The Left’s Shabby Vision

 

I think we conservatives sometimes feel inadequate, as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes. It’s hard, after all, to wax rhapsodically about fiscal responsibility, deregulation, federalism, and other principles that distinguish conservative philosophy from the ever-expanding universe of leftist passions and causes. We don’t do sit-ins. We don’t chant. Conservatism is, well, conservative, and just not very exciting.

But if you scratch the surface, if you look beyond superficial enthusiasm and consider the worldviews that truly motivate left and right, you discover something interesting and, I think, counter-intuitive. You discover that it is conservatism that is optimistic, positive, enthusiastic, innovative, and forward-looking — in short, hopeful — and the left that is, overwhelmingly, motivated by a grim, desperate, fearful, and impoverished view of both humanity and our prospects.

Ever fretting about an environmental apocalypse, the left tells us how we must light and heat our homes, drive our cars, sort our trash, water our lawns. If the left had its way, every decision involving energy consumption would involve the Washington bureaucracy, and our lives would be smaller, slower, darker, colder. Conservation has it place, but that place must not be as the primary motivating principle of our lives: that is a call for stasis and an ever-diminishing existence, and is the very antithesis of the progress, innovation, and increasing prosperity that has always defined our nation.

The left’s response to the expense of health care is to make health care less free, less innovative, less varied — to diminish choice and quality by imposing the same poor standard on everyone. Rather than allowing the market to drive health care in new directions, creating new treatments and new delivery systems, new price points and service levels, the left’s vision of health care is, like that in other countries with socialized medicine, of a commodity product that’s “good enough,” and needs only to be spread as cheaply as possible over as many as possible. We could guarantee care for the poorest among us while trusting the reduced regulation, the free market, and individual choice to take care of the rest. Instead, the left would prefer, once again, that an elephantine bureaucracy impose its sclerotic vision on the most innovative health care system in the world, and that everyone be forced to live with the consequences.

I don’t doubt that this approach to health care is motivated by a desire to provide health care to those who can’t afford it. The problem is that the left’s impoverished vision is of a country in which most people can’t afford health care, and in which most people never will be able to afford health care unless health care is diminished in quality and variety, reduced to the medical equivalent of a McDonald’s Dollar Menu selection.

On matters of race and identity, the left’s vision of comity and tolerance is dark: we are, by their reckoning, a nation perpetually at war with itself, dividing and sub-dividing into ever smaller and more passionately aggrieved micro-identities. No victories have been achieved, no improvements made, and every victim group remains as oppressed today as it ever was — this despite countless examples to the contrary. It is a worldview rooted in pessimism, promising nothing but anger and resentment and ever smaller factions fighting for the title of most downtrodden.

Again and again, the left’s assumption is one of failure: people will fail — fail to provide for themselves, fail to arrange their own affairs in a sensible way, fail to move ahead, fail to get along, fail to be responsible, fail to prosper. This is certainly true for some people, but it isn’t true for most people. The left’s answer is, almost without exception, to restrict: restrict choices, restrict markets, restrict freedom. Whether we’re talking about the environment, or guns, or health care, or free markets, or even free speech, the left’s perspective is one of fear, pessimism, lack of confidence in people and their ability to make choices — and, consequently, a desire to reduce those choices, and to herd the public into an ever narrower and less optimistic future.

America has always been an optimistic country. We still are, the shrill protests of the left’s angry pessimists notwithstanding. It’s time conservatives appreciated that we are the ones with the optimistic vision — that we are the true champions of progress, in that we embrace the principles and practices that have achieved the astounding real progress of the past two centuries. The left, with its tired ideas of central control and forced redistribution, with its vision of ever smaller, ever more pinched and restricted lives, is mired in a fearful past, unable to imagine the bright future most of us take for granted.

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There are 25 comments.

  1. Member

    Henry Racette: he left’s assumption is one of failure: people will fail

    There is a man I have worked with for 20 years who is a diehard socialist. I told him that socialism has failed everywhere it was implemented, and his response was, “Norwegian socialism is what I mean”. ( Clearly he considers that quite successful.) 

    Then he explained to me that he just doesn’t trust people. He thinks that without a strong state to guide them, they will devolve in to greed and violence. 

