Monday, February 07, 2011


Victor Davis Hanson has a sobering piece in IBD on how there are "Bubbles Galore in Lives Lived in the Abstract". He cites just for starters, the housing, pension and higher-education bubbles:
There are disturbing commonalities to these expanding bubbles — and others like the recently enacted health care entitlement on the way. The rich and connected seem exempt from the impending reckoning, and the poor assume that government will offer them debt relief. Those in between are on their own and will have to pay more for receiving less.

America is not creating enough wealth to justify the notion that everyone should go to college, get a higher-paying job than their parents, buy a nice, affordable house and retire earlier and with more money than did prior generations.

We have forgotten what wealth is — and how tenuous the good life is. Riches are created by educated and skilled workers who directly translate natural resources into commodities that make life easier. The nonproductive sector in government, law and banking must facilitate that process with efficient and transparent financial and political systems.

Instead, we are failing to provide our college graduates with unique skills that make them rare assets in the global competitive arena.

Meanwhile, our more talented and better-trained workers are suing, subsidizing and regulating more than ever — instead of searching for more oil and gas, supplying more water to productive farmland, fast-tracking nuclear power plants, manufacturing machines and consumer goods, or devising new and more efficient ways to help others to produce such food, fuel and products.

In other words, we are living the good life in the abstract that we have not quite earned in the concrete.

Another way to think about what Hanson is saying is that ideals are abstract. They may or may not have any connection to the real world. The problem with the so-called "idealism" of the progressive left is that it is completely abstract and utterly utopian, and does not take into account something essential: REALITY

For starters, the idealistic and progressive intelletuals of the left consistently refuse to acknowledge the reality of human imperfection.

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 other 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 awful truth about human nature; and understand that the reality is closer to your average selfish, lazy, superstitious, and money-grubbing con artist than to that utopian "ideal" or "new" man--so prominently promoted in the rantings of communists, socialist, or any collectivist or totalitarian.

As a consequence of understanding that fundamental truth about human nature, 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. Yes, that means allowing people to pursue their own selfish happiness (without initiating force agains others); as opposed to "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Benevolence toward others is up to the individual and a voluntary matter in the former system; but it is forced upon you by the omnipotent State in the latter (and that has all sorts of negative ramifications which I won't go into right now).

Next, the idealistic and progressive intellectuals of the left also refuse to acknowledge the reality of how wealth is created and how capitalism is able to produce it so well and their systems are not.

Their fundamental economic assumption is that the only way to get wealth is to steal it from someone else, because they simply cannot imagine how to go about creating it. It is a zero-sum game for them; and thus, all their political policies are imbued with an infantile economic primitivism--of the sort a caveman, whose only strategy is brute force, would come up with: Ugg hits Grog over the head with his big club to get his "rightful" share of nuts and berries--and that's the only economic theory they can understand.

This economic blindness about the creation of wealth is the origin of what Ayn Rand calls "the looter mentality." It is the mentality of the parasite who wants the benefits of wealth without the effort of having to create any; who is always demanding "his 'fair' share" of wealth without the necessity of providing any value to anyone. Looters are people who think that wealth just appears out of nothingness and that it is perfectly justifiable to steal it from someone else, since it is a zero-sum game; and therefore it is a matter of "social justice" to redistribute it according to their whim.

Capitalism does not pretend that those messy negative human emotions like greed or envy can be "stamped out" by the will of a tyrant or a "benevolent" State. It accepts human nature as a given and provides a system through which humans are able to pursue their own happiness which allows them to sublimate and redirect those negative emotions to better both themselves and incidentally the larger society.

As economic systems go, capitalism a miraculous psychological breakthrough and promotes more of that elusive "world peace" (or is it "whirled peas"? I forget) ; and it is why capitalism dovetails so nicely with political systems that promote individual freedom and democracy.

On a more fundamental and philosophical level, the idealistic and progressive intellectuals of the left refuse even to acknowledge the reality of A=A and 1+1=2, particularly when such realities conflict with the pretty ideas in their heads.

This is the ultimate consequence of accepting the metaphysical and epistemological tenets of postmodernism.

Of course, abstract ideas are important and are used to understand and describe reality. But they are not a substitute for reality, nor are they allowed to ignore reality when humans attempt to implement them in the real world.

The political left regularly compares their pretty little abstractions with reality and astonishingly, they find reality wanting! So instead of abandoning their useless but lovely abstractions, they happily abandon reality so that they may continue to blow bubbles.

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams they fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

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