But one of the things that never changes is the hysteria of the left. The hysteria results from the conflation of existential and economic realities. In other words, when it comes to existence, there is always something to bitch about. But if you shift this to the plane of economics, then you can imagine that otherwise insoluble existential problems are susceptible to solutions.
For example, you can give "free college" to everyone, but this won't alter the fact that 50% of human beings are of below average intelligence. In fact, you'll only end up diluting education, so that if someone wants to be educated, they will have to do so outside of college. With the exception of the hard sciences, we're pretty much at that point now. Once college is universal, it becomes worthless. And if Obama has his way, the same thing will occur in medicine: everyone will be entitled to their government-rationed portion of mediocre healthcare.
Now, when Marx was writing his critique of industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century, living standards were finally rising after hundreds, and even thousands, of years of stagnation. Workers were just finally rising above subsistence levels and beginning to be able to purchase necessities and eventually luxuries that would have been completely unavailable to them in the past. Pockets of Slack were starting to break out everywhere, instead of just being available to the upper-upper classes.
In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth weren't really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to the magical combination of individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law. And then get the hell out of the way.
And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the "boom or bust" cycle [oops!], to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity are the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional envy....
In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, a focus on the future instead of the present, and an understanding that economic exchange isn't a zero-sum game....
For the vast majority of human beings, liberty is not a particularly important value, much less the most important one. They would just as soon barter it away for security, as they have done in western Europe.
Once you understand this, then much about the left begins to make sense. In Europe, we can see how the welfare state puts in place a system of incentives that creates a new kind of enfeebled man, but that's not exactly correct. In reality, it simply reveals man for what he is -- a lazy, frightened, selfish, superstitious, instinct-loving and lowdown rascal. Leftism aims low and always reaches its target.
As they say, read it all.
At any rate, his words got me to thinking about why it is that the left, whose policies as Bob suggests, always end up enabling and exposing the worse aspects of human nature, are the same people who are always coming up with these utopian schemes that promise a veritable paradise of human love, compassion, kindness and brotherhood and deliver a toxic brew of hate, envy, and discord? How can they be so completely clueless about something as obvious as the reality of human nature?
Perhaps, the best answer to that question is that, when it comes to themselves, the left is constitutionally unable to understand or accept the dark side of their own natures with any degree of clarity, let alone honesty.
The squalid utopian fantasies of socialism, communism--or any variant of Marxism for that matter--appeals primarily to people who refuse to acknowledge their own human imperfections, and hence their own capacity for evil. They don't want to admit it, but those who are drawn to the leftist view of the world, tend to see themselves as superior; above all the boring, ordinary human beings around them; more virtuous, more compassionate, smarter; and of course, much better qualified to decide what's best for lesser beings like you and me.
It is extremely ironic, considering the left's rhetoric to the contrary, to realize that it is conservatism and its underlying priniciples that fundamentally embrace the truth about human nature; and understand that nature is closer to the "lazy, frightened,s elfish, superstitious, instinct-loving, lowdown rascal" than to the utopian "ideal man", promoted in the rantings of communists, socialist, or any collectivist or totalitarian (whether from the left or the right side of the political spectrum). And, as a consequence of understanding that reality, conservatism and its economic policies (i.e., capitalism) are able to harness even the most negative aspects of human nature to bring positive good both to the individual and to the larger society as well.
Conservatism and capitalism are both ideas that have worked amazingly well for one reason: they do not pretend that human nature is something it is not. Leftism of any stripe fails miserably and catastrophically because they routinely pretend that human nature can be changed and perfected.
In essence, the left's denial and its psychological attraction to all these dysfunctional utopian systems inevitably leads to envy and a host of other negative and sadistic human traits; and, along the way, it promotes a cult of victimhood and identity politics with all the associated social and political conflicts those emotions generate. Envy, in particular, is the lovely human emotion that drives all these leftist systems; and it exists in pure, unadulterated and vicious form in those systems.
And, as I noted in the post linked earlier,
...in answer to the unspoken question, yes; capitalism also thrives on envy--and even greed.
But, capitalism within a democratic and politically free system of government offers a healthy channel for the redirection of negative emotions like envy and greed into something positive for both the individual and the larger society.
Something, I might add, that Marxism, socialism and all its malignant variants completely fail to do. You cannot escape the reality of this dark side of human nature. You can either channel that dark side and use it constructively to benefit the individual and incidentally the society he lives in; or you can encourage and facilitate it in all its destructive power, and by doing so create the hell on earth we've come to associate with communist and Marxist societies.
After the leftist disasters of the 20th century; after the devastating consequences of forcing people to live in a variety of these "utopian paradises", it is simply amazing that today's left continues to deny the reality of human nature. Yet they do, and that is why they keep coming back to the same old tired ideas and policies and formulas that have repeatedly failed in the real world and which have always--ALWAYS--ended up unleashing all the evil of which human nature is capable.
Ahhh. The power of the unconscious!
On the other hand, the values that have brought enduring light and progress to humanity--Life, Liberty, and the freedom to pursue one's own individual happiness--are not utopian in nature. Far from it. These values, enshrined in the American singularity represent the values that are able to transform flawed, ordinary human beings into luminous souls; because by pursuing their own happiness in a free society under the rule of law, individuals are able to achieve incredible heights.
Leftists "aim low" because they base their policies on ridiculous fantasies about their own nature, i.e., they imagine they are "better" people than the rest of us. In other words, they allow their unconscious self--in which the dark side of human nature is at home--to take control of their actions. Rarely do they ever examine their own motives or the dramatic inconsistencies between what they say and what they do. They "always reach their target" because they demonstrate repeatedly how truly despicable human nature can be when the dark side of one's self is denied and hidden behind a veil of arrogant, narcissistic superiority. These do-gooders always end up doing bad, but console themselves by saying, "We meant well." All their so-called "progressive" policies have the same superficial quality: it first and foremost makes the leftist feel good about himself and reinforces their psychological denial about human nature (specifically, their own).
Conservatives, with the tacit acceptance of human foibles and human evil manage, with their better ideas, to "aim high" and allow human nature--with all its attendant good and bad qualities--to reach for the stars. Sometimes we fail (we are human, after all), but when we succeed, the whole of humanity moves forward.
Which is why conservatives are the true--and only-- progressives.