And the Saviour of Conservative Intellectualism is …

by Henry on October 4, 2009

Glenn Beck ?!!???. Truly, these are desperate times for conservative would-be intellectuals (n.b. also the defence of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism as a ‘serious work’ that will stand the test of time).

{ 179 comments }

1

Jake 10.04.09 at 11:52 am

Does this mean that the white male is now the Jew of illiberal policymaking?

2

SteveF 10.04.09 at 12:18 pm

I’ve given up on finding intelligent conservative commentary. Instead, I live with the sad knowledge that constant exposure to leftist propaganda will turn me into a liberal socialist communist.

… I’m already doomed, but what’s the alternative? Limbaugh? Beck? Palin?

I will “buy” in to the first reasonable credible example of a modern conservative ideology, but they’re all hiding.

Stop forcing me to read your website with entertaining, lucid commentary on modern issues, you bastards.

3

Hidari 10.04.09 at 1:05 pm

And his statement that there is ‘nothing intrinsically wrong’ with the works of Ann Coulter.

4

eric 10.04.09 at 1:09 pm

Considering that Hayward’s paragons of “intellectual works” by conservatives include such dreck as Gilder’s Wealth & Poverty and Murray’s Losing Ground, I suppose it is true enough that Doughboy’s Liberal Fascism “harkens back to the older intellectual style”.

5

P O'Neill 10.04.09 at 1:20 pm

It’s an achievement to write an analysis of the intellectual gap in conservatism without mentioning Sarah Palin. Bonus points for not mentioning Ron Paul, who was available as an electoral option with Tea Party-type positions, minus the neocon agenda. He was shunned by the conservative establishment.

6

kth 10.04.09 at 1:52 pm

Hayward is conducting a Post chat on Tuesday. You can submit questions here.

It hardly needs to be said that his essay is as dumb and dishonest as you would expect from an AEI “fellow”.

7

nickhayw 10.04.09 at 2:19 pm

I love the bit towards the end when Beck’s ‘academic’ shill, Pestritto, manages to imply that Beck is intelligent because he ‘asks…questions about Hegel’. I didn’t know all you had to do was ask.

8

nickhayw 10.04.09 at 2:20 pm

(I should add that as a Hayward I feel it is incumbent on me to apologize for this schmournalist)

9

Michael Drake 10.04.09 at 2:25 pm

But he’s [i.e., Beck’s] on to something….”

Lose the extra preposition, and the proposition is true as to both Beck and Wayward Haywired Hayward.

10

harold 10.04.09 at 4:51 pm

Democratic strategy is to be Republican lite: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091019/jones/single

11

Substance McGravitas 10.04.09 at 4:57 pm

Rush Limbaugh adheres to Winston Churchill’s adage that you should grin when you fight, and in any case his keen sense of satire makes him deserving of comparison to Will Rogers, who, by the way, was a critic of progressivism.

Because Limbaugh is loved by all.

12

musical mountaineer 10.04.09 at 5:03 pm

I think you’ll all be happier today with a live conservative who responds to (some of) your taunts and imprecations. You’re going to love me for this…

Conservatism is inherently anti-intellectual. There, I said it.

Now, there will be confusion (some of it self-willed) as to what exactly I mean by this. And I’m a little confused myself, because I mean many things by it, and I’m not sure which to start with.

Here’s one: grant that most people are not intellectuals. In fact, hardly anyone is. Now, consider this (paraphrased from memory): “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s the core of true conservatism. (Like all conservatives, I get to say what true conservatism is, so you can’t tar me with Pat Buchanan or whatever. And I include Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter in “whatever”, so don’t bother.)

Now, suppose you kind and gentle people want to organize society according to the moral philosophy of Rawls. Hardly anyone has heard of Rawls. No, really, it’s true! Those who have heard of Rawls, and who find his ideas compelling, argue over the details of his philosophy. I saw it happen right on this website. The resulting conversation is strictly for specialists; in fact I seem to recall the restriction was explicit (to persons who had read a particular book). You need to be at least a highly dedicated amateur to even join that conversation, and it’s just as likely you’re a post-grad in some related field of study.

Which is to say, the people you propose to govern cannot understand you. They may be smart enough to invent cell phones and predator drones, but once you go all Rawlsian on them, their eyes glaze over. They’re too busy to try to figure out what you’re talking about, even if they cared, which they don’t.

Now I happen to think the project would be doomed on practical grounds, even in a 100% Rawlsian-specialist society, but that’s beside the point. Practicalities aside, people cannot consent to what they do not understand, and therefore any system of government founded on principles which are accessible only to specialists cannot derive its just powers from the consent of the governed. Yes, I’m so crazy I actually think that’s important*.

In view of this and similar considerations, I do not find it bothersome that a middlebrow like Glenn Beck should be in the vanguard of “Conservative Intellectualism”. Nor am I troubled by the supposed “lack of ideas” in conservatism. Conservatism has all the ideas it needs. They aren’t novel or fashionable, but they suffice. This hints at another sense in which conservatism is anti-intellectual: academics need a constant stream of novel and fashionable ideas to keep them in business. Conservatives can get by indefinitely with minor tweaks to old ideas which happen to be substantially correct.

* I’ll dispense right away with one red herring: I do not suggest that in order for a government to be legitimate, its every law and process be known and agreed on by everyone. Only that the scope and power of government should be defined by principles that most any interested person can easily grasp. It is simple, sensible, and universally agreeable that e.g. murder should not be tolerated. A few disagree, but screw ’em. A representative system can work out the details. Democracy can ensure that those who think murder ought to be tolerated do not gain power.

13

Salient 10.04.09 at 7:20 pm

m.m.,

Practicalities aside, people cannot consent to what they do not understand

Everybody in this country — in fact, everyone in the world — has a right to a life free of suffering due to material deprivation. One job of the state is to ameliorate that kind of suffering.

If that phrase “material deprivation” is eye-glazing (sigh), then let’s substitute:

Everybody in this country — heck, everybody in the world — has a right to a life free of suffering that would be due to not having essential stuff. One job of the government is to help make sure as few people as possible have to experience that kind of suffering.

I guess “essential stuff” means “the categories of stuff that most of us agree are basically essential and that we’d suffer without.” Food, health care, shelter, employment opportunities, etc. I guess education is disputable as essential, but I’d welcome that kind of debate.

I mean, m.m., people might disagree with that (people do disagree with that). But it’s not a terribly incomprehensible thing to say.

14

Salient 10.04.09 at 7:22 pm

(And m.m. — meant to say this at the outset — thank you for sharing. I am indeed a happier person for having read what you said and thought about it.)

15

Hidari 10.04.09 at 7:35 pm

“I love the bit towards the end when Beck’s ‘academic’ shill, Pestritto, manages to imply that Beck is intelligent because he ‘asks…questions about Hegel’. I didn’t know all you had to do was ask.”

The first question asked, presumably, being ‘Who the XXXX is Hegel?’

16

Hidari 10.04.09 at 7:37 pm

“Here’s one: grant that most people are not intellectuals. In fact, hardly anyone is. Now, consider this (paraphrased from memory): “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s the core of true conservatism. (Like all conservatives, I get to say what true conservatism is, so you can’t tar me with Pat Buchanan or whatever. And I include Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter in “whatever”, so don’t bother.)”

I must say as a Brit that it is news to me that those words contain the ‘core’ of true Conservatism.

17

Billikin 10.04.09 at 7:53 pm

Hmmm. No mention of Frumm?

#11. musical mountaineer: “Conservatism is inherently anti-intellectual.”

I am old enough to remember when conservatives were the voice of reason. (OC, we have always had bonehead politicians of every stripe.) To see American conservatives morph into voices of unreason has been a sad experience. Now they rely upon name-calling, know-nothingism (in the sense of ignorance), and noise. {sigh}

18

musical mountaineer 10.04.09 at 8:27 pm

Everybody in this country—heck, everybody in the world—has a right to a life free of suffering that would be due to not having essential stuff.

I think there’s a great deal that our Rawlsians would regard as essential, that’s not captured in your statement. Still, it’s a good effort, even in the polysyllabic form you gave first. It clearly states a principle that anyone can at least debate.

I think, though, that conservative ideas are easier to encapsulate in slogan form. For instance, “the government that feeds everybody can starve anybody”. I made that one up myself!

This suggests a tangential point, not directly tied to my thesis that conservatism is anti-intellectual, but relating to the idea of consent of the governed. Suppose government provides to many, such material goods as are needful to avoid their suffering (and shuts down any competitors who might otherwise provide, which governments like that tend to do). Isn’t that arrangement coercive? Consent implies you have the meaningful option of not consenting. So there’s no meaningful way you can consent to having, say, food and shelter.

19

NomadUK 10.04.09 at 8:57 pm

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.

– John Stuart Mill, letter to Sir John Pakington, Conservative MP, March 1866.

20

Matthias Wasser 10.04.09 at 10:04 pm

I’d also like to thank m.m. for sharing their thoughts. We need more exchanges of this sort.

That said, objection one: is Rawlsianism very hard to grasp? “We should organize society such that the least well-off member is as well-off as she could be” is pretty simple. When you get down to the specifics, of course, the matter is extraordinarily complex. But I think this applies for any public ethos, perhaps especially for very parsimonious ones like Rawlsianism or libertarianism. Joe Sixpack, that abstraction, doesn’t need an advanced philosophy degree to make appeals to the tenants of a Rawlsian system – he says, look at those people (or look at me!,) they’re getting shafted.

This is probably true generally. Look at Marxism or Christianity or whatever – these are rich philosophies that intellectuals have investigated and quibbled over and still find deep nuance in, engaging in debates that nonspecialists find incomprehensible. And yet Joe Sixpacks throughout history haven’t had any difficulty calling themselves adherents of these or advancing political claims in their language, often against the very institutions that employed the intellectuals in question.

Objection two: it’s probably more realistic to speak of political ideologies motivating actors than the entire society abstractly. Rawlsians can’t (alas) wave a magic wand and make everyone conform to Rawlsian reasoning, much less society work according to Rawlsian principles; they can just vote for the sort of candidates, engage in the sort of activism, volunteer in the sort of soup kitchens &c. that they think will make the greatest marginal contribution to the least member of society. They can do things to make other people Rawlsians, but only to the extent that Rawlsianism (or whatever) actually is a comprehensible system to nonspecialists.

21

geo 10.04.09 at 10:13 pm

the government that feeds everybody can starve anybody

But, mm, we’re talking about democratic governments here. They don’t starve anybody. Try again.

22

musical mountaineer 10.04.09 at 10:38 pm

Since Liberal Fascism has been held up for ridicule in this post, I’ll say a thing or two about it. I’m an unlikely defendant of Jonah Goldberg or the book, because I had wanted to write that book myself, and I thought I would do a better job of it, and I’m jealous that Goldberg gets all the credit (to say nothing of the money), so I didn’t bother to get a copy and read it. I have read one snippet which was published in National Review.

Consider Christians. They believe that Jesus of Nazareth died all the way dead, lay dead for three days, and then came back to life with a happy result. That is the belief which defines Christianity. It is an extraordinary belief, because to anyone who doesn’t believe it, it’s obviously nuts. So it is a defining, extraordinary belief.

Catholics and Protestants are Christians. They have managed to work up various wars between them, over differences of belief which are quite trivial relative to the defining, extraordinary belief I mentioned above. If someone says, “Catholic is the opposite of Protestant”, you know they’re a Christian. Because to any non-Christian, the main thing about Christians is this belief in the Resurrection, and any other little quibbles seem unimportant. From my point of view, the Pope is in the same boat as any strychnine-swilling snake handler. The differences are not inconsequential, but if I had to state my main disagreement with either of them, it would be the same. They are not opposites from the point of view of anyone who doesn’t share their defining, extraordinary belief.

The same applies to fascists, communists, social democrats, etc. There are not-inconsequential differences, but they all share the same defining, extraordinary belief. If you say that fascism is the opposite of communism, you’re a socialist. The differences between various socialisms are terribly important to you, but to anyone who doesn’t share your fundamental beliefs, the similarities are far more important. I’m not sure how well Jonah Goldberg makes this point; the part of his book that I read was a kind of guilt-by-association enumeration of historical links between various socialist thinkers and ideas, including the not-so-nice ones. Is Goldberg an intellectual? Apparently not, to judge by the opinion of him in these quarters. But if he’s saying what I think he’s saying, then he’s right, and his rightness will stand the test of time. The fact that he’s not a Major League Brainsball player doesn’t enter into it. You don’t have to be a genius to observe the similarities in principle between “soft socialism” and other isms that are, shall we say, more robust.

This is why Tea Partiers sometimes call President Obama a Nazi. They may be trivializing the Holocaust or somesuch, but they’re not being frivolous or wholly delusional. They know that social democracies, such as Obama is seeking to establish, can mutate into fascist states like that (snaps fingers), typically under a leader with a cult of personality like, well, Obama. I personally don’t trust Obama any farther than I could throw Mount Rushmore, but I don’t fear him much, especially now that he’s skidding out on his face politically.

I’m sure this is annoying for some people here, so I’ll conciliate a bit. If it’s fair to call Obama a Nazi, then it’s also fair to call McCain or Bush a Nazi. Neither of those Republicans had much in the way of principles, and both did great harm.

23

musical mountaineer 10.04.09 at 10:44 pm

democratic governments…don’t starve anybody

I’ll give you this: democratic governments don’t starve the majority, unless they can rig the vote.

24

musical mountaineer 10.04.09 at 10:55 pm

…stupid people are generally Conservative…

That is a great quote, NomadUK, and I don’t doubt it made a lot of sense when Mill said it. But times have changed. Nowadays there’s just no knowing what a stupid person is likely to believe.

Really. Where would the Democrat party (or Labour, for UK readers) be without stupid people? Think about it.

25

Salient 10.04.09 at 10:56 pm

I think there’s a great deal that our Rawlsians would regard as essential, that’s not captured in your statement.

(shrug) And even those Rawlsians would probably be much happier living in a society that meets the requirement I described, even if they continued to advocate for changes. I don’t get your point. Conservatives argue over the finer points of how things should be run.

