the left

The Left and Its Delusions

Capsule commentaries on the left and its sure grasp of unreality.

An old meme: “Everyone wants less government spending, but no one wants government to cut their favorite programs.” This observation is used by big-spenders as an “argument” against cutting government spending.

Here’s a more apt observation: “There’s no free lunch.” When you have “favorite programs,” for which others must pay, you are (in effect) allowing others to have “favorite programs,” for which you must pay. Log-rolling is as old as the Republic.

The obvious answer to the big-spenders is this: Cut everyone’s favorite programs — and taxes — in one muscular stroke of the budget axe. And repeat this exercise annually until government is reduced to its legitimate functions: protecting the people from foreign and domestic predators.

*  *  *

The incessant drumbeat of progressivism: share the wealth (of other people), protect my job (at the expense of others), save the planet (from a nonexistent threat at any cost), be nice to people who are different (even if they want to kill you), make my old age more secure (and charge it to my grandchildren).

*  *  *

Q. When was the last time you “gave” money to someone who needed it less than you do?

A. When income taxes were withheld from your paycheck. That’s the thrust of  Steven Landsburg’s proof that public-sector workers are overpaid. If you read Landsburg’s post and still find yourself in favor of public-sector unions, you are (a) an emotional leftist (possibly a hate-filled one) and (b) the kind of person who would take money from others (via taxes) in order to feel good about yourself.

*  *  *

The author of Bookworm Room writes:

[A]fter years and years of indoctrination, Liberals see the world so fundamentally different[ly] than the rest of us that they can no longer recognize human fallibility and evil…. This Liberal view not only cannot survive … , but is the enabler of its/our own destruction.

A case in point, from a recent news story:

A coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations plans to rally in New York City against a planned congressional hearing on Muslims’ role in homegrown terrorism.

The Islamic, faith-based war against America began in 1979. “Liberals” don’t want to admit that there is such a war and that the Islamic aggressors justify it on religious grounds. “Liberals” don’t care because they think, mistakenly, that their “liberalism” protects them. Tell that to the Americans who were held hostage in Tehran. Tell that to the victims of 9/11. Do you suppose that the Muslims who perpetrated those events (and others) took the time to sort out the “liberals” so that they could focus their hatred on real Americans?

*  *  *

I will coexist with statists because I must, and only for as long as I must. But I will never willingly acquiesce to them.

*  *  *

NewsReal Blog reminds us that the political correctness of another day — anti-anti-communism — led to the near-victory of communism:

In fact, the rightful criticism of [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy is that his theatrics and personal foibles ultimately thwarted a wholly necessary campaign against domestic enemies of the Constitution. Those enemies survived him. They continued their “long slow march through the institutions,” affecting socialism through evolution rather than revolution. They infiltrated the schools and the universities. They infiltrated the churches and other houses of worship. They engaged in “community organizing” to build “coalitions of power” with which to bring about “redistributive change.” Ultimately, they shaped the worldview of the sitting president of the United States. For all intents and purposes, they won.

And so will radical Islam win if today’s political correctness — “mustn’t offend our enemies” — dictates our political discourse.

*  *  *

The minimum wage denies many young persons a chance to step on the ladder of success. It dooms them to a life of dependency and criminality, all in the name of “compassion.”

*  *  *

Regulation:

  1. It is thought of as a cure-all, but it rarely is one. Stuff still happens.
  2. It imposes costs indiscriminately, thus making many people at least a bit worse off, at no gain to them.
  3. It follows from 2 that a lot of regulations make a lot of people a lot worse off, at no gain to them.
  4. In fact, the net cost of regulations — which restrict output and hinder innovation and entrepreneurship — has been estimated at $1.5+ trillion/year for the U.S. economy.

Regulation is like alcoholism. A little bit makes you feel good, so you up your intake. And then it becomes a habit that you can’t break. As a result, you age prematurely and die relatively young because you have effectively killed yourself by poisoning your body.

*  *  *

Bookworm Room captures my frustration with the leftist mindset. It is armor-plated with myths and slogans, and nearly impervious to facts and logic. If I have anything to show for my recent effort to acquaint a leftist with facts and logic, it is probably to tamp down the rhetoric he exposes to my scrutiny. Beyond that, I expect nothing.

*  *  *

Leftist critics of “materialism” and “consumerism” seem to think that mankind’s striving for greater comfort and convenience and the trappings of status began in the United States, sometime in the 1920s. But a great swath of the long history and betterment of mankind’s lot can be ascribed to “materialism” and “consumerism.”

Leftists condemn such things not because they are anti-materialistic (quite the opposite) but because they want to decide for themselves the allocation of the products of economic endeavor. That their presumptuous schemes have slowly strangled the economy and harmed the worse-off into the bargain matters not one whit to them. They either don’t understand the consequences of their schemes or don’t care about the consequences of those schemes. They are like children lashing out at “unfairness,” but with much greater and lasting effect.

