I'm beginning to suspect that Jonah Goldberg is rather an idiot. No, really. At the end of the thread below our pal VA self-outs as the author of an email to the Boy-Scholar Himself, an email that provoked this fascinating response -- fascinating in the clinical sense, naturally. I'll quote it out of a feeling of grim ethical obligation, but, you know, you won't be particularly edified:
The modern progressive liberal believes in more than negative liberty. He argues that the state must do good for people, give them things, opportunities, and even, as in the case of Hillary Clinton, John Dewey and the Great Society liberals "meaning." The state is there to do good — like a King or God-head. There are countless category errors and false assumptions to the idea that the state can play such a role or that it should in the first place. It's narcissistic because it assumes that the government has the ability to make me whole or happy and if only someone like me were in charge the government would do the right thing because I am the measure of all good things.
This is all my bum. For openers, this is not an "argument that has never been made in such detail with such care." This is standard right-wing spontaneous sociology, a dribbly retelling of one of the favorite tales in movement conservative folklore -- it's a part of the Wingnut Catechism of Cliche, like the sort of tripe we cast our jaded gaze upon here. It's caricature. It's a pleasing fairytale. It bears the same relation to what "progressive liberals" truly think as my left nut does to the Moon, though in a far more ludicrous proportion.
What's interesting -- and characteristic of much "conservative thought" of this caliber -- is that Jonah betrays a profoundly cynical and indeed anti-democratic view of the "state." Liberals like, say, myself, view the State as an institution designed and operated by human beings who have concrete, discernible (if often unacknowledged) interests and goals. The state, Jonah, you ass, is not to us a "King or a God-head," but a mechanism devised by actual people to be utilized for particular ends. We believe that this mechanism should be at all times held accountable to the people whose consent gives the state its legitimacy; it logically follows from this that the purpose of the state is to work for the material and practical benefit of the greatest number of people who comprise it.
It's a pretty hard-headed and basic concept, Jonah, you fucknose. The state is going to be run by somebody, and that somebody should be someone who represents the interests and goals of the largest number of citizens possible: it should not be run for the interests and goals merely of the wealthiest or most powerful citizens, though these folks of course have exactly the same rights as everyone else to pop off about whatever they wish. In exchange for their far greater ability to pop off and actually be heard, progressive liberals think it would be nice if such individuals would accept that they have the responsibility to also work for the material improvement of most of their fellow citizens' lives -- though we don't think this is an absolute requirement. We just think that wealthy people who are entirely consumed with their own interests are pretty much just acting like total assholes, and we don't think they should exert any undue influence over the state, whose business it is to, you know, promote the general welfare.
Anyway, a belief that "someone like me" should run the government is, um, a little thing I like to call democracy, in the sense that I tend to vote for people whose positions I agree with and whom I think are most likely to further and protect my own individual interests as well as those of the polity as a whole. HOLY SHIT, I'm Hitler.
He's also mad that "in the process of trying to do right by one select group or individual, [the state] will of necessity do wrong to some other group or individual. There are no policy solutions only policy trade-offs." How profound. Yes, stupid, in a democracy, often people have competing interests. This is one reason we have these things called "laws." And when, say, Congress makes them, we "progressive liberals" tend to think they should benefit the many and not the few, though not at the expense of sacrificing the basic constitutional rights of minorities. JUST LIKE GOEBBELS. For fuck's sake...
Jonah's thesis seems to be that "progressive liberals" are guilty of reifying the notion of "the state," of making it a fetish -- of falling prey to false consciousness (hehindeed). But the people really guilty of this are those folks who are bizarrely insistent upon characterizing the state as "a sprawling mechanism bound to make countless errors."
No shit. The point is, for us, the state is a mechanism that belongs to the people and should be run by individuals who represent the people's interests. Jonah is pretending it's some impersonal, ahistorical evil cyborg or some shit like that -- the classic conservative/libertarian fallacy, especially in terms of the brand of conservative libertarianism one encounters on the Internets as expressed by eternally adolescent ignoramuses like Boy-Scholar Jonah.
Jonah is out of his depths. And he looks like an idiot perched up there in the birdbath, anyway.
(BELOW: Jonah Goldberg meets his match.)