i called this post “liberal anger, liberal pessimism”, but i don’t mean to imply that these are purely liberal phenomena. in the article on the new anger, peter worth mentions ann coulter as an example of conservative anger. this anger from the right is the result of the same sort of oppositional thinking that animates its liberal counterpart. the conservative sees herself, and other conservatives, as a pious, moral and patriotic holdout in an increasingly profane, immoral and disloyal world. the perfect example is bill o’reilly, the self-proclaimed culture warrior.
i just started reading a book called the white man’s burden. the author, william easterly, gives away his main contention with the book’s subtitle: why the west’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. easterly divides those who work on issues of international economic aid into two categories: planners and searchers.
planners are those who would solve the world’s problems with big comprehensive solutions. they propose grand plans that are devised by technocrats and mandated from the top by a partnership between the UN, international agencies and the nations of the developed world. searchers eschew these big plans in favor of smaller, more pragmatic, market-based solutions that seek to address specific needs in the developing world. i propose that this planner v. searcher approach provides both a more accurate and more precise way view political anger and pessimism than the liberal v. conservative split.
for both the orthodox liberal and the orthodox conservative, issues of race are generally just battles in a larger ideological war. black americans have been the guinea pigs, or perhaps the control group, in this american experiment. take the case of the civil war. ostensibly, the civil war was fought over whether the federal government or individual states had the right to determine the slavery issue. in a larger sense, however, it was really a fight over just what sort of america this was going to be. it was a war fought to decide whether this country would move forward into the industrial age, embracing modernity and a dynamic socio-economic landscape or would remain a static and largely agrarian society dominated by a class of landed gentry whose notions of honor and chivalry were based on a highly stratified social order.
ever since the new deal, there has been another ongoing debate over what sort of place america ought to be. as with international aid, planners want socio-economic change that is animated by big government, top-down mandates, and searchers opt for decentralized, market-driven solutions. i pick on liberals in regards to race issues, because they have placed themselves firmly on the side of planners. they have chosen to view the issue of civil rights as primarily a grand social movement to be furthered through things like gerrymandered voting districts, affirmative action and government entitlement programs. at the onset of the civil rights movement, and in the face of jim crow, that may have been more appropriate. today it seems quite clear many obstacles black americans face are psychological in nature. continually waking up to a dream deferred has left many without hope, when hope is precisely what is necessary.
the writers at the ny times, and other liberals, see a fairy tale in the story of a black man waging a war on his own personal poverty as a threat because it contradicts their own idea that liberal social policies are the black man’s only salvation. they are planners. they focus on the big picture, and in doing so, completely ignore the issue of individual liberation. of course, individual liberation is precisely the point of the liberal democracy. more to the point, black americans will only experience true freedom when they are free to be individual americans.