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Who's the American Taliban?

January 17, 2002

Tags Big GovernmentThe Police StateInterventionism

The political buzz for weeks has centered on whether the Democrats are going to employ the "Taliban Strategy," claiming that the Republican Party's right flank is the "Taliban Wing."

How does the left get away with describing right-wing thought as Talibanish, especially when compared to the left-wing agenda of speech codes, economic regulation, and authoritarian intervention in every aspect of American private life?

Recall that the Taliban consisted of a pack of young people just out of specialized Islamic school where their heads were filled with political ideology stemming from a maniacal rendering of a handful of books they considered holy writ. Once in power, they attempted to impose this rendering on the entire population in the hopes of creating a kingdom of God on earth.

That is also a short description of the career of countless numbers of left-wing reformers in America, where colleges and universities filled their heads with other-worldly socio-political theory that they then attempted to impose on a resisting population.

Egg-headed utopianism is only one similarity between the Taliban and the American left. Who favors:

  • punishing and even criminalizing speech and thought that contradicts egalitarian ideology on issues of race, sex, disability, and sexuality;
  • enacting national restrictions on eating fast food or driving fast cars;
  • police enforcement of rules against smoking, drinking, gambling, or otherwise indulging in traditional but socially harmless "vices";
  • punishing people for failing to piously separate their own private garbage, can by can and bottle by bottle, into five types of recyclable material;
  • spying on families to discover whether they are spanking their kids and/or failing to expose them to politically correct attitudes and a sufficiently diverse social circle;
  • regulating the content of films and music to ensure that they do not send messages to youth that the politicians regard as culturally inappropriate;
  • making end-runs around parents by having public schools indoctrinate children in all the recent political priorities of the ruling regime;
  • abolishing the freedom of association and mandating adherence to detailed government rules concerning all uses of private property in hiring, firing, consumer service, and housing;
  • curtailing property rights in the name of federally protected species and plants, and even claiming omniscience in seeking to alter weather patterns one hundred years in the future;
  • restrictions on the right to advertise;
  • outlawing mining, drilling, logging, and other forms of commerce considered insufficiently devoted to holy mother earth;
  • cracking down on any form of humor that pokes fun at any politically favored group;
  • imposing ceilings on the ability of lenders to charge market-determined interest rates and passing other forms of anti-usury laws (as favored by the Taliban);
  • special protection for women in the law on grounds that they constitute an inherently weaker sex that would otherwise be exploited by powerful men;
  • restrictions on the right to display religious symbols or otherwise reveal religious preferences that are contrary to political priorities;
  • regulating the right to reproduce to prevent supposed overpopulation;
  • extreme regulations on the ability of individuals and families to acquire weapons of self defense, on grounds that all people ought to entrust their safety to public employees;
  • consolidation of all political power in the center to prevent that emergence of local leaders who might enact policies contrary to the ruling ethos.

Sure, there are people on the right who may go along with such policies, though in doing so they contradict their general principles favoring freedom and limited government. On the left, however, such extreme measures of social, cultural, and economic control are endemic to the ideology itself. We can only imagine the type of controls that would weigh on our national life if the left had its entire way.

For reasons hard to fathom, however, the political left still enjoys the reputation of favoring civil rights, civil liberties, and the rights of individuals. But it has been years, even decades, since that was true in the United States. All the old talk of civil liberties and free speech turn out to have been a ploy to gain power so that the left could impose its own form of controls. Look at what they have imposed on the universities they control!

What's more, the regimes with which the left has variously sympathized over the years — Soviet and Chinese communism — have been the most despotic anti-freedom regimes in the history of the world. After all this, the left has lost any right to claim the mantle of freedom, much less to contrast itself with the tyranny of Talibanism.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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