Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Better to Side with People a Mile to One’s Left

 

Gary Saul Morson has written an absolutely brilliant article in “First Things” that I have read twice, and intend to read again. He uses Russian history explain the “Suicide of the Liberals.” It is littered with brilliant quotes, one of which is: “Better to side with people a mile to one’s left than be associated with anyone an inch to one’s right.” This was a means of self-preservation in Russia in the early 1900s. As it is on a university faculty today. Or really, in much of modern American society.

Margaret Thatcher wrote of the “ratchet effect” of liberalism. Always moving toward the left, never to the right. When Democrats seek to demonstrate their compassion, they identify with whoever is to their left — AOC, Bernie Sanders, etc. When Republicans seek to demonstrate their virtue, they identify with someone to their left as well — John McCain and George W. Bush sought to gain prestige by aligning themselves with someone, anyone, to their left. When is it a good idea politically for anyone to move to the right? My best guess is never, and that’s a problem.

Why is this? What can be done to correct it? How did we end up here?

This is not new. The Russian Revolution was over 100 years ago.

Perhaps Marx was right. The inevitable arc of history bends to the left. Democracy is simply a tool to achieve socialism and then communism, as surely as night follows day.

But if God granted people certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Marx is wrong.

Which is it? And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

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  1. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat: Which is it? And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    For starters, begin emphasizing individuality and individual rights over collective identity and collective rights.

    Individuality, individual freedom, freedom of thought — these are things that cause Marxism to flee like a ghost in the noonday sun.

    • #1
    • September 18, 2020, at 2:59 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. Ray Gunner Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Perhaps Marx was right. The inevitable arc of history bends to the left. Democracy is simply a tool to achieve socialism and then communism. As surely as night follows day.

    But if God granted people certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Marx is wrong.

    Which is it? And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Marx was right that the arc of history bends, but he was wrong about the direction. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, when it comes to history’s arcs, they don’t bend left or right, they bend up or down. Marx and America’s progressives are wrong because the arcs they foresee will not bend leftward toward a workers’ paradise, they will bend downward, back toward tyranny.

     

    • #2
    • September 18, 2020, at 3:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    The language of the left is the language of compassion, justice and caring. The actions of the left are the actions of jackboots and thugs. One can be easily drawn in by the first-that is clearly what attracted many sensible people to communism in the early part of the 20th century, and many sensible people over the shooting of George Floyd to BLM. Who can be against justice? Who can be against compassion? Who is against equality? Who is for violence? You are not against gay marriage, you are against love.

    In contrast, the vocabulary of real world pragmatism pales in comparison. Responsibility, hard work, delayed gratification, restraint, tradition.

    The left have become masters at this type of manipulation and it works. And once you drink the Kool-Aide, then why wouldn’t you ensure that these are achieved by force? How could you not?

    • #3
    • September 18, 2020, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    It’s possible that we’ve gone too far. Meaning the march through the institutions has already occurred. The wrong teachings are occurring from pre-k through post-doc. Corporations are reinforcing the stupid through their own internal vehicles, and promotions (yes, it’s screamingly obvious why you’re promoting some people. Everybody knows when an incompetent gets elevated, it’s for a reason).

    It’s possible that they’ve broken themselves on their own wheel, though. With COVID, a big bright light has been shone on the education system, and its warts are plain to see. We might not need so much direct time in the classroom. We might not need as many teachers. We might not need as many teachers in college, and we probably, almost certainly, need fewer tenured professors teaching Extended Navel Gazing.

    It’s possible, anyway. I’m not sure it can be pulled back from the momentum built over the last 50 years or so.

    • #4
    • September 18, 2020, at 3:59 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Theodoric of Freiberg Member

    The problem is the same as it’s always been. Marxism purports to care about “the people,” through an all-knowing, all-powerful government. To hear its adherents tell it, it’s like a super parent that takes care of all of your needs and makes sure all of its children are equal. Who would say, “No” to that? Of course, this is a lie. But human beings want to be lied to because they cannot face cold, hard reality. In an actual Marxist system (as the world has seen time and time again), those who run the government, are above everyone else and enjoy all of the luxuries; those who are not, are pigeonholed and live a thoroughly hair-shirt existence, no matter what they do, so there is no incentive to better themselves or to help others. Product shortages and strife inevitably ensue.

