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November 02, 2008

What's So Liberal about Liberalism?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

In a comments-thread a few postings ago, JV tossed me this fun challenge:

Michael, you're taking the literal meaning of the word "liberal," taking it to its extreme and applying it to a political philosophy. Liberalism does not mean being tolerant and accepting of everything. It means, at least to me and the liberals I know, being tolerant and accepting of how people chose to live their lives (even if it differs from your own), while fighting hard for the things you believe in. It's a game of semantics when you call hypocrisy on a liberal for not being intolerant of something he/she feels is wrong.

I was sort of pleased with my response and didn't like the idea of leaving it buried in comments, so I've dolled it up a bit and am reprinting it here:

JV -- It can sometimes be worth making a distinction between informal and formal uses of words.

Loosely speaking, you and your buds are liberal -- pretty loosey-goosey where much is concerned. BTW, so am I, and so's Shouting Thomas, who has lived a much wilder and looser life than most of the people who give him a hard time. He's "liberal" even where his own reactionary instincts and feelings are concerned -- which means that he's more liberal in the informal sense than most liberals are.

But "liberal" is also a strand in political philosophy, with its own history of recurring debates, issues, conundra, etc. Positive vs. negative rights, for instance -- is it more "liberal" to let things fall where they will, or is it more "liberal" to make efforts to ensure equality? No one's ever been able to settle that one out, and yet it keeps popping up, over and over.

That's because it's some kind of weak point (or sensitive point) in the very nature of liberalism.

The "how can you be a liberal if you can't be liberal about your opponents?" question is another one that continues to come up. We saw it in 2001, for example. How can we make "tolerance" an overriding virtue if it turns out that some of the people we're being tolerant towards genuinely mean us ill? (The question is a worthwhile one independent of whether or not Muslims are like that, btw.) Yet once we start making exceptions, we lose some of our status as tolerant people, and "tolerance" itself loses its status as an overriding, organizing principle.

Another one: If you put liberalism and tolerance (ie., personal freedom) above all other values -- and that's in a political-philosophy sense what liberalism is about, not just being a loosey-goosey person -- how can you ensure that society runs fairly smoothly? Dismantle traditional ways of doing things and maybe what you wind up with isn't liberation and fulfillment. Maybe it's chaos.

When traditional norms don't hold people and cultures together any longer, they tend to get replaced by top-heavy, ever-more-explicit legalisms and bureaucacies. So things like an ever-growing European Union result, or political correctness. Which then -- pretty much inevitably -- get countered by movements towards regionalism, or secession. Which in turn -- just as inevitably -- get labeled as "fascist" or "nativist" by do-goodin', we'll-solve-your-problems elites. This is all the playing-out of liberalism's inner nature, and it has been seen over and over again in the history of liberalism.

Another one: A liberal point of view is one that's open to other cultures. "Tolerance," "openness," etc. Yet liberalism in its nature is a universalizing thing -- these values are held to be good for all people, everywhere and always. So liberalism tends to steamroller into "other" cultures (which are traditional and non-liberal) and undermine and even destroy them. You wind up with absurdities, like the pretence that we can (and should) bring liberalism to the Middle East. Why, if it's good for us it'll be good for them! Ignoring the fact that as far as many in the actual Middle East are concerned we're acting like imperialists and tyrants. Once again: In the name of liberalism we're acting in amazingly illiberal ways.

I suppose you can dismiss all this as, I dunno, mere logic-chopping. But you can also see taking it into account as enlightening, etc. Perspective, both historical and philosophical, can sometimes be useful.

BTW, in a political-philosophy sense, nearly all Americans qualify as liberals -- ie., as people who embrace Enlightenment-derived, rationalistic ways of going about things. Dems are "welfare liberals" where Repubs are "market liberals."

In the U.S. we have very few people who are true socialists, and probably even fewer who are true conservatives -- Jim Kalb, who I often link to, is a rare case, and it can come as a shock and a challenge to encounter the thinking of someone who's a real conservative. The thinking of people who are true socialists or true conservatives (let alone true anarchists) can seem alien to people of the modern world, to come from another universe entirely. (That's a lot of what I like about it.)

Using "liberal" when what we really mean is "Democrats" and "conservative" when we're talking about "Republicans" is journalistic short-hand, and as far as I'm concerned leads to a lot of unnecessary noise and friction. Repubs carry on as though Dems are socialists (most aren't), and Dems carry on as though Repubs are traditionalist conservatives (most aren't). Both ignore the fact that we're almost all "liberals" in the deeper sense. Anarchists continue to be denied any seat at the table at all.

Anyway, like I say, it can be useful to hash out distinctions between formal and informal senses of words. It's a way of looking under the hood and examining what kind of car we've stuck ourselves with.

To use myself as an example: In the informal sense I'm about as liberal (I cut people a lot of slack), postmodern (it's all a big multi-viewpoint-ish patchwork out there, so why fight that?), and multicultural (I dig comparing, contrasting, sampling and enjoying many different cultures) as can be. That's just how I choose to live, and it all suits me very well.

