Intellectual Roots of Leftism
Can the laboratory of communism also shed light on the viability of a related political philosophy, which also relies on centralized governmental coercion to achieve its goals: modern liberalism?
The communists did all at once what stealthy left-liberals apparently intend to do piece by piece while we sleep. We just lived through a century in which liberals enacted several recommendations of the Communist Manifesto and transformed a night-watchman state into a welfare/warfare state with a continual flow of "progressive" legislation and various "Democrat wars" and crusades with the result that no one in my law school class in 1983 could identify, in response to Professor Henry Mark Holzer's query, any aspect of life that was not in some way regulated or controlled by the state. Seventeen years later, are they through?
Has liberalism closed up shop? Will they ever be through? Not until they have established an egalitarian utopia where virtually all responsibility for living has passed from the individual to the state. In the liberal utopia, if I may pilfer Paddy Chayefsky's words, "all necessities [will be] provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused."
If you think I exaggerate, consider that liberals and communists share five critical premises: egalitarianism, utopianism (the use of impossible "ideals" as a guide to policy), the efficacy of force in accomplishing positive goals, hostility to civil society (nonstate institutions, e.g., Boy Scouts, private schools), and the individual's inability to govern himself.
In light of the recent attempted coup d'élection, I am tempted to add a sixth similarity — willingness to win political fights at all costs. Further evidence of some basic affinity between communism and modern liberalism is the latter's frequent coverups and apologies for the former. Finally, communists and liberals share a tendency to expressly support "mass democracy" while they in practice concentrate power in secretive elite bodies such as politburos and appellate courts.
In that spirit of fascination with the enemy, I recently read The Black Book of Communism, a clinical and relentless dissection of the crimes of communism in the 20th century — defined by "the natural laws of humanity" — written by several ex–fellow travelers led by Stephane Courtois.
It is not a book to be read before, during, or after a meal. You would not want to spoil a good meal with the image of Bolshevik troops throwing live human beings into a blast furnace. The Black Book is a story of mind-numbing and mindless brutality. Mao Zedong, one of the stars of the book, said, "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
Communists killed all types of people but focused their most intense fury on entrepreneurs, community leaders, and the highly educated. They made some half-hearted efforts to abolish money and decried "speculators," "rich bastards," and, "shopkeepers." Lenin said that "speculators … deserve … a bullet in the head." As the Nazis later would, the communists recruited many of their murderous thugs from the dregs of society. Thus, communism may be defined as the execrable executing the exceptional.
Leaving aside being forced to read all three volumes of Das Kapital, the communists' means of torture included partial asphyxiation, burning with red hot irons, confinement in tiny cells without plumbing, systematic rape and forced prostitution of "bourgeois women," mock execution, beatings, near starvation, being forced to eat the flesh of recently executed family members, forced marches, electric shocks, kneeling on broken glass, being manacled in tight handcuffs, hanging by the wrists or thumbs, and prolonged sleep deprivation leading to madness.
When communists were not destroying individual persons, they were busy destroying individual personality. They made heavy use of concentration camps and transported prisoners there in cattle trucks (sound familiar?). Prisoners were deprived of all privacy and were forced to confess their innermost thoughts. Spies were everywhere. No one could be trusted. There was only the "brutish imposition of a heavy-handed ideology" and the "permanent saturation with the message of orthodoxy." The result was an "abdication of the personality."
To rationalize their mass murder and torture, the communists first used the technique usually associated with the National Socialists — rhetorically dehumanizing their enemies. The communists exhorted their thugs to "shoot them like dogs," and referred to the bourgeoisie as "vultures," "pygmies," "foxes," "lice," "insects," and "pigs."
Left-liberals, who on economic issues favor a dictatorship of the majority, would have been happy with socialized medicine, communal day care, and the total abolition of private firearms. Lenin, in a cautiously worded policy analysis, recommended "immediate execution for anyone caught in possession of a firearm." He understood that "gun control" means the control that an armed citizenry has over a tyrannical government. The Bolsheviks systematically disarmed the peasants before systematically starving millions of them to death. Peasant pitchforks proved no match for Bolshevik machine guns.
Liberals also would have been ecstatic over the enshrinement of their moronic slogan "People over Profits" by the communists. There was not a capitalist profit to be made in communist countries, other than a few rubles for waiting in line to buy toilet paper for a comrade.
