By way of a convoluted chain of associations, Texas put me in mind of Robert Nozick, the late Harvard philosopher famous for Anarchy, State, and Utopia, an argument for the minimal, libertarian state. Those familiar with Nozick are aware that he changed his mind in the late 1980s, rejecting his earlier support for libertarianism.
This chain of associations led me to a Slate piece on Nozick's move away from the minimal state, but I'm not going to write about that article, which you can read here. All the preceding is intended to introduce a quote from the Slate article:
The essence of any utopianism is: Conjure an ideal that makes an impossible demand on reality, then announce that, until the demand is met in full, your ideal can’t be fairly evaluated. Attribute any incidental successes to the halfway meeting of the demand, any failure to the halfway still to go.
This is wonderful. It's a familiar defense of impossible 'isms' that go off the rails, whether it's communism that isn't fully communist, capitalism that isn't free-market enough, or any other ism that can never be pure enough. One can always locate the impurity that spoiled the whole batch.
The problem isn't that this is always a wrong defense of a particular ideology. The problem is that it's ALWAYS a defense for far too many believers.
Using the words impurity and spoiled above could be misleading. I'm not talking about psychoimmunological reactions or the moral domain of psychic functioning. With respect to economic ideology, I believe that the impurity defense has more to do with securing mutually protective tribal loyalties and defending ideologies that provide a reassuring sense of order and meaning. Drilling down further, the impurity defense supports a sense of security that mitigates the potentially debilitating effects of universal death terror. One cannot understand the rabid and sometimes violent intensity of loyalties and ideologies without appreciating the sense of deadly stakes driving it all.
Unfortunately, the cost of defending against death terror can be alienation from correction by reality. Another way of putting it is that protecting ourselves from death terror can end up killing us.
So a question for Texas moving forward is: Will the tribal loyalty or laissez-faire ideology prevent Texas from enacting solutions to prevent future crises, or will this recent encounter with deadly reality trump the false sense of security that loyalty and ideology might provide in this instance?