“Nihilism denies that there are any objective grounds for truth, especially regarding morality.” – Tom Lindsey
And Nihilism’s child is post-modernism.
Lindsey is talking about the recent outcry among liberal professors concerning the stifling of speech on campus due to … feelings. Lindsey continues:
True enough. But I wonder whether Schlosser or Kipnis, or most of academe, understand fully the depths of the Academy’s complicity in the atrocities they cite. Take for example, my own field, political science, which, like all the modern social sciences, is grounded in a radical distinction between “facts” and “values, “ according to which, facts alone are knowable, because “empirically verifiable” (provable using only the five senses). Values, in this account, are subjective preferences regarding facts. Hence, for social science, the terms “right,” “wrong,” “just, and “unjust” are unknowable by reason or science.
And there’s the rub: Neither the academic freedom for which Schlosser and Kipnis rightly plea nor political freedom can be defended authoritatively on the basis of the moral-cultural relativism (often termed, “postmodernism”) taught today in the social sciences and the humanities. Why?
If all “values” (moral principles) are equal due to being equally unprovable through reason, then the embrace in the West of values such as political liberty, tolerance, equality, and the rule of law are demoted to mere “subjective preferences,” which are no better or worse than their opposites—slavery, intolerance, inequality, and tyranny. But while the postmodern Academy asserts reason’s impotence at answering life’s deepest questions, it simultaneously denies that we are capable of the “moral neutrality” that seems to follow from relativism. Simply put, they teach that we have no rational basis to make “value judgements,” but neither can we avoid making them.
And that’s what we face today. As “Schlosser” said, “a simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice” has produced “higher ed’s current climate of fear,” enforced through a “heavily policed discourse of semantic sensitivity.”
We’ve heard about the application in academia and how, now, some liberal professors are pushing back. But it isn’t just academia which is infected with this nonsense. Society at large is also becoming more and more infected with it – likely the product of the left’s constant pursuit of Nihilism since the ’60s at least. How many times have you been told that we are not “fit to judge” another’s culture or choices? How dare we assert “right” and “wrong”. It’s all relative. And thus everything is acceptable.
Except when it isn’t.
Take the case of Rachel Dolezel. The most significant “judgement” I’ve seen of her deceitful life is to be found in, of all publications, in Salon.
So this isn’t about being an ally, or making the family of your choosing, or even how one feels on the inside. It’s about, apparently, flat out deception. It’s about how one person chose to obtain a college education and jobs and credibility in her community. It about allegedly pretending to speak from a racial experience you simply don’t have. You want to live your truth, that’s not how you go about it. And it’s an insult to anyone honestly trying to do just that to suggest anything otherwise, for even a moment.
Even this denouncement is careful though. Note the qualifier – “You want to live your truth, that’s not how you go about it.”
Anyone know what that’s about? That’s about carving out an exception to the basic rule of the left that you can indeed make up your own “truth” if you go about it an acceptable way. I’m not sure who gets to judge what is “acceptable” in the world of non-judgement, but there you go.
Rachel Dolezal is a fraud and a fake. It really doesn’t make any difference what her intent was given she has lied and defrauded her way to her present position … or former position given she resigned from the NAACP. She is what she is – white bread as white bread can be. Even her art is a fraud.
So how did someone so fraudulent rise to the level she did?
Well, it’s the wages of being “non-judgemental”. Naively accepting. In this world, you just accept on its face the claims of someone like Dolezal. You let them invent their “victimhood” and revel in it. “Authenticity” is more important than the truth even if the authenticity is counterfeit. A good and useful story is much more important than facts.
It’s about “need” – on both sides. The “need” of Rachel Dolezal to be someone other than she is. And the “need” of those who are “authentically” black to have a “victim” to point too and say, “See! Racism”. She claims to have been the victim of “8 documented hate crimes”. How perfectly lovely. The fact that they pretty much all were found to be baseless isn’t important.
Why was she allowed to go on without questioning? Because she was politically useful. Because she represented a narrative that many want to perpetuate.
