“The result is an ideology that doesn’t know why it upholds and cherishes its ideas. And if you don’t know why you cherish your ideas, you’re going to have a hard time recognizing when it’s time to move on to something else. As William Voegeli puts it in his penetrating book Never Enough, contemporary liberalism is plagued by a lack of a limiting principle. By pragmatism’s own metaphors, their philosophy is like an acid that dissolves dogmas. The problem with acid is that it never knows when to stop burning. That’s why liberals are constantly discovering new crises that require more government solutions. Suggesting to activist liberals that maybe some day they could just go home and get a real job elicits nothing but bewilderment or rage when you bring it up.

“Some early progressives foresaw the danger of “China Syndrome” pragmatism—where the acid just keeps burning. “These people are talking the relativism which will ruin liberalism yet,” Charles Beard lamented of New Deal–era liberals. “Don’t they know that the means can make the ends? Don’t they realize that their method of arguing can justify anything? I wish we could find some way of getting rid of conservative morality without having these youngsters drop all morality.” Nearly twenty years earlier the progressive J. Allen Smith complained of Wilson-era progressives: “The real trouble with us reformers is that we made reform a crusade against standards. Well, we smashed them all and now neither we nor anybody else have anything left.”

In fairness, today’s liberalism does have standards. But they all bend to the ultimate need, which is to justify the authority of liberalism.”


Excerpt From: Jonah Goldberg. “The Tyranny of Clichés.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-tyranny-of-clich%C3%A9s/id479439268