I think, though, that conservative ideas are easier to encapsulate in slogan form.

Eh, so what? Ease of encapsulation doesn’t imply moral worth or value. Lots of unpalatable ideas are also easier to encapsulate in slogan form. Example: “Deviants deserve death.” I’m not intending to suggest conservative ideas are immoral, just that “easier to encapsulate in slogan form” has no correlation whatsoever with “is a good idea.”

Really, I should address your point more fully. The phrase “in slogan form” bothers me. Everyday people can understand and engage with ideas that are not easily written in slogan form. Your (eminently sensible) requirement that a government’s broadest principles should be understandable to its populace does not imply a (less sensible) requirement that all principles that undergird legislation must be expressed in bumper-sticker form.

…shuts down any competitors who might otherwise provide, which governments like that tend to do.

Really? The U.S. government currently provides national defense to its populace, for example, and an unbelievable amount of the spending is for contracting out to private companies.

Consent implies you have the meaningful option of not consenting.

Uh. Not individually, it doesn’t. Otherwise lots of individuals would exercise their right to not pay taxes in 2002. The “meaningful option of not consenting” is the ballot box.

So there’s no meaningful way you can consent to having, say, food and shelter.

Just… read that over again, please. Doesn’t it self-evidently suggest you’ve made an error in your definition of “consent” somewhere?

(Maybe if the government forced you to eat only Wonder bread and required you to live in an assigned apartment, I guess you’d have a point. But that’s an unreasonable caricature of what I am suggesting.)

To take this discussion any further, we really should develop an understanding of collective consent versus individual consent. I would need to know exactly what you intend by “consent of the governed” — exactly what concrete rights this phrase encapsulates. I didn’t consent in any meaningful way to the Iraq war, for example.

26

Alex 10.04.09 at 11:01 pm

Conservatism may not be intellectual, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stupid. Intellectuality isn’t the same thing as intelligence, and it’s not necessarily better. But stupidity has a quality all to itself.

27

engels 10.04.09 at 11:02 pm

It doesn’t have to be, but it mostly is.

28

Salient 10.04.09 at 11:05 pm

the government that feeds everybody, can starve anybody

I don’t understand this. But maybe it’s because I am translating it into

the government which ensures that all of its citizens have the resources they need to acquire food, could start preventing some of its citizens from expending their resources in order to acquire food

Well yes, but couldn’t any government could start preventing some of its citizens from expending their resources in order to acquire food?

29

dsquared 10.04.09 at 11:29 pm

I think most of us on this blog have read Michael Oakeshott – conservatism is necessarily antirational, not antiintellectual. Meanwhile:

makes him deserving of comparison to Will Rogers, who, by the way, was a critic of progressivism

this is a total fucking travesty of Will Rogers, of whose work I would dare say I’ve read a lot more than Hayward has. The idea that Will Rogers could be mentioned in the same breath as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage is a disgusting calumny; when I wake up tomorrow morning I will write a stiffly worded letter to the Governor of Oklahoma, to ask what he plans to do about it.

30

will u. 10.05.09 at 12:01 am

“I think, though, that conservative ideas are easier to encapsulate in slogan form. For instance, ‘the government that feeds everybody can starve anybody’. I made that one up myself!”

And yet Olof Palme’s Sweden and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe are as far apart as Venus and Mars. Parochialism accounts for much of the conservative opposition to, say, meaningful health care reform: the teabaggers are simply ignorant of the actual experiences of European social (or, better yet, Christian) democracies, which have falsified this folk understanding of Hayek. Or perhaps I underestimate our populist friends, and they hew to another proposition: That Washington, enmeshed with defense contractors and financial oligarchs, guilty of crimes in the developing world, is uniquely untrustworthy among governments of industrialized nations. Should I call into Rush and suggest this?

31

JP 10.05.09 at 12:18 am

On the far right of the opposition?

32

Billikin 10.05.09 at 1:06 am

#26 dsquared: “I think most of us on this blog have read Michael Oakeshott – conservatism is necessarily antirational, not antiintellectual.”

I have not read him, so let me guess what it means to say that conservatism is necessarily antirational. Errr, forget that. What, pray tell, does it mean? Many thanks.

33

Ken Lovell 10.05.09 at 1:41 am

‘ “Here’s one: grant that most people are not intellectuals. In fact, hardly anyone is. Now, consider this (paraphrased from memory): “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s the core of true conservatism. (Like all conservatives, I get to say what true conservatism is, so you can’t tar me with Pat Buchanan or whatever. And I include Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter in “whatever”, so don’t bother.)”

I must say as a Brit that it is news to me that those words contain the ‘core’ of true Conservatism’

News to me as an Australian too. They sound quintessentially liberal to me. The core of conservatism is found more in Hobbes and ‘Leviathan’ unless of course one cedes mm’s self-proclaimed right to define an ideology as whatever s/he says it is.

34

xaaronx 10.05.09 at 3:08 am

Where would the Democrat party (or Labour, for UK readers) be without stupid people?

Assuming you’re not trolling, please tell me what this “Democrat” party is and describe to me its membership.

And just because it’s fun:

the government that feeds everybody, can starve anybody

No it can’t.. At that point it is no longer “the government that feeds everybody”. Or is your point just that American “conservative” ideas don’t make any sense, with this as an example? If so, it hardly seems fair of you to make up a new slogan just for that purpose.

35

Ken Lovell 10.05.09 at 5:54 am

‘… is your point just that American “conservative” ideas don’t make any sense, with this as an example? If so, it hardly seems fair of you to make up a new slogan just for that purpose.’

Or necessary :-).

36

magistra 10.05.09 at 6:15 am

Musical mountaineer,

You stated: ‘The same applies to fascists, communists, social democrats, etc. There are not-inconsequential differences, but they all share the same defining, extraordinary belief.’

So what do you consider this extraordinary belief to be? Because it’s not clear to me what it is. The idea that governments are able to do some things better than individuals may possibly be defining, but it’s not extraordinary, because it’s demonstrably true (who in the US is agitating for private fire brigades?). Nor do social democrats share the belief that governments are always better at doing everything, as you can see from the fact that not everything is nationalised in such countries. Conservatives, according to your definition believe in the equality of all, so that’s not the distinctive definition. I suppose the nearest you could get is a belief in the perfectability of society, but that’s not a key thought in modern social democracy, even if they do want a better society.

37

Z 10.05.09 at 9:34 am

To restate an obvious point, which I mentioned already in private exchanges with Musical M., “There are not-inconsequential differences [between] fascists, communists, social democrats” is an extraordinary statement, verging on the tautologically false: fascism (by definition) and communism (not by definition but as typically practiced by the regimes using the name) reject the principle of democratic government, where as social-democrat take it as a precondition (should I point out that they chose to call themselves democrat). For most social-democrat, and most fascist, this is a key difference negating all the others (dare I use the word shibboleth, to keep on with the religious metaphor?).

As for the issue of consent, I think something which seems to escape the vigilance of (some self-avowed) libertarians/right-anarchist, and which quickly leads to taxation=oppression for instance, is that in a large complex society, consent is necessarily obtained and given at different scales. So we first give our assentiment to the way our future assentiments will be given and obtained (typically via a constitution). Then, every decision taken following this procedure has our institutional assentiment, whether or not we personally consent. Or in Salient much better slogan form: The “meaningful option of not consenting” is the ballot box.

And this leads me to my own simple core political principle: collective choices are legitimate if and only if the community taking them is ensuring that each of its member can freely and meaningfully participate in the decision process (this actually implies many things, except for those who think that a starving illiterate woman trying to prevent that her child will die of tuberculosis can freely and meaningfully participate in an election).

38

JoB 10.05.09 at 11:33 am

Just so Z, just so. It’s courageous to put the process first instead of disappearing in the sentiments on the issues. And, as you say, the prerequisites of the process are quite on the left which is why conservative Americans hate their country, I suppose.

39

Uncle Kvetch 10.05.09 at 1:47 pm

I’m sure this is annoying for some people here

There’s a fine, fine line between annoyance and hilarity.

social democracies, such as Obama is seeking to establish

Case in point.

40

musical mountaineer 10.05.09 at 2:15 pm

Ease of encapsulation doesn’t imply moral worth or value.

Agreed. As for the rest of your post, you make some good points, and I kind of knew you would. I wasn’t quite satisfied with my own arguments.

I don’t really want to talk about Rawls, as such. I put that out there as an example, to try to illustrate one sense in which conservatism, as I say, is anti-intellectual. There are other examples. Here’s the generalization: conservatives want principled government; progressives want big, brainy government. Street progressives (who really are stupid people) do things like march in the streets demanding “leadership on climate change”. They want smart people to assume great power and fix big complicated problems. Street conservatives (who may also be stupid people) distrust power; they know its corrupting effects. They’d rather limit the government to dealing with obvious, simple necessities like enforcing contracts, repelling invaders, and putting burglars in jail. And there just isn’t much need for intellectuals in that scheme.

Some will say, “yes, but global warming threatens our very existence. We must e.g. make Al Gore the President Of The World immediately!” And who knows, maybe they’re right about the first part. But even if they are, the second part doesn’t necessarily follow. Look at our political classes and you see nothing but massive corruption and incompetence. These are the people we’re supposed to rely on, to save the planet? Given the choice:

A. We all burn up.
B. We create a global totalitarian hyperstate to control every aspect of our lives, and then we all burn up. And the whole time, our leaders tell us it would have been much worse otherwise.
C. (the progressive best-case scenario) We create a global totalitarian hyperstate to control every aspect of our lives, and we save the planet, and then, uh, well, I guess we all live happily ever after with a global totalitarian hyperstate controlling every aspect of our lives!

We conservatives would rather just burn up. And we’re not convinced, anyway, that that’s what’s going to happen. The people who are most strenuously trying to convince us have obvious conflicts of interest: they make big money and seek vast power with their doom-mongering. Most tellingly, they don’t advocate nuclear power, and they don’t take anything like the radical line that would be needed to get China to cooperate. If the future of humanity is at stake, they ought to be pushing extreme measures, not just massive pyramids of bureaucracy.

Again, I don’t want to argue about global warming, as such. It’s just another angle on this “conservatism is anti-intellectual” thing. If you’re really worried about global warming, and frustrated by conservative intransigence on this issue, the thing to do is propose solutions that don’t present obvious conflicts of interest. Attack the problem through the markets, or through technology.

41

Uncle Kvetch 10.05.09 at 2:23 pm

Some will say, “yes, but global warming threatens our very existence. We must e.g. make Al Gore the President Of The World immediately!”

No, they won’t.

42

Barry 10.05.09 at 2:26 pm

“Street conservatives (who may also be stupid people) distrust power; they know its corrupting effects. They’d rather limit the government to dealing with obvious, simple necessities like enforcing contracts, repelling invaders, and putting burglars in jail. And there just isn’t much need for intellectuals in that scheme.”

Oh bullf*cking sh*t. There weren’t any right-wing marches during the Bush administration, opposing that administration’s massive power grabs, secrecy and corruption.

43

musical mountaineer 10.05.09 at 2:33 pm

Oops, just now got to:

the government that feeds everybody, can starve anybody

No it can’t.. At that point it is no longer “the government that feeds everybody”.

Pffft. I allowed that you made some good points, but this isn’t one of them. Anybody else care to admit they had trouble with this?

44

musical mountaineer 10.05.09 at 2:35 pm

Crap! You can’t have multiple lines in a blockquote? For clarity, it was xaaronx who posted the line starting with “No it can’t..”

45

musical mountaineer 10.05.09 at 4:06 pm

fascism (by definition) and communism (not by definition but as typically practiced by the regimes using the name) reject the principle of democratic government, where as social-democrat take it as a precondition

You did better than I would if we had this conversation in French, but you inverted the meaning of “not-inconsequential”.

Still, I take your point: you say democracy is a fundamental difference between fascism and social democracy. I say it’s one of those trivial differences.

Conservatives like to piss and moan about democracy, which leads some to hint that what we really want is monarchy or something. That’s going much too far; we recognize that democracy is essential, indeed it’s inextricable from that “consent” I’ve been talking about.

But democracy is no guarantee of good government or individual rights. Governments can subvert their own democratic institutions (anyone want to argue that that is not the entire purpose and reason for the existence of ACORN?). They can override democratic decisions by brute force (Iran). And they can corrupt the people, working them up to be complicit in great crimes. Finally, the transition from democracy to not-democracy has happened countless times. Democracy played a key role in bringing Hitler to power, fascist though he was.

Which brings me to magistra’s question:

So what do you consider this extraordinary belief [shared by fascists, communists, and social democrats] to be?

That’s not easy to state succinctly and precisely, which is why I left it out before. It’s kind of like the difference between great art and smut: you know it when you see it. So you’ll see what I’m about to say next won’t be wholly satisfactory. Rather than quibbling with me, you might try to state it better.

It has to do with what you might call moral sovereignty. In a free society, the individual is sovereign. The government exists to secure his rights. More precisely, it secures what might be called negative rights. He has the right to not be murdered, raped, tortured, kidnapped, stolen from, or lied to (this last only in some circumstances). Obviously his behavior is somewhat constrained, in that he may not do any of those things to his fellow citizens. But because he’s a decent fellow, he doesn’t want to do any of those things, so as far as he’s concerned he’s free to do anything. He can start a business or get drunk every day and shoot beer cans with a sniper rifle. Whatever. The only sense in which government can coerce him is in paying taxes, but he accedes to this cheerfully, because government costs money, and a little taxation is preferable to not having his rights secured. Now I’ve said a fair amount and it’s nowhere near sufficient (what about protecting the commons, the environment, what about infrastructure, etc.), but the basic principle or ideal is that the individual is at the top of the moral totem pole and the only role of government is to secure the individual’s (negative) rights.

Under socialism, an abstraction called society is sovereign. The needs of society pretty much categorically outweigh the individual’s rights. Society expresses those needs and brings about its desired outcomes by way of the state, whether it’s a democratic state or an iron-fisted dictatorship. This essentially coercive relationship shows itself in all manner of transactions.

