Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sealed in Ideological Purity

David Frum has had a war of words right wing talk radio host Mark Levin, throughout the year. Recently Levin screamed at a woman caller on his show, that her husband should kill himself for being married to her. Many conservatives, including Frum, thought these radio screamers were hurting, not helping the cause. Levin shot back that his show is popular and that he has a best selling book, hence, he is helping the cause.

In that spirit, Frum promised to read and review Levin's book Liberty and Tyranny. I thought there were some very interesting nuggets in the piece that made me think. (Read the full review here at The New Majority)
Some conservatives say, “No more bailouts.” That’s a fine principle, up to a point. Only – if it had been applied in the fall of 2008, the world economy would very probably have tumbled into a true depression. And it has to be recognized too (as Milton Friedman no less acknowledged in his lifetime) that it is to some degree the existence of those maligned government programs that protects modern America from economic depressions like those of 1929-1941 (or 1919-21, or 1893-96, or 1857, or 1837). The stock market may crash, factories may close – but Social Security checks continue to flow to seniors, doctors collect their fees from Medicare, faculty at state universities earn wages, and depositors at failed banks can still withdraw their funds from cash machines. Conservatives “know” this, but we tend not to emphasize it. Yet it too is part of the story of our times, and as we regroup for the political struggles of the next era, we ought to keep this knowledge somewhere in mind.

None of this interests conservatives very much right now, and it interests Mark Levin not at all. Levin thinks there is nothing to learn from the present crisis, and indeed seems to regard the whole enterprise of learning as ideologically suspect. It’s very striking that nowhere in this book does he ever engage the ideas of intelligent people on the other side. He quotes stupid statements from a fringe group like Earth First! But he flinches from any encounter with any more substantial opponent. He lives in a sealed mental universe, into which nothing new or unsettling can ever penetrate.
It's a wonder to me that there are so many sealed off people who listen to the same talk radio everyday, only read rightist blogs, and read books like Levin's and see and hear nothing else. Even if you agree, isn't that extremely boring? It's the inverted version of a commie country where the people listen to the commissar’s speeches every day, wave red flags and read the little red book.

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