Think of this as Volume 11, Number 32 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I’ve written since 1997. Enjoy.
This is the same exhilaration conservatives felt a generation ago as they saw the Great Society collapsing. It’s the same feeling liberal academics had a generation before that, seeing the fall of the Boogoisie.
As regular readers of this blog know, such stupidity comes from a generation’s old insight which is being deployed past its sell-by date. Today’s stupidity is based on the Cold War assumptions brought to power by Richard Nixon and (later) Ronald Reagan.
True believers in that stupidity use the ideas of Nixon and Reagan the way medicine men might use shrunken heads. The attacks of John McCain in this last month have repeated both the strategies and tactics of the last 40 years, yet its Rove’s minions who are being laughed at. (When your attacks are upstaged by Paris Hilton you’ve become a caricature.)
So for many people this is a summer of celebration. Liberals have a right to run around like Munchkins after the house fell on the wicked witch. But wise people, and if you’ve found this blog you’re truly a wise person who looks outside the beaten path, should be examining the oncoming assumptions to see how they might be abused, and eventually overthrown, in years to come.
Having been inside the movement which came up with these assumptions, having named them the Internet Thesis, I’d like to offer my services as your guide. Especially since, like Krugman, most of the better candidates are too busy celebrating the collapse of the old order to look inside the new:
See <a href="http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/64ad536a6d">Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad</a> and more <a href="http://www.funnyordie.com">funny videos</a> on <a href="http://www.funnyordie.com">FunnyOrDie.com</a>
Consensus can be wrong — The Internet Thesis is based on the idea of consensus, on the idea of starting with where we agree and building policies outward from there.
But consensus views can be wrong. They are susceptible to being overthrown by dedicated minorities. A consensus should stick to principles, and not be depended upon for detailed policies. Policy flexibility is more important than adherence to the consensus.
- Openness can be taken advantage of — We have seen this time-after-time in our history. An open polity may be unable to come to a decision, especially after the crisis for which the consensus was built has passed. It’s easy, now, to let everyone who wants to in, knowing that the falling Thesis is out there for the rest. But after that Thesis has died, and been reborn into something new, that threat will return, and once openness is assumed we’ll become susceptible again.
- Freedom is hard to maintain — The true bounds of freedom are never completely clear. As we saw in the 1960s, freedom can itself become an absolute, and a self-destructive one. It is best maintained in opposition to tyranny, but what happens when that opposition falls? Conservatism’s answer was to create a new enemy, and that doesn’t work. The fact is every generation needs new challenges, and we need to be ready to present them, accept them, even embrace them. This gets harder as you grow older. Take my word on that.
- Evil is Real — Anyone who has spent any time on the Internet, dealing with viruses, DNS attacks, spam and phishing, knows that evil is real, and always ready to take advantage of freedom, consensus and openness. The bounds of order, the rationale for order, and the maintenance of order are imperative for a free society, and if that sounds like a contradiction you’re ready to read The Federalist Papers. (You may even be ready for its opposite.)
Most important, a Thesis based on balance is subject to becoming imbalanced, a lot. Think of it as a triangle balanced on its point as opposed to its base.
So, young man, young woman, in embracing the Internet Thesis of politics, even if you end up calling it The Obama Thesis in your history books, don’t pretend that you have the final answer. There is none. This truth is at the heart of The Internet Thesis, but it may also be its undoing one day. And you have to be ready for that possibility. In all likelihood, I don’t.