Teaching Our Children That Leftism Is Love

 

I’ve often thought that there were basically two possible ways for a government to gain control of its people, and to maintain its authority:  I think of these two techniques as The Washington Method and The Stalin Method.  In The Washington Method, the government gains control through the consent of the governed, via elections and representative republican systems of government.  Such governments are likely to look for ways to help their citizens, because they can become more powerful only by encouraging the people to vote more and more power to the government.  But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free.  A politician who appears power-hungry is not likely to get re-elected.  My descriptor of “Washington” makes sense when you think of Washington the man, but unfortunately not Washington the city.

In The Stalin Method, the government gains power through the aggressive use of threats, intimidation, and overwhelming force.  Such governments often portray themselves as all-powerful and all-knowing, and do not tolerate alternative points of view, let alone elections.  If they are pressured into holding elections, those elections are controlled, but be sure the correct candidates win.  Such governments are likely to look for ways to scare their citizens into compliance with whatever the controlling party is promoting at that time.  In this system, the tyrannical impulses of politicians are the source of the government’s power.  Stalin was a master of many of these techniques, but such skills are hardly rare in history books.

All this makes sense, I think.  But as the years have gone by, I’ve started to think that this is wrong.  Or, at least, incomplete.  Because I’ve been wondering, which of these systems controls the modern United States?  It’s certainly not The Stalin Method.  We do have left-wing violence in our country, and the FBI is clearly an organization used to intimidate Republicans.  But Solzhenitsyn would not compare the modern United States with The Soviet Union.  On the other hand, we’re not exactly a group of people who value freedom and liberty over other concerns.  Our obsession with equity and race have led us to a society in which many people don’t feel free speak their mind and live as they please.  Try wearing a MAGA hat while ordering coffee in Madison, Wisconsin.  So how does our government control us?  I think BF Skinner would have something to say about that.

Some things about Dr. Skinner are not well understood.  For example, why would anyone go by “BF”?  It may seem like an odd choice, but you would do the same thing if your given name was Burrhus Frederic Skinner.  You might also wonder why any mother would name their child Burrhus Frederic.  Let’s just say that I doubt that it’s a coincidence that Dr. Skinner had such an innate understanding of abused children.  But I digress.

Anyway, Dr. Skinner did some brilliant work in his time, including a fascinating experiment involving rats.  Some rats were punished if they did something he didn’t want them to do.  Other rats were rewarded when they did something he did want them to do.

He found that the punished rats would stop doing the undesirable act for a while, but would later start doing it again.  He presumed this was because he had discouraged them from acting that way at that time, but the motivation to act that way still remained, and eventually the rat would go back to doing whatever they wanted to do.

Interestingly, he found that the rewarded rats would modify their behavior as he desired, and they would continue to do so even after he stopped rewarding them.  He presumed this was because the reward made them want to do his desired behavior – at this point, the rat had aligned his desires with Dr. Skinners.  The rat actually wanted to do what Skinner wanted it to do, and Dr. Skinner did not have to continue to reward it to continue to get this behavior.

As you might imagine, many people were fascinated by this research.  People like Huxley and Solzhenitsyn.  And many others.  The social implications are enormous.

Leftists in the 20th Century tended to view the most efficient means to societal control to be the use of force, like Stalin and Mao.  But more recently they appear to have learned a new, more efficient, technique.  Perhaps from Dr. Skinner.  Or perhaps from Orwell and Huxley.

Democrats don’t encourage people to follow them by explaining the logic of their positions, or by making them fear pain or death for dissent.  No, they tell people that following Democrats will make you feel good.  You don’t need deep thought, you don’t need effort, and you don’t even need fear.  You just need to convince people that your party offers them comfort, security, and even catharsis.  Your behavior will be rewarded.  “Are you dissatisfied with your life?  Vote for us.  Your life may not get any better, but you’ll feel really good about yourself…”

AOC doesn’t need Huxley’s Soma to control the people – she is Soma.  Support her, and you can feel good about yourself, with no effort or sacrifice whatsoever.  Who needs thought or fear?  This is easier.  Less conflict.  And the control gained by the left is more stable and long-lasting.  They don’t even have to continue the rewards.  Just long enough to get them trained.  Which is often done by the time people graduate from high school.  Certainly college.

