Yesterday morning, while waiting on PG&E’s ‘extended outage’ line listening to elevator music, I received an email from Russ Steele that contained a copy of the latest effluent directed at me personally by Jeff Pelline and his friend Steven Frisch. For your edification you can read the original and its comment stream on Pelline’s blog here. The piece contained the usual characterizations that regular readers have seen many times before in these pages and, presumably elsewhere. The added descriptors worth noting were “slimy” and “pseudo-intellectual masturbation”.
Yet reading that screed, one comes away with the feeling that somewhere in the bowels of it there is still a desire to bring us in from the frozen world of ignorance into which we have been consigned. I don’t know whether that is really possible in this “hyperpartisan country”, because the ‘in’ into which they want to bring us is a world of misery beyond belief.
We are now a nation with a widely recognized broken educational system whose publicly supported part is outputting its third generation of graduates in the humanities who have been grounded in the collectivist anti-American mantra. These people open their eyes every morning and see a very different world from the one that I see.
They see themselves in a country that has been a scourge on mankind, one whose selfish consumption has deprived other peoples of their just due, and in the process visited on them all sorts of evils and bedevilments. Also a country that generates obscene amounts of wealth which it allows to be husbanded in the most inequitable of ways. In short, a country that needs radical social salvation possible only through a strong and thriving central authority with the wisdom to regulate and redistribute ‘fairly’ throughout the land. And that is a land whose people are yearning for collective world order, where each will produce according to his abilities and receive according to his needs. Of course, such abilities and needs will be determined by distant councils wherein lies all beneficial knowledge and wisdom.
Against such ‘educated’ legions of the left, there remain voices such as mine. And no matter how insignificant, small, ignorant, evil, and irrelevant we are judged to be, somehow our very existence remains a constant irritant to those whose collectivist stratagems we reject. As if, upon reading and meditating on our words, a person would conclude that the progressive prescriptions of the left are utterly bankrupt of what they promise.
Having seen, lived in, and studied other social orders for the many years of my life, I cannot but conclude that America, with all its warts, is an historically exceptional country that has brought to the world ideas, products, and benefices beyond all expectation. A land that, though hobbled in many ways today, can still do that. And those riches of body and soul were made possible by free Americans under a government restrained, with individuals making their own decisions on how to spend their energies and treasure.
So where are we on all this? It seems clear that we think less and less of each other's education, values, perception of reality, understanding of history, understanding of science, and the perception of Man’s role in this universe.
Those on the left perceive the labels – socialist, liberal, communist, progressive - associated with various aspects of their beliefs as somehow denigrating, hold them to be pejorative, and as personal attacks even when used to identify certain aspects of their thought. Those of us on the right take exactly the opposite view when labeled as conservatives, capitalists, libertarians, free-marketers. We are proud of such labels and want the world to understand the benefits it will accrue if more people thought and acted as we do.
In the above cited post, Steve Frisch makes a statement that clarifies many aspects of the gulf that separates us.
A prime example of George playing fast and lose (sic) with the facts would be his equation of the NAZI government of Germany with socialism. No credible historian would agree with George on this one: the name National Socialist German Workers Party was chosen before Hitler led it, the ‘socialist’ was added to the title to demonstrate that the party supported the Bismark era social welfare programs, and the NAZI party never supported state ownership of the means of production which is the definition of socialism.
This assessment is simply wrong, but necessary for the left to characterize the ‘extreme rightwing’ as the totalitarian antipode of their collectivist workers’ paradise wherein resideth the perfected Man. Such minds do not understand that totalitarianism is the extreme end of collectivism in which all liberties are removed and everyone works within the state dictated confines determined by the ruling elite. The Nazi Party not only supported but also implemented state ownership of the means of production. The Nazis had the wisdom not to remove the working managements of the industrial sectors whose output they directed to the last degree as the 1930s progressed. The state simply co-opted the owners and managers of industry.
All this, of course, has been rewritten in progressive history so as to put national socialism on the right extreme and substitute ‘totalitarianism’ for ‘socialism’. International socialism (a la USSR) is the good kind toward which should all strive – and this time we’ll get it right. However, the social remedies promoted by people of my ideological coloration hearken back to what our Founders originally ordained for a free people who would live in a democratic republic.
Another abyss between us is the inability to understand simple concepts of analytical dialogue as exemplified again by Mr. Frisch’s outrage over my post of the John Stossel essay on the politically incorrect Thanksgiving. Steve confuses the notion of the failure of the Pilgrims’ first attempts at collective economy with the fact that such an economy was really imposed by the corporate charter under which that pioneer community was organized and launched.
He doesn’t seem to understand that their imperfect launch as a communist community was independent of Governor Bradford’s assessment of its subsequent failure as pointed out in Stossel’s piece. Debating the origin of the mistake is irrelevant to the recognition that however it came about, such social orders which come embedded with the tragedies of the commons cannot and will not work. Such analytical powers will not contribute to any dialogue seeking common ground.
Finally, simplified interpretations of early Christian history is often used by secular humanist progressives to point out to the faithful capitalists that early Christian communities often operated on a collectivist basis sharing their produce and comforts freely with each other. While that is true, what these leftwing intellectuals fail to understand is that survival for besieged small groups always requires a collective approach whether it be a military unit in battle or a family unit surviving in trying times.
There is no doubt that for small groups, especially those beleaguered and over an anticipated short interval, a collective approach is optimal. What those of more limited abilities can’t seem to reconcile is why collectivism in any of its various forms does not scale upward. Why does it break down and degenerate into authoritarianism then totalitarianism when it is attempted with larger groups and over extended times?
The answer lies in how the collectivists and the capitalists understand human nature. Those of the left unthinkingly perceive that all humans either are or can be ‘nudged’ by the collective (i.e. state) to behave altruistically. Countless failures, ranging from the national to communal levels, will not deter their ongoing application of such reasoning.
It is for these reasons that I believe the gulf between us is too wide to negotiate. Given that, there are a number of alternative futures available to us which is a topic I have treated here and will continue to explore in future offerings. However, the most hopeful future lies in reforming how we educate our young. Our generations will soon pass. From where I sit, restoring education to local control and making it again responsive to parents’ wishes is the only hope for continuing the Republic in its intended form. A low probability event indeed, but still worth fighting for.