Monday, October 11, 2010


On "Leftism"

With thanks to Instapundit, this article at has a lot to say about leftists and leftism:
The single most dangerous thing about leftists is their capacity for self-delusion. Most leftists really do believe that they personally know what is best for everyone.

Beyond their personal intellectual and moral hubris, leftists think they know best because they believe themselves to belong to a line of ideological descent which has always been altruistic, benevolent and always proven correct in the long run. The reason they believe that is because leftists know nothing of their own history. Instead, they take a simplified, cartoonish view of their ideological predecessors that can only be described as hagiographic. Any mistakes or evils perpetrated by anyone that leftists identify with are simply written out of leftists’ history.
And that's just the first two paragraphs...

Personally, I'm reluctant to write off an entire political school of thought so glibly -- particularly since I used to think of myself as politically liberal. (Well, I was a teenager once. As the saying goes, liberal teenagers are the rule, not the exception.)

Then again, I used to take issue with Hugh Hewitt's book "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat", written just before the 2004 Presidential election. At the time, I thought the idea of Democrats cheating to win a Presidential election, just because they could, was far-fetched and offensive. These days I'm not so sure.

In any event, we were talking about leftism... and, when Shannon Love's article "The Left's Power of Self-Delusion" gets past its glib dismissals, it actually has some interesting things to say. Using Che Guevara and Kent State as two examples of the Left rewriting history to suit itself, we then get to some interesting conclusions:
Empiricism is the final test of any idea. This is the fundamental idea of science but it holds true in all fields of human endeavor. An idea must manifest in a physical form and interact with the material world before its truth can be truly verified. Business people have ideas of businesses all the time but the only real test of the idea is to create the business and see if it thrives. Generals create weapons, tactics and doctrines only to see them all disintegrate when real war breaks out. Engineers build objects and machines that must work.

Leftists, however, live in a world isolated from physical consequence. They pay no material consequence for the failure of the ideas. It is not as if any of the leaders of the Kent State rioters ever ended up with hands bound, kneeling in the mud of a Cambodian rice paddy waiting for a raped and brainwashed 12 year old to suffocate them by wrapping a plastic bag tightly over their heads. No radical leftwing radical professor of the era lost his job for failing to predict the psychotic nature of the Khmer Rouge or the consequences of the horrific rule of Cambodia. No American leftists has ever paid a serious material consequence for any error, no matter how sweeping. It is always someone else who pays.

It was the Kulaks, Ukrainians, idealistic communists and others who paid the price for Stalin, not the legions of western leftists who ignored his crimes and cheered him on. It was the Chinese peasants who starved to death during the Great Leap Forward and not the college student with the “Mao more than ever” t-shirt. Less dramatically, it is the poor of America who suffered from crime, permanent joblessness and the disintegration of families because of leftists’ policies, not the ivory-tower intellectuals who created those policies.
A good point indeed -- and a sobering one.

It does, however, beg the question: isn't the same true for the Right, as it is for the Left? Are conservative ideas judged, more than liberal ones, on whether they actually work in the real world?

Well, they are by conservatives. Conservative ideas that have not passed the test of history are abandoned -- but not forgotten -- and attempts to revive them are ridiculed, by conservatives. (Witness Sen. Trent Lott, who lost his role as Senate Minority Leader in 2002, because of an ill-conceived comment suggesting support for segregation. Both segregation and slavery were enshrined in the Constitution, and as such preserving them were conservative ideas... although, in fairness, the efforts to end them both were led by Republicans, not by Democrats.)

So perhaps Ms. Love's point is that liberals, in general, don't test their own ideas in terms of what works in the real world, while conservatives do try to test their ideas. (At any rate, I like that better than her conclusion -- that conservative ideas have to be tested in the real world because conservatives live in the real world, and not in the ivory tower -- her words -- of leftism.)

I'm not sure yet how I feel about this. I welcome comments by my readers, if I still have any.


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