We Really Can’t Help It…

     …we humans have a hard time separating people’s personalities and characters from our opinions of the ideas they espouse. We tend to assess the validity of a Cause according to the strengths and weaknesses of those who promote it: their public conduct, their cumulative reputations, and whatever we can learn about their pasts. The squib below cites one variety of this: the doom-shouter who seeks to panic others into important decisions without taking time for study and thought.

     Another variation is the apologist who seeks to blame the failures of his theses on the behavior of others. I’ve seen this in more settings than I can remember offhand. In a recent instance, a Republican partisan sought to blame the loss of a GOP Congressional candidate he supported on – drum roll, please – the Libertarian candidate and those who voted for him! Those votes were “stolen” from the Republican, you see. If it weren’t for his Libertarian opponent, those voters would have…what’s that you say? They wouldn’t necessarily have voted for the Republican? They might have voted for some other minor-party candidate? They might have stayed home?? Great God in heaven!

     Such attempts to transfer the blame for one’s troubles onto others’ shoulders is common enough in politics. But it does the self-exculpator no good at all. Indeed, it diminishes his reputation for future contests.

     Tom Knighton shows us an ideologically flavored case:

     The Socialist Party isn’t much of a political party. As far as electoral gains go, they make the Libertarian Party look downright competent.

     However, like many small political parties, they use social media to get their ideas out into the public consciousness.

     And, because they’re socialists, they post things like this:

     In other words, government-run healthcare fails because of capitalism.

     You really have to wonder. If you’re conscious of your own reactions to that sort of blame-shifting, that is. But it’s been a feature of socialist economies for decades. The Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, North Korea, socialist Venezuela all blamed their economic failures on “imperialism,” “capitalist saboteurs,” and the like. It’s never the fault of socialism, you see. That’s simply unthinkable.

     Have a snippet from the great Gregory Benford’s somewhat neglected novel Against Infinity:

     “Every civilization up until now has evolved because of internal contradictions — conflicts within it that forced change. Capitalism proceeded by contradiction to produce socialism — it was inevitable….
     “The Marxists thought that under socialism, alienation and class warfare would stop….The administrators faced a problem Marxism never discussed: how well socialism works. What is the good of being exactly equal to everybody else, if that means you have to be poor?…
     “So to stop socialism from sinking into the mud, the bureaucrats had to promote expansion — off-planet, out into the system. But socialism is an historical necessity that arises when you get a certain density of population. Once people spread out….
     “And therein lies the true comedy….You see, the Marxists always assumed that the next step would complete the cycle of contradiction and change. It is so amusing! Because they could imagine no further change beyond socialism, they assumed — without thinking — that there would be none. They didn’t notice that the dialectical model predicts no Final Revolution….There is instead an equilibrium between the two forms. So we get humankind — with refined, humanitarian socialism in the older, crowded core. And capitalism sprouting up like weeds at the edge.”

     In other words, if it weren’t for the existence of capitalist economies that stand ready to rescue socialist ones from their failures, the socialist economies would collapse at once. The socialist planners and oligarches of Benford’s novel were at least realistic enough to admit it. But our contemporary socialists are unwilling to do so. Among other things, it would wound them in their self-righteousness.

     There’s another clue to the validity of a Cause: whether its promoters posture as morally superior to those who question their schemes. People who are sincere about what they espouse should admit to human fallibility – to the possibility that they might be wrong. But that, too, is rare among ardent Cause People. The ones who strive to stampede you into a highly committal decision without taking time to study and think are the worst of the lot. They combine the subtlety of the cattle prod with the superciliousness of the bullhorn-wielding, fire-and-brimstone-shouting, street-corner preacher.

     Verbum sat sapienti.

1 comment

  1. What socialists mean by “capitalism” is large organizations they do not control.

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