Thursday, July 21, 2016

Against Totalitarianism

Mollie Hemingway has a valuable piece out today suggesting that Republicans might be wise to unify the GOP around the idea of anti-totalitarianism.  There's a long tradition of opposition to totalitarianism within conservatism, from Edmund Burke's critique of the proto-totalitarianism of the French Revolution to conservative opposition to the Soviet Union.

Hemingway notes that the breakdown of civic society opens the door to the totalitarian temptation:
Financially, we’re well off. In other ways, we’re suffering. And we have the drug addiction, suicide rates, and socio-economic strife to prove it. American sociologist Robert Nisbet said totalitarianism is a process of the annihilation of individuality, beginning with the erosion of social relationships. Without ties to family, friends, and community, people look to the government for help and validation. This isolation and alienation allows the state to control us.
“To destroy or diminish the reality of the smaller areas of society, to abolish or restrict the range of cultural alternatives offered individuals by economic endeavor, religion, and kinship, is to destroy in time the roots of the will to resist despotism in its large forms,” he wrote in Quest for Community.
Families break down as a result of a sexual revolution we insist on treating as an unalloyed good, all evidence to the contrary. Bureaucracies tell people how little they can practice their religion outside of their sanctuary walls, or how little control they have over their child’s education, or how little they can determine how to run a family business. Corporations are increasingly tied to a government that bestows favors on those who adopt a rigid set of doctrines set by the state. And our media frequently give the impression there’s only one correct side to an argument, ostracizing or belittling those with different opinions.
Strengthening civil society--rebuilding the bonds of trust, integration, and community--could help ward off that totalitarian threat and help defend liberty.

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