21 Jan 2008

Freedom Out of Fashion

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Jonah Goldberg sounds the alarm over the elect’s revival of enthusiasm for coercive expressions collectivist paternalism.

Remember this? “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical….”

Younger readers may not remember the opening to “The Outer Limits,” a pretty good sci-fi rip-off of “The Twilight Zone” (and they may have only a fuzzy understanding that TVs used to have knobs to control the horizontal and vertical). But as they read the news these days, maybe they can find a new appreciation for the creepy feeling of powerlessness that opening once gave viewers. …

We are seeing a return to the idea — first championed by social planners in the progressive era — that government can and should play the role of parent. For instance, Michael Gerson, once a speechwriter for President Bush, advocates a new “heroic conservatism” — an updating of his former boss’ compassionate conservatism — that would unleash a new era of statist regulations. On the stump, Hillary Clinton refers to her book, “It Takes a Village,” in which she argued that we all must surrender ourselves to the near-constant prodding, monitoring, cajoling and scolding of the “helping professions.” Clinton argues that children are born in “crisis” and government must respond with all the tools in its arsenal from the word go. She advocates putting television sets in all public gathering places so citizens can be treated to an endless loop of good parenting tutorials.

Mike Huckabee, who represents compassionate conservatism on steroids, favors a nationwide ban on public smoking. Everywhere, from Barack Obama to John McCain, we are told that our politics must be about causes “larger than ourselves.” What we used to think of as individual freedom is now being recast as greedy and selfish.

Read the whole thing.

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