Arnold Kling  

The Neo-Reactionaries

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Angelo M. Codevilla writes,


The ruling class's appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side's vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side -- especially the ruling class -- embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side's view of itself. One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.

It is a long essay, worth reading in its entirety, although I am going to emphasize where I do not share his sentiments. I put the essay in a class that I call "neo-reactionary." Other writing in this vein ranges from the best-selling (Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism) to the obscure (Mencius Moldbug's old blog posts) to somewhere in between (Arthur Brooks' The Battle, which I still have not read.)

I call the outlook neo-reactionary because it is sort of like neoconservatism with the gloves off.

Some core beliefs that I share with the neo-reactionaries:

1. At its worst, Progressive ideology is an ideology of power. It justifies the technocratic few infringing on the liberty and dignity of the many.

2. At their worst, Progressives are intellectual bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt to persuade those who disagree with them.

3. American government has become structurally less libertarian and less democratic in recent decades. For example, Codevilla writes,


The grandparents of today's Americans (132 million in 1940) had opportunities to serve on 117,000 school boards. To exercise responsibilities comparable to their grandparents', today's 310 million Americans would have radically to decentralize the mere 15,000 districts into which public school children are now concentrated. They would have to take responsibility for curriculum and administration away from credentialed experts, and they would have to explain why they know better. This would involve a level of political articulation of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years.

Amen. I live in one of those mega-school districts, which gives unbridled power to the teachers' unions. The widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced has much more on this theme. (Note to intellectual bullies: please do not confuse nostalgia for decentralized school districts with nostalgia for "separate but equal.")

Where I part company with the neo-reactionaries (and for all I know, Jonah Goldberg parts company a bit as well) is on the following:

1. Brink Lindsey has a point. The Progressives are not wrong on everything, and conservatives are not right on everything.

2. Tyler Cowen has a point. Manichean, confrontational politics is a dubious project. Questioning your own beliefs can be more valuable than issuing a call to arms to those who share them.

3. Tyler Cowen has another point. Do not think that the majority of people are libertarians. Both Codevilla and Arthur Brooks assert, with evidence I regard as flimsy at best, that two-thirds of the country is on their neo-reactionary side. I strongly doubt that, and even if it were true I do not believe that democratic might makes right.

I think that ideology is partly endogenous. I do not think that it is an accident that an ideology of rational technocratic control grew up as America urbanized and as enormous scale economies emerged in the industries made possible by the internal combustion engine, the electric motor, radio, and television. I do not think it is an accident that the Progressive ideology will be challenged as the Internet starts to alter the economy and society, reducing the comparative advantage of mass production and mass media while increasing the comparative advantage of local autonomy and individual expression. The Internet serves as a constant reminder of the wisdom of Hayek.

We live in interesting times.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (47 to date)
tom writes:

Can we suspend Godwin's Law for a minute?

My worry is that at some level these complaints have some similarity to old Jew-hating, and that the bullying elite that right-ish-ists are talking about is a predominately Jewish elite.

think you are right, I think Goldberg is right, I think Hayek is right, I think Robin Hanson is right, about the stupidity of much of the left-liberal project today. And I hate the featherbedding and the stupid social engineering of the Montgomery County gov't education system. But I also think that what you and Jonah are trying to do is politely tell our often Jewish elite that they are not accomplishing what they think they are.

I'm think Steve Sailer is doing the same thing, including his recent series of columns that ended with the Spider-Man admonition 'with great power comes great responsibility' and his recent reviews of the Israeli group's report that sounds like a bizarre attempt to create a real Protocols of the Elders but with Larry Summers and Henry Kissinger as elders.

And I know that you are trying to bridge the gap between the more conservatives and the libertarians without a true conflict that Codevilla might expect, just as Tyler may be trying to bridge the gap between libertarians and left-liberals. But is this job too dangerous to start, and if not, is it not dangerous because it is so doomed to fail to convince the elite that it set sail 100 years ago on a big ship of smart fools (sorry, 2012 is on cable)?

Tom West writes:

> 2. At their worst, Progressives are intellectual
> bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt
> to persuade those who disagree with them.

I think that's a tactic that every single movement that has ever attempted power has used. I've had criticism from *both* left and right because my willingness to engage in intellectual discourse with "the opposition" was seen as weakening the side I was arguing for.

To be honest, I think they could be correct. If your primary interest is in gaining power to push your preferred policies, history seems to show more examples of this being done successfully by demagoguery than by reasoned argument.