But liberal, postmodern, and multicultural in the partyline, programmatic, know-it-all, apply-it-everywhere, formal sense? No thanks. (Affirmative action is a good example of the positive-rights version of liberalism.) And one reason why is this question: What's liberal about enforcing liberalism from the top down? Let alone pushing it on people who want no part of it? Patting myself on my own back: I'm too liberal in the informal sense to want to behave like a liberal in the formal sense.

In many respects my personal p-o-v has a lot in common with certain strains of anarchism. Given this, it's a little bewildering that my openness to letting non-liberals be the non-liberals that they prefer to be makes me look conservative to many partyline libs. But, hey, life is a funny thing.

Kalb's new book is called "The Tyranny of Liberalism" and is excellent at poking around these issues and questions.

JV's blog is here. Read about Jim Kalb's book here; buy it here. This Colin Ward book is a wonderful -- as in civilized, intelligent, and easy-readin' -- intro to anarchy. I gabbed about the formal and informal meanings of postmodernism here.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at November 2, 2008




Comments

I'd like to disagree with your characterization of me, but I don't have a counter-argument yet. I'll work on it.

If Obama is elected, as seems likely, we're about to experience the contradictions of liberalism in glaring relief.

The "hate speech" ethic of college campuses will be projected even deeper into the culture by an Obama administration. Since humans are always corruptable, the result of this will be to punish enemies of the administration.

Racial and sexual quotas... the ultimate rejection of liberalism... will be the first priority of an Obama administration. Gone forever the days when equality under the law was assumed to be a virtue. Quota madness already rules the corporate, governmental and academic world. Under Obama, every facet of our lives, every human association will be under attack by the quota mongers.

Obama is himself the greatest contradiction of liberalism... the quota baby who grew up in the upper middle class in Hawaii. As all human endeavors must, the quota system got hijacked by the connected. Under the pretense of "social justice," Obama will be rewarding friends and punishing enemies with a vengeance.

The dirt has not yet come out on Obama. He's raised $600 million. Don't believe this came from small contributors. The money came from the usual sources... mega-corporations, trial lawyers and foreign influence peddlers. Remember all those years of liberals pleading for public financing as the cure-all to selling out to lobbbyists? Obama betrayed this ideal big time by refusing to limit his campaign to public financing.

That great liberal nostrum... income redistribution... is already under Obama's belt. Through ACORN, he played a principle role in looting the public till in the mortgage scandal. The ideal of income redistribution is always to help the poor. The actual result is always to line the pocket of the connected. Remember, the mortgage swindel was hatched as a high minded liberal program to assist the poor.

I'm not saying that the election presents us with a better choice, by the way.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 2, 2008 10:46 AM



Michael, I think you've said it very well. The political liberals lost me when they claimed both diversity and equality, celebrating both the fact we're all the same yet pointing out the differences and coming up with all kinds of new 'traditional' holidays while screaming against the old 'traditional' holidays. The fact that a liberal can use the word 'black' but a conservative would be called a racist, particularly brought out in this election, is evidence of an ongoing double-standard. The liberal concept of personal freedom is wiped out by its demand that we make new laws to cover that demand. They're looking for a god in government, and unfortunately, they think they've found one.

Posted by: susan on November 2, 2008 11:07 AM



Ugh, one of my weaker responses gets one of Michael's famed post as response! Yikes! I'm both flattered and horrified. :)

I actually mulled this one over falling asleep last night. What I wanted to add to my meager response was that "liberalism" in common parlance absolutely has a platform of issues and ideas to believe in and fight for, which means inherently it is intolerant of other issues and ideas. Probably the underlying idea of liberalism is "fairness." Now, that is tricky thing to define, and even trickier to put into action. Sometimes it works out well (the Civil Rights movement), other times not so well (the whole PC crap, which btw I have a lot of experience fighting against and one day I will write it up).

I agree with Michael in that taken from a global perspective, most everyone in the US is a liberal. And I believe we need both the social and market sides of Western liberalism. It's in the tension between those two that Western civilization was created and continues to evolve (and improve, in my opinion). For that reason, I find this rabid absolutism on either side regarding their viewpoints as destructive and short-sided. And most of all fucking BORING! It plays up the worst aspects of us and only engenders fear and mistrust.

I can't remember where I read it, by I very much like the term "muscular liberalism," meaning us liberals like the freedom, fairness and rationality of liberalism and will fight to the death with an outside force who threatens that! Genuinely threatens that, I should add. It's from this viewpoint that almost every liberal I know was 100% behind the effort in Afghanistan after 9/11, and also from this viewpoint that we were 100% against going into Iraq.

Anyway, we all need each other, in a "Germans running the trains and French cooking the food" kind of way.

Posted by: JV on November 2, 2008 11:56 AM



From my side of the Atlantic, American "liberals" seem a pretty illiberal bunch. I sometimes wonder how many of them approximate to that old Communist put-down "social fascist".

Posted by: dearieme on November 2, 2008 12:38 PM



"I can't remember where I read it, by I very much like the term "muscular liberalism," meaning us liberals like the freedom, fairness and rationality of liberalism and will fight to the death with an outside force who threatens that! Genuinely threatens that, I should add."

