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Since a number of us have hijacked @drbastiat‘s Grand Unifying Theory thread, I thought I’d begin a new one with this proposition:
The desire to improve human life can (and has) become a determination to perfect it. Utopianism pits the real against the ideal, and insists it is possible for the former to become the latter.
When Utopians take power, the end result of their effort appears virtually guaranteed to be unfathomable cruelty and pointless destruction.
On a small-ish scale, a reasonably effective, earnestly equitable, fair and decent college (Evergreen, for example) in which students and faculty are encouraged to think that a perfectly equitable, perfectly fair, perfectly painless educational experience is possible is a college that will devolve into mayhem, violence, the expulsion of its best and brightest minds, the abandonment of its educational mission.
On the larger scale of a nation — Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union — the same thing happens, only more spectacularly. In the end, the survivors/liberators stand around amidst the rubble and the heaps of corpses asking one another, “how on earth did we allow this to happen?”
The answer to that may lie in the seductive power of utopianism as an intellectual and imaginative, not to mention emotional, orientation. That human beings can imagine, analyze, and desire what doesn’t actually exist: This is the source of the incredible creativity that allows human beings to bring extraordinary things into being. In this, we are Godlike — God-like. And so we imagine ourselves God. Capable, that is, not merely of creating within reality but of creating reality — better reality, reality as it ought to be. Reality as perfected by us.
Once one has been persuaded that perfection is humanly possible, or even easy (natural!) and so close we can taste it, anything short of perfection is vexing, and anyone who stands in the way of progress towards it, whether by disagreeing with the definition of “perfect” or by pointing to the obstacles reality presents, will inevitably be seen as the enemy. And, really, when the end is perfection, what means of achieving it can possibly be too extreme?Published in