LONDON—While preparing to travel to London this week, I missed a sad event, the death of Kenneth Minogue. Had not death caught up with him I doubtless would be calling him this week for one of our jovial meetings in London where he was long associated with the London School of Economics and part of a grand tradition that included Maurice Cranston and Michael Oakshott. Kenneth was a great wit, but also one of the most learned men on the planet and blessed with an analytical mind that was very astute and very original.
I well remember back in my days as a graduate student when my Ph.D. advisor Charlie Hyneman, a liberal sage who also had instructed Hubert Humphrey and a string of luminaries and public people, urged I read a book by an obscure British political philosopher, Kenneth Minogue. Charlie incidentally was making his short and not very painful peregrination from academic liberalism—he was the very distinguished head of the American Political Science Association, among other things—to conservatism.
The book was The Liberal Mind, and if Kenneth never wrote another book—he wrote many others—this one would have sealed his reputation as least for me. In it he explained the motivation for all the liberals’ good causes and many of their fla fla causes. I have quoted him repeatedly in my writings. He wrote of the “suffering situation,” that is to say, the perceived wrong supposedly suffered by some group that sets off a huge crusade among the enlightened, the liberals. The condition of the blacks in America and eventually the whole wide world, the condition of the poor and even those suffering some sort of income disparity, the condition of women, of gays, of household pets—you name it, they all have provoked the liberals’ good works and resorted to the police powers of government.
I think the liberals’ increasingly desperate search for suffering situations explains their near-hysteria over gays. Surely America could have found a peaceful relaxed way to see that tolerance of homosexuals could have been reached without the great uproar of the campaign for homosexual marriage and all the rest of the hubbub that has gone with this latest Marxian struggle for “human rights.” Yet there are few suffering situations left. You think I am being facetious when I refer to the suffering of household pets. Yet surely the alleged suffering of animals has attracted liberals. Yet the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ early campaigns against fishing, hunting, and the use of laboratory animals are obvious precursors to the so-called liberals campaign for… if not human rights then perhaps planetary rights.
Well, Kenneth was the first to spot this absurdity, the suffering situation indeed! As his life went on he spotted many other aspects of politics worthy of our consideration. And so this week in London will be a little quieter without him, but I shall remember with heightened poignancy that the life of the mind has been leant sparkle and rigor by the life of Kenneth Minogue.
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