    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust. 

    That was the end of the conversation, but I think it gave me a very important insight to the mindset, and it is as you say. They do not believe in ‘rugged individualism’, they do not believe in self made men. They see those as euphemisms for repression and greedy exploitation. Because the majority of ‘people’ (not including, of course, themselves!) are incapable of even the most basic responsibility for themselves or their families, and left to their own devices they will be hungry and homeless thieves and reprobates. 

    I understand that to equate to the idea that a very exclusive elite has to take the responsibility for caring for the great unwashed, as it is the only humanitarian thing to do. Sure, the state will erode freedom and individual autonomy to a shadow, but that is fine, since that freedom is destructive to those incompetent nobodies. It is for their own good. 

    All that is just to say that you must be an arrogant and condescending self important snob to imagine socialism makes sense. 

    ( My colleague is a decent guy and I consider him my friend. I don’t mean to insult him personally, but he did make it pretty clear that his world view and ideology start from the premise that there are leaders, and there is everyone else. He clearly does not consider himself among the ‘everyone else’. )

    • #1
    • May 10, 2019, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Podcaster

    It’s Advertising 101, baby, but with a twist.

    In normal advertising I am offering you a product. The product may not be all that unique so I also sell you the emotional peripherals. For example, let’s say you’re in the market for an SUV. I can’t sell you my SUV on the fact that it will get you to the grocery store and back because so will everybody else’s. So I need to make the sale elsewhere – safety, reliability, gas mileage, your kids will think it’s cool, etc.

    In politics I’m selling power, but you don’t get the power, I do. So I have to sell you something else. And here’s where liberalism gets so damn attractive. I’m selling you free stuff. Free health care, free education, free food and housing! And I’m selling you revenge. See these people over here? They’re rich. And the reason that you’re poor. Vote for me and I’m going to make them pay for that injustice by paying for all that free stuff I’m going to give you.

    But above everything I’m selling you absolution. You’re down because they’re racists. You’re down because they have a rigged system of white privilege and patriarchy. You’re down because they’re oppressing you. Your situation is not your fault. It’s their fault. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.

    Which is also why I get so incredibly frustrated with the so-called intellectual power houses that pass for the conservative commentariat. A lot of what they’re selling is misery.

    • #2
    • May 10, 2019, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Member

    Henry Racette: … as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    The left’s enthusiasm stems from a deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance. Since most people on the left refuse to examine more than one aspect of any issue, they believe that everything has a single cause and, therefore, a single, simple solution.

    Given the simplicity of their ideas, they see them as blindingly obvious, so anyone who disagrees must be stupid or evil. With all the arrogance that comes with ignorance, they impose their solutions by force – bypassing the democratic process and shouting down any dissent.

    Everything is simple until you know something about it. People who take the time and effort to study all angles of a particular problem quickly realize that any “solution” would likely entail significant, sometimes wrenching, trade-offs. Such people are unlikely to enthusiastically take to the streets with picket signs and scream obscenities into the faces of people who favor trade-off X over trade-off Y.

    • #3
    • May 10, 2019, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Member

    PHenry (View Comment):
    He clearly does not consider himself among the ‘everyone else

    This is an important point on which they need to be challenged. 

    • #4
    • May 10, 2019, at 1:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Member

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: he left’s assumption is one of failure: people will fail

    There is a man I have worked with for 20 years who is a diehard socialist. I told him that socialism has failed everywhere it was implemented, and his response was, “Norwegian socialism is what I mean”. ( Clearly he considers that quite successful.)

    Then he explained to me that he just doesn’t trust people. He thinks that without a strong state to guide them, they will devolve in to greed and violence.

    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust.

    Your friends’ distrust of capitalism reminded me of this Milton Friedman response to the same complaint made by Phil Donahue several decades ago. It’s the best response I’ve ever heard or read to this question.

    https://youtu.be/76frHHpoNFs

    • #5
    • May 10, 2019, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Member

    PHenry (View Comment):
    “Norwegian socialism is what I mean”

    Ah, so he means the kind of socialism that exists in a very small homogeneous nation with an oil-based capitalist economy that funds government-run healthcare. 

