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What’s Wrong with Benevolence: Happiness, Private Property, and the Limits of Enlightenment Hardcover – July 19, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594035237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594035234
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

According to some, the Australian philosopher David Stove (1927-1994) may have been the late-twentieth century’s “funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense,” far better than authors such as G.E. Moore and J.L. Austin. According to others, he was little more than a political reactionary, a social commentator whose oft-cited books (including The Plato Cult and Scientific Irrationalism) are best left unopened. Since his death in 1994, four new collections of his writings have appeared.

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on July 20, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I owe Roger Kimball a lot for his "discovery" of the late Australian philosopher David Stove. Stove is very definitely a man in near-total disagreement with the "received ideas" of his time.

In other essays, Stove makes intelligent attacks on Darwinian evolution and the equality of women, if you can imagine such things! (!! Even "worse," reading those essays may make you wonder whether he is actually right.)

In this book, Stove takes on the unquestioned virtue of benevolence, and by the time he is done with it, it is a pathetic, pretentious thing with its clothes in tatters, desperately needing something to cover its ugly core --- which is, of course, our inborn need to feel good about ourselves. (I mean, who really cares about the poor? And, really, what is to be done about the poor? Writing a check to the government relieves so many anxieties!)

But Stove goes back to Malthus (and makes me really want to read Malthus, but not the first edition) and basically makes the economic argument of "you get what you pay for." Beginning with the English Poor Laws, the wonders of benevolence went like this: a certain fragment of the population was deemed worthy of subsidy, and so (of course) others were taxed to pay for that subsidy. Those "others" included people who were very near poverty, and the additional taxes actually forced them into poverty. As a result, with the coming of the new year, there were (amazingly) MORE poor people, rather than less.

I can't summarize the book here, of course, but I would suggest reading it with another book which lefties really hate, Charles Murray's
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alexander 162 on September 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author explains a paradigm that is so entrenched, so unquestioned, so universally assumed that it takes a while to wrap one's mind around this obvious glaring fault in European progressive thought. He writes clearly in layman's terms and gives historical context. Members of ethnic groups(I myself am African American) who are the recipients of much enlightened benevolence and its co-morbid dysfunction will be truly enlightened.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Donald J. Keck on September 5, 2011
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Australian philosopher David Stove hits the nail on the head with this treatise on what he calls "Enlightened Benevolence," a term of art which encompasses a vast array of liberal and radical thinkers from Voltaire and Rousseau in the 18th Century to John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx in the 19th Century to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Lord Beveridge, and V.I. Lenin in the 20th Century, to the entire cast of 21st Century Liberals, Social Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Welfare Statists and other brands of Marxist fellow feelers. He illuminates what all of these true believers in Enlightened Benevolence have in common - something that is usually obscured by the obfuscations of liberal politicians, the media, and academia. He demonstrates that they are all sleeping in the same intellectual bed, and why they are so comfortable sleeping together (although they will, of course, deny it when accused of sleeping around.) It is the conviction of their own superior intelligence which enables them to know what is best for the rest of us, and their uniquely benevolent intentions in managing and directing our lives, regardless of the actual consequences that may befall us as a result.

I have only one quibble with his argument. In Chapter 13 Stove insists that all of these blundering buffoons (even Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the greatest mass murderers in history) should be judged by the sincerity of their intentions, which are always and everywhere to do the greatest good for the greatest number of their victims. Here I profoundly disagree with Stove's analysis. To take this position is to concede the moral argument to the so called Enlightened Benevolents. By his definition all of their crimes can be justified and excused as unfortunate errors in their noble effort to do good for mankind.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Francsois on January 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read quite a few books on the evils of socialism, but this book gets to the core of why socialism etc. is useless and harmful. Stove peels all the way to the bottom layer of the onion, benevolence. He clearly explains where it originates, how it has been applied and why it will never work, and lastly what one should do about it (not a happy ending, I'm afraid). The book is easy to read, but not simplistic. Stove is a gifted thinker, you should read this book.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Chapin on July 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Length: 7:07 Mins
I love the great Australian philosopher, David Stove, and am very glad this collection was re-issued.
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