Saturday, April 30, 2005
Why The Right Is Skeptical Of The Left's "Arguments"
I think it bears re-posting because it so clearly shows why so many of us "on the right" are so unconvinced by the cases made so often by the left. We know America has skeletons in its closet, and we know that capitalist society contains things like poverty and "injustice," but we also know the alternatives to free and open capitalist society. The alternatives that the left excuses and even praises are hardly positive replacements to the systems which have produced more progress, diverse expression, and overall human advancement than any prior periods of human history.
The left's polemic style is to dredge up endless lists of "crimes" committed by the capitalist west and America in particular. In the end, their tirades prove nothing beyond their own arrogance, hypocrisy, and inconsistency.
"...The cognitive behavior of Western intellectuals faced with the accomplishments of their own society, on the one hand, and with the socialist ideal and then the socialist reality, on the other, takes one's breath away. In the midst of unparalleled social mobility in the West, they cry "caste." In a society of munificent goods and services, they cry either "poverty" or "consumerism." In a society of ever richer, more varied, more productive, more self-defined, and more satisfying lives, they cry "alienation." In a society that has liberated women, racial minorities, religious minorities, and gays and lesbians to an extent that no one could have dreamed possible just fifty years ago, they cry "oppression." In a society of boundless private charity, they cry "avarice." In a society in which hundreds of millions have been free riders upon the risk, knowledge, and capital of others, they decry the "exploitation" of the free riders. In a society that broke, on behalf of merit, the seemingly eternal chains of station by birth, they cry "injustice." In the names of fantasy worlds and mystical perfections, they have closed themselves to the Western, liberal miracle of individual rights, individual responsibility, merit, and human satisfaction. Like Marx, they put words like "liberty" in quotation marks when these refer to the West..."
...And, they still don't "get" why we don't buy into their phony programs for, "liberation."
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
All Ya Need Is Laws
I heard an old collectivist standard again recently – "We have too much freedom!" This time the well-worn phrase was uttered in reference to the need for more environmental laws and regulations. Of course, statists can conjure many reasons to reduce other people’s freedom – civil rights (ironically), inequality, the environment, and the tendency of reality to present bad luck to almost everyone at some point in their lives.
"All ya need is love…" -- and more laws.
Occasional dreadlocks or multiple piercings fail to mask the underlying conservatism of temperament actually held by many pseudo-rebels of socialist conformity. Ironically, those yearning for more state authority have gotten their wish a thousand times over. Literally thousands of new laws have been, and continue to be, passed to control the most minute aspects of individual lives, and yet the cry goes on, "More Laws! We have too much freedom!"
While continuing to feign the role of unacknowledged "victim," the forces of statism have, over the decades, come to dominate the schools and academia, media, entertainment, and of course the government bureaucracy itself. They are now the ones "in charge," and yet they continue their whine that some "rich" bogyman is "oppressing the poor," despoiling the environment, and pushing old ladies down staircases. "He" can be stopped, of course, if we all just buckle down and learn to comply with the latest state edict.
There may indeed be "too much" of something..., but its not freedom. There's to little freedom -- and insight into history and human character -- to ward off the totalitarian schemes so many pseudo-rebels would gladly subject us to.
Maybe some armchair philosophers for the omnipotent state have too much time on their hands and too little regard for the lifestyles and choices of their fellow citizens.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Europe's Glass House
Every day, I peruse a fair sampling of the world press's "facts" and opinions and find a top-heavy consistency in negative critiques of America. This is, of course, part of a larger phenomenon, which has been addressed in several contemporary books (i.e. Jean-Francois Revel’s "Anti-Americanism").
America is hated because, it’s "unilateral, ‘too’ rich, arrogant, selfish, and militaristic. It won’t sign (all) UN treaties, it had slavery, has racism and poverty, and is a ‘bully’ toward innocent dictators."
Americans in general are “too conservative, too religious, too fat, too violent, too uneducated, too unsophisticated," and may just be the worst embodiment of evil to have ever graced the pages of history. Such hatred for a group of people isn't racism, sexism, or "homophobia," so it can skate by the political correctness template that is applied to virtually every other group within humanity.
Bitter invective toward Americans is expressed regularly in books, movies, Op Eds, and from the world’s squadrons of "educators." Many of them are from Europe or are American academics / intellectuals who adore the Euro-Buro model of living. To read their rants one would think Europe was a virtual paradise, and America a living hell on the verge of collapse. It would not be unfair to say that much of this nonsense is a mere case of the "[European] pot calling the [American] kettle black."
It would of course never happen, but what if everyday, the world's media, entertainment, and education networks were filled with critical assaults on European civilization and its status in the world today?
I actually like Europe. I particularly admire European civilization’s cultural legacy to the world. In the grand scheme of things I think Europe’s negative attributes are far outweighed by its positive contributions to world culture.
In my writings thus far, I have never felt the need to insult or criticize Europe or Europeans in general but have often found myself having to defend the US from some Europeans and like-minded socialists in America and elsewhere. One of the reasons I have never felt the need to post rabid critique’s of Europeans is that I know there are many who do not hate Americans, and many who do not judge the US from the socialist template so commonly used by journalists and intellectuals. To be sure, there are many common citizens – particularly young people – who parrot the views heard daily in Euro-media, but what can I say? There are easily led flocks in America as well. The Left has successfully convinced many that adoration of a powerful socialist bureaucracy is somehow the hallmark of a rebel. It has become "cool" to hate free society and particularly one of its historical bastions (The US).
