Monday, June 29, 2009

Collective Imagination

Assistant Village Idiot has an excellent series of posts (called "Sauron Himself Is But An Emissary") contrasting progressive and conservative thought process (most recent here). As the title's Tolkien reference suggests, AVI worries that "the progressive attachment to visions of a better world makes it hard for them to see others as merely wrong -- they have to ascribe pathology and evil motive to them." I agree -- and will in the future comment or post further on AVI's philosophical analysis.

But, along the way, I got distracted by one particular progressive pathology--their penchant for citing Europe's alleged economic success, touting constraints on the free market (i.e., more socialism) as the preferable path to minimizing poverty. Some recent examples: I've already noted that--contrary to Landon Thomas--the May 20th New York Times reported that Norway just "slipped into recession." And the curious can surf to several rebuttals regarding the Netherlands (more here), Sweden (more here, here, here, and NOfP), EU labor/employment policies, and Norway.

But more broadly, AVI's narrative aptly is illustrated by the left's endless ability to fool itself into believing that Europe is more advanced and successful than America. What else could explain their repeated failure to convert economic statistics into purchasing power parity prior to comparison? In particular, this bypasses the effect of massive internal subsidies and eco straight-jackets on food prices Then there's the typical ignorance of standard-of-living measures like living space, leisure time, cars per capita as well as convenience.

Progressives prefer collectivism to capitalism and so imagine it's proven fact. But commerce, not redistribution, creates wealth--money is not a zero sum game. As MaxedOutMama says, "Economic efficiency MATTERS."

Yes, some conservatives take a theoretical commitment to individualism too far. Yet--in general--the substitution of pretty theories for testable practices is more prevalent on the left. AVI helpfully addresses "why." I got stuck on "how."

And I fear the consequences.


OBloodyHell said...

Emphasis mine:

" During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."

-- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1801

Assistant Village Idiot said...

See, this is why the intertubes are a great thing for idea expansion. I touched only indirectly on European economic models (though they are implied in much of the discussion of features of liberalism), and here you make a whole branch off my essay that's quite interesting.

The other thing that is interesting, of course, is the unreported embrace of more free market policies by the European nations (the EU, not so much) over the last few years. Some of them are beginning to regard Obama as dangerously socialist. Sweden is getting very big on school vouchers, for example.

When the Scandinavians are disquieted by your level of socialism...

@nooil4pacifists said...


Nice words, though I think Jefferson's rhetoric was far fairer than his practice.


Agreed--this post started as notes for a piece on the European right and Obama, but haven't had time to complete the research. So I still recommend Rasmussen's 2007 article (linked above in 4th para) for the view of a European who "voted with his feet."

OBloodyHell said...

> Nice words, though I think Jefferson's rhetoric was far fairer than his practice.

Not sure how much of that was him, though, and how much was him responding to the Bushlike attacks on his admin by the Federalists...

"Jefferson Derangement Syndrome" LOL

Though it was before the election, the following was written in 1800:

"Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will openly be taught and practiced, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes," said an 1800 Connetticut 'Courant' editorial opposing the election of Thomas Jefferson as president. Now the 'Hartford Courant', the paper
marked the 250th anniversary of Jefferson's birth with an apology. Said the 'Courant': "It's never too late to admit a mistake."

Sounds like a headline about Sarah Palin today, except for the apology.

I'm not assuming it toned down that much right after the election...