Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Nietzsche Liked Europe; Zweig Liked Europe, So...

So here we are with the Brits facing a March 29 deadline on whether to bail out of the European Union.

Really, anybody who is anybody has been pro-European for over a century. So what is the deal? Europe good; nationalism bad! Get with the program, deplorables.

Yeah. Bad boy Friedrich Nietzsche -- the chap that good little girls in the media know was "the Nazi's favorite intellectual," because... Yes, because they have been carefully taught, from year to year, in their good little ears -- was pro-European and sneered at German nationalism.

And I have just finished a memoir by Stefan Zweig, a smart (and rich) Jewish kid and mid-20th-century writer from Vienna, who writes proudly that his "ideas have always been European and not nationalist" and about "the belief in intellectual unity".

But suppose that this notion of a European intellectual community shared by all the great and the good is the root of the problem? Think of it.

First of all there is the language problem. The nations of Europe all speak different languages. I don't know how you create a political community out of communities that don't speak the same language.

Then there is the top-down problem, the conceit of the "European intellectual community" for the last several hundred years that they are the smart people in the room. Really? How would we tell?

From my perspective, I would say about intellectuals: Locke good. Rousseau bad. Montesquieu good. Hume good. Marx bad. But I realize that millions in the "European intellectual community" disagree with me. So who is right?

Well, there is the advice of St. Matthew warning about false prophets: by their fruits you shall know them. I'd say that 100 million dead is a pretty good verdict on Rousseau and Marx. I'd say that the US of A is a pretty good fruit for the Lockes and the Monesquieux and the Humes.

Just sayin'.

One of the key factors in the amazing Great Enrichment of the last 200 years when real per capita income in places like the US increased by 30 times, is that the successive economic and technological and financial revolutions were not decreed from above. They were the result of nobodies with a good idea that, against all probabilities, made it to the big time.

What they were not, almost always, were fashionable ruling-class pet plans offered as a national goal to which all heads would bow. I am thinking Green New Deal.

The basic mindset in the notion of the European intellectual community is that big changes are born of big minds with big ideas. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that we can't just blunder into the future; we need well-worked-out plans using settled science and the best minds in the world.

Quite. Except that was the line of the Marxists and the Fabians. They had a horror of people just going out and doing stuff without the proper forethought.

Except that the grand plan of a California bullet-train just got shelved by uber-liberal California Governor Gavin Newsom. Because all the grand planning added up to a big fat zero.

We humans long for a world of perpetual piece, where hardship and struggle have been eliminated, where people can finally live together in harmony.

We imagine the perfect community where people all work together for the good of all.

The joke is that while the great and the good of the last two centuries have been conjuring up grand plans to transform society and usually filling the graveyards with victims, the market economy, of individuals conjuring up new ideas and submitting them to the verdict of the market, has transformed human life beyond recognition. And all it takes is for the great and the good to get the heck out of the way and stop trying to boss everyone around.

And nobody saw it coming.

And yet here we are, raising up good little girls like Sandy the bartender and carefully teaching them the ideas that have yielded poverty and death every time they were tried. And because they are good little girls they believe everything they were taught.

We don't need a European idea. We  don't need a planetary idea. We just need people to go about their business and accept the verdict of the market -- as modified by common-law judges trying to pick up the pieces after something goes wrong.

But what would the European intellectual community do then, poor things?

No comments:

Post a Comment