Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42This is quite interesting, and a fair read of where our society/government is trying to go, and why. It also goes into some detail as to why if we are wise, we probably don’t want to go there. By Joel Kotkin writing in The Orange County Register.

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”
But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Like some progressives, Kuttner sees the more authoritarian model of China as ascendant; in comparison, the U.S. and European models – the latter clearly not conservative – seem decadent and unworkable. Other progressives, such as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, argue that big money has already drained the life out of American democracy. Like Yglesias, he, too, favors looking at “other political systems.” .
. .
Progressive authoritarianism has a long history, co-existing uncomfortably with traditional liberal values about free speech, due process and political pluralism. At the turn of the 20th century, the novelist H.G. Wells envisioned “the New Republic,” in which the most talented and enlightened citizens would work to shape a better society. They would function, he suggested, as a kind of “secret society,” reforming the key institutions of society from both within and without.

In our times, Wells’ notions foreshadowed the rise of a new class – what I label the clerisy – that derives its power from domination of key institutions, notably the upper bureaucracy, academia and the mainstream media. These sectors constitute what Daniel Bell more than two decades ago dubbed a “priesthood of power,” whose goal was the rational “ordering of mass society.”
Increasingly, well-placed members of the clerisy have advocated greater power for the central state. Indeed, many of its leading figures, such as former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies – subject to pressure from the lower orders – to credentialed “experts” operating in Washington, Brussels or the United Nations. Often, the clerisy and its allies regard popular will as lacking in scientific judgment and societal wisdom.

Unlike their clerical forebears, this “priesthood” worships at the altar not of religion but of what they consider official “science,” which often is characterized by intolerance rather than the skepticism traditionally associated with the best scientific tradition. Indeed, in their unanimity of views and hostility toward even mild dissent, today’s authoritarian progressives unwittingly more resemble their clerical ancestors, enforcing certain ideological notions and requiring suspension of debate. Sadly, this is increasingly true in the university, which should be the bastion of free speech.

I find that there is a lot of truth in this concept, unfortunately like any other closed society, it breeds corruption. Who hasn’t noticed amongst this ‘elite’ a huge amount of influence peddling, not mention pandering, to obtain funding. In Wolf Hall, we watched as Thomas Cromwell curried favor with Henry VIII, do we not see the same process underway (for quite a while now) in Washington?

The killer “app” for progressive centralism, comes from concern about climate change. A powerful lobby of greens, urban developers, planners and even some on Wall Street now see the opportunity to impose the very centralized planning and regulatory agenda that has been dear to the hearts of progressives since global “cooling” was the big worry a few decades ago. This new clout is epitomized by the growing power of federal agencies, notably the EPA, as well state and local bodies of unelected regulators who have become exemplars of a new post-democratic politics.

Of course, this is in large part the model presented by postwar Europe, and we are watching as it demonstrably fails, which makes it less and less likely to be a model we should follow. Most likely the free-est country in Europe is the UK, not least because they share our suspicion of government (although it is not nearly as virulent). But the UK has, since 2008, created more jobs than the rest of Europe combined.

The fly in the ointment here, of course, remains the electorate. Even in one-party California, local constituents are not always eager to follow the edicts of the nascent “new Republic” if it too strongly affects their lives, for example, by forcibly densifying their neighborhoods. Resistance to an imposed progressive agenda is stronger elsewhere, particularly in the deep red states of the Heartland and the South. In these circumstances, a “one size fits all” policy agenda seems a perfect way to exacerbate the already bitter and divisive mood.

Perhaps the best solution lies with the Constitution itself. Rather than run away from it, as Yglesias and others suggest, we should draw inspiration from the founders acceptance of political diversity. Instead of enforcing unanimity from above, the structures of federalism should allow greater leeway at the state level, as well as among the more local branches of government.
Even more than at the time of its founding, America is a vast country with multiple cultures and economies. What appeals to denizens of tech-rich trustifarian San Francisco does not translate so well to materially oriented, working-class Houston, or, for that matter, the heavily Hispanic and agriculture-oriented interior of California. Technology allows smaller units of government greater access to information; within reason, and in line with basic civil liberties, communities should be able to shape policies that make sense in their circumstances.

This is, of course, nothing less than the federalism the founders designed into our system, which wasn’t new, even then, the catholic Church calls it subsidiarity, although it, like politicians, has always had trouble practicing it. In the eighteenth century as in the twenty-first, America is simply too large to be governed by an elite, centered in the capital, let alone by a clerisy without the requisite skill to understand even the concepts of what most people do.

One possible group that could change this are voters, including millennials. It turns out that this generation is neither the reserve army imagined by progressives or the libertarian base hoped for by some conservatives. Instead, notes Pew, millennials are increasingly nonpartisan. They maintain some liberal leanings, for example, on the importance of social justice and support for gay marriage. But their views on other issues, such as abortion and gun control, track closely with to those of earlier generations. The vast majority of millennials, for example, thinks the trend toward having children out of wedlock is bad for society. Even more surprisingly, they are less likely than earlier generations to consider themselves environmentalists.

They also tend to be skeptical toward overcentralized government. As shown in a recent National Journal poll, they agree with most Americans in preferring local to federal government. People in their 20s who favor federal solutions stood at a mere 31 percent, a bit higher than the national average but a notch less than their baby boomer parents.

If so, and I tend to agree, they may well save us all, simply by thinking for themselves, and acting in their own self-interest. Because I think it self-evident that being ruled by a distant, connected (to each other) is not in our best interest, either individually or as a society.
Hat tip to Gene Veith at Cranach, The Blog of Veith

How Liberals Ruined College – Kirsten Powers

1431359490423.cachedKirsten Powers has written a book. So what? I hear many of you say, still another liberal writing a book about how bad things are. Well, yes and yes, Powers is by any American appraisal, a liberal, and she does think a lot of things are bad. If you had asked me back in 2008 if I would ever have praised her, well the answer would have been “NO!” and maybe more emphatic than that.

I would have been wrong. Because Powers is a real liberal, who has an innate respect for freedom and America. Her liberalism reminds me greatly of my youth, in northern Indiana and especially in Minnesota, where people really did believe in good faith that the government could effect changes in the environment, business and such, for the better. And, if we’re honest, working with people like them it did. A lot of us had, even then, philosophical problems with it but it worked amongst people of good will, and still likely would.

The trouble is that her kind of liberalism got swamped by what we see today. The strident, divisive kind that can only really be described as fascist, and Powers, like many others got left behind. And that’s very sad because it is no longer possible to, ‘Come, let us reason together’ for the best for the American people. Because for many that is not even a minor goal for them. They want money and power, without regard of who gets hurt along the way, and they will use the power of the state to silence anybody who gets in their way.

And so, I think Kirsten Powers is making a journey, one that many, including Ronald Reagan, made before her, from liberal to classically liberal, and she has written a book. It’s called The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. While I won’t recommend it (because I haven’t read it) it is on my wish list and I think you likely should.

She published an excerpt in The Daily Beast yesterday, and here is some of it. I am impressed with what she says.

The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.

In a 2014 interview with New York magazine, comedian Chris Rock told journalist Frank Rich that he had stopped playing college campuses because of how easily the audiences were offended. Rock said he realized some time around 2006 that “This is not as much fun as it used to be” and noted George Carlin had felt the same way before he died. Rock attributed it to “Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.” Sadly, Rock admitted that the climate of hypersensitivity had forced him and other comedians into self-censorship.

This Orwellian climate of intimidation and fear chills free speech and thought. On college campuses it is particularly insidious. Higher education should provide an environment to test new ideas, debate theories, encounter challenging information, and figure out what one believes. Campuses should be places where students are able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. If there is no margin for error, it is impossible to receive a meaningful education.

Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense. In December 2014, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, sent an email to the student body in the wake of the outcry over two different grand juries failing to indict police officers who killed African-American men. The subject heading read “All Lives Matter” and the email opened with, “As members of the Smith community we are struggling, and we are hurting.” She wrote, “We raise our voices in protest.” She outlined campus actions that would be taken to “heal those in pain” and to “teach, learn and share what we know” and to “work for equity and justice.”

Shortly thereafter, McCartney sent another email. This one was to apologize for the first. What had she done? She explained she had been informed by students “the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people.” She quoted two students, one of whom said, “The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.” The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that a Smith sophomore complained that by writing “All Lives Matter,” “It felt like [McCartney] was invalidating the experience of black lives.” Another Smith sophomore told the Gazette, “A lot of my news feed was negative remarks about her as a person.” In her apology email McCartney closed by affirming her commitment to “working as a white ally.”

McCartney clearly was trying to support the students and was sympathetic to their concerns and issues. Despite the best of intentions, she caused grievous offense. The result of a simple mistake was personal condemnation by students. If nefarious motives are imputed in this situation, it’s not hard to extrapolate what would, and does, happen to actual critics who are not obsequiously affirming the illiberal left.

 

Keep reading How Liberals Ruined College – The Daily Beast.

Seems to me that the time approaches swiftly for us to welcome another refugee from the illiberal left to ‘The Dark Side’. Smart, easy on the eyes, and thinks for herself, my kind of woman!

Is The Clinton Foundation Just A Foreign Laundering Scheme?

150220_POL_Hillary.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeI’ve always thought it sad that we have commented more or less forever that we have the best Congress money can buy. particularly since it so often seems true. We deserve better but we are lazy and don’t demand it, so we don’t get it.

Still this nonsense just leaves me shaking my head in bewilderment that anybody thinks that an aging woman with no accomplishments should be president, after she sold out the US State Department to the highest bidder.

BloombergPolitics reported this morning that the Clinton Foundation refused to disclose the identities of at least 1,100 donors, most of whom are not U.S. citizens, to a Clinton Foundation affiliate. The donations were routed through the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada), or CGEPartnership, a Canadian charitable organization. That organization then effectively bundled the foreign donations and sent them along to the Clinton Foundation itself, and it did all of this without ever disclosing the individual foreign sources of the income.

If that sounds to you like more of a laundering operation than a charitable organization, that’s because it certainly looks like more of a laundering operation than a charitable organization. In this case, however, rather than taking cash from blatantly illegal activities (as far as we know) and then cleaning it up by running it through legitimate businesses before it ends up at its final destination, the Clinton Foundation mops up cash from wealthy foreigners, bundles it within a larger organization to hide the money’s original source, and then funnels the cash from that legitimate charity right into the Clinton Foundation coffers.

After the New York Times uncovered the connections between uranium mining magnate Frank Giustra, his Canadian charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation, and official actions taken by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that benefitted Giustra’s global uranium mining operations, the Clinton Foundation immediately entered spin mode.

Is The Clinton Foundation Just A Foreign Laundering Scheme?.

Hillary Clinton; likely the best candidate for US president that Foreign money can buy!

Is that what we really should have?

The Rise of Hillary and the Death of Politics

150220_POL_Hillary.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeIn full disclosure, I dislike Hillary Clinton (nor am I fond of Bill) and it would probably not be amiss to add that I have little more regard for the Bushes. All of them together epitomize things about politics in America that I dislike, chiefly the rise of politics as a career path nearly approaching dynasties.

That said, In the 2008 campaign, I did admire Hillary, she refused to campaign simply as a woman but, on her ideas. I wasn’t likely to support her, since I think they were (and are) wrong ideas that benefit only the state  and its sycophants but, that’s different matter.

Brendan O’Neill wrote on Spiked a few days ago about his views, and here they are.

Clinton’s gender-obsessed campaign confirms the end of political life.

If you want to see how small politics has become in the 21st century, just look at Hillary Clinton’s chucking of her hat into the 2016 US presidential race. Or better still, look at the response to her unveiling of her presidential ambitions, the chorus of cheers and whoops that greeted her decision to make hers a gender-focused, grandmotherly, womanish campaign, in which, as one excited observer puts it, sex – as in biology, not raunch – will form a ‘core plank’ of Hillary’s stab for the White House. What this speaks to is the suffocating extent to which the politics of identity, the accident of who we are, the lottery of our natural characteristics, is now paramount in the political sphere, having violently elbowed aside the old politics of ideas, and substance, and conviction.

Hillary’s presidential launch confirms that, in the space of just seven years, identity has become pretty much the only game in the town of politics. For as many commentators are pointing out, even as recently as 2008, when she stood against Barack Obama in the clash to become the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary wasn’t all about gender. There was something else. ‘Ms Clinton played down the gender role the first time she ran for the top job’, as one American news report puts it: ‘But this time it’s expected to be a core plank of her campaign.’ Back in 2008, Clinton did ‘her best to make gender a non-issue; this time it’s expected to be the opposite’. The Guardian, long-time supporter of the Clintons, especially when Bill bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 (liberals loved war back then), gushes about the fact that Hillary is playing the gender card. Where in 2008 she ‘struggled against the idea’ that she was striking a blow for her gender – that is, she foolishly though her views counted for more than her vagina – this time she will put ‘gender at the forefront of her presidential race’ to become ‘grandmother-in-chief’, says the Guardian approvingly. We will never know if the supposedly feministic Guardian’s leader-writers stopped to think that it might be a tad patronising to define a woman who has been involved in law and politics for 40 years by the fact that she’s a granny.

But of course, that’s the card Hillary herself is playing. She uses the Twitter hashtag #GrandmothersKnowBest (one wonders if that will be printed on the side of the missiles she fires at errant states that dare to piss off Madam President). And her launch video was all about gender. Primarily featuring women – and of course containing a nod to gay marriage, for it is political suicide for any public official to fail to genuflect cravenly before this most orthodox of modern orthodoxies –her video is an identity-fest. It says nothing of policy – bar supporting families and being nice to working people – and instead tick-boxes all identities, especially gender ones. Young woman? Check. Ethnic woman? Check. Old woman? Check. Mexicans? Check. Gays? Check, check, check. Left-leaning observers are falling over themselves to pat Granny Hillary on the back for what one describes as her ‘shift in tone from 2008 to 2016’, where she will now be ‘running as a woman’. In 2008, she ran as a politician; in 2016, she will run as a woman. How, precisely, is this ‘shift in tone’ from defining a female candidate by her politics to defining her by her gender a positive thing?

Continue reading: The rise of Hillary and the death of politics | Brendan O’Neill | spiked.

And that’s sad, on many levels. But mostly because it tells us that a (perhaps large) group of Americans no longer believe in the worth of individual, only groups, women, Hispanics, the poor, whatever. That is not what America was ever about, America has always been about social mobility, if you don’t like where you are, get to work and fix it.

The American dream was never about things, a chicken in every pot, a house in the suburbs, all those other slogans we have heard. It’s about making it on your own, that why our ancestor’s left Europe, and it limiting class structure. In a phrase, “to breathe free”.

In his last paragraph, Brendan says this:

Where the politics of conviction treated us as political subjects, shaping the world through argument and analysis and action, the politics of identity makes us biological objects, shaped by our natural characteristics or our skin colour or by our private choices to have kids, to have grandkids, to be gay, to be married, or whatever.

i can’t improve on that, and that is what is at stake in this election.

Pew first: Gun rights top gun control in major public opinion shift

12-10-2014-2-19-42-PMThis is interesting, although to be honest, I find it unsurprising. From the Washington Examiner:

Exactly two years after President Obama’s bid for gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting died in Congress, a new poll has discovered a huge shift in public opinion to backing Second Amendment gun rights and away from controlling gun ownership.

The reason: Americans now believe having a gun is the best way to protect against crime, 63 percent to 30 percent.

Pew Research Center found that while support for gun control once reached 66 percent, it has dropped to 46 percent while support for gun rights has jumped 52 percent, the highest ever in the past 25 years.

“We are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership – not gun control – makes people safer,” said the survey.

Keep reading: Pew first: Gun rights top gun control in major public opinion shift | WashingtonExaminer.com.

I said above that I don’t find it particularly surprising. That’s because I don’t think Pew got the cause completely right. probably because of the news coverage we get, some of do think crime is up, and it is, in some locations, like, say Chicago. But I think there is more to it.

Most of you know that I have family on the east coast, and they are fairly normal for the area, compared to me, you’d likely call them liberal, some, at least, voted for Obama, at least once. But when I was back there at Christmas, one of my nieces, who lives in a somewhat isolated area, commented that she was considering getting a gun. I was surprised, although not shocked. Like all my family she has a big dose of reality based thinking in her, and knows that women living alone are vulnerable.

My only advice to her is what it always is, “Make sure first that you are willing to use it, otherwise you are simply giving someone a weapon to use on you. And practice!”

But I don’ think this is driven by crime, at least in the normal sense. I think a large part of this is driven by the administration. Obama has made governance in this country a continual constitutional crisis. His disengagement with many of the American norms of government (even if for most, they are merely lip service), has made much of the citizenry uneasy, and unseemly trends in the surveillance state, and the militarization of police departments has added to the mix.