And, as with most liars who have told the story so often they begin to believe it, she’s now rationalizing her actions and denying a problem. Her rationalization “I’ve always identified as black” somehow justifies her deceit and she believes her declaration is all that is necessary to provide “truth” to the matter. To her it justifies all her actions, her lies and her misrepresentations. What’s awful and hilarious at the same time is she has allies in this endeavor.
The “deny reality” brigade have so programmed some that they believe that whatever you “believe” to be true is true, even if the reality that everyone else deals in daily says you’re full of beans.
And thus we’re at the point, now being discovered in academia by the left, where “feelings” rule over “reality”.
Lindsey provides us with a quote in closing (remember that he’s talking academia primarily);
“I sit with Shakespeare, and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas. . . . I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America?”
Who is he quoting? Well someone Dolezal claimed we who wouldn’t “understand” about race should read – W.E.B. Dubose.
I wonder what he’d think of her sham life or the moral relativity she and others champion.
The quote says, at least to me, that he wouldn’t be too friendly to the idea.
I’m always intrigued when I find this sort of nonsense about “equality” being trotted out as anything but stupidity on a stick. But here we go:
‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.
‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’
Once he got thinking, Swift could see that the issue stretches well beyond the fact that some families can afford private schooling, nannies, tutors, and houses in good suburbs. Functional family interactions—from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories—form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.
So, what to do?
According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.
‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’
Instrumental position? I’m not sure what that means, but in the larger sense, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a philosopher got it wrong because everything was based on a false premise. That somehow the “family” is at the root of inequality of opportunity. In reality, as you’ll see, he’s not at all interested in equality of opportunity. He’s more interested in equality of outcome. To make that happen, you have to control the variables.
But there’s more to this examination by philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse. The premise is nonsense as history has proven. To their credit, Swift and Brighouse sort of get it, but they have a goal in mind, so they really don’t. They just hide the goal in a bunch of blathering about families and “equality” and attempt to convince you they’re pushing “equality of opportunity”.
‘Nearly everyone who has thought about this would conclude that it is a really bad idea to be raised by state institutions, unless something has gone wrong,’ he says.
Intuitively it doesn’t feel right, but for a philosopher, solutions require more than an initial reaction. So Swift and his college Brighouse set to work on a respectable analytical defence of the family, asking themselves the deceptively simple question: ‘Why are families a good thing exactly?’
Not surprisingly, it begins with kids and ends with parents.
‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,’ says Swift. ‘From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.’
He concedes parenting might not be for everyone and for some it can go badly wrong, but in general it is an irreplaceable relationship.
‘Parenting a child makes for what we call a distinctive and special contribution to the flourishing and wellbeing of adults.’
It seems that from both the child’s and adult’s point of view there is something to be said about living in a family way. This doesn’t exactly parry the criticism that families exacerbate social inequality.
Here comes the “but” however. And it leads to the very same place it always does:
Swift and Brighouse needed to sort out those activities that contribute to unnecessary inequality from those that don’t.
‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.
The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.
Got that? In case you missed it they said “what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children.” Control in the name of “equality” as defined by … who?
My next question was “who is ‘we'” and by what right do ‘we’ pretend to have the power to allow or disallow activities that parents determine might help their children and are within their power to give them? Certainly not me? You? Who?
I think we all know.
Now we arrive at “equality” crap. Equality has somehow become the standard by which you must live your life. In the US, equality has always meant equality of opportunity, equality before the law, etc. The leftist view has always been “equality of outcome” and has spawned such monstrosities as socialism and communism in its name. Where these two are headed is toward the latter. And how do that do that? By the fact that they’re interested in restricting parents in what they can do for their children so the outcome is more likely to be “equal”.
For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.
‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’
We’ve now pretty arbitrarily defined “familial relationship good” and we’ve decided that certain things don’t really contribute that to which we’ve now restricted parents – producing familial relationship goods. And while research points to bedtime stories as being much more of an advantage to those who get them than private schooling, the intimacy of such a “product” and the trouble enforcing their ban (and its unpopularity) see them wave it off … for now.
‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says.
This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted. In Swift’s mind this is where the evaluation of familial relationship goods goes up a notch.
‘You have to allow parents to engage in bedtime stories activities, in fact we encourage them because those are the kinds of interactions between parents and children that do indeed foster and produce these [desired] familial relationship goods.’
But, as they finally admit, it isn’t really just about fostering and producing familial relationship goods so much as “leveling the playing field”. So out of necessity, the family goods list must be short and universal, or they’re a “no-go”. They just can’t seem to find a way to make the family unit regressive enough to go after it, so they’re reduced to going after things that may provide an advantage to some children over others – like private schools.
Now these two have taken a ration of grief based on click bait headlines which have claimed they’re for the abolition of the family. Well, they’re not, really. But they are for “leveling the playing field” – i.e. that is the goal of this exercise. So they’re not at all above finding ways to restrict families who might be able to provide activities and events that they feel (see the arbitrariness creeping in) provide advantages to their children that others don’t enjoy.
It’s certainly not a stretch to believe they’d be fine with doing away with family vacations – after all, not all children can afford to go on vacations and the advantages they would provide to those who can would lead to “inequality”. And besides, they’re not necessary to produce “these desired familial relationship goods”, are they? Special summer camps? Yeah, no, sorry. A voice coach? Really? You have to ask?
You get the point. Everyone hates the word “elite” so load your discussion with those type trigger words. Imply that you don’t want to hurt the family, but you do want the “children” to have equal opportunity. And ease them into these restrictions you propose with one that is viscerally easy for the vast majority who don’t have children who attend “elite” private schools. A little class warfare always helps.
Folks, this isn’t “philosophy”, this is socialist snake oil in a new package. Once you’ve seen it, you never forget what it is regardless of how they dress it up or pitch it.
Even Michael Moore thinks that ObamaCare is a disaster. And that’s saying something when a big government liberal (socialist?) finds a big government program to be … well, just awful. But, as Allahpundit over at Hot Air points out, what do you suspect Moore’s solution might be?
I was just thinking yesterday, “I wonder what a guy who supports CastroCare thinks we should do to fix ObamaCare?” If you can’t guess, read this. If you can, why bother? His big knock on O-Care is true enough — “affordable” care ain’t so affordable — but you already knew that, just like you already know what he thinks should be done about it. The solution togross mismanagement of the federal exchange, capricious deadline-shifting driven by political whim, and tens of trillions in unfunded Medicare liabilities is, obviously, a bigger role for government in health care. There’s no problem with liberalism that socialism can’t solve.
It doesn’t occur to Moore that the problem is two-fold – government’s inability to run any large program efficiently as well as the fact that because of it’s inefficiency, we can’t afford his solution. Not to mention that my health care isn’t any of the government’s business. Then, of course, in Moore’s case, there’s the fact that he was snookered by CastroCare.
But it all comes down to a fairly basic problem. Most on the left, Moore included, really don’t understand how an economy works, where money actually comes from and how markets make wealth possible. Apparently they actually believe that the government “has money” or it falls from the sky or whatever. Then there is this innate belief that big government is the solution to all our ills, despite the fact that they can’t point to a single example of where that is true and won’t acknowledge the fact that many of the problems we face today are a product of big government.
When you don’t understand how wealth is produced or how money is earned, you have a tendency to believe in underpants gnomes. The second part of the process is always an unknown or a mystery, but you’re sure that the result will be a positive. So you tend to believe in the fantasy of big government being both efficient and beneficial.
Be clear, I’m not saying that all government is bad or that there aren’t certain parts that are beneficial. There are very limited aspects of government that I think are both necessary and beneficial. But what we have today – this inefficient monstrosity that is in every area of our life run by an ossified bureaucracy more interested in its survival than serving the public and politicians who aid and abet that bureaucracy – is not at all necessary or beneficial.
