A Trollish Inconsistency is the Hobgoblin of the Religious Left
First of all, as is generally true of so many areas, plain old stupidity is underrated as an explanation. If you just consider the fact that the average IQ is 100, then exactly 50% of the population has double digit IQs, which is not all that far from being borderline retarded (which is an IQ of 85 or below).
In short, half of mankind (actually, more than half, for reasons we won't get into here) is of below average intelligence. This hardly means that they aren't decent people or that they don't have skills, but it does mean that they probably can't actually think complex subjects through for themselves, and that their thinking is very likely going to be both internally and externally inconsistent. Furthermore, they won't even be intelligent enough to spot the inconsistency. And if you try to explain it to them, they still won't get it.
(I might add that countless people of modest intelligence fully understand, at least intuitively, transcendent Truth, whereas for many people of superior intelligence, such as a Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, higher truth is, for a variety of characterological reasons, inaccessible to them, so please never think that I value intelligence itself if it is not aligned with the Real. Again, most of the serious problems in the world are caused by demonically intelligent people with bad ideas.)
As I have written before, one of the downsides of democracy is that it not only has a leveling tendency, but it leads to a situation in which, as Guenon remarked, "no one knows their place." Because of the aggressive imposition of egalitarian ideals from the top down, this results in a leveling of the higher castes, so that society ends up with a collective soul that is roughly half merchant and half laborer. Not only that, but through the magic of “inverse analogy,” transgression is confused with transcendence, so society ends up “worshipping” the outcast -- the transgressor, the outsider, the person “above” (actually beneath) the law.
But there is a substantial percentage of the population that is not fit to lead, only to be led (not in principle, of course, but in fact). In America this shouldn't really be a controversial statement, as it is explicitly what our founders believed. That's why they created a representative republic and not a democracy, the latter of which should be a "non-starter" for any thinking person who is aware of the natural hierarchy that prevails among humans. (Speaking of which, Al Gore is not a thinking person -- or at least no one should take his ghostrotten thoughts seriously.)
Which, by the way, is what distinguishes American style conservative liberalism (i.e., classical liberalism) from European style conservatism, which historically (at least until Margaret Thatcher, whose main intellectual influence was the quintessential classical liberal Freidrich Hayek) was much more about preserving the privileges of king and class, or what amounts to unnatural hierarchy. One of the ironies of our political system is that leftism now embodies the idea of preserving unearned privilege, whereas conservatives (not necessarily Republicans, mind you) are all for the creative destruction of the market, which allows people to rise up or down based upon their merits (or just plain luck).
Also, as I have previously noted, "The paradox, or 'complementarity,' at the heart of the modern conservative movement is the tension between tradition, which preserves, and the free market, which relentlessly destroys in order to build. While individual conservatives may or may not contain this tension within themselves, the conservative coalition definitely does, with the 'religious right' on one end and libertarians and free marketeers on the other. People wonder how these seeming opposites can coexist in the same ideological tent, but the key may lie in their dynamic complementarity, for liberty only becomes operative, or 'evolutionary,' when it is bound by transcendent limitations -- which, by the way, is equally true for the individual."
Furthermore, "The ironically named progressive left is an inverse image of this evolutionary complementarity. This is because it rejects both the creative destruction of capitalism and the evolutionary restraints of tradition. Therefore, it is static where it should be dynamic, and dynamic where it should be static. It is as if they want to stop the world and 'freeze frame' one particular image of capitalism, which is why, for example, they oppose free trade. While free trade is always beneficial in the long run, it is obviously going to displace some people and some occupations. It is as if the progressive is an 'economic traditionalist,' transferring their resistance to change to the immament realm of economics instead of the spiritual realm of transcendent essences."
In other words, "while the progressive is thoroughly backward looking with regard to economics, he is the opposite with regard to the spiritual realm. For him, mankind was basically worthless until the scientific revolution, mired as it was in myth, magic, and superstition. Rather, the only reliable way to understand the world is through the scientific method, which has the effect of throwing overboard centuries of priceless accumulated spiritual wisdom. It literally severs man from his deepest metaphysical roots and ruptures his vertical continuity. In reality, it destroys the very possibility of man in the archetypal sense -- i.e., actualizing his 'spiritual blueprint.'"
