Wednesday, September 23, 2009

God Save Us From the Liberal Do-Gooders

Don't worry, we'll be off economics soon enough. It's just that an 1128 page book slows one down a bit. Since I immerse myself in whatever I'm reading, at present I am Homo economicus. I'll get back to being Homo noeticus soon.

But again, the subject of economic liberty is such a critical one to the possibility of both personal and collective evolution, that it's worth dwelling on. Conversely, collectivism (that is, coerced vs. voluntary) spells the end of spiritual evolution. It is no coincidence whatsoever that Western Europe has reverted to godlessness, for that is what happens when God is replaced by the state. Which is why we object to the left on the basis of our values, which are eternal and non-negotiable.

By the way, I see no evidence that Mises himself was a particularly spiritual man. At times he is quite dismissive of religion, no doubt because of his personal experience with the various state religions of Europe. He was what we would now call a libertarian, not a classical liberal of the American type. Nevertheless, his critique of socialism remains timelessly true.

He traces the intellectual genealogy of the ideal, God-like state that would be both benevolent and omniscient. Obviously, such a state has never existed, and never will. But this doesn't stop leftist intellectuals from believing in it. Which is ironic the moment you think about it, because no one hates the the U.S. as much as the left, and yet, they want to transfer so much control over their lives to the state.

The only way to deal with the cognitive dissonance is to either believe in a state that has never existed, or to put one's faith in a single man, e.g. Obama, who will set things right. The central fallacy is that there exists a sufficiently virtuous and powerful man with good intentions, and who represents the interests of the "whole society" instead of just "selfish" individuals.

But Mises never attacks intentions. The problem with socialism is not the ends, which may or may not embody a beautiful sort of vision (in the sentimental, not intellectual, sense). Rather, the problem is with the means, which are strictly impossible. It requires the most omnipotent narcissism and grandiosity to believe otherwise.

For in order to plan for a future that is unknown and unknowable, the socialist director must ultimately resort to trial and error, not to any kind of empirical approach. Again, this is why Obama cannot defend his risky scheme to take over 17% of the economy, but only impute selfish or racist motivations to his opponents. This is because his only real argument comes down to "don't worry. I'm good and I know what's best for you."

This is why he also wants "the people who caused the problem" to "shut-up and get out of the way." Just as the leftist believes that an omnipotent person with good intentions can set things right, the corollary of this is that the problems were caused by malevolent people with bad intentions. As you surely know, this is why the left must smear and attack motivations; they think we are evil, whereas by and large, we merely believe they are wrong.

So the leftist believes in his heart that there is an irreconcilable conflict between "selfish individuals" and an omniscient state that presumes to speak for us all. But again, such a state has never actually existed, and when people have tried to make it exist, it has gone horribly wrong.

Why? Because the exact same scoundrels who would otherwise be harmlessly tending to their private interests are now sticking their noses into yours. And there is no risk or penalty for getting it wrong. For example, the ponzi scheme of Social Security is about to implode, but the sods responsible for it are long since beneath the sod. No doubt they went to their graves feeling good about themselves, shielded from the consequences their folly.

Socialists of the 19th century "substituted in their inquiries the image of an ideal state for the real states of their age." It's like the huge variable that makes the whole system work. Thus, if such an ideal state cannot exist, then neither can a socialism that isn't ultimately destructive to man's liberty and spiritual well-being.

Starting from the assumption of this omniscient and benevolent state, the socialist then has a basis on which to judge the actions of the "selfish" individual. This allows him to "raise the question of whether the actions of the individual citizens when left free from any authoritarian control would not develop along the lines of which this good and wise king would disapprove."

Thus comes the leftist tyranny that insinuates itself into every nook and cranny of public life, e.g., the bane of political correctness, which is a frontal assault on thoughts that are not permitted by the wise and good state.

You will have noticed that there is either no such thing as a "collective self," or else it is unknowable by anyone a priori. Rather, to the extent that it is knowable, it is only through the free actions of millions of individuals making economic choices based upon their own knowledge and values. You may not approve of what they choose, but that's the price of liberty. If the masses want junk food and TV, so be it. It's their life to either waste or fulfill. And they won't fulfill it by the state substituting and compelling their idea of "the good life." Just look at NPR and Public Television!

