The road to dogma, Part II
Reader No. 1 sends in a good conservative rebuttal
to the David Brooks column
I cited the other day, all tying back to an earlier Arthur Brooks and Paul Ryan piece
in the WSJ about the role of government in society and the economy.
Though the rebuttal arguments are impressive, I’m still with David Brooks on this one. There’s simply too much evidence that conservative and Republican establishment types have been flirting with dogmantic forms of utopian libertarianism.
Arthur Brooks and Paul Ryan may say that “nobody” wants to “take away Grandma's Social Security check.” But it’s an odd comment to make when the immediate former president of the United States only recently traveled across the country advocating privatization of the Social Security system.
It’s also odd to see them cite Friedrich Hayek’s support of “rectifying market failures” when we just went through a grand experiment in “efficient market theory”
that blew up in the faces of Alan Greenspan and others who worshiped at the altar of Atlas Shrugged – and when so many conservatives and Republicans were, and still are, in denial about Wall Street’s role in the events of two years ago.*
Now conservatives and Republicans are once again talking about a “government shutdown” if they achieve power in November.
The anti-government rhetoric is also heating up as Brooks/Paul declare we’re marching “one program at a time” toward “serfdom,” as if health-care and financial-industry reforms are slippery slopes to … what? Gulags?
David Brooks is right: This is simplistic dogma. I’ll take his “energetic but limited government” formulation any day over the overwrought 'road to serfdom' rhetoric on the right.
* - Speaking of ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ Ayn Rand’s classic defense of individualism and Hayek’s 'Road to Serfdom' were written (in 1957 and 1944, respectively) at a time when totalitarian utopianism, especially on the left, was still an intellectually attractive ideology to many, especially in Europe and elsewhere. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and ‘Road to Serfdom’ were powerful warnings about what was at stake, as were Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ (1945) and ‘1984’ (1949). All four books contained enduring truths.
But the times have also changed. Conservatives and Republicans today are engaging in pure hyperbole when they warn that each and every new program or tax hike is somehow leading toward “serfdom.” The rhetoric lacks historical perspective and common sense. The last time I checked, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Switzerland, Sweden etc. were functioning democracies. So is the United States, with or without health-care and financial reforms.