Arnold Kling on George Packer, David Hackett Fischer, Walter Russell Mead and America’s Four Traditions

Interesting discussion here from Arnold Kling:

In a recent essay drawn from a forthcoming book, George Packer says that American society has fractured into four groups. But David Hackett Fischer noticed these same four traditions, dating back to the first English settlers, in his carefully-researched book, Albion’s Seed. Fischer’s concept then became the basis of Walter Russell Mead’s book on tensions in American foreign policy, Special Providence.

George Packer rediscovers four traditions

Kling goes on to offer what he sees as the correlation between Packer and Fischer and Mead but he also offers his own take on the traditions. But I wanted to highlight his conclusions which is borne out of a frustration I share. How the libertarian perspective seems to be the bogeyman these days while ever increasing government never seems to be blamed for failure:

Free America has become the scapegoat of nearly everyone. Conservatives blame libertarians for social and economic disorder. Progressives blame libertarianism for inequality and injustice. Populists dream of taking power from the elites. But I believe that we will see in the rest of this decade that big government only exacerbates the disorder, inequality, and power imbalances that it purports to solve.

[vigorous nodding by me]

The worldview of liberalism is that there is a critical mass of benighted and dangerous people who believe “disinformation” that has been implanted in their brainstem by vicious religious ideologues, homophobic Russian gangsters, or awkward conservative uncles who remained unslaughtered by their clever nieces last Thanksgiving. The Big Brotherhood of national media outlets announces the expert consensus, and using the powers of social conformism on social media and just social censorship by social-media companies, the Ministry of Truth can help the smooth governing of the people toward their inevitable destinies out of the backward past and into the utopia where the arc of history finally lands like a rainbow terminating into a pot of gold.

Your life mistakes, like responding with your genuine thoughts to Google’s solicitation for comment on internal woke religion, or being crowned Queen of Love at some crackers Veiled Prophet’s dinner dance, will be ruthlessly unearthed by the media to make an example of you in the present. The media’s “mistakes” will be gently erased and amended, hopefully without anyone noticing at all.

The Media’s Memory-Hole Privilege

Trump, he loves this. He loves the bile, the wrath, the mockery. It’s a well-done steak to him, with extra ketchup. But Hawley and Cruz? I bet they are befuddled and mystified. How could it possibly have come to this? They are, then, our own Stepan Trofimoviches. It was all a game to them, until it wasn’t. They are, like him, utterly frivolous. If they had any dignity, any moral backbone, they would resign their offices. But the very frivolity that led them, and us, to this pass is the vice that will prevent them from acting honorably. I hope I am wrong, but I expect they will go to their graves thinking How could we have known?

Frivolity – Alan Jacobs