Charles Murray: The Trouble Isn’t Liberals. It’s Progressives.

lib-pro-WSJ

Not everyone on the left wants to quash dissent or indulge President Obama’s abuses of executive power

Charles Murray writes: Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely conservative. They are on different political planes. They usually have just enough in common to vote for the same candidate.

 “To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.”

Why then do we still talk about the left in terms of a continuum from moderately liberal to extremely liberal? Divisions have been occurring on the left that mirror the divisions on the right. Different segments of the left are now on different planes.

wilson

 “That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.”

A few weeks ago, I was thrown into a situation where I shared drinks and dinner with two men who have held high positions in Democratic administrations. Both men are lifelong liberals. There’s nothing “moderate” about their liberalism. But as the pleasant evening wore on (we knew that there was no pointliberal-fascism in trying to change anyone’s opinion on anything), I was struck by how little their politics have to do with other elements of the left.

[Jonah Goldberg‘s classic “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change” is available at Amazon]

Their liberalism has nothing in common with the political mind-set that wants right-of-center speakers kept off college campuses, rationalizes the forced resignation of a CEO who opposes gay marriage, or thinks George F. Will should be fired for writing a column disagreeable to that mind-set. It has nothing to do with executive orders unilaterally disregarding large chunks of legislation signed into law or with using the IRS as a political weapon. My companions are on a different political plane from those on the left with that outlook—the progressive mind-set.

“It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power.”

Wait, doesn’t “progressive” today reflect the spirit of the Progressive Era a century ago, when the country benefited from the righteous efforts of muckrakers and others who fought big-city political bosses, attacked business monopolies and promoted Good Government?

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“As a libertarian, I am reluctant to give up the word “liberal.” It used to refer to laissez-faire economics and limited government.”

The era was partly about that. But philosophically, the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century had roots in German philosophy ( Hegel and Nietzsche were big favorites) and German public Obama-incandescentadministration ( Woodrow Wilson’s open reverence for Bismarck was typical among progressives).

“Making a clear distinction between liberals and progressives will help break down a Manichaean view of politics that afflicts the nation.”

To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded.

That’s not a description that Woodrow Wilson or the other leading progressive intellectuals would have argued with. They openly said it themselves.

[read the full text of Charles Murray‘s article here, at the Wall Street Journal]

[Speaking of abuses of executive power, read Charles C.W.Cooke‘s “Obama Defies the Will of the Senate” at National Review Online]

[Also see Fred Siegel’s book “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class at Amazon]

[Jonah Goldberg‘s “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change” at Amazon]

[And Jonah’s other popular book, The Tyranny of Cliches, also available at Amazon]

It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today’s America. Such thinking on the left also is behind the rationales for indulging President Obama in his anti-Constitutional use of executive power. If you want substantiation for what I’m saying, read Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book “Liberal Fascism,” an erudite and closely argued exposition of American progressivism and its subsequent effects on liberalism. The title is all too accurate.

“Too many of us see those on the other side as not just misguided but evil. The solution is not a generalized ‘Can’t we all just get along’ non-judgmentalism. Some political differences are too great for that. But liberalism as I want to use the term encompasses a set of views that can be held by people who care as much about America’s exceptional heritage as I do.

Here, I want to make a simple point about millions of people—like my liberal-minded dinner companions—who regularly vote Democratic and who are caught between a rock and a hard place. Read the rest of this entry »


WAR ON THE POOR: The Welfare State Has Eroded the Culture of Individual Initiative

 

Ladies of the night: Prostitutes also populated the Bowery, plying their trade with johns who wandered in. Here, a man negotiates the price for a prostitute while two others walk past

What’s old is new again: New York in the 1970s, the city’s decay and the welfare state’s failures became film legend

John C. Goodman, Ph.D. writes:  One of the biggest differences in how the left and the right view the world concerns the welfare state. Currently, the federal government spends about $1 trillion a year on 126 means tested welfare programs. That amounts to almost $22,000 for every poor person in America, or $88,000 for a family of four.

What difference does all this spending make?

Among people on the right, there is little doubt. These programs are destroying the culture of the recipient communities. They are replacing a culture of self-reliance and self-help with a culture of dependency. Amazingly, a record 91.5 million people of working age—almost one third of the entire population—are not working and not even looking for a job.

Among conservatives I have met who were once poor (and I have met a surprising number of them), the view that welfare subsidizes and encourages dependency is almost a self-evident truth. I’m not sure I have ever met a liberal who was once poor. But then again, the liberals I encounter are all in the academic and public policy world―far away from the poverty population they so often talk about. I think this is a fascinating sociological phenomenon. If my experience is different from yours, weigh in in the comments section.

[BTW, I am ignoring the shakedown artists―Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like. We have no idea what these folks really think, since (as Juan Williams has documented) they routinely use liberal causes to line their own pockets.]

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman claims that Republicans who want to trim back welfare spending are waging a “war on the poor.” Most people on the right think it’s the other way around: It’s the welfare state and its apologists who are really harming the poor.

Who is right?

How Culture Matters

Let’s be clear about what we are talking about. The Dallas Independent School District recently announced that every student in the school district will now get a free breakfast and a free lunch. The reason? So few students qualified for “full price” or “reduced price” meals that trying to identify them cost more than it was worth. And as I pointed out in a previous post, kids who receive free lunches and breakfasts are increasingly getting a free supper as well. Think about that. We have decided that the parents of every single child attending public school in Dallas are too poor to feed their own kids.

