Monday, September 15, 2014

Marxism, Power and Freedom

Eric Hoffer writes that when the "scribes" are in, working for the ruling class, they are happy to do its bidding and order the lower orders around.  But when the scribes are out, meaning that the government can't afford them after a societal collapse, then the scribes decide to represent the "people" and enter a phase where they critique the ruling class.

In our day, I suppose, the scribes do both.  Our educated elite critiques the ruling class on behalf of the traditionally marginalized and it also delights in expert-ology, commissioning like-minded experts to boost its social theories and create government programs to implement them.

What the educated want, says Hoffer, is "power, lordship, and opportunities for imposing action."

That is why the educated fell in love with Marxism.  It said: the workers are being horribly exploited by capitalism.  Therefore we should give absolute political power, lordship, and opportunities to run things to the educated elite to liberate the workers from their slavery.

In fact the opposite happened.  Wherever Marxism was tried the workers got oppressed and exploited worse than before.

When it became clear that economic Marxism wasn't working, because despite Marx's prophecy of worker "immiseration" the workers were doing better, the Frankfurt School universalized the oppression paradigm into cultural Marxism or multiculturalism. Now any social group could be identified as oppressed and exploited.  Therefore we should give absolute political power, lordship and the power to name and shame to the educated elite to liberate the marginalized from their oppression.

I am not saying here that the educated elite -- the "scribes" -- are cynics.  They are just attracted to political power, and instinctively look and find occasion for political power.  They see the suffering workers and say "there oughta be a law." They look at blacks and women and gays and want to do something about it.  But the only thing they know to do, or want to do, involves politics. And government. And force.

I have been studying individualism over the past year or two, and I keep getting impressed by the radicalism of it. Responsible individualism says: hey fellas, relax! As long as people are trustworthy and obey the law we can dial down the amount of government and just let people get on with getting and spending, producin' and consumin'. Because invisible hand and comparative advantage and man-as-social-animal.

Opposed to this is the eternal human experience that the dawn raid might be tomorrow! We can see this in the current flap over ISIS. People see a couple of beheadings on TV and are immediately convinced that the US is at risk.  All down the ages humans have had to be on their toes against an attack by the neighboring village, seafaring Vikings, or neighboring princedom. It seems counter-intuitive to be able to trust businessmen, or Jews, or strangers.

Hoffer again.
The desire for freedom is an attribute of a "have" type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities.
 Right before that he says "people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power." Yeah, as in "power to the people!" and "all power to the Soviets!"

Now you can see what the Marxists and the progressives have done.  They have put themselves at the head of people still "unfit for freedom" and led them on a search for power.

But the reality of the last few centuries is that when people are released to freedom, the ones that want it, they get right to work.  And they grow, learn, and realize their capacities.  It is only the people stuck in the ghetto of power worship that fail to benefit from the world of freedom. In fact, as we have seen, the followers of the educated elite have descended into the most horrible social dysfunctions.

The truth in the Marxist canon is that people that believe in power, the people "unfit for freedom" need some sort of solace to relieve their sense of powerlessness. But the real solution to their problem is to grow them into "haves," help them achieve a modest competence, so that they can live in the world with confidence and vote for the freedom that is the gateway to real self-command and peace with the world.

But the identity politics that the left serves up is a dead end for those that give up their birthright for its mess of benefits.

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