Currently reading

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
Ayn Rand, Tore Boeckmann, Leonard Peikoff
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
Ghostwritten
David Mitchell
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon, Daniel J. Boorstin, Gian Battista Piranesi, Hans-Friedrich Mueller
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Douglas R. Hofstadter
Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self
William Westney
The Prince
Niccolò Machiavelli
The Varieties of Religious Experience
William James
Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy
G. Lee Bowie, Robert C. Solomon

Death of the Liberal Class

The Death of the Liberal Class - Chris Hedges A liberal, by Hedges' reckoning, is part classical liberalism, which insists on basic human rights such as freedom speech and civil rights, combined with many of the social and economic ideas of Marxist socialism. The free market, capitalism and corporations are, by contrast, the source of most evil, and in this utopian vision, they would not exist.By that definition, it's easy to take most of todays politicians who claim to be liberals to the cleaners for neglecting, or outright defiling, their purported values. Hedges does not hesitate to do so. The Death of the Liberal Class is about how almost every item on the liberal agenda is flawed. From healthcare reform to foreign relations, especially the wars we're in, to welfare to civil rights to public radio and television. None of it goes far enough. He advocates a peaceful revolution of civil disobedience that would overturn all corporatism, put the power back in the hands of the workers through unions and wealth redistribution and use government funding for socially conscious programs that didn't only pay lip service to equality, but that actually implement it. His heroes are Malcolm X (over MLK Jr.), Ralph Nader (though he thinks he's lost much of his former prowess in recent years), Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore (how he can intellectually justify that, I don't know). He excoriates Obama, Gore and every other so-called liberal politician almost without exception.His idealism is appealing. He is passionate and seems to be intellectually honest (to a point) and a compassionate person. He has witnessed war first hand and he hates it. The chapters on the horrors of war are the strongest in the book. His arguments are vehement and convincing. He brings home the awfulness with incredible clarity.His critiques of liberals should embarrass anyone who voted for or supports Obama. He convincingly shows how Obama gives lip service to idealism but is just as much in the pockets of corporations as Bush was.One of the closing chapters on the dreary future we face due to climate change and the coming economic collapse caused by our fiat currency is dark and harrowing and is an effective call to action for anyone who agrees with his premises. The writing throughout the book flows so smoothly from the circumstantial to the philosophical that the pages fly by.On the other hand, the chapter on the Internet should have been left out of the book. Almost every sentence has some technical error or misrepresentation. I think that Hedges, as so many other idealists, fails at convincingly meshing his ideology with human nature. At one point in the book he briefly gives lip service the human nature, but takes for granted that the reader agrees that socialism is a more natural state than capitalism. He never explains how a society with no competition is to work economically or how such a strong human instinct will be suppressed to bring about his idea of utopia. It feels like he consciously decides to stop short of a practical analysis of the implications of his ideas once carried beyond the initial revolution. As far as I can tell, he envisions a world of small, semi-isolated tribes sustaining themselves on primitive, low-impact technology and living in harmony with each other. This is never, of course, stated explicitly but for everything he advocates to have any semblance of possibility of working together I can't imagine any other way for the world to be structured. The Death of the Liberal Class is worth reading because the historical analysis and critiques of our current political situation are novel and valid, and I'm excited to read his other books, but unless he is better coupling his ideals with the reality of human nature, I don't find his brand of idealism any more convincing than anarcho-capitalism or communism.