To point out the absurdity of regular taunts made against my country, I’m going to "turn the tables," so to speak. I say "my country" because I was born in America (I’m presently working in Japan). I don't fancy myself a “flag-waving” chauvinist. I'm well aware of dark moments in American history and there are many actions taken by America’s government and its politicians that I despise. Such flaws are certainly fair game for reasonable criticism but, "fair" is a boundary that has been breached long ago in the anti-American polemics of the world.
I was born in America. I have family in America. I have friends America. All in all, I think America is okay. In the grand scheme of history, I’d dare say that it has a competitive edge in goodness over many other nations, even some of those who fancy themselves superior, enlightened and righteous examples.
Back to a hypothetical "turning of the tables." Lets for a moment look at Europe with the same lens that’s typically used to deride America. Lets criticize and caricature its flaws (out of context) and omit any positive appraisal, as is typically done by the intellectual elites of Europe when directing scorn toward The United States.
ARROGANCE, HEGEMONY, AND BLOODSHED: THE BURO-STATES OF EUROPE AND THEIR LEGACY TO THEMSELVES AND TO THE WORLD
It wouldn't be fair to judge Europe by the events of two millennia ago but it’s probably no coincidence that its true birth as a distinct civilization emerged from the violent imperialism of the Roman Empire. It has only been in historically recent periods that Europeans have slowly (and reluctantly) freed the colonies they had,over time, forcibly taken across the globe. Even the "American" theft of native lands was initially a theft by Europeans, (since "Americans" per se didn’t actually exist at the time).
European hegemony over the world's cultures has been brutal and regularly marked by condescending racism and ethnocentric arrogance. It is no surprise that such efficient brutality emerged from the European subcontinent, as Europe was also the source of a variety of oppressive philosophies used to justify subjugation of both domestic and foreign citizens alike. A host of "isms" demanding communal conformity have spread throughout the world from Europe’s pervasive will to dominance. In the mock hopes of "creating a better world" the statist obsessions of European philosophers have caused carnage and enslavement on a worldwide scale. In numerous former colonies of the European master, theses same oppressive theories continue to bring bloodshed and economic stasis under local tyrants educated in the European intellectual "tradition." Even in their lighter manifestations, these same European philosophies (which all broadly fall under the heading "socialism") have brought inefficiency, violence, and decay to Europe itself. The world wars of the last century were products of conflicts in the European worldview as it spread across the globe. What was Nazism after all but Europe’s twin philosophical demons, Nationalism and Socialism -- National Socialism?
The Socialist–Lite welfare states of Europe today have created a generation of dependant, unproductive, alienated, and unemployed citizens on perpetual strike and bleeding more from their economies while producing less. It's no wonder that initiative and innovation are strengths long past for them. European cities today are mired in conflict, racism, and a resurgent anti-Semitism. Political extremism is the order of the day. Poverty amongst a new class of immigrants has bred rampant urban crime among many of Europe's former showpiece cities. Conveniently, Europeans have been able to afford massive social expenditures while their resented ally – The US – paid much of their military expenses for decades (while they claimed a stance of "pacifism"). The "warmonger" United States ironically saved them from possible enslavement to a Russian enemy driven by a European philosophy – Marxist Socialism – that they still pay homage to as a final solution to all the flaws they perceive in human character.
Today, Europe seeks to rebound with renewed allegiance to the dismal ideals that had wrought its contemporary social malaise. In its pathetic attempt to assert its relevance, Europe has come to embody no more than hollow attributes of indecisiveness and a lack of backbone in confronting terrorists and tyrants. Europe now reaps the existential fruits of a society forever skeptical, pessimistic, and bureaucratic.
Europeans writers regularly insult the results of statistics showing the religiosity of Americans but have for themselves replaced such faith with what? – A belief in the cold drab schemes of resentful "thinkers," social agencies, and an omnipotent state.
At this point in their dark and violent history, Europeans now strive for unification, but what exactly are they unifying? -- It appears to be no more than the inbred standardization of the failed buro-statist model leading a population mired in cultural lassitude.
Modern Europe's attempts to live off of a nostalgia for grander times long past fails to hide the mere arrogance and jealousy that one often finds in a person suffering from marked feeling of inferiority. This is the Europe of today – a violent and oppressive past, a resentful present, and aimless future – a withered plant watering itself with stones.
The preceding negative critique of European civilization has been a deliberate caricature in the same style as that which is regularly passed off as objective analysis and even scholarship when America is analyzed daily. Directing this style of critique back at Europe itself may open some eyes (and may not). My critique has utilized the same hyperbole and contextual omissions one finds in attacks on the US, but it is essentially an accurate description of Europe’s shortcomings. As well as turning the tables on Europe in general, by default, I have sought to do the same regarding the entire socialist worldview that motivates much of the hatred Europeans express toward America.
Europeans reading such critical analyses – especially if they were to read them daily from a variety of sources – would justifiably find them "unfair." That’s the point. What would be unfair to Europe is equally unfair to the US and its people. To paraphrase a simple instructional question mothers have often asked their children, "How would you like it if someone said that about you?"
There are periods and places of both bad and good governance and positive and negative contribution to the world’s culture. For non-stop disdain and ridicule to be directed upon one of the freest and most prosperous and diverse civilizations in history is absurd. The fact that much of America has not yet fully buckled down to the dictates of Socialist incompetence hardly merits the pervasive negative portrayals commonly presented today.
