Civic Engagement is for Suckers

Kevin Carson tells why.

This reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a left-liberal, Dissent-magazine type who argued that liberals should be for the draft on the grounds that the draft would result in fewer wars because people wouldn’t support war if their kids had to do the fighting. I pointed out that American wars tended to be even more extreme and casualty-producing when the state had a virtually unlimited supply of conscripts at its disposal. See Vietnam, Korea, the two World Wars, and the Civil War.

He replied, “Yeah, but the draft would contribute to greater civic involvement. You can’t have a liberal society when fifty percent of the population opts out.” The latter comment was a reference to the percentage of Americans who actually vote in elections.

My reply? “Well, who cares about having a liberal society in the first place?”

3 replies »

  1. “You can’t have a liberal society when fifty percent of the population opts out.” I love how liberals always implicitly posit their social system as the “end of history”, and always assume that that’s what everyone naturally wants. Oddly, he is aware of the ignorance indicated by low levels of democratic participation and yet attributes this to a character defect in the American population, rather than as a flaw in liberalism itself. His claim regarding the drift only further illustrates my argument that liberalism, as it is based on abstract principles rather than concrete facts, is inevitably ridden with paradoxes…one of which is that it must become illiberal in order to maintain its long-term survival. In this sense, liberalism is like a diabetic who needs his legs surgically removed in order to live.

  2. I’m guessing “liberal” was a codeword for “Lefty” in this instance, as opposed to the type of society you or I may find more to our taste?

    I know all that “civic involvement” horseshit doesn’t sound like *my* idea of liberal.

  3. In the U.S., “liberal” is a synonym for social democrat, though he may have been using the term in the older Jacobin, Rousseau-influenced, left-wing of the Enlightenment sense. Americans also use the term “progressive” to describe this kind of outlook. In England, “liberalism” is typically identified with the Lockean tradition of classical liberalism associated with John Stuart Mill or Herbert Spencer.

    The fellow I’m talking about is very much a leftist-social democrat, often rather dogmatically so. He greatly dislikes libertarians.

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