Am I disappointed in Man and the choices he makes? Yes I am. But what can we do about it? It doesn't take much history to understand what man is, so it comes as no surprise that he still is what he is. This is where I sharply diverge from the traditionalists, who again idealize medieval times, when everyone was a believer and spent their whole short disease- and famine-ridden life, for example, making the same shoe over and over. For traditionalists, this was "the good life."

But from the Raccoon perspective, that was not the good life, neither materially nor, more importantly, spiritually. For as we have mentioned on a number of occasions, ours is a God of liberty. Just as truth is inconceivable in the absence of free inquiry, so too is spiritual development. Actually, one cannot say impossible -- for all things are possible in God -- but not necessarily as valuable, since it was never arrived at by a free self that had to struggle with temptations that were simply unavailable in premodern times. With all due respect, I can't imagine that it was a difficult decision for a poor peasant to enter a monastery, given the options.

But imagine the spiritual force that must be present today for a young man to renounce the world and enter the priesthood! Thus, Schuon talks about this being the Kali Yuga, or what Raccoons call the Cretinaceous period. But precisely due to that fact, there are "cosmic compensations" that can speed along spiritual evolution in unprecedented ways.

In other words, it is as if God compensates for the collective degeneration by making his grace even more available to the sincere individual. In contrast, the grace that used to flow to the collective has now been replaced by the pseudo-grace that flows from the state. But if you become dependent upon that form of grace, you're a goner.

So it is only a childish illusion that the Fuhrer, or vanguard, or liberal elites, or a bunch of unaccountable czars, can embody the wishes and values of the people. Remember, since even Obama cannot read our minds and know our values, he must simply elevate "his personal value judgments to the dignity of a universally valid standard of absolute eternal values." This from a man who spent two decades in a racist and anti-American church! That being the case, can he have any insight at all into normal people who do not share those values? Thus far he hasn't even expressed any intellectual curiosity, only contempt for them.

Again, just last week, NYT idiotorialist Thomas Friedman lauded the Chinese system of authoritarian control in order to "get things done" -- specifically, to force Friedman's wacky beliefs on the rest of us. Here we see the identical fascination that the left had for the fascists of the 1930s. Nothing has changed, for this is how socialism must be, no matter how you try to conceal it. The bottom line is that personal choice is undermined and replaced by authoritarian decree.

"People frequently call socialism a religion. It is indeed the religion of self-deification." It is merely the deification of the "individual reformer's own will." But "it is nothing short of idiocy to assume that they are omniscient and infallible," no matter how lofty the intentions. "What is called a planned economy is no economy at all," only "a system for groping about in the dark.... What is called conscious planning is precisely the elimination of conscious purposive action" by individuals (Mises).

The socialist never stops to consider what will happen when the state begins to act in way of which he disapproves. But this will happen just as soon as an imperfect man fills the top spot. In other words, instantaneously. One has only to imagine our unemployed and ronery troll, Goddinpotty, having authority over us, and it is enough to chill one to the bone.

29 Comments:

Blogger Anonymous_1 said...

von Hayek and von Mises should be required reading in junior high school. Sadly, it's not.

9/23/2009 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And never will be so long as the illiberal left controls education. They obviously have a vested interest in keeping people economically illiterate.

9/23/2009 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Anonymous_1 said...

I agree with your statement, although it is a tad bit emotional. :)

While we're dreaming of a curriculum that should be, we might as well add Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Margolin's A Travel to the Land Ze-Ka to the wish list.

9/23/2009 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That would be nice. I didn't discover any of this stuff until I was well out of college, myself.

imagine the spiritual force that must be present today for a young man to renounce the world and enter the priesthood!

The Anchoress often posts about new vocations. She had a good one up a little while back: It Takes Guts to be a Priest

9/23/2009 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Alan said...

I've printed this post for my trip to a family wedding this weekend in Canada - now I just have to keep reminding myself - just aim to clarify, just aim to clarify ;-)

9/23/2009 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger jp said...

