October 23, 2009

Was Richard Right About The Front Porch?

Regular readers of this magazine may recall a minor internal spat that occurred a few months ago, concerning the then new Front Porch Republic website. I wholly endorsed the project, which was followed immediately by a long piece from Richard that focused on the vague language used to promote the site and the implicit statism of some of its better known contributors. The dispute – if one could call it that – was an amicable one that ended in a podcast debate whereby Richard and I agreed to disagree on certain facets of the FPR program.

Though it pains me to condemn any site that would regularly publish the work of Bill Kauffman, Kirkpatrick Sale and Daniel Larison, two pieces that appeared on the Porch this week have left me wondering whether or not I can seriously disagree with the initial criticisms Richard spoke of months ago.

The first essay that gave me pause was by Patrick Deneen. Entitled “Subsidizing Localism?” the brief posting quotes favorably the musings of another blogger who suggested that “the localism versus globalism debate is about what we should subsidize rather than whether we should subsidize, period.” To the blogger’s comments, Deneen added:

In my view, the problem is not simply that we currently have a powerful centralized government, but that its orientation is toward supporting BIGNESS in the form of private concentration of power (which in turn reinforces its public power). While in theory it would be better to have neither public nor private concentrations of power, at this point in our history it is the public power that is at least theoretically more capable of responding to public demands, even a sustained public demand to restrict these sorts of concentrations of power.

As a person who has summed up his entire political philosophy with the mantra “Bigger is Badder” I can certainly sympathize with Deneen’s reflexive opposition to the corporate state. In fact, one of the more contentious moments in my debate with Richard occurred when I recycled the Jerry Mander inspired, neo-Luddite argument that technology was dangerously undemocratic and inherently trended toward the centralization of power. After audibly guffawing at my populist naivet

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