The gigantic heresy of an apostate generation 1

Very well worth reading is Scott Johnson of Power Line quoting Paul Rahe quoting Walter Lippmann arguing against collectivism and the augmentation of the power of government:

“Throughout the world, in the name of progress, men who call themselves communists, socialists, fascists, nationalists, progressives, and even liberals, are unanimous in holding that government with its instruments of coercion must by commanding the people how they shall live, direct the course of civilization and fix the shape of things to come. . . . The premises of authoritarian collectivism have become the working beliefs, the self-evident assumptions, the unquestioned axioms, not only of all the revolutionary regimes, but of nearly every effort which lays claim to being enlightened, humane, and progressive.

So universal is the dominion of this dogma over the minds of contemporary men that no one is taken seriously as a statesman or a theorist who does not come forward with proposals to magnify the power of public officials and to extend and multiply their intervention in human affairs. Unless he is authoritarian and collectivist, he is a mossback, a reactionary, at best an amiable eccentric swimming hopelessly against the tide. It is a strong tide. Though despotism is no novelty in human affairs, it is probably true that at no time in twenty-five hundred years has any western government claimed for itself a jurisdiction over men’s lives comparable with that which is officially attempted in totalitarian states. . . .

But it is even more significant that in other lands where men shrink from the ruthless policy of these regimes, it is commonly assumed that the movement of events must be in the same direction. Nearly everywhere the mark of a progressive is that he relies at last upon the increased power of officials to improve the condition of men.”

What worried Lippmann the most was the failure of those who considered themselves progressives to “remember how much of what they cherish as progressive has come by emancipation from political dominion, by the limitation of power, by the release of personal energy from authority and collective coercion.” He cited “the whole long struggle to extricate conscience, intellect, labor, and personality from the bondage of prerogative, privilege, monopoly, authority.”

It was, he said, “the gigantic heresy of an apostate generation” to suppose that “there has come into the world during this generation some new element which makes it necessary for us to undo the work of emancipation, to retrace the steps men have taken to limit the power of rulers, which compels us to believe that the way of enlightenment in affairs is now to be found by intensifying authority and enlarging its scope.” It is with Lippmann’s warning in mind that we – and Barack Obama’s economic advisors — should contemplate the present discontents.

Posted under Commentary, communism, government, nazism, Socialism, Totalitarianism by Jillian Becker on Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tagged with , , , ,

This post has 1 comment.

Permalink