David M. Brown's Blog

November 10, 2011

Contra Sam Adams’s uber-alliancing, pretending the commies aren’t attacking won’t make them go away

Filed under: Politics,Society and culture — davidmbrowndotcom @ 7:14 pm

Would the original Sam Adams have bought the “let’s-be-gaze-averting-friends-with-our-enemies” approach to fighting for freedom against those who would destroy it? At the Sam Adams Alliance blog, we learn:

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) crowd and the tea party movement really have a lot in common. They might not realize this yet—the most “respected” and “responsible” political observers certainly do not—but they are really allies.

Both groups are responding, in their different ways, to the same problems. They not might agree totally on the solutions, but if they only gave each other half a chance, they could work together. And if they did, there’s no telling what effect they might have on American politics.

This kind of blog post unnecessarily downplays or glosses over the rabidly something-for-nothing, socialistic and anti-capitalist mentality of much of the squat-on-Wall-Street movement, features that have been well documented. Of course, many involved are simply ignorant or confused. That has always been true of anti-capitalist movements.

Yes, activists who value freedom, capitalism and profit-making, on the one hand, and activists who want to destroy these, on the other, may have much in common. They’re human beings. They may adopt some of the same message-spreading techniques (although one side seems a lot more prone to window-smashing, setting up indefinite residency in property than does not belong to them and which they are not renting, and other manifestations of contempt for property rights and other human beings). Many on both sides may oppose bailouts of large firms. Many on both sides may like coffee, iPads, sex. Etc.

But it does a disservice to the cause of freedom to treat real and stark differences in ideology, temperament and goals as if they were subsidiary matters or readily resolvable with a little stress on commonalities and communication. Capitalists can’t win battles against adamant socialists and looters by pretending that the war against capitalism, economic success and individual rights is not being waged, that we’re really all on the “same” side…and so why don’t we all get along? Defenders of freedom, capitalism and civilization can’t “work together” with those bent on destroying these. Certainly ad hoc, temporary and narrow cooperation with certain political adversaries is possible on specific political questions where there happens to be agreement (bailouts, draft, drug legalization, perhaps) and where such cooperation does not imply a relinquishing of fundamental principles. But no such ad-hoc alliances should be allowed to blur the reality of the fundamental clash, what Sowell called the “conflict of visions”; the conflict between the basic values that are at stake. You can’t “work with” someone toward goals that are the opposite of the goals of the person with whom you would supposedly be working.

In a society with any classical liberal heritage, in the interests of the destroyers of civilization to hide their true goals, both from foes and from ignorant collaborators. It’s not in the interests of the defenders of civilization, not even for the sake of a superficial comity. We can persuade some of the more open-minded denizens of the left to come over to the side of freedom, but not by disguising the depth of our disagreements with them.



  1. If they went over to the side of freedom they wouldn’t be where they are, true, but they also wouldn’t find you when they got there. Freedom’s a lonely place when it comes to finding it among politicos and their lackeys.

    Comment by Old Jules — November 10, 2011 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

  2. Old Jules, I guess I don’t quite follow your comment. Why would a former foe of freedom who became a true friend of freedom be unable to “find [me]” among the friends of freedom (if that’s the “there” you’re referring to)? True, we probably would not be living in the same town or going to the same bars–especially since I don’t go to bars anyway….

    Comment by davidmbrowndotcom — November 10, 2011 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

  3. Freedom’s a word gets bandied about by anyone wishing to use it as a buzz word. True friends of freedom have ranged from Communists to NAZIs to Mexican revolutionaries to French revolutionaries. The fact you’ve attempted to take ownership of the word and draw a boundary around the meaning confining it to your particular set of goals doesn’t make it freedom, any more than when the Communists did it. Waving a flag and calling it patriotism doesn’t have anything at all to do with patriotism, and saying your particular demigogue is a patriot and freedom lover only means you think he’ll rob you less than someone else would under a different political banner. Has nothing to do with freedom.

    Comment by Old Jules — November 10, 2011 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  4. I define freedom, broadly, as an absence of coercion, the ability to do what you wish with your own life and property as long as it does not interfere with the equal rights of others. The concept as I understand it is grounded in the requirements of human survival and flourishing in a social context. Freedom is not a condition in which others are free to rob or murder you at will, in flagrant disregard of your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    How does Jules define freedom? Simply announcing that persons disagree about what it means, or have attached the word to its opposite, doesn’t clarify anything or make his own viewpoint clear–a viewpoint which I’m guessing is something on the order of “freedom is slavery,” “property is theft,” “profit is surplus stolen from workers,” and all that sort of vicious incoherency.

    I certainly can’t agree that Hitler, Stalin, the head-loppers of the French Revolution, or any mass-murdering tyrant is an exponent of “freedom.” The problem with words is that they can always be abused by dishonest or sloppy thinkers. But it would be wrong to infer from this liability that we should instead prefer grunting and pointing as the primary means of articulating our political philosophies.

    Comment by davidmbrowndotcom — December 10, 2011 @ 3:27 am | Reply

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