You May Not Be Interested in the Gleichschaltung, but the Gleichschaltung is Interested in You
Past performance is no guarantee of future results:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN EZRA KLEIN COMPLAINS ABOUT The Politicization Of Absolutely Everything? It means he’s losing.
—Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit today.
Not everything the Nazis touched was bad. Hitler was a vegetarian. Volkswagen is a perfectly good car company. Universal health care is a perfectly good idea. Indeed, the Nazis actually did a pretty good job increasing economic growth and improving standards of living (they were, many think, the first Keynesians, adopting the strategy even before Keynes had come up with it), pushing Germany out of a depression and back into expansion.* Unfortunately, they also set out to conquer Europe and exterminate the Jews. People shouldn’t do that.
Wait'll Ezra discovers the Gleichschaltung:
Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn’t have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means “coordination.” The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay “independent.” If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.
Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.
And this is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nimble, focused, problem-solving government is undone by the reality of hyper–mission creep. When every institution is yoked to an overarching philosophy or mission, its actual purpose can become an afterthought. In 2005, volunteer firefighters from all over the country offered to help with Katrina’s aftermath. But FEMA sent many of them to Atlanta first to undergo diversity and sexual-harassment training (which most already had).
Such examples are everywhere. What is political correctness other than the gears of the liberal Gleichschaltung? The financial crisis was worsened because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became tools for liberal social engineering. Let’s not even mention public schools.
The White House is determined to be a great friend (i.e., servant) to the unions, so everything from the stimulus to the automaker buyout to the Gulf spill must first pass union muster. Remember those vital, “shovel-ready” weatherization jobs the stimulus was supposed to pay for? The Labor Department delayed them for nearly a year while trying to figure out how to comply with pro-union “prevailing wage” rules for each of more than 3,000 counties.
Liberalism has become a cargo cult to the New Deal, but many of the achievements of the New Deal would be impossible now. Just try to get a Hoover Dam built today.
President Obama likes to say that “if we could put a man on the moon,” we can do anything, from socializing medicine to abandoning fossil fuels. That’s nonsense on stilts for a host of reasons. But it’s also ironic, given that we can’t even put a man on the moon anymore. Not when NASA’s foremost priority is boosting the self-esteem of children and Muslims.
Then and now, a completely politicized culture with no sense of forbearance is not a healthy one.