Moderation

Via Bill Brown at The New Clarion, I came across this piece by David Brooks. The piece begins with

You wouldn’t know it some days, but there are moderates in this country — moderate conservatives, moderate liberals, just plain moderates. We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs.

Investments with whose money and whose judgement? But those are not questions that would occur to Brooks. He is after all a self confessed collectivist. He does voice some objections to the massive spending that Obama’s budget entails.

The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide… The U.S. has always been a decentralized nation, skeptical of top-down planning. Yet, the current administration concentrates enormous power in Washington… [etc etc]

Note the nature of the objections. None of the objections are based on principles. They are merely appeals to tradition. And yet Brooks writes

We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We’re going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.

The centrist tendency has been “politically feckless” and “intellectually vapid” because that is its essential nature. Moderation in politics is not the same thing as moderation in eating or spending or drinking. Political ideas – all ideas for that matter – are true or false. And once one has sufficient evidence to judge which of the two a particular idea is, moderation is just a euphemism for lack of courage and anti-intellectualism. While it is a virtue to have an active mind that constantly evaluates new evidence, adopting an anti-intellectual stance that treats every issue as perpetually open, regardless of evidence, is not. Moderates like Brooks necessarily have to appeal to tradition if they are to hold any position at all, a tradition set by people who were not moderates. Brooks’ centrist tendency is suffering from too much moderation.

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