I've learned not to read anything that Thomas Friedman writes.

If I do read something he writes, I know that I'm just going to sit in slack-jawed amazement after which I will have realized that I just lost several minutes of my life for no apparent reason.

9/23/2009 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, also go back to first principles, and point out that you just have divergent values. That works as well.

I'm off to work and Dupree had a court date. Comment moderation is now enabled, so your comments won't appear until after I return.

9/23/2009 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

It is a bit of a straw "times" argument to criticize traditionalists for medieval nostalgia. The argument that people made the same shoe over and over again is silly when so much of the world now literally sticks the same sticker to a box over and over again. Further, the silly thought that somehow medieval humans were without "liberty", as if living one's religion was ever easy.
The difference, for traditionalists, is that society was somewhat ordered on the idea that the spiritual part of man was primary, or the contrary, try and argue against that after you are dead. It was far from ideal, as no one would be against a cure for disease, just so long as it didn't kill the soul of the patient, which, frankly, so much of the modern world does, most of it in a subtle manner that goes unnoticed. I believe it was Guenon who commented that the reason people rarely have issues with "evil spirits" these days is that those spirits have congealed into the machines that we mind.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the arguments that you must bring to bear against medieval idealism are materialistic in nature. One can speak of compensations of course, but a compensation is just that, not something better. "How can I compensate you for your lost soul sir?"
On a political note, your arguments against socialism and the currnent administrations' designs to implement are on target. In societies organized on a secular basis such as ours, the more freedom the better. It is odd that you were not able to see the connection to that and the heightend police state created during the previous administration, which also entailed numerous encroachments on personal liberty--all in the name of the all too Orwellian "homeland security". As long as were are "safe", liberty is fine to through away--all of this in spite of our great tradition of "give me liberty or give me death" and "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety".

9/23/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

The socialist never stops to consider what will happen when the state begins to act in way of which he disapproves.

Consequence is not found in the socialist lexicon. It would require a basic understanding of human nature.

9/23/2009 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

“By the way, I see no evidence that Mises himself was a particularly spiritual man. At times he is quite dismissive of religion, no doubt because of his personal experience with the various state religions of Europe. He was what we would now call a libertarian, not a classical liberal of the American type. Nevertheless, his critique of socialism remains timelessly true.”

Yep. Mises, Hayek and the much lessor Rothbard, seem to begin their reasoning from the starting point of economic thought… transactions, empirical data. For the most part it, it works out ok… immensely better than the Keynesian or other opposition. However, as soon as they attempt to step out of Economics and apply their ideas to politics or law, they are still using economics as their starting point, and things quickly go badly. Mises mostly refrains from this, Hayek does more so, and Rothbard goes whole hog with it, which is mostly how we came by the “hippies of the right’ libertarians we have today.

9/23/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

In other words, it is as if God compensates for the collective degeneration by making his grace even more available to the sincere individual.

"Where sin abounded there did grace abound all the more." Paul the Apostle

It does seem that in times of crass materialism that those who are spiritual become more so, while in times of revival, many believe and sincerely repent, but do so weakly and shallowly.

9/23/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope Dupree looses

9/23/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

BTW, a big 10-4 on the title.

9/23/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

It is odd that you were not able to see the connection to that and the heightend police state created during the previous administration, which also entailed numerous encroachments on personal liberty...

There were a lot of things the Bush administration did wrong; the ridiculous and questionably effective security measures currently enforced at our airports are a case in point. As far as Bush goes, though, I never had reason to believe he was acting out of anything but love for this country. We all know how important intentions are to results (which is to say, generally not); nonetheless, they do make a difference at times. Bush was sometimes wrong; he was never evil. And in the end, he always knew that he'd have to answer to God for his actions. That makes a difference sometimes, too.

The current POTUS, though, nobody knows what his intentions are. And frankly, if they were malicious he probably couldn't be doing any more harm than he already has. He takes advice and friendship from the worst of the worst; he doesn't think this country has been "good enough" until now. He has actively allowed himself to be portrayed as someone not merely human, but holy, messianic. To whom does he answer for his actions? Apparently, nobody, at least in his own mind. That wouldn't matter so much if he acted as though American exceptionalism were a reflection of his own exceptionalism; unfortunately, he apparently thinks instead that Americans are like naughty children who need to be corrected and controlled, and he's just the man to do it.

