Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Rights & Reason: Popular Elitism

Howard Dean offered this bizarre assessment of the nation’s education policy in today’s Wall Street Journal:
"Question: Do your children attend public or private schools?

"Answer: Public schools. Public school education in this country is excellent. I'm tired of right-wing politicians bashing the public school system whose failures are often due to lack of attention to early childhood education between the ages of zero and three."
Dean’s answer conveys two messages: First, parents are to blame for any failures of the public school system, because teachers are government employees, and therefore presumptively correct. Second, the public school system will never be completely successful until all children—starting at birth—are under government supervision. Both messages are consistent with a totalitarian philosophy. They also remove any veneer of “populism” from Dean’s candidacy. He is an elitist, pure and simple, who believes the true enemies are those who question the morality of the state’s intervention into the personal affairs of man. While Dean is not quite a Nazi, his use of the term “right-wing politicians” is synonymous with Hitler’s use of the Jews as a scapegoat.

Elitists like Dean seek power to impose their ideology on the public. Populists, by contrast, merely exploit the passions of the day to curry favor with the electorate. Populism qua populism is morally neutral; it can produce good or bad results depending on the ethics of the people. But political elitism is always dangerous, because it is only practiced by those who favor a form of government based on principles other than individual rights and capitalism.

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