A further irony about the left: "Progressives, starting with Karl Marx, waged an assault on labor, eliminating its spiritual significance and reducing it to a mindless, collective 'proletariat.' You might say that the left honors labor in the same way they honor the military: both are considered by them to be losers." When Democrats claim that they are "for the little man," they actually mean this insult in the existential sense. Leftists always have a contemptuous and patronizing attitude toward labor, just as they do toward blacks. Meanwhile, the unleashing of market forces has obviously done more to lift the fortunes of blacks and laborers than any welfare program ever has.
Speaking of which, someone yesterday mentioned Martin Luther King. What about him? He was a religious leftist. First of all, I don't know if that's true. Aside from the usual things they trot out on his holiday, I'm not really familiar with his writings. I've heard it said that his body of writings is pretty tedious and none too deep, but I just don't know. For one thing, he was apparently an inveterate plagiarizer, so it's difficult to say exactly what he thought. The Wiki article on him not only discusses the well known controversy about his plagiarized doctoral dissertation, but the fact that most of his published writings may have been ghostwritten and that such uncredited "textual appropriation" was "a feature of many of his speeches, which borrowed heavily from those of other preachers..."
Speaking of the inconsistency of the religious leftist, here is a perfect example. The Wiki article states that, especially in private, King embraced socialist principles. In 1965, for example, he supposedly told Alex Haley that black equality could not be achieved without "a government compensatory program of US $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that 'the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils.'"
Furthermore, in a 1968 speech, he claimed that "You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with... captains of industry…. [I]t really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism." (By the way, I'm assuming he really said these things. I suppose with Wiki you never know, but I just don't have time at the moment to corroborate them. At any rate, forget about King, because the above statements articulate the sentiments of millions of other religious leftists anyway.)
Now, here is the inconsistency: "King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected 'traditional capitalism,' he also rejected Communism due to its 'materialistic interpretation of history' that denied religion, its 'ethical relativism,' and its 'political totalitarianism.'" So King clearly saw the dreadful truth about leftism, and yet, embraced its principles anyway.
Having said that, I think a lot of economic foolishness prior to the 1980s can be excused, since liberals had almost total control of the dissemination of information back then. Someone who was reading Hayek in the 1950s, as was Ronald Reagan, was truly on the cutting edge, for Hayek was not awarded his Nobel Prize until the 1980s, long after he had made his most important contributions to our economic understanding. Nor did the important science of complexity theory really emerge until the 1980s, of which evolutionary free market principles are an embodiment.
In truth, if King had been a more intellectually gifted man -- Thomas Sowell, or Shelby Steele, or Armstrong Williams come immediately to mind -- there would have been nothing whatsoever preventing him from even more forcefully making his case for civil rights based solely upon conservative principles, as do the above three thinkers. Indeed, I would suggest that the only intellectual aspects of Kings legacy that will survive -- and are worthy of surviving -- are precisely those that are rooted in the perennial truth of classical liberal principles, for example, the beautiful idea of judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. What decent person could ever object to this? Obviously millions of otherwise decent leftists do object to it.
The other aspect of King's legacy that should survive is his great and selfless personal courage in standing up to demonic forces impeding the spiritual mission and evolutionary progress of America. In this regard, King was the ultimate conservative, for he insisted, at great personal risk, that America live up the transcendent greatness of its founding principles, and it is for this that we owe King a debt of gratitude, not necessarily for his ideas -- certainly not all of them, irrespective of where he actually got them. In fact, we must respectfully -- but categorically -- reject any of his ideas that run foul of his liberal -- which is to say, conservative -- mission.
It's not that different from, say, John McCain. We should all be grateful for his heroic service to America, but that doesn't mean that we should align ourselves with some of his harmful ideas -- which also fundamentally violate American principles - or not do everything possible to prevent him from becoming president.
To quote myself again, "Ever since it came into existence, the United States has been the key to the material and spiritual progress of mankind. The founders were well aware of this fact, seeing their mission as analogous to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Clearly, Moses was not merely leading the Jews from physical slavery to economic freedom, but from spiritual shackles to the higher possibility of vertical liftoff in the desert."
I realize that I still haven't really tackled Susannah's question head-on, but this is the best I can do under the circumstances. Thankfully, Mrs. G. should return home by approximately, 3:00, mission accomplished.