A Very Merry Un-Posting to You
Br. Erik writes an interesting riposte to Br. Poulos re: The Tea Partiers.
Given that James is writing about the Tea Partiers, I think it’s fair to now officially start calling him (lovingly) The Mad Hatter. I don’t know if that makes Erik The March Hare (and me Alice?), but here we go.
First Poulos (quoted by Erik):
Moreover, liberals of any party seeking primarily to foster or facilitate cultural change typically have little desire to focus their attention, much less their careers, on preventing the government from aggrandizing itself. A government that routinely manages economic behavior through its economic policy is well able to routinely manage social and personal behavior that way. In theory, there’s no reason why lots of Republicans can’t be ‘socially liberal but fiscally conservative.’ In practice, social liberals, of any party, have a vested interest in a government that rules not only by law but by economics.
This is a preposterous thing to say. Perhaps I’m biased since I’m “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” myself (I know, the first step toward RINOism!) but I think that statements such as this only function if politics is truly a linear field, if “socially liberal” or “socially conservative” can only be defined in the narrowest of terms.
Both Erik and Freddie (The Cheshire Cat?) rightly point out in the comments to James’ post the slight oddity (madness?) of bandying about the “Ts” of tyranny and taxation given the (comparatively) low rates of taxation in the United States.
Nevertheless, I think The March Hare has missed The Hatter’s point here.
I wouldn’t speak to James’ intention or meaning on this one, but I understand his point (and recall I’m apparently in Wonderland now) to be that the theoretical praxis of modern scientific economics has historically been associated with the managerial control of humans, who are typically treated as large-scale homogeneous entities. It was born of a political desire, in the absolutist regimes of Europe, to gain control.
Moreover, our economic lives are not so separate from our personal moral/social lives. I’m not advocating Marxism 101 whereby our consciousness is utterly determined by class-economics, but James (as I read him) is pointing to a philosophical point that so neat a divide between the economic and personal-moral does not exist. Hence his point about fiscal cons and libertarians being liberals (in the classical sense).
I always thought that a more organic (read: anti-Lockean) notion that the various dimensions of our lives cannot be so easily sliced, diced, and segregated from one another was a conservative notion. But nowadays I don’t know what conservative means anymore, so I might just be spending too much time smoking the political philosophical hookah with the Caterpillar (aka Br. Payne) on that one.
I’m more with Freddie and Erik in thinking that the tea partiers are not the vehicle Poulos really wants them to be and that taxation is a particularly poor example of his larger point. I’d like a word slightly less forceful than tyranny, floating around the idea James is getting at without having to be so direct and overly concrete about it. In other words, even with my criticisms, I think there is a point worth considering in James’ post. The mainstream form of economics is being infected with a de-humanizing virus. It may be, depending on its deployment in different places and times, a fairly mild virus, but it may spike, causing a political fever for a period and then abate. But over the longer haul, I wonder if it is slowly causing some degradation of the politico-philosophical immune system of the body politic.
Anyway, enough of that, I know those of you who’ve read this far were only doing so to get to this. By the way, I imagine we can all guess who the Queen of Hearts in this analogy is (answer: here).