Landsburg on Russia Today

by Don Boudreaux on February 8, 2014

in Civil Society

Steve Landsburg sees through to the essence of matters far more clearly than do most of us.  His most-recent post showcases this important ability.  In summary, Steve there agrees that it’s right and proper for people to protest Russia’s homophobia.  Buthe asks, where are the protests of Russia’s other oppressions – oppressions that are, on nearly any scale of values, at least as atrocious as is Russia’s brand of homophobia.

Consider, as Steve does, Russia’s military conscription.  Temporary slavery.  The state forcing young people to toil in its war-making machine, and risking dismemberment and death in the process.  Conscription is an inexcusable infringement of many of the most sacred of human liberties.  Steve is mystified that so much scorn and righteous indignation are heaped on Russia’s homophobia while no scorn and righteous indignation are heaped on Russia’s practice of conscription.

Steve offers some reasons to explain this bizarre perversion of western-protesstors’ values.  Here, though, I think Steve misses the mark somewhat: the reason why people don’t protest Russia’s conscription is because many “Progressives” today applaud conscription.  Steve misses (or in his post doesn’t mention) this fact.

Many (most?) “Progressives” think it noble and good and useful for the state to enslave young people for several years and force them to work at carrying out the will of politicians and other rulers.  In America, such temporary slavery sports the lovely name “national service.”  (“Service – don’t we want everyone to serve?!  Isn’t it good that we instill in young men and women an ethic of service?” – so ask the “Progressives” who see the state as a kindly Simon Legree who whips his disobedient, stupid, untrustworthy, and venal subjects into shape.)

In short, the fact that “Progressives” (rightly) protest homophobia but (wrongly) are silent about conscription isn’t mysterious at all.  ”Progressives” in fact often celebrate conscription – they see in it at least the potential for the fine social-engineering that is central to the “Progressive” mindset and key to its system of values.

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