Monday, February 8, 2016

Breaking the Liberal Spell

There will be life after liberalism, but it is anybody's guess how long the liberal hour will dodder along into decrepitude. Here are two different looks at the problem.

Jay Cost talks about the problem of the establishment. Don't just rail at it, he writes, do something. And that something has to deal with the fact that it pays the elite players to service the special interests.
I think our political class is not responsive to the interests of their constituents, nor do I think that the rules of the political game make them responsible to the general welfare as a whole. Rather, I agree with Ted Cruz when he talks about a bipartisan cartel, which, in my estimation, is committed to the propagation of interest-group liberalism; the misuse of the state to funnel public resources to the interest groups that supply the most campaign cash, lobby the hardest, and are generally most adroit at the Beltway game.
For Cost, we have to change the rules of the game, so that ordinary corrupt politicians will do good things for America.

But the problem is not just the rules of the game. There is also the Zeitgeist. Joel Kotkin has a long piece about the dreadful effect of elite-liberal faith in densification, which encourages restrictive zoning in blue cities and the California coastal zone. The result is that ordinay middle-class families are priced out of the market by home prices in the Bay Area and numerous other liberal-dominated areas like New York City and Seattle that are sky-high. So young families are moving to cities like Houston and Dallas Ft. Worth, where they issue three times as many building permits per capita as in California.

We know what is going on here. Liberals all believe in sustainability, in protecting the environment by limiting the footprint of urban areas. And, of course, they are trying to shut down fossil fuels, because climate change.

Very well. But, according to Kotkin,
increasingly the worst influence on housing stems from the proclivities of contemporary progressivism. Whereas earlier Democratic presidents, from Roosevelt and Truman to Johnson and Clinton, strongly supported suburban single-family growth, contemporary progressives display an almost cultish bias towards the very dense, urban environment. The fact that perhaps at most 10 to 20 percent of Americans prefer this option almost guarantees that this approach would be unacceptable to the vast majority.
The problem is, of course, that only liberals get to expound on urban policy, and right now, in the Obama administration they are trying to regulate suburbs out of existence, because inequality.

There are a whole host of other issues where liberals are just steamrollering over the culture of ordinary middle-class families with children, because they can.

I get it. I really do. Urban liberals want cities to become creative hubs where young people can go and become creative artists, just like in Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class. Then they find that the poor are priced out of housing so they start campaigns for "affordable housing," as if that is going to make a difference. The problem is that the vast majority of people want to live in a nice quiet suburban house with a yard, and they don't want to live in an exciting urban creative hub. I like to say that Americans prefer this because American women, like the females of most species, like to retreat from the public world when it is time to bear and raise children and build a nice safe comfy fluffy nest. In the end the vast majority of people are going to impose their wants on the elite, but it is not going to be easy.

Eventually the political system will roll back the huge liberal lurch of the last ten years. Even though ordinary middle-class people don't have a voice in the intellectual conversation of the nation, the weight of their concerns will change the nation's politics. But the liberal totalitarian push to implement their vision without regard for other views will make the process darker and more cruel than it could or should be.

Liberals have been governing without the consent of the governed for quite some time now, and their governance is folly. The idea of "the consent of the governed" is not some good-government pablum. It just recognizes that a governing elite, in its own best interest, shouldn't try to ram its agenda down the throats of the governed, because in doing so it will incubate dark forces that will wreak terrible vengeance on it, the ruling class.

If liberals really believed their own propaganda, that history was on their side, they could be a lot more relaxed about their agenda. Just a nudge here and a friendly word there could keep the project on track. The fact that liberals use totalitarian techniques, from naming and shaming to a full-court press in the bureaucracy, shows that they really don't believe that their agenda is on the right side of history. They demonstrate that their agenda can only succeed if it is backed up with violence and bullying, with what the noted academician Melissa Click calls "muscle."

And think of this. Only 10 to 20 percent of Americans want to live in a dense and urban place, e.g., like Portland, Oregon, where, they say, young people go to retire. Yet liberals are going flat out to force everyone to live like that.

The current liberal surge is not going to end well.

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