I simply don't care enough about either freedom or people's welfare (depending on the policy I'm arguing for) to sacrifice my indulgent desire for intellectual stimulation.

Philo writes:

You write: "please do not confuse nostalgia for decentralized school districts with nostalgia for "separate but equal." But you cannot brush off racial segregation so lightly. The chief domestic political drama of the 20th century was the extirpation of Jim Crow, in which the central political elite forcibly overrode local traditions. The lesson for the elite was: *we* are the party of virtue; local traditions are despicable, ordinary people are benighted. The victorious struggle against segregation enormously strengthened the prestige, power, and self-confidence of the political elite.

david writes:

What kind of Internet do you work with, where Facebook is tiny, Google is not everywhere, eBay doesn't manage the vast majority of online auctions, Amazon doesn't sell the vast majority of online books, World of Warcraft doesn't outpace every other MMO on the market, outdated versions of Internet Explorer don't singlehandedly exert a pressure on the direction of development, and Flash doesn't have a monopoly so strong it drives out even other products by the same company (Shockwave)?

There is, if anything, an attitude that well-meaning technocratic direction can coexist with "local autonomy and individual expression". Do No Evil, etc.

PeterW writes:

"Manichean, confrontational politics is a dubious project. Questioning your own beliefs can be more valuable than issuing a call to arms to those who share them."

True from a truth-seeking viewpoint, but surely you don't mean this from a power-seeking viewpoint. Rhetorical coalition-building is the essence of real-life politics, and questioning your own beliefs once an agenda has been set upon often becomes a concession to the opposition.

"Both Codevilla and Arthur Brooks assert, with evidence I regard as flimsy at best, that two-thirds of the country is on their neo-reactionary side."

Having read only the Codevilla, I'm pretty sure he means that two-thirds of the country is on the anti-Progressive side, not that they're on any libertarian side per se. And a good part of this two-thirds is only on that side because they themselves wish to be on the directing side of things and they find themselves systematically excluded. But the existence a majority coalition that opposes the current ruling class is no small thing. And if successful, given the non-negligible libertarian sentiment of this coalition, is more likely than not to lead to a more libertarian order (which will of course then slowly sclerose as well.)

Matt C writes:

A depressing read. I find very little to be optimistic about in modern American politics. The best I can do is "it could be worse, it could be raining".

"The country class" is a nice rhetorical play. I'd like to see it catch on, but I suspect the Tea Partiers will remain "teabaggers".

I do not think it is an accident that the Progressive ideology will be challenged as the Internet starts to alter the economy and society, reducing the comparative advantage of mass production and mass media while increasing the comparative advantage of local autonomy and individual expression.

I suggest using the size of the education sector as a barometer of this trend. If there was ever an industry ripe for creative destruction via the internet, education is it. If you are right, innovation should give us less total spending on education with obviously improved results within the next 10 years or so. If the education interest groups have a better lock on things than you think, this process will be much slowed and obstructed.

I'd like to say we could look for the same thing to happen in the health care sector, but I'm pretty sure that's a hopeless case, at least for now. I don't have any doubt about which side is winning that battle.

Hyena writes:

So... Cordevilla's problem and, by extension, yours is that the wealthiest, most well-credentialed, highest performing members of our society run it?

Given that the ticket to this world has been the SAT and good grades, it seems like our ruling class is precisely those well-schooled, intelligent, conscientious and hard-working meritocrats people have been demanding for decades.

Matt Brubeck writes:

I think many of those sentences were more true during the George W Bush years than now. Both Bush and Obama made significant power grabs, but Obama is doing so with more popular approval, not less.

John writes:

Hyena, um... maybe you should read the article before commenting on its arguments:


The heads of the class do live in our big cities' priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston's Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate -- just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists.
[...]
Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity -- being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment's parts.

Please explain how the article justifies your assumption that the "wealthiest, most well-credentialed, highest performing members of our society run it." Perhaps your assumption is true, but I don't see it in the article.

MikeP writes:

Codevilla's argument would have been more persusaive if he hadn't included the implicit creationism.

Doc Merlin writes:

@Tom:

That was a really strange way of putting Jewishness and Palestine into an argument where it totally doesn't fit at all. Was it part of a bet, to see if you could do it? Because otherwise I don't see at all how it fits.

Hyena writes:

John,

So... your objection is that the necessary conditions for admission are not sufficient.

