He likes big Butte (and he cannot lie)

Readers of the print version of National Review will likely enjoy Jonah Goldberg’s musings about his recent road trip through Butte, Montana, including the simile comparing a can of PBR to Lady Liberty’s lantern.

Goldberg also makes an observation that reminded me of yesterday’s discussion about taking steps to fight man-made global warming ? even if those steps would have no impact on warming. 

Realizing that his respect for the freedoms enjoyed by Butteans conflicts with his support for some government restrictions in places like New York City, Goldberg notes:

And herein lies the creative tension, or internal contradiction, or just plain hypocrisy, of both conservatism and “liberalism.” Both camps pretend to be champions of liberty and promoters of security, but we qualify the liberty and security we have in mind differently. This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the culture war. Both sides seek to “impose morality” and “expand freedom,” but we have different things in mind. Conservatives value economic liberty and moral security, while the liberal values economic security and moral liberty.

Conservatives ? including yours truly ? can sometimes get distracted by liberals’ protestations that all they want to do is “the right thing” in this or that instance: No great ideological visions here, folks, move along. But the simple fact is that progressivism is more than a political program. It has its own ? often severe ? code of conduct and manners, usually called “political correctness.” It has sumptuary laws delineating what you can eat, drive, and wear. Paul Tillich, the liberal theologian, defined religion as that system which addresses or satisfies man’s “ultimate concerns” ? and thus liberalism is indistinguishable from religion, politically speaking.

Goldberg doesn’t mention it, but his assessment of the conservative/liberal split also explains why libertarians have such an uneasy alliance with traditional conservatives. The more conservatives focus on the “economic liberty” part of their calculus, the more friends they find among libertarians. The more conservatives emphasize “moral security,” the more likely they are to drive libertarians away. (It’s an alliance comparable to that between dog-loving and cat-loving conservatives.)

But I digress. What’s more relevant to the earlier global warming discussion is the notion that the steps “needed” to fight man-made climate change fit so well with the liberal “sumptuary laws.” If you can’t convince people to eat vegetarian, drive a dinky car, recycle, use a squiggly light bulb, and move away from the cul-de-sac, maybe the government can convince them for you. And if all those things battle man-made global warming, heck, that’s a nice bonus!

Reader Comments