Matt Taibbi is one of those people I put in the “principled liberal” camp. (And I do consider him a “liberal” in the good sense if not the classical sense.) He and I often disagree on important issues but the guy has a keen eye for injustice and has done an excellent job of pulling back the curtain on the Wall Street wing of the crony class. (And the City of London also.) He offers a very reasonable and reasoned analysis of Brexit below.
Fundamentally he is concerned with the rise of anti-democratic sentiment within the current crowd which holds/clings to power. It was funny when the Ron Paul kids started shouting “End the Fed!” Funnier still when all the “teabaggers” thought that their protests would make a difference. Then the Occupy nutbars came and went – also easily dismissed. Then Snowden. Then Cantor was swept away. Wait. Then Boehner. Um… Then Trump and Bernie… And now Brexit?! Holy cow the barbarians, er… I mean constituents… really are coming over the gates! Ahhhhh! They might take our taxpayer funded pensions back. They might make it impossible for us to lobby for 7 figures after we leave office. What are we going to do? Too much democracy! Too much democracy!!! We are smarter than them. We know what is best. The rabble must be curtailed. The rabble must be suppressed.
(From Rolling Stone)
Like Rogoff, Sullivan argued that over-democratic societies drift into passionate excesses, and need that vanguard of Very Smart People to make sure they don’t get themselves into trouble.
“Elites matter in a democracy,” Sullivan argued, because they are the “critical ingredient to save democracy from itself.”
I would argue that voters are the critical ingredient to save elites from themselves, but Sullivan sees it the other way, and has Plato on his side. Though some of his analysis seems based on a misread of ancient history (see here for an amusing exploration of the topic), he’s right about Plato, the source of a lot of these “the ancients warned us about democracy” memes. He just left out the part where Plato, at least when it came to politics, was kind of a jerk.
The great philosopher despised democracy, believing it to be a system that blurred necessary social distinctions, prompting children, slaves and even animals to forget their places. He believed it a system that leads to over-permissiveness, wherein the people “drink too deeply of the strong wine of freedom.”
I am willing to bet that Matt Taibbi is too cool to be a fan of Margaret Thatcher but I was reminded of this clip after reading his excellent piece. And for the record I don’t think that “socialists hate freedom.” Some might. But certainly not all. (Plenty of – but certainly not all – social “conservatives” hate freedom too.)