Kotkin has it right; Continetti is confused.
Joel Kotkin wrote a perceptive essay on the Daily Beast pointing out how “progressive” policies are leading to a “new feudalism” dividing America between the super rich and the bribed and dependent poor with little room or hope for a shrinking middle class.
Matthew Continetti, one of the sharpest and best writers on contemporary politics and society, picked up on Kotkin’s piece and gave it his own interpretation. And what an interpretation it turns out to be. Continetti, until recently a writer for the Weekly Standard and now editor of the Free Beacon, is what is usually referred to as a neo-conservative. As such, he does not like libertarians such as Rand Paul, in particular because neo-conservatives want the US to assert more power, especially military power, abroad, and libertarians generally want the opposite.
This is all quite understandable and easy to follow, but it seems to lead Continetti to some bizarre statements. He says that: “I see an America governed by liberal or libertarian principles, an America that has adopted economic and social policies that benefit the established and the ascendant, the smart and the wily, while ignoring or bribing the poor and low skilled.” Whoa. Liberal and libertarian go together? Let’s consider for a moment the origin of those terms. Liberal before FDR meant people like Jefferson who supported small government in order to protect personal liberty. FDR turned this on its head and made liberal mean people supporting a bigger and more controlling government. Because of FDR’s word theft, people who espoused classical liberal principles began to refer to themselves as libertarians. Given this history, how can Continetti lump together “liberals and libertarians” as joint sponsors of today’s “progressive ” policies, economic and political policies which expand the control of government and and are therefore diametrically opposite to libertarianism.
As if this isn’t confusing enough, Continetti continues with this statement: “I see an America where a protest movement of the aging white middle class is mocked and vilified, where criticism of Obamacare or deficits and debt becomes the mark of a nihilist, a terrorist, a hostage taker, a suicide bomber. I see a world built to order for … members of an establishment that finds its antitheses in the likes of… [ Democratic New York mayoral candidate] de Blasio and… [ Massachusetts Democratic senator] Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann.
This collection of names is, well, bizarre. Why combine ultra liberals de Blasio and Warren with libertarian influenced conservatives such as Cruz and Bachmann? There is some method to this madness. All four are populists, people who no doubt sincerely want to help the average person and the poor rather than the elite. But de Blasio and Warren believe that problems caused by “progressive” policies can be cured by layering on even more of the same policies. In their eyes, if regulation has backfired by helping special interests at the the expense of the average person, the solution is even more of the same regulations. Such ultra liberals miss the point that the increasing control of our economy by government is just creating an alliance of government and special interests, in effect a crony capitalism paradise, that strikes hardest against the middle class and the poor.