The problem being?

Snorri Godhi writes:

After reading the first Codevilla quote, I was convinced that, by neo-reactionaries, Arnold Kling meant the "ruling class", the "Progressives".
Now I am wondering: why are the people opposed to the ruling class called "reactionaries"? it sounds like Orwellian newspeak to me. But this is not a criticism of Dr. Kling: much of the current political vocabulary sounds Orwellian to me.

BZ writes:
"We live in interesting times."

Is that a warning of some sort?

Shakes writes:

I personally loved the Codevilla article and a lot of the points hit home to me.

If you are a fiscal conservative or a libertarian today you really don't have a party that even remotely represents you. Republicans like to claim the mantle but they lie.

I really don't like the oversized government and it pains me to see how much more civil servants make than the average joe. It does seem to be that they don't exist to serve the public, the public exists to serve them. I think we have it all wrong and I rejoice at Codevilla's call to arms.

mark writes:

"The Internet serves as a constant reminder of the wisdom of Hayek."

Great line.

John writes:

Hyena, being ruled by an intelligent/successful class that shares a heartfelt belief in the righteousness of benevolent technocratic rule is much different than being ruled by an intelligent/successful class that includes members who doubt the wisdom of that cause.

Troy Camplin writes:

It seems appropriate that you ended the post with that old Chinese curse.

I am seeing many signs that we are moving into becoming ever more sets of spontaneous orders. What else is the Tea Party movement? I realized that the Tea Party movement is a spontaneous order after I read some criticisms of it, saying it would never last because it didn't have any leaders. That of course was said by one of those power-centralizing progressives who cannot understand how self-organizing systems could possibly exist, since they are certain anything of any complexity must have a designer of some sort.

In the end, you are right in identifying the internet as what is driving these tensions. It is a spontaneous order that is so obviously one that everyone sees it is, understands it is, and sees its benefits.

stuhlmann writes:

"2. At their worst, Progressives are intellectual bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt to persuade those who disagree with them."

I never realized that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter were progressives.

Miguel Madeira writes:

"In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. "

Sometimes I have the impression that american conservatives have a very strange definition of "ruling class"

Hyena writes:

John,

So what you're saying is that being ruled by different people is being ruled by different people.

Again, I must ask: where is the problem? I doubt you have a problem with benevolent technocratic rule, that is, after all, the promise of libertarians: that government will consist of a bunch of technocrats hammering away to resolve legal disputes while legislatures largely sit on their hands.

John writes:

Hyena, I don't think benevolent rulers who are confident that they have the ability and right to use force to make others' lives better will naturally restrict themselves to resolving legal disputes. If libertarians like rulers to decide the law but not to impose soda taxes, doesn't it stand to reason that libertarians will have a bigger problem with the righteous, state-expanding rulers than their humbler counterparts?

If I'm ruled by people who deeply disagree with me about the proper scope of government, I don't much care how intelligent they are. I don't see how you could imagine that the political beliefs of a ruling class shouldn't make us like them any more or less.

TFG writes:

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Joel writes:

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Matthew J writes:

Your first three points can be far more easily applied to conservative ideology than progressive:

"1. At its worst, conservative ideology is an ideology of power. It justifies the religious/militaristic few infringing on the liberty and dignity of the many." Do I want to be told by some Christian what is considered correct behaviour based on his religion, not mine? Do I want greater surveillance, fewer civil liberties and a greater share of my taxes going to defense and military, all of which happened under Bush?

"2. At their worst, Conservatives are intellectual bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt to persuade those who disagree with them." The left has no one near as vitriolic and partisan as Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, et al.

"3. American government has become structurally less libertarian and less democratic in recent decades." I quibble with this. How does civil rights for minorities make our government less democratic? And prove to me, using tested examples rather than speculation and hopeful dreaming, that libertarianism would actually result in greater freedom rather than simply greater harm.

the_Humanist writes:
They would have to take responsibility for curriculum and administration away from credentialed experts, and they would have to explain why they know better. This would involve a level of political articulation of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years.

But this is just the issue.......the people who you suppose would take back control of the school districts would not, especially in the case of some very conservative or rural areas, have to justify why they want to teach creationism instead of evolution. They would just say it's what's in the bible and that would be that. Anyone who disagreed with them would be called a communist or whatever. And the people in these communities would cheer that their schulbord had just thumbed it's nose at the "elites" who are trying to tell them what to do.

