I had thought I was going to be finishing my series on the different strains of leftists in America by talking about good liberals who are actually good, and then realized another category needed discussion before I tackled them. And in case you’re wondering, this is all going somewhere. There is a reason why I’m drawing distinctions between the kinds of leftists that are out there. It has something to do with the putative ‘civil war’ that is increasingly talked about as on its way. But, before I will talk about it, I need to make some distinctions. (Which also means, you should not comment on this or later posts about this unless and until you read all of them in context with each other.)
As far as ‘leftist elitists statists’ go, there is a sense in which every word in the phrase, in practice, means basically the same thing. And, as far as moral categories go, your ‘LES’ will contain all three types–bad people who think they are good, ‘nice guys’, and good people who really are good. The raw fact is that if a person considers themselves to be on the left, they are almost certainly statists, too. As such, if they are not elitists themselves, elitism is a temptation the entire ‘left’ has to deal with.
Historically speaking, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, if we were using definitions of ‘liberal’ going back to the 1700s and 1800s, the ones most worthy of the label would be people like myself: conservatives. Today, we call them ‘classical liberals.’ Ironically, ‘classical liberals’ were deeply fearful of government abuses, whereas modern ‘liberals’ tumble over each other trying to give governments more power. In short, almost all liberals today are de facto statists. They only disagree with each other on how much more power and where to emphasize governmental involvement.
Liberals themselves have yet to notice. Your best bell weather on this score are the Libertarians. In my own lifetime and in front of my own eyes, I have watched ‘libertarians’ be moved from the ‘neutral’, or even the ‘left’, side of the political spectrum over to the right. There was much that liberals and libertarians could agree on in the 1980s. Today, the statist streak within liberalism is so overwhelming that even the libertarians have realized that in order to preserve their freedoms from big government, they have to associate with the so-called ‘right.’
As I said, your average liberal is oblivious to this.
While almost all modern liberals in America are statists, not all statists are Democrats. Mitt Romney is a statist. Both George Bush’s were statists. Nixon was a statist. Romney is also an elitist, like the elder Bush was. GWB was a statist but not an elitist; Reagan was neither. David Brooks is an elitist statist. It is not a coincidence that ‘Never Trumpers’ are or were elitists. Establishment types on the ‘right’ tend to be both statists and elitists, with slightly more elitism than statism. Hence, when I and others refer to the Republicans as the GOPE. The ‘E’ stands for ‘establishment’ but we mean elitist statists.
But this post is not about the elitist statists on the ‘right.’ I doubt there is much difference between the ones on the ‘left’ vs the ones on the ‘right,’ but on this post, its the ones on the ‘left’ I’m discussing.
I think what sets apart the leftist elitist statists from the ‘nice guys’ is that they are ‘true believers.’ In this, they are more like the Antifa folks of the ‘bad men who think they are good’ category than they are of the ‘nice people’ described in my last post. They are idealistic and, I think genuinely, believe that, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” The fact that these same people also tend to have a Hobbesian notion of the ‘government,’ in which only the “Leviathan” is permitted to use violence and even encouraged to do so to preserve the State, never occurs to them. Or, to put it differently, these ‘Democrats’ believe that if 51% of the population decide to do something, the other 49% HAD BETTER SUBMIT OR ELSE.
The phrase above, In reality, means, “Government is simply the name we give to the 51% who choose to act together… and these, and only these, are allowed to use the coercive powers of the State.”
The more sensible liberals see the problem straight away: what if the other 49% manage to sway just 2% of the population in their direction? Then, this newly empowered 51% would have the right to use force on the other 49%, which now includes them.
Unfortunately, such liberals are few and far between. If the thought occurs to them at all (which is not bloody likely, which is part of the problem), the majority of the American left simply concludes, “Well, then, we’d better make sure that WE retain control of the government AT ALL COSTS.”
One of the reasons why sensible liberals are few and far between on this matter is because once they’ve taken hold of the horns of the matter and have thoroughly assessed the present situation, they cease to be liberal at all. They begin to move to the ‘right.’ They used to become libertarians, as it was a ‘neutral’ area, but now that the libertarians have recognized the dangers of contemporary leftism and aligned themselves more reliably with the ‘right,’ there isn’t a place for these (truly) ‘woke’ liberals to go. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is best left for a future post.
So what we have as a general tendency within the American left is that the ‘true believers’ who believe that ‘government’ is the proper way to sort out all* of our issues also believe that the ‘government’ not only has the monopoly on force, but can justifiably and morally use its force to coerce compliance.
I say ‘all’, but most liberals will object, and argue, perhaps, for ‘most.’ The reality is less than comforting. Liberals will disagree with each other on precisely which issues the government should be the arbiter on. Some liberals think only X is justifiable, and some only think Y is justifiable, and some only think Z is justifiable. But the net effect is that once they take power, all three–X, Y, and Z–all come into effect, as each group of liberals pursue their ‘pet’ causes. And why not? They won the election. “This is what democracy looks like!”
