other side of the 280 Freeway that goes past Palo Alto to build another Palo Alto or two — except for laws and policies that make that impossible.

As in San Francisco and other parts of the country where housing prices skyrocketed after building homes was prohibited or severely restricted, this began in Palo Alto in the 1970s.

Housing prices in Palo Alto nearly quadrupled during that decade. This was not due to expensive new houses being built, because not a single new house was built in Palo Alto in the 1970s. The same old houses simply shot up in price.

It was very much the same story in San Francisco, which was a bastion of liberalism then as now. There too, incredibly high prices are charged for small houses, often jammed close together. A local newspaper described a graduate student looking for a place to rent who was “visiting one exorbitantly priced hovel after another.”

That is part of the unacknowledged cost of “open space,” and just part of the high cost of liberalism.


  • Threnody

    That’s what worries me about you Thomas, that you can say something like: “In fact, I suspect that most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world envisioned by liberals, rather than in the kind of world envisioned by conservatives”

  • writeby

    Actually, I think that spot on.

    Consider what liberals envision: a world in which men are their brother’s keeper, a world that “gives peace a chance,” a world where men are tolerant and all cultures are equal, a world in which men love one another, a world in which sacrifice is a duty to one’s fellow man, a world where folks aren’t judgmental.

    The conservative ideal?

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. … Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you … For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses … Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 5:1-7:29; passim)

  • Brianna Aubin

    Well the world liberals envision is utopia. Of course people would want to live there, if only it weren’t fool’s gold.

  • Hilda

    In their own words, indeed.

  • Threnody

    The liberal is a collectivist, meaning the individual’s life is considered only in so far as it serves the defined group. The conservative (at least used to be consistently) a supporter of individual right to life, and thus property, as superseding whatever the group thought in its interest. Thus, it is a very odd thing for Sowell to say, based on fundamentals.
    From a Christian perspective unsullied by collectivist garbage, we see God treating each individual man as an end in himself (parable of shepherd after lost sheep.) Each man IS an end in himself by reason, IF he is to live in the universe that we find him. We read he who does not work should not eat. We find by reason man must think and act to support his life. We see freedom, even to rebel against that which is good for man, even to kill the son of God – A MAN, and the consequences.
    As for Christ’s words, you will have to take the issue seriously yourself. You may look up commentaries and studies on the translations if you wish. This means you will have to verify whatever part of what I write about this that you wish. It is not my intention to lead a stubborn donkey along by the nose. Christ was speaking of personal relations and certainly not government. The best view of it is do not return evil for evil. When Christ was struck, he did not literally turn his other cheek. The language and context of all else Christ said does not warrant the idea that the Christian should just accept passively any and all evil, such as the murder of your own child. If you are smart enough to understand the fine nuances and distinctions in philosophy, you are smart enough to realize your implications in this matter need a review in the context of Christ’s driving out of the money changers in the temple, with great anger. When you don’t take something seriously, you end up looking like it.
    Frankly, politically, all conservatives *should* seek are only the legitimate derivatives of the protection of the individual right to life.

  • Threnody

    Is it utopia? What if we all sacrificed everything for everyone else? Take their altruism to its full conclusion. It ain’t utopia. It’s death.

  • writeby

    “From a Christian perspective unsullied by collectivist garbage,
    we see God treating each individual man as an end in himself … ”

    Christianity abounds with collectivism:

    GEN 24:3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the *Canaanites*, among whom I dwell:
    24:4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. [emphasis added]

    EX 11:7 But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that yes may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the *Egyptians* and Israel. [emphasis added]

    EX 17:16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from *generation to generation*. [emphasis added]


    Not to mention the greatest collective guilty verdict in the history of existence: The *Christian* Doctrine of Original Sin.

  • Hilda

    As Writeby has correctly cited, “Christianity abounds with collectivism.” And it do so in theory and in practice. I ought to know, I was raised Catholic. The Church does indeed practice altruism and tribalism to the fullest. Thankfully, I saved myself early on by rejecting mysticism and embracing thought and reason.

  • Hilda

    Are all these quotes memorized? I went through 15 years of attempted Christian indoctrination, and even I can’t quote like that.

  • writeby

    I’ve got a db of them, Hilda. ;o) 10-years of Catholic school taught me nothing if not Aristotelian argument. The Church’s great contradiction: Plato for religion–with a heavy dose of Thomism; Aristotle for the rest.

    Of course, it also helps that I’m a freelance writer–research, bios, fiction, etc.–and an English prof, too.

    You may wish to peruse some of my stuff on CapMag:

  • writeby


    Capitalism is a system based on the ethics of rational egoism. Christianity–and by extension, Catholicism–is based on the morality of self-sacrifice (i.e., self-destruction). The (recent encyclical by the) Pontiff is consistent with his Augustinian roots.

    Fact 1: I was educated in Catholic school for approximately 10-years (1958-68). Here’s a comment from my 8th grade Dominican nun teacher: “The Church has no problem with communism. What the Church objects to–and is vehemently against–is *atheistic* communism.”

    Fact 2: , “He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world shall keepeth it unto life eternal.”

    The way to get men to hate life is to teach men a morality that demands they sacrifice earthly values.

    Rational egoism and the selfish sociopolitical system of capitalism and its self-interested politics of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the mortal enemy of the Catholic Church–and of Christianity (& Islam).

    The Pope knows this; it’s time those who love liberty learn it.

    “I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”

    “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

    –Thomas Jefferson (deist)

    The proper response to Benedict–or at least one close to it?

    “Netanyahu presented the pontiff with a book about the Spanish inquisition”

    PS. See:

    Of Living Death
    By Ayn Rand (1968)

    How religion seeks to undercut man’s self-esteem by inculcating guilt for enjoying sex—and for daring to think that his own happiness is the purpose of his life.


    Catholic Education Resource Center

    Ayn Rand: Architect of the culture of death

    PPS. See as well:



    MARCH 26, 1967

    Here is Benedict explaining the importance of the earlier work:

    “In 1967, when he issued the encyclical Populorum progressio, my venerable predecessor Pope Paul VI illuminated the great theme of the development of peoples with the splendour of truth and the gentle light of Christ’s charity.

    “At a distance of over forty years from the Encyclical’s publication, I intend to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment.”

    And Ayn Rand’s response, in full:

    “Requiem for Man” By Ayn Rand (excerpt)


    “Since the encyclical is concerned with history and with fundamental political principles, yet does not discuss or condemn any social system other than capitalism, one must conclude that all other systems are compatible with the encyclical’s political philosophy. This is supported by the fact that capitalism is condemned, not for some lesser characteristics, but for its essentials, which are not the base of any other system: the profit motive, competition, and private ownership of the means of production.

    “By what moral standard does the encyclical judge a social system? Its most specific accusation directed at capitalism reads as follows: “The desire for necessities is legitimate, and work undertaken to obtain them is a duty: ‘If any man will not work, neither let him eat.’ But acquiring of temporal goods can lead to greed, to the insatiable desire for more, and can make increased power a tempting objective. Individuals, families and nations can be overcome by avarice, be they poor or rich, and all can fall victim to a stifling materialism’ (18).”

  • writeby

    The classical view of Utopia–and from where the word originated–was Sir Thomas More’s book of the same name.

    More was a Catholic theologian–later canonized by the Catholic Church (1937), as well as honored by the Anglican Church (Church of England)–whose Utopia (1516) was “a work of fiction primarily depicting a pagan and communist island on
    which social and political customs are entirely governed by reason.”

    (Note: More was great friends with Erasmus, both disciples of Thomism, which emphasized the importance of reason. That they were all (Aquinas, More & Erasmus) also adherents of faith (of course) bothered them not. They thought the two could be reconciled.)

    You can have your Utopias–and Arthurian Camelots, Caprian Shangri-Las, Mao’s Workers’ Paradise, Levin’s Perfect Day (which he showed was but a benign despotism) and the rest.

    I’ll take a realistic capitalist society governed by a constitutionally limited republican government any day.

    IOW, give me freedom. I’ll build my own “utopia,” thank you very much.

  • Threnody

    I don’t read it in Christ. Some of us deny penal substitution theory of atonement, and so self sacrifice is not the message. Christos victor is closer. But for a capitalist like myself, who is also a Christian, I see Christ as a MAN acting as the standard of life, and in so doing, resurrected. God’s judgment then being that the life of man will not be destroyed or overcome by the religious collectivist conniving legalistic Pharisees, nor by the secular powers of collectivism, tyranny, or as with Pilot – expediency of the moment.
    The view of mistaken misinterpretation of events by the old T. jews is common. This means that the supposed claimed actions or dispositions of God in the old testament are not considered to be the correct view, necessarily.
    Again, you’ll have to look at this stuff yourself.
    My point was that the fundamentals of collectivism don’t jive with what should have remained the key tenant of conservatisim. Frankly, it is tiresome to argue the ‘true’ meanings of some of these terms, they’ve been so muddied over the years. It would be easier in a face to face discussion.

  • Threnody

    Did you?
    I await the material explanation of the intellect that retains true volition, staves off the question of epiphenomenalism, and demonstrates trustworthiness. Frankly, there is none. You have faith in the intellectual efficacy of mindless matter. Welcome to the club of faith.

  • Threnody

    I should have been more explicit when I wrote ‘unsullied by collectivist garbage.’ I didn’t mean that no one interpreted collectivism in the Christian text – of course they have, with horrendous results. What I meant was that by rejecting penal substitution (primarily), and taking care with the nature of some OT passages, that I rejected collectivism as a Christian, denying that collectivism is meant by Christ, and questioning whether all of the OT authors had the correct interpretations of what God was doing.

  • writeby

    So without God, materialism is the only option? IOW, consciousness is a product of supernaturalism.

    Consciousness requires matter to exist, but itself is not matter.

    “Consciousness is the faculty of awareness—the faculty of perceiving that which exists … One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to
    “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of non-existence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.)” –Ayn Rand

    “The hallmark of a mystic is the savagely stubborn refusal to accept the fact that consciousness, like any other existent, possesses identity, that it is a faculty of a specific nature, functioning through specific means. While the advance of civilization has been eliminating one area of magic after another, the last stand of the believers in the miraculous consists of their frantic attempts to regard identity as the disqualifying element of consciousness.

    “The implicit, but unadmitted premise of the neo-mystics of modern philosophy, is the notion that only an ineffable consciousness can acquire a valid knowledge of reality, that “true” knowledge has to be causeless, i.e., acquired without any means of cognition.” –Leonard Peikoff, “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,”

    Recommended reading: Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

    Don’t confuse this with the supernatural materialism of Marxism, in which matter “conditions” consciousness.

  • Threnody

    Right. Faith in the intellectual efficacy of mindless matter. The typical objectivist answer is to evade the issue by saying intellect comes from non-personal mindless material in some way but that this is not a philosophical question. I disagree. If you follow cause and effect, reason, and hold to volition, you must either present a rational argument for the material explanation of that sort of intellect, or you must admit your faith.
    If you want to avoid either mech materialism or dialectic materialsm for that matter, you need a rational explanation of the intellect that avoids those honest admissions . Else, you have no rational reason, just faith, that your position does not admit the non-purposed, mindless, purely mechanical development of all phenomena.

  • writeby

    Philosophy is not science, which is the specific discipline that will explain the mechanism that is the human mind.

    Consciousness exists and it’s existence can be proven. However, existence of a supernatural consciousness–and the mind as its “divine spark”–cannot. Indeed, there’s a Jupiter sized mound of evidence to the contrary.


