Category Archive 'Liberalism'
01 Apr 2018

Hyper-Liberalism Has Replaced Liberalism

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John Gray is dismayed at the way the politics of identity has replaced Liberalism with intolerant and totalitarian hyper-liberalism.

It would be easy to say that liberalism has now been abandoned. Practices of toleration that used to be seen as essential to freedom are being deconstructed and dismissed as structures of repression, and any ideas or beliefs that stand in the way of this process banned from public discourse. Judged by old-fashioned standards, this is the opposite of what liberals have stood for. But what has happened in higher education is not that liberalism has been supplanted by some other ruling philos­ophy. Instead, a hyper-liberal ideology has developed that aims to purge society of any trace of other views of the world. If a regime of censorship prevails in universities, it is because they have become vehicles for this project. When students from China study in Western countries one of the lessons they learn is that the enforcement of intellectual orthodoxy does not require an authoritarian gov­ernment. In institutions that proclaim their commitment to critical inquiry, censorship is most effective when it is self-imposed. A defining feature of tyranny, the policing of opinion is now established practice in societies that believe themselves to be freer than they have ever been.

RTWT

01 Dec 2017

Liberals Chasing Their Historicist Tails

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Barton Swaim finds the spectacle of contemporary Liberalism caught publicly embarrassed in self-contradictory moral Absolutes an endless source of entertainment.

Today’s liberal elite do not look backward for their authority—there are no scriptures and no inviolable traditions in modern liberalism. They look to the future. The rules issuing from the modern liberal clerisy are thought to be the latest manifestation of moral progress, to which educated people must adhere if they wish to be thought of as good people. So for instance American liberals can, in the space of a decade or even less, go from believing marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said they believed this) to holding that it’s a contract between two people who love each other, even if those two people are of the same sex. They can embrace the latter doctrine just as fervently as they did the earlier one.

The real trouble with this system is that the clerisy, in its enthusiasm to keep up with the times, issues new rules that contradict the old rules. The conflicting nature of its demands is not news, but of late those contradictions have become acute and more obvious.

15 Sep 2017

Ikea Humans

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Samuel Biagetti finds an important parallel between the youthful middle-class community of fashion’s preference in furniture and its inner life.

Suppose for the moment that our young couple of today… Jennifer and Jason, are members of the upper middle class, living off their smarts and social connections rather than manual work. They live in the Sun Belt, in some newly gentrifying neighborhood of Queens, or in its equivalent in Montreal or Melbourne. They have college degrees and, even more importantly, college friends, which help to pull them up the slippery slope of middle-class employment. They are part of a scrambled white-collar workforce, drawn from all parts of the country and abroad, a lumpenbourgeoisie squeezing itself into selected wards of a few expensive cities. They follow trends in food, and music, and long-form television. Their politics are probably (but not definitely) liberal.

Let us further entertain the idea that in our time as in Dickens’, life imitates furniture, and that we will learn something about our young couple if we consider where they house their underwear. If we picture Jennifer and Jason’s bedroom, it is not hard to guess what we would see there: a good deal of IKEA. Their IKEA dressers are probably black or white, or maybe covered in a veneer — something light but earthy, such as birch. Beneath the veneer, however, is not a cheaper wood like local poplar, but particle board — a material that would befuddle Dickens and his contemporaries.

Consider more closely where this IKEA dresser and its underlying substance came from. That story begins at a logging camp somewhere in the world — quite possibly in an illegally harvested old-growth forest in Russia or China. (It is impossible to say exactly, since IKEA has torpedoed laws that would require them to disclose their sources.) The loggers in this mystery forest fell trees of various sorts and pass them on to a logging company that might manage scores of camps. The logging company then sells the trees to a sawmill which gathers material from several dozen logging companies and cuts them into boards. Several sawmills in a region then supply the lumber to a larger board-mill that cuts the wood into even smaller pieces. Small suppliers buy the board from several board-mills and transport a portion of it to large suppliers, which in turn gather and pulverize the various materials in a chemical soup and press it into lighter, cheaper chunks. IKEA then buys this “composite material” to cut into the components of a Malm or Hemnes, sorts it into boxes, and distributes it to over 300 stores around the world, leaving the final assembly to the customers. Even a simple desk or dresser contains, by IKEA’s own admission, at least 26 different species of wood from at least 18 different countries — and usually far more. The result is a sleek but crumbly piece of furniture, sure to camouflage into any new apartment. Jennifer and Jason use their dressers every day without a thought as to the work or the materials that made them.

