Ed Driscoll

'Progressive Nostalgia Shovels Against the Tide of Global Chaos'

Karl of Hot Air has an excellent post, but I’d argue that his headline is exactly backwards: Progressive nostalgia is the cause of global chaos. Or as Karl writes, debunking an essay in the New York Times by Michael Kazin, a Georgetown history professor, titled “Whatever Happened to the American Left?”

Kazin’s piece belongs to an ever-growing genre of progressive punditry that Brink Lindsey would call “Nolstagianomics.” The NYT’s regular columnists, including Paul Krungman and Frank Rich, beat Kazin to it. Lindsey’s analysis even predates the Walter Russell Mead diagnosis of the death of “the blue model”:

Ironically, one of the left’s favorite tropes is that the right wants to “turn back the clock,” when the death of the blue model in the face of economic and social liberalization increasingly causes progressives to pine for the “good old days.” Unfortunately, their state of denial is an anchor that impedes America from moving forward in the 21st century. The denialism rampant among the governing and chattering classes remains at a significantly critical mass that the American electorate will largely continue to avoid acknowledging the depths of our structural problems.

At this juncture of my first draft, I was tempted to lapse back into my usual harangue about entitlement spending and our ticking debt bomb. It would have been easy to do that, within a context of evaluating the relative merits of Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain, perhaps with Rep. Paul Ryan as a contrast. However, in this election cycle, economic growth and unemployment are likely to remain the top issues, so I again turn to Walter Russell Mead:

Since World War Two, we have lived in a bubble. Governments were always available to backstop the economy. In a way that was never true before 1945 and may never be true again, governments were the sovereign lords of the economy. States were big enough, their taxing power was high enough, and national economies were closed enough that in the last analysis governments could be the lenders of last resort and could draw a line under financial panic.

No more. Financial markets have become so large and so volatile, and the global economy (especially though not only) at the level of finance has become so integrated, that not even continental powers like the US and the EU can control or even guarantee them anymore.

Meanwhile, CNBC inadvertendly enters into Fox Butterfield territory:

“Greece to Miss Deficit Targets Despite Austerity”

Their deficits exist because of decades of fiscal policies that are the very opposite of austerity, so why should they start now?

But what causes the far left to double-down on failure, and rarely, if ever, change direction? Last week at Ricochet, L.T. Rahe explored the gnostic mindset of “The Religious Left.” As she writes, “Obama’s desire to raise taxes on the wealthy (and even the not-especially-wealthy) during an economic downturn has not gone unnoticed on Ricochet lately:”

Destructive economic policies in the name of equality do make a certain amount of sense, though, if an overriding goal takes priority over economic consequences.  For many on the left, this goal has a religious quality.  The ordinary concerns by which most people measure success or failure of a policy become sacrificed to the religious end.  Example: we know that French-style socialism results in something like ten percent structural unemployment; and yet, most people solidly on the left still want French-style socialism.

It is of course impossible to know whether Obama himself in fact embraces this type of religious enthusiasm, or whether he genuinely believes that his policies will be efficacious.  Any individual case is beside the point.  Eric Voegelin in The New Science of Politics describes the type of Gnostic religiosity which crops up all too often in modernity.  For most orthodox Christians, the spiritual and the temporal are distinct spheres.  According to modern Gnosticism, however, secular history becomes divinized.

What follows is a disconnect with facts on the ground.  “In the Gnostic dream world,” Voegelin argues, “nonrecognition of reality is the first principle.  As a consequence, types of action which in the real world would be considered as morally insane because of the real effects which they have will be considered moral in the dream world because they intended an entirely different effect.”

As Karl noted,  Kazin’s essay in the Times was titled, “Whatever Happened to the American Left?” And to think, just three years ago, Newsweek, James Carville, half the gang on the JournoList, and the Gray Lady herself were all wondering whatever happened to the American Right. With its resurgence, not coincidentally, as Karl writes in a follow-up post, linking to some of the examples we’ve noticed ourselves, the desire to circumvent democracy and the constitution seems to be everywhere on the left in recent weeks. Or as he puts it in his headline, “Liberal Fascism is the new black.”

Though as Victor Davis Hanson writes in his latest essay, to paraphrase another gnostic sort of fellow, class warfare is over in 2013 — if you want it.