Do you really believe your own bullshit? All you leftists do is insert yourself into everybody's lives and dictate what they should say, what they should buy, who they should hire and associate with, how they should live, and what they should think.

I'll tell you what a liberal is today. A liberal is a tinpot totalitarian who grants individual sexual freedom and the right to kill any offspring of such. Everything else should then fall under the jurisdiction of the state.

You are a liar. And I challenge you to prove the above statement wrong.

Posted by: BIOH on November 2, 2008 3:59 PM



"I'll tell you what a liberal is today. A liberal is a tinpot totalitarian who grants individual sexual freedom and the right to kill any offspring of such. Everything else should then fall under the jurisdiction of the state."

I'll agree about the sexual freedom, not so much the unlimited access to abortion.

I don't want to tell anyone how to live, but I will fight for what I believe is right, and for when I feel those things are under attack. And you'll do the same, BIOH. May the best side win.

Posted by: JV on November 2, 2008 4:35 PM



Something worth noting is the evolution of many Marxists into conservative fellow-travellers. Spiked Online is a strong example.

Here in Australia, many conservatives are yearning for deputy PM, ex-rad Julia Gillard, to replace our PM, Kevin Rudd. Her stay-at-home leftism is far more acceptable than the Wilsonesque struttings of Rudd. The old union strongman, Martin Ferguson, energy minister, is a pro-nuclear climate skeptic with all sorts of plans to let real industries generate real jobs. Conservatives send him admiring emails.

Okay, I'm a mainstream conservative who's unlikely to vote Labor. But if you're asking me what I loathe, as opposed to what I disagree with, it's certainly not the buy-back-the-farm protectionism of old union commies. What conservatives like me loathe immediately and viscerally is this:


"My friends Ken Follett and Susan Cheever are extremely worried. Naomi Wolf calls me every day. Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can’t cure her ailing back for all the stress that has reduces her to a bundle of nerves…

"My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium…"

Erica Jong on the election.


If that doesn't make you want to run out to raise $600m (any source will do!) for Palin 2012...then you're a liberal!

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 2, 2008 4:45 PM



This sturm und drang between the forces of laissez-faire and statism can only be balanced by libertarian philosophies. The problem is that liberals in one county cannot seem to tolerate the behavior of non-liberals in adjacent counties. They have a penchant for forcing everyone under the same tent. Until liberals look at themselves in the mirror and come to grips with the notion that they are not indispensable to civilization, we are going to remain strapped into this roller coaster until we run out of track. I sense that many on this blog are already trying to jump from the moving train.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on November 2, 2008 5:28 PM



Michael,
A personal question if you will: It is a stretch for me to read your blog and I try to understand where I would encounter you in my world. So, what is the source of your daily income? Seriously, is it government, market, or private academic? Whose purse? Your "thoughts are so alien as to come from another universe" for me.

Posted by: jz on November 2, 2008 5:57 PM



Michael,

Will you please run for President, so I can vote for you?

Posted by: Lester Hunt on November 2, 2008 7:03 PM



A liberal is a tinpot totalitarian.... you are a liar.....

I sometimes wonder how many of them approximate to that old Communist put-down "social fascist".

Obama is himself the greatest contradiction of liberalism... the quota baby who grew up in the upper middle class in Hawaii. As all human endeavors must, the quota system got hijacked by the connected. Under the pretense of "social justice," Obama will be rewarding friends and punishing enemies with a vengeance.

If that doesn't make you want to run out to raise $600m (any source will do!) for Palin 2012...then you're a liberal!

I had originally intended to respond to Michael's post, which is pretty interesting. But this is a liberal-hating blog, and mostly it's just been venting. I'm a liberal till something better comes along, and the Greens aren't it, and the libertarians aren't it, and paleoconservativism isn't it, and radicalism is history, and the Republicans are batshit insane.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 2, 2008 8:34 PM



You're assuming that what passes for liberalism in a university is what the average "liberal" Democrat thinks. You've consumed the kool-aid of the neocons and the humanities depts. and thought they tasted similar.

Most Democrats think:
- Public education is important, through college or trade school if possible.
- Health care should not be solely determined by the market, because the market don't give a fuck if you die. (I was turned away from an emergency room in college because I didn't have insurance. I would have gone home and died had I not stood there for about 20 minutes trying to figure out a new plan until a doctor walked by and asked what was up.)

Capitalism is the best form for the free market. Yet, with the proviso that there are some evil bastards out there, so there needs to be regulation that allows the best of free trade, given that companies cannot be predatory on individuals given the differences in each entities' power. (Enron, the last month, Credit cards as they exist today, etc.)

Civil rights are more important than "safety". (See Ben Franklin.) Let the guy down the street smoke pot. If he opens a crack den, let's have The Boys come by and explain (while throwing his/her ass in jail) that it's not a good idea.

Other than that, the Constitution is a pretty good guide.


The whole abortion and gay marriage litmus crap is really for the fringe.

