Posted by: captainfalcon | September 13, 2010

NPL: A Research Program

There is an ideology – call it “namby pamby liberalism” – whose political goals are essentially procedural. NPL aims to establish an inclusive and transparent politics, the participants in which discuss (qua negotiate, not qua argue) their way towards a consensus on – and here NPL becomes a bit obscure – policies that, in some way, “promote” equality (of resources, or autonomy, or respect, or all of these goods, etc.). I say NPLs political goals are primarily procedural because its emphasis is on attaining (i) consensus (ii) through the procedures – transparent, inclusive dialogue – I mentioned. It is not desirable, by NPLs lights, to attain substantive equality by other means.

Here are a few questions about the nature, history and desirability of NPL. Nature: is it real? If so, have I fully characterized it, or just limned its constituent doctrines? History: when, and why, did NPL arise and gain prominence? Is it a contemporary – as in, past thirty years – slave morality, or have inclusion, transparency, consensus and undisciplined dialogue always had their partisans? Which historical episodes, or cultural pathologies (etc.), gave rise to NPL? Desirability: Are NPLs goals realistic? Are they goals we should care about? Does the fact – if it is a fact – that NPL has its origins in contemporary pathologies cast doubt on its wisdom?

Because my a priori views of NPL are no doubt unclear, I’ll close by noting that I find it pretty repulsive. I think its goals are unrealistic, and I think that’s a good thing, because it would only work in a society of dithering, slavish, conciliatory, hyper-bureaucratic eunuchs, i.e. a pretty boring place to live. I also think that my evaluation of NPL can be embraced by anyone on any part of the traditional left-right divide: from communists (obviously) to socialists to conservatives to libertarians. Finally, I suspect that NPL (as distinguished from some of the resilient sentiments that underlie it) is, with apologies to Hitler,* relativism without its tincture of metaphysics. It is where the postmodernists of yesteryear decamped after their ontological meltdown.

* Who, if Richard Ovary is to be believed, once described Christianity as “communism with a tincture of metaphysics.”



  1. It is interesting to see the academy has reinvigorated the conservative in you. Is this (and the reciprocal shift while at Cato) a reaction to the excesses of your surroundings or simple contrarianism?

    Also, I suspect you have tincture of egg on your face with respect to your (ill)starred addendum.

    Chris, Overy-and-out.

  2. Chris you infantile yolkle, read: “[M]y evaluation of NPL can be embraced by anyone on any part of the traditional left-right divide: from communists (obviously) to socialists to conservatives to libertarians.” And weep.

  3. Zhough I am always pleased to see get zhy goat, zhou need not be so teste. Especially when you are being foolish. Your critique is not so broad that it can be embraced by “any part of the left-right divide” for the obvious reason that it critiques a major part of said divide, namely modern liberalism. Just because some hoary Marxist might find something agreeable in your post does not muddy its origin or intent. Further, to return to the original point of the comment, it certainly demonstrates shift away from (and against) the, well, namby pamby liberalism toward which you trended during the Cato year. The SPLC, after all, cares a great deal about the politics of inclusivity and equality and multiculturalism.

    Finally and unfortunately, the Dictators, though profuse with mundane disparaging remarks that Hitler made of Christianity, lacks something resembling the one you quoted. Either Dick Overy forgot the quote while writing the later book or might have originated from one of National Socialism’s more anti-clerical and anti-communist No. 2’s (like Himmler, for instance), whose thoughts on the matter get breezed over in the Hitler/Stalin comparisons. Its a shame too, because I do like the quote, if only for its comparative zest and pith.


    How many Duhems do you need to square this with your hypothesis that I trended towards namby-pamby liberalism? Nor are you correct that the SPLC’s watchword is inclusiveness. Their business – branding everyone from AEI to the right an “extremist” – precludes it.

    You’re on firmer ground noting that my rejection of namby pamby liberalism is incompatible with accepting namby pamby liberalism (though not necessarily with accepting modern liberalism – disagreement with modern liberalism entails disagreement with NPL but not vice versa). It is a bit uncharitable to assume I stated otherwise, especially when it was obviously proper to interpret the “traditional left-right divide” as referring to the divide over outcomes as opposed to processes, but I know – mother’s son and all – you can’t help being unaccommodating.

    You’re also correct that Overy never asserts that Hitler called Christianity “communism with a tincture of metaphysics” – “whole-hearted Bolshevism under a tinsel of metaphysics” was the phrase he alleges Hitler used. The allegation appears on page 284 of Why The Allies Won. (Not sure that I didn’t get the gist of it, though.)

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