About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Progressivism vs Harsh Reality

I regularly follow a blog called "Extreme Liberal's Blog." I recommend you do the same. Why? Because we live in a society -- like it or not -- which is at war with itself, politically, and it makes sense to understand what motivates the political opposition. As an example, I refer you to a post by one Joan Ruaiz: "We All Have A Choice In The 2012 Election."

In her post Ruaiz asks a series of questions aimed at progressives who are cooling in their political support for Barack Obama (because Obama is not progressive enough for them!). In an attempt to discourage apathy and gin up support, Ruaiz asks recalcitrant progressives to imagine the horror they will experience if a Republican is elected President in 2012. She asks, for instance, "How will you feel when the new President gets to sign into law the privatization of Social Security?"

[It is amusing that questions designed to instill terror in the heart of a progressive can make a conservative enthusiastic about the prospects of victory in 2012!]

However, Ruaiz asks another question that I find disturbing and truly indicative of the ideological gulf that separates the combatants in this political war we find ourselves fighting. Ruaiz asks:
"How will you feel when you have to look at this new President on the television. a President who talks in bumper sticker slogans, while being divisive. ideologically driven, and grossly arrogant, and who governs with regard to his own base and not all Americans?" [sic]
Are you kidding me?

How can an individual be so ideologically blind that they cannot see that their own President, Barack Obama, exhibits these selfsame characteristics?

On the other hand, perhaps I am ideologically blind as well and it is this blindness which prevents me from seeing Obama as Joan Ruaiz sees him, i.e., as the antithesis of her evil, arrogant Republican "President on the television?"

Hmmm... Not a chance.

The one characteristic that I consistently notice about my conservative friends is that they are grounded in reality. As individuals, they are prone to rely on their own experience and their own judgment rather than trust a consensus opinion or an argument from authority. As level-headed, down-to-earth employees, entrepreneurs, traders (both producers and consumers), they must regularly separate the wheat from the chaff in the economic marketplace. As such, they gain a respect for and knowledge of economic reality. They recognize and accept that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that every action entails a benefit and a cost, that every trade means getting something in exchange for giving something, that honesty and self-reliance are key moral values and that private property and freedom are essential to achieving prosperity.

Progressives? No so much.

I've noticed Progressives are prone to see themselves as cogs in a social machine, not as self-reliant individuals capable of producing their own prosperity in a society of free and cooperative traders. Thus, it is impossible for a Progressive to separate their own success from the success of the "masses." In order for a Progressive to be all right with the world, the entire world must first be all right...or at least there must be a social machine in place that makes the Progressive believe the entire world will be all right.

Just as it is impossible to imagine that a particular cog in a gear could work and succeed independently of the other cogs, so it is impossible for a Progressive to imagine his own success and happiness existing independently from the success and happiness of others in society. So long as there exists a single, unprosperous individual among us, thinks the Progressive, none of us can be truly prosperous.

The corollary to this mode of thinking is that all individuals must properly strive for the prosperity of all. There can be no child left behind. No senior lacking a comfortable pension. No sick person with a pre-existing condition lacking health care. No human being left unsatisfied.

Of course, there is a huge problem with such thinking: harsh reality. Neither as individuals nor as economic actors is it possible for us to satisfy others. Reality does not allow me to control your thoughts or your level of satisfaction, i.e., your happiness. I can only control how I think, what I feel and what I do.

Thus, the social programs Progressives devise to ensure the contentment and happiness of all are doomed from the start by the dual realities of nature and human nature. Even if it was possible to harness the entire human race in the service of the world's needy masses, the realities of time and resources would prevent the success of the endeavor. 

"Need" is a function of the human imagination which is limitless. "Rich" and "Poor" are relative terms describing disparities in material possessions which are finite. Any attempt to satisfy "Need" by ending the disparity between "Rich" and "Poor" is impossibly absurd. 

Moreover, unlike beasts of burden, human beings universally resent the bite of the bridle and the sting of the whip. Individual humans act with purpose toward achieving ends of their own making. Human beings forced or coerced to strive after ends devised for them by others will resist by becoming part of the problem, i.e., they will become unproductive and "needy," the very condition the system was designed in the first place to eliminate.

Progressivism is a syndrome of youth. By the time they have reached adulthood and have embarked on the very American tradition of "earning a living," most conservatives have become acquainted with and respectful of harsh reality. As a consequence, they have exorcized the mush of Progressivism from their minds.

Oh that Joan Ruaiz and all her extreme liberal friends would do the same. There is nothing more pitiful or more destructive to a society built upon the principles of private property and individual freedom than a graying Progressive who has not outgrown his or her youthful delusions, especially if this Progressive is elected to a position of authority.

Barack Obama is living proof of this truism.

1 comment:

John Galt said...

Excellent, Sherman.
We will use it.