Ironically, the greatest criticism directed at America is its perceived "arrogance" yet, what could be more arrogant than jealous invective from a Europe that has failed to keep its own house in order for at least a century if not its entire life span?
European civilization is a great civilization but, like America, it has a share of skeletons in its closet. Europeans and Europhiles who merely admire the contemporary trapping of the socialist mega-state need to recognize that their grand house is one of glass. They not only "shouldn't throw stones" they should adopt a more sober and fair appraisal of themselves and fellow democracies.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
CHINA – TESTING THE WATERS
Regarding Japan, the issues involving China may ultimately be of even greater significance. There's no question the China seeks to unseat Japan as Asia's dominant power. Depriving Japan a new seat on the United Nation’s Security Council would be the ultimate symbol of China's hopes for a new 21st century order.
The Chinese government wants Japan to show more remorse for its actions in World War II (over 60 years ago), not a completely unreasonable concern but one that is hardly being addressed with reason by the Chinese who have now found cause to tolerate a protest amongst their citizens (we won’t be seeing tolerance for protest against any other issues).
One of the recent gripes by China against its neighbor has been Japan's school textbook’s light treatment of their war government’s actions in China during World War II. For those, like China, who may be unaware, Japan has had several new and very different governments since the end of World War II -- China still has the same government, the one responsible for the great famine (“leap forward”) of the late 1950s, and the absolutely stupid and destructive, "Cultural Revolution" of the late 1960s (a classic leftist rampage), not to mention the Tiananmen slaughter of only 16 years ago. To this day, a single publicly displayed sign calling for free elections (a multi-party state) would warrant arrest by the party’s heavy handed “public security bureau,” yet thousands damaging Japanese property, heaving bottles at the Japanese embassy, and chanting, “kill the Japanese pigs” is just fine in the communist party’s eyes (that’s part of that “tolerance” leftists in general always pride themselves on).
While China demands remorse from Japan for the events of over a half century ago, I have to wonder if they intend to show similar remorse for some of their own more recent ravages. They have sought to completely obliterate the culture of Tibet (I wonder how their student textbooks appraise history?)
China regularly threatens possible military action against Taiwan if that small country dares state what has been ultimately true for several decades -- that they are each separate countries and very separate systems.
China’s violence and threats of violence against close neighbors and its own citizens are described in typical communist style as “internal matters” – like a neighbor who abuses their family behind closed doors, I guess.
China's expansion and influence in America's backyard should be of some concern -- at least to Americans. Buddying up to Venezuela's (obviously Marxist) Hugo Chavez ultimately has all the historical charm of Castro's "friendship" with the former Soviet dictatorship. (Castro and his sidekick, Che had pleaded with the Soviets to launch a nuclear strike on the US in the early 1960’s and said if it had been their call it would have happened).
Some Euro-Socialists are now open to the idea of ending their embargo on selling military hardware to China so it can confront Taiwan (and the United States) from an enhanced position. For some Euro-Socialists, selling a soul to the devil is valid cost to reduce the “hegemony” of American culture and strength -- plus, Euro-Social-land, like America's Democratic Party, has always been rather partial to left-wing dictatorships, if they can reduce Starbucks franchises, all the better.
There would certainly be nothing wrong with publicly saying "no" to some of China's recent incremental claims to authority. Even with a surging economic expansion, China in many ways has only advanced to cardboard on the paper tiger scale, at this point. For those weary of China's new boosts in self-esteem, it's unfortunate that the waking dragon has discovered the simple key to any nation’s success -- capitalism. Virtually every country that has opened their economic system to human nature's desire to innovate and flourish, has advanced considerably in historically short time (no, Russia is not an open economic system). China is on track, it’s gaining the money, the power, and prestige to state its claim on the world theater of the absurd. An open and free powerhouse on the world stage is good for everyone -- a communist dictatorship in the same position is not.
Decisions in the West will largely determine how far China will go in its current upward momentum. There’s still time to hold it accountable to standards of open, and therefore more responsible, government. As long as those in the West who are setting such standards are socialist bureaucrats and anti-US weasels with axes to grind, the standards set will be meaningless and detrimental to all in the long run.
As usual, "progressives" and their various kin would take issue with the apprehensions expressed here, but not out of "concern for justice" or opposition to "oppression." Such claimed sympathies have little to do with their true stance in such matters. China is simply still ruled by the Communist Party and that's all a socialist of any stripe needs to know when taking sides (and, rest assured, they do take sides). The Noam Chomskys and Michael Moores among us will use the emerging horror show to merely remind us that the US is ultimately the worst country to have ever graced the pages of history (they’re always a lot of help).
The growing strength and cocky vengeance of the waking dragon is cause for considerable concern. We can continue to assume the best intentions of communist dictatorships and even sell them the rope they would hang us with (as Lenin so aptly put it). I say, let sleeping dragons lie – and definitely don’t give into their demands, threats, or premature tests of self confidence.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The Current Civil War And The Demise Of Liberalism
People continue to debate the topics of the day as polarized stances between conservatives and "liberals." These never were adequate labels for describing the views one holds or opposes in modern political discourse. In reality, both labels draw support from a variety of temperaments and ideals, moderate and extreme. Many contemporary conservatives are really "classical liberals" in the 19th century definition -- those who oppose government intrusion in the private lives and economic choices of its citizens. The prime value of a classical liberal is individual freedom.
