Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HOW GOES THE CULTURE WAR? Well, we have Allahpundit yelling at Devo for writing a song that makes Mitt Romney look bad, and Michael Moynihan yelling at "leftist" travel book publishers for saying nice things about dictator-run countries in the travel books they're trying to sell to people who want to go visit those countries. (These days I don't see how conservatives even pretend to understand capitalism.)

And at Power Line, Steven Hayward asks, "WHY IS THERE NO LIBERAL AYN RAND?" He's taking off from Beverly Gage who, slightly less stupidly, asks, "American conservatives have a canon. Why don’t American liberals?" Sure we have a canon -- it's called Western literature. And it beats the snot out of the sad, long-form political pamphlets wingnuts like to name-check. You will learn more about the human condition from the works of novelists, playwrights, and poets than you ever can from a thousand power freaks' blueprints for the mass production of Procrustean beds.

And frankly, I think these alleged smart guys steep themselves in PoliSci because Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky and the rest confuse them and make them feel bad. They know they're smart, yet here are all these famous writers making them feel all this stuff their parents told them is wrong and bad. Much better to follow someone who writes with a slide rule.

Let these freaks thumb their suspenders, go "Well, as Hayek says..." and call themselves edumacated. We that have free souls, it touches us not.

UPDATE. Excellent comments on this, with references to Singapore, Orwell, Jeffrey Sachs, et alia. Both Sides Do It raises a good demurrer:
Political philosophy is almost entirely a liberal project.  In some sense liberal political philosophy fuckin' created Western political culture.  Human rights grew entirely out of liberal institutions consciously advancing specific liberal political conceptions...

That's really the reason those assbutt Republicans can even ask that asinine question in the first place. There is no liberal Ayn Rand because whereas conservatives have the One True Canon, there are multiple liberal traditions and conceptions of the political good. Almost as if liberals cared about advancing the best argument and finding the best conceptions of political organization instead of rationalizing a political order that made you feel superior to other people.  
I would add that when conservatives grab hold of the better class of writers who write about politics and ideology, they tend to dirty them up. Their Orwell reclamation project is a fine example, but there's also Burke who, among other things, denounced the crimes of Warren Hastings -- crimes which your typical rightwing imperialist would not even recognize as crimes, because they happened to have been committed against dark-skinned foreigners. That Burke is not in the same universe as Ayn Rand, or as Burke's current, dimmer fans.

UPDATE 2. I had to add this, from a Facebook post response by one Brian Middleton:
For some reason this made me think of Austen's "Emma," and specifically the scene where Emma is thoughtlessly rude to Miss Bates at the picnic. When Knightley points out to Emma how hurtful she's been, she is deeply ashamed of herself. 
Here's why this is an essentially lefty moment: Miss Bates is completely powerless. She is poor (as Austen characters go), with no stature or influence in their little community. There is no practical downside to insulting her. Yet Knightley points out that her very powerlessness entitles her to more, not less, consideration and respect, and Emma implicitly agrees.  
That is not a thought that any true acolyte of Ayn Rand would ever entertain. And yet we're not talking about Shaw or even Dickens; we're talking about the quintessential chronicler of Tory society, whose works almost entirely ignore the real poor and barely acknowledge the emerging middle class. But she understood the basic, great social principles involved: be kind to those less fortunate than yourself, and don't mistake your superior fortune for superior worth.
I would add that the "basic, great social principles" should not be the exclusive property of any particular ideological group, but since conservatives seem eager to disown them, I don't see why we shouldn't pick them up.

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