Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let's Call It "Liberal Atavism"

In the Afterword in his Liberal Fascism Jonah Goldberg marvels that the perfect illustration of his argument appeared in 2008 and won the presidency. Liberal fascism means the whole apparatus of millennial Hope, real Change, Unity, audacity, cool clothes, big chin, big stadiums, greek temples. And Barack Obama was that One.

But Jonah is still upset over the use of the word "fascism," because it has come to mean "bad person" rather than the real thing, a movement that wants to make politics the whole of life. If he had his druthers, he'd choose another word.

Let's solve Jonah's problem. Let's call it "liberal atavism." Atavism (from the Latin, ancestor) is an "evolutionary throwback" such as, in humans, multiple nipples. Fascism, as it developed in the early 20th century, was always an atavistic yearning for the old days of blood, soil, living room and tribal community.

"Atavism" has been used in a cultural sense. An example is F.A. Hayek's article "The Atavism of Social Justice." Social justice means, if it means anything at all, Hayek argues, a return to the moral framework of the hunter/gatherer band, its strict hierarchy, and its strict adherence to instinctive tradition and sharing.

The problem is, of course, that under hunter/gatherer rules the earth can only support a few million people, who live in constant conflict. (Up to half of men died violently in hunter/gatherer cultures, and never sired children, according to paleontologists.) In the modern world, where capitalist rules of law and contract operate, there is much less conflict, and people compete to serve strangers rather than kill them.

But the new order is instinctively wrong, and people are always hankering for a return to the simplicity of the hunter/gatherer band. Liberals, for all their love of science, want this too. And because they are articulate and powerful they can do something about it.

So when President Obama talks about "share the wealth" he is proposing an atavism. He is proposing to return to the world of the "atavus, a great-grandfather's grandfather." And he is proposing to return to a world of conflict, as we can see already in the tumultuous Town Halls of Demcoratic congressmen.

But it looks like he has a problem. Lots of people don't want to give up their freedom to go hide in an atavistic Obama world. And it looks like they may be willing to fight to keep their freedom.

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