Quote of the Day

I think that a better approach for convincing the judge to get tougher would be to show more clearly the parallels between the quasi-religious views that lie behind today’s progressive agenda and the thinking behind past mistakes. In my view, they are linked by faith in unproven scientific fads, faith in technocratic elites, and faith that those who share progressive ideology have superior wisdom and moral standing that justifies ruling over others. I believe that the best way to insulate oneself against romanticizing the state is to recognize these faiths and their dangers.

Arnold Kling, reviewing Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

5 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. I haven’t read the book, but did hear him talk about it at a Borders. While it’s true that many German Marxists did turn into Nazis, I think there are also psychological differences between the kinds of people attracted to Marxism and those attracted to Fascism/Naziism…these are well captured by Huxley in the following passage:

    “In the field of politics the equivalent of a theorem is a perfectly disciplined army; of a sonnet or picture, a police state under a dictatorship. The Marxist calls himself scientific and to this claim the Fascist adds another: he is the poet–the scientific poet–of a new mythology. Both are justified in their pretensions; for each applies to human situations the procedures which have proved effective in the laboratory and the ivory tower. They simplify, they abstract, they eliminate all that, for their purposes, is irrelevant and ignore whatever they choose to regard an inessential; they impose a style, they compel the facts to verify a favorite hypothesis, they consign to the waste paper basket all that, to their mind, falls short of perfection…the dream of Order begets tyranny, the dream of Beauty, monsters and violence.”

  2. When the Enlightenment postulated a world of rationality, science, individual rights, and political non-absolutism in contrast to the world wide rule of irrationality, superstition, collectivist power, and political/religious absolutism, the counter-attack from those who recognized the former principles as a deadly threat not only to their current position, but the very underpinnings of all they claimed to possess by right of nobility or divine edict was immediate.

    The response was a furious and unrelenting assault on those concepts that so threatened their position by any number of intellectual, artistic, philosophical, or aristocratic adversaries. One of the more outrageous shams was the utterly false claim that the only true alternative to collectivism of the “right” was collectivism of the “left”.

    For over a century, the alleged spectrum of political beliefs ran from dicatatorship by “rightist” elements to collectivism under the vanguard of “leftist ” factions. For reasons unfathomable to me, the latter was supposed to be preferable.

    In fact, the fictitious “left vs right” dichotomy has always been an intellectual con game, giving different names to political and moral tenets that were actually nothing more than mirror images of each other, while submerging the true alternative, i.e., a limited political system which protects individual rights and liberties as its first priority, into a murky limbo in which such a state was merely a transitional phase from one form of collectivism to another.

    Instead, as the twentieth century so amply illustrates, it was the “fragile” systems favored by middle class farmers and shopkeepers which proved far more resilient and powerful, both in peace and war, to the collectivist utopias of both the fascist right and marxist left, however these latter were configured.

    Now we are once again engaged in a conflict on two fronts. On the irrational right are the religious fanatics of a seventh century cult who claim the right to overrule anyone and anything which conflicts with their religious vision, while on the reconstituted left, we have the world-wide progressive movement, once again proclaiming the superiority of the state and the necessity for endless controls on the machinations of evil individuals for the good of all.

    In an odd alliance, which is sensible only in its mutual hatred of individual rights and the expression of independent minds free of political controls, the left now supports the irrationality of the religious right, as Iran allies itself to Venezuela, and their supporters align themselves along magnetic force lines to strengthen each other against the only true enemy either of them have ever had—free men and women who speak their minds and live their lives without apology to or permission from the mystics of spirit or muscle.

    This is the conflict of our age. At risk is all that we know and value as free people. Recognizing the con game before you play is an important part of the contest.

    Once one realizes that Chavez and the Mullahs are truly brothers, from their skins all the way into the marrow of their bones, the scope of the problem becomes clearer, and the intellectual and moral clarity required to deal with it becomes more sharply focused.

  3. Huxley may be a smart guy, but Hitler was a guy who actually recruited communists to be Nazis, so I will take his analysis over Huxley’s. He said that a communist could be a good Nazi, since both were revolutionaries, but that you could not do anything with a bourgeoisie. This seems to fit the pattern in Germany, where both Parties were composed of street-fighters led by violent ideological fanatics. Not that much different. The communists had more intellectuals, the Nazis had more military veterans, and the Nazis were able to coopt big business in a way that the communists could not have, which was critical.

    Stalin demonstrated a similar attitude. Gerhard Weinberg in his recent book Visions of Victory : The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders, makes an interesting observation. Stalin was much more comfortable dealing with the Nazis, and much more sympathetic to them, than he ever was to the Allies, whom he saw as the long-term enemies, since they were the hardcore capitalists. As Weinberg notes, the hospitality and friendliness shown to the Germans by Molotov and Stalin was nothing like the cold and suspicious treatment that the British and Americans got from the Soviets even when they were supposedly allies. They were fellow socialists and radicals. And I think it is Milovan Djilas in Conversations with Stalin, who quotes Stalin as saying with regret, if only the Germans had stuck with us, together we could have ruled the world. Stalin was probably right about that.

  4. This is where I reflexively trot out one of my favorite Hayek quotes:

    “Many a university professor during the 1930s has seen English and American students return from the Continent uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated Western liberal civilization.”

Comments are closed.