In tomorrow’s regular weekly Retro-Journal entry (my fifth-to-last), I’ll have reached early 2005, which also happens to have been the peak of my (always grudging) pro-Bush sentiments.
But since we know that all that must come crashing down and with it perhaps the prospects for the Republican Party and conservatism for some time to come — and since my limited agenda, cutting government and securing property, can perhaps be achieved by other means — I can’t help thinking ahead and wondering what if any paths there are toward freedom on the left.
Obviously, I know plenty of people who look leftward and somehow perceive a more welcoming intellectual environment than I do. But, in all honesty (not just rhetorically), I want to ask: which aspects of the left would they suggest I “engage with” if my goal is to promote laissez-faire capitalism and smaller government?
The skeptical Frankfurt School Marxists? Power-fearing Foucault? The often-inspiring Enlightenment? The traditional Civil Rights movement? Utilitarian, wonky consequentialism (but how pragmatic as opposed to vision-driven are left-leaning activists really)? Maybe some dialogue with Habermas? Correspond with the self-critical folks at Telos? Rawls? Hippies? Anarchism?
It’s weird, foreign territory for the most part, full of statist pitfalls. How much can you cater to the partisans of those worldviews without encouraging their anti-liberty tendencies? And I think they certainly have them — not just a subtly different definition of liberty from my own.
We should never assume our foes have worse motives than they appear to — but at the same time, I think we should work harder to make people realize that many of their motives ought properly to be called evil. That is, just as a young German soldier might well have said in 1942: “What, me evil? What are you talking about — I’m nobly fighting to defend the Fatherland!” so too should we see as both naive and harmful people today who say, for example, “Making me sound like the bad guy is ridiculous — I just want regulations that force everyone to end up with roughly equal amounts of wealth or force them to work for the betterment of the environment regardless of whether they value it as much as I do!”
Right. Exactly. You may be a force-wielding, power-hungry person deserving less moral respect than you’re used to — and it may be important people see you that way instead of continuing to treat you like you have the moral and intellectual high ground. Much as I respect Aristotle’s observation about the importance of finding common ground with your audience, if you flatter their sensibilities and speak their language too much, they feel no need to change.