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Liberal Hubris And The Next Big Bubble

There is an extraordinary article in the Washington Post today that posits the question "Why are liberals so condescending?". Written by Gerard Alexander, the piece explores the historical roots of liberal condescension.

I don't have time to discuss all the points presented in this piece but it is certainly worth the time to read and consider. Here is a teaser:

Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling's 1950 remark that conservatives do not "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas." During the 1950s and '60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to "the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind."

This sense of liberal intellectual superiority dropped off during the economic woes of the 1970s and the Reagan boom of the 1980s. (Jimmy Carter's presidency, buffeted by economic and national security challenges, generated perhaps the clearest episode of liberal self-doubt.) But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians' speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.

Liberal intellectual superiority dropped off (to use the author's words) in the 1970's because liberal ideology and cant were both rudely introduced to reality: a more aggressive Soviet menace, a failing economy and a burgeoning public sector that threatened individual liberty. It is at this intersection that liberals almost always fail. We are at the same intersection again today, yet liberals are blind to the reality. Substitute the Soviet menace for asymmetrical warfare (terrorism) and we have the same equation at work today.

Liberals and public sector bureaucrats have enjoyed a long run in the expansion of Federal power in a same period of time that the private sector has subjected itself to gut wrenching changes as the global market has changed. While talk of the recent real estate and financial bubble has consumed popular media during the past two years, there exists one bubble that has yet to be pierced and will represent the biggest rearrangement of power and influence in a century: the Big Government Bubble. Governments, including local, state and federal, have not yet experienced the full force of the restructuring that has rearranged the lives of those in the private sector during the last several decades.

The next big bubble to burst will happen in the public sector. And it will be ugly.

Via Memeorandum


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Comments (27)

Liberal intellectu... (Below threshold)
jim m:
Liberal intellectual superiority dropped off (to use the author's words) in the 1970's because liberal ideology and cant were both rudely introduced to reality: a more aggressive Soviet menace, a failing economy and a burgeoning public sector that threatened individual liberty.

I disagree. The intellectual superiority dropped off because they had to deal with the ugly truth of he soul crushing regimes they so admired: The Soviet Union, PRC, Cuba, etc. Imprisoning dissidents, murdering journalists. These regimes hate freedom.

The only way the left can continue to believe in their socialist Utopias is by living in a bizarre, ahistorical world where communism never killed 100's of millions. Where dissidents were never imprisoned. Where art, culture and civil society were not destroyed in the name of supporting the state.

In order to believe that their Utopias would work they need to deny that they have failed every time someone attempted them.

Liberal intellectual superiority declined, because the rest of us saw the truth and saw the liberals ignoring it and turning their backs on he truth. They want their Utopian dreams so badly that they abandoned learning. While the rest of us learned the lessons and moved on they have been trying to roll back the clock so they can have their statist Utopian dreams.

The rest of us learned the lessons of the 60's and 70's. They stopped learning because to learn would mean to accept that they were wrong.

One can only hope. And when... (Below threshold)
glenn:

One can only hope. And when the Gov't bubble does burst let's not feed 'em. God knows there aren't many of 'em who can feed themselves.

I think you're right about ... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

I think you're right about the government bubble. The private sector has gone through some major shrinkage, with 10% unemployment, 38.7 million people on food stamps, and an undigested real estate contraction of historical proportions, our largest industry largely run under government ownership, our infrastructure is crumbling under our feet, and 30 million baby boomers are beginning to retire all at once.

Congress has dealt with this change in typical political style: complete denial. It has spent every penny paid into the Social Security Trust Fund, used up all available domestic credit and has been borrowing from the Chinese to such an extent that they are unlikely to be willing to lend much more. Interest rates are artificially screwed down to near zero to avoid upsetting the peasants, and our public debt is being monetized by printing more and more currency. Congress raises the debt limit with a casual wave, and then exceeds that limit in less than two months.

And Obama proposes raising taxes and running a $3.8 trillion deficit for next year.

Bubble, my ass. Thanks to our "leaders", we're in deep shit.

"liberals are blind to the ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"liberals are blind to the reality"

But to hear them talk, it's "Trust us, we'll get it right THIS TIME."

Sort of like the communists. "Someday" we won't need a government and all will live in peace and harmony.

Actually, GarandFan, I thin... (Below threshold)

Actually, GarandFan, I think it's that they think liberalism failed before because they didn't believe in it hard enough. This time they're rushing to the cliff's edge, believing in their ultimate success with all the fervor of a suicide bomber.

There's a more basic issue ... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

There's a more basic issue at play here.

Liberal condescension is a function of the pathology of being a liberal, which itself is tantamount to an organic brain dysfunction for which a major hallmark is self-loathing. To put it more simply, liberals condescend because they hate themselves. A psychologist or psychiatrist might use the term "projection."

<a href="http://tbogg.fired... (Below threshold)
bryanD:
"Why are liberals so condes... (Below threshold)
apb:

"Why are liberals so condescending?".

Not sure why - as li'l bri-d, greenie and the other liberal douchebags show, they're pretty fuckin' stupid - must be their mental disorder that makes 'em think they're superior.

