We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Glazer is one of those people whose thinking we have always admired, whether we agreed with his conclusions or not. I say this while quite aware that he is somebody who has never really done anything other than think and study things, and has probably never lifted an engine from a Chevy, built a stone wall, or shot a deer, and really probably knows little about life.
President Obama’s revival of an ambitious social policy agenda makes this a good time to reexamine the work of one of the most brilliant critics of the first wave: Nathan Glazer, now 88, a Harvard sociologist and one of the last of the founding generation of neoconservatives (a term often applied to him, though he has never really embraced it). In his bluntly titled 1988 book, The Limits of Social Policy, Glazer examined two decades’ worth of programs and reached a sobering conclusion: “Against the view that to every problem there is a solution, I came to believe that we can have only partial and less than wholly satisfying answers to the social problems in question. Whereas the prevailing wisdom was that social policies would make steady progress in nibbling away at the agenda of problems set by the forces of industrialization and urbanization, I came to believe that although social policy had ameliorated some of the problems we had inherited, it had also given rise to other problems no less grave in their effect on human happiness.”
What gave that conclusion special power was the intellectual journey that Glazer took to reach it.
It took Glazer a while to realize that liberty and freedom might be a better social policy than anything that the DC and Ivy brainiacs can design "for us." I could have told him that 40 years ago when I first realized that there are sick people in the world who enjoy power and control, and who have the delusion that they deserve those things because they imagine that they are smarter than I am. They are not. I want to be the master of my life.
There are two difficulties, buried deep, but separate. The first is that social policy may not be able to fight to better than a draw even with the best of intentions and unbiased evaluation. The second is that the policymakers have tribes, favorites, and class interests of their own, which they favor in their enacting of vision, consciously or not. So do we all, but the danger is this: they are so thoroughly unaware of this that they cannot even consider the possibility that it is so. Anosognosia, the inability to even attempt insight.
I am full ready to grant that they have some genuine concern for the poor and downtrodden; yet they think they have such motives only. Such people have been frightening throughout history.
Assistant VIllage Idiot
I agree. Of course, the classic (and horrifyingly prescient) first take on this was Hayek's Road to Serfdom. If any want to buy (borrow) it, try to get the Definitive Edition, edited by Bruce Caldwell.