Stop Sucking Your Thumbs, Liberals, and Get a Clue

It must be the holidays, because a lot of liberal media types are publishing end-of-year thumbsuckers on democracy. In the Atlantic, Peter Beinart writes that Americans are becoming more liberal; in the New Republic, David Dayen says no, they are not. And over at Vox, Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk show with the World Values Survey that democracy is in trouble as Americans, and people all over the world, are losing faith in it.

What’s a conservative to think? Are liberals throwing in the towel, and ready to hand the keys of the kingdom over to conservatives? Hardly. The tone is more about how ungrateful the plebs are, after all liberals have done for them.

Peter Beinart is all excited by the activism of Black Lives Matter and Occupy as markers of a leftward move, as if these regime supporters represented anything other than regime-sponsored activism theater. But Dayen points to the Big Problem: we’ll need more taxes just to deliver on the entitlement promises. And Foa and Mounk report that more and more people across the world are leaning towards the idea of “have the army rule.” So what is really going on?

Probably it is nothing more than this: After seven years of the Worst President Ever, even ruling-class liberals sense that something is wrong. Things just ain’t what they used to be. The good old order, in which the voters sensibly voted for liberals that sensibly passed sensible legislation providing health care, pensions, welfare, education, and environmental programs for the people, and everything got better every day in every way… Yes, liberals, what did go wrong?

We know what went wrong. Liberals started believing in their own catchphrases about democracy, inequality, and compassion instead of reading, learning, and inwardly digesting the age-old wisdom about humans and government. Now that the wheels are falling off the liberal ruling-class machine after a century without a tune-up, liberals don’t know what to do, because they all took political activism in college instead of learning some political wisdom.

If African Americans are taking to the streets, what does that say about half a century of liberal race politics? If we just suffered a huge financial meltdown what does that say about the Federal Reserve Board and the SEC’s financial regulation? If racism and financial instability are still a problem what does that say about the whole philosophy of government by liberals?

If current programs can’t be maintained without a tax increase, maybe that’s because the entitlement programs were never anything but bubba bait for the rubes. Maybe the welfare state is not a wondrous creation of rational experts, but a ramshackle slum thrown together by political slumlords rack-renting the workers with unjust payroll taxes.

Even a nominal conservative like Ross Douthat mourns the innocence of the liberal consensus. “[I]t’s been hard to imagine the basic liberal democratic capitalist order cracking up”, but now, who knows?

Get a clue, liberals. We are in the current mess because of you. Let me count the ways.

First of all, there’s the “capitalism is doomed” meme. It wasn’t just rich kids Marx and Engels predicting the immiseration of the workers. In the 1930s the rulers and their tame economists decided that depression would go on forever unless the government primed the pump. In the 1970s the world was ending because of pollution, the energy crisis, and the Limits to Growth. Now we have prophecies of doom unless we stop growth and replace efficient fossil fuels with useless windmills. How many times can you be wrong about capitalism, dudes?

Second, we have the liberal faith in politics. Just put the “best men” or the “educated” or the “evolved” in charge and they will administer a compassionate and just society. But this ignores the fact that politics is division; liberals win elections by riling up the bubbas or the brothers. In the century from 1880 to 1980 they did it by stirring up class hatred of the rich. Now they win elections with identity politics, by stirring up race against race, gender against gender, and religion against religion. Gosh, I wonder where that will end up?

Third, we have the elite faith in bureaucratic transnationalism, the idea that a global governance is just one more peace process away. In fact, every government in the world was created in war. Do any of you brilliant transnationals think that the creation of your global superstate will be any different?

Think about this, liberals. Imagine, if you can, that there is some reincarnation of Bismarck at work right now plotting a series of wars to create a global superstate forging a great coalition of nation states against Islam.

Lee Iacocca famously advised Americans to lead, follow, or get out of the way. I think, where liberals are concerned, the only option left now is Option Three.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.