Doctrinaire Liberalism: The Ideology of Let's Pretend

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An
amazing book recently came to my attention. Where
Liberals Go To Die: The End of Let's Pretend
is its name,
and its author is Houston-based attorney James T. Evans. Evans could
be Texas’ answer to David Horowitz if enough > people manage to
run across his work. Evans' publisher, though, is a small, local
entity called Commonwealth Publishing, which isn't exactly Simon
& Schuster, or even Transaction. It up to those of us who encounter
books like this to spread the word. No one is going to do it for
us.

Like
Horowitz, author or coauthor of great books such as Destructive
Generation: Second Thoughts on the 1960s
, Radical
Son
, and Deconstructing
the Left
, Evans was involved in 1960s radicalism. His activities
ranged from campus organizing, participating in the Berkeley "Free
Speech" movement and student strikes, to involvement in the
disruptions at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in
1968. Also like Horowitz, he finally woke up. The problem is, many
liberals never do wake up. Evans sees them as sometimes well-intentioned,
but always guided by misplaced priorities. Evans starts at the right
starting point: survival. For survival, not designing the
perfect society, is the first goal for any of us, and the first
priority for a society.

Survival
isn't a given; it is based on rules. At the most basic level, these
rules are just the laws of nature. If you jump off a tall building,
you'll most likely be killed. Gravity operates pretty consistently,
and doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, gender, class, physical
appearance or sexual preference. Animals know this instinctively,
and avoid heights. Human beings must use the brains God gave each
one of us. So while animals also act instinctively on their need
to feed themselves, human survival isn't so automatic; it depends
on a range of fairly specific deliberate attitudes and planned courses
of action.

But
there's another wrinkle: to make society work, we need rules of
morality and civil conduct; we have to be able to trust one another,
at least to some degree, and be able to get along with one another.
If these rules are not also obeyed, individuals don't prosper, businesses
don't succeed, and societies start to decline. Free economies just
happen to be more conducive to obedience to the various rules necessary
for survival and for making societies work than command economies,
so long as these rules are somehow transmitted intact from one generation
to the next.

Americans,
in their early history, began to build a distinctive culture, rooted
in individual economic liberty, a work ethic, moral responsibility
rooted in religious faith, Constitutionally limited government and
the rule of law. There was a healthy distrust of concentrations
of political power. The Framers’ original vision was not always
applied consistently, but when it was applied, it worked. We built
the most prosperous nation in human history. It all goes back to
survival, and having one's priorities in order.

This,
then, is Evans' first message: survival is the basic driving force
of human nature, not an intellectual quest to build Utopia. The
Soviets spent 72 years ignoring human nature in favor of the Utopian
premise that when the right people were in charge the state would
"wither away." In practice, the Utopian urge always elbows
aside moral controls and quickly turns into a lust for power. Also
elbowed aside are usually millions of innocent people who don't
fit the plan. This explains holocausts and genocides. In our society,
unlike that of the Soviets, power usually does not operate by overt
acts of brute force (incidents like Waco and the Elian Gonzalez
kidnapping notwithstanding). Rather, it achieves most of its goals
by propaganda and systematic efforts to control people's thoughts.
It is, Evans tells us, more a form of fascism than communism. Communists
shoot their undesirables and are done with it. Our home grown brand
of fascism, best exemplified in political correctness, works by
euphemism and Orwellian subterfuge: intolerance becomes "tolerance,"
ideological conformity becomes "diversity" or "inclusiveness,"
and perversion becomes an "alternative lifestyle choice."
Under still older comfort-zone phrases like "social justice"
and "civil rights," doctrinaire liberalism is the ideology
most responsible for abandoning the rules that must be in place
if a society is to survive in the long run. (Doctrinaire liberalism
is the preferred term, distinguished from the classical liberalism
that tried to enhance, not restrict, individual freedoms.)

