PEOPLE WHO IDENTIFY WITH THE LEFT often ask the following question: How is it possible for decent human beings not to be progressive like us? How can they not share our concern for social justice or the better world we are attempting to create? The answers offered by progressives are that ignorance clouds the understanding of others and that social privilege blocks their human responses. In the eyes of progressives, their conservative opponents are prisoners of a false consciousness that prevents them from recognizing human possibility. This false consciousness is rooted in the self-interest of a ruling class (or gender, or race), which is intent on defending the system that secures its privilege. In other words, opposition to progressive agendas grows naturally from human selfishness, myopia, and greed. To progressives, theirs alone is the vocation of reason and compassion.
The Right has questions too: How is it possible for progressives to remain so blind to the grim realities their efforts have produced? How can they overlook the crimes they have committed against the poor and oppressed they set out to defend? How can they have learned so little from the history their ideas have engendered?
Progressives have a false consciousness of their own. Being so noble in their own eyes, how could they not be blind? But this blindness also springs from an insularity created by their contempt for those not gifted with progressive sight. As a result, radicals are largely innocent of the ideas and perspectives that oppose their agendas. The works of von Mises, Hayek, Aron, Popper, Oakeshott, Sowell, Strauss, Bloom, Kirk, Kristol and other anti-socialist thinkers are virtually unknown on the Leftexcluded from the canons of the institutions they dominate and absent from the texts they write. This silencing of ideological opponents in the areas of the culture the Left controls has led to a situation which one academic philosopher lamented as “the collapse of serious argument throughout the lower reaches of the humanities and the social sciences in the universities.” The same judgment cannot be made about the excluded conservatives who are forced by the cultural dominance of the Left (and by the historic ferocity of the radical assault) to be thoroughly familiar with the intellectual traditions and arguments that sustain it. This is one reason for the vitality of contemporary conservative thought outside the academy.
– Marginalizing Conservative Ideas December 1, 1998
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