Monday, May 16, 2011

"Right-Wing Social Engineering"?

That was Newt Gingrich's description of Paul Ryan's budget plan and, as many have already commented, that remark, along with the rest of his performance on the Sunday shows, effectively ended whatever very small chance he ever had of winning the Republican nomination for president.  But this is not about that.
Rather, it's about that phrase: "right-wing social engineering."  I don't know about you, but I find it grating, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard grating.  There is so much wrong with it, it's hard to know where to begin.  Anyway, here's a couple of thoughts:

1.  Insofar as "right-wing" means "conservative", there is no such thing as conservative social-engineering.  Right-wing social engineering is still left-wing social engineering.  Social engineering, even the temptation to it, is in toto a product of modern, left-wing thought and practice--meddling, rationalizing, leveling, bureaucratic, and coercive left-wing thought and practice.

Conservative "soulcraft", by contrast, strives always to be consistent with maximum liberty.  (Lefties rarely even pause over threats to liberty anymore.)   Soulcraft is teaching, training, encouraging, admonishing, and, yes, even punishing, if and when necessary, towards old-fashioned virtue, private and public.  It is understood by conservatives to be accomplished most effectively by the family, by voluntary associations, by the local community, and by the church--decidedly not by the state.

2.   Use of the phrase belies a fundamental belief that what currently divides our country can be adequately captured on some continuum of thought, left to right.  But that notion itself belies an even more fundamental belief that, actually, nothing divides our country, that it's all a matter of degree.  The modern, nanny-state leviathan is the norm; we're only arguing about more or less, (Always privileging "more", of course.)

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