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Old 08-15-2011, 04:20 PM
Jay J Jay J is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Little Rock, AR
Posts: 436
Default Re: Utterly Compelling Edition (Robert Wright & Jonah Goldberg)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on your posts in this flurry, I'm going to assume by "liberal" you mean "leftist." I realize that the terms are interchangeable in everyday talk, but these things cross in interesting ways too, so I may be grouping you too quick. Lemme frame my point by passing along a big picture attempt to show some political shades that are often missed, along with a real world example of some of these shades:

* http://theamericanscene.com/2010/04/...tical-taxonomy

* http://clubtroppo.com.au/2011/08/08/...neoliberalism/

For now, back to the topic at hand.

I think it's very reasonable to believe that welfare creates incentives that many on the left (or liberals) are too slow to acknowledge. But that's not the end of it, because in one of the ways leftism manifests itself is through claiming that the bargaining power of labor has been too diminished, wages have stagnated, and communities have faltered, all caused by neoliberal policies of Thatcher and Reagan, aided and abetted by Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama. The Noah Millman link above shows that there can be affinity between conservative and left critiques of liberalism (in the classical, contemporary and neo senses). I'm ultimately philosophically liberal, and not particularly leftist (or maybe only a couple days a week), but I can't say the critiques of actual liberal policies from the left (or from conservatives) hold no water.

The welfare state appears to me to be a liberal creation, but not necessarily as "leftist" as many in everyday conversations seem to think. Conservatives and leftists both emphasize the importance of groups in forming people's personhood (perhaps more so in the case of conservatives) and forming solidarity against economic exploitation (definitely more so in the case of leftism). To take the conservative line is not to argue against the leftist line.

It's true that a leftist, when faced with neoliberal policies, would likely choose welfare rather than nothing. But the leftist would claim that by the time the welfare ranks swell, the game has mostly already been won by neoliberals (i.e. the right-wing). If I read frequent Blogginghead Jim Pinkerton correctly, he would have a lot of sympathy for the leftist line I'm outlining, even though he's thought of as a conservative.

I can't go on forever, so let me just say that there's a lot of stuff floating around in the rhetorical contest of responding to the riots. Here's my take:

*Next time, use plastic bullets and turn on the water cannons. No matter what one's take on the ultimate sociological causes of the riots, it should be uncontroversial that unrest lowers the cost of looting, mugging, robbing, etc. Getting pelted by rubber bullets raises those costs back up, and raising these costs right at the beginning of the unrest is crucial.

*The riots have sociological causes. There should be no controversy there.

*Looting the foot locker, robbing innocent people on the street, and burning barber shops, should not be treated as a political statement, even if it has political causes. The populace needs basic behavioral standards to be reaffirmed with the force of righteous indignation.

*That the riots have sociological causes doesn't favor traditional conservatism over leftism, or vice versa, but it does open the door for both. What it does is put the onus on neoliberalism (though I'm not saying neoliberalism has been disproved by the riots).

*A wooly-headed segment of the left believes social exclusion (from the larger society) is the primary cause. Even if that's right, by the time someone is anti-social enough to ruin people's businesses, and engage in rampant thievery and violence, probably what we need is more line-drawing discipline, not more gooey hugs.

*Even if I side with conservative law and order thinking in the short term, I side with the left (broadly speaking this time, I think there's a left-wing/left-neoliberal overlap here) in the long term. That is, I'm broadly or loosely speaking an economic determinist, and so I think discipline, work-ethic, etc, will often follow progress, which follows growth (which is not to say that growth always produces progress).

Here's a couple left-wing views on the riots, that kind that seem to me to be getting little attention from the right when it comes to the larger conversation on the UK riots:

* http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-0...aj-mishra.html

* http://www.spiked-online.com/index.p...article/10970/

I should say that I was thinking of starting a new thread, but I saw that you commented on the topic already, so I piggy backed on your thread. I'm not sure that we disagree, partly because I'm ambivalent myself, and partly because I think you're partially right even in your quick comment. But based on your dismissive response to Bob's point, I suspect that we do have a deeper disagreement.

Last edited by Jay J; 08-15-2011 at 04:46 PM..
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