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June 04, 2013

Do Human Beings Only Matter To the Extent They Serve as Cogs in a Government Plan?

Jonah Goldberg writes about one of his obsessions.


Longtime readers of mine will recall that one of my bugaboos is the liberal obsession with the “moral equivalent of war.” Ever since William James coined the phrase, liberalism has essentially become a cargo cult to the idea. The core idea, expressed in myriad different ways, is that normal democratic capitalism is insufficient. Society needs an organizing principle that causes the citizenry to drop their individual pursuits, petty ambitions, and disorganized lifestyles and unite around common purposes.

Naturally, the State must provide leadership and coordination in this effort, just as it does in a war. That was the essential rationale behind the New Deal – war mobilization without war.

Barack Obama has spent much of his presidency all but begging the American people to imbue themselves with a moral equivalent of war spirit. Sometimes he’s used the phrase explicitly, other times he’s dreamed that America could act like the military. Other times he’s droned on about the need for unity and dedicating ourselves to a “cause larger than ourselves” – that cause invariably being the government. He’s talked a lot about “Sputnik moments” and the need for Americans to rally around his green agenda the way we rallied around the space program.

I loathe all of this. The whole point of a free society is that people will do what their hearts and consciences tell them to do, individually and in voluntary association. We have a military to keep us free, not to provide examples of how best to surrender our freedom. Moreover, the exhortation to give our selves over to the spirit of wartime mobilization when there is no war is frightening because, unlike real wars, not only is “victory” not defined, it cannot be defined. We will never have a kingdom of heaven on earth, so any call to mobilize the people to fight for one necessarily means permanent mobilization, which means the permanent surrender of what this country was founded to establish.

One failing I find in conservative rhetoric, as far as its appeal to the citizenry, is that it often seems "too political." Certainly the media and the left (but I repeat myself) constantly cast us that way, that we're just "rightwingers" who have no other interests but our rightwing ideas. That we can then be dismissed as cranks, because all we do is gnaw on our various fringe political chew-toys.

But this is projection, isn't it?

I really like Goldberg's formulation here. Not just because it is 100% true -- many things are 100% true, and yet aren't particularly grabby as political rhetoric.

But I think this one is 100% true and grabby, as it reveals the truth about who it is, exactly, who's obsessed with government -- who it is who is determined to tell us that our lives have no meaning outside of our service in the corporate entity called the US Government --and who it is who says there is far more meaning outside of a Government-Ordered Life, and just wants to be left alone to find our own meanings.

I think 30% of people, those LIVs, are only interested in politics to the extent politics connects with their own aspirations and vanities. I think Goldberg's formulation could be very useful in appealing to the LIVs.

I know it's very appealing to me, personally. And not even in a political way, necessarily.

Is the deepest drive of humanity to be part of a government program? Is our highest aspiration to join a government-organized social club?

I don't think so. Not only do I not think so, I think it's insane to believe such a thing. And pointing out the insanities of the left is the way to beat them, because LIVs really don't care about policy; they care about which party makes themselves think well of themselves by associating with it.

Associating with a group that believes lunatic things does not permit someone to think well of himself for associating with it. Quite the opposite.


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posted by Ace at 11:15 AM

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