After all, at this point – at long last – leftists can govern with the consent of the governed.  Although Goethe might take a different view:

None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.  –Goethe

Goethe lived 200 years ago.  So this technique is not exactly a new concept.  But Stalin didn’t listen.  Modern Democrats did.  Which is a very serious problem.

Because Stalin’s power was inherently unstable, as it required continued use of force, as Dr. Skinner would later point out.  His brutality made people feel scared, desperate, and eventually vengeful.  They would bend to his will but were always looking for ways to do what they wanted on the sly.

The Democrat Party’s power appears more stable because it is derived from the consent of the governed.  And the governed don’t feel scared or desperate – they feel good about it.  Now that our educational system, media, and entertainment industry have produced a generation or two of citizens who have been trained to think as leftists, they will continue to do as they’re told.  Without even having to be told.  Just like a lab rat in Dr. Skinner’s experiments.  These leftists are happy to behave as they’ve been trained, even without being rewarded anymore.

After a lifetime of receiving love for promoting leftism, leftism eventually starts to feel like love to them.

The only thing they hate is anyone who threatens the stupor of their feel-good ideology.  Every doctor knows that addicts are obsessed by fear of withdrawals, and will do anything to avoid them.  Thus, Democrats are obsessed by fear of, and hatred of, Republicans.

Which sounds like a miserable way to live.

But they feel good about it.  As they’ve been trained.

Aldous Huxley is looking down at us, grimly nodding his head.  Stalin is looking up at us, laughing his butt off…

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  1. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Dr. Bastiat: they will continue to do as their told. 

    Dr. Bastiat!

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    If my parents had named me “Burrhus,” I would have moved out by the time I was ten.

    Same thing goes for “Aldous” though.

    • #2
  3. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival (View Comment):

    If my parents had named me “Burrhus,” I would have moved out by the time I was ten.

    Same thing goes for “Aldous” though.

    He could have gone by his middle name.  I do.  There’s nothing wrong with Fred but that Superchicken’s partner was so named.

    • #3
  4. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Dr. Bastiat: Some rats were punished if they did something he didn’t want them to do.  Other rats were rewarded when they did something he did want them to do.

    In my Pych 101 class we were allowed to give our rats food pellets for pressing the lever, but we were not allowed to give them electric shocks because . . .  “that’s so mean!” So I did not get to have the full scientific experience.

    In the American experiment we are at the point where when you press the lever marked “D” they give you someone else’s money.

    • #4
  5. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: they will continue to do as their told.

    Dr. Bastiat!

    That was a psych experiment.  I was just seeing if you were paying attention…

    • #5
  6. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    It is sad the great country is losing its freedom and going in this direction.  But in the end the Gods of the Copy Book Headings will return and the old truths relearned.  
    http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm

     

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    It is sad the great country is losing its freedom and going in this direction. But in the end the Gods of the Copy Book Headings will return and the old truths relearned.
    http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm

     

    This seems contradictory to me.  The Gods of the Copybook Headings set forth the rules that we have to follow, or disaster will ensue.  So it’s not really about freedom.  It’s about virtue.

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Doc, I like much of this post, but I think that your view is unrealistically libertarian.  You wrote:

    Dr. Bastiat: But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free. 

    I don’t simply want to live free, and I don’t want you to do so, either.  Unfettered freedom is anarchy.  Unfettered freedom would mean that I could come live in your house and eat up your food.

    I think that there needs to be a balance between liberty and order.  Representative government has the advantage, in theory, that the people can remove leaders when they don’t like the way that things are going.

    It has disadvantages.  Representative governments can buy votes, by distributing largesse and special privileges to a sufficiently large group of voters.  I think that this is the heart of the Democratic agenda, though Republicans do the same thing to a lesser extent.

     

    • #8
  9. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    This really needs to be on the main feed and shareable.  Thank you, Dr. B, for continuing to share with us your wisdom and elegant writing.  

    • #9
  10. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    I remember back in 2020, when the USA didn’t have a Gulag for political dissidents.  What is better than self-censorship?  Locking up the heretics!

