Saturday, July 31, 2004

A Telling Remark

In this Crooked Timber thread on the appeal of Stalinism, in response to the following statement by Chris Bertram

Tidiness and orderliness were the reasons for a certain type of intellectual being attracted to Stalinism.
John Quiggin makes the following remark:
Support for tidiness and order may not be remarkably attractive, but they are not, in themselves, indicative of totalitarianism.
I cannot imagine a more obviously false statement. How can a supposedly intelligent person say such a thing? The strange thing is that John Quiggin actually is intelligent, as one can tell by reading his own blog. He's obviously fairly comfortable with a level of mathematical sophistication far out of the reach of most economists, and he seems quite well read, but when it comes to seeing the totalitarian consequences of many of the ideas he thinks worth championing, something just seems to go wrong somewhere in the mental machinery ...

Then again, Quiggin's variety of mental block seems to be a fairly common failing amongst those on the left, just as the inability to recognize the contradiction between legislating private morality and championing individual freedom is a difficulty for many on the right. One can more easily forgive such muddleheadedness when encountered in the less intellectually sophisticated, but coming from those who ought to know better, it really is difficult to take.