I would happily sit through another four or eight years of a gently fumbling Bush-type presidency over what we have.

9/23/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

yesterday jp quoted the B'ob as referring to Mises & Hayek as "neoclassical" economists. I believe Mises & Hayek have generally been referred to as Austrian economists. (Even Rothbard was an Austrian economist even though he was from Brooklyn.)
Neoclassical refers to Alfred Marshall, who is probably best known for microeconomic theory and who is not in the same league as Mises or Hayek.
Sorry for the pendantic, but I spent more time when in trade school (law) reading Mises and Hayek than law. I was looking for the "big picture" and sure wasn't finding it in the Supremes' opinions.
P.S. Hayek has some great points relevant to your discussion in the last book he wrote, "The Fatal Conceit"

9/23/2009 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

That being the case, can he have any insight at all into normal people who do not share those values? Thus far he hasn't even expressed any intellectual curiosity, only contempt for them.

On NRO today VDH has
Barack Obama, College Administrator
Our commander-in-chief seems to think he’s president of the University of America.


"For many in the academic community who have not worked with their hands, run businesses, or ventured far off campus, Middle America is an exotic place inhabited by aborigines who bowl, don’t eat arugula, and need to be reminded to inflate their tires. They are an emotional lot, of some value on campus for their ability to “fix” broken things like pipes and windows, but otherwise wisely ignored."

9/23/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Anon1, "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy" is required reading in our jr. high homeschool curriculum.

9/23/2009 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

"...the subject of economic liberty is such a critical one to the possibility of both personal and collective evolution, that it's worth dwelling on."


Maybe the real debate (with leftists for instance) needs to be about economics, and politics will follow. A friend of mine recently posted a website on his Facebook page "defending government". I glanced through it and one of the first things that jumped out was a disconnect between economic and civil liberty. It was completely absent to the degree of actively stating there is no relation.

Three quotes:

Despite the claims of conservatives, there is no necessary trade-off between government size and the freedom of its citizens.

...we begin to see that many of the basic conservative and libertarian assumptions about government and freedom are mistaken.

There is no logical reason to assume that a growing government inevitably threatens the freedom of its citizens.

***

I kind of think if they don't get it, they don't get it, but I would still would like to be able to discuss and argue effectively. This does seem to be a major missing synapse connection - between economic and civil liberty - in the puzzle (of the difference of the POV's.) Why talk about politics when it's the economics that so out of whack to the point where people are talking at cross purposes almost.

9/23/2009 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Julie,
I realize Bush "talked the talk", I have no idea if he was evil, but I do know that his "no child left behind" act is not just wrong, but evil.

9/23/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

"It requires the most omnipotent narcissism and grandiosity to believe otherwise. "

You, sir, a racist!

"So the leftist believes in his heart that there is an irreconcilable conflict between 'selfish individuals' and an omniscient state that presumes to speak for us all."

I still can't figure out how an omniscient state run by 'selfish individuals' will yield rainbow pooping unicorns? And yet the same people running a business, for instance, can only produce pure darkness and evil.

9/23/2009 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ben, while most all of the teachers I know would heartily agree, I frankly don't know enough about it to opine. As I said, he made mistakes. Necessarily, by virtue of his position, some of those mistakes had evil consequences beyond the scope of what normal people may do. Is there any president of whom the same cannot be said?

I don't expect perfection from my president, nor complete agreement with my ideas for how the country should be run. The president is human, and fallible; no exceptions.

I do expect him to obey the law and I expect that he will, to the best of his ability, put the nation's interests before his own. I expect him to love the place that put him in charge. I expect him to believe that America is an exceptional place, and I expect him to have some respect for the people. Even the ones who disagree.

Maybe I expect too much, these days. Now, mostly, I expect to be disappointed.

9/23/2009 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Search of the day:

dope smoking raccoons

9/23/2009 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

What? Did I hear my name being called?