Opponents of conservative political philosophy have been successful in conjuring negative associations to conservatism that have nothing in common with its true meaning as a philosophy of government. Nationalism, militarism, racism, cruelty, ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and "fascism" are all now seen to lurk in the hidden hearts of those who merely favor the autonomous individual and limits on the authority of the state. College and high school texts and teachers have successfully erected a myth that somehow the Nazis and Hitler were the end result of extreme "conservatism" (Hitler and his National Socialist Worker's Party actually despised the values of classical liberalism and espoused a violent style of socialism / collectivism). Over recent decades the values associated with liberalism have transformed as well.
By the 1960's in America, it was clear that a liberal was left of center and favored a degree of centralized government intervention into the lives of the country's citizens but, in most cases, a liberal did not despise market economics or the nation in general. They certainly would not have favored "speech codes" on college campuses or other authoritarian expressions of the left's collectivist ideal.
The present state of political discourse in America has seen the emergence of a radical transformation in the meaning of liberal. Some liberals today have been honest enough to break away from America's liberal Democratic party and redefine themselves as "progressives" (a euphemism, none the less). "Progressives" are leftists, they make no secret of the fact that they despise the free-market and despise the United States. They are kindred spirits of authoritarian collectivists. It's no surprise that Fidel Castro is one of their heroes and communism is not a bad word in their vocabulary. They are, for all practical purposes, communists -- but we can't say that (!). To label anyone a communist today would reflect back on one's self. You would be seen as resurrecting "McCarthyism" and the environment of "witch hunts." Accurately labeling an ideological opponent's affiliation with an authoritarian ideology that has killed millions would reflect badly on you for pointing it out. Those college and high school texts and teachers previously mentioned have successfully molded this context as they have our definition of conservative and liberal. We all "know" that McCarthy was some crazy fascist who harassed innocent Hollywood "liberals." In fact, McCarthy had nothing to do with such events. McCarthy's valid inquiry was into security risks in the State Department and the army. As it turns out, Soviet archives have confirmed that the Cold-War Marxist enemy had a vast network of operatives in many positions in the US government. To note such conditions is not paranoid right wing extremism, it's practical observation of a fact one would expect to occur in such circumstances. The country was in a battle with a state and ideology that sought the complete elimination of human liberty on a worldwide scale. McCarthy had the nerve to question the employment status and credentials of spies who had infiltrated the government at the time. The "Hollywood witch hunt" issue that is in-accurately associated with McCarthy was actually the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee (an organization originally founded for the purpose of investigating the Ku Klux Klan).
Today, many who are still referred to as "liberals" are really "progressives" and, as a statement of fact, communists in their sympathies if not their goals. Whether one thinks that being a communist is a good thing or not is of course up to individual choice (ironically). The ideology was responsible for over 100 million deaths under totalitarian government in the last century. Of course their goals were noble -- supposedly. To be sure, some who follow the "progressive" cause are merely romantic idealists and don't have a conscious intention to establish prison camps and purges, but ignorance on the part of those who defend tyranny is a weak excuse. The original intention of most tyrants was not blood stained pages in history. The "problem" arose when they realized that not everyone supported their vision of a "progressive" enforced communal future.
Forty years ago it would have been reasonable to disagree with a liberal on government spending, social programs, or the best way to deal with a mutually despised enemy. People could be close friends and have such different views. Neither party in their respective viewpoints would hate their own country or it's market system of free exchange or cheer for its decline and defeat at the hands of radical thugs.
Today, many of those still described as liberals are -- indeed -- leftists. To use the word "liberal" for them is to soften the reality of an ideological stance with brutal implications. From the French Revolution to Kim Jong Il's prison state, leftism always has been an ideology that despises the autonomous individual and diverse and open society. It has always sought the established rule of "philosopher kings" for the abstract end of a collectivist order, usually justified on the grounds of "the need for equality." They often hide behind esoteric titles like, "progressive," "feminist," "antiwar 'activist'," or "professor of critical theory," to name a few.
Saying one's goal is to "help poor people" is one thing, establishing reeducation programs is altogether different (one need only attend a teacher education program at an American university to sense the reality of such potentials in the leftist's train of thought).
Senator Joseph Leiberman is a liberal. Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, and Michael Moore are leftists. They are very different perspectives. Perhaps it is time we acknowledge the difference.
Whether leftists still comfortably ally themselves with the Democratic Party or attend cocktail parties with Hollywood's best the reality is clear, they are not mere liberals. To sympathize with a brutal Iraqi dictator or Cuban autocrat is not an attribute of liberalism. (There's no way around it, the Left wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power).
Today's new New Left is merely the old left with the aid of a laptop. They hate free enterprise (which created the laptop). They hate America and its history. They hate any system that will not bow to the schemes of collectivist-statism. They're not "liberals."
The philosophical war occurring in the US at this point in its history is not some cooperative debate on how best to proceed in our constitutional system. It's a civil war between those who would defend free society and those who would impose the values of authoritarian collectivism. This is a battle between right and left, but to imply that it's a battle between "conservatives" and "liberals" would assume that liberals are still active players at all -- they're not.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Facts, Damned Lies, and Faith Based Politics
I choose to think that Bush is actually fairly well meaning, and initiated the military action in Iraq based on a genuine desire to do right – to prevent possible future dangers to America, and to enhance the world balance towards democratic government (as well as enforcing UN resolutions). Of course no one can read George Bush’s mind and no one really “knows” much at all, but we believe our respective positions none the less. Many of America’s citizens believe their country is essentially good and operates under a good system. Many on the Left believe the same about Castro’s Cuba.