    • #6
    • May 10, 2019, at 6:04 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Thatcher

    Henry Racette: I think we conservatives sometimes feel inadequate, as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    I agree with your post, except for the first sentence. I don’t think the left feels joy in anything.

    • #7
    • May 10, 2019, at 7:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Thatcher

    Conservatives beleive in some variant of Original Sin. Even most conservative atheists believe that human nature tends towards the evil if there isn’t some compensatory factor(s) in society that pushes us the other way, such as religion.

    Liberals beleive in the tabula rasa, that everyone comes with a clean slate. We conservatives start out in a dark place, and when things turn out better than expected, we’re pleasently surprised. Some are even joyful.

    Liberals start out with higher expectations, and become bitter when they don’t pan out. They are more apt to be condemnatory of their fellow man than conservatives, who “but for the grace of God go I.” 

    There’s some exaggeration in my above stereotypes, but I believe it to be essentially true.

    • #8
    • May 11, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Thatcher

    PHenry (View Comment):
    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust.

    And this is what the Founding Fathers were concerned about. They never envisioned (I don’t think) an entire class of people who would want to spend their entire lives in government, either as a representative or a civil servant (did they even have those back then?) . . .

    • #9
    • May 11, 2019, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Member

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Then he explained to me that he just doesn’t trust people. He thinks that without a strong state to guide them, they will devolve in to greed and violence. 

    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust. 

    A former co-worker once said that the difference between us is that he doesn’t trust business and I don’t trust government. I replied that he was wrong; I don’t trust either. That’s why I’m a “conservative” who believes in the US Constitution and the rule of law. For some reason, my friend thinks that people who are employed by the government are somehow better and more trustworthy than those who actually produce something, i.e., those who work in businesses. He has no explanation or justification for that view. It is just the way he feels. He also signs n to the view expressed by Bill Clinton that if the rights secured in the Constitution restrict the ability to govern, those rights need to be limited. 

    • #10
    • May 11, 2019, at 1:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Member

    Henry Racette: I think we conservatives sometimes feel inadequate, as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    Gotta say, I’ve never noted any joy among leftists. There’s only anger. Snarling, all-consuming anger.

    • #11
    • May 11, 2019, at 3:21 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Podcaster

    Suspira: There’s only anger. Snarling, all-consuming anger.

    If you take their view that someone is deliberately preventing you from succeeding in life, wouldn’t you be angry, too? 

    • #12
    • May 11, 2019, at 3:28 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Suspira: There’s only anger. Snarling, all-consuming anger.

    If you take their view that someone is deliberately preventing you from succeeding in life, wouldn’t you be angry, too?

    Probably. Seems paranoid, though. I tend to think, in general, that resentful people are attracted to leftism.

    • #13
    • May 11, 2019, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I think we conservatives sometimes feel inadequate, as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    Gotta say, I’ve never noted any joy among leftists. There’s only anger. Snarling, all-consuming anger.

    There is a smugness to those people, almost the belief that anyone who is happy is sort of simple-minded. Reminds me of something written by Ursula Le Guin: “The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting.” 

    • #14
    • May 11, 2019, at 6:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Contributor

    PHenry (View Comment):
    My colleague is a decent guy and I consider him my friend. I don’t mean to insult him personally, but he did make it pretty clear that his world view and ideology start from the premise that there are leaders, and there is everyone else. He clearly does not consider himself among the ‘everyone else’.

    When contemplating the utopian future, most people think they’ll be the ones in the nice offices drawing up the lists. They may someday resign themselves to being the people who oil the guillotine – hey, its a living. But they cannot imagine their head tumbling into the basket. That’s for the wrong people.

    • #15
    • May 11, 2019, at 11:48 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  16. Coolidge

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: … as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    The left’s enthusiasm stems from a deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance. Since most people on the left refuse to examine more than one aspect of any issue, they believe that everything has a single cause and, therefore, a single, simple solution.

    Given the simplicity of their ideas, they see them as blindingly obvious, so anyone who disagrees must be stupid or evil. With all the arrogance that comes with ignorance, they impose their solutions by force – bypassing the democratic process and shouting down any dissent.