On the good side, socialism is supposed to secure “positive” rights, such as the rights to food, shelter, healthcare, etc. But it’s impossible to accomplish this without coercion. There are countless ways this can and does play out. Here’s one which is hypothetical as far as I know, but we’ll see it happen if we pay attention:

1. Government is fair.
2. Government provides healthcare according to people’s needs.
3. People who smoke cigarettes need more healthcare.
4. People who, by their own choices, need more healthcare, are free-riding on people who don’t. That’s not fair (see point 1). Therefore…
5. Government has a right to take away the individual choice of smoking cigarettes.

If you don’t want to smoke cigarettes, you won’t care about that. And if you do, maybe you ought to be grateful that someone who knows better than you is protecting your health. But you can no longer claim you are free. And you may end up with a great deal more to be unhappy about, as society’s various whims make themselves felt in your life. And this is, in fact, what happens. Over time, socialist governments take more and more interest in every little thing. They take more and more control over everyone’s actions, speech, and even thoughts. And there’s always the risk that society will decide to Do Something About The Jews, or something along those lines. A government which exists solely to secure individuals’ (negative) rights, doesn’t have that power.

I know, I know, there are all kinds of legitimate objections to this. The human condition is far too complex to sort it into two political categories in one blog comment. And many political propositions fall in a gray area. But most, the vast majority, land squarely on one side or the other. Either you assert the rights of the individual, or you assert the prerogatives of society.

I prefer the individual. You can see him, shake hands with him, ask him what he thinks. Society, on the other hand, is abstract and has many voices; everyone claims to speak for it. And there’s nothing in particular to keep society from taking on an evil character.

46

ajay 10.05.09 at 4:17 pm

22: It’s actually quite annoying of MM to lay out the concept of a defining, extraordinary belief, to illustrate it with the excellent example of the Christian churches, and then to say

“The same applies to fascists, communists, social democrats, etc. There are not-inconsequential differences, but they all share the same defining, extraordinary belief”

and then not to say what that belief is.

As for the core beliefs: I would have thought that conservatism required you to believe that “power and wealth should remain more or less where they are now” and for liberals to belief that “power and wealth should be spread around as equally as practically possible”.

47

ajay 10.05.09 at 4:19 pm

I see from 40 that conservatives are really into their excluded-middles.

48

Chris 10.05.09 at 4:38 pm

The government that protects everybody from murder can murder anybody. And sometimes does. Does this mean that we shouldn’t attempt to have a government that protects people from murder?

Pointing to the existence of governmental abuses of power is an argument for scrutinizing the government’s use of its powers, not for or against any particular limit on those powers. Government is both useful and dangerous, like a chainsaw. The chainsaw that cuts up a fallen tree can also cut off your arm, but that isn’t a good reason to get rid of it, only to be careful with it.

P.S. Progressive proposed solutions to global climate change don’t actually involve totalitarian hyperstates. You are either ignorant of the views you are arguing against, or dishonestly misrepresenting them. In either case, please correct the problem.

49

musical mountaineer 10.05.09 at 4:40 pm

I’ve really got to go make a buck, so I’ll lay off the blogging for a while. First, I want to take back part of what I wrote in my first comment, and steer back towards the main topic of this thread.

As I’ve said, I think conservatism is anti-intellectual. That’s putting it strongly, but it’s largely true. Some of the reasons haven’t been explored in this thread yet. I don’t think conservatism needs much in the way of intellectuals, to be a force for good in the world.

That said, I am somewhat dismayed to see the conservative movement being led by the likes of Beck, Limbaugh, and Coulter. I’ve occasionally been amused by Coulter, but she’s really just a dumb vicious bitch – an embarrassment to people like me – and on the whole I despise her. As for Beck and Limbaugh, in the rare instances when I’ve tuned in, I’ve found them frustrating. They always seem to come this close to the point, without actually scoring it. They just aren’t playing a tight enough game. And then there’s the whole God-bothering thing, which while I don’t find it offensive or troublesome, does nothing for me.

Of course, I loathe Barack Obama and all he stands for, so I’m glad when e.g. Beck breaks a story that embarrasses him. And I’m also glad to indulge in a little schadenfreude whenever Obama gets flicked away like a booger, the way he was by the IOC. It’s clear that there’s some kind of conservative resurgence going on, but it’s not clear whether it will achieve any ideological clarity or lasting results. Progressives will see a lot of their dreams go up in flames in the next few months and years, or so it will seem. But I’m pretty sure the old Thatcher-ratchet will continue to tighten, with Republicans or whoever in charge.

50

will u. 10.05.09 at 4:49 pm

“The people who are most strenuously trying to convince us have obvious conflicts of interest: they make big money and seek vast power with their doom-mongering.”

And this is why, as a scientist-in-training at a Big Name Institute, I can’t name a single person I know here who identifies as a Republican.

51

ajay 10.05.09 at 4:55 pm

“The people who are most strenuously trying to convince us have obvious conflicts of interest: they make big money and seek vast power with their doom-mongering.”

…and the people who are most strenuously trying to convince us the other way? Please don’t drive us to the point of having to quote chapter and verse on the funding of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Tech Central Station.

52

geo 10.05.09 at 4:57 pm

Well said, Chris@47. I hope musical mountaineer comes back and reads it. No doubt the scales will fall from his eyes.

53

T. Paine 10.05.09 at 5:01 pm

And I’m also glad to indulge in a little schadenfreude whenever Obama gets flicked away like a booger, the way he was by the IOC.

Wait wait wait. How was the IOC decision, in any way, related to Obama? Because I was under the impression that it was a decision about where to hold the 2016 Olympics, not about whether Barack Obama is a cool guy.

I know that it’s possible to take decisions against one’s country personally, but this is just silly: Taking a decision against one’s country personally on someone else’s behalf, in order to attack that person? I have good news: It’s not about you!

54

Steve LaBonne 10.05.09 at 5:03 pm

Ajay @50, that’s just the reflexive US conservative habit of projection. Whatever malfeasance they may be involved in, they will infallibly accuse their opponents of the same thing. (In fact, that’s the best available indicator of what they’re actually up to.) And being know-nothings, of course they don’t need no steenkin’ evidence for their accuations.

55

Keith 10.05.09 at 5:44 pm

This is why Tea Partiers sometimes call President Obama a Nazi. They may be trivializing the Holocaust or somesuch, but they’re not being frivolous or wholly delusional. They know that social democracies, such as Obama is seeking to establish, can mutate into fascist states like that (snaps fingers), typically under a leader with a cult of personality like, well, Obama. I personally don’t trust Obama any farther than I could throw Mount Rushmore, but I don’t fear him much, especially now that he’s skidding out on his face politically.

This would be a salient point if not for the fact that the Teabaggers who are afraid of the cult of Obama (which consists of exactly noone) where the same ones who rallied behind GW Bush to a frightening extent, lauding him as the second coming of Reagan and taking his claim that God wanted him to be president at face value. The teabaggers main gripe is that their heroic, transcendental god-president turned out to be such a nitwit and then, indignity of indignities, was replaced by a black man. They’re projecting their own fears and desires onto “The Left,” calling a moderate centrist like Obama a Marxist in bloom in order to create a boogie man they can rally against. That’s why no one takes them or the Goldburgian thesis of Liberal Fascism seriously: it’s a bunch of idiots standing around chanting, ” I know you are but what am I!”

56

Andrew 10.05.09 at 11:31 pm

In a different discussion a week or so ago, I asked a friend where the right wing/conservative technocrats (RW versions of Ezra Klein) were. Most of the discussions I read on rightist blogs focus on horse race issues – will X be good for Democrats, or good for Republicans. Then there’s “policy Z is bad because it’s against freedom, or proChoice, etc…” But, to paraphrase John DiIulio, I hardly ever come across an argument grounded in policy analysis.

Three people who seem ready to engage others in thoughtful discussions are Daniel Larison, Greg Mankiw, and David Frum. They also seem ready to test their own biases.

57

aBeLaRd Yawll 10.06.09 at 12:09 am

“But, mm, we’re talking about democratic governments here. They don’t starve anybody. Try again.”

They kill philosophers.

58

jeremy 10.06.09 at 2:06 am

re 47. i agree. i like this:

“Pointing to the existence of governmental abuses of power is an argument for scrutinizing the government’s use of its powers, not for or against any particular limit on those powers.”

my problem these days is that both “sides” appear intent on only scrutinizing what they’re already convinced is the central problem. this is rough, but it gets the point across: the right scrutinizes regulation and social policy and the left scrutinizes corporate welfare and imperial pursuits.* since both teams always have one eye closed, they’re unable to see the big picture, one that reveals mutual reinforcements secured across the battlefield; corporate welfare that reinforces regulation, regulation that reinforces corporate welfare, imperial pursuits that encourage social policy, social policy that encourages imperial pursuits, and so on…

this is a left-anarchist/right-libertarian analysis, and like you imply, even if one accepts the above as generally the case, that doesn’t mean one need be an anarchist/libertarian. granted, i myself AM some kind of anarchist, so maybe i’m just wishing everyone be just like me, but seriously, i think i’d be really happy (and maybe even a little convinced) if a serious journal were to come along that DOES, for the most part, accept this grand analysis while not arriving at the same anarchist/libertarian policy prescriptions** as myself.

*i’m pretending the culture war doesn’t exist for the moment
**paradox noted. for the record, my prescriptions are actually more communitarian than anything else. i think social intellectuals of all stripes should start thinking hard and fast about issues of scale, particularly the scale of our federal government, and whether investing in smaller communal units (i would call them “communities,” but i don’t genuinely believe those exist anymore) might be more helpful. i understand the pitfalls here, yes.

59

Steve LaBonne 10.06.09 at 2:16 am

Three people who seem ready to engage others in thoughtful discussions are Daniel Larison, Greg Mankiw, and David Frum.

Who kidnapped that Mankiw and replaced him with a pod person during the presidential campaign?

60

Mario Diana 10.06.09 at 2:37 am

Keith @ 54

the Goldburgian thesis of Liberal Fascism

Just what do you understand Jonah Goldberg’s thesis to be? Near as I can tell, it’s that fascism has its roots in the politics of the left: specifically, the Pragmatist/Progressive era. He argues that it essentially began as a reaction to socialism’s internationalist program, recasting economic planning as a national endeavor to benefit not the “workers” but the middle class; and to galvanize the people of a nation to work for the collective benefit, rather than for their own selfish interests. He characterizes fascism as a political program that seeks “action” above all lead by a charismatic, confident leader who should be free of the constraints imposed by “outworn” ideas. Finally, he argues that these are the tenets that the political Left in America operate by.

What of the above is outlandish?

61

Salient 10.06.09 at 2:55 am

I loathe Barack Obama and all he stands for, so I’m glad when e.g. Beck breaks a story that embarrasses him.

This said a lot more to me than the words themselves said. I never felt this way about Bush. The guy’s giggly demeanor was occasionally irritating, and of course I found the policies his administration prosecuted to be abominable and deeply immoral, but I can’t say as I felt anything approaching what is described here.

Actually, I don’t think I know how to loathe somebody. I would be very interested — and I don’t know how to say this without the words themselves sounding insincere, so the best I can do is emphasize, sincerely interested — in hearing from you, m.m., what it means to you, to say “I loathe Barack Obama and all he stands for.”

62

Steve LaBonne 10.06.09 at 3:01 am

Salient, that would require MM to actually have some vestige of a clue about what Obama actually “stands for”. Good luck with that.

63

Salient 10.06.09 at 3:16 am

Salient, that would require MM to actually have some vestige of a clue about what Obama actually “stands for”.

Not really. I very specifically asked “what it means to [m.m.] to say [this].” There is no need to prove, or even assume, that [this] will correspond to what’s actually going through Obama’s head: I’m less interested in what m.m. believes Obama “stands for,” and more interested in what it means to loathe those things, what the experience is like.

64

Salient 10.06.09 at 3:18 am

I was especially interested because the statement seemed to be tossed off so nonchalantly. I heard the same thing from the most moderate individuals I talked with at the most recent tea party riot thing around here (Sept 12; it was more of a parade, lots of people on lawn chairs watching cars with signs go by). Insofar as this meaningfully expresses a sentiment, which I presume it does, what does it mean?

65

Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 3:46 am

It means The Saviour of Conservative Intellectualism is likely to go unnoticed.

66

Salient 10.06.09 at 4:18 am

It means The Saviour of Conservative Intellectualism is likely to go unnoticed.

Question is, is that a good thing?

(And I don’t mean this just as a sassy/playful quip from a lefty to a fellow lefty, it’s meant to acknowledge m.m.’s sentiment as well.)

67

Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 6:11 am

Question is, is that a good thing?

If I’m one of those jerky atheist intolerant types I don’t see why I should be happy about magical thinking that turns guys into Stalin when they use the wrong mustard. It’s bleakly funny, but I’d rather people stick around here instead of Bizarro World.

Here’s Roger Simon, evidently still living in the Age of Terror:

Has there been a worse president in our lifetime than Barack Obama?

Well, yes, Roger, there certainly has, and how does it serve anyone to offer critiques that are completely bananas?

68

ajay 10.06.09 at 8:42 am

They know that social democracies, such as Obama is seeking to establish, can mutate into fascist states like that (snaps fingers), typically under a leader with a cult of personality like, well, Obama.

This is one of those myths that has virtually no basis in history. Spain wasn’t really a social democracy – neither were the various Latin American military dictatorships, if you count them as fascist. Italy and Germany were, I suppose (they had pension schemes and so forth) but not much more or less than any other industrial European nation. There’s no coherent theory that would link the establishment of a social safety net to vulnerability to fascism.

The other one is “democracies survive until a majority of the population realise they can vote themselves largesse from the public purse” – ignoring the fact that no democracy in history has ever collapsed for this reason. Historically, democracies survive until they are invaded by the Spartans, the Macedonians, the Wehrmacht or the Red Army, or until the CIA decides to set up a military coup.

69

dsquared 10.06.09 at 8:45 am

Even Friedrich Hayek didn’t think that a national health service was necessarily a step on the road to serfdom.