They're all so scary-smart, they're a veritable parade of little rain-men.

I would disagree that "libe... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

I would disagree that "liberal condescension" was ever diminished, reduced, or "dropped off" at all. It was just confined to leftist-on-leftist conversations, since everyone else found it so laughably tiresome after the liberal experiments had been tried and found wanting.

With the advent of the internet, these self-important miscreants found they were not confined to their small cells and urban gentry, but there were equally misinformed but obnoxious radicals all over the world (courtesy a few decades of liberal control of higher education) eager to share their malice.

It was just a year ago that... (Below threshold)
Sir Toby Belch:

It was just a year ago that Obama and his
wildly radical Lefties took over. It was
heralded as the New Democrat Reich.....to
last for decades. The statist press was
goose-stepping in rhythm to the "New American
Order". I was sick....watching events and
thinking I was alone in my disappointment and
anger. From that despair bubbled a flux, a
glint here and there that not Everyone was
aboard the Obama train. The implosion has
been breathtaking, and very dispositive
of the lack of gravitas of Obama. The baritone voice from behind the curtain turns out
to be a gangly, mixed-race malcontent with
a history of agitation, affirmative action
perks with a meteoric rise as a man of
substance......based on NOTHING inherent
in the man....but in the hopes and dreams of
a naive, dependent electorate. As Dorothy
Parker supposedly opined in a different context,"There's no THERE, there." Hear, hear.

That aint no bubble, it's a... (Below threshold)
914:

That aint no bubble, it's a super sized blimp.

I have been thinking along ... (Below threshold)

I have been thinking along these lines and the thing which troubled me the most was what to do with these people when the bubble bursts, as it is getting ready to do. The French solved that problem with Madame Guillotine but we probably don't want to do that, so what do we do with them. Other than sneering what, really, can they do? What can the thousands of well-paid people at the Department of Education do? We know one thing they can't do, but what are they capable of? Would you trust a mid-level manager from HHS to get your lunch order right or to get it to the table without a catastrophe? No. Of course not. So ...

Obama and our liberal troll... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Obama and our liberal troll friends here share the same stunted and immature thinking.

Global warming - Don't look at evidence just make an appeal to authority. Don't investigate the credibility of that authority. Use ad hominem attacks on people who disagree because any disagreement is not about the facts, but is a show of disrespect for the authority you cite and disrespect toward you. Disagreements can't have anything to do with facts because you have it from THE authority that you are right.

Foreign policy - Has all the grounding in reality of a high school model UN. In the model UN there is a naive uniformity of thought. Everyone comes from the same background so they all think along the same lines. It's easy to achieve world peace when everyone comes to the meeting with the same understanding of how the world works and, like Obama, believes that a stirring speech is all that is required to get everyone to go along with what is right.

The reality is that not everyone comes from the same background and point of view. There are actually bad people out there running countries, not for the best interests of the world or even the people they govern, but for their own profit and power. Obama and libs have hard time seeing this. They are stuck in high school mode thinking that everyone shares the same understanding of enlightened self interest.

Libs cannot understand why it is that simply talking with terrorists and understanding them doesn't solve the problem. Welcome to adulthood guys. Evil really does exist, it's not just for children's books.

Liberal condescension comes from this immature belief that they know how the world works and that the rest of us are too ignorant to see their brilliance. The truth is that they have only an adolescent understanding of the world. They shut out facts that are contrary to their understanding and they refuse to progress from the understanding of the world that they had when they were 14 years old.

Most of the rest of us have continued to learn and grow in our understanding of the world around us. They have not. They have an arrogance borne of the notion that they figured everything out long ago and the rest of us are fools for taking so long to figure out the same thing.

Liberals have dism... (Below threshold)
Tina S:
Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades.

And how are republicans different? One can also say conservatives have been dismissive of liberal thinking for decades.

During the 1950s and '60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival.

Isn't there a leading republican commentator that wrote a book about liberalism being a "mental disorder"?

HughS,If you do no... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

HughS,

If you do not want to be guilty of what you are criticizing liberals for in your artcle, than you will need to stop dismissing liberal ideas. You need to stop acting like conservative ideas are better than liberal ideas. Otherwise you are being a dismissive and condescending conservative.

Yes, you're right. The publ... (Below threshold)

Yes, you're right. The public sector should be restructured. The layoffs are only in the private sector and those from the state escaped. But their salaries are paid in private can no longer sustain.

"[T]he apocalyptic tendenci... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

"[T]he apocalyptic tendencies" of the right? LOL.

AIDS 'epidemic,' swine flu, bird flu, global warming, the coming ice age, nuclear disaster, famine, population explosion, one false prophecy of doom after another -- all from the minds of liberal fanatics. Couple with books and movies like 'The Day after Tomorrow', 'On the Beach', 'Silent Spring', 'The China Syndrome', ad nauseum. The prophet AlGore warns we 'only have ten years..." The Oprah declares Gore 'our Noah.' And that is just off the top of my head. It is difficult to conceive of one more apocalyptic than a leftist.

