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I've had a correspondent or two pushing me to explain "what your problem?" with the modern Democratic party. Rather then write up something new, it occurred to me that a very old post of mine sums it up pretty perfectly:

From back in May, 2002:

I've been thinking about "Liberalism" (as opposed to Lockean "liberalism") for a while - after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I'm calling "SkyBox Liberalism" - which is v. different from what I'm promoting.

While the theory percolates, let me explain by example.

In the late 1970's, I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. It was good for me, got me almost exactly the job I wanted when I got out, and convinced me that none of my sons will go to mega-public universities as underclassmen.

While I was there, there was a small controversy that I followed. It involved the effort of the student government to evict from the student union one tenant, and to replace it with another. This is to me, the perfect example of SkyBoxing, and I hope that telling the story will help define what I mean.

In the 60's in Berkeley, there was a movement to create a series of co-ops that would allow student-radicals to both generate jobs outside the hated-but-paying-their-rent capitalist system, and provide a living example that (for all I know) Trotskyite anarcho-syndicalism could triumph in the Belly of the Beast.

Most of these communal businesses failed mercifully quickly, as far as I know (this is all ancient history to me, so if I'm getting part of it wrong, drop a note). By the time I got there, there were two survivors - Leopold's Records ("Boycott Tower Records, keep Berkeley Free") and the Missing Link bicycle shop.

Leopold's was off-campus somewhere near Telegraph, but the bicycle store was a part of the mini-shopping area that was in the ASUC building.

The student government decided that they were going to evict it to make room for a small-electronics (Walkmen, stereo, calculators, etc.) annex to the Student Store. Why??

The small-electronics store could pay as much as $50,000 more in rent every year.

Now this is an appropriately cold-hearted landlord kind of decision to make. But the people making the decision weren't sweater wearing conservative Young Republicans, driven by their vision of the purity of the market.

They were a bunch of New Left, ethnic-identity, progressive communitarian kind of kids.

Why did they want to make this decision? Because it would mean $50K a year more for their organizing budgets; $50K more in pork they could carve up in the hopes of building their perfect communitarian future.

Now I don't know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anything more keyed to a progressive communitarian future than a cooperatively owned bicycle store. I mean, how much better does it get? Nonprofit. Cooperatively employee owned. Bicycles, for chrissakes. If you really wanted to educate people in alternatives to the "mass consumerist repressive capitalist paradigm" (I think I got the buzzwords right), wouldn't that be a good way to do it?

But reality couldn't stand a chance against the cold need for this elected group to make sure that they and their friends were rewarded.

See it's not about what you really believe in, in the SkyBox world ... it's about making sure you and your friends can be very comfortable while you think and write and feel very very seriously about it.

I'm not touting bicycles or co-ops right now (although there are things to say for both); it's the fact that one group put their beliefs into practice in the world, while another made it a point to live comfortably while thinking really hard about making the world a better place.

One of those is a Liberal - the other is doing something else, but is definitely doing it from a SkyBox.


Testing comments...

Sigh. The road to hell is paved with people pretending to have good intentions.

I was part of a group in college that taugh conflict negotiation skills to 4th and 5th graders. Real playground based stuff. Lots of games considering the consequences/social patterns of fighting. (we also asked them when fighting was important and why). Anyway, the goal was to let kids forsee the problems ahead of time so they could pick the correct decision.

One of our projects was reading the butter battle book by dr. seuss, focusing on the decisions that were made and how the zooks could have handled their problems differently (intentionally avoiding the greater symbolism). On the last program meeting, one the vollunteers from another school admitted that he had been telling the kids that the book was about americans fearing communists and starting a bunch of silly wars.

Everyone sat there stunned for a few seconds. That's not what our program was about.

I know lots of other stories, because I am a big lib and I so I share their company. And so could any of us that associate with groups, because every group has their fringe element. The groups that memorize the answer, but never look in the mirror to ask the hard questions.

