February 09, 2010
Liberal ConceitBy Christopher Chantrill
We all know liberal condescension. "Why are Americans so anti-intellectual?" your liberal friend might ask. But Gerard Alexander has written about it -- in the Washington Post. "Why are liberals so condescending?" he asks. Why indeed?
Your average liberal exhibits four kinds of condescension, according to Alexander. There's the notion that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because of the power of ideas, but "because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics." Obviously this leads into the second notion that "if conservative leaders are crass manipulators, then the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst." This idea has won Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a weekly column at The Wall Street Journal.
Then there's the conservatives-are-racists meme. "It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants." This one started with Richard Nixon's Southern strategy to win votes in the Old South.
Finally, liberals believe that "conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety -- including fear of change -- whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic."
You know what this is? It is Scion City. It is the whine of the fortunate son who cannot understand why he is running the family firm into the ground. The competition is cheating! The customers are stupid! It is the bleat of a political movement grown accustomed to its ascendancy, blind to its corruption, and softened by its comfortable sinecures.
This liberal snobbery also serves another purpose: It helps liberals hide from their shame. If liberals are so devoted to "evidence and logic," then how come Social Security and Medicare sport unfunded liabilities two or three times the GDP? If liberals are so shocked by racism, how come they condone the antics of the Justice Brothers and Reverends Jackson and Sharpton? If liberals are so appalled by sinister campaign tactics, then how come they spent 2009, the year the locusts ate, writing 2,000-page bills in secret after concluding corrupt bargains with special interest lobbies?
Shall I tell you what your real problem is, liberals? It is your unjust and oppressive administrative state. The French and the German absolute monarchs invented the administrative state back in the 1700s. They needed to smash the civil society of guilds and local lords so that they could increase taxes to fund their armies and build their palaces. Today, liberals use the administrative state to smash families and civil society to buy votes and fund public sector pensions. Then and now, the administrative state has one overriding purpose: to increase the power of the center and force people to look to the state for all their needs.
The real problem for liberals when it comes to conservatism is ignorance. An alert reader recently e-mailed me about an interview on C-SPAN. Brian Lamb asked a famous liberal professor for his thoughts on Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. The response was "I'm sorry; I haven't read that. I don't know that author."
How anti-intellectual can you get? F.A. Hayek is the standout intellectual critic of the administrative state. Leaving aside his critique of the personal failings of liberals in The Fatal Conceit, he made the unanswerable charge that the administrative state is bound to fail in delivering prosperity because it doesn't have the bandwidth to run everything, for
... decentralized control over resources, control through several property [i.e. capitalism], leads to the generation and use of more information than is possible under central direction.
The science is settled on that, even if liberals "don't know that author."
The man in Washington, or the czar in the White House, cannot begin to know what a million consumers and producers know out in the real world. In fact, he does not want to. He does not want to know what a million consumers or ten thousand producers know; he merely wishes to control them.
We can elevate this concept into a universal principle. Anyone setting up an administrative structure, especially in government, is trying to oppress and control people. Condescending? He ought to be ashamed.
Honesty must admit that liberal condescension has a reflection in conservatism. If liberals worry about sinister campaign tactics, conservatives worry about ACORN. If liberals wonder what's the matter with Kansas, conservatives agonize about the problem with Berkeley and Cambridge. If liberals think conservatives are racists, conservatives accuse liberals of playing the race card.
And just like liberals, conservatives are convinced that the other guys are "driven by emotion," whereas we are swayed only by logic and reason.
The difference is that conservatives don't condescend towards liberals. But give us half a century of political and cultural power, and we could learn.
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