Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't Know Much About Politics

As Dan and Alan note, Jason Bowden doesn't seem to know what he's talking about:
The left traditionally hates individualism, originality, and initiative. They want everyone to be subordinated to universal comprehensive plans. No exceptions!

To be fair, this is an accurate description of Stalinist Communist Parties during the 1930's, and some elements of the hard left during the 1960's, but I would hardly consider it descriptive of contemporary American left-wing political thought. Indeed, most lefties are, as Dan suggests, soft libertarians when it comes to personal expression (as are most Americans, for that matter). I would like to have an example of contemporary (past decade or so) left-wing policy proposals that are as lockstep as Jason suggests, but I know I shall wait in vain.

This exposes part of the problem not only with libertarian political thought in particular (Jason is self-described as such a one) but much of our political discourse in general. "Left", "right", etc. are really meaningless terms, to be filled in by whatever the user prefers. Now, back when there was an CPUSA, with a Stalinist COMINTERN calling the shots, the kind of description Jason offers of "lefty" political thought could be described as reasonably accurate, as long as one limited oneself to Communist equating lefty. Remember, the CPUSA spent much of the 1930's decrying fascism as the final result of capitalism . . . until the Nazi-Soviet pact, when the CPUSA went full-throttle saying that the Nazi's were misunderstood, that the USA needed to be neutral in the struggle, etc., etc. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, they did a pirouette again, but by then the most intellectually honest members of the Party were long gone.

Also, consider what happened to really culturally radical members of the Party. Emma Goldman, perhaps the most famous Communist besides Lenin and Stalin, ended up on the wrong end of a firing squad for complaining quite publicly about the doctrinaire nature of Leninist rule. A true Bohemian in every sense of the word - free-love, open marriage, modern art, free thinking all were tools of the coming revolution - she hadn't reckoned with the fact that, in practice, Leninism demanded full acquiescence and submission. Since it was "scientific", it answered all questions before they were asked. Since artistic freedom, and cultural expression in general, were stymied under communist rule, it stands to reason that should one equate "communism" with any even moderately liberal approach to politics, you've got a Q.E.D. for your argument ready to hand.

Except, American left-wing politics as never been doctrinaire, which is why it's so fragmented and powerless. Ideological purity, demanded by a few (especially on matters concerning religion), is anathema to most lefties and liberals. The right, however, makes any attempt by liberals to insist on purity like pikers. Whether it's abortion rights, or doctrinal purity in religion, or on economic policy (as the past couple weeks have shown), you either put up or walk out.

My guess is that the multi-generational use of "liberal" as code word for "dirty commie" has created a situation in which the general picture Jason tries to paint, thoughtless and silly in its own way, has become common currency among those who don't pay enough attention to the real world to understand as mindless nonsense.

Virtual Tin Cup

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