We must not sneer at Jennifer and Jason, many readers are sure to point out, for choosing IKEA. Their incomes, though high in the global scale, are likely to be lower than their parents’ were, and they often have to move in order to climb the employment ladder. It is only reasonable for them to buy something inexpensive, transportable, and replaceable. IKEA fulfills an important niche in the middle-class market — for cheap furniture that still retains a semblance of respectability. The company has exploited this market to become the global empire that Sweden never had, a kind of Viking revenge on the modern age.

Still, there is a good chance that Jennifer and Jason actually like their IKEA dressers, and prefer them to the old oak chest that their grandparents tried to foist on them. Indeed, the extraordinary popularity of IKEA testifies not only to its convenience but to its ability to appeal to the middle-class self-image. Jennifer and Jason are drawn to IKEA because it reflects who they are: they too are modern, movable, and interchangeable, their wants satisfiable in any neighborhood with a food co-op and a coffee shop. More fundamentally, Jennifer and Jason are untraceable, a “composite material” made from numberless scraps and pieces. They have a long catalog of home towns, and their accents are NPR neutral. They can probably rattle off the various nationalities in their family trees — Dutch, Norwegian, Greek, and Jewish, maybe some Venezuelan or Honduran for a little color. From these backgrounds they retain no more than a humorous word or phrase, a recipe, or an Ellis Island anecdote, if that. They grew up amidst a scramble of white-collar professionals and went to college with a scramble of white-collar professionals’ kids. Their values are defined mainly by mass media, their tastes adorably quirky but never straying too far from their peers’, and like the IKEA furniture that they buy in boxes, they too cut themselves into manageable, packaged pieces and market themselves online. They are probably “spiritual but not religious.” They have no pattern or model of life that bears any relation to the past before the internet. For all intents and purposes, they sprang up de novo in the modern city. Whereas the Veneerings’ high fashion covered over an essential vulgarity, Jennifer’s and Jason’s urbane style masks a hollowness.

It may be tempting to call Jennifer and Jason, and the the group of people whom they represent, “cosmopolitans.” ( And indeed, IKEA, with its vaguely exotic Swedish names, provides a dash of cosmopolitanism on the cheap.) However, Jennifer and Jason are something newer and more bizarre than cosmopolitans: as Ross Douthat aptly pointed out in the wake of the Trump election, the increasingly insulated college-educated classes of the coastal cities do not grapple with real, substantive differences in beliefs and values, associating instead with cliques of like-minded classmates. …

Conversely, we must also avoid cheap epithets. The word “cosmopolitan” is a double-edged sword – long a shibboleth for worldly sophistication, it has lately turned upon its makers, serving as a political weapon against urban liberals; it is not surprising that a Trump spokesman recently attacked the “cosmopolitan bias” of a journalist who questioned the White House’s immigration policies. There is nothing particularly new or insightful about attacking urbanites tainted by association with the foreign, like the Judean exiles railing against the silken whores of Babylon. Still, as shallow and hackneyed as this rhetorical strategy might be, it packs a populist punch because the very concept of “cosmopolitan” is purely relative: since no one, legally speaking, is a citizen of the world, one can be “cosmopolitan” only in contrast to someone else – a “provincial” in the Victorian terminology, or a “xenophobe” in contemporary talk. In other words, the idea of cosmopolitanism carries an unavoidable subtext of class superiority.