AC writes:

I tried to correct Brad DeLong's "interpretation" of your quote, but the comment was immediately deleted from his site.

Gray writes:

"government has become structurally less libertarian"
Uh, isn't this total nonsense? There can't be any libertarian government. One of the core points of libertarian ideology is to get rid of a government!

A "less libertarian government" is like a "half pregnant man". Impossible!

Dre writes:

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Stephen writes:

Kling wrote:

"Both Codevilla and Arthur Brooks assert, with evidence I regard as flimsy at best, that two-thirds of the country is on their neo-reactionary side."

Arnold Kling needs to actually read Arthur Brooks' book because this is exactly what Brooks does with solid scientific evidence, and that he does so is exactly why his book is so timely and valuable. Brooks establishes the existence of a socialist, redistributionist minority that Codevilla calls the “Ruling Class,” and Brooks calls the “30% Coalition” Equally solid is the evidence Brooks supplies to identify an opposing force that Codevilla calls the “country class” and Brooks calls the “70% majority.” Completely ignored by Kling’s overly worked intellectualizing is the fact that the 70% is a simple oppositional majority. If there is a “neo-reactionary” element within the 70% majority, it would be a tiny, insignificant, meaningless, powerless clique. A tiny clique that one might compare on every point with the libertarian intellectual component of Codevilla’s ruling class. Neo-reactionary! Gag me with a spoon. 99% of that 70% majority just wants to pursuit happiness. They want you to get your hand out of their pocket and leave them alone. 99% of that majority hasn’t a clue about how to make that happen. In short, the heterogeneous character of the 70% majority does not allow characterizations like “neo-reactionary.” Indeed, Codevilla seems to conclude that they are so incoherent that they might not have the capacity to get their country back at all; that the drift toward totalitarianism is unstoppable.

Senorita Bonita writes:

I am a member of an ethnic minority in the USA. The 40's and 50's were not a better time for me in regards to education, civil/human rights or equal rights in general.

The progressive changes that did take place were with integration of the military under President Truman, the civil rights and voting acts under Johnson. Non-whites did not see sweeping changes occur in the 40's and 50's.

Lexington Green writes:

"... confrontational politics is a dubious project."

Non-confrontational politics is an oxymoron.

Polarizing politics helps rally your side, put the other side on the defensive and win.

The people Codevilla writes about have been waging the maximum possible confrontation, year in year out, decade after decade, and they keep on winning.

There is a "Them" here. Libertarians, conservatives, tea partiers, Perot voters, what have you, all have disagreements among themselves. But they also have common interests they would be wise to recognize and start acting on, soon. A few decades ago would have been better, but no point in crying over it.

Their common enemies are united and engaging in a relentless and mostly, so far, unopposed confrontation, waged by means of mockery, ostracism, defamation, fabricated facts, denial of the historical record, control of the media, coordination between purported news sources and the Democrat party, by any means necessary. If this is not confrontation, nothing is. But as Clausewitz noted, it takes two to have a war. If one side simply lets the other have whatever it wants, you don't have a "confrontation."

If Lindsey and Cowan and others simply won't dirty their hands by having allies who go to church on Sunday, or whatever it is they despise about people who also want to oppose the nanny state leviathan, because these people aren't as cool as they are, or read fewer books with footnotes, there are plenty of people with libertarian values who have fewer qualms.

Political coalitions are about disparate groups banding together to get part of what they want. That means all parties holding their noses and getting on with the business at hand.

We need a big whopping helping of confrontational politics. Lots and lots. The sooner the better.

Aaron Bernard writes:
I put the essay in a class that I call "neo-reactionary.

If the technological framework of America is rapidly decentralizing politics through the Internet (as you say it is), who really are the reactionaries? It would seem to be those wishing to centralize power of the state in a fashion reminiscent of the age of the railroads, telephones, and command-and-control military hierarchies.

"Progressives," still espousing their centralist tendencies, are the modern reactionaries. They praise the new way of doing things through the Internet but emphatically wish their politics to be organized along the lines of good ol' Ma Bell.

Oliver Shank writes:

...The widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced...

I read the thing. The book has great explanatory power and is enjoyable to read. Kling is as clear as a bell.

For the first reading I took the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced out of the Cornell library and read it. It was a keeper. When visiting Amazon to buy a copy, though, the price caused my fingers to jerk from the keyboard unbidden, a momentary digital disobedience.

