Why Statism Is the Wrong Frame, Cont'd

by Conor Friedersdorf

In an item yesterday, I argued that if you're trying to understand someone like Matt Yglesias, whether to effectively argue against his views or to engage him persuasively, the frames of "statism" and "liberty versus tyranny" are almost completely useless. Let's revisit why this is so. Mr. Yglesias favors deregulating various professional cartels, ending the legally proscribed monopoly on buses that some urban public transit agencies enjoy, reforming America's absurd system of agricultural subsidies, and making it easier for developers to build in accordance with the local demand for real estate, rather than government imposed zoning restrictions. (Odds are he subscribes to even more free-market friendly policies that the right embraces. That's just off the top of my head.)

Mr. Yglesias is neither a conservative nor a libertarian, as his approach to more consequential issues like health care policy demonstrates. On all sorts of policy questions, in fact, he favors a much larger federal role in American life than I do, putting us at odds all the time. Nor does he support the free market positions listed above because he has embraced the right's first principles on those issues: he is, after all, one of America's leading progressive bloggers.

Why does he favor some policies that conservatives like? And can we identify more of them for the sake of strategic alliances? We'll never know if, upon learning that he is a liberal, we automatically presume that he is a "statist," or even more absurdly, that he prefers tyranny to liberty. Those are unserious buzz words that sell books, not a realistic portrait of American liberals, a group that encompasses many people farther right than Mr. Yglesias.

In his response to yesterday's item, Mark Levin betrays his ongoing inability to understand any of this. He writes:

Idiot stalker.

This is so pathetic. So a liberal blogger favors regulation in some respect, and this proves to Friedersdork that my characterizing the general left-wing enterprise as statist is unhelpful - to Friedersdork. So, the fact that the liberal blogger isn't advancing big-government arguments ALL THE TIME demonstrates the inaccuracy of referring to his agenda as statist. This is the line that grabs your attention -- "dismantling efforts to use the state to help the privileged has always been on the agenda." Really? So, before we get to this workers' paradise, we need this big state to sort things out. And, of course, at some point it will dissolve itself. Has anyone heard this stupidity before? And how will this occur. Marx does not tell us. His buddy Engels tried, but he failed miserably as well. This is not to say that those who post such things are Marxists. It is to say they are ignorant. Statism is the perfect word to describe them. Liberty and tyranny are the perfect words to explain them.

Let's be perfectly clear about why the "statist" frame is misleading:

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy. It's very organized."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Just In