The theme of modern life’s alienation has been a common one among leftist thinkers, including Rousseau and Marx. (Among conservative thinkers too, but no one is surprised when they express reactionary sentiments.) One might explain such alienation in terms of evolutionary theory. Since the vast majority of human natural selection occurred when the basic social structure was the “village” or tribe, it stands to reason that most people today would retain many of the adaptations that survived in that setting, and that modern life with all its novelty, and for all its advantages, would entail considerable discontents.
But whereas philosophers engage in theory and speculation, politicians who identify a problem feel obliged to do something about it. And here is where the progressive left’s disconnect comes into sharp relief. If you’re looking for a means by which to make life less alienating, you could hardly do worse than the contemporary bureaucratic state, an entity that is efficient and impersonal at its best, brutal and impersonal at its worst.
—James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal in his latest “Best of the Web Today” column on the passing of Mario Cuomo and “The reactionary longings of the progressive left.”