    Everything is simple until you know something about it. People who take the time and effort to study all angles of a particular problem quickly realize that any “solution” would likely entail significant, sometimes wrenching, trade-offs. Such people are unlikely to enthusiastically take to the streets with picket signs and scream obscenities into the faces of people who favor trade-off X over trade-off Y.

    This is spot-on. “No nukes” equals “More Coal”.

    I see this in my nieces and nephews, coming back from school or college. Example is the plastic grocery bag ban. All the right-thinking people agree it’s a good idea to ban them. OK. But what’s the trade-off? People carrying their own bags? Paper bags?

    Each one of those other options has a cost of some kind, too. The world is malleable. Easy solutions are the fodder for the masses. If you try to slow them down to consider those things, well, hey, you’re some kind of anti-scientician Nazi hater.

    • #16
    • May 12, 2019, at 4:42 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Coolidge

    Django (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Then he explained to me that he just doesn’t trust people. He thinks that without a strong state to guide them, they will devolve in to greed and violence.

    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust.

    A former co-worker once said that the difference between us is that he doesn’t trust business and I don’t trust government. I replied that he was wrong; I don’t trust either. That’s why I’m a “conservative” who believes in the US Constitution and the rule of law. For some reason, my friend thinks that people who are employed by the government are somehow better and more trustworthy than those who actually produce something, i.e., those who work in businesses. He has no explanation or justification for that view. It is just the way he feels. He also signs n to the view expressed by Bill Clinton that if the rights secured in the Constitution restrict the ability to govern, those rights need to be limited.

    Which means, essentially, that he’s a statist, and thinks that that is the best model for the world.

    The 100 million dead in the 20th century would argue otherwise, but they’re dead, since their governments restricted their rights. Then took their lives.

    But hey, it could never happen here, right? Look at how smart we are.

    • #17
    • May 12, 2019, at 4:47 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Coolidge

    Suspira (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Suspira: There’s only anger. Snarling, all-consuming anger.

    If you take their view that someone is deliberately preventing you from succeeding in life, wouldn’t you be angry, too?

    Probably. Seems paranoid, though. I tend to think, in general, that resentful people are attracted to leftism.

    There’s a component to that, but I don’t think that broadly applies, at all. I have good friends who are on the left, and they’re not resentful about a thing. I do think that the brand of leftism seeks to separate and “other-ize” groups of people, so it’s easy to become resentful, and therefore vote for leftists, but I think they’re just looking for specific stakeholders in their fold to use that appeal on (minorities, women, cat-herding Serbians who enjoy a soupcon of cardamom in their tea at 4:00pm on Tuesdays, etc).

    • #18
    • May 12, 2019, at 4:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Thatcher

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):
    My colleague is a decent guy and I consider him my friend. I don’t mean to insult him personally, but he did make it pretty clear that his world view and ideology start from the premise that there are leaders, and there is everyone else. He clearly does not consider himself among the ‘everyone else’.

    When contemplating the utopian future, most people think they’ll be the ones in the nice offices drawing up the lists. They may someday resign themselves to being the people who oil the guillotine – hey, its a living. But they cannot imagine their head tumbling into the basket. That’s for the wrong people.

    I’m willing to bet most of the leftists out there (and the young in particular), think they will be the ones in charge. But as you say, they don’t picture themselves being led to the scaffold. Perhaps if they studied history and what happened to Robespierre, they’d understand how revolutions eat their own . . .

    • #19
    • May 12, 2019, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Podcaster

    Chris Campion: I have good friends who are on the left, and they’re not resentful about a thing.

    Oh, they’re the ones that don’t feel oppressed. They feel guilty.

    • #20
    • May 12, 2019, at 12:23 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Member

    Chris Campion (View Comment):

    Django (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Then he explained to me that he just doesn’t trust people. He thinks that without a strong state to guide them, they will devolve in to greed and violence.

    I replied, simply, that the state is just made up of people with power, and that those people are less trustworthy and more prone to greed and violence than the average Joe he says he doesn’t trust.

