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This may be one of the more shocking columns I’ve read. It’s shocking not so much because of its argument but its provenance. The author is Charles Moore, biographer of Margaret Thatcher and former editor of the Telegraph:
It has taken me more than 30 years as a journalist to ask myself this question, but this week I find that I must: is the Left right after all? You see, one of the great arguments of the Left is that what the Right calls “the free market” is actually a set-up.
I wrote several paragraphs in response to this and then lost them. It’s for the best. They were overwrought.
Of course the Left isn’t right. But anyone on the Right who is honest has got to be asking the question: What went wrong? Because yes, what we’re seeing does conform to the theoretical models offered by the Left.
We’re looking at a state of affairs in the West that should not have happened, according to the center-right, given initial conditions of basically free elections, basically free economies and a basically free press. I do not mean the “theoretical right,” I mean the real politicians of the right. (The theorists of the right, including me, are either now feeling mighty uncomfortable thinking about Marxist theorists who still believe that communism’s a terrific idea that was never properly applied or they’re dangerously incapable of self-doubt.)
If your response is, “Yes, but these institutions became invisibly unfree while we were sleeping,” you need to ask why it was invisible to so many–to the point that by the time it became visible, it was too late. That is not, you must admit, a system that works. That’s not one you can defend with a straight face to the developing world as “the best the human race has ever come up with”–at least, no more enthusiastically than you can defend the idea that heroin is the best high we’ve ever come up with, so be a lamb and show us your veins, we’ve got the needle right here for you. There was insufficient self-correction at every juncture to prevent catastrophe–about which we’re all now very realistically worried. Why?
Why is it is assumed–part of our collective common knowledge, now–that our politicians are not able to cooperate or subordinate their own short-term political interests to our long-term interests? How did this level of cynicism take hold in the West? Weren’t the structures and institutions of democracy supposed to militate against this?
I don’t agree with Moore that Murdoch is a key symptom. But I am certainly asking myself how it came to be that in a society with so many guarantees of press freedom, our key press organs now churn out coverage of the news to which I react much as Soviet citizens did to Pravda–by laughing darkly, endeavoring to read between the lines, and then trying to figure out what’s really happening by word-of-mouth.
Who predicted that? Chomsky. Uncomfortable, but there we are. What kind of world does Chomsky suggest instead? A proven hell. So where does that leave us?