Therefore, to be precise, the class of people of whom I am speaking are “cosmopolitan” neither in the idealized nor in the demonized sense of the word. They neither bridge deep social differences in search of the best in human experience, nor debase themselves with exotic foreign pleasures. Rather, they have no concept of foreignness at all, because they have no native traditions against which to compare. Indeed, the very idea of a life shaped by inherited custom is alien to our young couple. When Jennifer and Jason try to choose a restaurant for dinner, one of them invariably complains, “I don’t want Italian, because I had Italian last night.” It does not occur to them that in Italy, most people have Italian every night. For Jennifer and Jason, cuisines, musical styles, meditative practices, and other long-developed customs are not threads in a comprehensive or enduring way of life, but accessories like cheap sunglasses, to be casually picked up and discarded from day to day. Unmoored, undefined, and unaware of any other way of being, Jennifer and Jason are no one. They are the living equivalents of the particle board that makes up the IKEA dressers and IKEA nightstands next to their IKEA beds. In short, they are IKEA humans.

RTWT

HT: Vanderleun.

29 Nov 2015

After Liberalism

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Roughbeast

Rod Dreher posts a letter from an anonymous (and not entirely grammatical) conservative college professor.

[W]hen people my parents’ age scoff at the whole trans thing and dismiss it as just the cause du jour (remember Darfur? neither do any of the SJWs), I shake my head and tell them they have no idea what’s coming. The project of the Willed Self is a natural outgrowth of Enlightenment thinking. (I share your opinion that Submission is not a great book, but a very important one in terms of exposing the internal contradictions of the Enlightenment.) The whole intellectual movement of the last three centuries has at its core the principle of freeing the willed self from all constraints. The trans movement represents this idea’s apex: if we can free ourselves from basic biology and anatomy, then truly we have become gods. “I am that I am” is no longer confined to Exodus 3; it is the mantra of the willed self freed from all external barriers. There is nothing beyond the subjective, the personal, the therapeutic, because all that matters is how I define my own self, my own existence, and my own gratification. There can be no society or community within this worldview. Patrick Deneen was right in that “After Liberalism” lecture he gave: Enlightenment liberalism has been scary for we [sic] traditional conservatives, but what’s coming next — what’s coming now — is terrifying.

29 Nov 2015

Leftist Politically Correct Extremism Has Ruined Liberalism

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political-correctness11

Umair (who is no conservative himself) argues that leftism’s obsession with egalitarianism in its most bizarre manifestations and with regard to the most microscopic grievances has driven the liberal establishment to a kind of madness which distracts it from more real issues and delegitimizes all of its authority.

Every day lately, it seems that the world is going a little bit crazier than the day before. So, like me, you might be forgiveably baffled by the fact that while the planet is melting down, democracy’s broken, the economy’s cratered, the young won’t enjoy careers, retirements, savings, homes, societies are anxious, fractured, angry, the left is furiously obsessed with, willing to battle endlessly over, consumed passionately not with any or all of the above, but by…what to call their love lives. Do you use the right gender pronouns? Are you on board with the latest approved-by-committee terminology? Did you know that according to the internet “romantic” and “sexual” attraction aren’t the same thing? Don’t you know that men can have periods? Hey, is this a safe space? …

I want to advance a simple thesis: perhaps the central reason that liberalism is in historic decline globally is because the left is self-indulging itself into irrelevance.

To overdramatize it, the left is bickering over what to call what goes on between the sheets…while the world is starting to burn. Hence, when you think about it, the latest variant of Leftism isn’t really about politics very much at all. It’s about marketing. Safe spaces in which to have zealous contests for labels, which make up “identities”, that are ironically just…personal brands…that advertise…one’s narrow, shallow pursuit of pleasure, consumption, artifice. New Leftism is glittering narcissism concerned with the good life as lifestyle, not the difficult, joyous, humble work of living. Which leaves us here: as if shoppers at the mall began screaming at each other over their “lifestyle choices” while a giant hurricane ripped the roof from over their heads.