One can also sa... (Below threshold)
One can also say conservatives have been dismissive of liberal thinking for decades.
In many ways that's for the same reason zoologists have been dismissive of Bigfoot.
In the "idea marketplace... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

In the "idea marketplace" liberals rool. You name it - every creative field (law, film, books, design, fashion, etc.) is populated with
liberalism and progressive politics.

Yes. Liberalism is a corrosive disease that has infected every aspect of society. Like a cancer, the bad cells overwhelm the good ones until the host dies. Unless, by some miracle, the process is reversed. What good has liberalism wrought? It makes everything it touches worse. Take a look at the sorry state of nihilistic modern art, for example. A poor realist can't make a living for the parasites.

You conveniently left out t... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

You conveniently left out the fact that it's an idea marketplace and that it's people who decide, Jeff.

Conservatives embrace this idea when it shows Fox News Channel as being more popular than CNN, or when it shows conservative talk radio (Limbuagh, Hannity et.al) as more popular than liberal talk radio (Air America.

Yet, in those isolated examples of the marketplace favoring conservative ideas and viewpoints, it is only extremist conservative viewpoints at work -- attracting an equally extremist audience.

Film, Music, Television -- Any modern mass marketplace of ideas - the thinkers and creative types are predominantly liberals.

It's the nature of conservatism to lack creativity and reach for the old, the tired, "the way it was" - (the homage to Reagan just published a shining example.

And when the voters want something new they reach for liberalism, and when they want to retreat into the old and the tried, they reach for conservatism.

You conveniently leave out ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

You conveniently leave out the fact that is is not a free market at all, Steve. Your so-called free-market place begins with the educational system, which leftists have turned into a fascism regime. Been to a college campus lately? Tried to do anything contrary to 'consensus' lately? I am afraid you are self-deluded.

greenie -If you ha... (Below threshold)
apb:

greenie -

If you haven't noticed, the Jug-Eared Douche is losing support all over, and the voters that wanted 'something new' are feeling burned and screwed. The 'new' part of liberalism is the same old liberalism that destroyed Germany, Russia, North Korea, etc.

Looks like Americans wanted... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

Looks like Americans wanted "change", voted for "change" but aren't happy with the change they've gotten.

Meanwhile, today, conservatives look back and long for Reagan as the Tea Party movement flounders, leaderless. It's amazing - and telling -- that Sarah Palin can't even pick up the torch and lead the Tea Partiers - a movement tailor-made for a low-IQ politician who can capitalize on simple-minded "down-home" thinking.

So -- we see the Progressive movement floundering but the good news is that conservative remain inept and unable to mount a serious challenge.

Hint: Harkening back to Reagan is a clue that there is no current or future leadership emerging.

Liberalism is a corrosiv... (Below threshold)
john:

Liberalism is a corrosive disease that has infected every aspect of society. Like a cancer, the bad cells overwhelm the good ones until the host dies. Unless, by some miracle, the process is reversed. What good has liberalism wrought? It makes everything it touches worse.

Seriously? In a thread about how liberals are condescending and dismissive of conservative ideas, and how liberalism is a brain dysfunction, THAT'S your comment?

Congratulations. You just single-handedly negated Hugh.

Steve - You put me... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Steve -

You put me in the uncomfortable position of saying you are half right.

The part you are right about is that there really is a marketplace of ideas and we see that in film, radio, TV, books etc.

The part you are wrong about is saying that when people want something new they reach for liberalism. That may have been true 40-50 years ago, but liberal economic thought ended with Keynes and e died in 1946. New liberal political ideas seem to have died with LBJ whose Great Society platform represents the last big liberal political idea.

Clinton's success was not in his liberal ideas, but in his ability to triangulate a course for the middle ground. He dumped health care, which was Hillary's deal when it became clear hat the country didn't want her socialized schemes. Carter was a disaster and ended his single term hiding in the White House.

Obama's Ideas are not new but are retreaded 60's socialist rhetoric with Alinksi campaign tactics. His great accomplishment was not the power of his ideas (he has none, his programs come from others), but rather his ability to appear as a blank tablet where people write what they want to see.

Recently, the ideas have been on the right and, if you look at the historic sense of liberalism: the ideas of personal responsibility, government non-intervention, and fewer restrictions and regulations on what people can do, these are all being promoted mostly on the right.

There is a strong movement on the right of conservative libertarianism that has had enough with government and there are a lot of people that simply thing it is time for the government to stop telling us what to do, both liberal ideas and conservative.

Read that primary article, ... (Below threshold)
Bob:

Read that primary article, and read this one too:

http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/article_print.asp?articleid=1594

William Voegeli did a very good job with this subject in the Claremont Review of Books.


The bottom line is that the condescension is running out of gas (that is, unless you are part of the mainstream media). It appears that the libs are still fighting the fights of the 1930's, and those are so over. Their attacks look so much like the attacks that took place in the 1920's and 1930's against the bankers (jews), and industrialists.

Congratulations. You jus... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Congratulations. You just single-handedly negated Hugh.

John, I do my best. Read anything by Maureen Dowd to return equilibrium to your universe.




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