    Truth be told, capitalism is what happens when people are left alone to do as they want. It creates huge incentives for people to help other people get what they want. People helping people. Not because they are forced to, but because they want to because of the powerful incentives of capitalism. Capitalism harnesses human nature for good.

    • #5
    • September 18, 2020, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. Ekosj Member

    The Pew Research folks did some polling about positions of party members over time. Use the word “Mixed” in the legends of the graphs below as a benchmark. Despite the media characterisation of the Republican Party moving hard right, it is apparent that the rightward move of the median Republican is very small. The median Democrat, however, has moved far, far left.

     

    • #6
    • September 18, 2020, at 6:22 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Stina Member

    Ray Gunner (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Perhaps Marx was right. The inevitable arc of history bends to the left. Democracy is simply a tool to achieve socialism and then communism. As surely as night follows day.

    But if God granted people certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Marx is wrong.

    Which is it? And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Marx was right that the arc of history bends, but he was wrong about the direction. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, when it comes to history’s arcs, they don’t bend left or right, they bend up or down. Marx and America’s progressives are wrong because the arcs they foresee will not bend leftward toward a workers’ paradise, they will bend downward, back toward tyranny.

     

    The pursuit of so much “freedom” – even from consequence – that anarchy results in tyranny. Anarchy in self-governance results in Tyranny of government; anarchy from government results in tyranny of individuals over other individuals/groups over groups.

    • #7
    • September 18, 2020, at 6:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Ekosj Member

    Dr. Bastiat: Perhaps Marx was right. The inevitable arc of history bends to the left.

    One of Marx’s many errors. History isn’t going anywhere we don’t take.

    • #8
    • September 18, 2020, at 6:29 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    To answer Doc’s question, one thing that we could do is to stop saying that liberty is the only goal.

    It is important, but so is tradition. So is faith. So is responsibility. So is law and order. So are community, and common culture, and moral virtue, and process like representative government.

    • #9
    • September 18, 2020, at 10:03 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  10. Henry Castaigne Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    To answer Doc’s question, one thing that we could do is to stop saying that liberty is the only goal.

    It is important, but so is tradition. So is faith. So is responsibility. So is law and order. So are community, and common culture, and moral virtue, and process like representative government.

    You wish people to be free and to choose what is good?

    • #10
    • September 19, 2020, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. GrannyDude Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    To answer Doc’s question, one thing that we could do is to stop saying that liberty is the only goal.

    It is important, but so is tradition. So is faith. So is responsibility. So is law and order. So are community, and common culture, and moral virtue, and process like representative government.

    All of that is true. But the state can’t really provide for any but the last item on the list, right?

    I don’t mean that the state “shouldn’t,” but that it can’t. A government can reflect a common culture, for instance, but it can’t impose one, can it? 

    • #11
    • September 19, 2020, at 3:06 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The problem boils down to the Kadets and the Mensheviks letting the Bolsheviks get to the machine guns first.

    • #12
    • September 19, 2020, at 3:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. MiMac Thatcher

    Percival (View Comment):

    The problem boils down to the Kadets and the Mensheviks letting the Bolsheviks get to the machine guns first.

    With a SR member holding a grenade & a People’s Will member a Molotov cocktail ( before it got its eponymous name- that credit goes to the Finns).

    • #13
    • September 19, 2020, at 3:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Zach H. Coolidge

    Morison’s essay is terrific and sobering. Read a certain way, it is also rather disheartening, but I choose to see it rather as a call to arms. Our lousy insurrectionists and the deluded liberals who tolerate or bless their actions need to be combated politically in forceful terms.

    To answer your question, there is no discernible arc of history: There are people and ideas operating within history’s contigencies.

    • #14
    • September 19, 2020, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. The Reticulator Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    To answer Doc’s question, one thing that we could do is to stop saying that liberty is the only goal.

    It is important, but so is tradition. So is faith. So is responsibility. So is law and order. So are community, and common culture, and moral virtue, and process like representative government.