Yet the Michael Moore’s of the world seem to think that the way you clean up a big government mess is by making government bigger. Apparently in the underpants gnome world of liberals, there’s a point where big government, if expanded enough, suddenly becomes efficient.
Very interesting read today by David Gordon in “Minding the Campus” (via Insty). In his piece he talks about the subject of history being at present in the best of times and in the worst of times, to mangle Dickens.
What am I talking about? Well, the blog in which Gordon’s article appears subs its title with “Reforming our Universities”.
Why is that important? We’ve talked about it in the past. It is where liberal America has set up shop for decades. And the effect is never been stronger than now. In fact, a lot of what you see as the changing attitudes in America can, I think – at least in part – be traced to academia.
Gordon notes its beginning:
This extraordinary bias began in the late 1960s with the anti-Vietnam war protests. Many participants, at least those who subsequently went into academia, have never gotten over it. Their fossilized views have made their own disciplines largely museums of dead ideologies. Another of the remarkable changes within the historical profession has been the growth of women’s history. With only a negligible representation in 1975, almost 10% of all historians today identify themselves as historians of gender and women’s affairs.
What bias is Gordon talking about? Well it’s a bias that he sees as “mangling history” to our detriment:
The evolution of the historical profession in the United States in the last fifty years provides much reason for celebration. It provides even more reason for unhappiness and dread. Never before has the profession seemed so intellectually vibrant. An unprecedented amount of scholarship and teaching is being devoted to regions outside of the traditional American concentration on itself and Europe. New subjects of enquiry — gender, race and ethnicity — have developed. Never have historians been so influenced by the methodology and contributions of other disciplines, from anthropology to sociology.
At the same time, never has the historical profession been so threatened. Political correctness has both narrowed and distorted enquiry. Traditional fields demanding intellectual rigor, such as economic and intellectual history, are in decline. Even worse, education about Western civilization and the Enlightenment, that font of American liberties, and the foundation of modern industrial, scientific and liberal world civilization, has come to be treated with increasing disdain at colleges and universities.
Now call me crazy, but you can see easily the effect of what Gordon is talking about today in the last election. Increasingly students (and that includes further down the academic chain in high schools) know less and less about our history and traditions and more and more about, well, women’s studies, gender studies, things which have little bearing on economic and intellectual history – for instance:
The problem with this is that it has helped force out many other kinds of historical enquiry. It is important to emphasize women’s role in society and in history. However, it is difficult to see how a feminist perspective could contribute very much to a purely economic history of the English industrial revolution (as opposed to its social consequences), or to a diplomatic history of Europe between the Napoleonic and the First World War. As a result, these kinds of studies are receiving ever less attention.
We all understand that women and minorities were mistreated. Got it. And we all know that was wrong, with 21st Century hindsight. But what happened back when all that bad stuff was going on, in terms of economic and intellectual history, is still critically important today.
Instead history’s “new focus” has helped bolster both the “victimization” and “entitlement” mentality:
Worst of all, women’s history has contributed to the current holy trinity of race, gender and class that dominates the historical profession. Under normal circumstances, the tight focus on victimization would soon fade. Since oppression studies explain so little, they soon become boring. But, as a part of a political chorus demanding ever-more extravagant entitlements for key voting groups, an essential part of the identity politics that is so destructive of national unity, the trinity is ensured a long life. Historians can grow tired of an intellectual movement. Politicians of a useful political tool, never.
There is also something else beyond the fanciful and fraudulent political and academic rhetoric of “equal opportunity – affirmative action.” That is jobs. Key voting groups designated as oppressed have been hired preferentially in the academy, most especially in the social sciences, including history. To justify these preferences, historians of gender and race must keep emphasizing oppression. How otherwise can their privileges be justified? Hence, the refiguring history to justify their positions in the professoriate.
We used to hear people laugh derisively when someone mentioned “political correctness”. But what you’re reading here is an example of political correctness run amok.