If one wants, one can, like their opponents, summon plenty of evidence to support their claims but, like their opponents, in the end their stance is based more on faith in a worldview rather than conclusions made from objective reality. I dare suggest that, in most cases, our views precede the facts we garner to support them, and not the other way around. To be sure, objective reality may occasionally coincide with a person’s faith, but we can’t really know that capitalists are greedy and selfish or that they’re merely seeking to honestly better their condition for themselves and their families.
Beliefs and faith in one’s worldview needn’t take on the attributes of a religion. The desire to be left alone (to desire limited government) can be passionate but doesn’t require profound religious-like conviction. The desire to impose a new order “to create a better world” often does, which is why the left’s political faith often takes on the characteristics of religion.* They will inevitably plead with you to read their books and absorb their facts, then you’ll mend your ways, come to agree with them, and perhaps even be “saved” in one way or another.
You may have noticed that while most conservatives will recommend books to their like minded friends, they typically don’t insist that the opposition read their list of books. Leftists, however do this often, convinced that you just haven’t been exposed to “the truth.” “How can you know anything if you haven’t read the authors I’ve read.” If you know what they know, you’ll come around and hopefully see the error of your ways – you may even learn to love Big Brother, or at least help to put him into power.
You may have also noticed that there are few massive protests by conservatives. When was the last time you saw a fervent protest for limited government or tax cuts? For the left, politics isn’t about politics, its about “spirituality,” “saving the planet,” ending “greed,” or cooperating in an egalitarian international commune (of their design).
Like our opponents on the left, people like me will continue to summon facts and observations to “prove” our view, in our case the belief that the classical liberal / libertarian view of things bodes best for most. Like the left, our claims are made primarily as articles of faith:
• That the government that governs best is the one that governs least.
• That most people left to their own devices, will actually do okay, get along fairly well with others, and contribute directly or indirectly to the common good, even if that is not their conscious intention.
• That free choice and diverse views and lifestyles lead to progress for civilization as a whole and,
• That most things we freely choose, which inflict no harm on others, are really no one else’s business.
In the end these are just statements of faith. The left surely hates it, but then their faith is in other things.
* I realize that there is a strain of fundamentalist Christian in America that is also “conservative” by some widely accepted definitions. They’re clearly not leftists but I think they are equally not libertarians. I would be more inclined to describe some fundamentalists as “theocrats,” or in more positive terms, “traditionalists.” They typically share little belief with libertarians or classical liberals although they often do oppose the centralized secular state (primarily because it is secular).
Friday, April 15, 2005
The "Wealth Gap;" The Left's Favorite Non-Issue
Scenario: Your age, experience, education, and choices, have led to a job as a convenient store clerk earning $1,000 a month. You are most likely young, inexperienced, or using the job for college expenses or to supplement family income. (although false impressions make for dramatic press coverage, it's very unlikely that you are actually raising a family on this income).
Another person (assuming you live in a free and open system) is making $3,000 per month. Maybe they're a business person, teacher, or department manager. Chances are, they made some choices that led them to their current, rather average income, they're likely older and more experienced and at least completed high school if not college. They've also, through time, likely established themselves with a record of responsibility, competence, and reliability.
Now,...you get a 10% raise. You are now earning $1,100 per month -- a hundred dollars more than before. The middle class drone also scored a 10% raise and now makes $3,300. That means they're now getting $300 [!] dollars more than they had previously. The "wealth gap" between you has just increased considerably -- how "unfair!"
What can we now do "as a society" to rectify this "injustice." The Socialist solution is obvious and typical -- punish the more successful person for the decisions they made that led them to their more fortunate economic condition. Take (confiscate) more of their money, or better yet, make it impossible for them to have gained it in the first place. The more they succeed, the more they must be punished (reeducation camps anyone?).
Of course even this isolated scenario fails to account for the fact that each of the two examples described will make other decision that will place them in other jobs and other career paths at other times in their lives. Some of their jobs will likely be of limited long term value, some will be fulfilling. They may decide to take a year off after college and go backpacking in Europe (thus showing up as "unemployed" in government statistics).
For most people, circumstance will be marked by considerable change with age and a reasonably increased learning curve over time that helps them to improve their career options. Even at a low paying service job, if the worker is reasonably efficient, dependable, and honest, they're likely to be bribed into greater responsibility with greater pay or benefits or, just as likely, to take their product (their quality of labor) to a higher bidder (another employer).
The reality behind these scenarios is the reality of an open system which is dynamic and forever offering continued change in a population of diverse circumstance, talents, and goals. For most people over time this means continued advancement, as has been the case in the United States. As this progress occurs, the "wealth gap" often increases. The same process takes place on an international scale (and is pointed to equally as an "injustice" by the Left). The tyrannies and highly regulated bureau-states of the world (that produce little, if anything) are inevitably poor. Typically, the more controlled, the more destitute. Meanwhile, free systems continue to progress and create new wealth and higher standards of living. The economic progress made possible by sound political/economic policy and systems of government, create a "wealth gap" when measured to the static systems of oppression and self-imposed poverty. Some systems actually decline in economic vitality after "choosing" the anti-capitalist road to squalor (i.e. Zimbabwe). Of course an un-free society is typically not chosen but imposed by collectivist / statist demagogues. When highly productive and unproductive people or societies are compared there will always be a wealth gap and any progress made by the already productive will cause the gap to increase.
