Folks have been asking me in e-mail if I had any thought about Jonah Goldberg’s recent assertion in the LA Times that Barack Obama’s proposed requirement of public service for teens and college students is not unlike slavery. The answer: No, not really; once the man declared that Mussolini was really a Socialist all his life, despite ample historical evidence to the contrary (Mussolini leaving Italy’s Socialist party, founding the Fascist party as an explicit right-wing refutation of Socialism, ordering the murders of prominent Socialists and then bascially daring anyone to do something about it on the floor of the Italian parliament) I recognized that Jonah Goldberg is kind of like the conservative movement’s special younger brother, the one that drank a pint of lead-based paint at age six, utters sentences where the verbs and nouns don’t quite match up, and gets moody and throws things when you gently try to explain that actually, no, goats did not land on the moon in 1983. In this context, of course Jonah Goldberg would suggest youth public service contributes to a “slave mentality.” It would be surprising if he hadn’t, frankly. It doesn’t mean such an attention-seeking comment merits serious consideration on my part.
(No doubt Mr. Goldberg’s rejoinder to this would be to point out that the book in which he gets lots about fascism wrong has racked up some lovely sales numbers; the obvious rejoinder to this is: well, you know. At this point on its downslope into minority, the conservative movement has a lot of special younger brothers.)
That said, while I don’t want to have to unpack Goldberg’s nonsensery, I would commend to you Stephen Bainbridge’s take on Goldberg’s column, as an example of someone who is a conservative with libertarian leanings, has serious reservations about Obama’s plan, and, heck, even hauls out the “S” word, yet does not descend into paint-quaffing madness. Aside from the quality of Professor Bainbridge’s comments, it’s worth noting the small irony that Goldberg’s platform for his gouting silliness is a newspaper, while Bainbridge’s rather more sensible discussion is hosted on a blog, and yet it’s the electronic medium that gets hammered for hosting bloviating ninnies. Funny about that.