I knew that the communists killed millions. There were surprises in the book, however. In the winter of 1939–40, many Polish Jews fled east to escape the advancing German army. They ran into the heroic Red Army, which five years later would boast of liberating the Jews from concentration camps. The Red Army greeted the fleeing Jews with bayonets and machine-gun fire. Many Jews returned to the German sector. Ultimately, 400,000 Polish Jews who ended up in Soviet-controlled territory died during deportation, brutal concentration camp life, and forced labor.
The Black Book of Communism is a brilliant description of the crimes of communism. Its concluding chapter, written by Courtois, which attempts to explain "Why?" faces a more difficult challenge. The "why?" will perhaps never be fully understood. Courtois points to a number of factors, many of which are related to the philosophical similarities between communists and left-liberals previously discussed.
The inability of the individual to govern himself without coercive direction from the state. Courtois locates the genesis of Leninist terror in the French Revolution. Robespierre ruled by fear and terror because the people "were not yet pure enough" to grasp the wisdom of the revolution. All left-wing thought is premised on the individual's inherent inability, intellectually and morally, to function without continual direction from the state.
Elitism. Of course, if people are incapable of successful living without external guidance, that implies the need for a small elite, the "moral guardians of society" — Courtois's words describing the Bolsheviks' self-image — to give them their marching orders.
Utopianism. This concept is critical to understanding the crimes of communism. Utopians posit some imagined, allegedly ideal state of affairs, which, not being grounded in human nature and the human condition, cannot be achieved. Yet, it must be achieved, and since it is the ultimate moral value, any and all means necessary to achieve this ideal are sanctioned. As Courtois writes:
"the real motivation for the terror … stemmed from … the utopian will to apply to society a doctrine totally out of step with reality. … In a desperate attempt to hold onto power, the Bolsheviks made terror an everyday part of their policies, seeking to remodel society in the image of their theory, and to silence those who, either through their actions or their very social, economic, or intellectual existence, pointed to the gaping holes in the theory. … Marxism-Leninism deified the system itself, so that categories and abstractions were far more important than any human reality"
Egalitarianism. The primary targets of communism were persons of accomplishment: businessmen, successful farmers, intellectuals, and priests. It was easy to harness the natural envy of the masses toward their betters, particularly when this age-old envy was dressed up in utopian and moralistic terms.
The efficacy of force. Naturally, at the heart of Leninism was a fervent belief in the use of force and violence. Society can be improved by killing, starving, torturing and generalized terror. Trotsky said it best: "only force can be the deciding factor … Whoever aims at the end cannot reject the means."
Violence begets violence. Courtois deems it significant that communism first emerged from the wreckage of World War I. The war "to make the world safe for democracy" made it safe for a murderous communist dictatorship in Russia. The senseless violence of the war habituated the Russian people to the senseless violence of Leninism and Stalinism. Later communist regimes were nurtured in the womb of other senseless wars. Courtois quotes Martin Malia:
"crime begets crime, and violence violence, until the first crime in the chain, the original sin of the genus, is expiated through accumulated suffering… it was the blood of August 1914, acting like some curse of the Atreidae on the house of modern Europe, that generated the chain of international and social violence that has dominated the modern age."
George Soros gives money to false prophet
THE global financial crisis, the latest episode of which boiled over last week, did more than destroy wealth and jobs, or embarrass the rating agencies. It exposed the malaise within the economics profession and the deep flaws in its orthodox theories.
George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist, was among those who joined the search for new ideas.
Mr Soros funded a new organisation called the Institute for New Economic Thinking which for the past two years has handed out millions of dollars in grants, funding research projects that look at economics in fresh ways.
This month, the institute gave more than $125,000 to an Australian. Steve Keen, Associate Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Western Sydney, has won a grant to turn his money-based model of the macro-economy - which draws on the theories of economists such as Hyman Minsky and John Maynard Keynes - into a computer program for students and economists.
Professor Keen says his program will make it easy to develop "dynamic" models of the economy that incorporate money and debt - something that orthodox models do not do.
Last year, Professor Keen had to walk from Canberra to Mount Kosciuszko after losing a bet with Rory Robertson, the then interest rate strategist for Macquarie Bank.
Professor Keen had bet in 2008 that Australian house prices would lose 40 per cent in value in the aftermath of the financial crisis.. [They showed only a slight fall overall]
"Campaign finance reform" is a crock designed to protect incumbents
Washington state provides a fresh example of the exhaustion of the "campaign finance reform" project, which tries to empower government to restrict speech about the composition and conduct of government.