01 Jul 2015

The Empire of Nice

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Niceville

The Thinking Housewife is revolting against the tyranny of Nice.

J.D. writes, “What is it that they want?”

It’s shockingly simple: They want to be thought of as NICE. By everyone.

Niceness is their highest value… the coin of the realm. Nice people are nice. Not nice people are mean. And they don’t want mean people to think they’re not nice, either, so it’s a double-bind worldview. They’re trapped in the social empire of nice, and there is no escape.

However, there is a prize: everyone thinks the nice person is nice. Not much more, but certainly nice. No one can say anything bad about the nice person, which isn’t a fully human, fully-alive experience, but it is nice.

They don’t want to be thought of as mean, so they follow the nice trends and celebrate all kinds of nice self-congratulation. It’s a dualistic worldview, brought to them through television, Internet, viral emails, movies, social media, cute JPEGs, et cetera.

The Glowing Box tells them what is nice, and how to think. They imitate, and pass it on.

That’s what they want: to be nice, for others to think of them as nice, for others to be nice to others, and the world to be a nice place. They want to be comfortable. People who create discomfort — by thinking or encouraging others to think — are not nice. Just like their most challenging teachers in their school years, who created a “not nice environment” that demanded the best of them and others… the highest effort, playing on their growth edge. Standing for something beyond the comfort zone of niceness. That wasn’t nice because some people couldn’t get an A because they wouldn’t think or work hard enough to get it, creating despair. That’s not nice. And this view of thinkers — those with higher standards for humanity — continues to this day. Thinkers are mean, caught up in their heads. Unrepentant thinkers are haters. They have no heart.

Fun, huh?

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

04 May 2015

Sanctimony is a Choice, Too

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college-liberal-poor

John Steele Gordon, in Commentary, fisks good-and-proper Nicholas Kristof’s canting, holier-than-thou “Inequality is a Choice” NYT editorial.

Is there really something terrible about the rich getting much richer, as long as the less rich are not getting any poorer, and indeed are seeing their standards of living rising over the long term, thanks to such things as Walmart, Amazon, iPhones, GPS, etc.?) …

[Kristof, in the end,] comes up with a list of possible ways to correct what might very well not need correcting, but would definitely put more money into the hands of the political class that Kristof represents (to be used, of course, strictly for the good of the poor and the downtrodden). Among these are: More government vigilance regarding monopolies and competition, strong trade unions, public-sector jobs at the minimum wage for such things as elderly care (has he checked with the unions for their opinion on this?), restrain pay at the highest levels (i.e. maximum-wage legislation), and a personal income tax that tops out at 65 percent.

Is there a single idea in there that post dates FDR, who died 70 years ago in a completely different economic universe? Indeed, most of them antedate the 20th century. Steeply progressive income taxes are straight out of the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.

So here’s my list of ideas to lower the income inequality between rich and poor. They would actually help everyone except the political class:

Break up government monopolies, such as Medicare, the Veterans Administration, and, most important public school systems. Introducing competition into these areas of the economy is vital to improving them, because competition, and competition alone, produces hard work and innovation. Monopolies—private and governmental—are always fat, dumb, lazy, and devoted to maintaining the monopoly. The shortest route to prosperity for the poor and downtrodden is a good education and the inculcation of good work habits. They don’t get that today and liberals don’t give a damn. (One of the first things President Obama tried to do as president was end the school voucher program in Washington, D.C., as a thank you to the teachers unions, while sending his two daughters to a very expensive, and very good, private school: welcome to modern-day liberalism).

Introduce a flat tax, so that the private jet owners of the world can’t finagle special deals with their congressional pals.

Abolish the corporate income tax. I wrote about the extraordinary benefits of doing this in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago. At least 90 percent of the tax fiddles and crony-capitalism government favors are hidden in the corporate income tax. Get rid of it and 60,000 lobbyists in Washington would need to go out and get wealth-creating jobs. Do you think private jet owners own their private jets personally? Of course not, their corporations own them and get a slew of deductions thereby.

Modern-day liberalism is about talking about helping the poor and downtrodden, while espousing policies that will only help the narrow and ever-more privileged elite of which liberals are the most vocal supporters.

Read the whole thing.

13 Aug 2014

No Liberalism Without Imperialism

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imperialism

Daniel McCarthy, over at the American Conservative, argues that if you want liberalism and democracy, you are going to need an Empire capable of “by upholding a relatively un-Hobbesian global security environment.”

In the 19th century, the United States enjoyed the advantages of an international security environment propitious to liberalism and democracy without having to incur the costs of empire necessary to sustain those conditions. America could be liberal without having to be imperial—although the Indians, Mexicans, and Filipinos might well disagree. Beginning with World War II, however, if America wished to remain liberal and democratic, it would have to become imperial in many of the ways Britain had been—including playing a leading role in Europe and on the oceans. Indeed, America would have to do much of what the British Empire had done in the previous century on an even larger scale.

The efflorescence of liberal democracy in the latter half of the 20th century—the growth of international trade and support for democracy and human rights to the point where the total package appeared to be the “End of History”—was not a spontaneous, natural development. It was driven by U.S. prestige and power. Germany is now deeply committed to political liberalism, and Japan may in some respects be more consumerist than the U.S. itself. But these states were, of course, remade by the U.S. after World War II.

This is not to say there aren’t genuinely local traditions of liberalism or democracy to be found among America’s allies, nor that American arms can simply transform any other kind of regime into a liberal and democratic one: the apparent success of nation-building in Japan and Germany owed as much to the threat that the Soviet Union posed to those states as to anything America did. The Germans and Japanese had the most urgent incentive imaginable to make their newly liberal and democratic constitutions work—because aligning with the U.S. was the only insurance they could buy against being annexed by the Soviet empire instead.

There is a crucial difference between the Napoleonic, land-empire mentality that wants to revolutionize other states—a mentality taken to extremes by the Soviets and exhibited with considerable fervor by many neoconservatives and liberal hawks today—and the example set by Britain in the 19th century, which was a liberal but not revolutionary world power and encouraged liberalization mostly though indirect means: via trade, culture, and above all, by upholding a relatively un-Hobbesian global security environment.

Liberal anti-imperialists today, whether libertarian or progressive, make the same mistakes Britain’s pacifists and America’s interwar noninterventionists once did: they imagine that the overall ideological complexion of the world, as determined by the state most capable of projecting power, need not affect their values and habits at home. They believe that liberalism is possible without empire.

Read the whole thing.

30 Jul 2014

Conservatism as Punk Rock

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ramones4
The Ramones at CBGB

Kurt Schlichter has a good rap, arguing that Conservatism is the new Punk Rock, while those sad millennial kids are listening to Tony Bennett.

We’ve heard it all before a hundred times, the same old lack of imagination, the same old sorry set list. The music of liberalism doesn’t move us, it doesn’t change us, it doesn’t excite us. It’s just there, aural wallpaper designed to keep us quiet, to get the liberals through one more election cycle, to help them hold power just a little longer.

Today, Sheena is no longer a punk rocker. Instead, she is a disaffected Oppression Studies grad student trying to pay off her $200K student loan debt working part-time at the local Starbucks. She chooses cuddly conformity and cozy control over the excitement of actual independence. Sure, she has a nose piercing the show that she’s a rebel, but this rebel’s cause is to replace her helicopter parents with a helicopter government.

We conservatives want to tear it all down. We conservatives want to smash it up. Liberalism, I want to destroy you. We’re where the action is, where the excitement is, where you can hear new music from bands you mainstream liberals have probably never heard of.

Liberals want to see themselves as punks. They aren’t. They are sad conformists who frankly deserve the consequences of their inaction.

Read the whole thing.

18 Feb 2014

Militarized Police: Just Another Epiphenomenon of Liberal Misgovernment

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Dan Greenfield explains that our modern militarized police did not come from nowhere. He argues that machine-gun-carrying cops, riding around in armored personnel carriers, constitutes just one more untoward after-effect of liberal policies.

