Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Implacable Warriors for Impossible Dreams

One thing Polanyi found curious was that calls for social control and the diminution of freedom always came from the intellectual class, not the workers who would supposedly benefit from their prescriptions: "Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy."

Nothing has changed in the interim. Is it any wonder that Obama is our most educated indoctrinated president ever? Or that the more Americans attend college, the more strangled we are by political correctness and other obnoxious forms of thought- and social control?

One problem is that Reality is not an exact science. Therefore, the attempt to render it fully rational is the height of irrationality. It reminds me of a friend who is having a little trouble with her teenage daughter. It became clear to me that she is becoming frustrated, hurt, and angry because her rational approach is completely impotent against the vast power of female hormones.

Polanyi saw the irrationality of wishing for a planned economy -- indeed, "planned economy" should be understood as an oxymoron. Because the plan is impossible, it eventually redounds to totalitarianism, since nothing short of this can make the plan work. Since there is only one Plan, it must necessarily override millions of other plans, AKA individual freedom.

Thus, Obamacare, for example, is literally (lower case t) totalitarian, in the sense that it forbids you to make your own plans and decisions regarding your healthcare. If you do that, then it interferes with Obama's Plan to control you: "No individual has any justification to act independently under a State which alone knows the whole plans for the future welfare of the community."

It is not that leftists lack faith; rather, they place all their faith in the Plan: "Such faith is narrowed down to the point of idolatry and intensified to the pitch of fanaticism." And here is a key principle: "It produces a curious type of fanaticism, deriving its strength from the destruction of all ideals; combining fanatic passion -- in an entirely novel way -- with hardheaded, biting cynicism."

Here again, this describes Obama right down to the ground: in him resides the combination of irrational dreamer and hardbitten cynic. Dreams From My Father. Implementation from Saul Alinsky. He combines a cynical absence of empathy with a deep passion to Help Us, thereby assuring that he will give us an abundance of what we don't need, good and hard.

This also characterizes the Social Justice Warrior more generally. As Hayek wrote, the idea of "social justice" isn't even wrong; rather, it's just nonsense. But warriors they are, nevertheless. What do you call someone who is a warrior for an impossibility? Yes, insane and dangerous. No one minds much if they are just yelling in parks or on street corners. But who would be foolish enough to grant them the power to pursue and enforce their war on reality?

Every genocidal movement of the 20th century was characterized by this insane combination of the impossible dream and the implacable warrior. Polanyi noticed that "if you scratched... a purely scientific and objective Marxist, he bled moral passion profusely." On the surface he has complete contempt for the realm of transcendent values, but underneath is seething with a passion that turns him "into a fanatical, dedicated, and self-sacrificing proponent of the changes" he regards as "immanent in the world."

For Obama, the moral arc of the universe bends toward Social Justice. Or else.

"Greater love of tyranny surely has no man than this: that he is prepared to lay down not only his life for it, but his personal integrity as well." Look at all the ritual self-denunciations of people who accidentally say something to offend the left. For example, no Democrat is permitted call Black Lives Matter what it is: a terroristic and racist hate group.

Polanyi refers to this as moral inversion: "the presence of moral passions so strong as to move those who hold them toward an immoralism in the means they adopt to satisfy these passions." They are armed bohemians, or weaponized hippies, or power-mad student body presidents.

But a genuine liberal (not leftist) society "entrusts its fate largely to forces beyond its control." This sort of trust is much closer to faith than it is reason per se; or, it is a higher from of rationality to understand the limits of reason to plan or even understand a complex system.

Leftists have no faith in the free market to solve problems, despite the fact that nothing invented by man has ever come close to its effectiveness in raising living standards for everyone. At the same time workers in England were doubling and tripling their wealth, Marx was coming up with a system that would freeze progress in place.

It is useful to imagine the counterfactual of what would have happened if socialist policies had been implemented at a given point in history. For example, if we had socialized medicine in 1900, today everyone would have access to the best medical knowledge and technology of 1900. Like a public school education, it may be worthless, but at least it's free.

To be continued...


Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Someone at Instapundit left the following comment on a story, and it about sums it up:

"Science knows everything about everything if politics are involved, and nothing about nothing when money is involved. When the two collide, they know everything about nothing."

8/24/2016 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Leftists have no faith in the free market to solve problems, despite the fact that nothing invented by man has ever come close to its effectiveness in raising living standards for everyone.

What they seem to object to is that the market occasionally makes mistakes, and, even though it corrects those mistakes quite quickly, some individual players may suffer. The leftist model is something like the TSA which is an institutionalized mistake and everybody suffers.

8/24/2016 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That's a good one.

"Greater love of tyranny surely has no man than this: that he is prepared to lay down not only his life for it, but his personal integrity as well."

I would amend that to say that he is prepared to lay down not only his life, but also and especially someone else's. Eggs, omelettes, yada yada...

8/24/2016 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Another relevant quote: "All models are wrong, some are useful."

8/24/2016 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Adjacent headlines on Drudge:

PEW: Americans giving up on God, miracles...

Obamacare Website Drops 'Keep Your Doctor'...

8/24/2016 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Best thing I have read today, Bob!

8/24/2016 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...


8/24/2016 04:14:00 PM  

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