Sunday, February 19, 2012
Guns, Butter, Jobs and Birth Control
The old totalitarian paradigm was guns or butter. The Soviet Union could provide its people with the basic food groups or it could run a military race to conquer as much of the world as possible. As a totalitarian ideology, it naturally chose the latter.
The modern incarnation of the hammer and sickle, the liberals who took it slow, working from within the system instead of seizing the reins and executing anyone who got in the way, isn't big on guns. The Clinton and Obama administrations both inflicted massive cuts on the military because it was extraneous to their domestic goals. They didn't want guns, but they didn't want butter either. They wanted a third thing. The Obama Administration is about as interested in creating jobs as the denizens of the Kremlin were in making sure that every Russian family had plenty of milk and butter on the table. Totalitarian ideologies don't care about individual welfare and they certainly are not interested in individual empowerment. An improved economy would weaken the left, it would undermine its central program of promoting fear and dependence on a social safety net and a rights infrastructure administered by them.
The left is not very good at discussing the economy. Ask its leaders to apportion blame for economic problems and they are right there with denunciations of the banks, corporations and a thousand other factors. But ask it how to repair an economy and after some mumbling the answer is usually to fund a bunch of its pet projects that have nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with its social agenda.
The left's goal is to transform society, not to empower individuals to make their own choices. That is why an arena like birth control is its natural territory. A society with state subsidized birth control has a low birth rate, low marriage rate, high demand for social subsidies and a high demand for immigrants to compensate for the low birth rate and pay for the social subsidies. Now whether or not you think such a society is a good thing, it is the kind of society that the left wants.
Given a choice between universal birth control and universal free market jobs, the former is a priority and the latter a threat. It's not just birth control, there are any number of elements, which may be benign in and of themselves, but which fit into a larger picture of the kind of society it wants.
The Communist era left thought big. If there was hunger, they would grow more wheat. If there weren't enough jobs, they would create more factories. It was a grandiose insanity that eventually brought down Communism, but it was healthier than the post-human left which is declinist. If there is hunger, then their solution is to raise the price of food with a tax that will subsidize meals for the poor. If there aren't enough jobs, the solution is for more people to go on the dole and for everyone to make do with less.
From a distance this looks like wealth redistribution, but it's actually a program for teaching everyone to make do with less. That is why Obama has done everything possible to hike energy prices, by making it harder to get to oil, coal and natural gas, while promoting expensive "clean energy" and "energy efficiency".
Faced with a challenge, the new left's solution is always make do with less. Less heat, less food and less children. The old left still had some faith in human aspirations. The new left only sees humanity as foolish children who have to be regimented and taught self-discipline. To sacrifice not for a better world, but for a more sustainable existence. There is less of Marx to it and more of Gandhi in that.
There is a mystical strain to this incarnation of the left. It does not see economic problems as arising from natural causes, but spiritual causes. It assigns blame primarily to "greed", a venial sin and a spiritual problem. Its solutions all involve remaking society in ways that have little to do with creating jobs or even regulating the banks, but address their secular notion of spiritual ills that are responsible for the malaise.
Teaching everyone to make do with less of everything is just step one. Step two is to break down the structures of attachment. Break down the family, religion and the nation. Teach people to stop being possessive of the old structures. Wipe out the tribal and national bonds so that there is no longer any war or jealousy. Eliminate marriage and stable parenthood to end possessiveness. Leave people as isolates, individual units, citizens of the state.
It's an old program. The Nazis made some slight progress on it. Various leftist movements and regimes have flirted with communal arrangements, but no one has made an entire society work that way. Yet.
To people who think that way subsidized birth control is very important. So is tolerance, international travel, centralized schooling, learning to appreciate nature, disruptive immigration, extended adolescence, higher education, state subsidies, free love, multilingual training, world citizenship, social safety nets and a thousand other things. None of which involve creating jobs.
The left believes strongly in social solutions. It believes that all our ills are social in nature and that social justice can only be practiced by a healthy society. Their idea of a healthy society is totalitarian but they have that in common with most ideologues who want a perfect state, rather than a free state.
The mantra of a society where people are less concerned with things and more concerned with people repeats itself incessantly. But a society where people are constantly concerned with other people is a totalitarian state. In East Germany, there were as many informers as there were citizens. The people were not concerned with things, because they had very few of them. They were concerned with informing on everyone around them so that they would not be suspected of caring more about things than about people.
Our own society is already rather excessively concerned with people. Frighteningly so at times. The social reformers are working harder than they did a century ago when they might have actually been needed. The society they are creating is an obtrusive social surveillance state where everyone is constantly being monitored, where every action has political implications and the weight of children is a national security crisis. Nothing is off limits and no one but the enlightened elite are immune from being brought into line by state employees on a mission to create a noble and enlightened state.
Creating such a state does not depend on pandering to "selfish" clamoring about jobs. What use are jobs except to help people buy things and raise families, two things that the left believes is at the heart of our problems. And those problems can only be solved when people give up on such selfish urges and join in a communal system for the greater good that teaches them to make do with less while focusing on their ethical obligations to society at large.
Rather than addressing economic ills, the Obamas are working on transforming society. Their real response to American economic woes is telling Americans to seek enlightenment, the satori of socialism. A response that positively makes the apocryphal, "Let them eat cake" seem humane by comparison.
Not only isn't the crisis going to waste, its carcass is being skinned, butchered, deboned and ground up for the ultimate teachable moment, teachable year and teachable decade. Economic instability is being leveraged to teach everyone a lesson about the need for a stronger social safety net, which then becomes a lesson about how to sacrifice, how to give up personal freedoms and how to make do with less for the greater good.
The left's rhetoric about corporations isn't limited to companies or to the rich. There isn't really an actual dollar value beneath which your resources don't deserve to be redistributed by the enlightened hand of the state. The left is not at war with wealth, it is at war with private property. It is not at war with corporations, it is at war with the idea that there can be any organization that is not of the state. It is not at war with people who own yachts, it is at war with the idea that anyone is entitled to living without engaging in exercises of conspicuous lifestyle decline, whether it is recycling, sending money to Africa, paying carbon taxes or any other form of tribute to the need to be less selfish.
The mandate has always been social change. According to the left it is not our economy that is broken, we are the ones who are broken. We are too greedy and too selfish, as individuals and as nations. Our possessiveness must be curbed by destroying everything that the individual owns or is attached to in the name of the greater good.
Ideologues define all problems, no matter how minute, in relation to a failure to comply with their ideal way of life. They will exploit a crisis to achieve power and implement that way of life and that way of life alone. Nothing else interests them and they will not solve any problems except through the implementation of their program.
That is what we are up against. That is their weakness, if we can exploit it, but it is also the thrust of their assault on us. On all of us. We are dealing with people who are limited to thinking in very narrow and specific ways. Who are fanatically obsessed with transforming our society, but who are unable to question their own assumptions. That makes them dangerously single-minded, but it also makes them prone to failure.
The Obama Administration has been relentlessly single-minded about its domestic program and as a result it has lost public support. What people perceive as economic failure, it views as successful social reforms. If it can reclaim power, it will proceed with an even more ruthless version of the same program. It is not interested in guns or butter. Only in social change.