9/23/2009 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Anna said "Why talk about politics when it's the economics that so out of whack to the point where people are talking at cross purposes almost. "

I've been thinking about this recently... how we allowed the focus to be taken off of what Classical Liberalism is all about - Liberty - and focused instead, upon a by product, capital, money and it's management. Marx tagged us with the name "Capitalism", and we took it, and they rant with it.

This has been bugging me for awhile, and especially last night after skimming back through Say's A Catechism of Political Economy and his "A Treatise on Political Economy", which focuses as it does on the decisions and choices of free people,

"No one, however, has ever denied that the writings of the economists have uniformly been favourable to the strictest morality, and to the liberty which every human being ought to possess, of disposing of his person, fortune, and talents, according to the bent of his inclination; without which, indeed, individual happiness and national prosperity are but empty and unmeaning sounds. These opinions alone entitle their authors to universal gratitude and esteem. I do not, moreover, believe that a dishonest man or bad citizen can be found among their number...

and,

...The best mode of retaining and attracting mankind is, to treat them with justice and benevolence; to protect every one in the enjoyment of the rights he regards with the highest reverence; to allow the free disposition of person and property, the liberty of continuing or changing his residence, of speaking, reading, and writing in perfect security."


This, from the very beginning, was the argument from and for our side, and it seems to me that our argument needs to come from where it began - with people like Jean Baptiste Say, Frederic Bastiat, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Frederick Douglass... these were people who passionately fought for liberty, people devoted to freedom, activists for Individual Rights and against arbitrary, dehumanizing govt power... that is the heart and soul of 'Capitalism'... Classical Liberalism was highly focused upon liberty and morality and the prosperity and happiness they could and would foster - how stupid are we to allow not only the name, but the issue of true freedom to get redefined out from under us.

Meekly going along with Marx's stamping of Liberalism as "Capitalism"... dehumanized us right off the bat. It took the emphasis off of living a full and prosperous life, and allowed it to be set on the material. On money, on business practices, mgmt policies... we gave up the fight before it was even engaged.

We deserve to be slapped... and worse... WE have let Freedom and Liberty down.

9/23/2009 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger katzxy said...

In addition to "Political Correctness" blocking thought, inflation hand us a rubber ruler with which to measure. See for example this article.

9/23/2009 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Anna said "This does seem to be a major missing synapse connection - between economic and civil liberty - in the puzzle (of the difference of the POV's.) Why talk about politics when it's the economics that so out of whack to the point where people are talking at cross purposes almost."

Anna, you sparked a rant... out of me. And it's not economics, it is about Freedom, Liberty, the economics, and the politics, flow from that - not the other way around.

How we ever allowed ourselves to be so mislabeled... well... the hell with it. Past time to rip off the label and bring the argument back to basics. It is we who are for freedom, and they for slavery - with themselves as benevolent overseers. Ask Frederic Douglass who well that works out.

Their only weapon is our willingness to politely roll our eyes at their political correctness and not laughing at their insults.

Enough. Of. That.

9/24/2009 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Katxzy, thanks for the Dalrymple article.

9/24/2009 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Van said...

"...it's not economics, it is about Freedom, Liberty, the economics, and the politics, flow from that - not the other way around."


Right. Economics in my statement was only a way back in the door, like retracing steps back inside to liberty. If that makes sense. On the outside the door is labeled "economics"; on the other side of the door it is liberty. This might be an analogy that is only personally useful. I was mostly thinking of it when talking to 'liberals'. Get them off of politics, back to economics, and then liberty comes up as the source of what is being preserved and allowed for by sound economics.

Van also said...

"Marx tagged us with the name "Capitalism"..."

I was thinking this morning that there has been a heist on language. Not able to go into detail at the moment.

I haven't read the 'rant' yet but will when I have a chance.

Okay, wv: zoodm, aka zoodom.
Funny.

9/24/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Van,

(Post-dated Post Script)

I caught the rant before leaving work yesterday, and boy was it! I was expecting a rant in terms of length but it was another sort! I'll probably read it a few more times.

9/25/2009 09:43:00 AM  

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