*  *  *

Social justice consists of taking money and jobs from some people, giving them to others, and congratulating yourself on your generosity.

*  *  *

The wailing and gnashing of teeth among “liberals” about the possibility that Congress will de-fund “public” broadcasting has given rise to the canard that NPR is an “objective” source of news. Anyone who believes that is a “fish in water” — so immersed in the “liberal” point of view that he cannot see it for what it is. In fact, an analysis of NPR’s audience (compiled and published by NPR) indicates that NPR’s listeners are “124% more likely to have a very liberal political outlook.” A bit of algebra yields the result that 69% of NPR’s listeners are “very liberal.” Which — given the natural human tendency to listen to, read, and watch that which pleases us — is strong evidence of NPR’s “liberal” bias. “Objective,” my foot.

*  *  *

There is almost nothing to be gained by the use of facts and logic against the quasi-religious zealotry and willful ignorance of “liberalism.” For every convert to realism, at least one more “liberal” is created by adolescent rebellion or obdurate stupidity. Think about that, and its implications for the possibility of reclaiming liberty in the United States.

*  *  *

I just read the phrase “we’ve collectively decided,” in reference to  government policy. Surprisingly, this abomination appears on the blog of a self-proclaimed libertarian. (For shame!)

There are no “collective” decisions in a nation the size of the United States, or in a State, or in a city, or in any group with more than a few dozen members. What “we” mostly have are decisions made by majorities of so-called representative bodies (which usually represent factions of minorities), and by executive and judicial fiat.

I don’t know about you, but no one makes decisions for me. I can be (and often am) forced to abide by the decisions of others, but those decisions are theirs, not mine. Only the prospect of a fine or jail time keeps me in line. And sometimes I just say “the hell with it.”

*  *  *

Democracy is inimical to liberty. That heretical thought, which I have expressed here and here, finds eloquent support here. A sample:

This illusion, that the democratic process is the same as liberty, is an ideal weapon for those few who may desire to destroy liberty and to replace it with some form of authoritarian society; innocent but ignorant persons are thereby made their dupes.

*  *  *

The virulent reaction of Dems to budget-cutting efforts reminds me that the belief in a “free lunch” is alive and well in America. It likely will remain so until the economy crashes under the weight of government spending and regulation. The only question in my mind is about what happens first: a still-prosperous China refusing to buy any more U.S. debt or an economically crumbling China unable to buy any more U.S. debt.

*  *  *

When a “liberal” finishes telling you how open-minded he is, ask him for his opinions about religion, homosexuality, abortion, Republicans, public schools, labor unions, capital punishment, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Movement, defense spending, and Israel. Then stand by for a recitation of the usual talking points from NPR. “Liberals” are open-minded all right; they open their minds and let the lame-stream media fill them with pre-packaged views.

*  *  *

“Liberals” who are angry about the GOP’s insistence on budget cuts remind me of predators who are frustrated by the presence of sheep dogs.

*  *  *

“Liberalism” is to liberty as the Ku Klux Klan is to racial harmony.

*  *  *

If you believe Obama, the “American dream” is to have others pay for your retirement and health care.

*  *  *

Obamacare is to health care as a set of bald tires is to safe driving.

*  *  *

Civil servants and union members are drones to politicians, senior bureaucrats, public-school administrators, and union bosses — the “queen bees” whose luxurious salaries and perks the drones make possible simply by virtue of their existence. Private-sector “drones” have the satisfaction of producing real goods and services, and the “queen bees” (for the most part) deserve what they earn because of their managerial and financial contributions to the output of real goods and services.

*  *  *

The New Republic to the contrary notwithstanding, the Framers of the Constitution did not rely on disinterested institutions to protect the public interest, they relied on checks and balances. There is no such thing as a disinterested institution; institutions are colored by those who happen to dominate them. Checks and balances failed, eventually, because the legislative, executive, and judicial branches came to be dominated by like-minded “liberals.”

*  *  *

Here’s some research which concludes that

compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease.

Which meshes neatly with the conclusions of my own analysis:

If you are very intelligent … [y]our politics will lean heavily toward libertarianism or small-government conservatism. You probably vote Republican most of the time because, even if you are not a card-carrying Republican, you are a staunch anti-Democrat. And you are a happy person because your expectations are not constantly defeated by reality.

*  *  *

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that P.J. O’Rourke is on to something when he says that

“A” students work for “B” students. Or not even. A businessman friend of mine corrected me. “No, P. J.,” he said, “ ‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students. ‘A’ students teach.”…

…or work in think-tanks, where they are not held accountable for the consequences (if any) of their airy-fairy theorizing.