    • #10
  11. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Off-Topic Tidbit®:  JFK wasn’t the only notable to die on November 22, 1963;  Aldous Huxley died on that day, too. 

    • #11
  12. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Off-Topic Tidbit®: JFK wasn’t the only notable to die on November 22, 1963; Aldous Huxley died on that day, too.

    And C.S. Lewis.

    • #12
  13. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    I think it was Theodore Dalrymple who wrote, in one of his essays, that there are few feelings more congenial than a sense of moral superiority. Your post carries echoes of his observation — a large part of the left’s motivation is to establish themselves as morally superior.

    For a long time, at least until Trump, the Republicans consistently offered a narrative than only an accountant could love, while the Democrats offered psychological crack. The left’s fear of Trumpism is not irrational because he’s the first Republican presidential candidate since Reagan who didn’t come across like a bookkeeper.

    And I do think that some on the right have started to realize that their dispute with the left is less policy dispute and more death match.  That’s because, as you allude to, when Republicans win elections now, the left reacts like a crackhead whose pipe was just put down the disposal. No doubt because the left has invested their very sense of worthiness as human beings in the affirmation of their worldview at the ballot box.

    Honestly, our current moment seems more and more like the original Star Trek episode, “The Return of the Archons”, with people on the right playing the role of the Enterprise crew, trying to keep their heads down and not stand out, while the woke left plays the followers of Landru, summoning the “Lawgivers” at every infraction of woke-ism. Somehow the left took that episode as a “how-to guide”.

    • #13
  14. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Doc, I like much of this post, but I think that your view is unrealistically libertarian.  You wrote:

    Dr. Bastiat: But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free. 

    I don’t simply want to live free, and I don’t want you to do so, either.  Unfettered freedom is anarchy.  Unfettered freedom would mean that I could come live in your house and eat up your food.

     

    Yeah, that passage gave me pause, too.  But I was trying to make a point.

    Your criticism is fair…

    • #14
  15. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free. 

    I don’t simply want to live free, and I don’t want you to do so, either.  Unfettered freedom is anarchy.  Unfettered freedom would mean that I could come live in your house and eat up your food.

    … … … Yeah, on second thought, I am better off just flipping that little “ignore” button in my head yet again. 

    • #15
  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Every bleeding heart leftist I know assumes that Democrats accomplish what they claim to do. Leftist parties claim to help the homeless, the poor, people with medical bills, the downtrodden, immigrants, the environment, etc. In every case, those parties have demonstrably failed to help and indeed worsened the problems. But leftists keep pointing to programs and organizations — and only those of their own parties — as evidence in themselves of aid and progress.

    It’s like Skinner’s rat being happy because it sees an empty cheese dispenser. Where there is a dispenser, there must be cheese, surely.

    • #16
  17. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The American left in the 1950s and 60s was a political approach animated and informed by religious teachings on justice and compassion.  Now leftism aspires to replace religion even as its claim on the rhetoric of justice and compassion simultaneously becomes louder yet emptier.

    Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy came up in Minnesota politics in which their side defeated attempts to make the DFL a communist movement.  There was a moral foundation that made liberal Democrats patriots with a clear rejection of communism.  American politics had a clear set of constitutional boundaries and a shared moral context that neither party would cross. That made electoral outcomes safe even if disappointing for one side.

    Democrats now no longer have the moral anchor of the previous generation. While they are more eager for power and more convinced of their rightness, they don’t know who they are anymore. Pelosi’s confused responses to the inanity of The Squad is diagnostic.

    We Americans took for granted meaning, morals, identity, and belonging for generations until we decided to piss away our cultural and moral heritage in favor of self-indulgent pursuits in a prosperous era.  Those now-unmet needs are driving the growth of inferior substitutes.  The deeply pathetic Church of Orange Man Bad, St. Greta of Climate, absurd sexual expressions, and CRT are all cult-like.

    Politics is not an instrument but meaning itself.  Journalists and academics don’t trust facts or truth.  The national response to COVID-19 was a weird search for some politically defined, ideologically satisfying approach that could be meaningful even if useless.  Science was invoked and praised even as it became a failed distant god with corrupt high priests.

    It is a much deeper set of spiritual disorders than behaviorist triggers could ever hope to explain.