The police escalation that shows up on countless videos exists because the people demanded it. And the people demanded it because liberal social policies made entire cities unlivable. The militarized police forces out of cities like Los Angeles filtered down to the suburbs and the rural areas as the same policies and populations that made cities unlivable began spreading outward.

The police state, associated with the right, worked in tandem with the social policies of the left, to dull the pain of those policies. That “dulling” has become the new role of conservative politicians in America who manage the disaster instead of rolling it back. The left realized that without the police state, its policies faced a much broader level of rejection so it learned to tolerate the pigs and the man.

Urban areas were still a disaster, but relentless computerized policing reduced crime enough to make it appear that things had improved. The visible crime statistics however were only the symptoms of the problem. The left had been right about that. It was just wrong about the cause. It was the cause all along. Its social policies had created social problems that the police state managed.

Having armed goons patrol the streets made cities viable again. And that brought in the tax base which allowed the left to experiment with more of the same social policies. The Giulianis made it safe for the Bloombergs and then the De Blasios to come back. In the same way Bush’s war policies paved the way for the Obama years by dulling the pain of international terrorism.

Read the whole thing.

23 Dec 2013

Liberalism: The Self-Esteem Source For Mediocrities

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Dan Greenfield manages to explain exactly how liberalism manages to sell its ideology so successfully to the lumpen-haute-bourgeoisie, and identifies the mechanism by which conformity of thought is so widely systematically confused with intelligence.

Self-esteem is the new intelligence. Obama’s intelligence was manufactured by pandering to the biases and tastes of his supporters. The more he shared their biases and tastes, the smarter he seemed to be and the smarter they felt by having so much in common with such a smart man. …

[M]anufactured intelligence is self-involved. It mistakes feeling for thinking. It deals not with how things are or even how we would like them to be, but how we feel about the way things are and what our feelings about the way things are say about what kind of people we are.

Liberal intelligence is largely concerned with the latter. It is a self-esteem project for mediocre elites, the sons and daughters of the formerly accomplished who are constantly diving into the shallow pools of their own minds to explore how their privilege and entitlement makes them view the world and how they can be good people by challenging everyone’s paradigms and how they can think outside the box by climbing into it and pulling the flaps shut behind them.

Perpetual self-involvement isn’t intelligence regardless of how many of the linguistic tricks of memoir fiction it borrows to endow its liberal self-help section with the appearance of nobility.

Liberalism isn’t really about making the world a better place. It’s about reassuring the elites that they are good people for wanting to rule over it.

Read the whole thing.

03 Dec 2013

Liberal Charity: “Make George Do It!”

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John Steele Gordon notes, in Commentary, how liberal benevolence always consists of making somebody else provide the donation.

Steve Coll has a comment in this week’s New Yorker calling for a higher federal minimum wage. He points out that it’s awfully hard for a family of four to live on the current minimum wage, which would produce a family income of about $15,000 a year. That is certainly true, but Mr. Coll leaves out a few things. A family of four with an annual income of $15,000 would be eligible for food stamps amounting to $7,584 and an earned income tax credit of $5,372. That raises the family income to $27,911, which is quite an improvement. The family would also be eligible for Medicaid, school lunch and breakfast programs, perhaps housing assistance and other forms of help. He also leaves out the fact that very, very few people earning the minimum wage are the sole breadwinners of a family of four. Most are entry-level employees, often teenagers, with no developed skills. Most people who take a job at the minimum wage are earning above that level within a year, having learned marketable skills.

To be polite, Mr. Coll is being tendentious. To be less polite he is being grossly intellectually dishonest.

The minimum wage is a favorite liberal hobbyhorse, heavily promoted by labor unions. It is typical progressivism: a liberal politician (or journalist) says, in effect, “See that man over there? He needs help.” Then he points to an employer and says, “You, help him.” Finally, he points to himself and, addressing the man needing help, says, “Don’t forget where the help came from.”

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