Another confused demand in the Leftist rant is that, "A living wage" should be paid for non-living wage jobs. A person who stocks shelves should be paid as much as an electrician, teacher, or doctor. In the real world, it would be ridiculous and unaffordable to pay shelf stockers the same wage as electricians which is why, in communist countries, shelves go unstocked and there's a shortage of electricians and doctors. People in an honest economic context are naturally willing to pay more for electricians and doctors.
The inanity of the entire socialist worldview rests in its belief that they can actually outlaw economic reality. The market's "law of supply and demand" is seen as cold and "uncaring" in the socialist fantasy world, but then again, gravity and the speed of light are probably so as well.
We've been told for at least the last hundred years that, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Of course, if that were actually true then America by now would be a poor country on par with the failed states that socialism has riddled the planet with -- and 97% of America's "poor" citizens wouldn't own color televisions (as they do). In the real world of the capitalist economy, where many twelve year olds have their own computers and cell phones, (things that didn't even exist thirty years ago) and the great majority perpetually increase their standard of living, the fact that some become very rich is ultimately irrelevant unless envy is your only criterion for analysis. If so many citizens were so "poor" as we are often told, they couldn't afford to purchase the products that make the producers rich. It is not an increasingly poorer population crying out from the bottom of their "wealth gap," that purchases the Microsoft products that make Bill Gates rich.
In a world where almost everyone was a millionaire, the typical Leftist would still decry the "injustice' of the few who were billionaires. If the billionaires made a million more we'd hear of a dreaded "increase in the wealth gap."
We've been conditioned to a spontaneous reaction of shock when hearing that the "gap between rich and poor" has increased. In the Leftist ideologue's eyes, it's "not fair" that improvement and success occur for some while others are moving more slowly. Its like someone demanding that they be allowed to get in front of you so they can merely move slow or stop completely. The socialist is more than happy to clog the traffic of commerce and progress, anything but keeping the lanes open for everyone.
Life has continually improved in those countries that are socially and economically free (an honest appraisal of every condition of modern life bares this out) yet, the conniving charlatans of socialist statism continually whine in horror about a gap in wealth.
"Progressives" hate progress, which is why they so often sympathize with the tyranny that brings conformity, stasis, and destitution. The biggest "gap" of our time is one of basic economic common sense...and the gap between the ears of armchair philosophers -- the jealous closet tyrants of statism.
"The wealth gap has increased" ...so!
Refuse a raise, quit college, quit your job, return to the cave, brag of your concern for "justice" and help drag civilization back into the stone age...then, call yourself a "Progressive" who cares about meaningless things like an increase in the gap between rich and poor.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
High Hopes For Tyrants
I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve heard educated people express their trust in absolute political authority. For such people, the only criterion for good government is that it eliminates free market transactions and that it promises to magically produce, “equality.”
Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, even Stalin are often afforded the benefit of a doubt by idealists on the left -- the local businessman is not.
When references are made regarding the famines (resulting from collectivization schemes), the summary trials, purges, executions, and “reeducation” programs in communist states, the left’s response is always…”well, what about…[the flaws in open free societies]?” They just will not concede that communist governments or their ideologies are bad.
Statistics can be sited back and forth between the right and left regarding, “wars of aggression,” poverty, and oppression etc., but why are statistics even required to prove that absolute power corrupts absolutely? Shouldn’t common sense insight be enough to tell anyone that a group or individual with absolute power can be expected to do terrible things?
On more than one occasion I’ve been asked to “prove” that Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party were really all that bad. Widely accepted statistics estimate deaths in China from the “Great Leap Forward” of the late fifties to have been somewhere in the 30 million range. Okay, let’s say the “capitalist – imperialist – revisionists” are lying to “discredit the achievements of socialism.” Lets say only 10 million died from famine (a regular feature of communist “planning”). Lets say only 100,000 were killed or imprisoned for not obeying “the Party” -- maybe Mao wasn’t so bad after all.
There are some people who actually believe a communist dictator – like Mao or Castro - wouldn’t hurt anyone that didn’t actually deserve to be punished or killed.
Think! A person or party holds total power over a society, has eliminated and outlawed all opposition, and makes it a crime to question any aspect of imposed dogma, and… the resulting society will be no different – perhaps better -- than our lives under liberal democracy?
I hold a simpler take on this issue. Dictatorships are…dictatorships [!]. Saying they’re taking complete control over society “for the good of the people” just doesn’t convince me. Somehow the left’s love for political planners and their high ideals overrides any common sense appraisal as to what happens when absolute power is focused in one viewpoint.
Any political authority that refers to an outlawed opposition as, “enemies of the people,” or “counter-revolutionaries,” is probably not going to be very open and tolerant towards different viewpoints in general. It’s not so far fetched to assume such political authority could be deadly for many. By coincidence, “debatable” statistics seem to bear this to be true. What a surprise! – lets debate the numbers some more.
Of course, the usual response from the intellectual egotists in left-land will be, “you only think you are free [in capitalist society].” These “geniuses” know we’d all be much freer if we obeyed the party loved “the leader,” or confessed our crimes in self-criticism sessions. These are the same people who will repeat the cliché (and untrue) mantra that Bush “stole” his eight year term of office, yet really believe that Fidel Castro actually -- fairly -- gets 99% of the vote, several decades strait. When I pointed out this last bit of obvious nonsense to one leftist, their response was, “His people love him.” Of course, what’s not to love about a decaying socialist enterprise that no one is allowed to change or disagree with? As an aside, beware when citizens of any country are referred to with a possessive pronoun (“his” people).