*  *  *

Leftists and rightists — statists, in other words — labor under the illusion that everything would be all right if only the “right kind of person” was “in charge” of things. Their worldview does not allow for the proneness of humans to ingrained biases, unfounded optimism about favored courses of action, and blindness to inconvenient facts.

*  *  *

“Liberals” believe in Santa Claus government: its coffers are bottomless and its good intentions override the corrupting influence of human nature. Conservatives understand that the “bottomless coffers” of government are filled by taxing and borrowing. They understand, further, that every dollar spent by government is a dollar that cannot be spent — usually in better ways — by the people who surrender their money to goverment. Conservatives also understand that a person does not automatically become wiser or less venal on becoming part of government, and that government cannot replicate the complex interactions that yield economic satisfaction and progress. Government cannot make people better off generally; it can make a relatively small number of people better off, temporarily, at the expense of the many and, in the long-run, at the expense of everyone.

*  *  *

The millennium has arrived: 51 percent of U.S. households pay no income taxes. Meanwhile, 1 percent of individual and joint returns account for 39 percent of income tax collections. What’s this business about making “the rich” pay “their share”?

*  *  *

The battle for the hearts, minds, and bank accounts of Americans will continue for as long as there is, in Thomas Sowell’s phrase, “a conflict of visions” among them. The conflict is between unrealistic and realistic views of human nature and resource constraints.

On the unrealistic side are leftists, whose magical thinking leads them to believe that government can solve all “problems” with the stroke of a president’s pen. Thus “the rich” can be taxed unto impoverishment and the economy will not suffer and all God’s children will cheer for Uncle Sam.

On the realistic side are most conservatives and libertarians, who understand that human nature is immune to social engineering, which means that bad things happen when people are compelled to support the state in its schemes for their betterment, which can only be afforded by giving up things of value (like economic growth). Realists understand, further, that “problems” are not problems, but facts of life, which can be made better by free persons acting voluntarily through markets and other social institutions.

Leftists understand the terms of this conflict — viscerally, at least — which is why they resist efforts to privatize education. To do so would free America’s children from the grasp of the statists who administer and teach in most public-school systems. To do so would sow the seeds of the destruction of the regulatory-welfare state because America’s children would then be free do adopt the realistic vision.

*  *  *

The current polarization of American politics represents a “conflict of visions,” in Thomas Sowell’s phrase. The realignment of the parties, which began in ’48 when the Dixiecrats walked out, has led to a Democrat Party whose leaders and hard-core adherents are committed to the welfare state, and to a Republican Party whose leaders and hard-core adherents are committed to a drastic reduction of the welfare state — thus the Ryan plan. Compromise is seen as betrayal, and is grounds for removal from power (especially among Republicans).

If there is to be a compromise, the GOP will have to blink first; there are too many irrational voters who cannot bring themselves to refuse the welfare state’s promise of a “free lunch.” Witness the recent upset in the NY special election, which would have been close, at best, even without a Tea Party spoiler in the field. Despite that, GOP leaders are leery of the political cost (to themselves) of compromise.

Therefore, I do not expect an orderly, agreed retreat from the entitlement “commitments” that are now on the books. It may well take a full-scale financial disaster (e.g., a federal default of some kind) to spur serious action. But, by then, the requisite action (a severe scaling back of the welfare state) would exacerbate the economic turmoil that surely will follow a financial fiasco. The result: something worse than the recent “Great Recession.”

*  *  *

They just don’t get it. My health is my business, not the state’s. I want to be free to buy my own medical care, and to live as I wish to live. I don’t want the state to tell me how to live as a price for the promise of “free” medical care. “Free” is in quotation marks, of course, because it is not free when the state controls it, and it certainly is not as good when the state delivers it.

*  *  *

From The Heritage Foundation, via The Blaze:

As Congress looks for much-need cuts in federal spending, some are wrongly looking to balance the budget by decimating defense. That’s a dangerous, wrongheaded road to head down.

We live in a hostile world, and being prepared — no matter the challenge — is key to the federal government living up to its constitutional duty to protect America. But as even as the military continues to wage war overseas, defense spending is at historic lows, all while critical investments in modern equipment are postponed.

Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cotesworth Slessor said it best:

It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free. (Strategy for the West, p. 75)

* * *

A post at The Volokh Conspiracy: “Gay Athletic Group Has First Amendment Right to Limit the Number of Straight Players on a Team.”

In a libertarian nation, the converse would be true, as well, and everyone could enjoy freedom of association.

*  *  *

From an MSNBC print ad:

We didn’t put a man on the Moon because some company thought they might be able to make a profit doing it. It takes vision to involve the common good of the American people without regard for profit. If you’re charting a course for this country and your big idea is, “No we can’t,” then I don’t want you leading the country.