And it’s effect? Read James Taranto’s piece in the WSJ today. It’s an incredible example of political correctness gone nuts. I’m talking about Emily Yoffe’s answer to an obviously absurdly insensitive question addressed to her. However, her answer, among much of the left, is both appropriate and “correct”. It’s what they believe. It’s what they’ve been taught.
Will it get worse? Well, Gordon seems to think it will:
A remarkable generational change is also coming. Most of the historians in the declining fields, economic, intellectual and diplomatic history, earned their degrees more than 30 years ago. At the same time, more than 50% of the new PhDs are now trained in women and gender history, in cultural history (a watered-down version of social history), in world and African-American history. This is going to make an extraordinary difference in what kind of scholarship will continue to be undertaken, and how the past will be taught. The history profession, seemingly innovative and robust, is in fact intellectually debilitated, and sadly reduced in scope.
If you think it is bad in the history department, you’ve seen what is going on in the science department (
global warming climate change “science”).
Many have been hinting for years that the culture battle – the battle between individualism and freedom v. collectivism and entitlement- is being lost in academia. Gordon manages to put an exclamation point to the claim. One of the reasons our population knows less and less about economic and our intellectual history is because it has been waylaid and replaced with “disciplines” which stress entitlement and victimization.
Is it then a surprise when more and more of the population view themselves and this country through those lenses? And is it then any more surprising when they perceive government – more and more government – as the answer? Again, it’s what they’ve been taught.
It’s not like we haven’t seen where we’re headed before. One of the reasons for the war on individualism? Because it yields a desired result, a result, unfortunately, all to common in our history.
Auberon Herbert (via the WSJ) in "The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State", written in 1894, provides the lesson we’ve still apparently not learned:
We are fast getting rid of emperors and kings and dominant churches, as far as the mere outward form is concerned, but the soul of these men and these institutions is still living and breathing within us. We still want to exercise power, we still want to drive men our own way, and to possess the mind and body of our brothers as well as of our own selves. The only difference is that we do it in the name of a majority instead of in the name of divine right. . . .
In this case the possession of power would necessarily confer upon those who gained it such enormous privileges—if we are to speak of the miserable task of compulsion as privileges—the privileges of establishing and enforcing their own views in all matters, of treading out and suppressing the views to which they are opposed, of arranging and distributing all property, of regulating all occupations, that all those who still retained sufficient courage and energy to have views of their own would be condemned to live organized for ceaseless and bitter strife with each other.
In presence of unlimited power lodged in the hands of those who govern, in the absence of any universal acknowledgment of individual rights, the stakes for which men played would be so terribly great that they would shrink from no means to keep power out of the hands of their opponents. Not only would the scrupulous man become unscrupulous, and the pitiful man cruel, but the parties into which society divided itself would begin to perceive that to destroy or be destroyed was the one choice lying in front of them.
Sound familiar to anyone?
There’s a quote going around from Timothy Geithner that again demonstrates why he has no business heading the Treasury Department.
In it he says things which are hard to attribute to a Treasury Secretary but certainly indicative of someone who could be labeled a political hack.
"That’s the kind of balance you need," said Geithner. "Why is that the case? Because if you don’t try to generate more revenues through tax reform, if you don’t ask, you know, the most fortunate Americans to bear a slightly larger burden of the privilege of being an American, then you have to — the only way to achieve fiscal sustainability is through unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for middle class seniors, or unacceptably deep cuts in national security." [emphasis mine]
James Pethokoukis literally takes this quote apart line by line and makes the technical argument as to why it is poppycock. It’s worth the read.
However, I’m most interested in those phrases I’ve emphasized in a more cultural/political/philosophical vein.
Since when do Americans, any Americans, have to pay government for the “privilege of being an American?”
I can’t think of a quote that more starkly differentiates the philosophies of right and left than Geithner’s. At its base it points to a philosophy that puts the state and collectivism before the individual and liberty. It is the polar opposite of the philosophy on which this country was founded. It is a mindset which must constantly be exposed and rejected.
We, as Americans, don’t pay anyone for any such “privilege”, and certainly not government. But the Elizabeth Warrens, Tim Geithners and Barack Obamas of world believe otherwise.
That statement tells one all they need to know about a philosophy that drives this current administration and much of the left. Americans, apparently, exist to serve government (and pay whatever cost government deems necessary) and not the other way around. The fact that they’re only attempting to use the “rich” in this case doesn’t mask the fact that they don’t limit this belief to only the “rich”. It’s just that politically, that’s all they can get away with at the moment. Make no mistake, they are elitists and collectivists and the path they want to take this country down is a path of limited liberty and no return.
As to the final emphasized phrase, note the false dichotomy. It is as fallacious as any argument you’ll ever see. The “only” way to achieve fiscal sustainability is by cutting only those two programs?
There are entire executive departments, agencies and bureaus which could be dismissed and cut before either of those other areas had to be touched. There are literally billions of dollars that could be saved by reducing government at all levels. To pretend that the only solution is to make “deep cuts” in benefits for “middle class seniors” or “national security” is the biggest crock of crap yet foisted on the American people since Al Gore invented his get rich quick scheme called global warming.
Obviously both of the areas mentioned by Geithner are areas in which cuts must and will be made. But it is pure and unadulterated sophistry to pretend that they alone will suffer if we don’t tax the ‘rich’ for the ‘privilege of being an American’.
I can’t tell you how much Geithner’s words rankle me. It is people like he, Obama and Warren that must be shown the door (or, in Warren’s case, never let in the door), politically speaking. They are a danger to liberty and freedom. The philosophy under which they operate is unacceptable and as I’ve said many times, must be defeated.
If you value your liberty at all, I suspect you feel the same way. How we got to this point, where high government officials feel comfortable saying such nonsense should bother you. It points to a tacit acceptance of their view by many. To those who love liberty, their view is unacceptable. It just makes you wonder how many of us are left that actually do value and love liberty, doesn’t it?
When I was at CPAC, I asked Santorum voters why he was their man. Almost to a person, they cited the fact that he was the most “consistent conservative”. If that’s the case, is this what “consistent conservatives” believe?
I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.
Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do. That’s why we regulate gambling. You have a big commission here that regulates gambling, for a reason.
I opposed gaming in Pennsylvania . . . A lot of people obviously don’t responsibly gamble and lose a lot and end up in not so great economic straits as a result of that. I believe there should be limitations.
If you’re not aghast then you’re not paying attention. The question posed to Santorum concerned online gambling.
Swap “gambling” with about any freedom you can imagine and run it through that statement. You should be terrified. This is an argument almost any liberal or “progressive” would make to limit your freedoms. They consider freedom and rights to be government granted (or they don’t exist until government says they exist – and folks that’s not a “right”, that’s a privilege). They reserve the right to limit your freedom to make you conform to their idea of what is “right” or “good”.
Here’s a simple solution Mr. Santorum. If you oppose online gambling, don’t do it. But his argument here is fundamentally anti-freedom. It is his decision to limit your choice to act by claiming your action is destructive and must be “limited” by government do-gooders.
It is the very argument that I thought conservatives opposed.
How is this smaller and less intrusive government? And, more importantly, how is this not translatable as a philosophy, to just about anything you can imagine that Rick Santorum finds objectionable?
At Powerline, John Hinderaker points to an article by Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph and ponders the question she asks – “why has the collapse of Communism had so little impact on political discourse in the West?”
[I]n spite of the official agreement that there is no other way to organise the economic life of a free society than the present one (with a few tweaks), there are an awful lot of people implicitly behaving as if there were. Several political armies seem to be running on the assumption that there is still a viable contest between capitalism and Something Else.
If this were just the hard Left within a few trade unions and a fringe collection of Socialist Workers’ Party headbangers, it would not much matter. But the truth is that a good proportion of the population harbours a vague notion that there exists a whole other way of doing things that is inherently more benign and “fair” – in which nobody is hurt or disadvantaged – available for the choosing, if only politicians had the will or the generosity to embrace it.
