L. Neil Smith's
Number 194, October 14, 2002


Jefferson At "The Nation"?: The Left Still Doesn't Get It

by Matthew Hogan

Special to TLE

With Leviathan on a global rampage, it is common, though depressing, to see "The Nation" outperforming "The National Review" in the Challenging Government Overreach Department. (Anarchists, delete "Overreach" as redundant.) So it is refreshing to find in a recent "The Nation" (9/30/02) a telling overt reminder of the fundamental sin of the Left.

In an essay entitled "The Right's Moral Trouble", Fred Block, a sociology professor (in "The Nation"? There's a shock!), presents us with a fairly sound, if hostile, analysis of the coalition-building of the modern American establishment Right. He argues plausibly that the Reagan Revolution succeeded in uniting economic and social/religious conservatives by positing a mystically religious faith in the marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, Block's polemic presentation invokes the straw man of confounding of free market economics with such un- or highly questionable free-market phenomena as the use of fraud, the adulation of greed, and the dominance of Chamber of Commerce Republicanism. (As to the last issue, true free-market advocates actually tend to be tweedy academics, basement-dwelling cybernerds, gold-coin dealers, and that Ron Paul guy.)

Block's stumbling, however, really comes with his climactic proclamation of a core Left counternarrative to the Right, which contains the following moral-to-the-story:

"We need to reaffirm the simple truth that service to others is the highest human calling."

That's to be the core of government policy. Now doesn't that sound like a self-evident postulate worthy of Jefferson? In fact, it is quite Jeffersonian in a way. One can easily imagine old Thomas himself inscribing Block's letters on a large stone.

And then setting it up at the entrance of the plantation slave quarters:

"Service to others is the highest human calling."

A sort of "Arbeit Macht Frei" from the future granola-set to the past cotton-picking-at-the-lash set.

I suggest we need to reaffirm the simple truth that non-compulsory service to others may be the highest human calling. Or to expand it further, non-compulsory service to deserving others may be the highest human calling. After all, even voluntary service to Lex Luthor or the Marquis de Sade (if logically possible) is not venerable.

In any case, governments are not about voluntary service but compulsion. Compulsion via taxation, restriction, and enforced servitude. Compulsion for the physical and psychological benefit of the powerful and the favored.

Additionally, we should wonder in further challenge, how a free society's government can or should be allowed to decide what are ultimate values ("highest calling") and who are the ultimately valued ( which "others"?)

From Soviet totalitarianism to the military draft to the welfare state (corporate or "compassionate"), governments have used the slogan of service for the benefit of others as the sanctifying device for repressive power over others, along with accompanying plunder of life, wealth, and liberty. And while those happen, the government's authorities and agents, reeling under the influence of feel-good "service to others" fumes, generously grab helpings as the plate of confiscated wealth and liberty passes through on its way towards its questionable destination and away from its free and productive sources.

Leviathan can and will feed on any human freedom or freely-made product, regardless of whether "compassion", "service", "for others", or "high calling" are the seasonings. In fact, "service to others" makes the devouring quite digestible.

The Left still doesn't get it. I'll let you decide if that is a good or bad thing.


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