Posted by: yahmdallah on November 2, 2008 9:04 PM



From a right wing bastards perspective, it is true that there is a spectrum of liberalism. On one hand you have the rather gentle British nanny state, and on the other, the extremes of National Socialism and Soviet Socialism. Not everyone is a Joe Stalin or Adolph Hitler, but the system tends to gravitate towards government omniscience.

However what the above have broadly in common, is several core ideas. Namely:

1) That man is perfectible and malleable. i.e given enough resources, education and government policy, the ills of mankind can be made to go away. He has no "natural" nature.

2)The "injustices" that occur in this world are not natural, rather the product of the current social order and that it is the role of government to remedy this through legislation and sanction. Government is there to ensure "fairness". Government may do whatever it needs to ensure "fairness", even if the action of government is unfair.

3)The evil that lays in men's hearts is a result of a privation of education or resources.

4)That no moral system can claim primacy except the system of liberalism. Tolerance ceases becoming a prudential virtue and instead assumes it's own moral imperative.

5)There is no objective right or wrong.

6)There is no such thing as natural inequality.

JV, you claim that as a liberal, " of being tolerant and accepting of how people chose to live their lives (even if it differs from your own)"

Where do you draw the line? And by what right do you have to draw the line at that point?. Why can't I draw it at a different point?
What's fairness? I mean if a lazy bum squanders his money, should the state take money from a thrifty worker to ensure that the lazy bum--or for that matter a corporate banker--can live in "dignity"? Is that fairness? Fairness seems to be whatever you want it to mean, or as I see it, fairness seems to mean taking the pain away even if that pain is justified at times.

Anyway, we all need each other, in a "Germans running the trains and French cooking the food" kind of way

No we don't. I'm quite happy for you to live your way and I mine. I wish there would be the great separation, left from right, goats from the sheep and lets see how it turns out. Left wing ideas have totally dominated social policy for the last 70 or so years. If we take the 50's as a benchmark, have our societies improved? Are the people happier, the streets safer, literacy improved, divorce decreased and unplanned pregnancy decreased? With precious few exceptions of social policy, implementation of left wing ideology has been a total failure. And yet more of the same is dished out as a cure for our society's ills.

I wish for a world like 50's America or Australia for that matter, safe streets, stable families, a sense of community. Strong country and prosperity, dads who felt they had a responsibility to their children and mothers who didn't slut around, and a I want a society that rewarded virtue and punished vice, albeit imperfectly. Men and women who acted like adults instead of perpetual adolescents. I want to be able to talk to my next door neighbor in English, to leave the back door unlocked when I step out and know that my kids are safe when they play outside. I want schools whose honors mean something, since their achievement was hard. I want a legal system that dishes out justice instead of social engineering.

I want the world back that we have lost. I am a stranger in my own time.

Posted by: slumlord. on November 3, 2008 5:23 AM



Michael's income is derived from the payments he receives as an advance deep cover agent for our new alien overlords. Hence, the exoticism of his ideas.

What f*cking business is it of yours to demand an answer about where he gets his f*cking money, jz?

Posted by: PatrickH on November 3, 2008 9:24 AM



Down, Patrick! Your gesture is appreciated, but I'm flattered by jz's interest, believe me. I don't understand why more people don't ask me questions. I have a provocative and non-standard p-o-v, darn it. Where'd it come from? What has gone into it? Etc etc. Darn it, but such is life. Maybe I'll interview myself one day ...

Anyway, with straight face back on: I worked (as a flunky) for a major NYC media company for years, covering a lot of different fields, working behind the scenes, etc. Did a little bit of freelance writing on my own time too. About five months ago I retired, er, was bought out, er, was shoved off the edge of the table along with a lot of other old-timers, er ... Longtime smallfry denizen of the NYC arts and media worlds, in other words.

[Secretly/pathetically hoping someone will say, "Oh, yeah? But you don't have the usual NYC media/art person's predictable set of pieties and beliefs. How do you explain that?" ...]


Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 3, 2008 11:29 AM



the extremes of National Socialism

Naziism was absolutely a right wing movement. Hitler came to power on a viciously anti-Communist platform with strong support from the private sector wealthy. When he came to power he promptly liquidated the entire Social Democratic party, who were ideologically pretty much the exact correspondents to the liberal Democrats in America today. During the 30s there was pretty widespread conservative sympathy for Hitler in the other Western countries because he was seen as a conservative opponent of Communism.

The extremes of both right and left ideology tend toward totalitarianism. Saying Hitler was left-wing because he had "socialism" in the name of the party is nonsense, like saying that Stalin was right-wing because he was tough on crime.

Posted by: MQ on November 3, 2008 11:57 AM



"viciously anti-Communist"

Why does that wording strike me as weird?

Posted by: PA on November 3, 2008 12:22 PM



Sorry, Michael, jv. I thought he was ad-homineming you.

Chastenedly,
Patrick

Posted by: PatrickH on November 3, 2008 2:31 PM



I nominate "far right" and "far left" for retirement, to be replaced by "far wing" ("far out" sounds too much like the guy you want at your wingding--at least for the first few hours).

