Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Appling the Hermeneutic of Suspicion to the State

One thing I have never been able to understand about liberals is why they are so suspicious of big business and so utterly trusting of big government.

I tend to have a few paranoid tendencies myself, so I can relate to the suspicion of big business. Now, I think they go overboard trying to paint with too broad a brush when they attack "capitalism" in general and all businesspeople indiscriminately. After all, family farms are businesses and so are trades-based businesses (eg. plumbers, electricians, etc.) Family physicians run businesses and so do pharmacists. Are these middle class people all to be demonized by the "capitalist dogs" labels and subjected to the hermeneutic of suspicion? But when it comes to the multi-national corporations and the rick families that run them, I can see where there is a lot of room for suspicion and even scorn.

But the wierd thing is that these people are the very ones who run for public office, serve in government and play big roles behind the scenes in politics! Yet, somehow the State can be trusted. This is the kind of logic I can't follow. Here is an excerpt from an article in the American Thinker by Christopher Chantrill that expresses how simply the liberal progressive suspicion of power can be turned against the bureaucratic welfare state.
"Our liberal friends have helped in one area. Their postmodern professors have taught us that history is nothing more than a self-serving narrative dictated by the powerful. Radical historians like the recently departed Howard Zinn in A People's History of the United States have made fortunes out of exploding the notion of European civilization by recounting the nasty things white European males have done to "the people" all over the world. Noam Chomsky has made himself a rich man penning screeds about American imperialism.

Our left-wing friends never seem to have thought that their narrative of injustice, which exposed the hypocrisies of the world bourgeoisie and global corporations, applies exactly to them and their progressive project.

When you look at the great government programs, you can believe the liberal narrative about helping people, or you can believe the liberal postmodernists and assume that it's all about power. Every regulation is a bid for power; every dollar of spending is a payoff to supporters. You can make a case that the Obama administration's program of stimuli, bailouts, tax "agnosticism," and crony capitalism is all about hope and change for the people. But in the modern age, stripped of superstition and Platonic "likely stories," we believe in the simple, elegant explanation. Nah, it's all about power."
I don't think we should reduce all politics to raw power - the will to power - but I can no more believe that the State can be trusted than I can believe that any other large scale institution in a fallen world is free of corruption and the temptation to assert its own infallibility. In fact, I would argue that the State, which is based on violent coercion, is more prone to this flaw than any other human institution. And this is why I regard socialism as much more frightening than capitalism. Both can be power seeking idols, but at least capitalism consists of dispersed power centers while the State is a unified, centralized power.

1 comment:

Peter Dunn said...

Hi Craig: I think it could be because liberals reject the doctrine of original sin--or in Calvinist terms, total depravity. According to it, everyone, the poor, the rich, the government, the middle class, even myself, are tainted with original sin. I've had conversations with some young leftists who say that the "poor" are saved just because they are poor, citing "Blessed are the poor." Thus, for some reason they no longer condemn the sins of the poor, whether addiction, thievery, vandalism (while protesting the Olympics), and homosexuality, because they already have the blessedness of the kingdom by virtue of their poverty. The penchant to this is that the rich are bad and going to hell because they are rich. The government redistributes from the wealthy to the poor, so that is good. It really has very little to do with rigorous biblical interpretation or Christian tradition, according to which no one can please God without faith: whether great or small, poor or rich, male or female. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, including the government, especially when it is redistributing wealth. Some of the most greedy people are poor, being full of envy and covetousness.

The liberal is not naturally generous. But he feels guilty about his wealth. So his solution is to promote socialism whereby the all benevolent state takes from some, usually productive middle class people, and gives to people who unproductive. But he himself uses every tax loophole ever devised by expensive lawyers so as not to pay very much tax. But his conscience is eased because he advocated government social programs. He is a compassionate liberal.