On a Bloggingheads conversation Freddie deBoer where is talking about the Jon Chait’s recent article on political correctness gone wild, he notes that points are given to those who are first to highlight the “problematic” aspect of something. Over time this leads to a constriction and strangulation of all open conversation, as the bounds of acceptability become progressively narrower. What I found fascinating is that it reminded me of something I read years ago in The Essential Talmud, where the author explains that rabbinical genius was discovered by means of further extending Jewish law into domains where it had not previously gone. The problem, which was left implicit, is that it often meant that the regulated behavior of observant Jews become more and more constricted. Much of the same applies to those who live by Islamic law, as well as Christian sects which begin to deviate into an orthopraxic direction. Once greater emphasis and reward is given to those who would make a case for the forbidding of a practice or belief, then the cultural ratchet is inevitable. And because of the dire theological consequences of transgressing what is forbidden the communal sanctions can be quite intense.
I am not particularly interested in exploring all the details of this line of thought. Rather, ruminating upon the fixation with identity and language discourse on the cultural Left, and the energy it draws, I have become convinced that the Koch brothers and their fellow travelling plutocrats have nothing to worry about. Though the Left talks a big game about economic inequality, dollars are not witches, and the rich are not numerous enough to build a witch-hunting academic career upon. This an age where Deng’s exhortation to get rich is glorious is applicable to the United States, the populist Right is inchoate and ineffectual, and the populist Left truly doesn’t exist.