In
one topic after another, Evans applies basic analysis and common
horse sense to the claims of doctrinaire liberalism. He isn't an
ivory-tower academic, and doesn't write like one. He doesn't use
footnotes on every page. Sometimes, for an ex-academic such as myself
(who sometimes does write like one) this is a mild annoyance:
there is a lot here worth following up, and references are always
a good place to begin. But anyone so inclined can find the references
that support nearly every one of Evans' arguments. Occasionally,
though, he makes a recommendation that bothers me. For example,
late in the book is a suggestion that we implement programs of national
service immediately as a means of teaching young people discipline.
What bothers me is a single question: who is going to administer
such programs? The Federal Government is the most likely candidate.
And then we're back where we started: why should we trust the Federal
Government to administer conservative ideas any more than we can
trust it to administer liberal ones? The problem here isn't any
particular ideology but the corrosive effects of power, which knows
no ideology. What we need are ideas that will improve our lives
and culture without the heavy hand of a government bureaucracy.
Fortunately, such ideas are readily available, for those who will
take the trouble to learn them.

Minor
grumbling aside, I certainly understand why Evans reached that conclusion.
As we look around us, the economy may be good – although even that
is dubious if we take a long-term view of things – but the culture
is disintegrating. The politics of collective grievance and entitlement
have destroyed education at all levels; they are undermining our
military defensive capabilities; they have infiltrated businesses
and become gold mines for legions of lawyers, diversity-consultants
and hypersensitivity engineers. Rudeness and crassness are epidemic,
from the in-your-face attitude of hip-hoppers to elite "artists"
who set out to be as revolting as possible. A form of personal self-destruction
and thinly-veiled cultural violence is in the air. The former takes
such forms as rampant body-piercing and tattooing, popular among
today's teens and twentysomethings. For a case of the latter, just
look at so-called professional wrestling which has degenerated to
anarchic gladiatorial contests where out-of-control musclemen brutalize
each other before cheering mobs, just as in ancient Rome before
it fell. Societal self-destruction takes on larger and more dangerous
forms when a Bill Clinton arranges for the stealth "transfer"
of nuclear secrets to a hostile foreign power in order to help finance
his re-election, the whistle is blown, and no one in the dominant
culture or mass media cares.

This
is what several decades of liberalism hath wrought. Speaking of
Rome, as Evans points out, that empire fell from within. Healthy
cultures don't tend to fall to invading forces. They just lose sight
of what made them healthy. This is an easy mistake for a culture
to make. One of the truly important and insightful features of Where
Liberals Go To Die is its realization that entire generations
can lose sight of what actually sustains their world if they grow
up privileged and overprotected. This is what happened to many Baby
Boomers, the parents of the tattooed and body-pierced generation.

Those
who came of age during the Great Depression knew what it was to
struggle for survival. They knew hunger, and so realized that food
doesn't just grow in the cupboards. What that generation learned
about survival helped them fight and win World War II, and then
go on to build the prosperity of the 1950s. The Baby Boomers were
born and grew up in this prosperity without really acquiring a real-life
understanding of where it came from, and what kinds of personal
and cultural virtues made it possible. Not helping was the philosophy
of permissiveness that appeared courtesy of Dr. Benjamin Spock.
So a significant fraction of a generation grew up assuming that
the problems of survival and production were solved, and all that
remained was ensuring just distribution – always of wealth produced
by others, and always using the heavy-handed machinery of the Federal
Government. That is to say, they became liberals. Many Boomers saw
their parents as clueless. They saw the rules and practices that
built the country as "oppressive," and regarded traditions
(e.g., traditional Christianity) as just one option among many.
They believed they could experiment with lifestyles to their hearts'
content without having to worry about the consequences. They came
to see feeling good as their only life goal.

