Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Doing Good on Someone Else's Dime

Two of my favorite people have interesting things to say about "the left". More like, "what's left?" after 40 years of "the movement."

Arnold Kling: Most people who were liberals in 1968 still are. Liberals. In 1968.

The Conventional Wisdom
The Conventional Wisdom among well-educated liberals in 1968 included the following:
o Anti-Communism was a greater menace than Communism.
o The planet could not possibly support the population increases that would take place by
the end of the twentieth century.
o Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities.
o Government programs were the best way to lift people out of poverty.
o What underdeveloped countries needed were large capital investments, financed by foreign aid from the rich countries.
o Inflation was a cost-push phenomenon, requiring government intervention in wage and price setting.

The degree of confidence in these beliefs was so strong that liberals in 1968 came to the overriding conclusion that: Anyone who is not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid

and, Craig Newmark (no, not the one with the list, fercrineoutloud):

Kling asserts that liberals think that anyone who is not a liberal must be "incorrigibly stupid". Not quite. As we know from A Conflict of Visions, imperfect intelligence is what conservatives tend to attribute to liberals. Most conservatives would quickly note, however, that they, too, are imperfectly intelligent: social and economic institutions are not easy for any single person to understand.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that institutions and their workings are usually quite easy to understand. So easy, that even non-liberals must understand them, too. Liberals thus tend to believe that non-liberals are not merely stupid, they are evil. Liberals do refer to conservatives as stupid, of course, but especially these days, angry allegations of bad faith--of evil character--dominate.

And I'd add this brief review of 60's liberals. They were right--to their great and everlasting glory--on civil rights. They were right to oppose the draft. Some parts of their safety and environmental programs were reasonable. (Taking the lead out of gasoline and car seatbelts, for examples.)

But IMHO two generations of experience shows they were wrong about almost everything else. From education to crime, from welfare to tax rates, and on each and every aspect of our foreign policy. The Liberal worldview is perhaps well-intentioned, but everyone knows what the road to Hell is paved with.
(edited slightly by The End)