Why do they believe this? Because the lesson that should have been absorbed at the tumultuous end of the last century never found its way into popular thinking – or even into the canon of educated political debate. …
he fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism which followed it are hugely important to any proper understanding of the present world and of the contemporary political economy. Why is it that they have failed to be addressed with anything like their appropriate awesome significance, let alone found their place in the sixth-form curriculum?
The failure of communism should have been, after all, not just a turning point in geo-political power – the ending of the Cold War and the break-up of the Warsaw Pact – but in modern thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy, about collectivism vs individualism, and about public vs private power. Where was the discussion, the trenchant analysis, or the fundamental debate about how and why the collectivist solutions failed, which should have been so pervasive that it would have percolated down from the educated classes to the bright 18-year-olds? Fascism is so thoroughly (and, of course, rightly) repudiated that even the use of the word as a casual slur is considered slanderous, while communism, which enslaved more people for longer (and also committed mass murder), is regarded with almost sentimental condescension. …
[I]n our everyday politics, we still seem to be unable to make up our minds about the moral superiority of the free market. We are still ambivalent about the value of competition, which remains a dirty word when applied, for example, to health care. We continue to long for some utopian formula that will rule out the possibility of inequalities of wealth, or even of social advantages such as intelligence and personal confidence.
The idea that no system – not even a totalitarian one – could ensure such a total eradication of “unfairness” without eliminating the distinguishing traits of individual human beings was one of the lessons learnt by the Soviet experiment. The attempt to abolish unfairness based on class was replaced by corruption and a new hierarchy based on party status.
If the European intellectual elite had not been so compromised by its own broad acceptance of collectivist beliefs, maybe we would have had a genuine, far-reaching re-appraisal of the entire ideological framework. [Emphasis mine].
We could spend a week discussing any of those highlighted passages, but the question remains – why? In fact, if you think about it, the collapse of communism was all but shrugged off by the left. It wasn’t, as it seemed, of any consequence to their ideology. In fact, for the most part, other than a few “good riddance” quotes, it was business as usual for the left, pushing many of the same ideological principles that underpinned communism as if they were not a reason for that horrific system’s collapse.
As Daley says, its failure should have been a turning point in geo-political power and thinking about the state and its relationship to the economy. But instead there was silence while left leaning governments both here and in Europe doubled down on state intrusion into the economies of their respective states.
The key is to be found in the last emphasized sentence. Unfortunately, there has been a sea-change in much of our thinking which has indeed seen a “broad acceptance” of “collectivist beliefs”. If ObamaCare leaped to your mind immediately, what actually makes the point is Medicare Part D. That’s the “broad acceptance” necessary – compromise of principle on the right – to carry this sort of an agenda forward.
Sure ObamaCare was passed without a single GOP vote, but it was set up by many past GOP compromises. The problem is the right has allowed the left to define both the playing field and the principles of play. It has also framed what little discussion that goes on. It has decided on envy as its vehicle and class warfare as its methodology. And the right has meekly accepted those parameters. Watch the current crop of GOP candidates spend much of their time apologizing for their success instead of celebrating it and tell me the propaganda war hasn’t gone to the left.
And on the left? Why has the result of communism’s collapse been essentially ignored? For two reasons. John Hideraker’s take on the left for one:
I think a very partial answer to the question Ms. Daley poses is that leftism has never been based on idealism. It has always been based, for the most part, on hate and envy. So when Communism was conclusively proved to be a failure, leftists (including not only leftists in politics, but more important, leftists in the media and in academia) didn’t change their minds or admit their mistake. For in their eyes, while there may have been disappointment, there was no mistake. Their resentments and hatreds remained. They merely sought other vehicles, other terminologies, other tactics to bring down the West and the free enterprise system and democratic institutions that define it. Yesterday’s socialists are today’s progressives. They barely missed a beat.
I think there is a lot of truth to that analysis, although I’d quibble somewhat on the dismissal of idealism. I’ve always said the left never viewed communism as a systemic failure but more of a failure based on the fact that the wrong people were executing the idea poorly. There’s never really been an acknowledgement on the left that communism itself was “wrong”, “bad” or even totalitarian. Just that some of those who got into power under that system were (if they’ll admit even that).
