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:
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
Let's be perfectly clear about why the "statist" frame is misleading:
The desired end of Matthew Yglesias isn't to grow the American state. On some issues, he sees a bigger state as a necessary means to an end he desires (like using subsidies to increase the percentage of Americans covered by some form of health insurance), and on other issues he favors taking power away from the state. It is useful to understand these distinctions, even if you think, as I do, that the federal government should be much smaller than Mr. Yglesias would have it.
Mr. Levin could mount a better defense of his pet term if his book merely argued that anyone who wants government to grow for any reason is a statist, but if you look at how he actually defines the term, ends are clearly implicated, and the notion that it describes the average American liberal becomes laughable. I'll cite page numbers from the hardcover text, where we learn that the statist “has an insatiable appetite for control… is constantly
agitating for government action… speaks in the tongue of the demagogue… veils
his pursuits in moral indignation…. and is never circumspect about his own
shortcomings” (page 8). Qualities antithetical to the statist include
“initiative, self-reliance, and independence” (page 9). “The Statist often justifies change as
conferring new, abstract rights, which is nothing more than a Statist deception
intended to empower the state and deny man his real rights” (page 14). “The
Statist is dissatisfied with the condition of his own existence… he is angry,
resentful, petulant, and jealous.” (page 15) “For the Statist, liberty is not a
blessing but the enemy” (page 16). “The Statist urges Americans to view
themselves through the lens of those who resent and even hate them… The Statist
wants Americans to see themselves as backward” (page 18). “