Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Current Crisis

We all sense that things are going awry in some way. People are factionalizing into angry groups. Instead of people looking to reason to work things out, they are just getting angry and retreating into their most comfortable groups be they their race, their gender, their ethnic group or, in some cases, their country. If this process goes to its endpoint, the only people you will be able to trust is your family and you will definitely worry about some of them.

This is the breakdown of reason that Kant started (see my previous post entitled "Who Started This") in his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. A consequence of undermining reason is that people look to their feelings for guidance. Intuition, gut reaction, passion (emotional fervor) and other expressions of feeling become important. Without reason as one's guide, one returns to the places where one "feels" comfortable. Thus race, ethnic groups, and other groups become important. With reason, one crosses these barriers and expands outward. Without reason, one shrinks and moves inward.

With this increased dependency on the group, politics becomes everything. We are seeing this process happening in this country. In 1920, the only contact you were likely to have with the Federal Government was the Post Office. Now the Federal Government is into every part of your life - your food, your medicine, your buildings, your finances, your means of transportation, your personal behavior, everything. Everything has become political and you have to decide whether to acquiesce or fight. Hence our current state of affairs.

Everything being political gravitates to socialism. In other words, if we have to have the government decide everything, then the government has to have the power to cause their decisions to be real. But there is a problem. Socialism has failed on every front, both in theory and in practice. All that is left now is the emotional love of socialism propelling people into action but no reason for them to be propelled into action. This is the mob mentality.

Stephen Hicks in his book Explaining Postmodernism writes several paragraphs on this crisis. It always gets crystallized by the intellectuals first and then it spreads to the society. I quote:

"As modernists, socialists argued that socialism could be proved by evidence and rational analysis, and that once the evidence was in, socialism's moral and economic superiority to capitalism would be clear to anyone with an open mind.

"This is significant, because so-conceived socialism committed itself to a series of propositions that could be empirically, rationally, and scientifically scrutinized. The end result of that scrutiny provides another key to explaining postmodernism.

"Classical Marxist socialism made four major claims:
1. Capitalism is exploitative: The rich enslave the poor; it is brutally competitive domestically and imperialistic internationally.
2. Socialism, by contrast, is humane and peaceful: People share, are equal, and cooperative.
3. Capitalism is ultimately less productive than socialism: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer; and the ensuing class conflilct will cause capitalism's collapse in the end.
4. Socialist economies, by contrast, will be more productive and usher in a new era of prosperity.
These propositions were first enunciated by socialists in the nineteenth century, and repeated often into the twentieth before disaster struck. The disaster was that all four of socialism's claims were refuted both in theory and in practice.

" In theory, the free-market economists have won the debate. Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman have shown how markets are efficient, and they have shown, conversely, how socialist top-down command economies necessarily must fail. Distinguished Left-wing economists such as Robert Heilbroner have conceded in print that the debate is over and that the capitalists have won.

"The empirical evidence has been much harder on socialism. Economically, in practice the capitalist nations are increasingly productive and prosperous, with no end in sight. Not only are the rich getting fantastically richer, the poor in those countries are getting richer too. And by direct and brutal contrast, every socialist experiment has ended in dismal economic failure -- from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, to North Korea and Vietnam, to Cuba, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.

"Morally and politically, in practice every liberal capitalist country has a solid record for being humane, for by and large respecting rights and freedoms, and for making it possible for people to put together fruitful and meaningful lives. Socialist practice has time and time again proved itself more brutal than the worst dictatorships in history prior to the twentieth century. Each socialist regime has collapsed into dictatorship and begun killing people on a huge scale. Each has produced dissident writers such as Alexander Sozhenitsyn and Nien Cheng who have documented what those regimes are capable of.

"These points are well known, and I dwell upon them in order to project the depth of the crisis that this meant for Left-socialist intellectuals. By the 1950s, the crisis was being felt deeply.

"Instead of having collapsed in the Great Depression of the 1930s, as both the collectivist Right and the Left had hoped, the liberal capitalist countries had recovered after World War II and by the 1950s were enjoying peace, liberty, and new levels of prosperity. World War II had wiped out the collectivist Right - the National Socialists and the Fascists -- leaving the Left alone in the field against a triumphant and full-of-itself liberal capitalism. Yet while the liberal West's recovery and its rising political and economic prominence were distressing to the far Left intellectuals of the West, hope was still offered by the existence of the Soviet Union, the 'noble experiment,' and to a lesser extent by communist China.

"Even that hope was brutally crushed in 1956. Before a worldwide audience, the Soviets sent tanks into Hungary to stifle demonstrations by students and workers -- thus demonstrating just how strong was their commitment to humanity. And, more devastatingly, Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged publicly what many in the West had long charged -- that Joseph Stalin's regime had slaughtered tens of millions of human beings, staggering numbers that made the National Socialists' efforts seem amateurish in comparison.

"From The Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848 to the revelations of 1956 was over a century of theory and evidence. The crisis for the far Left was that the logic and evidence were going against socialism. Put yourselves in the shoes of an intelligent, informed socialist confronted with all this data. How would you react? You have a deep commitment to socialism: You feel that socialism is true; you want it to be true; upon socialism you have pinned all your dreams of a peaceful and prosperous future society and all your hopes for solving the ills of our current society.

"This is a moment of truth for anyone who has experienced the agony of a deeply cheerished hypothesis run aground on the rocks of reality. What do you do? Do you abandon your theory and go with the facts -- or do you try to find a way to maintain your belief in your theory?" (Stephen Hicks, pp 86-89)

So we have our current crisis . The evidence is in and the Left is unwilling to give up its long cherished belief. So we are seeing this vacuous hope and the anger of its frustration play out. One of the expressions of this is Obama's Hope and Change campaign.

1 comment:

rville9755 said...

Excellent piece, Steve. I would only add that socialists still consider that they have the moral upper hand. Today, they criticize the unfairness of the market toward the poor, even when statistics show that the poor are better off now then ever before...because of those markets. They claim to work on behalf of the middle class, the aged, the poor, the black, the displaced workers...without recognizing that the middle class is the most educated and affluent middle class in history, the aged are the most highly educated and knowledgeable group of seniors in history, the poor have many of the luxuries that even kings in past centuries did not have, the black are the most educated, talented and entrepreurial generation of blacks in our history and displaced workers often have skills far beyond those taught in a jobs training program and most of them find work rather quickly. But because the progressives claim that they are "helping" people against some supposed evil oppressor, they still hang on to power because "helping" is considered moral today. The progressives represent the morality of the "socialist" organizers and they think that the lingo of the organizer (altruism) is what wins elections. The reverse is true. It is the lingo of forced altruism that has caused them to lose election after election. People don't want "help." They are capable of helping themselves.