And it is hard to look at the left of today, view their ideology and conclude they’ve learned a thing by its collapse. While they’ve certainly learned that it is unwise to use certain words or phrases when pushing their agenda (you won’t see “proletariat” or “bourgeoisie” tossed around by today’s lefty, but “middle class” and “[pick your favorite class to denigrate] elite” work along with “Big this” and “Big that”.
The truth in Daley’s point is to be found in reviewing how we’ve gotten to where we are today since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We’re much less free economically and politically. The left continues to define the debate and the right continues to accept the framing. How can you have a real discussion about the failures of communism specifically and collectivism in general when you continue to allow the collectivists to frame the discussion? Naturally they’re going to pretend that nothing untoward happened with the demise of the USSR and Warsaw pact. Why would they?
I mean think of the irony – over 20 years after its collapse, the principles of socialism and its offspring communism continue to touted as “the answer” while the system that sharply defined the West until then and made it more successful by orders of magnitude – capitalism (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) – is under constant and sustained assault.
Talk about a world upside down.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is frightening to read the words by this President and it is hard not be appalled by the apparent economic ignorance they contain. We’ve remarked on it several times. In particular this statement is stunning in that regard:
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100—or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.
Richard Epstein of the Hoover Institution noticed it too. And in very blunt language, points the very same thing we’ve been talking about:
To anyone schooled in economics, these statements reveal a breathtaking ignorance about the sources of national prosperity. It is a good thing when plants can achieve the same output with less labor. Do we really want an America in which thousands of people work in dangerous occupations to turn molten lava into steel bars? Far better it is that fewer workers are doing those jobs. The jobs lost in that industry will be in part replaced by newer jobs created in the firms that build the equipment that make it possible to run steel mills at a lower cost and far lower risk of personal injury. The former workers can seek jobs in newer industries that will only expand by competing for labor.
And what about those ATM machines? Does the president really want people to have to queue up in banks to make deposits or withdraw cash in order to make a boom market for human tellers? Perhaps we should return to the days before automation, when phone calls were all connected by human operators. And why blast the Internet, which has created far more useful jobs than it has ever destroyed?
The painful ignorance that is revealed in these remarks augurs ill for the long-term recovery of America. With the president firmly determined to set himself against the tides of progress, innovation will be harder to come by. The levels of unemployment will continue to be high as the president works overtime to impose additional restrictions on the labor markets and more taxes at the top of the income distribution—both backhanded ways to reward innovation and growth.
The problem, therefore, with the president’s speech is not that it is demagogic in tone. The problem is that it is intellectually incoherent. As a matter of high principle, the president announces his fealty to markets. As a matter of practical politics, he denigrates and undermines them at every step. It is a frightening prospect to have a president who lives in a time warp that lets him believe that the failed policies of 1935 can lead this nation back from the brink. His chosen constituency, the middle class, should tremble at the prospect that his agenda might well set the course for the United States for the next four years.
Well said, but frightening. Take the time to read the rest of Epstein’s piece. It’s worth the read.
Read this lead sentence and weep for this country:
At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.
A “painful era of self-reliance”? Self-reliance is a negative thing? Well yes if your ideal is a social welfare state. The trait that helped build this country into a great nation is now a negative according to Barack Obama:
“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.
Oh, man … that would just be terrible.
You mean I’d have to take care of myself? I’d have to do what is necessary to ensure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the pantry?
You mean I wouldn’t have to put up with intrusive regulation and government involvement and control in every aspect of my life?
Please, say it ain’t so.
Would I be treated to a government that took less of my money in taxes because it was smaller, less intrusive and costs less?
Whatever happened to American pride in self-reliance for heaven sake? Whatever happened to those who sought this place out because it was peopled with the self-reliant? Now the possibility of having to be self reliant is to be feared? Now only government can “save” you from having to be “on your own”?
What a pitiful mess this place has become.