Al, Great post. Full disclosure: I am a straight, white, male, Army Vet, social and economic conservative who began reading National Review at 14 (lo these many, many years ago). I could go on but you get the idea. One of the magazines I love to read and I have subscribed to for many years is Mother Earth News. Why? Well partly because I like the gadgets and tinkering and Robinson Crusoe self sufficiency stuff...same reason that was part of the appeal of Gilligan's Island. The other is that I admire the folks that go out and actually try to live their lives according to their beliefs without trying to force me to do the same or force me to subsidize their choices. These attempts at putting ideals into actual practice have many benfits. The first being integrity, the second being practicality...if you are going to make your living a particular has to actually work! The combination of practicality and integrity leads to a third benefit or maybe two...the philosophy is a lot less totalitarian and a lot more appealing. It seems that most of the writers have had their share of humbling encounters with practicality and that has made them less likely to want to burn at the stake anyone who to disagree with them. They also have recognized that if their philosophy is to gain widespread acceptance it has to offer benefits to people who aren't looking to adopt an eco-hermit lifestyle. They still occasionally have big articles about how we should convert the whole country's energy system to bio-fuels over night, but then return to telling folks how to retrofit solar panels on their house complete with a good return on investment analysis or how to raise enought livestock on a small farm (or big back yard) to feed the family (complete with an analysis of how much money it takes to produce a pound of protein). I would even say that as long as these folks can keep their statist impulses in check they are acting in perfect accordance with conservative philosopy. Maybe some common ground here?


So, when was fighting important, and why?

Interesting, A.L.

Reading your post, I couldn't help but think of all of the communist states that have had very similar discussions over the years. Why do the leaders need so much wealth? Hint: it might not simply be because the system is corrupt.

I'm sure the guys who took the $50K felt that they could do more good with the cash than the cycle shop was doing. That's just the type of central planning, we-can-figure-it-out-for-you thinking that I believe a good Liberal is supposed to have. How else can we perfect the human spirit unless somebody decides what that perfection looks like?

I'm not trying to attack Liberalism, just pointing out that a) there are probably two sides to your story, and b) communes and happy-talk communities always have some group in charge, even whey they say they don't. These folks will make utilitarian chioces which don't make sense to outsiders.

#4)So when was fighting important?

Again, this was for the kids to find answers not us. So we got different answers all the time. This was before 9/11, so we got alot of WW2/civil war (ish) kinds of answers. I don't remember exactly the why's... again, this was letting the kids determine the right answers.

#6: back in the days, I guess, before 'Liberals' starting giving you the answers, because you weren't coming up with the ones they liked. I mean, they do it in Math, right?

Oh except, now we can't teach math that way. Apparenlty, they're now teaching, in conservative Harford County MD, something called 'everyday math'. Basically, they're getting rid of the tried-and-true methods of doing math on paper, and forcing people to do on paper what someone like me continually does in his head. The problem? Math is about being able to get the right answers. There is not a single 'CORRECT' conception as to WHY those answers are right, just so long as 2 + 2 = 4 and 6 × 7 = 42. They're trying to teach, now, a conception of Math. It will, and already is, failing miserably. I'd hate to see what the 'progressive' counties are doing.

What they are doing is, consider this: Noting how successful many Gospel Choirs are at conveying a powerful musical message, all Choirs of a particular church denomination are now required to use NO music scores at all, since many Gospel choirs do not.

Showing, of course, that they've never sung, ever, in a Gospel choir or directed one. If they had, they would know that while having no music forces memorization and more feeling, it also introduces a series of difficulties. It works partly because Gospel music is written that way; lyrics simple enough to be memorable. But Some choirs can't AFFORD scores for everyone. That's really the only reason. Why do I do math like that in my head? Because I don't have a piece of paper, you doofuses. If I had one in my head, I would do addition/subtraction/etc the old way.

This is the result of trying to get people to 'think' correctly. So now they can make even Math a failed thought-control experiment.

Yay for the Skybox Liberals...

OK, we get it.

But I'm still confused about why you're not advocating for populist Dems like Sherrod Brown?

(Or linking more to like-minded Dems like Dave Sirota, for that matter?)

It is easier to snipe and gripe, I guess.

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