Filed under: Conservatism
Hilzoy had an interesting post responding to Andy McCarthy’s weird accusations the other day that Obama is a “man of the hard left” who feels more comfortable with moralistic dictatorships than with freedom. Without getting into McCarthy’s thing, the part of Hilzoy’s response that interested me was a query: who exactly are these leftists McCarthy is talking about?
I have spent a lot of time in places where one might suppose the Hard Left might be found. I mean, I grew up in the Kremlin on the Charles, for heaven’s sake. Moreover, I know some people who are fairly far to the left. And yet I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone in this country who even remotely resembles McCarthy’s “Hard Left”.
…With these possible exceptions [two people she knew in the ’70s and ’80s], none of the people I have known in this country, in a long life of knowing leftists, has been “fine with dictatorship”. None of them has the slightest interest in the “suppression of freedom”, or “intrusiveness in all aspects of life”. …So here’s my question: have I just been hanging out in the wrong places? Are there, in fact, any substantial numbers of “Hard Leftists”, as Andy McCarthy uses that term — not just the handful of surviving Stalinists that I’m sure exist somewhere in the US, but an appreciable number of people who are “fine with dictatorship”?
I actually have met some American leftists who are “fine with dictatorship”. But only outside the US, and only in the narrow sense that they think cultural and historical differences excuse authoritarian government for other countries — not for the US. I’ve met leftists in Africa who thought colonialism excused dictatorial governments there, and leftists in East Asia who think Confucian cultures don’t merge well with multiparty democracy. But here’s the thing: in each of these settings, I’ve met even more rightists who were “fine with dictatorship”. For every old hippy in Africa who thinks white people have no right to criticize African leaders, there are five right-wing Western businessmen who think Africans are incapable of stable democratic government and prefer to deal with dictators. For every left-wing multiculturalist in East Asia who thinks single-party states are better suited to the Confucian mentality, there are five right-wing Western businessmen who think the same thing.
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