    All of that is true. But the state can’t really provide for any but the last item on the list, right?

    I don’t mean that the state “shouldn’t,” but that it can’t. A government can reflect a common culture, for instance, but it can’t impose one, can it?

    It can try. The Soviet government did, with mixed success. 

    • #15
    • September 19, 2020, at 6:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Pete EE Member

    But if God granted people certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Marx is wrong.

    Well not necessarily. It could be that we have inalienable rights and that the arc of history is to deny those rights.

    • #16
    • September 19, 2020, at 10:22 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. Pete EE Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    To answer Doc’s question, one thing that we could do is to stop saying that liberty is the only goal.

    It is important, but so is tradition. So is faith. So is responsibility. So is law and order. So are community, and common culture, and moral virtue, and process like representative government.

    All of that is true. But the state can’t really provide for any but the last item on the list, right?

    I don’t mean that the state “shouldn’t,” but that it can’t. A government can reflect a common culture, for instance, but it can’t impose one, can it?

    This is a conundrum. There are many important things that are not in the legitimate purview of the government. But if our publicly discussed goals only include legitimate activity, these are never discussed. Do we need politicians, media and institutions to regularly bring these up and emphasize that they are outside government control.

    • #17
    • September 19, 2020, at 10:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    But if God granted people certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Marx is wrong.

    Well not necessarily. It could be that we have inalienable rights and that the arc of history is to deny those rights.

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

    – James Madison, The Federalist Papers #51

    Men aren’t. Angels don’t. Marx would give more power to an already difficult-to-restrain entity. Therefore, Marx is wrong. He isn’t even asking the right questions.

    Thanks for playing the game, Karl, but you’ve lost. Go back and sit in the corner with the rest of the despots.

    • #18
    • September 19, 2020, at 10:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Keith SF Member
    Keith SFJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great article by Morson. 

    There’s an excellent companion piece to this, in The New Criterion: 

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2019/10/leninthink

     

    • #19
    • September 19, 2020, at 11:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Keith SF (View Comment):

    Great article by Morson.

    There’s an excellent companion piece to this, in The New Criterion:

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2019/10/leninthink

     

    Lenin is one of the biggest monsters in history. That article is a good reminder. It’s also a bit revealing in how much of his thinking (if I can call it that) pervades today’s rioting chowderheads and those that support them.

    The fact that there is no logical connection between BLM’s stated goals and the varieties of destruction visited upon cities and individuals, ranks right up there with the finest of Lenin’s actions to encourage similar attacks, a century ago.

    • #20
    • September 20, 2020, at 5:20 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  21. Boss Mongo Member

    Dr. Bastiat: And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Stop caring what they say or think or feel about us. Whether we go soft or go hard, the Left will consider us “literally Hitler.” So pound conservatism hard, and let them pound sand.

    • #21
    • September 20, 2020, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  22. SParker Member

    Should note that the penultimate liberalizing phase in Marx’s dialectic provides the means of production for the workers to own. In Russia, there was a considerable tedious debate among the Marxist parties about whether that phase had happened or had happened for long enough. The Bolsheviks took the “close enough for revolutionary work” position–also, the highly effective, if harsh, view that the willingness to put a bullet into a political opponent’s head gets you further than good debate skills and mastery of parliamentary procedure. Many were surprised.

    Highly recommend the Revolutions podcast on the Russian revolution (currently hanging fire, but up to the 1905 revolution, the liberal one).

    • #22
    • September 20, 2020, at 10:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Henry Castaigne Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Stop caring what they say or think or feel about us. Whether we go soft or go hard, the Left will consider us “literally Hitler.” So pound conservatism hard, and let them pound sand.

    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism. 

    • #23
    • September 20, 2020, at 8:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Saint Augustine Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism. 

    Speaking of lacking scientism, how’d you learn that you can learns things empirically?

    In other words, how’d you learn that you can learn things from experience? Obviously not from experience; then would have known it before you’d learned it.

    • #24
    • September 20, 2020, at 8:57 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Henry Castaigne Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism.

    Speaking of lacking scientism, how’d you learn that you can learns things empirically?