Perhaps a different price point? Just thinking...

Oliver Shank

cracker writes:

Progressive politicians and the rest of the ruling class, like the muslim terrorists, mistake the forbearance of the American people for weakness. As the progressives rapidly destroy the economy and other pillars of the Country, this forbearance will, and rapidly is, coming to an end. If the ruling class of "elites" continue to "rule" against the will of the majority of Citizens, this will end badly. The elites are setting themselves up as rulers as surely as did the French Aristocracy. These latter day "rulers" may just meet a similar end. I have heard it said in "common" society RE: Muslim Terrorists,"They won't allow us to not kill them". This prevailing view may extend to politicians if they aren't damn well careful, and fearful, of their constituents. There is a storm a-brewin'!

M. Report writes:

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Metamorf writes:

Why "neo-reactionary" rather than, say, "neo-rebel"? Doesn't the former presuppose that the contemporary left really is some sort of progressive force, as they imagine themselves to be, rather than regressive and atavistic, as they are?

And while we're speaking of things "neo", how about "neo-progressive" to describe people who would like to continue to advance the emergence of the modern concept of the individual, progressively freed from the restrictions of tradition and state?

Lorenz Gude writes:

I started a JFK liberal and became more conservative as I noticed that some of LBJ social programs didn't work as I expected and became aware that I really didn't agree with the left or progressive wing of the Democratic party. Much later I was really bothered by the big government Republicans under Bush. I expected more of the Republican party as a party of small government knowing full well that was something I couldn't expect from the Democrats. And now we have the left of the Democratic party 'finally' getting to enact its agenda. Oh Boy! Fifty or sixty yeas of pent up 'tax and spend' let loose in the middle of a depression. Their idea of progressive was old 1948 when Henry Wallace ran for president on the progressive ticket - old because the German Social Democrats had been pushing a lot of that same agenda in the late 19th century. In fairness I think progressives are Social Democrats with a very static idea of what constitutes progress.

What the Teaparty or the 'country class' will become is really difficult to see because as Dr. Kling points out it is an emergent phenomena of the new technological environment. Who knows - an effective third party movement might not need to be as organized as an industrial aged political party given the self organizing properties of the web. Indeed the whole template of the industrial age is about centralized control. Like through media ownership, or steel mill ownership, or control of government. Decentralized networked confrontation with centralized industrial age systems have had some spectacular successes - 9/11 obviously but also Linux and the blogosphere. So come November let's all just vote for the Neo-Whigs! Or something.

John C. Randolph writes:

The Progressives are not wrong on everything

Perhaps you can cite an example of something they're right about?

Since the end of the civil war, "progressives" have given us the genocidal campaign against the plains Indians, prohibition of Alcohol and our current war on (some) drugs, they got us into World War One, (thus making World War Two inevitable), they turned the crash of 1929 into the Great Depression, and their list of failures goes on and on.

-jcr

John C. Randolph writes:

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Karl K writes:

Matthew J wrote:

Y

our first three points can be far more easily applied to conservative ideology than progressive:

"1. At its worst, conservative ideology is an ideology of power. It justifies the religious/militaristic few infringing on the liberty and dignity of the many." Do I want to be told by some Christian what is considered correct behaviour based on his religion, not mine? Do I want greater surveillance, fewer civil liberties and a greater share of my taxes going to defense and military, all of which happened under Bush?

Oh, give us a break. First, where is the evidence for "fewer civil liberties" under Bush? None, nada, zero. Meanwhile, what Christian group is telling you what to do and succeeding in doing it? Atheism has never been stronger in this country, seeing as how it is purging from the public sphere references to Christian thought.

"2. At their worst, Conservatives are intellectual bullies. They delegitimize rather than attempt to persuade those who disagree with them." The left has no one near as vitriolic and partisan as Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, et al.

Well, here's the thing. Obama and the progressives are skilled users of the strawmen. Examples abound. And then your have guys like Olberman who are personal attackers almost exclusively. All the conservative "bogeyman" you mention are medial folks who make arguments which you can address and rebut on their face.

"3. American government has become structurally less libertarian and less democratic in recent decades." I quibble with this. How does civil rights for minorities make our government less democratic? And prove to me, using tested examples rather than speculation and hopeful dreaming, that libertarianism would actually result in greater freedom rather than simply greater harm.

Here's an example for you. The Internet.

