I keep getting emails from something called the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. They are written by Amitai Etzioni. Communitarianism is supposed to represent a radical break from the current political spectrum.
Here are a few communitarian precepts, as I understand them:
(1) Rights do not exist in the absence of government. Therefore, when government expropriates you and transfers your property to someone else, you have no grounds for complaint. Had there been no government, you would have no rights at all. Be happy with what you are permitted to keep.
(2) In many areas of life, public-private partnerships are desirable.
(3) Communitarians believe in “community,” but by this they do not mean your town, your local civic group, or any of the local, flesh-and-blood institutions people associate with community. At least as articulated by Etzioni, the only “community” to which communitarianism makes reference in practice is the nonexistent “national community,” a soulless abstraction. In the name of this “community,” we ought to treat individuals’ property as if it is entirely at the disposal of the political class, so that we may promote the “common good.”
What brave pioneers these communitarians are! Take a moment to catch your breath, now that you’ve seen just how radical a departure this all is from conventional thought.
Although Etzioni flatters himself as being beyond the left-right spectrum, he is not quite correct: he is exactly in the middle. He is a “vital center” liberal of the Truman/Schlesinger variety. That means he is wrong on everything, both domestic and foreign.
Thus his most recent piece is on why impeachment of the president should be more difficult. More difficult! We’ve had a grand total of two impeachments in over 220 years, and this is just too darn many!
(I will spare you his other recent articles, by the way. One is called “Soft Syria Response Worse Than Inaction,” which has nothing to do with preserving localism and community health, as one ought to expect from someone calling himself a communitarian. Another is “Everything Libertarians and Liberals Get Wrong About Drones,” which are “the most effective counter-terrorism tool the United States has found thus far.” Again, I hope the radical originality of Etzioni’s effusions will not lead any of my readers into cardiac arrest.)
Etzioni fears that impeachment drama will “eat up much of whatever little political capital exists in Washington for bipartisan deals and constructive action.” So he’s a communitarian, but he looks to one city, in a country of 310 million people, to direct the resources and energies of all American communities? Of what use is this ridiculous label?
“Bipartisan deals and constructive action.” Yes, that sounds like our nation’s capital. The $222 trillion in unfunded liabilities for the major transfer programs is the result of decades of bipartisanship. The fiasco of a foreign policy the U.S. government has is the result of nearly 70 years of bipartisanship. Thanks to bipartisanship, lots of real-life communities in Iraq were reduced to rubble, and 2-4 million people were displaced from their communities. If impeachment talk may disrupt all this, a genuine believer in community should be delighted.
If one were a genuine communitarian — in the sense of caring about actual communities that involve not some phony “national community” conjured out of thin air but real, face-to-face relationships between actual human beings — he should want to see impeachment after impeachment. He should want to place as many obstructions as possible before the community-destroying circus of sociopaths who rule over us. Etzioni conceives of our Washington overlords as Platonic guardians. Not from him will we uncover the more prosaic reality: we are governed by self-centered cronies who rig rules and regulations in favor of the powerful and who never saw a war or a bailout they didn’t like.
We are not as pathetic and helpless as Etzioni appears to think. He should have a little more confidence in community.