    • #17
  18. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Every bleeding heart leftist I know assumes that Democrats accomplish what they claim to do

    More like they know that the Party has the right approach. Since the means are scientific and on the right side of history. So if total transformation has not yet happened, if only they go at it hard enough, spend enough money on it, and put down the counter-revolutionary wreckers it will.

    • #18
  19. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Democrats don’t encourage people to follow them by explaining the logic of their positions, or by making them fear pain or death for dissent. No, they tell people that following Democrats will make you feel good. You don’t need deep thought, you don’t need effort, and you don’t even need fear. You just need to convince people that your party offers them comfort, security, and even catharsis. Your behavior will be rewarded. “Are you dissatisfied with your life? Vote for us. Your life may not get any better, but you’ll feel really good about yourself…”

    Undermining confidence is a tried-and-true method for brainwashing. If you look at the history of cults, you can see this in almost every example. We have so many wandering, directionless souls in America right now, feeling no sense of purpose, and no direction. The tactics that the Democrat Left use are eerily similar to those of a Jim Jones or a David Koresh.

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Democrats don’t encourage people to follow them by explaining the logic of their positions, or by making them fear pain or death for dissent. No, they tell people that following Democrats will make you feel good. You don’t need deep thought, you don’t need effort, and you don’t even need fear. You just need to convince people that your party offers them comfort, security, and even catharsis. Your behavior will be rewarded. “Are you dissatisfied with your life? Vote for us. Your life may not get any better, but you’ll feel really good about yourself…”

    Undermining confidence is a tried-and-true method for brainwashing. If you look at the history of cults, you can see this in almost every example. We have so many wandering, directionless souls in America right now, feeling no sense of purpose, and no direction. The tactics that the Democrat Left use are eerily similar to those of a Jim Jones or a David Koresh.

    I agree with this. 

    • #20
  21. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Doc, I like much of this post, but I think that your view is unrealistically libertarian. You wrote:

    Dr. Bastiat: But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free.

    I don’t simply want to live free, and I don’t want you to do so, either. Unfettered freedom is anarchy. Unfettered freedom would mean that I could come live in your house and eat up your food.

     

    Yeah, that passage gave me pause, too. But I was trying to make a point.

    Your criticism is fair…

    I haven’t fully thought this through, but I have always had a problem with the word “liberty”. I think the issue in this era is, if you are going to steal peoples agency, you better have a good reason for it, and you better be able to explain how it works out in aggregate. That is “free” enough. Nobody ever frames it that way though.

     

    • #21
  22. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The American left in the 1950s and 60s was a political approach animated and informed by religious teachings on justice and compassion. Now leftism aspires to replace religion even as its claim on the rhetoric of justice and compassion simultaneously becomes louder yet emptier.

    Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy came up in Minnesota politics in which their side defeated attempts to make the DFL a communist movement. There was a moral foundation that made liberal Democrats patriots with a clear rejection of communism. American politics had a clear set of constitutional boundaries and a shared moral context that neither party would cross. That made electoral outcomes safe even if disappointing for one side.

    Democrats now no longer have the moral anchor of the previous generation. While they are more eager for power and more convinced of their rightness, they don’t know who they are anymore. Pelosi’s confused responses to the inanity of The Squad is diagnostic.

    We Americans took for granted meaning, morals, identity, and belonging for generations until we decided to piss away our cultural and moral heritage in favor of self-indulgent pursuits in a prosperous era. Those now-unmet needs are driving the growth of inferior substitutes. The deeply pathetic Church of Orange Man Bad, St. Greta of Climate, absurd sexual expressions, and CRT are all cult-like.

    Politics is not an instrument but meaning itself. Journalists and academics don’t trust facts or truth. The national response to COVID-19 was a weird search for some politically defined, ideologically satisfying approach that could be meaningful even if useless. Science was invoked and praised even as it became a failed distant god with corrupt high priests.

    It is a much deeper set of spiritual disorders that behaviorist triggers could ever hope to explain.

    This is my new theory. The government provides actual public goods only. The Federal Reserve stops pushing the economy around, they just back up the banks in a punitive way. All government actuarial systems stay 100% funded except for recessions. Everybody gets on board with the Judge Learned Hand “Spirit of Liberty” speech. My last point relates to what is said in this post.

