For Your Own Good

We were talking about fearmongering yesterday, and the Major (Ret.) contends that for real Count Floydism, one must look rightward. Heaven knows I see more than a bit of it on my Twitter feed. However, I think the Major (Ret.) would possibly argue that this piece from City Journal meets that definition as well. I’m not so sure.

This, for example, I think may be a useful metaphor, but metaphor isn’t identity:

Today’s progressives cannot be viewed primarily as pragmatic Truman- or Clinton-style majoritarians. Rather, they resemble the medieval clerical class. Their goal is governmental control over everything from what sort of climate science is permissible to how we choose to live our lives. Many of today’s progressives can be as dogmatic in their beliefs as the most strident evangelical minister or mullah. Like Al Gore declaring the debate over climate change closed, despite the Climategate e-mails and widespread skepticism, the clerisy takes its beliefs as based on absolute truth. Critics lie beyond the pale.

On the other hand, there is some precedent for lefties taking such a perspective (as recounted in a book we’ve mentioned before, Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed):

The tension between self-government and “good” government has existed since the origins of modern liberalism. Thinkers such as Herbert Croly and Randolph Bourne staked a claim to a priestly wisdom far greater than that possessed by the ordinary mortal. As Croly explained, “any increase in centralized power and responsibility . . . is injurious to certain aspects of traditional American democracy. But the fault in that case lies with the democratic tradition” and the fact that “the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.”

[...] But the American clerisy [...] are more like an ideological vanguard, one based largely in academe and the media as well as part of the high-tech community. Their authoritarian progressivism—at odds with the democratic, pluralistic traditions within liberalism—tends to evoke science, however contested, to justify its authority. The progressives themselves are, in Daniel Bell’s telling phrase, “the priests of the machine.” Their views are fairly uniform and can be seen in “progressive legal theory,” which displaces the seeming plain meaning of the Constitution with constructions derived from the perceived needs of a changing political environment. Belief in affirmative action, environmental justice, health-care reform, and redistribution from the middle class to the poor all find foundation there.

Now again, if the article’s metaphor holds, it does explain the “stupid/evil” axis the Left uses to marginalize much of its opposition. One current example is the unfortunate case of the Santorum family’s grieving process for their lost child. (NOTE: I am not a supporter of Mr. Santorum — I think he’s just another statist.)  I’m blessed never to have had to face such a situation myself, and I don’t know what I would do in that setting. Further, I think Withywindle has a point when he mentions that the Santorum family brought this into the public discourse. However, the determination of some elements of the left to depict the Santorums as midway denizens seems to me to be the sort of abandonment of decency we associate with the notion that “error has no rights” — not even the right to human consideration. This is the mark of fanaticism, and the cheerful, smirking attempt not to defeat, but to destroy a political opponent, seems indeed to be the mark of an authoritarian (and one in keeping with Marcusean “repressive tolerance”, a concept we have mentioned before). The Santorums of the world must be reviled, so that the rest of us can know to follow the Ones who know what is best.

Whether you find the article excessive or not, it’s worth a read. Check it out.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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6 Responses to For Your Own Good

  1. Bret Bearup says:

    “Like Al Gore declaring the debate over climate change closed, despite the Climategate e-mails and widespread skepticism”.

    There is no widespread skepticism amongst client scientists….the people actually in the best position to know. The widespread skepticism comes from those who, in fact, don’t know. Those on the right are irritated when they are called stupid because of this (and other things, like their unbelief in evolution). Stupid might not be the right term. Willful ignorance might be more appropriate. To not believe in climate change or evolution is tantamount to not believing in cell phones. You may have your reasons not to believe, but it doesn’t change the fact that they exist.

    • Eric Brown says:

      Mmm. Yes, clearly Freeman Dyson knows *nothing* about modeling, and William Briggs knows nothing about statistics. Instead, I should listen to the professors of anthropology who are, of course, experts in multidimensional modeling and statistical inference.

    • nightfly says:

      Could it be that a lot of the skepticism is muted because said scientists know full well that their careers can be ruined? There’s a reason we need laws to protect whistleblowers. Part of the scandal regarding climate change (or whatever they’re calling it this month) is that those in power often threaten to blackball colleagues that don’t kowtow to the theory.

  2. majormaddog says:

    Saying “widespread skepticism” doesn’t mean he’s claiming 100% unanimity. And even Dyson is reported to agree that anthropogenic global warming exists, and has written that “[o]ne of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeman_Dyson

  3. majormaddog says:

    I should probably have put it as saying “no widespread skepticism.”

  4. Pingback: The Inverse Test | Professor Mondo

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