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April 29th 2010 print

Michael Connor

Hubris

John Quiggin: “It is necessary to criticise this convention [of debating opposing views] and hammer home the point that the right has become totally disconnected from reality and rational argument.”

Australian professor of economics and blogger John Quiggin:
 

We’ve had a fair bit of fun here lately, pointing out the silliness of those who are supposed to be the intellectual leaders of the right, in its libertarian, neoconservative and Republican tribalist versions. But, as quite a few commenters have pointed out (one using the same, maybe Oz-specific, phrase that occurred to me) the exercise does seem to savor a bit of flogging dead horses.

First, considered in intellectual terms, there is very little remaining on the political right (particularly in the US, but this point applies to most of the English-speaking countries, and to a large extent elsewhere) that is worth engaging with in terms other than the derision employed here. It’s not that, as rightwing pundits go, people like Douthat, Goldberg, Krauthammer and McArdle are soft targets. Compared to, say, Powerline or the cast of Fox News, they are paragons of reasoned and reasonable discourse.

The same goes for the thinktanks and quasi-academic institutions that are supposed to provide some kind of rigorous basis for thinking about policy. AEI, Heritage, Heartland and the rest offer little more than partisan hackery. Increasingly, the same is true of Republican-aligned academics. There is simply no room for independent thought.

Overall, as I said on my blog, a while back, the scene is one of complete ideological incoherence. Market liberalism has run out of steam, libertarianism has failed to produce a coherent response to the Iraq war or the Bush assault on civil liberties (to be fair, Obama has also failed here) , and the various other elements that have emerged or re-emerged as forces on the right – Christianism, aggressive nationalism, anti-feminism and so on – amount to little more than a tribalist set of hatreds of various others.

Second, though, even if intellectual engagement is impossible, we can’t ignore the fact that the right remains politically powerful, and is currently resurgent in both the US and (in a rather different form) in Europe. Furthermore, the established conventions of political discussion in the US take it for granted that there is in fact a debate going on in which the contributions of the two sides (as defined by the two major political parties) are more or less equally worthy of attention. It is necessary to criticise this convention and hammer home the point that the right has become totally disconnected from reality and rational argument.

Fifth, equally, we need to reconsider Marxian and other left socialist critiques of social democracy.

Finally, as I’ve said before, the left has to stand for something more than keeping the existing order afloat with incremental improvements. We need to offer the hope of a better world as an alternative to the angry tribalism that threatens to engulf us.

Source Crooked Timber