Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Jonah Goldberg wants you to notice him.

Jonah Goldberg, over at National Review, is a conservative obviously. Thus as someone clearly mentally challenged Mr. Goldberg is known to say dumb things. He recently took a swipe at libertarians because of our opposition to the war on drugs. One point that has been made about the war on drugs is that, all things being equal, the police are keener to lock up blacks who use drugs than whites who use drugs. In addition, the war on drugs itself was directly linked to race baiting at the time our first drug laws were passed.

Goldberg, in typical conservative logic, says that because libertarians point out the racist nature of the war on drugs this proves that libertarians are, of course, racists themselves. Not only that, but to point this out is “unlibertarian,” as if Mr. Goldberg is an expert on the topic. He says that pointing out the racist elements in the war on drugs, “from proud individualists” seem “a bit off” because “the classical liberal is supposed to see people as autonomous and sovereign moral actors, not identity politics groups.”

Apparently noticing how the laws on drugs are applied against one class of people in one way, and different ways against another class of people, is playing identity politics and some form of racism. The way the law is applied is clearly racist.

Goldberg has a bug up his ass because libertarians didn’t bow down and worship his book Liberal Fascism. The original subtitle of Goldberg’s book was the absurd: The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods. Tom Palmer said the subtitle was stupid and he hoped Goldberg was ashamed of it. It was stupid, Palmer was right, but conservatives have no shame—otherwise they wouldn’t be conservatives.

Palmer said this because the owner of Whole Foods, John Mackey, “is a friend of mine, and he’s no fascist.” Goldberg apparently smeared Whole Foods merely because organic food is associated with the left. Now, I’m no fan of organic. I think it's a major rip off, but there are lots of things I consider to be a waste of money—National Review, for example. Goldberg’s juvenile response was relatively mature by Right-wing standards. He said “because Mackey is a libertarian and perhaps because he’s a libertarian sugar daddy, anything having to do with him, Whole Foods or the organic food fetish is beyond criticism.”

In this case Mr. Goldberg is simply spreading a falsehood. Yes, Mackey is a libertarian. Whether he is a libertarian sugar daddy I don’t know. I haven’t known anyone to get funds from Mackey though I’m sure some people do. If he wants my address and account details I’ll be happy to provide them but I won’t hold my breath. But, I don’t know of any circle of people who are more skeptical of the organic craze than libertarians.

Palmer, at the time he wrote those remarks, was a top executive at the Cato Institute, the premier libertarian think tank. One of their books is Bountiful Harvest, which had an entire chapter on “technophobia, “ natural foods and organic food. Goldberg, because Palmer rightfully pointed out that his subtitle was crap, smears Palmer and libertarians by implying that because Mackey might be a “sugar daddy” for libertarians “the organic food fetish is beyond criticism.” I’m sorry; Mr. Goldberg confuses conservative ethics for libertarian ethics. Cato was denied a $1 million grant by a foundation run by conservatives because Cato refused to back down on their anti-interventionist position in regards to war. I doubt they would cave in to Mackey over organic food.

Goldberg just had a bruised ego because his title was juvenile smear mongering and Palmer called him on it. Goldberg attacked Tom over having not read the book in question. But it wasn’t the content that was being discussed, just the uber-stupid subtitle, which later got dropped.

In a second post on libertarians and his book Goldberg implies that libertarians are finally seeing the light in regards to his book’s thesis. This is silly since the thesis of his book is not original to him and was being discussed in libertarian writings while Goldberg was just a spermatozoa. Goldberg whines that “the general libertarian reaction” to his book disappointed him. He proclaims that his own book is possibly “the most successful libertarian-themed book in a very long time.” Perhaps his humility is off-putting?

Goldberg is pissed off that libertarians aren’t buying his books, not that they disagree with it’s content. He bitches that libertarians “will at least have to explain why I am a fool for what I wrote when all these reasonable folks are arguing in blog posts much the same thing in response to mere headlines of the day, while I fleshed out the same argument over hundreds of pages and in footnoted detail.” He thinks the lesson that libertarians should learn from Obama’s corporatism is “to reconsider my book” first, and then, “reconsider libertarianism’s understandable but lamentable slide away from the right in recent years.”

At least the book comes first. As for the slide away from the right, he forgets that the right was never a friend to libertarianism. At best the right and libertarians had a short-term alliance to oppose the authoritarianism associated with the advocates of state socialism. That alliance doesn’t mean that the right and libertarians have all that much in common. Libertarianism has as much in common with National Review conservatism as it does with Mother Jones progressivism. It is entirely different from the two. A read of some of the rabid anti-gay bigots at National Review makes it clear that conservatives are not friends of liberty.

Libertarianism is a third view, not a variant of Progressives or conservatives. At best libertarians can find short-term alliances for strategic reasons among the two, but a long-term marriage is out of the question. As for Goldberg’s book, I didn’t bother to read it. I can’t speak for all libertarians but I can speak for myself. I didn’t read Goldberg’s book because I think he is a first class jerk. When I read the original subtitle of his book, I too, thought it was just stupid. I’ve meet associates of Mr. Mackey, several of them, but I don’t think our paths have crossed, though I believe we were in the same room a few times. We just never said hello. And I’m sure there are many things where Mr. Mackey and I would disagree. What I couldn’t comprehend was why Mackey’s business was considered a fit target by Goldberg for the implication that it was somehow associated with fascism.

Mr. Goldberg is right to drag the Progressives over the coals for their economic fascism. But where was he was he when George Bush was doing the same thing? Lets not forget that another aspect of fascism, under Mussolini and Hitler, was the adoration of the family and the worship of motherhood, it was anti-choice on abortion and almost anti-gay enough to make born again Christians happy. This moral fascism was a strong component of the authoritarian movements of the 40s. While Mr. Goldberg was putting the Left on the rack he spent precious little time pointing out the authoritarianism of the Right.

The closest to actual fascism we have seen in recent years has been the Bush administration and the Huckebee campaign. You see it in their hatred, not just for economic freedom, but for social freedom as well. Others who have flirted with full fascism have been Pat Buchanan and George Wallace, in 1968. Contrary to the impression of many, American fascism has often come laden with overt religious messages, such as the Klan at its height or the policies of William Jennings Bryan.

Our friends at Freedom Democrats wrote:
The fact is, I simply disagree that "corporatism" is a phenomenon of the left. Associating the "left" with the Dem Party and the "Right" with the GOP is, in many ways, misleading. Progressivism, or what I more accurately call, "Corporate Liberalism," has nothing to with being left-wing. Corporatism is many ways a centrist position, an "establishment" position, and thoroughly dominates both parties. The last really major "anti-corporatist" element of the GOP was the Taft wing, the so-called "Old Right," an element that Goldberg has repeatedly dismissed as irrelevant.
If anything, Goldberg has it wrong, as Freedom Democrats pointed out. The original Left was classical liberalism, the original Right was the feudal order, those conservatives preserving traditional values, such as church and state in alliance, land titles held by the feudal elite, protectionism and controlled markets.

There was corporatism long before the socialists came along. The original liberals, like Smith, Cobden and Bright, spent much of their time attacking the mercantilist system that existed in their day. Socialism did not arise as a “radical left” movement at all, but as the radical center. The socialists adopted liberal goals but decided to use conservative means, corporatism for one, as the way to achieve those goals. Socialists wanted to use the state power that the political right advocated for their own goals.

At its core Goldberg’s book is wrong. Yes, corporatism was associated with the Progressives and socialists, that is old news and was covered by many other writers. But this was a “center left” position, not a radical left position. The radical left of the day was fighting for free markets and disestablishment of church and state, not looking for some state-business alliance. In reality the fascism that Goldberg fears was always a hallmark of the Right. The so-called progressive Left adopted those Right-wing programs in the hopes that they could achieve Left-wing goals. In this sense, Goldberg has it almost precisely backwards. Fascism, as in corporatism, didn’t emerge from socialism; it existed long before any socialist came to power. Socialists adopted the Right-wing view and thus become corporatists, or fascists. The true Left, the classical liberals, were always in opposition to fascism regardless whether the leaders of the movement called themselves Right-wing or Left-wing.

Photo: Mr. Goldberg practicing for his role in the Easter play.

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