Friday, July 06, 2007

Economic Reds: A Diagnosis

More amusing than apocalyptic Greens are economic Reds. An economic red is not necessarily a socialist; he does not necessarily believe in, for instance, the abolition of private property, the planned economy, or treating profit as an anti-social crime. He does not necessarily think being rich is evil; in fact, some economic reds are quite rich themselves, and enjoy being rich. He is, however, gripped by three seductive fascinations--the views that 1) government is motherly and warm, 2) a halo attaches to the "leveling" of economic differences, and 3) there exists in corporations and in those who profit from commerce a residual stench of evil.

Economic reds grow up believing that compassion is the highest of all moral qualities, and that it serves as a kind of plenary indulgence making up for a lot of other sins. For some, this sentiment arises from the rational "fraternity" evoked by the Enlightenment. Others learned it from Deuteronomy, or the Sermon on the Mount. These Biblical sources preceded the Enlightenment by many centuries, and may have rendered the "reason" of the Enlightenment a good deal less cold, mathematical, and self-interested than it might otherwise have been. So, at least, Bertrand Russell, Richard Rorty, and Juergen Habermas--rationalists all--have suggested.

Sociologically, economic reds seem to be found far more often among artists, writers, and professors than among engineers, surgeons, agricultural scientists, realtors, and those who deal with the public as retailers or clerks. Some hard sciences that depend heavily on government subsidies tend also to nurture many economic reds--but also a surprising number of dissenters.

Beyond fantasizing about government as motherly, and about victims as helpless without it, economic reds also fantasize that businessmen, large corporations, and especially CEOs of large corporations, are villainous or, at least, shady. Few today call such persons, as vulgarly as FDR did, "economic royalists." FDR meant to suggest that the new white knights of government were like the heroic aristocrats who obliged King John to sign the Magna Carta, or the Cromwellian republicans who drove James II from power in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Royalists were for FDR the bad guys. And to call businessmen "royalty" when they were not even "barons," let alone "robbers," was a bit of a low blow.

No, the real philosophical sex change that transformed manly "liberalism" from the party of opposition to government, ever watchful against government as liberty's chief foe, into an entirely different kind of liberalism, now the party of ever bigger and more "compassionate" government, was first made by John Dewey in 1935, in Liberalism and Social Action. Dewey wrote the instruction manual for the modern liberal in how to steal a potent term--one that had meant "free, independent, and self-governing"--and change it into its opposite: Big-government "liberalism" now meant government as the mothering nurse of the weak. From David Hume, Adam Smith, and Francis Hutcheson, Dewey fled to Hegel's "spirit of government"; from Anglo-Saxon history to a world of misty, geistliche concepts; from the old conviction that the New World had much to teach the Old, to the new conviction that the avant-garde battle flag to follow is European red. Thus did the grand dream emerge: Big government is to be visualized no longer as the main threat against the rights and liberties of local communities and independent persons, but as the nurturing mother of social good, from above.

A rather substantial number of union members among what quaintly used to be called "the working classes" are no longer economic reds, even though some others remain so. Many blue-collar workers want their sons and daughters to gain college degrees, and push them to seek out jobs in the professional and upper-middle classes. These parents have become economic "blues": They are mightily in favor of upward mobility, hard work, education, and entrepreneurship. They hate those economic reds who want to level society just as their own children are at last getting a chance to climb upwards. This observation helps explain why John Sweeney and other old-line trade-union leaders are having so hard a time delivering the votes of their members. Sweeney is far too red for many of his members, who look at the blue skies beckoning their children. The number of workers belonging to unions has dwindled, and the unions cannot deliver all the votes of the remaining members.

Thus, the only recruiting ground left for economic reds these days lies among "victims." This net is cast mainly to pull in racial minorities, although to some extent, too, certain segments (single women) of racial majorities. Both single women with children and widows understandably may be more attracted than others to a big, caring government that might fill the place of the missing earners in their lives.

That is why, in politics, economic reds strive mightily to instill victimhood in fellow citizens, and to picture them as helplessly in need of government's assistance. In trying to lift these victims, however, economic reds typically engender greater benefits to benefit-providers than to the poor. There is some merit in what economic reds try to do. Still, their method is like feeding horses as a way of getting to the swallows, when there are far more direct ways to do the job.

In short, the dream of economic reds is not a vision of an America driven forward by new entrepreneurs, new inventors, and those untamed "animal spirits" that are released by a good system of incentives. Rather, it is a vision of rule-making, curbs, limitations, bureaucratic selection among alternatives, new burdens on the private sector--and larger powers unwisely given to the federal government. While Senator Clinton calls her vision "progressive," most of us would call it "regressive." Economic reds are still mesmerized by the imaginary powers that they attribute to the motherly, "caring" state--but, fortunately, this illusion is harder to sell than it was in earlier, less experienced generations

More here



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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.

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