Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

I don’t have time to do any linking, but just let me mention some issues that have arisen through my morning’s reading.

The first is techno-surveillance and soft despotism—see Ross Douthat. It’s hard to know whether the main concern here is the government or the cognitive-techno elite in general. We (whoever we is) will be able to control people’s behavior through intimate digital knowledge of all their preferences. The guiding, “nudging” hand will be enlightening ordinary people without them even being aware of it. The prototype here—of course—is the techno-control, based on intimate, digital knowledge, of each individual’s needs and obsessions and how they can be mobilized and discouraged in terms of voting behavior of Obama’s 2012 campaign. You can get really paranoid and think about the disappearance of the distinction betweeen Silicon Valley and the Oval Office in the permanent achievement of enlightened rule by the Democrats.

The second issue comes from Mr. Ceaser et al’s very expert and maybe more-partisan-than-usual book on the 2012 election. Ceaser’s sticking with the fundamental distinction in American politics being between the progressives—marked by the combination of egalitarian redistribution and personal autonomy—and the conservatives—marked by the combination of limited government based on individual, natural rights and Judeo-Christian morality. Another way of putting it: The progressives are all for the French enlightenment, and the conservatives are the party of the American revolution and Constitution (with a renewed emphasis on its federalism) under God.

But all over the web now—beginning with various Daily Beasts—you see the injunction that the Republicans become more modern—that is, more libertarian. They should give up on caring about abortion, same-sex marriage, foreign interventionism, the war on drugs, and all that. And they should be simply about limiting government and reducing entitlements. Today’s young people would vote Republicans if it simply meant more opportunity, more jobs, for them. It seems to me that these emphatically “modernist” Republican reformers are maybe even too obsessed with government surveillance, while being completely tone deaf to the more subtle kind of nudging that comes from the techno-enlightened digital world in general.

So the Daily Beasts want to get Silicon Valley to vote Republican again. And maybe they’ll succeed, because the truth is, as Ceaser suggests here and there, what’s left of Obama’s progressivism is attempting to put on auto-pilot the reform he achieved in his first term. There’s no new, big redistributive scheme in any obvious sense coming down the pike now. The truth is entitlement reform has just been delayed, and ObamaCare—which can’t be reformed by the present divided government—would have to be reformed big-time to actually work.

Want to say more, but out of time.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles