Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Dichotomy Classics -- Addressing Differences In The Worldviews Of The Right And Left.
The socialist worldview has a way of morphing itself to changing times. While it may appear to change, its underlying values and obsessions remain the same - imposing a "planned" society, "redistributing" wealth and power to the state, and honoring some collective abstractions above and beyond the actual individuals who occupy the real world.
Collectivism, and the very stance of viewing humans in context to group affinities, is one of those major concepts that define Leftism. It is equally true that Classical Liberals -- "the right" -- are polarized to this stance. A basic tenet of the Right-Wing worldview is individuality and autonomous freedom.
Of course, some will immediately drag dishonest, "conventional wisdom" into the argument; "weren't Hitler and Mussolini Right-Wing?" - Actually, no, they weren't (although common semantics has come to define them as such). Although it has been a successful ploy of The Left to paint some factions of collectivism (i.e. Nazism and Fascism) as "Right-Wing," as a means to distance their own philosophy from some of its more heinous expressions, Nazism and Fascism have absolutely nothing in common with free market classical liberal thought. Of course, everything from conventional wisdom to the common dictionary has bought into the lie. For those naïve in their knowledge of totalitarian institutions, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were not decentralized states which honored the rights of the individual in life and commerce. The socialist's supposed hatred for Fascism is little different than their hatred for other factions within the collectivist ideal. The Stalinists hate the Trotskyites, the Maoists hate the "capitalist roaders" (other socialists who will allow some degree of private commerce to later steal from). Because the very essence of socialist thought is imposition of a "plan" or scheme, they will always be violently opposed to anyone who supports an alternate "plan." The Classical Liberal will always be the main target of such vitriol because, by its very nature, it is opposed to externally imposed plans of any kind.
While a thousand initially just causes, from civil rights to environmental issues, can be used to rally the flock to the standard socialist game plan, their ultimate goal has always been collectivism and imposed government authority.
Some members of the intellectual "community" have also become quite skilled in adapting fads and philosophies to these ends. An entire chain of "thinkers" from Plato to Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida et.al., have continued the mental gymnastic stunt of twisting radical skepticism and relativism to the usual socialist ends. Their "skepticism" is, however, highly suspect, as they are inevitably choosy regarding what it is they are skeptical about.
The Left's con-game for justifying an "ordered" society reached a high point in America's colleges in the last few decades under the broad headings of "Postmodernism" and "Deconstructionism," their main point being, that our system of existence, commerce, and very individuality, were all mere "constructs" erected by the powers that be (the capitalist bogeyman -- as usual).
The autonomous individual, so praised by Classical Liberals (The Right), was labeled in the postmodern mind labyrinths as, "The Single Agent Fallacy" (another masterstroke of Orwellian word play). In essence, these philosophers were trying to say that individuality is an illusion. We're supposed to see such intellectual guile as another great flourish of insight by the elites of Left-land.
While it is true that, "No man is an island," it's certainly reasonable that some of us may actually desire a high degree of autonomy. In heated discussion, libertarians often encounter people who are shocked that an individualist's perspective does not "view us all as part of a fast web of interconnectedness." The truth is, Classical Liberals, like most individuals, are aware of the claim's validity to a degree (cheesy descriptions aside). "The right" (again, I emphasize, Classical Liberals), knows that people function in any number of complex group affiliations. Where they differ from The Left is, they do not believe such group affinities deny one's essentially individual nature and capacity to choose, apart from group coercion.
"… We are alienated…We are materialistic"…etc. One must remember that when a leftist says "we" he or she means you. The shallow attempt to include themselves in such deprecation is no more than mock humility and hardly represents the epitome of propaganda skill.
The Post-Mod philosopher's slight of hand is to acknowledge some people's love of individual liberty but then write it off as an illusion motivated by "selfishness" or delusion. It's no coincidence that, in the Soviet gulag, a person's belief in liberty and individuality were seen as symptoms of mental illness; "Since you have no genuine free will to begin with, you might as well do what we well-meaning socialist tell you to do[!]...if you don't, you're obviously insane." The conservativism as pathology "argument" continues to be used by leftists today.
Since the Post Modern school of philosophy (Which is ultimately just another neo-Marxism) feels justified in equating our sense of individuality with a mere fantasy, can we not question the Left's preoccupation with its dream world of collective abstractions? When an individual commits a crime against another, the Left (and all its permutations) will tell us that responsibility lies with "society," "the [free-market] system," or "Euro-centric linear patriarchal thinking." It seems to be literally beyond their comprehension that genuine individuals exist at all. (An exception is made, of course, when dealing with such persons as George Bush who is seen as individually evil of course). Perhaps it could be said that the Left generally favors larger social units. They will always support the interests of the "community" over the family, the centralized state over the local region, and finally, "humanity" or "the Earth" over an individual nation. It's no wonder that those on the left hate authority and simultaneously love authority (if it is their philosophically kindred brethren imposing it). A Leftist is often rabidly anti -authoritarian on the surface. Ultimately, it's not so much that they're against individuality per se as they are against other's claims to individual freedom. Is it any wonder that such lines of thinking are opposed to anything incorporating the word, "private;" private enterprise, private ownership, private property, private sector, privatization… The very thought of having private lives is anathema to those who would collectivize every aspect of the human spirit.
On a true polarity to collectivist thought lies Classical Liberal conservatism; a belief in limited decentralized government and the primacy of the individual to act and trade according to his or her self-interests. The prime tenant of Leftism is the insistence that individual free expression be controlled and molded to what the Leftist sees as a higher cause -- "the people, the race, one's 'class,' society, the poor..."
When we deal with these basic philosophical stances we are no longer in the realm of debate backed by "proof." We are all indeed enmeshed in a complex web of chosen and un-chosen group affinities and possess an awareness and ability to think and act as individuals. How much people choose to live in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience vs. how much they feel themselves to be mere cogs in group allegiance is, to a considerable degree, a subjectively chosen stance. While a slave can't "prove" that he or she should be left alone, the state and its supporters can't "prove" that you should sacrifice your own values to a conjured collective abstraction either. (i.e. "The People").
The "single agent" is neither a "fallacy" nor a "construct" fabricated by a "capitalist class of oppressors." It's the basic package that we humans come in. The fact that we may choose to be, or find ourselves, among others as families, communities, clubs, or "classes" hardly justifies that we be compelled to live out an intellectual's favorite plan for marching in their parade, ...to the beat of their discordant and oppressive drums.