    • #22
  23. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Democrats don’t encourage people to follow them by explaining the logic of their positions, or by making them fear pain or death for dissent.  No, they tell people that following Democrats will make you feel good.  You don’t need deep thought, you don’t need effort, and you don’t even need fear.  You just need to convince people that your party offers them comfort, security, and even catharsis.  Your behavior will be rewarded.  “Are you dissatisfied with your life?  Vote for us.  Your life may not get any better, but you’ll feel really good about yourself…”

    AOC doesn’t need Huxley’s Soma to control the people – she is Soma.  Support her, and you can feel good about yourself, with no effort or sacrifice whatsoever.  Who needs thought or fear?  This is easier.  Less conflict.  And the control gained by the left is more stable and long-lasting.  They don’t even have to continue the rewards.  Just long enough to get them trained.  Which is often done by the time people graduate from high school.  Certainly college.

    I have a leftist brother-in-law that is a textbook version of what Dennis Prager notices. He runs a conservative household in almost every single way but votes wacky left. After years of talking to him, this is exactly how he thinks. He is only going to talk to you *tactically* about what they are central planning and all of the social engineering. *You are not going to have a discussion for getting to the truth*. Every collectivist idea they think of just has to work, comrade. Plus they aren’t racists.

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Because Stalin’s power was inherently unstable, as it required continued use of force, as Dr. Skinner would later point out.  His brutality made people feel scared, desperate, and eventually vengeful.  They would bend to his will but were always looking for ways to do what they wanted on the sly.

    The Democrat Party’s power appears more stable because it is derived from the consent of the governed.  And the governed don’t feel scared or desperate – they feel good about it.  Now that our educational system, media, and entertainment industry have produced a generation or two of citizens who have been trained to think as leftists, they will continue to do as they’re told.  Without even having to be told.  Just like a lab rat in Dr. Skinner’s experiments.  These leftists are happy to behave as they’ve been trained, even without being rewarded anymore.

    Central planning begets more central planning, until everything falls apart.

    • #23
  24. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    I think C.S. Lewis had some prescient insights regarding what happens when people conclude that their political philosophy is the sine qua non of love, and so it explains some of what you’re observing:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    • #24
  25. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dr. Bastiat: None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.  –Goethe

    So true!  People think they are free, but in reality they only get to move where the chains let them move.  One false step, and the chains manifest themselves in reality.  Some leftists are starting to get it because they have become cancelled in spite of their loyal support for leftist causes over the years.  My concern is that there won’t be enough of them to change the Democrat party . . .

    • #25
  26. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    When the Cold War ended was frankly the beginning of the end. The Cold War kept these tendencies under check. A couple of generations have been raised ungrounded in the reality that life is a struggle with choices having consequences. The end of the Cold War was not the end of history or the final triumph of democracy and freedom but just a new chapter.. The US is in the process of being brought back to reality but it is far from clear it will be successful or in time.

    • #26
  27. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Hang On (View Comment):

    When the Cold War ended was frankly the beginning of the end. The Cold War kept these tendencies under check. A couple of generations have been raised ungrounded in the reality that life is a struggle with choices having consequences. The end of the Cold War was not the end of history or the final triumph of democracy and freedom but just a new chapter.. The US is in the process of being brought back to reality but it is far from clear it will be successful or in time.

    This makes sense, and could be where the “wrong people were in charge” idea came from.  They don’t want to blame the system because socialism/communism/Marxism is good . . .

    • #27
  28. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    The other thing that happened after the Cold War, is we needed to get ready for the deflation we were going to create from computers, automation, and importing it from China.  We didn’t do a damn thing about it. Not one party or part of government involved had any foresight. It’s royally screwing up society and it’s why we are getting socialism and populism.

    • #28
  29. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Percival (View Comment):

    If my parents had named me “Burrhus,” I would have moved out by the time I was ten.

    Same thing goes for “Aldous” though.

    Grandpa Martin’s name was “Clarence Oscar”. He went by C.O. 

    • #29
  30. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    “AOC doesn’t need Huxley’s soma to control people. She is soma.”

     

    • #30