[digg-reddit-me]Matt Yglesias tells the story of “Ted Kennedy: Deregulator” – and takes away about the conclusion I expected:
The moral of the story isn’t that “regulation is bad” but that progressive politics at its best isn’t about bigger government but about attacking privilege and power. At times that requires more government and more regulation (right now we badly need more regulation of polluters whose carbon dioxide emissions are threatening the viability of the planet) but at times the forces of privilege and power are using existing regulatory structures to re-enforce their own position. Kennedy, rightly, saw no contradiction between his record as a deregulator and his record as a champion of the little guy. [my emphasis]
Yglesias has made the point – and I think he’s right – that right wingers since Reagan have been more ideological than any left wing equivalent. Yglesias – echoing an influential article by Jonathan Chait from a few years ago – attributes this right wing tendendcy towards ideological thinking to the fact that right wingers see government as an inherently bad thing – and oppose many government interventions simply because they are government interventions. Liberals, progressives, and leftists of various sorts also oppose many government interventions; and they support some government interventions; and they believe it oftentimes is worth trying a program to see if it will work rather than sullenly tell everyone that, “The world is as it is,” and there’s nothing to do about it. In this way, they are pragmatists. (Not all of them – Communists for example believe the state must control the economy and thus are the ideological equivalent of the far right wing. But Communists have little to no role in the leftist movements in America, except in the imagination of the right wing.)
Though conservatives and right wingers like to suggest that Obama or other liberals simply want to have the government controlling everything – and see this as his hidden agenda – they make the mistake of imputing on liberals and other leftists the opposite of their ideology rather than the more subtle goals of liberalism – which are inherently pragmatic and moderate.