Tuesday, April 27, 2004

O would some Power the gift to give us...

The Virginia Postrel definition of liberal

liberals--the non-socialist, non-Marxist people who make up the mainstream of the Democratic Party and, for that matter, American journalism--are...dramatically underrepresented.....[In] the world according to David Horowitz...there are no liberals, only the left and a few token anti-leftists for "balance."
If you're expecting me to tear into Postrel, you're going to be disappointed. I think her distinction between liberal and left is spot-on. And too few American liberals recognize the need to erect a Chinese wall between themselves and the left.

The last peak of influence enjoyed by American liberals took place in the 1960s. If they wish to ever have again the power to make a real difference, American liberals must learn from the subsequent divergence between its fortunes and those of American conservatives. While American liberals were indulging leftist extremism, William F. Buckley was purging the American right of its kooks, planting the seed for the ascendancy of modern American conservatism that bore the fruit of the Reagan Presidency and the Gingrich Congress. The White House returned to the Democrats for the Carter Administration largely due to the Watergate scandal. Otherwise, there was no reversal in the decline in the fortunes of American liberals until 1992, when a Democrat running for office demonstrated his possession of both eyes and testicles by publicly acknowledging and criticizing the racism inherent to Afrocentrism and black nationalism. That candidate, Bill Clinton, went on to win the following two Presidential elections, overseeing an Administration during which the American people enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity.

Liberals have been subjected to a kind of intellectual entryism that conflates Marxism and Marxist-derived ideas with liberal-left sympathies. The liberal-left's compassion for poor people in poor countries finds expression in an anti-capitalism despite the unimaginably successful development of the Asian tigers, formerly poor countries whose citizens now enjoy a developed country quality of life - two of those countries, Taiwan and South Korea, have made peaceful transitions from authoritarianism to democracy - as a result of, yes, capitalism and even investment by hated multinationals. Much environmental activism has developed the same anti-capitalist tic on the assumption that socialism is inherently easier on ecosystems, an assumption that flies in the face of the demonstrated success of pollution credits and the privatization of fish stocks, the empirical example of Chernobyl and our knowledge of Eastern European reliance on highly polluting brown coal during the communist period. A steady march towards legal and political equality for all was overtaken and run down by ideologies perversely empowered by claims of perpetual powerlessness who betray their Marxist pedigree by aspiring to revolutionary transformations of society and fixating on "class" or some proxy thereof, most commonly race and gender.

In his review of Donald Sassoon's One Hundred Years of Socialism, Paul Berman noted that, after defeat in the Cold War discredited communism, socialism has "modestly shriveled into what it always should have been: an ethical orientation, not an economic how-to guide". Any revival of American progressivism lives and dies by its exponents' ability to keep the two distinct and separate. Its compulsion to act on its compassionate urges has always been the liberal-left's greatest virtue; the vice to which it is most susceptible an arrogant certainty in the efficacy of its chosen course of action.

...To see ourselves as others see us