70

Steve LaBonne 10.06.09 at 12:12 pm

Salient @ 60: I’m afraid it’s worse than that. Obviously MM has no clue what Obama is actually about. But what I’m saying is that he, and people like him, don’t even have any clear idea of what they think he’s about. It’s all foaming at the mouth with no semantic content at all.

71

Salient 10.06.09 at 12:33 pm

If I’m one of those jerky atheist intolerant types I don’t see why I should be happy about magical thinking that turns guys into Stalin when they use the wrong mustard.

Right right right, but isn’t the point of the SoCI to confer legitimacy to those claims with disingenuous arguments?

I suppose a genuine and honest Saviour of Conservative Economics would be valuable, but job of the Intellectual Saviours of Conservative Family Values is to find exactly those axioms which best justify the nativism, racism, and othering prejudice of their constituencies without direct appeals to that nativism, racism or prejudice.

Has there been a worse president in our lifetime than Barack Obama?

…Oh, dear.

72

Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 1:37 pm

Right right right, but isn’t the point of the SoCI to confer legitimacy to those claims with disingenuous arguments?

Not according to Hayward, though he also seems to be bananas. He wants a very serious thoughtful argument made in detail and with care, but he’ll never recognize it if it shows up.

73

socialrepublican 10.06.09 at 1:37 pm

‘What of the above is outlandish?’

Yes…..and how!

74

ajay 10.06.09 at 1:42 pm

Even Friedrich Hayek didn’t think that a national health service was necessarily a step on the road to serfdom.

Actually, he did – centralised government-run hospitals with incompetent doctors and bossy nurses were one step away from internment camps, a view he outlined in his 1955 article, “Carry On Up The Road To Serfdom”.

75

Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 1:48 pm

He characterizes fascism as a political program that seeks “action” above all lead by a charismatic, confident leader who should be free of the constraints imposed by “outworn” ideas. Finally, he argues that these are the tenets that the political Left in America operate by.

What of the above is outlandish?

Apart from the other crap the “Left” prior to 2008 chose the charismatic John Kerry and the charismatic Al Gore.

76

socialrepublican 10.06.09 at 2:04 pm

Wow. That came out wrong

‘Near as I can tell, it’s that fascism has its roots in the politics of the left: specifically, the Pragmatist/Progressive era. ‘

Aside from ignoring the influence of the ANI or the Voceists on the Italian genus or the Vaterland Partei and Volkisch traditions on the NSDAP, it has the same logic as calling Burkean Toryism Jacobin because it came out of the revolutionary period.

‘it essentially began as a reaction to socialism’s internationalist program, recasting economic planning as a national endeavor to benefit not the “workers” but the middle class’

Which is a many headed statement of foolishness. Fascism is primarily about and for the nation. Goldberg de-nationalises it to such an extent that he can apply it anywhere he chooses. Planning before 1914 was a minority activity of the left, not much beyond Fabian efficiency. The real pioneers of Statism were conservatives and Old style Liberals seeking to buy off revolutionary movements and re-equip their societies to the storm of modernisation. Fascism’s rhetoric and its core perception of its self and its mission were far closer to organic nationalist models of estates and class peace than welfare to the shopkeepers.

‘He characterizes fascism as a political program that seeks “action” above all lead by a charismatic, confident leader who should be free of the constraints imposed by “outworn” ideas.’

An idea of action and morality shared by Boulanger, Maurras, Barres, Cuza, Junger and those ‘Trotskyites of the National Revolution’, Alan Clark and now John Perry

Hardy a gallery of raging lefties.

77

Chris 10.06.09 at 2:17 pm

The other one is “democracies survive until a majority of the population realise they can vote themselves largesse from the public purse” – ignoring the fact that no democracy in history has ever collapsed for this reason.

I think this cliche dates back to Juvenal’s critique of the populace abandoning political engagement for (in his famous phrase) “bread and circuses” — but the Republic had, for all intents and purposes, already fallen by the time he was writing. I don’t know whether the public’s political alienation contributed to or resulted from the fall of the Republic.

the scale of our federal government, and whether investing in smaller communal units (i would call them “communities,” but i don’t genuinely believe those exist anymore) might be more helpful

At that point you really can’t keep pretending that the culture war doesn’t exist, or you write off every Jew, atheist, neopagan, and gay in the South. (And these days, probably Latino, too — whether or not any particular Latino is an immigrant.)

Also, and possibly relatedly, you can’t solve the problem of regional poverty with regional communities (see also our fragmented educational system and how it perpetuates class divisions because the children of poor people go to poor schools).

More fundamentally, I don’t really understand the thinking of people who object to “the scale of government”. The US is one of the largest, most populous countries in the world, and among countries of comparable size it is clearly the richest (and therefore has the most complex infrastructure and institutions). Of course it’s going to have a large government.

ISTM that government is better understood as an intensive property, not an extensive one, and on an intensive basis the US government is actually rather small for the US’s tech level and per capita income, IIRC.

78

Salient 10.06.09 at 2:23 pm

…a political program that seeks “action” above all lead by a charismatic, confident leader who should be free of the constraints imposed by “outworn” ideas.

Umm. If that doesn’t describe your average outspoken Republican’s support for Reagan and Bush II, I don’t know what does.

As opposed to, for example, liberal support for Lyndon Johnson tanking as he escalated Vietnam, or the string of uncharismatic presidential nominees (I get that Obama is a convenient charismatic punching bag, but who else? Dukakis? Clinton wasn’t exactly liberal.)

I mean, everybody likes people who exude charisma and confidence. These are not bad characteristics for leaders to have, generally speaking. (I guess acknowledging this establishes my Goldbergian fascistic street cred.) But “should be free of the constraints imposed by [allegedly outworn] ideas” (such as the UN and the rule of law) was the core pro-Bush argument in 2002-2003, and the nomination of Kerry very much represented a desire to return to those allegedly outworn ideas.

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Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 2:55 pm

Note the blockquote fail at 10.06.09 at 1:48 pm: “What of the above is outlandish?” was meant to be blockquoted. Sure wish HTML worked properly here.

80

musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 3:02 pm

Wow, this thread really burgeoned in my absence. I’ve only just scanned it a little, but I suppose there have been several responses to my several wall-of-text comments above. Apologies in advance if I don’t do yours justice. Anyway, this caught my eye…

I would be very interested…in hearing from you, m.m., what it means to you, to say “I loathe Barack Obama and all he stands for.”

Well, first of all, it doesn’t mean I lie awake at night grinding my teeth about him. My loathing is more abstract than literal. But it’s very very real.

Religion-wise, I’m a deist at most, and not really even that. To the extent that I experience feelings of profound reverence and spiritual awe, it is for the ideal expressed in the Declaration, that human beings, in order to be human, must be free. Only in freedom can humanity’s positive tendencies – creativity, generosity, love, etc. – find full expression. Conversely, in the absence of freedom, even if all material needs are satisfied, humanity is miserable.

I think I made it clear earlier that freedom is somewhat complex to define in an advanced society, that there’s no such thing as pure freedom, and that the preconditions to freedom are likewise complex and in some cases a bit paradoxical. So, to avoid writing another wall of text, I’ll just say that I know what freedom is, I’ve been the beneficiary of it, and I love and revere it. It’s the only abstract thing I can think of that might be worth dying for, as life without it is not life at all.

Barack Obama is the enemy of freedom. I could write fifty walls of text explaining how and why (and in the present company, it’s pretty clear I’d have to). I could argue about it; I have boatloads of ammunition for that argument. I see Obama’s opposition to freedom in almost everything he says and does (and, to show that it’s not mere partisan paranoia, I saw a lot of the same things with Bush and McCain). Indeed, it goes beyond mere opposition; it’s almost existential or definitional. Obama lives in a conceptual world where freedom does not exist, and proceeds accordingly.

He’s also just a nasty person. Closed-minded, thin-skinned, contemptuous of differing points of view, disingenuous, callous to human suffering, lawless, ruthless, uncivil, irresponsible, a whiner…Jesus, somebody stop me. He has a beautiful smile. He has, from time to time, said or done something bold and right (that would be a good theme for a very lazy conservative blogger: Obama Gets It Right). But overall, he’s a nightmare.

I have a pet theory as to why Obama fares so poorly at speaking off-the-cuff, and uses a teleprompter even for press conferences (!). He’s not stupid. But he doesn’t think straight. Privately, he has plans and ideas that make sense and string together logically. But those plans aren’t palatable to most of the public. So he obfuscates. It’s easy to say what you believe. It’s not so easy to say what you think someone else needs to hear in order to accept a proposition which, if they understood its implications the way you do, they’d run screaming from.

81

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 10.06.09 at 3:12 pm

Next week in Psychoanalysis From Afar, mm will conclusively prove that John Kerry wet the bed until he was 37.

82

musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 3:34 pm

Please don’t drive us to the point of having to quote chapter and verse on the funding of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Tech Central Station.

Acknowledged.

83

musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 3:41 pm

How was the IOC decision, in any way, related to Obama?

Because Obama took the unprecedented step of personally attending the selection process at non-trivial trouble and expense, to help secure the deal for his home town. Thus the rejection of Chicago was to some debatable extent a rejection of Obama personally.

84

Keith 10.06.09 at 4:33 pm

Mario Diana @60:

Just what do you understand Jonah Goldberg’s thesis to be? Near as I can tell, it’s that fascism has its roots in the politics of the left: specifically, the Pragmatist/Progressive era….What of the above is outlandish?

The part where Goldburg tries to convince us that a bunch of staunch Catholic antisemites were lefties. This only makes sense if you think Mel Gibson is the right part to play the lead in a Bakunin biopic.

Golburg’s liberal fascism is based on the idea that he doesn’t like liberals or anything progressive and that the word fascist has a nice negative ring to it. So he smashes them together and hopes no one notices that he’s claiming Hitler’s greatest evil was that he wanted to provide universal healthcare.

85

ajay 10.06.09 at 4:33 pm

Obama took the unprecedented step of personally attending the selection process at non-trivial trouble and expense, to help secure the deal for his home town.

Not at all unprecedented: the Spanish sent their king, the Japanese sent their prime minister and the crown prince, the Brazilians sent their president. There are always heads of state and heads of government at these selection meetings.

On your hatred of Obama: it all seems to be based on your perception of his character (which must be tricky to assess in someone whom you’ve never met) rather than in his actual actions. If you said you opposed him because, for example, his economic policies were going to prolong the recession, his strategy for Afghanistan would cause pointless civilian deaths and exacerbate the problem of Muslim terrorism, and his healthcare plans would bankrupt the government, then at least we could have a discussion about that. But all you seem to have is “I know [somehow] that he’s a really nasty person who hates freedom” and it’s actually quite tricky to have a conversation with that as a starting position. Play the ball, not the man.

86

ajay 10.06.09 at 4:35 pm

Or, failing that, you could answer the question I asked earlier: when you say ““The same applies to fascists, communists, social democrats, etc. There are not-inconsequential differences, but they all share the same defining, extraordinary belief” – what is that belief ?

87

musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 4:37 pm

This would be a salient point if not for the fact that the Teabaggers

Hey, can we agree that “teabagger” is kind of goddamn fucking impolite, and indicates a lack of serious engagement with the argument?

who are afraid of the cult of Obama (which consists of exactly noone)

You need to get out more.

where the same ones who rallied behind GW Bush to a frightening extent, lauding him as the second coming of Reagan and taking his claim that God wanted him to be president at face value.

Again, you need to get out more. There were and remain Bushbots, ropey-dopes, and Republican hyperpartisans. They never had anything like the numbers of the Tea Party movement (unfortunately, they did have the bully pulpit during Bush’s tenure, so you might be forgiven for not knowing how much we conservatives in the street disliked Bush). This movement opposes Obama. It does not long for a return to Bush. It’s not even particularly conservative. Its leaders have publicly expressed dismay at establishment Republicans trying to hop on the bandwagon. My personal fantasy is a political realignment that would destroy both major parties.

The teabaggers main gripe is that their heroic, transcendental god-president turned out to be such a nitwit

You would know what that’s like, I guess. I had my hopes (never very high) for Bush, and he systematically disappointed them. Now you’re getting paid in the exact same coin. Obama’s legacy will be a crater.

and then, indignity of indignities, was replaced by a black man.

Well, hello Ms. Garofalo! Christ, that was the one thing I liked about Obama. Yes, I’m a racist. I thought it mattered to elect a black president. In a good way.

They’re projecting their own fears and desires onto “The Left,” calling a moderate centrist like Obama a Marxist in bloom in order to create a boogie man they can rally against.

Okay, now I understand why that other guy thought it was so funny that I said Obama was trying to establish social democracy in the US. You actually don’t believe that! Well, okay, then: he has nationalized huge swaths of the economy and seeks to nationalize and/or hyperregulate far more; he has demonized capitalists; he speaks unironically about “social justice” and redistribution as though they were good things; and he has followed through on that talk in a big way with his “stimulus” and other initiatives.

If all that’s not socialism, what is? What could possibly clear the bar? Does he have to get a beret with a star on it?

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Keith 10.06.09 at 4:41 pm

I have a pet theory as to why Obama fares so poorly at speaking off-the-cuff, and uses a teleprompter even for press conferences (!).

MM, I think you’ve mistaken Obama for someone else, namely his predecessor. We had an election last November and the dork who can’t string to words together retired, replaced with, as you put it, a deeply charismatic smooth talking leader. (who scares you).

So, is Obama a dunderhead or a silk tongued devil? Or does he change, like Jekyll into Hyde, depending on which argument you’re using against him?

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Barry 10.06.09 at 4:48 pm

MM: “Barack Obama is the enemy of freedom. I could write fifty walls of text explaining how and why (and in the present company, it’s pretty clear I’d have to). I could argue about it; I have boatloads of ammunition for that argument. I see Obama’s opposition to freedom in almost everything he says and does (and, to show that it’s not mere partisan paranoia, I saw a lot of the same things with Bush and McCain). Indeed, it goes beyond mere opposition; it’s almost existential or definitional. Obama lives in a conceptual world where freedom does not exist, and proceeds accordingly.

