Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wilkinson's especially astute remark on Naomi Klein

We all know by now that Naomi Klein writes and speaks about matters she never bothered to study. It's also become evident that, like most of the far-leftists I've encountered who are younger than 75, she's so far from being an analytic thinker as to sound not just dippy but pseudo-insane. And she rarely misses an opportunity to remind us of these two points. Take her recent speech at the University of Chicago, as reported in the New Yorker:
My grandparents were pretty hard-core Marxists, and in the thirties and forties they believed fervently in the dream of egalitarianism that the Soviet Union represented,” Klein told the audience in Chicago. “They had their illusions shattered by the reality of gulags, of extreme repression, hypocrisy, Stalin’s pact with Hitler. . . . The left has been held accountable for the crimes committed in the name of its extreme ideologies, and I believe that’s been a very healthy process. . . . When you start issuing policy prescriptions, when you start advising heads of state, you no longer have the luxury of only being judged on how you think your ideas will affect the world. You begin having to contend with how they actually affect the world, even when that reality contradicts all of your utopian theories.

The difference is so elementary I'd expect even the slouching illiterates and grade-beggars taking noncalculus physics at the State Megauniversity from which I've posting this message to spot it: Repression followed from revolutionary socialism as a consequence of the ideology. Repression in a few states that (to Klein, at least) are nominally free-marketeer merely happened in the same place and, to a person who sees time in "eras" and not in minutes and seconds, the same time. It's worth noting that market reforms only came to Chile after several years of the repressive regime. To claim that repression somehow followed from free-marketeer economic advice is, to anyone with a civilized idea of time, absurd. But even in other cases the causal link has not been established, and Klein has not lifted a finger to try to establish it. Guilt-by-association is easier and association-by-error is easier still.

It is clear that Klein is not an intellectual in the narrow sense and that ideas are not driving her writing. Will Wilkinson remarks on what might make her tick:
Klein and her husband, Avi Lewis, come off as so saturated in familial left-wing politics that their ideology, such as it is, seems less a set of propositions that might be true or false than an ethnic identity or tribal commitment that can neither be chosen nor forsaken. Bred-in-the-bone cultural assumptions rarely cohere when articulated; their logic is emotional.

There's more; the whole post is worthwhile.

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