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    You happy puppet

    Authoritarianism is, more’s the pity, an inexhaustibly relevant topic these days. Instead of the unexamined assumption that all government agents have a rightful claim on our respect, Eric has tackled the more general assumption that being under authority is a good in and of itself that we should learn to like:

    What never ceases to fascinate me is the sheer gall of liberals in attributing “authoritarianism” to conservatives and libertarians while pretending that liberals are the authoritarian antithesis. It is one of liberalism’s biggest lies. Like so many of the people who drive around with bumperstickers that say “QUESTION AUTHORITY” — while they really mean to say “QUESTION AUTHORITY SELECTIVELY.”

    A lot of liberals don’t seem to think that sententious moralizing counts as sententious moralizing if you’re not using religion to back it up. I’m not sure where they get that idea, but as Eric says, it’s sheer effrontery and surpassingly annoying.

    Added on 6 April: One of Eric’s commenters (the first in the thread) took issue with his wording:

    Since when have libertarians considered “social shunning” to be “censorship”? Don’t people have a right to decide with whom they will associate?

    I didn’t see Eric use the word censorship there, though Phyllis Chesler did, and he quoted her approvingly. Her point doesn’t seem unreasonable, though—that a lot of leftists (especially university leftists) don’t just want to discredit the opposition by taking its ideas seriously, pulling them apart, and then refuting them; they want to keep it from being heard altogether. That’s a lot more like censorship than unlike it.

    Social shunning is less like censorship than, say, blocking the publication of a book. But your criteria for choosing friendships say something about your character, and it’s not out of bounds to maintain that they say something about your political positions, too, if you’re going to drop friends for their politics. At least when I was a boy, we were taught that it was practically a civic responsibility to assume good faith on the part of your political opponents and to seek out opportunities to get to know people with differing views. If someone shares your values about how to treat people—politeness, respect, consideration—and you otherwise have compatible personalities, I don’t think it speaks well of you if you decide he’s no longer worth breaking bread with because you disagree over politics.

    2 Responses to “You happy puppet”

    1. Eric Scheie says:

      Thanks for the link, Sean!

      When commenters put words in my mouth I often find myself having to say something like “I didn’t say that.” It not only sounds defensive, but it tends to draw me further into a debate with someone who has already shown himself to be unreasonable. And based on my experience, there is no point in debating people who have demonstrated that they did not come to the blog for fair or reasonable discussions, but to engage in dishonest partisan nit-picking.

      My post (which I think was obvious) was not about direct government censorship, but the way left wing authoritarian types bully others into self-censorship.

    2. Sean says:

      Yeah, I like debate, but at some point you do just have to give up and expect your ideas to speak for themselves as long as people are willing to listen. :)

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