Arnold Kling  

Who is Freedom's Enemy?

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This Symposium offered many choices (all the papers are available at the link).

Several years ago, I went to a Pop!Tech conference where each speaker was saying, in effect, "My research opportunity needs more attention." Today's symposium was more like "My enemy needs more attention."

First, Victor Davis Hanson proposed modern educators, for failing to teach history properly, leading to cultural amnesia. He didn't quite say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because Greek and Latin courses aren't in demand so much these days, but that was sort of the drift.

During the Q&A, I was feeling Puckish, so I put it to him that I felt better about my daughters getting their news from Steven Colbert than from Walter Cronkite. Hanson differed, arguing that Cronkite at least believed in facts, while Colbert and his ilk promote a don't-believe-anything nihilism.

Next, we had John Fonte and his discussant John O'Sullivan agreeing that the big threat is tranzies and multi-cultis. Tranzies are transnational progressives who want to replace U.S. laws and Constitutional provisions with international law. That is where Fonte includes me in the enemies list, because I once used the phrase "transnational libertarian."

This raises the question of whether the problem with tranzies is their transnationalism or their progressivism. I think it's the latter. Indeed, I don't think their transnationalism is all that sincere. Instead, the whole "international law" thing is really just a convenient excuse for them to pick and choose which international laws to invoke to get their preferences imposed. As far as I'm concerned, you can be as transnational as you want, as long as you don't use it as an excuse to say that you make the rules from now on.

Multi-cultis believe that we should preserve ethnic differences and maintain cultural neutrality, rather than assimilate immigrants into American traditions. Fonte showed results of a recent poll that suggested that 80 percent of Americans are assimilationists. I would say that the fact that our government institutions, including schools, are multi-culti in spite of the poll shows you how effective the progressives can be at getting around democracy.

Finally, Andy McCarthy told us that Jihadists were the enemy. Or people who want to go soft on Jihadists are the enemy. He contrasted the eagerness of New York City government to require clear nutritional labeling of restaurant food with the widespread attempt to cover up militant Islamic ideology. Transparency in the obesity war, opacity in the terror war.

I have come to worry more about progressives than about Jihadists. The progressives are determined to make the rest of us happy by making our choices for us. The notion that some of us might be happier if given the chance to make our own choices just does not compute with them.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (4 to date)

Perhaps people who believe in enemies are the enemy. On the other hand, I sure do want some as a scholar and artist, because only if you have enemies can you have a successful career. You at least made someone passionate enough to attack you and get people to pay attention to what you said. The enemy of non-economic success is a lack of enemies.

Oh, and the anti-education educators ruling our schools. They're definitely enemies.

reason writes:
I have come to worry more about progressives than about Jihadists. The progressives are determined to make the rest of us happy by making our choices for us. The notion that some of us might be happier if given the chance to make our own choices just does not compute with them.

I take it this means that you think that Jihadists are less likely to be successful because they want to the same thing, just more violently. And not all choices are equally important. For instance - are you passionately opposed to school uniforms?

reason writes:
The notion that some of us might be happier if given the chance to make our own choices just does not compute with them.

Surely, however, it is clear that some people will be less happy if given the chance to make their own choices (because they will make bad choices). So I think this is not the real reason you object.

ws1835 writes:

reason
Surely, however, it is clear that some people will be less happy if given the chance to make their own choices (because they will make bad choices). So I think this is not the real reason you object.

Spoken like a true progressive collectivist. I believe you just proved why Arnold fears progressives more. Who are you to say that people should not be free to make their own choices if there is risk of a poor choice being made? BTW, who decides what is a bad choice? You? Your neighbor? A government minister? You are proposing to save people from themselves, but who saves the savior from making the same mistakes? What happens when the 'authority' making the choices makes a bad one?

The entire premise behind such a statement is that somehow we can arrange a system where bad choices are eliminated. The same concept pervades the "nanny state" mentality that has evolved in the USA and EU. Unfortunately, the entire concept is a fallcy. There is no way to "mistake proof" life. Responsible behavior is in large part the result of people making bad choices and learning from the consequences. Bad choices lead to lessons learned, adn from those lessons, improved habits.

A nanny state interferes with this mechanism by taking choices away from individuals (in their own interest of course!) and in many cases protecting them from the consequences of the choices they actually do make on their own. The end result is a population that does not learn responsibility.

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