Monday, May 31, 2004

Creating a New Perspective

Human beings, including academics, journalists, and political commentators, are incredibly tribal animals. Most individual political perspectives are strongly influenced by the tribalisms of the Left or Right.

I began studying economics as an idealistic Leftist. As I became convinced of the power of economic arguments, I did not lose any of my idealism: I just realized that Leftist strategies for improving the world were simply not very well considered. At the same time, as I became more interested intellectually in economic analysis, I found that most of the perspectives that I studied included a certain "there ain't no free lunch" cynicism. I have found it difficult, in relative isolation, for my thoughts not to be distorted either by the mindless idealism of the Left or by the intelligent cynicism of market advocates. Flow is an attempt to create a community of intellectually sophisticated and intellectually honest idealists that can transcend the magnetic pull of these opposing forces.

Given the fact that "intellectual" was nearly synonmous with "Leftist" for much of the 20th century, it may seem odd or biased from a left-liberal perspective for me to claim that Leftist strategies for improving the world were not very well considered. For those on the other side, the fact of 100 million Marxist murders alone is shocking and horrifying proof that Leftist strategies for improving the world were not very well considered.

Sociobiology provides compelling arguments that a sophisticated capacity for self-deception was genetically useful in the competition for genetic replication. In order to be a realistic idealist, or a realistic visionary, one must take complete cognizance of the depth and pervasiveness of human self-interest and self-deception.

Young people, eager to believe themselves good, and eager to position themselves as morally superior to their elder tribesmen, are thus vulnerable to shallow idealisms. Academics and intellectuals, many of whom spend their lives surrounded primarily by young people, often occupy a social status niche in which they maximize their psychic well-being, at the cost of intellectual integrity, by claiming moral superiority to the rest of society by means of their Leftist politics. There are even sociologists who conduct formal research studies to determine what social and psychic pathologies cause conservative beliefs: surely a healthy, sane, decent human being would share their Leftist political beliefs?

There is pressure from decent, well-intentioned left-liberals to leave the communist murders behind. None of them advocated such murderous regimes and they consider arguments that they were somehow complicit in these murders to be spurious and in poor taste.

Spiritual and emotional maturity has to do with taking responsibility for one's actions. When I was in college in the 1980s, communist enthusiasm among university faculty was common. To a remarkable degree, it still is. Noam Chomsky, the Pol Pot apologist, is still a hero among the Left.

In the eighteenth century, classical liberals developed a sophisticated body of political analysis showing the necessity and the means of limiting political authority. The American founding institutionalized many of these insights. The French Revolution served as horrifying proof of the need for such constraints on power. After the 1790s, anyone who blithely talked about a "dictatorship of the proletariat," as did Marx and his followers, is complicit in murder. Others, who endorse the ideas of such advocates of murder, are also complicit. Che Guevara whole-heartedly endorsed mass murder.

Idealism has been discredited by the 100 million communist murders. In order to create a legitimate idealism, we must purify ourselves by acknowledging wholeheartedly the crimes of idealisms of the past. Until the fellow travellers and communist apologists come clean, the cause of idealism will be discredited as morally corrupt and suspect.

There was a specific intellectual failure: well-educated people, who should have been adequately educated in classical liberal political theory, nonetheless were enthusiastic supporters of those who advocated a "dictatorship of the proletariat." The fact that these nice intellectuals may have envisioned a benign, romantic, idealistic "dictatorship of the proletariat," with lots of comradely poetry and art, is no excuse. Drunk drivers who kill people are often just nice kids out having fun while drinking a few beers in the car. Good intentions do not absolve people of responsibility while driving drunk nor while intoxicated with political ideals.

When an alcoholic becomes committed to serious recovery through AA, one of their first duties is to apologize to every individual who may have been harmed by them while they were drinking. This step of taking responsibility for past actions is rightly considered to be a crucial stage in healing, spiritual growth, and emotional maturity.

In order to create a spiritually clean idealism, it is crucial that the moral contamination of Leftist intellectuals has been fully acknowledged. One cannot build on crumbled foundations.


Blogger Monty Loree said...

I'm on a quest for financial maturity and emotional maturity.

It's important for america to start to think in these terms. Financial maturity is something that must be modified based on our current "mechanically credit driven" society.

I saw that you too were writing about emotional maturity.

Financial Maturity and emotional maturity go hand in hand.

Good post.

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