Rachel Maddow

How sad that Ms. Maddow must be led. Evidently, she lacks the wherewithal to choose and pursue her own goals. She — like most liberals — then projects her own shortcomings onto others. It is especially sad that Ms. Maddow thinks of putting a man on the Moon as something that advanced the common good of the American people. It assuaged the egos of a handful of presidents and countless government employees, and it enriched no small number of government contractors, but the vast sums that were spent on the scientifically sterile task of putting a man on the Moon (not to mention other, equally sterile government projects) would have been better spent by the taxpayers whose money funded the effort. Think of the real jobs that might have been created; think of the consumption and investment goods that might have been produced. Now, there’s vision for you.

*  *  *

The latest constitutional innovation:

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank hoisted a rainbow [gay pride] flag outside its building this month in a bid to support acceptance of diversity in the workplace….

According to the [Richmond] Times-Dispatch, Richmond Federal Reserve officials placed the flag at the request of PRISM – a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bank employees – in recognition of LGBT Pride Month in June.

Sally Green, the bank’s first vice president and chief operating officer, said last week: ‘We are flying the pride flag as an example of our commitment to the values of acceptance and inclusion.’

Bank spokesman Jim Strader said there were no plans to lower the flag, noting the Federal Reserve bank operates independently from the federal government.

I wish I could say that.

*  *  *

Democrats favor “death panels.” Greg Mankiw explains:

[U]nder the likely scenario that healthcare spending keeps rising faster than GDP, the Center for American Progress [the Democrat Party’s pseudo-think-tank] would give government the power to prohibit people from buying expensive health plans with their own money. That is not my idea of progress.

Nor mine. But I am unsurprised.

*  *  *

The main psychological root of “liberalism” is a lack of trust, which surfaces in two important ways. First, there is an inability to believe that others can take care of themselves, given the freedom and incentive to do so. Second, and related to that, there is an inability to believe that progress occurs without being imposed from above, according to a master design. This lack of trust is, in fact, a projection onto others of the “liberal’s” own lack of imagination and resourcefulness.

*  *  *

Item:

Just before the 1964 election, a muckraking magazine called Fact decided to survey members of the American Psychiatric Association for their professional assessment of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican nominee against President Lyndon B. Johnson….

The psychiatrists’ assessment was brutal. Half of the respondents judged Mr. Goldwater psychologically unfit to be president. They used terms like “megalomaniac,” “paranoid” and “grossly psychotic,” and some even offered specific diagnoses, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder….

Say what you will about their motivation, these doctors had given very specific and damaging psychiatric opinions, using the language and art of their profession, about a man whom they had not examined and who surely would not have consented to such statements.

I could say plenty about the motivations of those doctors quacks, but I refer you, instead, to something I wrote about one of their ilk: “The Psychologist Who Played God.” The “God” part should be a clue.

*  *  *

Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But that was in 1843. Later, Marxism became the opium of some of the people, but “enlightened” leftists eschewed the violence necessary to achieve true Marxism for the non-violent accretion of the regulatory-welfare state.

*  *  *

Some leftists (including a few of my acquaintances) seem to think that the welfare state is justified by the admonitions of Jesus Christ on the subject of the poor. Hmm… I doubt it. The lessons of the Sermon on the Mount and suchlike are aimed at individuals, not states. Let he who is truly charitable cast the first stone.

The Left’s Agenda

A post at Bookworm Room caught my eye:

Andy McCarthy writes about the elephant in the liberal living room; namely, Islamic attitudes towards rape:  Women are almost always asking for it, especially Western women, and, once having forced an innocent man to give in to his base animal nature, they deserve to be beaten, arguably to death.

That analysis, of course, must get paired with CBS’s muted and delayed reporting of the horrific rape that its reporter, Lara Logan, suffered at the hands of an Islamic mob.  CBS tries to spin it as a normal tale of a mob that’s gotten out of control, but people paying attention to the Islamic world understand that, while Western mobs attack cars and shops, Islamic mobs attack women.

Why have American leftists so eagerly embraced Islam, with all of its ugly features, while rejecting pro-Western Israel? What is the left’s agenda with respect to Islam and Israel? What is the left’s agenda, period?

Don’t expect to understand the left by looking for rational explanations of leftist beliefs and behavior. The left is in an arrested state of adolescent rebellion: “If it’s ‘bad’ or dangerous, I want it, just to be ‘different’ (well, not different from my peers, whose approval I seek) and to express my ‘independence’ (as long as ‘Daddy government’ gives me an allowance, birthday presents, cell phones, etc.).”

To put it bluntly — and this is entirely consistent with my experience — persons of the left are like unthinking, selfish adolescents who want what they want, regardless of the consequences for themselves or others.

It seems natural for adolescents and young adults to flirt with leftism. The persistence of leftism beyond one’s twenties is a sign of arrested emotional development. (By the way, I would say the same thing about doctrinaire libertarian extremists, the kind who believe in fairy tales about stateless societies.)

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