Some liberals will say, “It is stupid to make children get permits for their lemonade stands!” Other liberals will say, “But, public health!” But the former are bystanders, and despite lodging their protest, aren’t inclined to devote their time and resources into curtailing the pet causes of their fellow liberals. The latter ones, however, are true believers. The ‘X’ group of liberals will say “Compulsory vaccination is wrong!” but then devote considerable energy to compulsory addition of fluoride to the water supply. The ‘Y’ group of liberals will say, “Compulsory fluoridation is wrong!” but then devote considerable energy to compulsory vaccination.
The net effect is that both happen: we get compulsory vaccination AND we get compulsory fluoridation. The ‘X’ group and the ‘Y’ group will wag their fingers at each other but not once will they consider whether or not their core assumption–that 51% of the population taking the reins of the governments monopoly of force is an appropriate way to obtain what you want, even if in the name of the ‘common good.’
I used fluoridation and vaccination as examples, only. The fact is that there are thousands and thousands of ‘pet causes’ being pushed, accumulating like suffocating bramble by well-meaning individuals who bemoan how oppressive things turned out to be, without ever understanding that they contributed to the suffocation. What they all have in common is that these measures, whatever they are, are always compulsory, in that regardless of whether or not people are actually participating in the measures, they are required to pay for them, fund them, etc. To use the example of the fluoridation, your very ‘nice’ liberal won’t make you drink fluoridated water (bless his heart, he is so nice!) but by all means, your taxes will still have to pay for it! And so on and so forth.
Now, if Facebook decides to pursue policies which you find objectionable, you can stop using Facebook. (As I largely have). But if you refuse to pay your taxes, you’re going to jail. And if you refuse to go to jail, they will shoot you. And you deserve to be shot, you selfish bastard!
This attitude permeates the left and is not limited to the ‘elitist statists.’ And of course, most liberals would recoil at this logical progression, but that is no comfort, since they’re the ones that initiated the progression in the first place. The fact is, the ‘average’ liberal lacks the presence of mind to connect these dots at all. BUT, the ‘elitist statist’ does.
The ‘elitist statist’ understands precisely what it means to give the government a total monopoly on force, and the leftist elitist statist feels fully justified in exercising that monopoly–provided it is done ‘democratically.’
This is what makes this category of ‘leftist’ so dangerous. But, you probably wouldn’t be a ‘leftist’ at all if you didn’t accept that general principle. Which is what makes all leftists dangerous.
Remember, for the most part, their entire ‘check’ on abuses of power in this scheme tends to simply be, “Elect better people!” It never is, “Best radically scale back the reach and power of government, ASAP!” If they don’t like what Trump is able to do with the office of the presidency, their solution consists solely in electing a liberal to manage that power.
Why? Because leftists also tend to believe that A., ‘people’ are in general ‘good.’ and B., by ‘people’ they mean themselves, and they are quite confident in their own goodness and C., if there are any bad apples left out there, if only the State had more money for education, indoctrination, etc, etc, ie, with the right conditioning, anyone can be made ‘good.’ (And for those who can’t…)
In the mind of a Liberal Elitist Statist, one need not worry so much about the State abusing its powers, provided that the State is run by an omniscient and omnibenevolent being (like Obama), because whenever it exercises its power, it does so under the direction and influence of Experts.
That is one of the things different about the ‘average’ elitist statist from your ordinary statist. As a ‘true believer’, he has often gone the further step and situated himself as one of those ‘experts.’ He really believes that society can be progressively made better (and by this he always means ‘as liberals understand progress’) and has decided that he can help. That he will help. And YOU will HAVE his help, whether you like it or not.
This is how he finds meaning in life. He is a statist in the first place because the State represents the highest ideals available; a belief in God or anything transcendent was dispensed by this class of leftists 100-150 years ago. Since his entire identity is distilled into his career which is simultaneously a reflection (as he perceives it) of his own, glimmering white knight soul, he has a lot riding on setting himself up as unassailable by the ‘common’ man. He has a name: Philip Dru.
He considers himself an unassailable elite in his own field and to insulate himself from other elites, agrees to confine himself to his own field and not challenge what other (liberal) experts say. The corollary is that they both agree to castigate anyone who challenges ‘expertise’ at all.
The rest of the Left is complicit in the operation. Rather than a tool, ‘Expertise’ becomes a political weapon. It is a cudgel used to crush the skulls of those who dissent from the Statist status quo. Unlike the rest of the Left, these ‘true believers’ do not simply take on careers where their expertise is valued for its utility. They pursue careers specifically so that they can use their expertise in service of the State–unchecked by the peons who ‘act against their own interests.’
Leftist Elitist Statists will become teachers, especially at the college level (Eg, Peter Singer or Bill Ayers). They will become journalists (Virtually the entire MSM). They will enter the public health field (Tom Frieden or Jonathan Gruber). They may become attorneys. Or they enter politics (John Holdren). Wherever it is they enter, their goal is to be one of the experts who helps guide the State in its efforts. To them, its like joining the priesthood. But it is not the modern day Catholic priesthood which has been severely checked by the Reformation. It is a pre-Reformation priesthood which will brook no dissent. Who do you think YOU are? YOU aren’t an expert in…. [fill in the blank].