    A former co-worker once said that the difference between us is that he doesn’t trust business and I don’t trust government. I replied that he was wrong; I don’t trust either. That’s why I’m a “conservative” who believes in the US Constitution and the rule of law. For some reason, my friend thinks that people who are employed by the government are somehow better and more trustworthy than those who actually produce something, i.e., those who work in businesses. He has no explanation or justification for that view. It is just the way he feels. He also signs n to the view expressed by Bill Clinton that if the rights secured in the Constitution restrict the ability to govern, those rights need to be limited.

    Which means, essentially, that he’s a statist, and thinks that that is the best model for the world.

    The 100 million dead in the 20th century would argue otherwise, but they’re dead, since their governments restricted their rights. Then took their lives.

    But hey, it could never happen here, right? Look at how smart we are.

    There is a fundamental stupidity shown by leftists about rights. Point to the words in the Declaration of Independence and they will respond with something such as, “I dispute that.” They will claim as self-evident that rights come from the state and that the state can declare new rights. They claim that it is time to declare a basic right to medical care. I’ve asked them if they really believe they have a “right” to the labor and time of another human being just because that man or woman holds a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine. Depending on the intelligence of the leftist I get either a blank stare or hostility and the claim that I “don’t care” about people.

    • #21
    • May 12, 2019, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    And this is what the Founding Fathers were concerned about. They never envisioned (I don’t think) an entire class of people who would want to spend their entire lives in government

    Or living off of government.

    • #22
    • May 12, 2019, at 12:41 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Member

    Django (View Comment):
    I’ve asked them if they really believe they have a “right” to the labor and time of another human being just because that man or woman holds a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine. Depending on the intelligence of the leftist I get either a blank stare or hostility and the claim that I “don’t care” about people.

    Amazing how refusing to force people to provide care for others is equivalent in their minds to not caring for others.

    Leftists sometimes point to the story of the “Good Samaritan” to prove to us benighted religious folk that Jesus was a socialist. I just missed the part in the story in which the Samaritan whipped out his pistol and put it to the head of a passerby, forcing him to care for the mugging victim.

    • #23
    • May 12, 2019, at 12:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. Coolidge
    TBA

    EJHill (View Comment):

    It’s Advertising 101, baby, but with a twist.

    In normal advertising I am offering you a product. The product may not be all that unique so I also sell you the emotional peripherals. For example, let’s say you’re in the market for an SUV. I can’t sell you my SUV on the fact that it will get you to the grocery store and back because so will everybody else’s. So I need to make the sale elsewhere – safety, reliability, gas mileage, your kids will think it’s cool, etc.

    In politics I’m selling power, but you don’t get the power, I do. So I have to sell you something else. And here’s where liberalism gets so damn attractive. I’m selling you free stuff. Free health care, free education, free food and housing! And I’m selling you revenge. See these people over here? They’re rich. And the reason that you’re poor. Vote for me and I’m going to make them pay for that injustice by paying for all that free stuff I’m going to give you.

    But above everything I’m selling you absolution. You’re down because they’re racists. You’re down because they have a rigged system of white privilege and patriarchy. You’re down because they’re oppressing you. Your situation is not your fault. It’s their fault. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.

    Which is also why I get so incredibly frustrated with the so-called intellectual power houses that pass for the conservative commentariat. A lot of what they’re selling is misery.

    “They are bad people and you should have their stuff,” is how they used to get people to go to war. 

    • #24
    • May 15, 2019, at 7:02 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Coolidge
    TBA

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: … as if we lack the joy and enthusiasm that the left seems to bring to its various causes.

    The left’s enthusiasm stems from a deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance. Since most people on the left refuse to examine more than one aspect of any issue, they believe that everything has a single cause and, therefore, a single, simple solution.

    Given the simplicity of their ideas, they see them as blindingly obvious, so anyone who disagrees must be stupid or evil. With all the arrogance that comes with ignorance, they impose their solutions by force – bypassing the democratic process and shouting down any dissent.

    Everything is simple until you know something about it. People who take the time and effort to study all angles of a particular problem quickly realize that any “solution” would likely entail significant, sometimes wrenching, trade-offs. Such people are unlikely to enthusiastically take to the streets with picket signs and scream obscenities into the faces of people who favor trade-off X over trade-off Y.

    I dunno, trade-offs don’t seem so bad as long as bad rich people are the ones paying. 

    • #25
    • May 15, 2019, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • Like