Betsy DeVos Causes Stupidity (Part II)

Meant to get to this earlier, but wanted to comment on another reaction to Betsy DeVos's confirmation as Secretary of Education :

Explanation: some of my Facebook friends are full-tilt-boogie lefties. I don't believe in defriending people over politics, so I see a lot of this.

Is it too ridiculously stupid to respond to? Hey, maybe! But let's do it anyway.

So: "fascist agenda"? Especially in relation to DeVos's confirmation? Please.

Over the years, we've linked to George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" numerous times. It griped Orwell (who, don't forget, went up against actual fascists) to see the term approach worthlessnesss:

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

This appears to be pretty much the case with CREDO Action (a self-proclaimed "progressive" activist group). Their statement repeats the "fascist" smear, but (unsurprisingly) offers nothing specific to back it up.

Let's assume the motivation for the "fascist" label is what CREDO calls DeVos's "disregard for public education", which (let's further assume) is her advocacy for school choice, via vouchers, charter schools, etc.

In which case, the "fascist" charge is utterly deranged. But it's not uncommon. In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg noted an episode of the TV show The West Wing where Mallory (Allison Smith) deemed Sam (Rob Lowe) a fascist because he dared argue in favor of school vouchers. Never mind about that, by the way, because Sam was just playing devil's advocate there, and Mallory mistook that for his actual views. Presumably, in West Wing land, had those been Sam's actual opinions, Mallory would have been entirely justified in deeming him a fascist.

Which is damned odd. By which I mean "insanely stupid". Because (as Jonah points out) "school choice is arguably the most un-fascist public policy ever conceived, after homeschooling".

(And yes, Betsy DeVos considers homeschooling to be a "perfectly valid educational option".)

The simple fact is that actual fascists were completely in favor of state schooling, and implacably hostile to educational institutions and arrangements outside the control of the government.

  • In Italy, Mussolini's 1919 Fascist platform demanded the "obligation of the state to provide and maintain schools whose character decisively and soundly shapes a national conscience, impartial in character but rigidly secular". And, of course an obligation to "fully enforce the law concerning mandatory schooling".

  • Up in Germany, the Nazis demanded "a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program" which would "enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education". (Hey, just like Bernie!) Catholic schools were closed under Nazi rule.

Why it's almost as if the CREDO dimwits didn't stop for one millisecond to ask themselves: "Isn't it likely that Fascists would disapprove of kids being educated outside state control?" Which all brings us back to Orwell again:

Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism?

Orwell deemed this attitude (ascribed to "Stuart Chase and others") an "absurdity". Guess what, George? We live in absurd times.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-16

Today's Proverb is 29:14:

If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.

Its relevance to a republic with a term-limited executive and an independent judiciary is left as an exercise for the reader…

Oh, heck, no. I'll just say it: the Proverb has zero relevance to a republic with a term-limited executive and an independent judiciary. Try harder, Proverbs.

  • The Daily Signal has the bad news, and asks the relevant question: "US Economic Freedom Has Hit a Historic Low. What Happened?" It's a long-term trend:

    The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom—an annual global study that compares countries’ entrepreneurial environments—highlights the urgent need for the U.S. to change course. For the ninth time since 2008, America has lost ground.

    Out of 180 countries ranked, the US is number 17, which is depressing. Heritage points its shaky-with-outrage finger at Obama and "increased government spending, regulations, and a failed stimulus program that enriched the well-connected while leaving average Americans behind."

    The Index web presence is kind of spiffy, with tools to create your own graphs and explore the data.

    Today's Getty image is from Hong Kong, number one in the Heritage Index.

  • Virginia Postrel, insightful as always, declares the US to be "One Nation, Divisible by What Scares Us Most".

    Red America worries about deliberate human action. Blue America dreads unintended, usually inanimate, threats. Red America focuses mostly on the body politic. Blue America emphasizes the body. In the pre-Trump era, that meant conservatives talked about crime, foreign enemies, and moral decay while liberals emphasized environmental poisons, illness, unwanted pregnancies, and material deprivation. As we’ll see, Donald Trump added a twist of his own (and jettisoned the old conservative moral concerns). But the basic people-vs.-things division remains.

    Ms. Postrel's observations are apt. If you're not depressed enough by the country's decaying economic freedom, then you can always contemplate how well fear-mongering works as a tool of political persuasion for both Red and Blue pols.

  • I don't know what to think about the Michael Flynn kerfuffle, but I found a number of arguments to be interesting, if not slam-dunk convincing. Certainly David Harsanyi has good advice: "When It Comes To The Michael Flynn, Everyone Needs To Get A Grip"

    A person can believe that Trump’s footsie-playing with Vlad Putin is misguided and harmful, and that a politically motivated deep state that drops selective leaks meant to sink a national security advisor is also unhealthy for the republic. You don’t have to like Donald Trump to understand that spooks shouldn’t use their power to undermine elected governments and that functionaries of a previous administration shouldn’t sabotage new ones to preserve their Russia-approved Iran deals.

    "Get a grip" is generally good advice.

  • Mr. Harsanyi's link goes to Eli Lake's Bloomberg column, also much worth reading, on "The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn"

    Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

    Aaaaand that's what happened here. Good luck stuffing that demon back into the box.

    (Although it's interesting to compare peoples' attitudes toward (a) leaks of Hillary-damaging private mail by (alleged) Russian intelligence; and (b) leaks of Trump-damaging private conversations by American intelligence. There seems to be some double standards in play!)

  • At NR, Andrew C. McCarthy advocates: "Make the Flynn Tape Public".

    For now, the so-called deep state — the intelligence operatives and highly placed officials who run the United States government because they have the power to ruin their opposition — would apparently prefer that we not hear the tape. Many of them are Obama functionaries who are content to shape opinion by leaking their edited version of events to media allies. Some of them are Trump functionaries whose mishandling of what may be a tempest in a teapot has made them vulnerable less than four weeks into the new administration. Perhaps, they calculate, handing up Flynn’s scalp makes their problem go away. In reality, it is just whetting the opposition’s appetite.

    Mr. McCarthy's article is full of relevant details and likely hypotheses. One drive-by observation: "We now know that during the campaign — even as Democrats were expressing outrage at the suggestion that Trump, if he won, might have Hillary Clinton investigated — Obama was actually having Trump investigated." So, as Bob Dole might ask, where's the outrage?

  • And finally, "Dr. Nick" Gillespie asks the musical question: Is Michael Flynn's Resignation a Sign of the Deep State's Power, or a Sign of Its Vulnerability?

    But in the aggregate, the leaks inspired by Trump taking office serve the useful function of making visible the deep state and the permanent government in Washington that persists regardless of which party holds the White House and Congress. On the surface, that's demoralizing to those of us who are interested in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government. It's the old "you can't fight City Hall" line extrapolated to the nth degree. Trump will almost certainly gain fuller control of government agencies once he purges Obama loyalists and folks interested in crippling his administration's ability to set its own agenda. But in the meantime, the "unprecedented" volume of leaks serve an ironic function against the people making them: They show the extent to which bureaucrats are dug in and willing to go to almost any length to maintain a status quo that is plainly not working not working for taxpayers and citizens. The government is deeply in debt due to persistent, high levels of spending, foreign policy in the 21st century has simply lurched from disaster to the next, the intel community has been exposed repeatedly for unauthorized and unaccountable surveillance, and more. Donald Trump's agenda, which veers clearly towards authoritarianism and paranoid secrecy in many ways, is forcing the deep state to make itself visible, which is a necessary (though not sufficient) step in cutting it down to size.

    Dr. Nick is a glass-half-full kind of guy.