He’s also just a nasty person. Closed-minded, thin-skinned, contemptuous of differing points of view, disingenuous, callous to human suffering, lawless, ruthless, uncivil, irresponsible, a whiner…Jesus, somebody stop me. He has a beautiful smile. He has, from time to time, said or done something bold and right (that would be a good theme for a very lazy conservative blogger: Obama Gets It Right). But overall, he’s a nightmare.”

Shorter MM: “I’m soooooooooooooo delusional…”.

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Uncle Kvetch 10.06.09 at 4:53 pm

Jesus, somebody stop me.

Not on your life.

On your hatred of Obama: it all seems to be based on your perception of his character (which must be tricky to assess in someone whom you’ve never met) rather than in his actual actions.

Déjà vu all over again. Bill Clinton governed like a moderate-to-liberal Republican, and it drove his opponents far battier than if he really had been the flaming lefty they claimed he was. Obama shows every sign of being another wonky, incrementalist, centrist technocrat, which is why we now find ourselves debating whether he is or isn’t an asshole, rather than talking about what he’s doing.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 4:55 pm

On your hatred of Obama: it all seems to be based on your perception of his character (which must be tricky to assess in someone whom you’ve never met) rather than in his actual actions.

I can’t actually say I hate Obama. Hatred is personal, and Obama is a little too high up and far away for that. I don’t hate who he is. I hate what he is. And what he is, is revealed by his actions. His actions bespeak all those mean-spirited adjectives I heaped on him. It’s not all that tricky, really.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 4:58 pm

Ajay @46 and other comments: see mm @45.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 4:59 pm

There weren’t any right-wing marches during the Bush administration, opposing that administration’s massive power grabs, secrecy and corruption.

That’s because we have jobs.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 5:02 pm

I must say as a Brit that it is news to me that those words contain the ‘core’ of true Conservatism’

What, didn’t you get our letter?

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Salient 10.06.09 at 5:04 pm

His actions bespeak all those mean-spirited adjectives I heaped on him. It’s not all that tricky, really.

To me, it is. It really is tricky to figure out how you’re arriving at your conclusions.

Help me out? Like, with specific examples, please. I am listening and trying to comprehend, trying to envision how you see the world.

“The same applies to fascists, communists, social democrats, etc. There are not-inconsequential differences, but they all share the same defining, extraordinary belief” – what is that belief ?

Ajay, I think it’s “we live in a world where freedom is at best ephemeral, and hardly an ideal to pursue.” Not saying I agree that this notion ties together fascists and communists and social democrats, but I think m.m. would assert exactly that.

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Salient 10.06.09 at 5:08 pm

That’s because we have jobs.

Sorry, that quip doesn’t impress me. We both know it’s not a fair and reasonable response. Lots of conservatives turned out for 9/12 rallies around here, for example. The same folks could’ve turned out for the weekend rallies against war in Iraq, if they so desired. (And some of them did. Good on them, I say.) But the folks that are turning out nowadays didn’t all go and quit their jobs last January (or last July, etc) so that they could start participating in rallies and marches. Their jobs didn’t suddenly proffer extra vacation time as of last November. (And most of the folks I spoke with at the 9/12 rally were gainfully employed, or at least said they were, so it’s not a “suddenly unemployed” issue.)

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.06.09 at 5:31 pm

Ajay, I think it’s “we live in a world where freedom is at best ephemeral, and hardly an ideal to pursue.” Not saying I agree that this notion ties together fascists and communists and social democrats, but I think m.m. would assert exactly that.

Maybe that’s what MM would assert, but it would be a meaningless assertion. Fascists, communists, and social democrats certainly do believe in freedom, they just have a different definition of “freedom”. I suspect the common denominator is “any collective action”.

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Hidari 10.06.09 at 5:41 pm

‘I must say as a Brit that it is news to me that those words contain the ‘core’ of true Conservatism’
What, didn’t you get our letter?’

Yes very droll. However, the key influence on that document was John Locke, and we have no less than authority than that Great Mind of Our Time, Steven Pinker, that Locke, in propagating (allegedly) a theory of the ‘Blank Slate’, was in fact the most Evil Human Being Who Ever Lived (it being a proven scientific fact that all Evil Communists believe in the Blank Slate) whereas (I thought) Conservatives believe a static human nature….or something.

In any case, whatever you think, I’m pretty sure that it would have come as a surprise to Locke (not to mention the anti-colonial revolutionaries of the War of Independence) to find out that that he/they were actually ‘Conservatives’.

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Mario Diana 10.06.09 at 5:46 pm

Keith @ 83

What you’ve said is a gross distortion of Goldberg’s work. I’m halfway through it, so I’ve perhaps not yet gotten to the part of the “anti-semite Catholics.” I feel pretty confident that that will not turn out to be the focus of the book. As to Hitler and universal health care, I can appreciate your exaggeration as rhetoric, but nothing more.

I’m guessing you haven’t read it and possibly don’t plan to. But your criticism isn’t even that. There’s not substance to it.

And, for the record, while I agree that it’s a serious work, it is not something that will “stand the test of time.” First of all, it’s not saying anything new. Second, there are partisan pot shots in the book that we could all do without. But, to outright dismiss it as ridiculous or absurd is a hopeful bit of propaganda.

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Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 5:51 pm

What you’ve said is a gross distortion of Goldberg’s work.

His work is the work of a crank and nothing more.

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socialrepublican 10.06.09 at 6:07 pm

Why is my comment #76 still in mod?

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Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 6:14 pm

Did you use the dreaded word “socia1ism”?

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Uncle Kvetch 10.06.09 at 6:16 pm

Next week in Psychoanalysis From Afar, mm will conclusively prove that John Kerry wet the bed until he was 37.

You laugh, FSC, but there’s a lot of this kind of thing going around.

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Keith 10.06.09 at 6:19 pm

Mario Diana @97:

I didn’t think I needed to explain that “anti-semite Catholics” = Nazis. Hitler was a devout Catholic and, as you may have heard, an anti-semite, traits shared by most of his inner circle. But then, I am discussing matters of history and politics with someone who takes Jonah Goldburg seriously, so perhaps I should use small words.

You’re right, I haven’t read all of liberal Fascism. I’ve read extensive excerpts and several substantive reviews, however, which is more than enough to know that Goldburg’s book is 20 pounds of shit in a 10 pound bag.

Anyone who thinks nationalistic yahoos like the Nazis, striving to build a militant, monoculture based on religious and mythic qualities of empire, hierarchy and heroic individualism is the same thing as an ad hoc association of anti-war, multicultural, secular and collectivist groups needs to have their head examined.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 7:11 pm

Next week in Psychoanalysis From Afar…

If ever there was someone who could be psychoanalyzed from afar, it is Barack Obama. He’s probably the most publicly-visible person in history. Or maybe you’re talking about psychoanalyzing me from afar?

If you said you opposed him because [of specific policies] we could have a discussion about that. But all you seem to have is “I know [somehow] that he’s a really nasty person who hates freedom”… Play the ball, not the man.

I knew this was coming, and it’s fair enough. You say I’m paranoid. I say paranoia is the apprehension of patterns that aren’t there, whereas the patterns I apprehend are real. But then I don’t bother to give examples. We’ll get to that in a second.

The on-topic thesis I started with here was that conservatism is anti-intellectual. I thought it was a simultaneously good-natured and provocative thing to say, as well as being true in several respects. I haven’t had much help from you all with that thesis, unless calling me a doody-head counts. Part of the problem is with examples. I can’t really develop the thesis without giving examples from time to time, but the examples tend to lead to digressions and whataboutery. And as you’ll see, to be thorough about even one example will require a LONG digression. Even without digressions, it’s hard enough for me to keep it brief. And really, though I’m confident of my grounds for various assertions, I don’t want to argue about “ripped from the headlines” crap all day. Even amateur philosophy like mine is more interesting than most of what we call politics.

That said, Obama’s initiative to reform healthcare provides several examples of my thought process, so you can see exactly how paranoid I am.

One rationale often advanced in the healthcare debate is reducing costs. There are large, juicy, low-hanging fruit to be picked here: tort reform, interstate competition of insurance companies, public education and other initiatives directed at the big cost-drivers (hypertension and diabetes). I’ve worked many hours as a volunteer EMT, so I’ve been on the front-line of this latter struggle. I’ve seen how long people can live, at a staggering cost per unit time. Diabetes is unimaginably huge. When the baby boomers start hitting the assisted living facilities and nursing homes and going on dialysis, trying to absorb that cost in any feasible revenue source will be like trying to catch a whale in a butterfly net. I mean, we are screwed. But we really could reduce costs a lot, using simple means that everybody knows about and almost everyone agrees are a good idea.

Obama has ignored these ideas. He has not called for tort reform or interstate competition, or lent support to any plan that includes them. So either he’s too incompetent to breathe, or he’s not sincere about cutting costs. I’ll take “not sincere”. There is circumstantial evidence that Obama is calculating politically here: the trial lawyers association is a huge Democrat donor. And while it doesn’t necessarily prove anything about Obama, we all know John Edwards is both a prominent Democrat and a trial lawyer who has made huge money in highly questionable lawsuits against doctors. Until his personal scandal broke, Edwards was on the inside track for an Obama cabinet appointment, so the two are not exactly strangers.

So, Obama does not care so much to reduce costs. What does he want? Among other things, he wants the “public option”. He wants it very much, doubling down on it in a speech to Congress at a time when it was highly unpopular with congresscritters and their constituents. What’s it for? Well, I say it’s to put private insurance companies out of business and lead to single-payer healthcare. Obviously a government-subsidized insurance company will eventually outcompete private companies that don’t enjoy the subsidy. Ah, you say, but the public option won’t be subsidized! Don’t believe it. It will start, people will join, it will inevitably either prosper (taking customers out of the private insurance market), or far more likely get into financial difficulties, when the rationale will be “if we don’t subsidize, all those people will lose their insurance”. Now all this may seem a bit of a stretch, but Obama himself agrees with me, or at least he did sometime before he was elected, when he said that the public option was the first step toward single-payer healthcare. The people do not want single-payer healthcare. Obama expects to outflank them. That is just so uncool.

Finally, there’s this rank dishonesty about the uninsured. I don’t give a crap about the uninsured as such, and I’m one of them. I figured out a long time ago that my premiums were paying for old farts to get dialysis. Selfish bastard that I am, like millions of my fellow Americans I decided not to pay. I’ve taken care of some major health issues out-of-pocket with no regrets (no, I’m not rich). And I do risky stuff, knowing that in an emergency I’ll get whatever the healthcare system can provide, payback to be discussed later. One night I helped pull a couple of half-dead Mexicans out of a car wreck. They spoke no English, had no American papers or ID, and obviously had no insurance. So we dropped them off at the nearest pay phone life-flighted them. That cost about seven thousand dollars apiece, just to get to the hospital. Who pays? I don’t know, but lack of insurance doesn’t mean you can’t get healthcare in this country. I’ve met many dialysis patients who have no insurance and never pay. I don’t know how it works. Maybe it could be made better. Obviously in some cases a little preventative medicine would be preferable to taking emergency treatment later, and insurance can help with that. But the “crisis” of the uninsured is largely a matter of people exercising their own free will, and there’s always a safety net at the very bottom.

So, based on a combination of publicly-available facts and my own experience, I can say with confidence that with regard to healthcare, Obama’s motives are bogus, his arguments are bogus, and his objectives are obfuscated. That, among many many other things, makes me not like the guy.

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Cryptic ned 10.06.09 at 7:15 pm

I’ve taken care of some major health issues out-of-pocket with no regrets (no, I’m not rich).

Yes you are. Otherwise “major health issues out-of-pocket” would render you bankrupt.

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Kevin Donoghue 10.06.09 at 7:40 pm

mm: “I’m an unlikely defendant of Jonah Goldberg or the book….”

Mr Hayward I presume?

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Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 7:52 pm

Obama has ignored these ideas. He has not called for tort reform or interstate competition, or lent support to any plan that includes them.

This is an awfully shaky base from which to launch a foray into what Obama might be thinking.

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Chris 10.06.09 at 7:54 pm

AFAIK the definitive refutation of _Liberal Fascism_ was Dave Neiwert’s series of posts on Orcinus, links to which are collected here. (See also the series on “If conservatives really, really hate being called fascists…” linked in the left sidebar.)

As for m.m., well, if you refuse to define what you mean by “freedom”, it’s kind of difficult to discuss who is and isn’t an enemy of it, Humpty Dumpty.

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Steve LaBonne 10.06.09 at 7:56 pm

This is an awfully shaky base from which to launch a foray into what Obama might be thinking.

I’d say the fact that he hasn’t promoted such bullshit wingnut nostrums says positive things about his thinking.

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Steve LaBonne 10.06.09 at 8:07 pm

By the way, for a gibbering ignoramus to insult Barack Obama’s intelligence and communication skills is pretty damn rich.

112

Uncle Kvetch 10.06.09 at 8:07 pm

I don’t know how it works

You could have saved us all a lot of time and just posted that.

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Freshly Squeezed Cynic 10.06.09 at 8:57 pm

Kvetch, I laugh because otherwise I would cry.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 9:19 pm

Help me out? Like, with specific examples, please. I am listening and trying to comprehend, trying to envision how you see the world.

I’m trying to understand you, too. I find it interesting that anyone could have trouble with “the government that feeds everybody can starve anybody”. Your response:

I don’t understand this. But maybe it’s because I am translating it into “the government which ensures that all of its citizens have the resources they need to acquire food, could start preventing some of its citizens from expending their resources in order to acquire food”

Here’s my psychoanalysis from afar, of both you and that other guy who took exception: I say “the government feeds everybody” and somehow that concept becomes a logical proposition instead of a plain-old hypothetical. This renders the rest of the statement absurd, as though I had said “A and Not A”.

