I have a good deal of admiration for Paul Gottfried as a scholar. I not only thoroughly enjoyed his book After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State– which tells the story of how modern liberalism emerged as a horse of a completely different color than its ostensible predecessor, classical liberalism, and how the idols (‘scuze me, ideals) of “democracy” and “pluralism” served as a cover for the ascent to power of an essentially elitist managerial ideology- but felt like I emerged as a more educated person after reading it. And listening to his speeches at Mises.org reveals that he is an engaging personality with an active and lucid intelligence. Of course he is an unapologetic man of the Right and I am a nascent Left-Libertarian, but that is really neither here nor there.
I agree generally with the assessment of conservative critics like Gottfried that the egalitarian sentimentality that has come to be known as “political correctness” has become a totalitarian ideology in late-imperialist America. However, the whole “the animals have taken over the zoo- even the Republicans!” theme that is obsessively sounded in Gottfried’s column at Taki’s Mag is beginning to tire me. And even more . . .
It shouldn’t be hard to guess that a libertarian and a conservative would have different reasons to oppose political correctness. The conservative bemoans the loss of a stable order in a formerly great civilization. Gottfried offers us a bit of that, even if he is too smart to go in whole-hog in the misty-eyed romanticism of 1950’s-worship of lesser Rightists. My own main beef is that, in the rush to usher in the millennium of equality, the evangelists have created a hostile environment for free thought, and for the honest pursuit of truth for its own sake. The started out with good ends, but adopted the most bullying and stupid means to achieve them. All intellectual life is degraded in this atmosphere. A recent Gottfried article illustrates what I’m talking about:
talking about politics and history is rarely “scientific” and less so in our frenetically progressive and anti-traditional age than in the older bourgeois age that preceded it. It was once possible for the devoutly Lutheran German historian Leopold von Ranke to write about the Renaissance Papacy with detachment and even sympathy, because historians in 19th-century Europe were expected to write that way. (Of course in practice not all historians met such a demanding standard, but at least they knew what the standard was.) In our age, by contrast, any failure to dwell on sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia in one’s account of the past will likely result in the kind of career that I and other academic mavericks of my acquaintance have had to endure.
This sort of threat to objective inquiry has led many intelligent people to oppose politically correct ideas. But this becomes a problem if the bigots become to look like freethinkers. Totalitarian liberalism has led many libertarians into the arms of the Right, where in my opinion they have no business whatsoever. The end of that same Gottfried article gives a good example of the kind of callousness that can result from the wrong kind of anti-PC attitude:
I once listened to an Ashanti cab driver in Washington boasting about how his tribe had sold the black slaves who would be used to construct the U.S. capital. Whether it was true or not, I found this boast to be refreshing. The African cab driver did not suffer from the choking sense of guilt I encounter in American WASPs.
I also oppose “the politics of guilt” as Gottfried keeps calling it. In the first place, it doesn’t erase any past wrongs, in the second, as an individualist I disbelieve in collective guilt, and finally, it’s just no way to live your life. But come on, dude. There’s nothing refreshing about actually being proud of slavery. That doesn’t mean I want to put the cab driver in prison or force him into a sensitivity training course, as the most zealous “anti-racists” would. But sometimes you have to call a racist idiot a racist idiot. Some things aren’t politically correct, they’re just correct.