Fear: The real motivator behind the nanny state

In an article that really ought to be online but instead is consigned solely behind a paywall and to its print edition, National Review’s Kevin Williamson makes a point that ought to be made more often: for all that lefties love to talk about “fear-mongering” allegedly done by the right on foreign policy, when it comes to domestic policy, they really ought to look in the mirror.

Instead of being the side of optimism and reason, nanny-state advocates are actually trying to institutionalize their own personal fears about other members of society. Williamson begins with a quote from a blog post from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reacting to recent Supreme Court rulings expanding the ability of people to own and possess guns:
My biggest worry with Monday’s Supreme Court decision is that by ruling, in effect, that every American can apply for a gun license, the justices will make gun ownership much more pervasive in a society that already has too many guns. After all, if I know that my neighbor is armed and preparing for Armageddon situations where law and order break down (as so many are–just read the right-wing blogs) then I have to think about protecting my family, too. That’s the state-of-nature, everyone for himself logic that prevails in places such as Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Williamson then begins the slicing and dicing:
Mr Ignatius here is remarkably forthcoming: He is not worried about guns in the hands of criminals but about guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, people who are willing to apply for a permit and jump through the bureaucratic hoops required of gun buyers. His nightmare is not an America in which criminals run amok with Glocks, or even an America in which gun permits are handed out liberally, but an America in which “every American can apply for a gun license.” Nevermind the approval of licenses, the mere application gives Mr. Ignatius the howling fantods. It is wonderfully apt that he references the “state of nature” in his criticism, imagining a Hobbesian version of life in these United States: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, permeated by the aroma of cordite. Mr. Ignatius, like Thomas Hobbes, is casting his lot with Leviathan and makes no apology for it.

That is the essence of 21st-century progressivism: In matters ranging from financial derivatives to education to gun control, the Left believes that we face a choice between a masterful state and a Hobbesian war of all against all. For all of the smart set’s vaunted and self-congratulatory nuance, it is this absolutist vision, this Manichean horror, that forms the foundation of progressivism.

This, and not the threat of uncontrollable crime, is really at the hear of the suburban progressives’ abomination of firearms. [...] To use lethal force in self-defense is the ultimate declaration of independence, a kind of momentary secession from the authority of the government whose laws and prisons and police officers have, in that moment, failed the citizen. To acknowledge the right to self-defense–and the concomitant right to be forearmed against aggressors–is to acknowledge that some things are outside the state and its authority, or at least that some moments are outside the state and its authority.

The horror that progressives feel for gun owners is in many ways like the horror they feel for homeschoolers [...] Just as state schooling is not about education, but about the state, gun control is not about guns: It’s about control. A citizen who can fend for himself when the predators come or the schools fail is less inclined to look to the state for sustenance and oversight in other areas of life. To progressives, that’s an invitation to anarchy.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

1 comment:

  1. A great article, indeed - judging by the extract!

    The left can't comprehend any form of society more sophisticated that tribalism. Their idol, Marx (whether they know it or not), never understood economic principles so basic they form the first two chapters of any introductory text. Leftism is for persons of dumb.


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