    In other words, how’d you learn that you can learn things from experience? Obviously not from experience; then would have known it before you’d learned it.

    The scientific method is replicable and verifiable. Stuff that is verifiable and replica is pretty solid. But you always have to interpret the data from experiments. 

    Things like economics and Astrophysics aren’t Popperian. You observe stuff, make a theory and then test the hypotheosis with more observations. If you look at what works and you observe history, you notice that whenever free markets have been tried, they lead to wealth. Whenever centralized planning has been tried, it fails. Additionally, they succeed and fail in similar ways. 

    Ergo, an empirical mind concludes that free markets work and centralized planning doesn’t. You can still want a bigger government to help poor folks and we can’t be sure what kind of free market capitalism works the rest so you might focus on this or that historical example. But there is no way to observe the world reasonably and conclude that centralized planning would work. I want to genetically engineer people to get to at least that level so we can have useful and intelligent conversations into of having to kill antifa in order to maintain our freedom. 

    • #25
    • September 20, 2020, at 9:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Saint Augustine Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism.

    Speaking of lacking scientism, how’d you learn that you can learns things empirically?

    In other words, how’d you learn that you can learn things from experience? Obviously not from experience; then would have known it before you’d learned it.

    The scientific method is replicable and verifiable. Stuff that is verifiable and replica is pretty solid. But you always have to interpret the data from experiments.

    Indeed.

    But you didn’t answer my question.

    Maybe you didn’t notice it was an epistemology question. (Maybe it’s best not to answer if you don’t want to talk epistemology.)

    Whenever centralized planning has been tried, it fails. Additionally, they succeed and fail in similar ways.

    Ergo, an empirical mind concludes that free markets work and centralized planning doesn’t.

    Indeed.

    • #26
    • September 20, 2020, at 9:18 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Flicker Coolidge

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Stop caring what they say or think or feel about us. Whether we go soft or go hard, the Left will consider us “literally Hitler.” So pound conservatism hard, and let them pound sand.

    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism.

    What happens to me (and you) when in five years the genetically superior pseudo-humans take control. Will we be euthanized? Why or why not?

    • #27
    • September 20, 2020, at 9:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Henry Castaigne Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: And what can we do to bend this arc toward human liberty?

    Stop caring what they say or think or feel about us. Whether we go soft or go hard, the Left will consider us “literally Hitler.” So pound conservatism hard, and let them pound sand.

    We should genetically engineer humans to be empirical and then we will have basic conservatism. Not religious conservatism which I think will remain the same but an embrace of capitalism and a lack of scientism.

    What happens to me (and you) when in five years the genetically superior pseudo-humans take control. Will we be euthanized? Why or why not?

    Dude think through this logically. It will take at least a ten years to safely improve human DNA if we are lucky. Even then, I suspect we can only remove serious diseases and do some of the easy debugging. Once DNA tampering gets fairly safe (which it might not in ten years) every single generation will be slightly more advanced than the last generation. If we are lucky by the time we are elderly the youngest generation will be improving the robots that will be caring for us in our decrepitude with their 130+ I.Q.s. Why bother euthanizing us? Furthermore, we won’t be pseudo humans for awhile. We will be more mellow Da Vincis and Ibn Sinas with a taste for music like that of Louise Armstrong. 

    • #28
    • September 20, 2020, at 10:42 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Flicker Coolidge

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Dude think through this logically. It will take at least a ten years to safely improve human DNA if we are lucky.

    I won’t be around when they’ve modified the human species. I was kidding. Now if the AI can come up with a way to replace humans in a year or two, then I’d be pissed. Because I just renewed my subscription to Science News.

    • #29
    • September 20, 2020, at 11:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Henry Castaigne Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Dude think through this logically. It will take at least a ten years to safely improve human DNA if we are lucky.

    I won’t be around when they’ve modified the human species. I was kidding. Now if the AI can come up with a way to replace humans in a year or two, then I’d be pissed. Because I just renewed my subscription to Science News.

    That’s why I distrust AI even though I advocate for robots. Who is your favorite writer at Science News?

    • #30
    • September 21, 2020, at 12:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes