Thursday, July 06, 2017

Nikil Saval: "Hated By The Right. Mocked By The Left. Who Wants To Be A 'Liberal' Anymore?"

Another largely superficial, terminological tangle trips up political thinking.
   However, there are substantial problems at the bottom of this. Not going to discuss them in depth now, but one of the main confusions some anti-liberal leftists have involves trying to represent liberalism as the position that's pushing the PC culture war bullshit. But the PC left is illiberal--as are the leftists who want to push toward some version of socialism. Neither the hard economic left nor the hard cultural left are liberal. As the article notes, conservatives now claim to be the main defenders of free speech. As it can't bring itself to say: they may be right. Since I'd say that liberalism goes where a concern for free speech goes, it may be that real liberals are now or will soon be conservatives. But obviously that's speculative and hand-wavy and faces some obvious problems.
   You'd think this wouldn't need to be stated...but I guess it does:
America’s version of liberalism has always been a curious one. In Europe, the word has traditionally meant a preference for things like limited government, separate private and public spheres, freedom of the press and association, free trade and open markets — what’s often described as ‘‘classical liberalism.’’ But the United States had many of those inclinations from the beginning. By the 20th century, American liberalism had come to mean something distinct. The focus on individual liberties was still there, but the vision of government had become stronger, more interventionist — ready to regulate markets, bust monopolies and spend its way out of economic downturns. After the end of World War II, this version of liberalism seemed so triumphant in the United States that the critic Lionel Trilling called it the country’s ‘‘sole intellectual tradition.’’ Its legislation legalized unions and, with Social Security, created a pension system; a health plan for older Americans, Medicare, was on the way.
   The liberalism I grew up with was basically civil libertarianism + a more positive/active/aggressive approach to civil rights + a recognition of the desirability of a substantial, but not unlimited, welfare state. Much of the contemporary left--especially the PC left--has fallen off the left edge of sanity. They hold, as a central, though often unacknowledged, principle that there should be no separation between public and private spheres. They are contemptuous of free speech. They think that government power need not be limited, so long as it is used to advance interests of "traditionally disadvantaged" groups. They have no respect for freedom of the press ("Can I get some muscle over here?"). In short, they are much, much, much more anti-liberal than conservatives. By comparison, our disagreements with conservatives are rather trivial. The fact that so many liberals are defending the most anti-liberal view to have come across the American political stage in decades is chilling. But this is exactly what happened during the paleo-PC days of the '80s and '90s. So it's not unexpected. However, the anti-liberal left of the neo-PC movement is much, much more radical than that of the paleo-PCs. And this time around, it's much more alarming and much more dangerous.
   Real liberalism might be helped if it just had a good bit of terminology to rally around--something unequivocally meaning, roughly, standard-issue American-style liberal in contrast to both socialist and PC crackpot. I hate such rhetorical nonsense, but it ought to be catchy or it won't work. Not my forte, that sort of thing. Somebody should get on it.

2 Comments:

Blogger The Mystic said...

Sure would be nice if people simply understood the history of the basic terminology (i.e. "liberal" and "conservative") in American politics.

That would give the terminology around which people could rally..

I shall now post a tangential rant about how the mortal combat between liberals and conservatives stems primarily from our busted-ass economic system. Feel free to ignore.

I recall first becoming interested in the distinction between those terms, wondering how it is that a term like "liberalism" could fail to apply to any American, seeming to me, as it does, that the term implies a primary, essential focus on freedom in political considerations. Conservatives in America seem to hate the term despite being, as you note, perhaps more liberal than most American liberals.

What I have seen from a high level is this:

The welfare state thing just rubs conservatives the wrong way (and for some good reason); they largely identify by intense work ethic and the idea that the American economy should reward that above all (and this is, of course, right and reasonable in my eye). So although a reasonable welfare system would be reserved for those who fall on hard times, this is increasingly hard to implement as adverse economic conditions met with the conservative work ethic and ideal of self-reliance only increases to a frothy hatred the conservative contempt for the idea of a welfare system, as it is perceived that those who need such assistance are simply trying to circumvent the demand (being met by conservatives) that they maintain a rigorous work ethic to earn their living.

The problem is that the American economy, as it stands, makes wealth a virtually fool-proof insulation from failure which snowballs on its own to allow those born wealthy to not only remain wealthy regardless of their work ethic, but to becomes even more wealthy over time. Further, it makes it extraordinarily difficult for blue collar laborers to earn a reasonably comfortable living. Where conservatives take this challenge head on as a matter of their very identity, liberals are those who see this as an undue burden to be resolved legislatively.

So the liberals have had to their advantage the reflexive belief that the economy sucks in this regard and should be repaired. There are many, many good reasons to believe that the economic situation we're in is caused by terribad governance of the economic system. Unfortunately, American liberals seem to have a rather non-fact-driven belief in the shittiness of the economic system, placing the blame on racism, prejudice, and misogyny rather than the fundamental technical errors in America's current implementation of capitalism.

No one seems to realize, for example, that the American tax system is in an incredibly degraded state; in the 1950s the upper tax bracket was 92% in the 1950s!

NINETY TWO PERCENT!

And this was necessary to prevent the runaway snowballing of wealth that we see in today's grotesque income disparity.

Nowadays, the tax rate of 38% on the richest Americans is seen as some sort of historically unprecedented theft. This is batshit crazy.

8:52 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

So now, we've got insane conservatives pushing representatives into office who do what conservatives think they want done (e.g. lowering tax rates for the wealthy who, by the conservative theory, deserve whatever riches they must've worked so hard to earn), exacerbating the economic mess which harms most of all blue collar workers with strong work ethics and pride in their self-reliance; they will take the increased economic challenge in stride and make it a mark of pride to survive the adverse conditions.

The proper liberal response to mend the economic causes of this mess is increasingly impossible to enact (i.e. a steep progressive tax on individual income), and as a result, the not-fact-driven nature of American liberal theories is coming to the fore; they become the neoPC and try to shame everyone into mandatory compliance with absurd regulations resulting from their ever-more-apparently-not-fact-based theories about the primary source of economic inequality (e.g. racism, sexism, blah blah).

It's a mess, I tell ya! A MESS!

If we could just get everyone to agree that the conservative ideal regarding the American economy is right and should be attempted, we could hike taxes on the uber-rich and force better pay for employees at the low end of the totem pole; removing the incentive to stockpile wealth at the top (by making it relatively impossible for the individual to make more than, say, $1 million per year) would mean the money would have to be used for the business. With that constraint in place, salaries for workers would rise as people would find it a useful means by which to better the organization. Sure, it wouldn't be the only thing that would happen to organizations, but at least it wouldn't be possible any longer for individuals at the top to simply siphon those resources off of the company to grow their disgustingly gratuitous personal wealth.

I HAVE MASTER PLAN. IT IS SO SIMPLE. BUT NO ONE LISTEN TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEe.

master plan.

so simple.

8:52 AM  

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