All Communism Everything

Matthew Yglesias wonders if Jonathan Podhoretz is too stupid to understand that North Korean style communism and American style democracy are the only political systems available:

My baseline assumption with this kind of thing is that we’re looking at dishonesty, but having read Podhoretz’s opus on the greatness of George W Bush it seems plausible to me that he’s actually unaware of the relevant facts. Suffice it to say, however, that there are a number of democratic political systems in the world that vary substantially from the American model without being Communist dictatorships. They have such a system in, for example, Canada. Germany offers an example of a somewhat different model. France has yet another model. But apparently if Norman Podhoretz is your dad and you can be editor of Commentary without knowing any of that.

Podhoretz' intelligence aside, it's an established conservative rhetorical trope that there is no sunlight between robust social insurance and totalitarianism. That's why progressive taxation is "slavery" and a a guy who pushes throug universal health insurance plan that preserves the private insurance market is a "socialist." I'm hesitant to blame this on Jonah Goldberg, but the idea that just about any kind of government intervention that doesn't involve torture, warrantless wiretapping, mass incarceration, deportation of undocumented immigrants, or preventing consenting adults from marrying someone of the same gender places America a small step away from being Nazi Germany seems to have grown more popular among conservatives since his book was first published

Believing this is more of a mark than hackery than stupidity, though I'd wager the number of conservative writers who have convinced themselves that this is actually true is not negligible. Admitting that say, Israel is a democracy that makes purchase of health insurance mandatory and yet is not in fact North Korea dilutes the argument, which is that liberals are communists who want to force everyone into labor camps. And you gotta stay on message. If you do you might get to be editor of a conservative magazine someday or a cushy spot at some right-wing think tank, and if you don't you get purged

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