Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Asha and I went to the Wisconsin Wool and Sheep Festival, and while watching this guy shear sheep by hand, I saw Matthew Dallman, someone who I havent read in a few years. So I decided to check out his blog and see if he is still an enthusiastic National Review-style right-winger.

Yup.

This despite being influenced by two writers who are also important to me, Camille Paglia and Ken Wilber (although he denies the influence of the latter). Dallman's and my convergent influences and divergent attitudes have always puzzled me.

According to Matt Dallman, Sarah Palin's kids are really, really cute. And Obama is offensive, because he summarized Republican "Ownership Society" rhetoric as boiling down to "You're on your own." (I thought that it was the best part of his speech, but what do I know?)

Dallman finds this offensive not because it isn't true, but (apparently) because it flippantly describes what is (to Dallman) the essence of the American project.
Mr Obama, the entire point of America, if it could be summarized in words you would understand, is to allow us to live our lives “on our own”.
...
The whole point of America (not Obama’s version of America, but the real one) is a chance to enjoy the state of mind and stability of potential that is Liberty, something this country has that no other country has ever had, and perhaps few others will ever have. Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness. The ability to own property. Free people doing free things.
Obama is saying he is running for president because, apparently, Liberty isn’t good enough for him. Because Liberty is something we must change, must remake into something else. Liberty is something the silly Republicans talk about. Because the very “pulling up by my bootstraps” he and his wife brag about in their own lives isn’t something they think other people are capable of, or should be allowed to realize on their own time after, yes, failures and false-starts. Because Liberty is making countless errors before getting things right.
As explained here, fetishizing an abstract, unspecified conception of liberty without any balancing virtues, in addition to being nonsensical, is tantamount to advocating anarchism.

But ignoring the nonsensical nature of the argument for the moment, I guess the idea here is that only in America are we free because, for example, in Canada you have free health care, but you are forced to have free health care --- you're not allowed to opt out of the system. Which makes sense, except that it's just as true that in America, you're conversely not free to have free health care. In the US, a certain number of options are opened, but another set are closed. In Canada, a different set are opened, and another set are closed. But when you construe one as more free and the other as less free, what you're really talking about is money. Money = freedom. That's the transcendent principle that Matt was struggling to articulate.

Another objection to Matt's wild enthusiasm for all things NRO is: how one makes the leap from fetishizing a completely abstract, contentless conception of LIBERTY to reciting Republican talking points is...puzzling, considering how Bush II has presided over the largest increase in federal government spending since LBJ, as well as the invasion of two sovereign nations (after failing to keep our country safe from major terrorist attacks, and then failing to capture the perpetrators). Not to mention the comedic levels of corruption, including the complete hollowing-out of the Department of Justice.

But then again, does having a Department of Justice lead to more liberty, or less liberty? I guess you would have to say that it would lead to less liberty for criminals, and more for non-criminals. So how would a fetishist of abstract-conceptions-of-liberty feel about the Bush Administration's enthusiastic destruction of the Justice Department? I wouldn't know --- my fetishes lie elsewhere.

Dallman on Obama:
Being a dyed-in-the-wool progressive, Obama’s “change” is always a variation on a single theme: let’s centralize the decision-making, away from individuals, families, associations, and towards Washington, D.C. “Socialism lite” is certainly an appropriate word; but “progressive” does the job equally well.
No evidence is offered for this rather strong interpretation of Obama's politics. One wonders what Dallman would have made of the curious aggressive anti-libertarianism of another, more famous Illinois politician.

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