The average leftist can often be rather “smart,” but such intelligence rarely appears to include the common insight required to call a dictatorship a dictatorship, proving that a person can be a genius with facts, data, and polemic…yet, not have a lick of common sense.
Monday, April 11, 2005
CARDINAL SINS IN LEFT-LAND; CREATING, SELLING, AND BUYING STUFF
A leftist, of course, sees him or herself above the “materialist” act of striving for monetary success. They are too noble, selfless, and "spiritual" to wallow in such unrefined manners of existence (or so they would have us believe).
I've never been wealthy, and aside from managing restaurants for a few years (for big business chains), I've never been a “businessman.” Unlike Karl Marx or Ted Kennedy, I've never owned stock either. Nonetheless, when I hear of other’s achievements in commerce, I'm actually okay with it. My days are pretty much the same regardless of how much Bill Gates makes. I don't care that there are "rich" people. First off, I have the commonsense insight to recognize that rich people becoming richer does not cause poor people to be poor or become “poorer” (link).
Business and capitalism are basically the processes of creating, selling, and buying stuff…freely – so, what’s the problem?
Among the left’s responses to all this random creativity, one will always hear anecdotes of business treachery or deceit. Of course any free society governed by the rule of law incorporates into its fabric laws against force, fraud, and theft but, no matter how well such laws are enforced, natural corruptions by some will occasionally manifest. Injustices of some kind will inevitably occur somewhere at some time and to some degree. The occasional acts of dishonesty that some businesses may commit are no different in spirit than the trivial “crimes” committed daily by many of us – ever had an hourly paid job where you punched out twenty minutes after you were through, or augmented your home office supply stock at the expense of a “greedy” employer? If molecules could think and contemplate their circumstance, like the occasionally cognitive human, they’d no doubt note "injustices" of unequal temperatures, locations, or circumstance. Beyond noticing that the real world is a place of natural inequality, nothing particularly profound or insightful has been “proven” in such appraisals whether the critic is a molecule or an unemployed lit. major.
I have often sought to understand the angry rage the left holds toward business. The specific flaws they address are typically no different than the flaws which may occur in any human circumstance and under any system yet they will tolerate and even support the most horrid of ideals and systems as long as such systems outlaw free business transactions. The left really doesn’t seem to mind corruption, punitive government, or power and wealth in the hands of a few, so long as those few share their hatred for capitalism. A drama queen or “progressive” rock star making millions doesn’t seem to bother them, but the creator of a new product making the same is a mortal sin in the eyes of resentful “progressives” everywhere. Ted Turner, George Soros, or Oliver Stone are heroes for spouting the party line but a factory worker is scum of the earth if he or she dare hold a stance supporting a system of free commerce (and they may even be Christians who watch Fox News proving they are enemies of “the people”).
A co-worker once told me he’d rather live in North Korea than (poor) Latin America, which indicated to me that he either knew little about one of the worst tyrannies on the planet or that he did know but thought absolute dictatorship was fine.
It's no coincidence that those furthest left (and even some of the less imposing strains) still defend states like Cuba and North Korea. They may be total dictatorships of enforced misery but, hey, they’ve eliminated something far worse -- the vicious act of creating, buying, and selling stuff.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Private Enterprise: To achieve power and wealth, and to simply "do what it does,” business must provide goods or services to customers willing to purchase such products or services (yes, it is that simple).
Organized Crime: To achieve power and wealth, organized crime must also provide goods or services to customers willing to purchase such products or services; however, the cost will be considerably higher than that of "legal" market activity as a result of the government’s declaration of illegality. Because illegality disrupts normal channels of competition and creates unnatural scarcity, prices are driven up considerably. Because of this, organized crime often uses the methods of government to achieve some of its wealth and power – force and violence.
Government: Government achieves power, wealth, and its ends by forcing the "customer" (everyone under its control) to purchase particular goods and services, and pay the costs that it determines is proper, for products that the customer may not want, at an inferior level of quality and efficiency. It then uses extorted funds to distribute other products and services to given factions that it chooses, whether they want them or not (yes, it's that complicated… and ridiculous).
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Games And Gimmicks In The Government's Schools
Periodically, one reads of a “teacher shortage” -- a need for more dedicated, enthusiastic educators. Many aspiring teachers find this puzzling. After expending considerable time, money, and effort jumping through the bureaucratic hoops of government monopoly education, teachers often find their talents unneeded by an institution that values lip service to gimmicks over expertise in academic disciplines. So it is that many teachers leave or never even begin a profession that they sincerely wished to contribute their talents to.
The standards espoused by those who dominate the government’s social engineering monopoly easily override an appreciation for a teacher’s knowledge and passion for a field of inquiry or their desire to share this enthusiasm with youth.
Perennially, the cries from Ed world to rectify the errors of their own making have been, “we need more money, we need more ‘certification’ for teachers, more ‘expert’ councilors and social workers,” and now, “more technology.” The truth is that all of these factors have increased dramatically over the past few decades and actually correlate with declines in quality and performance. The response: “Parents aren’t doing their part. ”
If parents are told, “your kids must go to our schools, you must pay for the programs and standards we decide upon, and your children will be taught the values and curriculum that we choose,” those parents are entitled to ask for something more than warehouses of politically correct sophistry. As bureaucratic institutions, it’s inevitable that schools have become, as any other government body, chaotic overpriced stockades which fail to accomplish their most basic purpose.