None of these careers are intrinsically liberal, but they do intrinsically have political import. This is precisely why Leftist Elitist Statists gravitate to such positions. Can you imagine such a person becoming a farmer? A mechanic? A truck driver? A garbage collector? Being a landscaper?
But understand why it is you won’t find them doing such work. Yes, there is a sense in which they consider the work beneath them. (The workers, too, are beneath them, but the Liberal Elitist Statist believes he is slaving away precisely for such poor, defenseless people.) But the real problem is that such jobs and careers do not have the intrinsic reach into the affairs of the multitude. Where is the meaning? Where is the satisfaction for making Society better? Sure, someone has got to drive the trucks, fix the cars, harvest the corn, pick up the garbage, and mow the lawn–but that’s why we need illegal immigrants! Trivial work and menial labor is not for the Liberal Elitist Statist.
What they don’t understand is that the folks doing this work also struggle with the pointlessness of some (or even most) of the labor they do. But they do it anyway because they do not find their meaning in the State. They derive their sense of purpose from more banal, less sophisticated human affairs. They do it because their meaning is orientated towards their family, or God, or Country. (And by ‘Country’ they do not mean ‘State.’)
For the LES, politics is their religion and the State is their god. There is nothing higher than the State, and since everything belong to the State, everything is political. [Example]
It is crucially important to understand this last point in context with the fact that they have specifically chosen careers they believe can ‘perfect’ society, unhindered by the scrutiny of all the dummies who only have high school diplomas.
In an actual democracy, politicians are determined by elections. In our representative Republic, elections are held frequently so that these dummies can change politicians (and thus, policies) quickly, if it is so desired. But these people, the Liberal Elitist Statists, are not elected. For the most part, their careers are completely insulated from the democratic process. They possess important places of power and influence which they themselves regard with a devotion that rivals the most committed monk, but there is no sense in which they are accountable to the people they believe they are serving.
You’ll never know their names. You’ll never know specifically which actions they took. Things will happen in our ordinary lives which they are responsible for, but which we will be clueless as to how they were instigated and applied. We’re just supposed to be happy and grateful for all of their sacrifices on our behalf. Do you not appreciate how people who know your interests better than you do have labored for you? YOU SELFISH, RACIST, BIGOTED, SEXIST, BASTARD.
I said you’ll never know their names, and this is largely true. With effort, though, you can detect their work.
A good example is how ‘no fault divorce’ was established in the United States. An organization of progressive attorneys called the American Law Institute drafted a model law that ‘updated’ America’s marriage laws. It found supporters in California (naturally) and used the cudgel of ‘expertise’ to win adoption by states across the country.
There is no sense in which the ALI answers to the American public, then or now. It might be said that ‘the people’ had a chance on the subject when it came up in the state legislative houses, and that is true, as far as it goes. But it only came up in the state legislative houses because the ALI brought it, and they didn’t advertise their role to the people. The collapse of the institution of the Family in America can be largely laid at the feet of this progressive organization, and hardly anyone knows about it. The ALI, by the way, is still at work today.
I can give you many examples of such things, but in reality, for the most part, we will never know who specifically implements what precisely. There are too many people embedded in too many bureaucracies doing too many things for any of us to keep track of them. Many of these people have access to the State’s monopoly on power, and yet the rest of us have no idea who they are or what they are doing.
What we have, basically, are Secular Dominionists who have thoroughly and successfully entrenched themselves into places of power and influence in our society with almost no checks and balances on their conduct. Ironically, secularists are often concerned about Christians ‘imposing’ their religious views on everyone else, but in point of fact, most Christians, like the bulk of America, are too busy with their own highest purposes, ie, their own families, to do any ‘imposing.’ The extent of their ‘imposing’ is casting votes for politicians, who, in a further irony, refuse to represent their values.
At any rate, who has more ability to ‘impose’ their views? The dude who is up for election every two years, or the bureaucrat with an agenda, unknown to anyone, who lives out his days for 30+ years implementing that agenda? I mean, really.
Of course, not every college professor, attorney, journalist, public health official, etc, are elitists and/or statists. While these positions might have, intrinsically, a political nexus, there are lots of other good (in a moral sense) reasons to embark on such careers. I’m only saying that the LES tends to gravitate towards them, although in some cases it seems to be overwhelmingly so.
Your best men and women in such careers, even as far as Leftists Elitist Statists go, derive their meaning and purpose quite apart from the State. (But, being Statists, you can see its going to be a tough row. But still). If they have a family, if they have interests besides politics, if they have lives apart from their work that they consider to be as important, if not more important, than their work, you have someone who is ‘safe’ for democratic society.
The danger is that there is no way for us to know when and who we have a ‘safe’ person or, effectively, an unelected despot. More dangerous still is the American left’s inclination to support and expand bureaucratic despotism as a matter of policy. Worse yet, is the collaboration between the despots and leftist supporters to consider dissenters as worse than heretics, given their access to the State’s monopoly on force.