Jimmy Carter: Miserable Failure, Vicious Anti-Semite, or Just Plain Stupid?
Do they really think it's a good idea to trot out the worst president of the 20th century to viciously slander over half the population? I mean, if it weren't for Carter's little pills, we wouldn't even be having to deal with this Iran problem. I suppose it's possible that his vile message is being orchestrated by the White House, but I like to think that liberals really believe the things they say, and that in their minds, their motives are pure. It's enough just to deal with the substance of their ideas. There's no need to assume bad motives.
For example, I am quite sure that state-mandated racial discrimination is a bad thing, and that it is harmful to its so-called beneficiaries. Thus, one can say that it's a racist policy, but there is no need to impute racist motivations to this or that individual. I know lots of people who are in favor of state-enforced racial discrimination, but they aren't racists as we usually define the term. Condescending toward blacks, yes. Infantilizing, yes. But in their minds, they're trying to do good. They're just misguided, that's all.
This is why Hayek emphasizes over and over that in economics, intentions don't matter, only incentives. Thus, we know that Obama intends to provide universal health care that is cheap, plentiful and of high quality. I don't doubt that. I just know that it's impossible, because he will set up a system of incentives that makes it so. The incentives will immediately swamp the intentions as soon as the system moves from idea to reality, because economics does not lie.
The identical thing happened with the Great Society, which was intended to reduce dependency but only increased it to unprecedented levels. Now if you try to scale it back, you are "cruel" and "heartless."
So the left is full of good people with good intentions, excluding that truly nasty contingent of hardcore leftists which probably constitutes only a quarter to a third of the Democrat party. Unfortunately, those people tend to be the most visible, as they are the activists, intellectuals, and prominent bloggers -- AKA, the ignorantsia.
But for those of you with liberal neighbors and relatives, you know that they are just decent people who have never given much thought to their ideas, especially if they've had the misfortune of attending graduate school. In fact, they are the ones who are most impervious to novel information, due to the element of intellectual pride. Give me ten minutes with my pool man, and I could convert him to conservatism (if he isn't conservative already). But I couldn't change some of my educated relatives in 50 years. No way. They literally don't hear what I'm saying.
Liberals have a hard time understanding that good will ≠ good results. Worse yet, leftist intellectuals can't seem to wrap their minds around one of the founding principles of classical liberalism, that what they think of as "bad intentions" routinely give birth to good results.
But in reality, of course, the bad intentions are not really bad; they only become so in the leftist's mind, because they convert self-interest into selfishness, two very different and often antithetical things. For a self-interested person is rational, predictable, responsible, stable, future-oriented, and deeply interconnected with a small circle that he especially cares about and which cares about him.
In contrast, collectivism erodes self-interest and replaces it with raw selfishness. Once the state is powerful enough to dole out favors to particular groups and interests, everyone is in competition to gain the favors in exchange for propping up the state and giving it even more power. This is why the huge federal bureaucracy initiated by FDR became the metastasizing autopoietic monster it is today. No one can control it because of the system of incentives it has instantiated.
In turn, as Mark Steyn has argued, this is perhaps the greatest existential danger of Omamacare, because government-controlled medicine changes a people forever. Once we cross that rubicon-job, our very lives are intertwined with the State in the most intimate manner.
I don't know if this is a conscious strategy on the part of the left -- I'm sure that for some of them it is -- but socialized medicine may be the death blow to classical liberalism and to any semblance of the founding vision of the United States. From then on, every political battle will be fought on leftist turf.
Can you imagine? Every national election will be about greedy Republicans trying to take away your healthcare. Democrats will simply replicate their longstanding strategy toward Social Security, only on a mass scale. To be conservative will be to touch the Third Rail of "free" healthcare and thereby go up in flames. In this new context, a garden variety conservative will sound as extreme as, say, a Bircher or Paulian today. That's how it is in Western Europe, where their "conservatives" are just leftist-lite.
Hayek makes the important point that when the outcome deviates from the noble intentions of the left -- which it virtually always does -- they never return to first principles and inquire as to whether perhaps there's a bug in the system. Rather, they usually jump to the conclusion "that sinister forces must have foiled our intentions, that we are the victims of some evil power which must be conquered...." Our intentions are good. Our ideas cannot have been wrong.
This is where the inevitable demonization and conspiratorial thinking come in. People don't want nationalized medicine? They must be racists! War going badly? Bush lied us into it! Worst hurricane in history? Bush hates black people! Doubt the significance of manmade climate change? You're a Holocaust denier! Etc.
Leftists "are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected" (Hayek).
Could it be that the War on Poverty results in only more poverty? Or that government discrimination does not end discrimination? Or that military weakness is provocative to the enemies of liberty? Or that aid to Africa freezes it in a state of dysfunction? Or that pouring more money into a bad educational system makes it worse? Or that subsidizing college increases the cost of tuition?
This is why I don't agree with, say, Rush Limbaugh, who believes that Obama is following the tried-and-true Marxist strategy of intentionally making things worse in order to justify a more massive power grab. I don't see any real need to go there and to attack motivations, as does the left.
Again, it is enough to address their bad ideas, which Limbaugh already does so well. Then again, since so few people engage the ideas, one can well understand the strategy of personalizing the debate and demonizing the opponent. Who knows. Maybe all is fair in this kind of Cosmic War, since the future of civilization hangs in the balance.
O, just like I pictured it. You gots to have freedom: