[Michael] Oakeshott understood in 1961 that modernity’s emancipation of the individual from the “warmth of communal pressures” did not exhilarate everyone. Indeed, in 2021, U.S. “national conservatives,” who are collectivists on the right, recoil against modernity in the name of communitarian values, strongly tinged with a nativist nationalism and with a trace of the European blood-and-soil right.
These “national conservatives” have an unacknowledged kinship with their collectivist cousins on the left, the race identitarians. Their critical race theory subsumes individualism, dissolving it in a group membership — racial solidarity, which supposedly has been forged in the furnace of racist oppression.
Today’s progressives, who fancy themselves the vanguard of modernity, are actually modernity’s enemies. In progressivism’s jargon, History is a proper noun designating something autonomous. People “on the right side of history” propel History toward a knowable destination. It is known by theorists whose special insight makes them society’s rightful rulers.
In making the case for these programs, progressives often draw on the Danish welfare state for inspiration, with its low levels of income inequality and high levels of mobility in income across generations. They attribute these features to the many generous social policies Denmark has in place; Denmark for example offers tuition-free education from pre-K to PhD with substantial support. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a staunch supporter of Build Back Better, regularly points to Denmark as the model welfare state.
But Sanders and other progressive admirers of the Danish welfare state should note that despite generous policies, there is substantial inequality in child outcomes across social and economic classes in Denmark. Contrary to the views of progressives, despite the striking policy differences between Denmark and the U.S., these differences are not reflected in intergenerational educational mobility.
For example, family influence in Denmark is comparable to what it is the United States; children of college-educated women do substantially better than children of high school dropouts in both countries.
David Henderson remembers a paper from the late 1990s by Daron Acemoglou and Joshua Angrist – a paper that finds that the Americans with Disabilities Act might be yet another disability for Americans with disabilities.