The freaks at the edges always have had more in common with one another than with either of the middles: left (social dem, lib, welfare state), or right (classical lib, conservative). It's as much a question of mentality, temperament, sensibility, as it is about what stance you take on issues of the day.

Inside the middle, the difference between conservative and liberal (at their middle-y best) centres on the issue, not of tolerance--libs tolerate some stuff, cons other stuff--but of progress. Cons have Sowell's Tragic View, and progress is inevitably bound up with costs, and is even fundamentally, inescapably, a tragic thing, a tradeoff in which genuinely valuable things are always lost with every step of "progress".

Libs lack the Tragic View, though IMO a good classical lib should be imbued with it. That's why I put classical libs on the "right".

Posted by: PatrickH on November 3, 2008 2:42 PM



"It means, at least to me and the liberals I know, being tolerant and accepting of how people chose to live their lives (even if it differs from your own), while fighting hard for the things you believe in."

Unless, of course, you want to own a Glock, smoke a Marlboro, drive an SUV, eat trans fats or fois gras, homeschool your kids, or do anything else on the "non-approved" list. Then the state will have to teach you the errors of your ways. But otherwise liberals are tolerent.

Posted by: RP on November 3, 2008 2:44 PM



Michael, Thank you for sharing what made you you. I skew toward understanding people via their money flow. Yes. do please explain why you "don't have the usual media/art people predictable set of pieties and beliefs."

PatrickH, no offense taken, just a correction: I'm a she.

Posted by: jz on November 3, 2008 3:57 PM



Cons have Sowell's Tragic View, and progress is inevitably bound up with costs, and is even fundamentally, inescapably, a tragic thing, a tradeoff in which genuinely valuable things are always lost with every step of "progress"....Libs lack the Tragic View

this is an accurate assessment of how a certain kind of intellectual conservative has seen themselves, but I don't think it maps very well onto the Republicans and Democrats today. The foreign policy messianism of the Bush administration has been notably marked by the absence of any sense of modesty and limits. The Republican support for unlimited deficit-fueled spending is also related here...tax increases are off the table, but real spending cuts are also not needed.

I think the beginning of the end for the "tragic sense" on the Republican side was Ronald Reagan. Look the contrast between Jimmy Carter and Reagan. Carter spoke up for the acceptance of difficult choices and the need to reduce consumption and sacrifice to conserve energy. Reagan had a sunny, jaunty assurance that unlimited prosperity was possible. He backed that up with enormous deficits that threatened to explode out of control by the time he left office. Andrew Bacevich's new book has a very good discussion of this.

The proper role of the "tragic sense" is an interesting question...sometimes it's absolutely necessary, sometimes it can blind you to real possibilities that collective action could create.

Posted by: MQ on November 3, 2008 4:23 PM



Unless, of course, you want to own a Glock, smoke a Marlboro, drive an SUV, eat trans fats or fois gras, homeschool your kids, or do anything else on the "non-approved" list

You just don't understand. These things are officially non-approved for some very good reason: that they are dangerous, unfair, and/or inherently unequal. We need to stop doing them for our own good; therefore, you must stop doing them for your own good. But you're just too victimized by right-wing corporate propoganda, or maybe too stupid, to see it. Nobody should need a gun except for government-approved specialists! That's why you need us, the Experts, to help you. Run your life, that is, for your own good. Trust us, you should be thanking us. And if you don't, at least your kids will, once we make our case to them.

Posted by: the Experts on November 3, 2008 4:29 PM



Aside from owning a Glock, the rest of those things you describe are completely legal. And even the Glock is legal in certain states, so what's the issue here? I don't give a crap if you do any of those things, go ahead and get lung cancer while getting shitty gas mileage and clogged arteries. Hope you have health insurance.

Of course, what you really mean is unrestricted use of, say, cigarettes, like in a restaurant when I'm trying to eat and I'm sucking down your smoke. Well fuck that. Or, heaven forfend, restricting food manufacturers from saving a buck while filling their products with toxic shit like trans fats. While science isn't infallible, the consensus is that trans fats aren't so good for us.

As for SUVs, well the recent gas price increase of this past summer suddenly made those things seem ridiculous to own unless you really need to go offroad. Do I think you should be forbidden to own one? Of course not, but I also think it's a good idea for the auto industry to be pushing for better technology so we don't have to use as much gas. Is that a liberal point of view? I don't know, just seems sensible to me.


Posted by: JV on November 3, 2008 4:41 PM



Patrick, I agree wholeheartedly with your characterization of the true difference between reasonable conservatives and liberals. My belief is it's in the tension between conservatives who fight to keep the status quo and the liberals who fight to change it in the name of progress (for better or worse) that civilization improves. We can all wish for the other side to go away, but that will never happen, so let's try to keep that tension productive. That's my belief, anyway.

Posted by: JV on November 3, 2008 4:45 PM



Naziism was absolutely a right wing movement

In what sort of way MQ? Show me some love and enlighten me. That the Nazi's liquidated the Social Democrats does not mean that they were right wing. Remember the happy relationship Trotsky had with Stalin?

he was seen as a conservative opponent of Communism

Ribbentrop-Molotov pact? Surprise for both sides.

Here's an article that might help you out. It's appropriately titled "The Mustache on The Left.
Please note the reference to the "arty" lifestyle.

Posted by: slumlord. on November 3, 2008 4:52 PM



Conservative would appear to mean the opposite of Liberal. Let's talk food. A liberal plate of spaghetti is a LOT of spaghetti. A conservative plate of spaghetti is a LITTLE spaghetti. These words just don't translate well as political terms anymore. Why would a conservative liberaly use troops, treasure, natural resources (all without replacement) as has been done lo this past 8 years. Why would liberals believe in conserving our natural resources, and encouraging the narrow, specific doctrines of science? These terms are useless anymore. Liberals have been using the word progressive more and more. Conservatives can use stuffy or something that describes them better.

Posted by: bridget on November 3, 2008 7:31 PM



Yama, abortion and gay marriage are NOT for the fringe; they are fundamental civil rights.

When the most liberal member of Congress runs for POTUS and doesn't have the sack to back marriage equality for gay men and women, libs have some serious veracity issues. Of course, the progressive Massachusetts legislature showed the same moral courage by mostly voting "Present" when gay marriage came to a vote, leaving it to the Supreme Judicial Court to rule on its legality.

And while it may surprise Chrissy and Jackie, as a libertarian, I fully support full marriage rights for gays and abortion rights.

Posted by: Brutus on November 3, 2008 8:40 PM



Slumlord, your link is a classic of the "Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore the Nazis were hippies!" school of thought. An "arty" lifestyle does not a liberal make.

Today, in America, is David Duke a right-wing or a left-wing politician? Pretty obviously right-wing, and also a Nazi.

It's pretty obvious that fascism is statist. Does that make it "liberal"? Ummm, no. Absolute monarchy is statist, is it liberal? Besides that, American liberalism is not strongly statist -- it is somewhat so in economic policy, not at all in many other areas.

Fascism is a militarist nationalist movement, which is the right-wing version of statism. The right-wing conservative Michael Ledeen, who actually knows something about fascism, gave a good thumbnail description while bending over backwards to say something nice about Jonah Goldberg's ridiculous "Liberal Fascism":

What is missing from Jonah’s book–he mentions it in passing a few times, but never gives it the weight it deserves–is the specific historical context from which fascism was born: the First World War. Fascism was created in the trenches of that war, it was a war ideology from beginning to end, and the central core of fascism was composed of two basic concepts: first the conviction that the only people worthy of political power were those who had been tested and proven in combat (for the most part, the brownshirts were veterans, and the Socialists they attacked had been pacifists or neutralists or isolationists). And second, that the essence of Western civilization was under siege from the left, that is, from Communists and Socialists.

There you have it. A worship of militarism and nationalism and an obsession with the decadance and corruption of civilization by the left, that's at the core of fascism. Fascism is perhaps best defined as a kind of identity politics of the right -- it mobilizes the sense of humiliation and grievance behind identity politics in the name of the militarism and nationalism of the dominant ethnic group. One can see some strains of this on the current right wing, which is hysterically obsessed with the supposed victimization and humiliation of white Christian males by dangerous alien oppressors, and diagnoses national decline because of this. If you supercharged this with a cult of violence, and added a cult of the executive and a hatred of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, you'd get fascism.

As for the supposedly economically left aspect of fascism, this is from the Encyclopedia Britannica entry of fascist economics:

There were a few, usually small, fascist movements whose social and economic goals were left or left-centrist....However, the economic programs of the great majority of fascist movements were extremely conservative, favouring the wealthy far more than the middle class and the working class. Their talk of national “socialism” was quite fraudulent in this respect. Although some workers were duped by it before the fascists came to power, most remained loyal to the traditional antifascist parties of the left. As historian John Weiss noted, “Property and income distribution and the traditional class structure remained roughly the same under fascist rule. What changes there were favored the old elites or certain segments of the party leadership.” Historian Roger Eatwell concurred: “If a revolution is understood to mean a significant shift in class relations, including a redistribution of income and wealth, there was no Nazi revolution.”

Mussolini, a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano) before World War I, became a fierce antisocialist after the war. After coming to power, he banned all Marxist organizations and replaced their trade unions with government-controlled corporatist unions. Until he instituted a war economy in the mid-1930s, Mussolini allowed industrialists to run their companies with a minimum of government interference. Despite his former anticapitalist rhetoric, he cut taxes on business, permitted cartel growth, decreed wage reduction, and rescinded the eight-hour-workday law. Between 1928 and 1932 real wages in Italy dropped by almost half. Mussolini admitted that the standard of living had fallen but stated that “fortunately the Italian people were not accustomed to eating much and therefore feel the privation less acutely than others.”

