Day By Day

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reactionary Progressives

Fred Siegel has a nice essay in the City Journal on the theme of anti-progressive liberalism. Environmentalism, he notes, is based in large part upon a fear of material progress and that pits it against the more traditional form of liberalism -- the creed of FDR, JFK, LBJ, and those other three letter guys who hoped to better the lives of ordinary men and women by raising their material condition. Under the influence of the environmental movement, modern liberalism has abandoned its progressive ideals and has instead become reactionary. He writes:
American liberalism has remarkably come to resemble nineteenth-century British Tory Radicalism, an aristocratic sensibility that combined strong support for centralized monarchical power with a paternalistic concern for the poor. Its enemies were the middle classes and the aesthetic ugliness it associated with an industrial economy powered by bourgeois energies. 

Like the Tory Radicals, today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy. “Environmentalism offered the extraordinary opportunity to combine the qualities of virtue and selfishness,” wrote William Tucker in a groundbreaking 1977 Harper’s article....

What Tucker tellingly described as the environmentalists’ “aristocratic” vision called for a stratified, terraced society in which the knowing ones would order society for the rest of us. 

Radical environmentalists’ Tory disdain for democracy and for the habits of their inferiors remains undiminished. True to its late-1960s origins, political environmentalism in America gravitates toward both bureaucrats and hippies: toward a global, big-brother government that will keep the middle classes in line and toward a back-to-the-earth, peasantlike localism, imposed on others but presenting no threat to the elites’ comfortable lives.  
Read the whole thing here.

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