And
then, when things started to fall apart, they wondered what the
dickens happened. That is, when they saw their own children growing
up uncontrollable, or their teenaged daughters pregnant, or on drugs,
they received a hard dose of reality. On a larger scale, now that
radicalized black groups' and militant feminists' demands have become
uncontrollable (joined increasingly by militant homosexuals), at
least some of the liberals who created, e.g., affirmative action
programs, should by now have received their dose of reality. Liberalism
dies in a person when he looks in the mirror and realizes
that the person he sees there really is responsible for the mess
he's made. At least some have realized they were living in a fantasy
world of pretending. That is what happened to David Horowitz, a
second-generation leftist radical turned conservative, and it happened
to James T. Evans.

For
let's face it: doctrinaire liberalism really is an ideology of let's
pretend. And it hasn't changed in the six or so years since
Evans published this book. If anything, after over seven years of
the Clinton Regime, it has gotten worse. Let's pretend, for
example, that gun control will really make our streets safer. Let's
pretend that affirmative action programs really help blacks
by lowering standards, and that they do not discriminate in reverse
against white men. Let's pretend that an institution that
hasn't existed for 135 years – slavery – harms blacks today and that
demands for reparations should be taken seriously. Let's pretend
that men and women are interchangeable in combat situations. Let's
pretend that all women should be radical feminists and that
all blacks should support the NAACP's vendetta against Confederate
symbols.

Let's
pretend, that is, that public policy and education should be
based on feelings, instead of history, fact and logic. Let's
pretend, therefore, that the Underground Railroad is more significant
in U.S. history than the Declaration of Independence and the signing
and ratifying of the Constitution. While we're at it, let's pretend
that even in areas such as math and science, education should make
students feel good about themselves rather than communicate knowledge
and specific skills.

Let's
pretend, moreover, that government schools are better at raising
civilized children than their parents. Let's pretend that
when the children become teenagers, giving them condoms will protect
them from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Let's
pretend that AIDS will be cured by more Federal funds. Let's
pretend that a stable marriage between one man and one woman
is just one of many options. Let's pretend that a principled
rejection of homosexual conduct is a phobia, and therefore
a psychological disorder. Let's pretend that women have a
Constitutional right to kill their unborn babies if they become
inconvenient.

Let's
pretend that the motivation behind a crime is more important
than the act itself, and punish "hate crimes" severely.
Let's pretend that a John Rocker is more deserving of media
crucifixion than athletes with drug habits or assault convictions
and even rape accusations. Let's pretend that Christianity
is an oppressive religion, that truth is a "white male social
construct," and that all morality is subjective and personal.
Let's pretend, finally, that substantial arguments steeped
in a limited-government perspective can be dismissed with by calling
the arguers names, e.g., right-wing extremist, hard rightist,
wacko, etc. Let's pretend, let's pretend, let's pretend;
this is the story of 20th century doctrinaire liberalism.

One
cannot maintain society on an ideology of let's pretend.
We won't keep this Republic once the ethos of survival, work, and
responsibility has been fully replaced by one of Utopianism, collective
grievance, coerced egalitarianism and a feel-good mindset. That's
the long and the short of it: doctrinaire liberalism, believed by
nearly all prominent Democrats and all-too-many Republicans, is
an ideology for ostriches, their heads buried firmly in the proverbial
sand. The only solution is to get rid of it, and the sooner the
better. James T. Evans book Where Liberals Go To Die: The End
of Let's Pretend is a step in this direction. I recommend it
to anyone concerned about our present morass, and what, if anything,
we can do to escape it.

Copies
of James T. Evans' Where Liberals Go To Die: The End of Let's
Pretend can be obtained by writing to Commonwealth Publishing,
P.O. Box 130946, Houston, TX 77219 or by calling 1-800-991-7191.
Evans is also the author of EduCrisis:
What To Do When Public Schools Fail
.

June
26, 2000

Steven
Yates
has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
(San Francisco:
ICS Press, 1994) and numerous articles and reviews. He lives and
freelance writes in Columbia, South Carolina.

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