On an objective basis, many of these things can have a case made for them, but coming one after another, it is distressing, and the obvious unwillingness of the Department of Justice to enforce the law on an objective basis (remember the Black panthers in Philadelphia back in 2009?) has made it worse, far worse.

In large measure then, I don’t think the country is arming itself against crime so much, as it is arming itself against a rogue government, in defense of our freedom. That is, of course, the real purpose of the second amendment, not to protect hunting, or to fight crime, but to stop tyranny in its tracks.

And it appears to be working.

I also find it interesting that politics is changing as well. if one were to look at American governance outside of Washington, one would find it to be more conservative than it has been since 1928. so perhaps what we are seeing, is the return of that peculiarly American individualism and self-reliance, and the beginning of the break up of the nanny state.

Well, one can hope, anyway :)

Erastianism; John Stuart Mill, and the Saviour State

images10This is an outstandingly interesting (albeit long) article. I don’t agree with all his premises, especially with regard to intentions but he’s very good on outcomes. In any case he’ll make you think.  By Douglas Farrow writing for Touchstone magazine:

The Audacity of the State

Jeremiah Wright’s 1990 sermon, “The Audacity to Hope,” which lent Barack Obama the title of his electioneering book, has the story of Hannah as its text, and a painting by G. F. Watts

as its foil. Whether the lecture at which Wright first heard of the painting, or his own subsequent reading, included a consultation of G. K. Chesterton’s 1904 treatment of Watts, I can’t say. […]

The Savior State

When I speak of the audacity of the state, the kind of state I have in mind is what we may call the savior state. The main characteristic of the savior state is that it presents itself as the people’s guardian, as the guarantor of the citizen’s well-being. The savior state is the paternal state, which not only sees to the security of its territory and the enforcement of its laws but also promises to feed, clothe, house, educate, monitor, medicate, and in general to care for its people. Some prefer to call it the nanny state, but that label fails to reckon with its inherently religious character. The savior state does have a religious character, precisely in its paternalism, and may even be comfortable with religious rhetoric. […]

Re-Sacralized State

We can hardly be surprised at this. The Erastianism which (to speak anachronistically) had long been trying to get the upper hand in Christendom, managed to do so in the wake of the Lutheran Reformation, though it was in England that it first succeeded. The year 1534 brought the Act of Succession, and a mandatory oath of allegiance that included assent to everything declared by parliament about marriage in general and about Henry’s in particular. Later that year, the Act of Supremacy also established the king’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction, making no mention of the proviso formerly attached to it by the bishops: “as far as the law of Christ allows.”

Christendom, of course, had already seen many princes who were determined to make the church do their bidding. But Henry, by writing his supremacy into the laws of the realm, inaugurated a new era. In that era, the ongoing process of subordinating religion to the demands of the state would outrun the monarchy as such, and the Church of England too. Not merely some, butallof the church’s authority over things public would gradually be expropriated, binding even the conscience—as the Act of Succession already did—to the authority of the state.

Today we live in a society that shrinks in horror from the very idea of established religion, something the American Constitution in any case forbids. Yet we live, even if we live in America, in states increasingly ready to withdraw conscience clauses not only from public servants but also from doctors and druggists and so forth, requiring them to violate the teachings of their religion and the dictates of their consciences in order to demonstrate their allegiance to the state.

In Britain, and increasingly in North America, even churches and charitable organizations are not exempted from laws that demand conformity to state-endorsed ideologies loaded with religious implications. Penalties for violation include heavy fines or even imprisonment. Thus have we come round to accepting Erastus’s invitation to the state to punish the sins of Christians, supplanting the church’s sacramental discipline. We have come round, that is, to the de-sacralization of the church and the re-sacralization of the state, which is once again taking a tyrannical turn.

Keep reading: Touchstone Archives: The Audacity of the State.

Specifically, I have trouble with his underlying assumptions about the Enlightenment, about John Stuart Mill, and about Christianity’s inherent hostility to the individual rather than ecclesiology. Still more would I dispute libertarians antipathy to the family, it may be true of some but most are far more family friendly than the sacralized state.

But whatever their intention, in many ways, what he says here, is where we are. That is our baseline and it’s up to us to guide where we want to go.

%d bloggers like this: