Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Silencing the Opposition Means Your Side is in Trouble

A defining characteristic of the Obama era is the widespread adoption of the president's advice to argue with your neighbors and "get in their face." And so on.

Actually, that's fine in an election; an election is a show of force, a contest to see who has the biggest army of voters behind him or Herself. The trouble is that the president continued his robust rhetoric into his presidency, and his supporters have followed his lead.

First we had partisan stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank bills. Then we had the IRS harassing Tea Party groups. Now we have Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse calling for prosecution of climate change critics using the RICO laws that were designed as a tool to break up organized crime syndicates. And we have state attorneys general going after ExxonMobil for misleading investors and the American people about the dangers of climate change 20 years ago. And they are also going on a fishing expedition after CEI, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. And that's not to mention the harassment of social conservatives that don't want to get with the latest gender-bending fad.

See, whatever the actual issue, whether climate change is the defining issue of our time or just a liberal fantasy, or whether gay and transgender rights are a fundamental human right of just liberal folly, liberals are making a fundamental mistake here.

If you decide to resort to intimidation and punishment-by-process in your issue advocacy, then you are conceding that you are not winning in the court of public opinion. You realize at a gut level that you are losing the argument. You have concluded that only the clunking fist will get the job done. In fact, you are starting a war.

Now our liberal friends insist they are all in favor of peace and justice except for the occasional peaceful protest designed merely to raise public awareness about an issue. In this faith they are probably as delusional as the European colonialists that rationalized that their colonies were beneficial to the backward "natives." What a benefit western traditions of public administration and law were to the people of India!

I have argued this week in the American Thinker that liberals are delusional when they think that their activism is merely a helping hand for the traditionally marginalized. No it isn't. Liberal activism is the power play of the scions of the rich and powerful. Liberal activism is a problem. It tries to turn every issue in America into a political issue, and thus into the moral equivalent of war.

Let us ask our liberal friends what might be the problem of turning every problem in America into a moral equivalent of war. Why, our liberal friend's answer would be immediate if we were talking about the Cold War. The problem is Escalation. Yes. Once you set up conflict between two parties there is always the danger of escalation.

There is also the little problem, as Glen Harlan Reynolds points out, that conspiring to deny Americans their constitutional rights is a crime.

The great problem of the modern age, in my view, is that it has reduced the need for warrior monarchs, warrior marcher lords, and warrior dawn raiders. The logic of the post industrial revolution era is that nearly all things can be resolved by market relationships, based on the profoundly social impulse to make yourself useful to your fellow humans by offering products and services on the global market. The fate of the world need not be decided by feats of arms or even entitlement programs. It can be resolved by peaceful cooperation.

But this is too radical for our hunter-gatherer brains to grasp. And there are plenty of people who want the excitement and the danger of moral war that excitingly verges towards actual war. Thus the liberal activism culture.

If that were the end of the story, there would be no hope for us.

But the saving grace is that power makes you stupid. The whole point of power is to be able to ignore feedback, to silence the opposition and respond with a clunking fist. But clunking fists, like incoming mortar rounds, tend to concentrate the minds of the recipients wonderfully. And when you silence the opposition, and force them to keep their heads down with your mortar rounds, you do not know what they are thinking.

And sooner or later the grateful recipients decide to stop thinking about their problem and decide to do something about it.

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