The state law at issue is awful, but usefully awful: It perfectly illustrates how the political class crafts campaign regulations for the purpose of protecting the job security of members of that class – elected incumbents.
Pierce County, near Seattle, has an assessor-treasurer, Dale Washam, whose comportment in office has offended Robin Farris and others. The details about what Washam has done to stir a recall clamor need not concern us; courts consider whether the details are sufficiently grave before allowing a recall election to proceed. For the record, the Tacoma News Tribune says Washam's two-year tenure "has turned a minor government office into a fountain of perpetual controversy. ... Investigations state that Washam retaliated against his employees, wasted government resources, abused his power and hindered the inquiries. Costs of those investigations and other legal matters tied to Washam's office now exceed $108,000. Four damage claims – preludes to lawsuits – seek a collective total of $4.25 million."
The right of the people to vote to recall elected officials is a legacy of Western populism. Farris, a retired naval officer not previously politically active, and some kindred spirits have failed to gain enough signatures to force a vote to remove Washam – perhaps because of the impediments to signature gathering.
Not unreasonably, Washington state law, in order to prevent attempts to overturn elections for frivolous reasons, requires a superior court judge to have a "sufficiency hearing" to determine whether the charges against an official attain a threshold of seriousness by involving "malfeasance or misfeasance." This judge's opinion can be appealed to the state Supreme Court. So a recall campaign necessarily involves significant litigation expenses – even before beginning the efforts to collect sufficient signatures to get the recall question on the ballot.
What is, therefore, highly unreasonable – and unconstitutional – is the regime of restrictions on raising and spending money on recall campaigns. So say Farris and the Oldfield & Helsdon law firm, which ran afoul of state law when it volunteered to do pro bono work on behalf of Farris and the Recall Dale Washam Committee she helped to organize.
Farris and the firm are represented by the Institute for Justice – a public-interest law firm based in Arlington, Va. State law restricts individual contributions to most recall campaigns to $800. This low limit on the indispensable means of disseminating political speech is a huge impediment to buying newspaper advertising. Such advertising is necessary – see above – to collect the requisite 65,495 signatures in a county of 1,800 square miles.
And the $800 limit has a wee constitutional defect: The Supreme Court has held that the only permissible reason for any limits on political contributions is to prevent corruption or the appearance thereof – basically, quid pro quo transactions between candidates and their supporters. But who exactly can be corrupted by the spending of persons supporting the recall of an elected official?
It gets worse. Washington state says that lawyers who do pro bono work on behalf of a recall effort – who volunteer their time to help with litigation the state makes mandatory – must count their time as a financial contribution subject to the $800 limit. This, too, has the effect, surely intended, of crippling recall efforts.
You almost have to admire the audacity of Washington state's political class in writing a law that constitutes such a comprehensive attack on citizens' First Amendment rights of speech and of association – of assembling to petition for redress of grievances.
The law provides a right of recall – and then vitiates that right. It turns a de jure right into a de facto nullity by mandating an expensive process, then arbitrarily limiting the ability of participants to meet those expenses. It does this by placing low limits on monetary contributions to recall campaigns and, even more insidiously, it compels volunteer lawyers to monetize the time they contribute to litigation the state requires.
This rigging of a process threatening to the serenity of the political class is unambiguous proof that protection of that class is always a – in this case the – purpose of government regulation of politics in the name of "campaign finance reform."
The Constitution may not be perfect — but it is much better than what we have now!: "Our Constitution created a pro-property rights, pro-contract rule of law -- a system promoting entrepreneurial growth. On this 224th Anniversary of the creation of the Constitution, the business community should recognize its value and act to defend it. The Founders sought a balance between the need for a strong government (Madison’s observation that because men aren’t angels, governments are necessary) and George Washington’s warning that government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a powerful master."
The Social Security reality: "Although Mr. Perry's Ponzi analogy is not technically correct, it has some validity in that Social Security benefits are financed by ever more subscribers -- that is, wage earners. But unlike a Ponzi scheme, Social Security is not fraudulent, and it doesn't pay large benefits relative to taxes. Indeed, it pays low benefits. A Ponzi scheme promises high returns. That's why people freely, although foolishly, play the game. Social Security promises low returns. That's why people are forced to play the game."
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)