Kev writes:

If I'm ruled by people who deeply disagree with me about the proper scope of government, I don't much care how intelligent they are. I don't see how you could imagine that the political beliefs of a ruling class shouldn't make us like them any more or less.

And beyond that, there shouldn't even be a "ruling class." This is one area where we need to go back to the intent of the Founders, who envisioned a group of citizen-legislators who first developed a talent of some sort in business and then used that talent to the benefit of the nation in a short period of true public service, after which they would return to the productive class. As it stands now, the unproductive class is in charge, and they've made a complete mess of things.

So yes, I'm talking about term limits--but not just for Congress; bureaucrats would be included in this as well. Ideally, nobody would feed at the public trough for more than ten or twelve years. (Having a requirement of x-number of years of experience in the productive class as a prerequisite for being elected, appointed or hired for a government position would be a bonus.)

TeeJaw writes:

It may be true that "Manichean, confrontational politics is a dubious project,” but the aggressor makes the rules. The leftists who make up the Ruling Class (I don’t see why we should acquiesce in their ridiculous claim to be “progessive”) are the clear aggressors and have been engaging in Manichean, confrontational politics for a long time. It’s been the key to their success mainly because they have been blessed with a political opposition too eager to examine its own beliefs. The leftist ruling class never have and never will examine any of their beliefs, which they consider to be settled and sacred.

It’s time to take them on and defeat them. That means playing by the very rules they have established. They aren’t used to that, and I don’t believe they can take it. If conservatives (“Neo-reactionary” is a term of derision) can become half as confident in themselves as the leftists they must defeat, they will become a powerful force.

The Tea Party movement is showing the way. So are some conservatives such as Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, and to some extent Tim Pawlenty. There are more whose names are not well known right now but might become so this November.

John C. Randolph writes:

First, where is the evidence for "fewer civil liberties" under Bush? None, nada, zero.

DIdn't you hear about this thing called the PATRIOT act? How about gitmo? They made all the papers, I'm surprised you're ignorant of them.

Now, if you meant to say that Obama is just as bad, you'd be correct, since The Great Empty Suit with his Nobel Prize for Teleprompter Reading has reneged on his campaign promises and signed the PATRIOT act extension.

-jcr

Jack writes:

Well, okay, then. What ARE the Progressives right about? Global warming? Nope. The benefits of welfare? Nope. The desirability of government run health care? That ain't working out so well anywhere. See Britain, Canada, Cuba ... Energy policy? Not a chance. Foreign policy? Lots of big triumphs there, like ensuring that Iran gets the bomb. It's inequitable for us to have the bomb and them not, after all. The sexual revolution? Hmm. don't think quite so much. Feminism? Not so much. Hatred of Christianity? Oops, I forgot, progressives are the tolerant ones. The war on "man caused disasters"?

I could go on.

Cathy Young writes:

I accidentally stumbled on Brad DeLong's post while googling you to remind myself what the kerfuffle about Paul Krugman accusing you of racism was all about. I'm still scratching my head -- what does DeLong find so offensive about your post? I thought it was very well-reasoned, and quite refreshing, in today's thuggish political environment, in its insistence on debating rather than demonizing the other side.

(The only corrective I'd add is that I think ideologues of every political/intellectual stripe, at their worst, are intellectual bullies. Sadly, they dominate our discourse today on both the left and the right.)

James A. Donald writes:

If the ruling class only has the support of thirty percent or so, why don't we just vote them out?

Because, as Moldbug explains, we are not actually a democracy:

Returning to this Golden Oldie:

In other words, our so-called democracy is dependent not on the wisdom of the people, but on the internal power politics of the official church. If these politics produce a political platform which translates to responsible and effective actions, the government will be good. If they don't, it will suck. Either way, we have consigned the state to an unaccountable conclave of bishops. Why this is an improvement on monarchy, or any other form of autocracy, is unclear.

This political architecture, an abortion by any standard, is commonly known as a theocracy. Oddly enough, the classic historical case of a theocracy is... wait, hang on, I'm forgetting... oh, yes! Right here, in North America. Under those strange people we call the "Puritans."
(A more precise label would be Brownist - I'm with Shakespeare on this one. Note that, cladistically speaking, we are all Brownists now.
Which implies that democracy is just theater, a big show aimed at generating legitimacy - and that eighty percent of Jews have converted away from Judaism, greatly strengthening by their talents the brand of Christianity that was so successful in converting them.

The thing to do then, is not win elections, but discredit them.

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