Maybe this reveals something about the progressive psyche. Progressives, far more than conservatives, believe in the promise of government. Suppose unicorns exist and every little girl wants one. If we create a Department of Unicorns for the purpose of getting every little girl a unicorn, progressives just expect it to work. They see some kind of mysterious (to conservatives) logical relationship between the stated intention of providing unicorns, and the outcome of unicorns being provided.

Conservatives, on the other hand, expect things like massive distortion of the unicorn market; perverse incentives leading to hoarding of unicorns; corruption and graft in the unicorn procurement process; bureaucratic snafus leading to inefficient and inequitable unicorn distribution; failure of the unicorn supply; budgets blowing out by an order of magnitude; etc. We’re basically always right about this. There is no logical connection between intention and outcome.

Sometimes, too, the outcome is so predictable, so obvious, and so bad, that no conservative can believe the intention is stated in good faith. This is how I feel about just about every intention Obama states. And then the progressives say “you just don’t want little girls to have unicorns!” Sigh.

Anyway, here’s how I clarify “the government that feeds everybody can starve anybody”. If the government feeds everybody (and I mean literally and directly, not by way of providing fungible “resources”), then the government has the option, at any time, of ceasing to feed anybody. Anybody who disagrees with the government, for instance. All the major historical examples I can think of happened in non-democratic societies, but I don’t think democracy is a categorical safeguard, for reasons I enumerated earlier. You may take this as a metaphor for any material necessity, not just food.

Actually, England’s NHS is arguably an example. Most of what I know about the NHS I learned from nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com. The proprietor is a working English physician, and by no means a conservative. He believed in the promise of the NHS, and has suffered an idealist’s distress at the actual outcomes. One of those outcomes, even as budgets have exploded, has been continuous reduction in the standard of care, and in choices available to doctors and patients. It’s a far cry from politically-targeted starvation, but it shows how even in a democracy government can renege on its obligations, to the benefit of no-one but government, and get away with it.

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Salient 10.06.09 at 9:21 pm

I don’t give a crap about the uninsured as such, and I’m one of them… like millions of my fellow Americans I decided not to pay… there’s always a safety net at the very bottom.

This in particular (and the rest in general) answers the questions I had. Thanks, and thank you for your frank blunt honesty, which you knew would draw strong criticism.

Let me put forth three responses:

* Many of our fellow Americans are “deciding” not to buy health insurance in the same way they are “deciding” not to buy a luxurious summer home. Regardless of whether or not they’d want it, the option’s just not financially available to them. Approximately 40 people per day die due to lack of the kind of insurance that would allow them access to adequate medical care (PDF link). Some of these folks even have insurance! The “safety net” you describe is not sweeping them up.

* It sounds like you strongly support a foundational single-payer health care system for basic and emergency care, though you might prefer to call it a “safety net” instead. When you say “there’s always a safety net at the very bottom” you are referencing the health care payments provided by the government (Medicare/Medicaid).

* As you know, emergency care is substantially more expensive and resource-intensive than ordinary maintenance care. Insofar as you support the “safety net” and want to control costs, I think you should support providing universal pre-emergency maintenance care designed to treat ongoing conditions and prevent/reduce related emergencies.

I, personally, would like Medicare for all established (so people don’t have to go bankrupt and lose their jobs before becoming eligible for the safety net).

A number of my friends are unemployed at present. Good, hard-working people with good employment records and a diverse skill set (not that I think this should matter, when it comes to public goods, but you might). They don’t have health care coverage, and can’t get the maintenance care they basically need in order to be healthy enough to work their hardest and contribute their utmost. So they go without, or devise weird cheap alternative treatments, or drink lots of diet soda and take aspirins. In short, they suffer. Is it unreasonable to direct government resources toward meliorating that suffering?

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Chris Bertram 10.06.09 at 9:21 pm

_Most of what I know about the NHS I learned from nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com._

Now why doesn’t that surprise me.

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Hidari 10.06.09 at 9:32 pm

‘Progressives, far more than conservatives, believe in the promise of government’.

Could I just point out that this is blatantly and self-evidently false?

Two words: Iraq war. Who believed in the power of the Department of Unicorns to make Iraq a success? The Right, or the Left? And this is not a one off. Generally speaking, conservatives believe the Army to be an extraordinarily efficient, effective and ethical force, and as for the plans of Generals? Conservatives ‘just expect them to work’.

Indeed the only thing that rivals the Department of Unicorns, sorry, the armed forces, as an examplar for efficiency and brilliance in the Conservative mind are the intelligence services.

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Salient 10.06.09 at 9:32 pm

If the government feeds everybody (and I mean literally and directly, not by way of providing fungible “resources”),

But see, that’s a problem. This is exactly what everyone is taking a strong exception to. With that parenthetical, you are caricaturing my beliefs and ideals (and not just mine!) I am, at heart, a redistributionist: I believe in taxing the wealthy enough to fund the basic needs of every citizen. It would be weird to me to set up the US Grocery Service. What are you envisioning, like soup kitchens on every corner? Progressives, broadly speaking, wouldn’t want that and wouldn’t support that. You’re offending us by accusing us of wanting something rather silly that we don’t want, and all agree is rather silly.

Your statement, of what you perceive to be the progressive stance, is especially off the mark when it comes to health care! It’s not like the U.S. government will own the hospitals, or prevent its citizens from buying service from the hospitals with their own money. I’d just like to see the U.S. government financially provide for the health care of its citizens through a progressive tax. I am pragmatically OK with some reasonable restrictions on what the provisions will pay for, and OK with establishing the assurance that anyone is free to purchase any additional insurance they want.

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Cryptic ned 10.06.09 at 9:39 pm

Look, people. Someone who responds to “There weren’t any right-wing marches during the Bush administration, opposing that administration’s massive power grabs, secrecy and corruption.” by saying “That’s because we have jobs.” is not going to listen to anything anyone has to say.

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dsquared 10.06.09 at 9:45 pm

Most of what I know about the NHS I learned from nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com. The proprietor is a working English physician, and by no means an advisor to the cConservative Party.

Fixed. HTH.

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dsquared 10.06.09 at 9:45 pm

so strikeout works in preview, but not in the actual posts? fickle are the ways of WordPress.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.06.09 at 9:49 pm

There is no logical connection between intention and outcome.

Well, they did send a man to the moon, you know. Or was it merely a hoax perpetrated by scheming bureaucrats?

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 9:50 pm

Yes you are [rich]. Otherwise “major health issues out-of-pocket” would render you bankrupt.

Well, major to me anyway. Thousands of dollars. And maybe I would actually have been better off being insured. It’s fairly close, anyway. But the point is, I made my choice. Many of the uninsured have made the same choice, so it won’t do to pretend they’re victims.

Proponents of mandates actually try to have it both ways. They appeal to the emotions by painting the uninsured as victims, and then as a solution they effectively portray the uninsured as some variant of free-riders, selfishly opting out of a scheme to pay for others’ healthcare. Others, I might add, who have much higher average net worth than the young, healthy, starting-out-in-life people who comprise much of the opt-out group.

What have you all got against poor people? (I shouldn’t even have to say it, but I know that’s not exactly fair. Just a little light-hearted joshing.)

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Uncle Kvetch 10.06.09 at 9:55 pm

Who believed in the power of the Department of Unicorns to make Iraq a success? The Right, or the Left?

No True Scotsman will be arriving momentarily at Gate 7.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 9:55 pm

Well, they did send a man to the moon, you know.

They also sent a couple of space shuttles to the Earth. Anyway, I’m not saying there’s no connection at all between intention and outcome. Just that the connection isn’t logical in nature.

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engels 10.06.09 at 10:03 pm

Article on fascism in America that attempts to apply Robert O. Paxton’s analysis…

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Keith 10.06.09 at 10:04 pm

MM:If we create a Department of Unicorns for the purpose of getting every little girl a unicorn, progressives just expect it to work.

This is a straw man. More than that: a straw man with glitter on top. Progressives expect government to work, not in some hazy metaphysical way, but with proper regulation and oversight to ensure that it does in fact feed everyone rather than starve everyone.

Conservatives are the ones who put the CEO of glue factories in charge of the Department of Unicorns, and then use the failure of that department as an example of corrupt bureaucracy. Progressives would do the unthinkable: hire someone qualified and enthusiastic about the stated mission of their charge.

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Substance McGravitas 10.06.09 at 10:09 pm

Where’s Brownie? I wanna say “Heckuva job.”

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Salient 10.06.09 at 10:38 pm

About that NHS blog doc:

Unless with prior permission, the stories about “patients” are fictionalised. The underlying points made about medicine are true, but they are clothed in fictional events.

So, shrug. I read through the site’s archives. Lots of parodies. It would be like me saying I get all my news about tea party rallies from the Daily Show.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 10:41 pm

The proprietor [of nhsblogdoc] is…an advisor to the Conservative Party.

Well, then, my information is out of date. I haven’t read the fellow in years. He got internet-famous quite quickly when he started, and that was when I tuned in.

But I stand by my characterization. There was, in his early writing, a definite sense of feeling betrayed. He believed the NHS could and should work as advertised, and he deplored the Orwellian clusterfuck it had become. As a conservative, I often thought, “you poor, naive fellow”. I really did think of him as a good little socialist.

Whatever his subsequent political story, I see no reason to doubt the sincerity or accuracy of those writings. Having worked in healthcare myself, I could empathize with his frustration at not being able to take proper care (as he saw it) of his patients. He had (presumably still has) the compassion and integrity which are professional requirements in medicine. And I should think he knows better than any of us how the system works. But around here, it appears, he is regarded as a crackpot or worse. Well, I’ll take care not to refer to him in the future.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 11:14 pm

Who believed in the power of the Department of Unicorns to make Iraq a success?

That would be me, with a definition of success where the goalposts are in this solar system. (Just so we’re clear, I don’t think progressives deserve all the blame for moving the goalposts.)

Generally speaking, conservatives believe the Army to be an extraordinarily efficient, effective and ethical force

Excuse me? They are. They certainly outperformed my expectations in that regard. By analogy, any other department of the government would have bogged down before getting to Baghdad, taken 50,000 casualties, and deliberately burned alive every puppy and small child in the place. Which is pretty much what the antis said would happen.

and as for the plans of Generals? Conservatives ‘just expect them to work’.

Well, you do have a point there. A lot of conservatives overestimate the miracle-working powers of the military. Right now I’m for the cut-and-run option in Afghanistan, and I’m a little bemused by conservative calls to see it through. See it through to what?

Indeed the only thing that rivals the Department of Unicorns, sorry, the armed forces, as an examplar for efficiency and brilliance in the Conservative mind are the intelligence services.

I’m at a loss here. What conservatives are you talking about? Seems to me all we do is piss and moan about those incompetent ass-covering nincompoops at the CIA.

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musical mountaineer 10.06.09 at 11:36 pm

Unless with prior permission, the stories about “patients” are fictionalised. The underlying points made about medicine are true, but they are clothed in fictional events.

Didn’t used to say that. Used to say it was HIPAA-compliant, which means you can’t say anything publicly which would make the case identifiable. So of course some stuff had to be falsified. But, you know, “the underlying points made about medicine are true”. Crippen didn’t invent Choose and Book, or the Spine, or nurse practitioners, or “the dumbing down of medicine”, as he called it. He didn’t make up the institutional changes which had throttled medical education in the UK.

I can see, though, that I’m going to have to find another inside source on the NHS, assuming one exists. Anybody got any suggestions?

I read through the site’s archives. Lots of parodies.

Parodies? This is not the Dr. Crippen I knew.

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Salient 10.06.09 at 11:55 pm

Parodies? This is not the Dr. Crippen I knew.

E.g. the fake stories about airliners hiring stewardesses to fly the planes, meant to illustrate the problem with specialist nurses doing a doctor’s job. I’m pretty certain that’s parody.

134

musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 12:11 am

All right, one more:

Progressives expect government to work, not in some hazy metaphysical way, but with proper regulation and oversight to ensure that it does in fact feed everyone rather than starve everyone. Conservatives are the ones who put the CEO of glue factories in charge of the Department of Unicorns, and then use the failure of that department as an example of corrupt bureaucracy. Progressives would do the unthinkable: hire someone qualified and enthusiastic about the stated mission of their charge.

They would? You make it sound as though they never had the chance, yet. We’ll get to that.

Proper regulation and oversight, and qualified people and all that, only go so far. Institutions change. Or they don’t change, and the world does. Or they fulfill their mission, and then need some new rationale for existing. There are a lot of ways for institutions to lose their integrity, competence, and relevance. And it’s kind of like what the IRA said to Thatcher: you have to get lucky every time, we only have to get lucky once. Once an institution misses the curve, it doesn’t get back on track except by a miracle. When businesses fail to “get lucky”, they go out of business (or, in the new model, they become departments of the government). Government programs, however corrupt, can live on as zombies indefinitely. They aren’t directly accountable to their “customers”, and they can influence the political process to insulate themselves from accountability.

The Department of Education was established under Carter, who was and remains about as progressive as a national office-holder can be. By your reasoning, he must have hired enthusiastic, capable people and placed them under proper oversight and regulation. The department’s a shambles now, and the poster child for perverse incentives. They literally get paid more to fail than to succeed.

Primary education is not rocket science. It’s been done well (and is still done well around the world) with minimal resources. We now have schools that cost millions of dollars, with all computerized whiteboards and sports facilities and resource rooms and 47 layers of administration providing proper oversight and regulation. We have teacher colleges churning out highly credentialed professionals well-versed in the latest educational theories. With all that, they underperform amateurs who educate their own kids in their spare time, using materials bought with their own money. That’s because the primary mission of Education is not education, and hasn’t been for decades.

There’s a bumper sticker you see sometimes: if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. No joke. A cursory google check suggests we bought about 98 billion dollars’ worth of ignorance in 2006.

135

Salient 10.07.09 at 12:15 am

Oh phooey, I used one of the E. D. drug words. I submit for the record that the CT automated anti-spam system has completely misinterpreted the role and function of “special!-ist nurses.” :-)

Parodies? This is not the Dr. Crippen I knew.

