Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 :::

I'm sympathetic to my brother's position that a modern politician should be judged on his own positions rather than the positions of politicians from generations past who had similar outlooks. But I don't think this guilt-by-association is entirely irrational. If every centrally-run economy has led to a totalitarian society, someone who proposes a centrally-run economy but says they don't want the government to make your non-economic decisions for you, I think they have to explain how they'd avoid following the same path every other centrally-run economy has followed. A politician doesn't have to carry all of the weight of his predecessors on his shoulders, but he does have to explain why he's different; if he wants to enact large parts of the progressive platform, it's worth at least pondering whether the rest of it follows as a fundamental law of politics, or whether there's a good reason to believe that this time will be different.

On the other hand, Jonah has confessed that one of his less intellectual reasons for wanting to write the book was in response to the campus leftists calling him a fascist - the "I know you are but what am I" instinct observed on playgrounds everywhere. And even if the "I know you are" is an unfair exaggeration (which, for the record, Jonah acknowledges ad nauseum in his introduction), it's worth detailing just how silly it is to call a libertarian a "fascist", or to imply that limiting the scope of government is more likely to lead to totalitarianism than putting decisions in the hands of politicians is.

But, actually, on the third hand, the last chapter of the book points out that if fascism has meaning beyond mere epithet, it doesn't have to be entirely bad. I haven't actually read that chapter yet, but I assume one can take the position that nationalism is a fascist instinct, but that it can enhance comity and be a good thing in small doses. You can agree with the progressives on meat inspection without buying the whole eugenics agenda -- if you know how to draw the line and that there is a line to be drawn.

At any rate, it is, so far, an interesting and useful corrective. I've just finished the third chapter (about Woodrow Wilson); maybe I'll have more thoughts later.


::: posted by Steven at 10:21 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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