10A042 Liberty Attacked! by Jim Davies, 10/13/2010

Sally Kohn, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, laid in with both fists flailing on October 8th against Glenn Beck, the conservative talk-show host whom she mistook for an advocate of "extreme individualism." I had thought the Monitor was a bit less statist than most of its contemporaries. Not any more.

Beck sounds like a nice guy with a lot of correct and valuable things to say, and I'll usually choose to hear him on the car radio in preference to the stations offering only jungle music and NPR discussions of political blah. However Kohn quoted him as saying that the idea of "collective salvation is dangerous to the Constitutional republic.” He was wrong, if he did say that, and Kohn was quite right to call him on it. Collectivism is precisely what the Constitutional Republic is all about. When the founders met in Philly, they drew up a program for collective cooperation, notably for example in collectivized defense. "Collectivism" is another word for socialism, the idea that everybody is forced to pay for benefits the collective decides that everybody shall have. It doesn't work.

So Beck's error was to imply that America isn't collectivist. Wrong; alas, it always has been. If he had said something rather different, as possibly he intended, he could have been quite right; he might have said “collective salvation is dangerous to the ideal of liberty" - and that would have been so true as to be a truism. Liberty and collectivism are diametrically opposed.

However, Kohn attacked Beck as if that is what he had said.

Her key words: "Yes, the colonists fled the tyranny of the British crown, but the choice they made was democracy over monarchy, not extreme individualism over statehood." True, that's what they did do, or at least that's what they were swindled into doing, by the founders who claimed to represent them, but Kohn inserted the word "extreme" to qualify "individualism" and that's the big give-away. It's what reveals her and her journal as thoroughly statist.

Individualism refers to human self-ownership, and it's binary. Either you do have the right to own and operate your own life, or else you don't. Kohn described a binary switch as if "on" meant "extremely on" and "off" meant "extremely off." She was trying to tarnish the term, to make the reader dislike or distrust the concept; individual liberty, she implied, is something "extreme." Ooh, shiver-shudder. Bad, dangerous, fanatical.

Glenn Beck falls short of being committed to individual liberty, so Kohn's barrage hit the wrong target. But more than they usually do, this establishment newspaper revealed, by publishing her commentary, where it really stands. Even before government evaporates, such publications will fail; they are yesterday's news.

Your feedback, please!