E.g. the one about airliners hiring stewardesses to fly the planes, meant to illustrate the problem with special!ized nurses doing a doctor’s job. I’m pretty certain those stories, at least, are parody. As for the various other stories, the ones that aren’t public knowledge are unverifiable. (Which isn’t saying much of anything. I’m not demanding that the stories ought to be verifiable, or any such thing. I don’t really have much opinion about the fellow’s blog either way.)

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Lee A. Arnold 10.07.09 at 12:25 am

“Once an institution misses the curve, it doesn’t get back on track except by a miracle.”

This is nonsense. All sorts and levels of institutions are changed all the time. If government institutional design involves tight focus, responsibility and transparency — just like some business institutions — it will do okay. Markets can’t fix everything because they are opaque with regard to the distribution of income, and because modern society requires monopolized competition due to the costs of innovating in high technology — and that thwarts the efficient allocation of resources under any distribution of income. In reality what we have is a polycentric structure with three major institutions: price markets, government, and freedom of speech.

137

Kaveh 10.07.09 at 3:38 am

Who believed in the power of the Department of Unicorns to make Iraq a success?
That would be me, with a definition of success where the goalposts are in this solar system.

Excuse me? They are. They certainly outperformed my expectations in that regard.

I don’t know what outcome you expected from the war against Iraq, but if you expected the armed forces to achieve anything much better than what they did, then yes, the goalposts would be way out of this solar system. Is the outcome which actually occurred roughly what you expected to happen? Do you consider this a success? What was achieved?

By analogy, any other department of the government would have bogged down before getting to Baghdad, taken 50,000 casualties, and deliberately burned alive every puppy and small child in the place. Which is pretty much what the antis said would happen.

What the antis said would happen is more or less exactly what did happen: Iraq torn apart by civil war, ethnic cleansing, destruction of its infrastructure to such an extent that it will take decades to recover to 2000 levels, not to mention pre-1991 levels, a massive rise in worldwide anti-U.S./European sentiment that would motivate dozens if not hundreds of more terrorists, and more attacks which are clearly, directly related to the war against Iraq (as the 7/7 and Madrid bombings were). All of this to the delight of both the neocons, who get more clash of civilizations-type conflict, and al-Qaeda, who want the same thing.

The reality is no less bad than your caricature of what opponents of war thought the U.S. military would do.

This is the problem with your (or any) anti-intellectual political ideology: once you become dismissive of informed expert opinion in matters of life and death (as conservatives did by ignoring the warnings of academics about the dangers of waging war on Iraq), you are throwing away the most of the capacity to measure success or failure in those matters. How does one even know if you’ve perpetuated a holocaust when they dismiss any serious attempt to assess the consequences of a course of action and its alternatives? Anti-intellectualism thus becomes, necessarily, anti-human.

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Keith 10.07.09 at 4:02 am

The Department of Education was established under Carter, who was and remains about as progressive as a national office-holder can be. By your reasoning, he must have hired enthusiastic, capable people and placed them under proper oversight and regulation. The department’s a shambles now, and the poster child for perverse incentives. They literally get paid more to fail than to succeed.

Carter did hire enthusiastic, capable people and place them under proper oversight and regulation. Then Reagan came along and replaced them all with hacks. Because the GOP thinks kids should be stupid unless their parents are wealthy enough to pay for a decent education. Every time a Democrat gets into office, test scores go up and education turns around, at least incrementally. Then another Republican wander sin and shuts it all down out of some misguided desire to run critical infrastructure like a business. Some things (education, health care, electricity and housing) aren’t going to make money. And that’s fine. Every other country in the world thinks so at least, and so spends money to create cultural capital. But here in the US, we only like economic capital. The result is our education system is full of corrupt hacks, and we pay twice as much for half the health care of our nearest neighbor. But hay, the Health Insurance companies are posting profits so why change anything, right?

139

Cryptic ned 10.07.09 at 4:36 am

To be fair, now that we’re in year 34 of the Carter administration, we should really be seeing some results from his policies. When can we finally say that liberalism has been tried and found wanting?!?

140

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.07.09 at 7:16 am

Mountaineer, 124 I’m not saying there’s no connection at all between intention and outcome. Just that the connection isn’t logical in nature.

They created a Department and eradicated polio and smallpox for all the little girls. They built electric grids and brought electricity to their homes. The created national air traffic control system. Sewage system so that the girls don’t have to run to the outhouse in the middle of the night. They brought potable water into their houses, day and night. They paved roads and sidewalks, and put up light poles along them. They painted yellow and white lines on the roads, they installed traffic lights that switch from green to yellow to red and back to green all day long. They put up signs “no parking on this side on Tuesday”, because they remove snow from the streets for all the little girls. They built schools for them and hired teachers. They collect the garbage. They created the internet. They’ve done a lot of very good things, exactly as they set out to do. Some of them very ambitious.

Now, they’ve done some very bad things as well, but still, it seems obvious that their actions need to be discussed on the merits, not flat-out rejected the way you do.

141

Doctor Slack 10.07.09 at 8:57 am

the “crisis” of the uninsured is largely a matter of people exercising their own free will, and there’s always a safety net at the very bottom.

The funny thing about “musical mountaineer” is that he seems to genuinely think this is a substitute for policy. Make up some fantasies about systems that work better than the American system (obviously it can’t be true!), pawn off some blithe rhetoric about how stuff will just sort of somehow work out for the poor who’re screwed by your system (how? who knows? “somehow,” and who cares?), talk up the rugged individualism of the “decision” to demand that the system remain fucked… and call it a day.

What? Not satisfied with that answer? Then you must be “against freedom” like that Obama fellow.

That’s it in a nutshell. That’s the conservative movement that actually thinks it doesn’t “need ideas.” The conservative movement that brought you the Bridge to Nowhere, Sarah Palin and the Birther movement. The days of even pretending to have actual policy positions or workable proposals of any kind, on anything at all? Who needs ’em?

Why does CT draw these ludicrous trolls with such consistency?

142

Hidari 10.07.09 at 10:40 am

‘Generally speaking, conservatives believe the Army to be an extraordinarily efficient, effective and ethical force
Excuse me? They are.’

Wow.

143

ajay 10.07.09 at 11:20 am

mm, there’s too much wrong with what you’ve said to go into it all, but:

1) it would be better to get your information on the NHS from somewhere else. In fact the NHS produces better health outcomes than the US health care system, and for a far lower cost per capita. The US federal government alone already spends enough on health care (VA, federal employees, Medicare etc) to provide NHS-level care for everyone in the country.

2) tort reform would cut US healthcare costs, but not by very much, so it makes perfect sense that this isn’t a priority for reform; anyway, as a conservative, aren’t you worried about reducing the financial incentive for doctors not to screw up?

3) your position on single-payer healthcare is somewhat incoherent. You say the people don’t want it. This is, as we’ve seen, false. The people who already have it – the old folks on Medicare – are desperate to keep it; their opposition to reform is based on a fear that they might see their single-payer coverage reduced or otherwise damaged. (Incidentally, the VA patients and Congressmen who have state-provided health care experience a far better level of care than Medicare or otherwise insured patients, and they don’t want to lose it either.)

144

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 10.07.09 at 11:26 am

“He believed the NHS could and should work as advertised, and he deplored the Orwellian clusterfuck it had become.”

The NHS may be an Orwellian clusterfuck, but it’s an Orwellian clusterfuck that provides generally better outcomes than the US system for half the price, even after all that money had been pumped into it.

145

alex 10.07.09 at 11:30 am

@141 – unfortunately, if you do really want to get something done, one generally effective way to do it is to use overwhelming armed force. So long as you aren’t bothered about the collateral damage.

As for ethics, well, the US performance in Iraq has been far from perfect, but considerably better than its one in Vietnam, or, for example, that of the Japanese in China, or the Red Army on its glorious march to Berlin. Much depends on whether you have an absolutist ‘any little bit of torture invalidates the whole enterprise’ approach, or a more relativist ‘crushed genitals have to be weighed against improvements in sanitation’ mindset. Opinions differ…

146

Mario Diana 10.07.09 at 11:50 am

Keith @ 103

I have no inclination to defend the Catholic Church, but as to Hitler being a “devout Catholic,” this is news to me. I was actually a history major, and though I didn’t concentrate in modern Europe, I think it’s far safer to say that, at the most, Hitler had a Machiavellian view of religion — it’s useful to keep the dupes feeling good about themselves and their government.

I do know enough to know that Hitler wished to make a “religion” of the state. I’ve come across this in many places; and though I’m sure you’ll pooh-pooh the Wikipedia article, I’ve gone to the trouble of linking to it for you.

Furthermore, a big part of Mr. Goldberg’s book is to point out that “Fascism = Nazi” is a big oversimplification, something which seems to escape you.

As I’ve said, I’m only halfway through the book, so I can’t say whether I take Mr. Goldberg fully seriously, yet. However, I have made up my mind, based on your frothing rant above, as to how seriously I take you. Have the last word, if you wish — I’m done.

147

Steve LaBonne 10.07.09 at 12:22 pm

Much depends on whether you have an absolutist ‘any little bit of torture invalidates the whole enterprise’ approach, or a more relativist ‘crushed genitals have to be weighed against improvements in sanitation’ mindset. Opinions differ…

Ah, so much for the “extraordinarily effective and ethical claim… didn’t take long to flush that bullshit.

And torture is far from the only war crime the US military has committed in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan.) In a just world quite a few officers would be in the dock at The Hague (once the trials of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were completed.)

But that conservatives worship the military, that we certainly know. Those of us with any historical perspective also know how extraordinarily un-American that is.

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musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 12:33 pm

This is nonsense. All sorts and levels of institutions are changed all the time.

Yes, well, in my analogy, a successful change would be making the curve and staying on the road. And yes, that happens. The point is, the road curves again and again. Sooner or later any institution, whether it be the Dept of Ed or Microsoft, will miss the curve. Microsoft had a near miss in about 1997, when they came late to the browser wars. It’s kind of hard to imagine that Microsoft could end up being irrelevant, dysfunctional and broke, but it will happen eventually. It would have been hard to imagine it happening to GM, forty years ago.

As for Education, it missed the curve sometime in the mid-80’s, and has been growing like a cancer ever since. According to Keith, it was Reagan who pushed them off. There may be some basis to this; he doesn’t give a cite. I doubt conservatism was responsible, because the institutional problems with Education that I know about are typical lefty stuff: politicized teachers’ unions, postmodern education theories (New Math, anyone?), political correctness run amok (though conservatives have played a role in making educational material content-free).

149

musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 12:45 pm

The NHS…provides generally better outcomes than the US system

False. Life expectancy at birth is longer in the UK than in the US, but that is a very indirect measure of how well the healthcare system works. Perhaps Americans tend more to smoke cigarettes or get murdered by their fellow students in Chicago high schools (67 of those since fall of 2007, I read in the NYT this morning).

The US system has significantly higher rates of cancer survival. More tellingly, US life expectancy is greater after age 65. That’s a far more direct measure of the efficacy of health care. End-of-life is where the rubber meets the road; it’s where the costs are, it’s where most of the actual work of medicine is done.

150

Kevin Donoghue 10.07.09 at 12:49 pm

…postmodern education theories (New Math, anyone?)….

Gauss on a bicycle. Is New Math now classified as postmodern?

151

Steve LaBonne 10.07.09 at 12:54 pm

The US system has significantly higher rates of cancer survival.

Bullshit statistic, completely invalidated by different screening / diagnosis practices in different countries. In the measure that’s actually valid for international comparisons, death rates, the US performs indifferently (and worse than the UK).

152

musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 1:05 pm

For those who have responded to my comments about the military and Iraq, I acknowledge your comments.

153

Steve LaBonne 10.07.09 at 1:06 pm

For the benefit of MM since everybody with half a brain already knows what I’m about to say: The really stupid thing about wingnut talking points on health care is that, even on the most generous (i.e. misleading) interpretations, you can at best make out the US to be very modestly better than average and only on certain carefully selected measures. And that unimpressive (and illusory) “advantage” is attained by spending a metric crap-ton more money on the health care system than any other country does (while still leaving a lot of people with no coverage at all.) Fail.

As for the UK, it’s amazing that their outcomes are as good as they are given that they conspicuously under-spend by the standards of almost all other industrialized countries. Clearly the NHS is pretty damn efficient.

154

musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 1:16 pm

Bullshit statistic, completely invalidated by different screening / diagnosis practices in different countries. In the measure that’s actually valid for international comparisons, death rates, the US performs indifferently (and worse than the UK).

Um, that chart shows considerably lower numbers for the US than the UK. Am I misinterpreting it, or is “death” supposed to be a good thing?

155

Salient 10.07.09 at 1:19 pm

More tellingly, US life expectancy is greater after age 65.

Indeed, Medicare rocks.

Is New Math now classified as postmodern?

Yeah, I was expecting m.m. to say that. I am fairly confident m.m. doesn’t have much awareness of what New Math is.

typical lefty stuff: politicized teachers’ unions, postmodern education theories (New Math, anyone?), political correctness run amok

I get it, I think. Let me try: “The government that provides education to everyone, can indoctrinate everyone.” Or perhaps: “The government that provides education to everyone, messes around with education trying to make it better, but inevitably makes it worse.”

(How exactly has “political correctness run amok” in education? What does it mean for political correctness to run amok?)

(By the way, I wish I could agree that these three items were the three largest and most appalling problems we face in our educational program. I have to admit, I see larger problems. Different priorities, I guess.)

156

Steve LaBonne 10.07.09 at 1:25 pm

Um, that chart shows considerably lower numbers for the US than the UK. Am I misinterpreting it, or is “death” supposed to be a good thing?

Sorry, I read it backwards. But the US is middle of the pack at best and not really that much better than the UK, with the difference being slightly more marked in females due to one of the few almost universally acknowledged strengths of the US- breast cancer treatment. Overall, quite an unimpressive return on extravagant use of resources, massively more resources than the UK.

157

Salient 10.07.09 at 1:29 pm

Or maybe I should say: I don’t think m.m. realizes we’re all done with the part of New Math that pretended we’d never heard of that Piaget fellow, and we have been for at least three decades, and all that was resolved and put away in its little box before the 1980s.

