God Save Us From the Liberal Do-Gooders
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.