It’s rare to find a conservative sociologist (odds are about one in thirty), but it’s even rarer to have one addressing a group like the Madison Forum in Georgia, a group named after the father of the Constitution. As I argue in the Fall issue of Academic Questions, conservative professors need to leave their ivory towers and think tanks and talk to such citizen groups.
I must admit I was a bit skeptical about the value of sociology until I heard Kennesaw State University Professor Melvyn Fein.
Fein, in speaking about his forthcoming title Post-Liberalism: The Death of a Dream from Transaction Publishers, claimed that sociology provides the strongest arguments against liberalism (in its contemporary definition). He told the Madison Forum that the liberal dream is based on the idea of universal love mediated by government programs. But human beings are by nature competitive. (We don’t cheer at sporting events, “We are number five,” quipped Fein).
A government based on the idea of love has not worked for at least 12,000 years, since people lived in hunter-gatherer groups of 100 to 150. That’s about as big a group that most mortals can truly love, said Fein.
More sophisticated governments rely on people knowing their roles. Fein sees an increasing professionalization of roles, as has happened in nursing. So with increased professionalization federal health care bureaucrats become an even greater impediment to delivering good care. Obama Senior Advisor Robert Gibbs’s insistence to Chris Wallace on Fox News on August 19th that Obamacare bureaucrats are “medical professionals” does not reassure!
But the liberal myth is based on the elitist belief that the best and the brightest (of liberals who are superhumanly capable of loving millions) will make the best decisions.
The problem with liberalism is that it is based on an unrealistic dream. In spite of their claims of being pro-science, liberals ignore the historical evidence about redistributive schemes. According to Fein, we can use sociological research from the 1940s and 1950s about those who swore they had seen flying saucers. When the flying saucers failed to appear, the believers redoubled their efforts at proselytizing. Similar things are happening today with Obamacare and the stimulus. The stimulus has failed to turn around the economy, but rather than admit failure, advocates insist that the stimulus wasn’t big enough!
It seems that conservative funders are too quick to dismiss the humanities and the social sciences, focusing instead on more immediate subjects like business, law, and political science. It seems that academics too often do not deign to address groups like the Madison Forum or Tea Party groups. On August 13, 2012, I found an audience that was respectful and that asked intelligent questions of a sociologist who would not likely find the same reception at an academic conference.