Although Hitler claimed that the Nazi Party was more “socialist” than its conservative rivals, he opposed any Marxist-inspired nationalization of major industries. On May 2, 1933, he abolished all free trade unions in Germany, and his minister of labour, Robert Ley, later declared that it was necessary “to restore absolute leadership to the natural leader of the factory, that is, the employer.” Nazi “anticapitalism,” such as it was, was aimed primarily at Jewish capitalism; non-Jewish capitalists were allowed to keep their companies and their wealth, a distinction that was made in the Nazi Party’s original program and never changed. Although Hitler reduced unemployment in Germany, most German workers were forced to toil for lower wages and longer hours and under worse conditions than had been the case during the Weimar Republic.

Posted by: MQ on November 3, 2008 8:45 PM



JV:

Have you ever considered that just because something is bad for you, it's not a moral judgment whether one chooses for health or not? Between you types and the backwoods fundies, y'all come across as the bigger Puritans by far.

If I want to have a goddamn cigar with my deep fried fois gras dripping with trans fats and soaked with the tears of a force-fed goose at a bar, and the owner is willing to serve me, then it's between me and him. You may not like the smell of my Cohiba, and you may point to one thousand bullshit articles about second-hand smoke being a silent killer, but I'll point out the dubious dangers of errant electromagnetic radiation and the fact I have to tolerate the jackass talking loudly into his cell phone the next table over, with no laws to slam what offends my ears as much as what offends your nose.

But you see, I wouldn't have it any other way. If the douchebag gets too annoying I can go over and politely ask him to shut the hell up, just the same when someone asks me to move because the smell is annoying. I usually do it if possible, because I'm not an asshole who likes enforcing what I like on others.

You don't like the policy the bar owner has? You have the right to try to convince him to change it, or you have the right to go to another bar. To say that you're going to legally force him to change *for the benefit of himself, his employees, and society* is just bullshit. The smoking ban killed my favorite coffee bar in my home state. Those non-smoking employees are now safe from both second-hand smoke and from their employment, along with all the other employees. But killing something in order to save it is a mentality beholden to your types.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on November 3, 2008 8:59 PM



JV
I agree about SUV's. I've been driving a sub-compact for 12 years. As for the rest of the list, well...

Let's take trans fats first. Some trans fats appear in nature. As for man-made ones, they've been around for more than a century. Why not give people the option to eat them if they choose? Why the bans? And what does "consensus" have to do with freedom anyway?

The same applies to smoking. If a restaurant owner wants to have a smoking section, then why do you as a non-smoker think it's perfectly fine to use government power to tell him he can't? Smoking bans have moved well past restaurants. The city of Dallas is currently considering a smoking ban on public outdoor areas.

As for Glocks, well, you're right. They are legal in my state, along with a lot of other weapons. But there's a never ending battle at the Federal level for all kinds of gun controls. Why do rural Kansas and urban New York need the same gun laws?

I'm not a conservative or liberal. I'm a Federalist. Leave me the fuck alone to live how I want in suburban Texas, and I promise I won't care what anybody in Boston is doing either.

Posted by: RP on November 3, 2008 9:23 PM



If you supercharged this with a cult of violence, and added a cult of the executive and a hatred of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, you'd get fascism.

Yeah..and...Ummm......that also pretty much describes uncle Joe's Soviet Union? Let me guess, Communism is right wing as well? Hitler believed in a centrally planned economy just like the soviets, except he had the brains to let people who were capable of running his industries run them, unlike the soviets who put in political appointees drenched in marxism with the predictable results. Both parties rewarded their supporters with privilege.

Unions were free to strike in the Soviet Union weren't they? There was probably more inequality between the Soviet Worker and Party Master than there was been capitalist and worker Nazi. Read any Solzhenitsyn? Part of the reason why the Nazis fought till the bitter end during the eastern campaign, was due to the fact that many German communists were horrified on what they discovered when the Germans invaded Russia Instead of a workers paradise, they found a shit hole and were determined not to let their country become one.

By the way, just because you are a capitalist, does not make you a conservative, anymore than being an academic makes you a liberal.

Hayek and Orwell, who were from different sides of the political fence, both felt that Nazism and Communism were both the offspring of a state of mind that legitimised collective trampling of individual rights. i.e liberalism. What the state giveth, the state can taketh away.

The founding fathers of the U.S, based their constitution on a synthesis of Christian--yeah I know its hard to stomach--and enlightenment thought. Conservative political thought starts with these premises:
The rights of Man are given from God,Government power is hence limited, and man is corruptible by nature, accept the fact and move on. Interfere only when you have to, otherwise leave alone. Utopia aint going to happen. Let's make the best of it.

As for David Duke, He is a dickhead. He ran initially as a Democrat and then as a Republican, look up your wikipaedia. The man is a political whore. So whats your point? He may hate Jews and Blacks, but how does he differ from a Feminist Professor at Harvard who hates white males and Catholics. Both believe in conspiracies and untermensch. Is she right wing? Same thought processes, different objects of hatred. Both have visions of a better world, both believe individual rights can be trampled for the the social good, both have had a home in the liberal establishment.

No, your interpretation of politics is based upon how you feel, not philosophical considerations. Anything which makes you feel bad is right wing, anything good, left wing. It's the political thought of an adolescent. Dad is a fascist cause he wont give me the car, mum is a liberal because she will.

