Monday, March 01, 2004

An interesting point and long-winded, rambling commentary

American Christians, being in the majority, always seem to me to have a certain amount of trouble mentally separating church from state like this. As Jews are in the minority, you never see a Jewish person arguing from the fact that bacon-eating is religiously prohibited to the conclusion that bacon-eating ought to be legally prohibited. Shift scenes to Israel, however, where Jews are in the majority, and all of a suddent this liberalism drops away, and observant Jews want the state to enforce religious restrictions, and only secular Jews can be found defending liberalism. The substantive religious beliefs of the Orthodox don't change, but the approach to public policy does. I imagine that Christians living in, say, Israel, Indonesia, or India would likewise develop a newfound appreciation for the difference between religion and politics.
-Matt Yglesias

The reason why I decided to quote the Famous Yeglesias at length was because I think he touched on an important fact with the above post: liberal democracy requires a certain level of doubt. If people refused to concede that their was a chance they were wrong, they would more than likely be opposed to crucial elements of a free society, they would put their own particular goals ahead of democratic institutions. Lenin articulates the extremist posistion particularly well:

Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?

Why am I brining this up? Well, in his latest Op-Ed, left-wing cartoonist Ted Rall complained about Americans' fear of extremism and obsession with moderation (I admit I am being a bit unfair to Rall, since he does concede that radicalism can be risky, but I take issue with the main thrust of article). Now a moderation fetish isn't necessairly always good, but it does provide a crucial safeguard. I thing our tendency to fear radicalism is one of the main reasons why America has been able to move forwards, surely if slowly, because by minimizing the appeal and influence of authortarianism it has gradually allowed the forces of Right to have their way.


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