It is no wonder that the Ed establishment’s brigade of unions, college Ed Schools, and government bureaucracies is so consistently opposed to charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling. A system in which parents and their children freely choose their path to knowledge will inevitably stray from the government and it’s “expert’s” rules and standards. The government schools are a virtual monopoly, financed by force and demanding allegiance to philosophies most parents and students are sick of. Contrary to the Norman Rockwell-esque image they attempt to conjure, the government schools are not “community” centers, but factories for stamping out compliance to social theorists’ illusions of smiley-faced communes with compulsory membership.
…“Slavery was bad,… Aids is a bad disease,… The polar ice caps are melting…” Such pervasive lukewarm scholastic inquiry is called “critical thinking” by those in the industry. These lockstep rap sessions of “expressing yourself” have nothing to do with the enhancing of knowledge. The irony in all of this is that a student well versed in facts and substantive knowledge may someday cure aids, improve the enviroment, or prevent another low point in humanity’s moral condition. Of course such future scholars would be an “elite” in the schools of today. Superior individual achievement is seen as elitist by the drones of Ed school philosophy (“what about the kids left behind?”). The Ed-factory ideal is a mass of cooperative comrades, leveled to the vapid cartoonish simplicity of a Soviet peasant poster.
Unfortunately, even students and their parents have bought into much of the psycho-social nonsense proselytized by the Ed schools. “Josie’s a visual learner,” (she likes to watch TV), “Bobby’s a hands on learner,” (he masters abstract intellectual concepts best with a piece of clay). Seldom does one hear of “styles of learning” which involve reading, writing, taking notes, or mastering information. Something for everyone, and nothing for all.
Each year a brigade of educrat clones march into their classrooms telling themselves and their students that they are there to make learning “fun.” (To expect school to be work, to focus and engage the mind to the acquisition of new knowledge, wouldn’t be “fun.”) Conditioned students now arrive in classes expecting to be entertained, to pass the time quickly in an array of contrived games and gimmicks, disconnected and superficial. “Today we’re going to learn about the civil war, here’s a lump of clay, some popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.” How “fun!” The model classroom of today is an MTV video of fragmented sensation gimmicks (“hands on learning.”), where kids are expected to “teach themselves,” and “learn how to learn.”
Today, the Ed bureaucracy’s ideal curriculum is one which dispenses fragments of disconnected sensation void of conceptual continuity; an Internet project here, a cut and paste poster project there, and of course the classic journal of one’s feelings. A smorgasbord of crumbs in a bland government cafeteria where no one is fed. Anyone who has ever truly mastered new knowledge knows it wasn’t “fun” by the same standards as play and leisure. Enjoyable, stimulating, and enriching yes, but ultimately the product of focused application and work.
Each year, new crusaders are sent into schools convinced that their Ed school nurtured philosophy is a radical departure from some imagined status quo of boring lectures and “mere facts.” Swamped in the mud of post-modern philosophies, many deny the very existence of knowledge or facts. “Let the kids teach the class.” “Learn how to learn.” So it is that bureaucrats with the passion of clipboards continue to perpetuate the real status quo of the “Progressive” tradition. From its beginnings, over eighty years ago, promoters and followers of Progressive Education have made no secret that their goal is not the transmission of knowledge but the modeling of “cooperative citizens,” and an elimination of “elitist” individualism and meritocracy (which they fear may be used toward the student’s own non-collective ends). Ironically, “elite” students will reach an elite end regardless of the system’s attempts at leveling, either through the efforts of educated parents, or their own passion, curiosity and application. The kids that are most hurt by the government mind factories are the very ones they claim to be most concerned about, minorities and the poor. Numbed by meaningless curriculums of games, gimmicks, and patronizing gestures of “multicultural awareness,” they leave schools robbed of the intellectual capital required to succeed in the real world.
When critics of government monopoly education state their case, they are not doing so out of some misguided sway from nobility. They are merely concerned that the next generation’s reservoir of knowledge is being horribly corrupted by a government bureaucracy whose only goal is socialization (and, lets face it, they’ve failed miserably on that account as well).
When interviewing for a career in teaching, one must explain “methods” in which one has made learning “fun,” “alternative techniques” to address “individual learning styles,” and awareness of a host of politically correct dogma to proselytize to students who often can barely write an effective paragraph. (This is called “basics plus more” amongst Ed-world’s drones).
Yes, there is a shortage of quality educators, but it’s not due to “selfish taxpayers,” “low pay,” or attempts to provide competitive alternatives to the government’s mandated social schemes. It’s the system itself, an entrenched clique of bland, bureaucratic Ed School clones whose goals as social workers overrides any desire or ability to guide young people through a substantive mastery of knowledge.
There are still many excellent teachers well versed in their fields. Their degrees are in Art, History, Biology, Mathematics, etc., not public administration, sociology, and “education.” They do not go to their classes as bull session moderators, “facilitators,” or crusaders of egalitarian justice. They merely take to their classrooms a passion for knowledge and a desire to share it with a youthful audience. They do this in spite of the system, not because of it, and they will have the opportunity to share their expertise when parents and students are afforded a genuine choice in what they can gain from schooling.
...(If you can’t read this, thank college Ed schools, teacher unions, and the government)