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Critic in Chief: Krauthammer diagnoses Obama’s policies and psyche

Read his writings, and you’ll see a man whose conservatism echoes the late British philosopher Michael Oakeshott more than Ted Cruz: conservatism as a disposition rather than an ideology. (Photo by Michael Temchine)

Read his writings, and you’ll see a man whose conservatism echoes the late British philosopher Michael Oakeshott more than Ted Cruz: conservatism as a disposition rather than an ideology. (Photo by Michael Temchine)

TIMOTHY P. CARNEY writes:  Republican disarray and infighting ate up most conservative commentary in the first few weeks of October. What was Ted Cruz thinking? Will John Boehner show some backbone? Can anyone lead this party?

But the Right’s most prominent commentator kept his eye trained on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “For all the hyped indignation over GOP ‘anarchism,” Charles Krauthammer’s Oct. 10 Washington Post column began, “there has been remarkable media reticence about the president’s intransigence.”

Krauthammer isn’t a Ted Cruz cheerleader — he’s knocked Cruz and his allies as the “Kamikaze Brigade.” Krauthammer also isn’t above intra-Republican fighting — he spearheaded the 2002 campaign to oust Trent Lott from the Senate majority leader job after Lott’s offhand praise for Strom Thurmond’s segregationist presidential campaign.

Krauthammer just believes that President Obama deserves more scrutiny and criticism than he’s getting — that Obama’s leftward pull on the country poses real danger. And nobody is in a better position to provide that criticism than Krauthammer.

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Why are intellectuals, sometimes the most intelligent among us, so dumb?

The Intellectual Elite’s Doomed Romance with Barack Obama

4831728106_obama_snob_xlargeWesley Pruden writes: This is the question that confounds everyone; some intellectuals most of all. The late William F. Buckley Jr., a certified egghead, once said he would rather be governed by the first 50 names in the Boston telephone book than by the professors at Harvard.

Another wit observes that an intellectual is someone who so prefers theory over experience that he would sit down on a red-hot stove, twice. You can be too smart for your own good, and have the blisters on your bottom to prove it.

The intellectual romance with the clever Barack Obama continues. Having invested so much in candy and flowers, they must ignore all the evidence of being dumped.

His cultivated demeanor and carefully applied patina of synthetic sophistication, fraudulent as it may be, is what attracted the adoration of intellectuals from across the political spectrum in 2008, says Charles Murray, the social scientist and an intellectual with impressive books, studies and learned papers. He admits that he’s a dumpee.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to admit it,” he tells an interviewer for the website Daily Caller, “but I responded in part to his rhetoric because he talks just like me.”

“It’s his whole way of presentation of self … of a little self-deprecation in the argument and picking out a nuance here, which is all the ways that we overeducated people have been socialized in the same way. It’s the way we carry on discourse. Along with [seeing] what was a very engaging personality, I kind of ignored things which … a lot of working-class people glommed onto right away.”

“It’s kind of embarrassing to admit it, but I responded in part to his rhetoric because he talks just like me.”

Working-class stiffs, the people an earlier generation of political scientists called “Joe Sixpack,” having earned their blisters and calluses by heavy lifting, are too smart to take a seat on the red-hot stove even once.

Having been to some big towns and heard some big talk, they were too smart by miles to be taken in by a smooth-talking butter and egg man from Chicago.

(Stop the presses: Butter and egg man? What? I had to look this up. “Big Butter and Egg Man” is “a free spender or wealthy investor , a naive prosperous businessman”. Okay.  But the source is a 1926 jazz song written by Percy Venable. Venable was a record producer at the Sunset Cafe and wrote the song for Louis Armstrong and singer May Alix. The song is often played by Dixieland bands, and is considered a jazz standard. Why Wesley Pruden chose this obscure reference, who knows. Either I’m not as culturally hip as I’d like to think I am–and this phrase is commonly known–or Wesley Pruden is intentionally screwing with us. I am inclined to believe the latter. It prompted me to visit the song on YouTube, listen here. It swings, baby, I recommend it! “Butter and egg man“? Go figure. Okay, back to Pruden‘s rant…)

“It’s not that I think he is not a patriot,” says Mr. Murray, “but remember the line, he said, ‘You didn’t build that.’ No American is going to think you can say that, no matter what your political views are, because it’s just disastrous to say that. He is clueless about this country in some profoundly disturbing ways.”

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What to Do About America’s Low-Skill Work Force

The U.S.’s economic future may not be as bright as its past.

Would you like fried with that?

Would you like fried with that?

Michael Barone writes: Some bad news for America, not on the political front this time, but in what corporate executives call human resources.

It’s from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s report on adult skills, based on 166,000 interviews in 24 economically advanced countries in 2011 and 2012.

The verdict on the United States: “weak in literacy, very poor in numeracy, but only slightly below average in problem-solving in technology-rich environments.”

On literacy, just 12 percent of U.S. adults score at the top two levels, significantly lower than the 22 percent in largely monoethnic and culturally cohesive Japan and Finland. American average scores are below those in our Anglosphere cousins Australia, Canada, England, and Northern Ireland.

One-sixth of Americans score at the bottom two levels, compared with 5 percent in Japan and Finland.

On numeracy the United States does even worse — only 8 percent at the top levels and one-third in the lowest.

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On Labor Day 2013, Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work In 35 States

Charles Murray launched the welfare reform movement in 1984 with his landmark book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Charles Murray (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Since 2009, the Fair Labor Standards Act has dictated that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Some people think that’s too low; others think it’s too high. But it turns out that, in 35 states, it’s a better deal not to work—and instead, to take advantage of federal welfare programs—than to take a minimum-wage job. That’s the takeaway from a new study published by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute.

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