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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Leftism dying?

Wretchard at Belmot Club posts about the hatred that many liberals feel toward George Bush and its underlying causes. Interesting. I think that he is right that a lot of the anger toward President Bush is rooted in the fear that he has stolen the future from the liberal agenda, especially that of it’s more leftist elements. For a long time it has been assumed that politics and policies were moving in general in the direction that the liberal groups wanted. Even conservatives agreed with this, at least substantively, and were more arguing the speed of change rather than where we were headed. Ronald Reagan began to change this, but his influence on the way things were going was mostly combined to economics and communism. Clinton co-opted a lot of Reagan’s economic thought (hence the New Democrats) and communism was conceded to have been a failure by all but it’s most fervent supporters and democratic socialism was elevated by the left as the wave of the future. Social policies, multi-culteralism and rising power of international law still firmly heading in the direction set forth by the liberal agenda. Pre-9/11 Bush began attacking some of these cherished liberal dreams (Kyoto, Missile Defense, etc.) but it was 9/11 itself that has been the most damaging to the leftist cause. Simply put, leftism doesn’t have a good answer to Islamic fundamentalism. Multi-culteralism seems pretty shallow when applied to the culture of the Taliban. International law seems incapable of dealing with the terrorist threat. Root causes for terrorism (at least when you view the only root causes as coming from the evil West) are insufficient to explain or excuse the barbarity of terrorists. At the same time, the right has been co-opting some of the liberal social themes and merging them with an individual responsibility component creating a new synthesis and a new possible direction. Vouchers for education expenses and individual accounts for social security are two of the best-known new ideas to come from this synthesis. If enacted, both of these programs would strike directly at liberal power centers and core philosophies. I think that a lot of the reason for this change is that liberals have to a large degree exchanged principles for programs. Racial equality is good, something that needs to be increased. Affirmative Action is a program that may or may not be the best way to achieve that goal. Education of children is important; it is something that we need to improve. The public school system and the professional educators employed by it may or may not represent the best way to do this. International laws and regulation of the behavior of nation states are laudable goals; avoiding war is a good thing. The United Nations may not be an institution that can accomplish these goals. In all of these examples, Affirmative Action, the Public School system, and the United Nations liberals are unwilling to even consider that the programs may not be prefect. The programs are defended regardless of whether they advance the causes for which they were created in the first place. I believe one could come up with numerous similar examples. By this I don’t mean to argue that liberals are unprincipled, rather that they assume, and will brook no dissent, that these programs are intrinsically connected with the causes they propose. Their motives are pure but their critical thinking is lacking. This ossification of critical thinking has left open a window for the seizure of the future. New ways can be conceived of to solve these old problems and they are currently being conceived on the right, rather than the left.


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