The Left’s Vision Versus the Right’s Philosophy


This argument, from a Des Moines Register editorial betrays an intellectual tic one catches from time to time among those who tend to support the growth of government:

Cutting taxes and reducing the size of government is not a vision for the future. It is a philosophy, and one that has devastated other Republican-controlled states like Kansas and Louisiana. Instead of economic growth, those states realized canceled college graduations, abused children sleeping in government offices, depleted trust funds and abrupt tax increases to rescue the state from total fiscal disaster.

Interestingly, one doesn’t get the sense that the editorial writers are dogmatically in support of bigger, more-expansive government for its own sake.  Although they complain that state government in Iowa is giving up too much potential revenue, they also want to reform occupational licensing, for example.

But the implications of the quotation above are telling, and it brings to mind a dispute I’ve had in Tiverton.  Those on the Left will ask for “the vision” of those on the Right, but they won’t accept as visionary a community that isn’t guided by a central plan.  Vision, to them, implicitly means describing what you want your town or state to look like in the future and therefore excludes a preference for an undesigned future in which neighborhoods develop according to the unique interests and personalities of the people who live in them.

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That goes hand in hand with progressives’ favored presumption that growing government is just a practical conclusion from the facts.  The editorial writers proclaim a “vision,” which leaves only practical discussions about how to achieve the desired future (somebody’s desired future, anyway).  In that view, philosophy is only important insofar as it might inform acceptable routes; it never supersedes vision by declaring some future beyond the legitimate scope of the visionaries.

But if one’s philosophy is that it is inappropriate to impose a vision, well, then, that’s just adherence to irrational abstractions, proving that one can’t possibly care about goodness and justice in the world.  In this distinction, one can see how the seeds of totalitarianism are present in even moderate expressions of a left-wing philosophy.

  • Mike678

    Nice job.