Grow up, read a few books and get an education. Switch off the mental filter that stops you from hearing inconvenient truths. Live in the real world. Till then stop interfering in my life, go hug a tree.

Posted by: slumlord. on November 4, 2008 6:41 AM



No, your interpretation of politics is based upon how you feel, not philosophical considerations. Anything which makes you feel bad is right wing, anything good, left wing.

you're projecting your own situation here. My interpretation of politics is based on study of the facts of history and the actual ideologies held by participants in history. Your interpretation is based on the fact that contemporary American liberals make you feel bad and hurt your delicate feelings, hence anything bad in history ever must be related to American liberalism.

You would benefit intellectually by trying to understand the real world, which is a rich and complex and interesting place where much more is happening and has happened than the current conflict between left and right in the U.S. This form of understanding would require you to have more toughness of mind and more capacity to observe the realities of human nature, including the problems with your own ideological perspective, but it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

Orwell, BTW, was a socialist well to the left of contemporary liberals, and he certainly did not think Naziism was a liberal movement.

Posted by: MQ on November 4, 2008 10:57 AM



Yeah..and...Ummm......that also pretty much describes uncle Joe's Soviet Union? Let me guess, Communism is right wing as well?

Communism and Nazism were both statist philosophies, but one was far left and the other far right. Also, my description of fascism above does not apply to Communism, which is neither nationalist, nor based on ethnicity, nor obsessively militarist, nor obsessed with preserving the past essence of a civilization that is now being corrupted by degenerate aliens.

Leninist Communism is, however, contemptuous of bourgeois democracy and in favor of absolute state power.

Posted by: MQ on November 4, 2008 11:02 AM



MQ: The foreign policy messianism of the Bush administration has been notably marked by the absence of any sense of modesty and limits.

Indeed. The mutation of Republicanism that began, as you correctly pointed out, under Reagan, from anything like tragic-view conservatism into spendthrift domestic policy and utopian, messianic interventionism in foreign policy, is one of the most complete turnarounds of a movement that I can recall.

Republicans are not conservative, not any more. What they are, I don't know. But they're definitely not conservative.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 4, 2008 2:55 PM



Leftist radicalism has elements of parody, of Christianity in particular, Judaism as well. Fascism is a kind of parody as well, of paganism, futurism, but with a distinctly un- or anti-Christian tone to it. Fascism is, however, a bitch to define. Much more incoherent than leftism, especially in the days when Marxism was the Great Big Tent of the left.

I propose that we all use fascism the way it's come to be used by the vulgar: as a term of abuse. Fascist! sounds so bad--those sibilants!--that its onomatopoeic nature should determine its meaning, and nothing else.

I propose that henceforth we ignore all that history sh*t and just enjoy the word.

Fascist!

There. Didn't that feel good?

Posted by: PatrickH on November 4, 2008 3:14 PM



Communism and Nazism were both statist philosophies

Liberalism elevates State rights over individual rights. If there is a "social problem" government is there to fix it. Conservative solutions to "social problems" is local. Charity, not welfare. Liberalism is an objectively pro-statist philosophy while conservatism is pro-individualist philosophy.

Also, my description of fascism above does not apply to Communism, which is neither nationalist, nor based on ethnicity, nor obsessively militarist, nor obsessed with preserving the past essence of a civilization that is now being corrupted by degenerate aliens

Are you for fucking real!!!!! What were the purges in the soviet union about, except to rid the country of "degenerate elements" that were poisoning the purity of the revolution. As for ethnic hatred, ask the Crimeans, Tartars, Lithuanians or Volgan Germans about the happy and peaceful co-existence in the workers paradise. Not obsessively militarist? Read a bit of history.

Give me a national example of a communism in which people have flourished.

American liberals make you feel bad and hurt your delicate feelings

I don't have delicate feelings.

Orwell, BTW, was a socialist well to the left of contemporary liberals

He was homophobic, liked to smoke, went to Eaton and was anti-abortion and provided intelligence on his communist friends to British Intelligence, yes he was the perfect liberal.

Posted by: slumlord. on November 4, 2008 4:54 PM



"Have you ever considered that just because something is bad for you, it's not a moral judgment whether one chooses for health or not?"

Yes, I have considered that and I agree, it's not a moral choice, it's more practical if anything. Look, if you're a mom and pop restaurant that wants to use trans fats or MSG or whatever in your cooking, then I say go for it, as long as you're letting your customers know. But if you're Nabsico and you're selling to millions of people globally, it's my belief that there should be some governmental oversight there. And anyway, using trans fats isn't even illegal, it's just bad marketing to do so now that the public has heard from the (admittedly fallible) scientific community on the probable health effects of such ingredients. That's a good process, people basically voting with their dollars based on the best knowledge of the day.

I'll agree with you that smoking bans in bars is ridiculous. You can't convince me, however, that smoking bans in restaurants and the workplace are anything but a good idea. Smoking sections don't cut it, I can vividly remember sucking down smoke while eating my Denny's pancakes as a kid because the only thing separating smoking from non-smoking was a waste-high piece of fiberglass attached to a booth.

Posted by: JV on November 4, 2008 6:04 PM






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