Dave and Laura

Dave lived with his wife, Laura, in the free republic of Freeman. Individual rights were honored and there were, of course, no taxes. Dave, looking at the news story on TV about a cyclone in Indonesia, which had killed thousands of people and left millions homeless, said, “Oh, that’s terrible. I think our government should start taxing us so it can send relief and aid to Indonesia.”

Laura exclaimed, “What?! Have you gone off your rocker? You want our government to initiate evil against us, against me, your relatives, your friends, against every honest man and woman in Freeman, just because you feel sorry for total strangers? That would be an injustice and you know it. Why would you want such an evil act committed against people you honor, value and love?”

“Well, because strangers are strangers, and strangers are the best people I’ll ever know.”

“What do you know about them?”

“Well, they’re strangers for one thing, and for another, they suffer.”

“If your friends rights were violated with taxation, wouldn’t they suffer?”

“Well, yeah, but they’re not strangers.”

“So, it’s okay if someone you know suffers, but not okay if a stranger suffers? Why?”

“Well, a stranger’s suffering, especially if he’s far away, is harder for me to take.”

“So, if we discovered that there were humans living on Pluto, and they were suffering, it would drive you out of your mind?”

“Oh, what a terrible thought. I couldn’t bear it! And if they lived in another galaxy I’d have to commit suicide, I’d be in such pain!”

“Why?”

“Well, I think it’s because the less I know about someone who is suffering the more I know something should be done about it.”

“So, you’re saying ignorance is knowledge, and that the less you know about people the more you care for them?”

“That’s it! Ignorance is bliss, and when I’m ignorant about someone, especially if he’s suffering, I’m happy as a lark!”

“So if I told you that that news story on TV was just a fake to test people’s responses, and that all those people in Indonesia were healthy and happy, you wouldn’t care about them anymore?”

“No, I wouldn’t. Without suffering in the world, it would all be pointless.”

“What is the point of suffering?”

“To make everyone suffer, so that everyone can be happy.”

Dave, can we stop playing this game now? I think I’m well enough versed in the stupid evil of altruism.”

“You are, my dear. You are.”

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