The Duck of Minerva

The evolution of punditry (updated again)

18 December 2007

The recently leaked photographs of Liberal Fascisms table of contents have provided some of my favorite bloggers with an excuse for another round of snark at Jonah Goldberg’s expense. John Cole mostly hits the proverbial nail on the head when he writes:

The most depressing thing about Jonah Goldberg’s new book is that this whole “liberals are fascist” argument is going to morph from something idiot frat boys would argue after three credit hours in poly sci. and a dozen Mickey’s Big Mouth and would be laughed out of the room to something that idiots like Peggy Noonan and David brooks will peddle with straight faces on Hardball.

But that’s not quite right.

Goldeberg’s basically a second-rate right-wing blogger with family connections. And such bloggers would, about ten years ago, have been right-wing usenet trolls. So the fact that he’s written a book reproducing one of the most common arguments among faux-intellectual usenet ideologues shouldn’t shock anybody. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Goldberg main research involved using google to access old posts on alt.politics groups.

My recommendation? Skip Goldberg’s remake and read the original version.Hayek’s far too smart to rely on “similar element” comparisons among European political ideologies that, by their nature, all share some features by virtue of descent from common ancestors and mimetic transfer.

UPDATE: I was thinking about posting a long overdue response to a series of critiques Donald Douglas leveled at “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate” when I came across a real gem: a piece by Goldberg rejecting the “American Empire” label:

Critics of American foreign policy point to the fact that the U.S. does many things that empires once did – police the seas, deploy militaries abroad, provide a lingua franca and a global currency – and then rest their case. But noting that X does many of the same things as Y does not mean that X and Y are the same thing. The police provide protection, and so does the Mafia. Orphanages raise children, but they aren’t parents. If your wife cleans your home, tell her she’s the maid because maids also clean homes. See how well that logic works.

Now, I happen to think these are pretty good arguments against some of Ferguson’s warrants for declaring American an empire (‘it’s big, it’s powerful, it’s got troops all over the place….’) but its also a stunning display of the kind of reasoning that should have prevented him from writing the book in question.

UPDATE II: It turns out I already wrote a better version of this post two years ago.