Friday, September 7, 2012

Will on the Context of a Character

Via Powerline,  comes this highly-recommended George Will  interview with "political philosopher," Charles Kesler.

Will, via Kesler, dispenses with lurid conspiracy theories about foreign births and anti-colonialism, and executes a nice, close Occam's shave on the stubble of POTUS Obama's motivational set. Clear continuities are traced, not through some exotic/esoteric wetland of subterranean motives, but through the amply-documented trajectory of American Progressivism over the last 100 years (to the year, per the authors, since it was in 1912 that Woodrow Wilson, with chilling candor, proclaimed the objectives and perceived scope of action of the Progressive Project):
In 1912, Wilson said, “The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of governmental power.” But as Kesler notes, Wilson never said the future of liberty consisted of such limitation.Instead, he said, “every means . . . by which society may be perfected through the instrumentality of government” should be used so that “individual rights can be fitly adjusted and harmonized with public duties.”
I seem to recall some other noteworthy incident which occurred during that year...

It is important to realize that, for those whose priorities and values are thoroughly aligned with Progressivism's aims (fair equalization of outcomes), this sort of gargantuan, Government-powered, industrial-strength social engineering is simply the only way to achieve those aims within what they feel/define is a just and humane time-scale. Within that headspace, this is both fitting and laudable, and worth the (typically understated) risks to liberty. I Get it. Used to feel the same way, m'self.

But I have arrived at a position which looks back on these (my!) past models as more than a bit naive. There is, after all, an historical context to be considered here. Namely, with a very few exceptions (whose circumstances --e.g., small Scandinavian Social Democracies -- are sufficiently non-representative as to kinda prove the rule), centralized, hierarchical, Statist societies have become schlerotic with bureaucracy and with anemic (trending toward absent) economic dynamism. The ash heap of failed Communist/Socialist experiments is so high it affects regional weather patterns. Those which have found a way to encyst some selected pseudopods of market-driven, capitalist activity have been able to prolong their seemingly inexorable slide into that familiar senescence of evaporating Utopias. But make no mistake, this only buys time, even as behemoths like China lumber on, like a charging sauropod whose nervous system is so slow, its body doesn't even know it's dead yet.

I find it reassuring to not have to impute dastardly motives to the POTUS (if for no other reason than the fact that so many of my friends who support him would have to be knaves or dupes to do so...and I pick my friends with considerably more care than that!). It helps me a great deal to develop plausible, non-histrionic models to explain the data of Obama's actions and utterances, since I can test those against my own (try that in the hall of mirrors of competing conspiracy theories!). Thus do I arrive at the conclusion that the perils to the American project along that path FAR outweigh the (undeniable, though unsustainable) benefits enjoyed by individuals in the kind of Constitutionally-unmoored society which lies at its bitter end.

And thus will my sympathy be no less sincere than my relief, should Obama's own "one-term proposition" prediction prove to have been correct.

No spiking of the football here (that's the correct term, yes?).

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