    But cherry pick Scripture to fit your attempt to reconcile capitalism with Christianity–“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” — Arthur Conan Doyle–& wax on, my man, wax on.


  • Threnody

    Exactly. Evade. You needn’t explain scientifically the human mind. But you must admit or evade that you simply have faith in cold mindless matter. I don’t think you really know when it is proper to use QED.

    I will have faith in a personal intelligence, a God, essentially, a being that purposes and sustains the rational existence that objectivism has done, for the most part, such a good job describing. I still don’t know why you insist on ‘supernatural.’ Things either are or they are not.

    :) You and your Jupiter. There is exactly NO reason to suppose dead mindless matter should yield the non-material, truly volitional, intellect, in a way that has necessary contact with reality in a way that can be relied upon. What general properties of matter would we even tentatively suppose would lead to the spirit and intellect so well described by Miss Rand?
    As for your Doyle quote – that is what you’re doing as you can not give either data to suggest matter to intellect, nor give philosophical reasons why we should suspect matter with properties inherent only to itself should yield a volitional reliable intellect.
    But no need to get testy — politically, we agree, I think. Government should simply defend individual right to life and thus property. I have no wish to use the power of govt to force religion of any sort, even yours, and am very much disappointed in those who do. On the other hand, if we are stuck with govt force schools, then both sides must admit that their is faith involved either in material mechanics within matter, or in a personal consciousness purposing events within matter.

    Ta ta!

  • Hilda

    Thank you for pointing me to your writings on this site. It was such a pleasure to read, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Your
    elation and excitement about the launching of Apollo 11 is very well dramatized by your approach in the piece. As I read, I could hear the silence and feel the suspense during the 8 and 9/10 seconds. It was fun and happy reading. I look forward to reading more of your columns.

    P.S. Nice photo of you. You have a very distinguished look about you.

  • Hilda

    “I was educated in Catholic school for approximately 10-years (1958-68). Here’s a comment from my 8th grade Dominican nun teacher: “The Church has no problem with communism. What the Church objects to–and is vehemently against–is *atheistic* communism.”

    Baffling! Was this nun not aware of the millions of individuals murdered or starved by communist regimes: China, Cambodia, Cuba, Soviet Union, North Korea, Germany…? How leftists and religionists just gloss over or completely ignore this fact is unforgivable.

    I love Jefferson’s comments on religion. Superb! And Netanyahu’s response to the Pope could not be more eloquent. Throw back at them their own words and actions!

    “How religion seeks to undercut man’s self-esteem by inculcating guilt for enjoying sex—and for daring to think that his own happiness is the purpose of his life.”

    That has always one of my biggest gripes with Christianity, in
    particular Catholicism. When I began to question religion and the existence of God (I was about 12-13), one of my questions was, “If we are born to the likeness of God and God is good, then why is our sexuality, which we are born with, something to be ashamed of? Why should I be ashamed of my body?” But these questions were never addressed by the people who made these assertions. Before I learned about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I grew to understand that our sexuality and the pleasure we derive from it is a good thing and that both should be embraced.

    Attending a Catholic h.s. only hastened my atheism. My atheism was solidified by the incoherent and mystical ramblings of priests and nuns who rather than addressing questions they had no answer to, would try to either belittle you or tell you it was a matter of faith.

    The other big gripe I have with religion is the group-think and tribalism it foments. I guess it’s part of the collectivist mentality you mention above. My disagreement with religion is the reason I had a falling out people who were once very close to me. And yet another gripe I have with Christianity is its demand for and lauding of sacrifice, but I’m sure I’d be preaching to the choir about that.

    Discovering Ayn Rand in my late 20s was about the best thing that could have happened to me. I felt redeemed after reading the Virtue of Selfishness and her novels. I really should read more of her non-fiction.

    Thank you for all the links. Will check them out as I have time.