158

musical mountaineer 10.07.09 at 1:32 pm

I have a suggestion that we can probably all agree on: this thread has jumped the shark. When you’re delving into statistical minutiae, you’re not really talking principles anymore. I’ve enjoyed this, and I’m grateful for the chance to talk with you all. Salient gets top marks.

See you again some other month.

159

Steve LaBonne 10.07.09 at 1:36 pm

I have a suggestion that we can probably all agree on: this thread has jumped the shark. When you’re delving into statistical minutiae, you’re not really talking principles anymore.

Shorter MM (which much to be desired, by the way, given his logorrhea): “Don’t confuse me with facts”.

Stay out of the reality-based community if you only want to deal in ideology, dude. We don’t think facts are stupid things.

See you again some other month.

Don’t bother. Really.

160

alex 10.07.09 at 2:03 pm

Yah… Of course the interesting point about the near-exponential rise in costs of care towards the end of life is that they are all, pretty much, futile. The clue being in the phrase ‘towards the end of life’. Get me to 80 – heck 75 – in reasonable health, at reasonable cost, and I’ll spare you the bother of heroic measures with a ‘DNR’ from there.

161

Substance McGravitas 10.07.09 at 2:15 pm

When you’re delving into statistical minutiae, you’re not really talking principles anymore.

Yes you are.

162

Uncle Kvetch 10.07.09 at 2:19 pm

Perhaps Americans tend more to smoke cigarettes or get murdered by their fellow students in Chicago high schools (67 of those since fall of 2007, I read in the NYT this morning).

And it’s all Barack Obama’s fault! Damn him to hell!

163

Kaveh 10.07.09 at 2:20 pm

I wouldn’t blame it on the thread, I think it’s more a matter of the idea of an anti-intellectual politics, which I was willing to consider for a few minutes out of a busy day, precluding any meaningful discussion (like, dismissing contradictory data as “statistical minutiae”). I don’t think there’s nothing that could be salvaged there. All human endeavors are subject to errors, which might accumulate, and anyway isn’t that what critique of power is all about, in the first place? But in that case, the blanket term anti-intellectual doesn’t really apply.

164

engels 10.07.09 at 2:24 pm

One night I helped pull a couple of half-dead Mexicans out of a car wreck. They spoke no English, had no American papers or ID, and obviously had no insurance. So we dropped them off at the nearest pay phone life-flighted them. That cost about seven thousand dollars apiece, just to get to the hospital. Who pays? I don’t know, but lack of insurance doesn’t mean you can’t get healthcare in this country. I’ve met many dialysis patients who have no insurance and never pay. I don’t know how it works. Maybe it could be made better.

Who needs ‘statistical minuiae’ when you have hard-headed policy analysis like the above?

165

Chris 10.07.09 at 3:00 pm

politicized teachers’ unions

Because the right’s open program of “kill all unions, everywhere, all the time” couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the political leanings of a union! Naw, it’s all just about protecting incompetence. Why do liberals hate competence?

It’s also true that these are a long way from being the most serious problems in education. But blaming the politicization of unions on the left is a real howler.

166

John Emerson 10.07.09 at 3:07 pm

I’ll say a thing or two about it. I’m an unlikely defendant of Jonah Goldberg or the book, because I had wanted to write that book myself, and I thought I would do a better job of it….

I have done some research on the pre-WWII period, and I am prepared to say that during that era everyone called everyone else a fascist. To specific, Roosevelt called Lindbergh a Nazi and Lindbergh called FDR a fascist. Senator Lundeen of MN was called a Communist in 1934 (by someone later convicted of collaboration with Nazis, a charge repeated by Arthur Schlesinger) and was called a Fascist in 1940 (because of his cooperation with the Nazi tool Viereck.) And of course, the Trotskyists called everyone fascists, but especially the Communists.

167

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 10.07.09 at 7:59 pm

“Furthermore, a big part of Mr. Goldberg’s book is to point out that “Fascism = Nazi” is a big oversimplification”

To which he replies with the even grosser oversimplification, “Leftism = Nazi”.

Then he tries to pretend he hasn’t said the stupidest thing yet said by saying “Of course, I don’t actually mean that Liberals are Nazis, but the fact that I just said that they are is, indeed, central to my point.”

You’ve convinced me, Mario! I’ll go pick up my armband from Obergruppenfuhrer Barney Frank today!

168

Mario Diana 10.07.09 at 11:24 pm

Freshly Squeezed Cynic @ 167

If you have the page number of that quote, I’d like to have it. Dead trees aren’t search-friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to believe that the quote comes out of the book. I’d just like to see the context for myself.

What I’m getting from the book, so far, is as follows. Fascism didn’t begin with Hitler. Moreover, the many of the key ideas that Mussolini espoused and implemented didn’t begin with him, but instead trace back to the Progressive Era in the United States and some elements within Pragmatism. Mussolini, and by extension, Fascism, were in fact greatly admired during the 20’s and 30’s by many intellectuals in the U.S., most notably those who identified themselves as Progressives, and later, Liberals.

But “Fascism” as a brand was eclipsed by the enormity of Hitler’s regime, and alienated from the Left by the far Left (aka, socialists) who even before Hitler worked his insanity on all of us began to identify Fascism as on the political Right, which it was, compared to Stalin, et al. Fascism, of course, was not anywhere near those actually on the political Right: namely, the “conservatives” (aka, classical liberals) who were for capitalism and small government. As an ideology, and especially in the promises it made and in the bogeymen it attacked (leave Hitler’s Jewish innovation aside for a moment), Fascism competed directly with socialism.

Now, I’ve said this before: I’m halfway through the book, and I, myself, have criticized the incidental trolling — the “partisan pot shots” — that I’m coming across as I read. I’m guessing that where he’s going with the book is to say that the central ideas of Fascism — which don’t include “final solutions” — trace their pedigree to the Progressives and can be found still as key ideas in the American political Left, today.

It should be noted, too, that Goldberg, later in his book, has a chapter entitled, “We’re all Fascists, now,” implying that these ideas can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. His main point though is that Fascism is not a phenomenon of the political Right, but instead of the political Left. That’s “wacky,” huh?

I’m going to sum up what I’ve read of his book in plain language, with an everyday image. Mussolini and Hitler are the “crazy uncles” of the political Left. I can understand the embarrassment and horror. One was a buffoon, and in no way a nice person; the other a monster. But, they never sat around the holiday table of the political Right; and it’s dishonest to try to say they’re from some other family.

Again, if you would find me that quote, I’d be obliged.

169

Substance McGravitas 10.07.09 at 11:38 pm

What I’m getting from the book, so far, is as follows. Fascism didn’t begin with Hitler.

HOLY COW!

Mario, please explain why anyone would defend a sentence like “The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism.” And then consider why it might be that the whole point of the book is contained in that sentence and the cover.

170

Mario Diana 10.08.09 at 12:04 am

Substance McGravitas @ 169

I’m not sure how the line you’ve quoted from me is related either to your “HOLY COW” or to the quote from Goldberg. I can appreciate your “whole point of the book” critique, but I’m not buying it.

It’s a shame. I read a lot of debate on the Internet. I find people on both sides of the political spectrum (the oversimplification: liberal/conservative) who are thoughtful, committed, and articulate. I also find people, again, on both sides of the spectrum, who are lowbrow and truculent, in a “gotcha” sort of way. (I’m not talking about you with that last sentence, or about anyone on this list, just to be clear.) A good part of what bothers me about Goldberg’s book is the pandering to lowbrow, “angry, white, males.” (I’ll concede that.) Is that sentence part of the pandering? I’m sure it’s calculated to be so.

I also find it ironic that Goldberg criticizes the knee-jerk cry of “Fascism” as a way to slander whatever it is someone doesn’t like (Hillary, Obama, Bush, Pat Buchanan), and yet Mr. Goldberg, himself, goes from zero to a violation of Godwin’s Law in 2.7 seconds.

Nevertheless, I don’t find that the above, alone, is sufficient to dismiss what he writes in his book. As to his blog — I don’t read it.

Now, as to the quote above. I don’t know that “Liberal Fascism” means everyone who votes Democrat. Is that what Goldberg is saying? I don’t think so, but if he is, he’s nuts. Is it an inflammatory exaggeration in poor taste to say that the white male is the “Jew” of Liberal Fascism? Yes, I believe so.

But, if that sentence were on an essay exam followed by the injunction, “Discuss,” could I take the affirmative and make some sense of it? I’m sure I could. Have you read the most radical pronouncements of feminists, environmentalists, and your assorted “oppressed peoples”? The most radical pronouncements? It may be just me, but it seems like there are still some “crazy uncles” who publish. (To be frank, the political Right has them, too.) I see plenty of criticism about white males being the root of all that plagues the “enlightened.”

With that said, I started only by criticizing what I thought was an unfounded, dismissive mention of this particular book in the original post and asking for something more substantive. (Whatever you may think, I assure you that I would not like to discuss it with Glenn Beck. I wouldn’t so much as let him shine my shoes, and I’m sure he’s enjoying it more for the lowbrow trolling than anything else.) In any case, I now have to wonder if I haven’t sent this thread completely off on a tangent. (Not without help, of course.) I am therefore content that I’ve said my piece, and that the polite thing to do would be to stop. Anyone who wants to comment on what I’ve said in this matter has my assurance of having the last word, with respect to me.

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Lee A. Arnold 10.08.09 at 12:55 am

Fascism was born on the right, and seeds of it were expressed by Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) in reaction to the French Revolution.

In the book The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism” convincingly argues that de Maistre’s violent reaction to the Enlightenment, his thoroughgoing antirationalism, and his vision of absolute power, punishment, and bloodshed as the only true rulers on earth, anticipated totalitarianism a hundred years before anyone else. Maistre saw self-sacrifice before the hangman as the only possible workable organization of the world.

To quote only one of Berlin’s many different points, look at the explicit list of Maistre’s enemies of society:

“To the Protestants and Jansenists he now adds deists and atheists, Freemasons and Jews, scientists and democrats, Jacobins, liberals, utilitarians, anti-clericals, egalitarians, perfectibilians, materialists, idealists, lawyers, journalists, secular reformers, and intellectuals of every breed; all those who appeal to abstract principles, who put faith in individual reason or the individual conscience; believers in individual liberty or the rational organization of society, reformers and revolutionaries: these are the enemy of the settled order and must be rooted out at all costs… This is a catalogue which we have heard a good deal since. It assembles for the first time, with great precision, the list of enemies of the great counter-revolutionary movement that culminated in Fascism.”

From Berlin’s conclusion:

“..an order which Maistre regarded as the only remedy against the dissolution of the social fabric came into being, in our own time, in its most hideous form… and thereby, at inestimable cost in human suffering, has vindicated the depth and brilliance of a remarkable, and terrifying, prophet of our day.”

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jeremy 10.08.09 at 1:24 am

while we’re on the subject, and if you haven’t done so already, check out crooked timber’s very own seminar on sheri berman’s “the primacy of politics:” http://crookedtimber.org/category/sheri-berman-seminar/

i recommend reading the book, too. it’s one of the best things i’ve read on fascism, and a “political thought” classic in its own right. it actually covers much of the same turf as goldberg’s book, while avoiding the partisan gotchyas and embarrassing tendentiousness. it also avoids much of the naive presumptions of the liberal establishment, while still making an eloquent case for social democracy as success story. i happen to disagree with the woman on the final point, but what a great book!

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Mario Diana 10.08.09 at 1:45 am

Lee A. Arnold @ 171

Thank you, Mr. Arnold. My local library has a copy, and I will be picking it up before the weekend. (I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding the title to my personal library, but I’ve spent a lot of money on books in the last couple of weeks.)

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Mario Diana 10.08.09 at 2:04 am

Jeremy @ 172

Thank you, as well.

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Robert 10.08.09 at 2:10 am

New Math may not be post modern. But certainly Bourbaki’s biography has a number of good, carefully constructed, jokes.

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Substance McGravitas 10.08.09 at 2:48 am

Is that what Goldberg is saying?

What Goldberg is saying is LIBERAL FASCISM. The rest is filler.

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Hidari 10.08.09 at 8:32 am

People on Teh Internets and elsewhere who offer to ‘explain’ to me the ‘thought’ of people like Goldberg (or theories about 9/11 or Intelligent Design, or whatever) which are, apparently, ‘much more complex than you might think’ always remind me of that (apocryphal?) story sometimes told about GBS (or sometimes about Churchill).

Anyway the story goes that GBS was sat at dinner next to a standard bug eyed loon with a bee in her bonnet about homeopathy (some versions of the story substitute astrology, or some other deranged belief system).

Throughout the three course meal and on to the coffee the dinner guest expounded all the benefits and wonders and complexities and achievements of homeopathy. On and on and on she went while GBS murmured ‘really’ and ‘gosh’ and ‘hmmmm’. Eventually, four hours later she stopped, paused for breath, and asked ….

‘So Mr Shaw….now that you’ve heard what I have to say…..what do you think about homeopathy?’

‘Well….’ replied Shaw slowly. ‘It occurs to me that between the two of us we know everything there is to know about homeopathy.’

‘How is that?’ She replied, puzzled.

‘Well…’ said Shaw. ‘You see….you know absolutely everything there is to know about homeopathy…..except the fact that it’s all complete nonsense from start to finish.

And I know that!’

Likewise some of our commentators seem to know everything about the thought of Goldberg, apart from the fact that he’s a bug eyed loon and his book is worthless.

And I know that!

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belle le triste 10.08.09 at 10:27 am

My mum once saw Shaw up a ladder cutting his garden hedge. He must have been very ancient and she must have been quite tiny. I can I fear easily imagine him brilliantly defending homeopathy at the very next dinner party he attended, to wind up some nearby dullard.

Not so much Goldberg, who is a monumental halfwit even by his own sect’s standards.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.08.09 at 12:43 pm

Yeah, I think 171 makes a lot of sense, to view fascism as a reaction, backlash against all these scary enlightenment-era ideologies, weird destructive ideas.

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