Just a handful of random aggravations that occasioned minor perturbations of my mental tranquility this morning:
First, I wrote, back in January, that one of the principal purposes of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism was philosophical surveillance, the attempt to stigmatize dissenters from the fusionist orthodoxy of the mainstream conservative movement, which marries libertarian-ish economic dogmas to an indifferent cultural conservatism, giving obvious preference to the former in practice. The assertion, though not unique on the paleo right, was not uncontroversial. However, Goldberg yesterday posted commentary by a reader of his book, with approbation, that includes the following:
What you've accomplished is, I think, to show that the real poles of political discussion are not left vs. right nor liberalism vs. conservatism but fascism vs libertarianism or classical liberalism.
Yes. Any movement away from the pure pole of libertarianism or classical liberalism is a movement towards fascism; there is no conception here of the complex multidimensionality of the permutation space of political thought. Ah, sweet taste of vindication.
Second, David Frum critiques one line from Thomas Frank's commentary on Fareed Zakaria's new tome, The Post-American World. Frank, remarking upon the weaknesses of the neoliberal narrative, observes:
In point of fact, the rise of China and India – Mr. Zakaria's own paradigm cases – was possible only because those countries shunned global commercial credit markets in the 1970s, allowing them to avoid the interest-rate shock of the early '80s.
To which Frum responds:
It's rare for a columnist to manage to cram historical illiteracy, economic incompetence, political authoritarianism, and utter disregard for human suffering into a single sentence. But Frank manages it here! Surely that calls for some kind of prize? Maybe the Journal could arrange for him to experience for himself what so many millions of Chinese were involuntary compelled to undergo in Franks' idealized Maoist era: a nice long solitary stay in a village hut, wholly isolated from the appalling ravages of credit, commerce, and trade?
Which response is about as putrified a red herring as one could imagine in such a discussion. Frum's comments regarding the tyranny of Maoism do nothing whatsoever to answer the particular point Frank made, which happens to be correct: the relatively modest international capital flows, and the various development aid packages offered to the third world in those years, often did little to promote economic development (they typically produced imbalanced development unsustainable by the wider economy of the recipient country, white elephant projects, or political corruption, or various combinations of the three), and, given the structural logic of international finance pre-neoliberalization (ie., before outsourcing & the removal of many trade barriers), often resulted in apocalyptic indebtedness, which was obviously problematic once the West decided to clamp down on inflation. The point about developmentalism was argued even during the Seventies, and the latter point concerning the effects upon the third world of the transition from the Keynesian era to the era of neoliberalism is also well-attested and analyzed. Given the geopolitical and geo-economic contexts of the late Seventies, China and India were beneficiaries of the fortuitous coincidence of their respective economic openings and the advent of neoliberalization in the West; they avoided the indebtedness that paralyzed Latin America while profiting from Western outsourcing.
Third, will someone be so kind as to explain to me what the point of this essay on the "Kindergarchy", by Joseph Epstein, happens to be? To be certain, Epstein does nod in the general direction of the vast sociological shifts in American society that have prompted upper-middle-class parents to dote on their children and obsess over securing every conceivable social and economic advantage for them. What he does not really do, however, is explore the possibility that our child-centric marriages are reactions from, or compensations for, the decline of marital and familial stability in America; in a manner analogous to the increased attention given sexual crimes against children in an age where children are relentlessly sexualized by popular culture and immoralist capitalists, we're compensating for our own transgressions, for which we will not repent. Neither does he consider the fact that much of this obsessiveness owes to the soulgrinding meritocracy that we've managed to create in America; parents obsess over every little enrichment opportunity precisely because they realize that those who don't clamber their ways into the meritocracy are doomed to downward mobility in the age of globalization, and this is true even of ethic groups largely immune to the cult of youth - which Epstein does discuss - such as Koreans and Chinese. For that matter, there is, finally, the fact that the indifferentist parenting he remembers from his own childhood was possible precisely because communities were more cohesive, and because cultural norms were still largely intact; today's alleged overparenting is a compensatory mechanism for a time when there is no community and cultural norms have been obliterated.
There, I feel better now.