Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jonah Goldberg: What’s Wrong with Extremism?

A good piece about how the mugwump way of governing is simply stupid. Some snips:

Almost by definition, illegal immigrants don’t create a paper trail when they come into the country. Hence, proving how long they’ve resided here presents a real challenge. It also creates massive opportunities for fraud and opens the door to a truly extreme bureaucratic expansion where immigration officials will have to study everything from ATM receipts to soccer team photos to figure out how long each immigrant has been here. The extreme liberal position of blanket amnesty and the extreme conservative position of blanket enforcement both make a lot more sense intellectually and practically.

This sort of thing is typical across the political landscape. Personally, I believe the radical remedy of privatizing health care in this country makes a lot of sense. But, I’m also inclined to believe that the Left’s extreme solution of government-run health care—or “single-payer”—has a lot more going for it intellectually than the crazy quilt of regulations and grotesquely distorted markets we have today.

On issue after issue, the Left and Right get into a tug-of-war over their preferred policy solutions. And politicians, extreme people-pleasers that they are, try to split the difference. The journalists who cover politicians are cynics and assume that true believers are by their very nature suspicious. Moreover, because politicians and mainstream journalists alike get the most grief from “partisans” of the Left and the Right, they both assume that the middle is the most enlightened place to be, since they think that’s where they are. But compromise is not always the smartest way to go. Leaping a canyon in one jump may or may not be stupidly extreme, but it’s a hell of lot smarter than the more moderate approach of trying to leap it in two jumps.


Paladins of bipartisan moderation may not realize how responsible they are for today’s polarized climate. In America, it is impossible to gain traction on an idea unless you first assure everyone that it’s not “extreme” or “radical.”

Assurances that “this is a moderate, centrist reform,” and that “this is mainstream,” proliferate whenever a policy is put forward. There’s a deep cynicism in the assumption that Americans will only agree to things that aren’t too inconvenient. But, more important, there’s a profound dishonesty to such assurances, which inevitably cause people with opposing views to get very, very angry.

For example, legalizing gay marriage may or may not be a moral imperative. But when you tell opponents that doing so is not only no big deal, but also that those who disagree are extremists for disagreeing, it’s insulting. And, when pro-legalization activists refer to gay marriage as “landmark,” “revolutionary” and “historic” to their own side while selling it to the rest of America as a modest reform, it’s hard not to assume some bad faith.
One of the most effective means of controlling people is to use the fear of ostracism against them. "If you believe this, that means you're a meanyhead and no one will like you and you'll be alone. If you don't buy this product, you'll be left out of the reindeer games and be an outcast freak. Follow. Accept. And be accepted and loved. Disagree and be shunned and vilified."

Keep this in mind whenever you hear aristrocratic hypocrites like Al Gore call Team Dubya a "renegade band of rightwing extremists" before destroying the atmosphere with his private jet from which he hunts ManBearPig.

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