The Campus Utopians
The Left seems to think you can change reality the way you change your major.


Jonah Goldberg

Wage Slaves, No More!

If you think about it, the spin that Obamacare is awesome because it breaks the iron shackles of “job-lock” is a good example of what I am getting at. Via Charlie Cooke I saw this tweet from the Huffington Post’s congressional correspondent, Michael McAuliff:

There’s an irony in the GOP complaining that ACA lets people quit jobs. I mean, what’s wrong with freedom?

There’s a great swirling maelstrom of philosophical fallacy stretching backwards from this tweet like the funnel cloud of a cyclone extending down and backward from a swirling maw of ignorance [“Push away the keyboard and sit out the next few plays” -- The Couch]. It assumes that negative liberty — which right-minded people call, simply “liberty” — is, in Charlie’s words, “a mirage.” Government gives you freedom by giving you stuff. This is the logic that says a refusal to subsidize art is censorship; that the failure to provide housing is the same as denying it; that people have a right to have things provided for them they are unwilling to earn themselves. Or as FDR said “necessitous men are not free men.” So when the government gives you stuff you need (or merely want) it is setting you free.

What I like about McAuliff’s tweet is the light and airy sense of the new to it. As if he stumbled onto an insight about conservative objections to positive-liberty arguments that hadn’t occurred to conservatives before. Never mind that this is one of the oldest arguments in political philosophy. (Just for the record, I don’t reject all of the things associated with positive-liberty interventions by the state, I just reject the notion that humans have a “right” to material goods. The state may have obligations moral or legal, but those don’t amount to universal human rights. That’s because rights come from God not from government. We’re not born with material possessions, but we are born with inalienable rights. Confusion on this point has immiserated millions.)

When Nancy Pelosi says that Obamacare is entrepreneurial because it will let people quit their jobs to become poets, you can see the campus utopianism coming through. Quitting your job is like changing your major from business administration to French literature. “You just make the most of yourself, dear,” Dean of Students Pelosi is saying, “we’ll take care of the rest.” Who is Julia — of “Life of Julia” fame — other than a permanent student with the government operating as a sympathetic R.A. or academic adviser? When you read millennial Lefties like this guy, you can almost hear him trying to convince his Model U.N. buddies to stage a sit-in at the cafeteria. Everyone should have a job if they want one, but nobody should have to take a job they don’t like. From design your major to design your life.  

Of course, Utopias don’t exist — the word itself means “No Place.” Which is why I love listening to the supposed champions of the “reality-based community” talking as if, with just a tiny bit of tinkering and a few more tax hikes, everything will click into place. Harry Reid said this week that Obamacare will help achieve the goal of making everyone a “free agent.” This from a voluntary thrall of labor unions — who consider free-agency in any form to be heresy — and the chief protector of Obamacare, which denies Americans the freedom to refuse to purchase a product they don’t want.

Eutopias — good societies, not perfect ones — do exist. We live in one as a matter of fact. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There always is, and always has been. But when you’ve got a good thing, there is almost by definition, no need to “fundamentally transform” it into something else. The utopian can never fully accept this because the good is always the enemy of the perfect. And it’s true that the perfect is better than the merely good in every respect, save one. It doesn’t, and cannot, exist. And dreaming of things that have never been and asking “Why Not?” won’t change that.


Zoë Update

So, I am very happy to report Zoë is doing great. Not only does she seem to have kicked the parvo bug (knock on wood), but it appears that a lot of her weird behavioral issues stemmed from the fact that she was just sick from the moment we got her, poor girl. She’s still a bit too fearful of big dogs and — I am a little embarrassed to say — too obsequious to our cats. If it weren’t so humiliating it’d be sweet. She thinks Gracie (the good cat, as opposed to my wife’s cat) should be her playmate. Zoë kind of does this strange growl-howl when Gracie won’t play with her and then rolls around on the floor while Gracie hisses. The good news is that Zoë is very clearly determined to ethnically cleanse the block of squirrels. Anyway thanks very much for your kind notes and support. Here’s your Zoë pic of the week:



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