Communism as the Default State?
I would argue that the Enlightenment was flawed from the beginning.
That did not make it a bad thing; the Enlightenment contributed a vast amount to human reason and welfare. But no system of social order is complete that cannot see to its own perpetuation, and clearly the Enlightenment has failed to do so.
Dr. Sanity points today to a post at One Cosmos, Stone Age Economics of the Left: Who Would Jesus Bail Out?, and this interesting excerpt:
But one of the things that never changes is the hysteria of the left. The hysteria results from the conflation of existential and economic realities. In other words, when it comes to existence, there is always something to bitch about. But if you shift this to the plane of economics, then you can imagine that otherwise insoluble existential problems are susceptible to solutions.
For example, you can give “free college” to everyone, but this won’t alter the fact that 50% of human beings are of below average intelligence. In fact, you’ll only end up diluting education, so that if someone wants to be educated, they will have to do so outside of college. With the exception of the hard sciences, we’re pretty much at that point now. Once college is universal, it becomes worthless. And if Obama has his way, the same thing will occur in medicine: everyone will be entitled to their government-rationed portion of mediocre healthcare.
Now, when Marx was writing his critique of industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century, living standards were finally rising after hundreds, and even thousands, of years of stagnation. Workers were just finally rising above subsistence levels and beginning to be able to purchase necessities and eventually luxuries that would have been completely unavailable to them in the past. Pockets of Slack were starting to break out everywhere, instead of just being available to the upper-upper classes.
In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth weren’t really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to the magical combination of individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law. And then get the hell out of the way.
And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the “boom or bust” cycle [oops!], to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity are the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional envy.
As I have written before, I believe envy must have had some evolutionary utility, or else it wouldn’t have survived the process of natural selection. Since 99% of human evolution took place in small bands of hunter-gatherers, my view is that envy must have ultimately served the purpose of group cohesiveness.
Human beings couldn’t possibly have survived as individuals, but only as part of a tightly bonded group. Therefore, anything that promoted the fitness of the group is likely to have been strongly reinforced. In a small group, it would have obviously been detrimental for one member to horde all of the resources, so we might say that envy is a mechanism that is actually selected by evolution in order to maintain our intrinsic communism.
In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, a focus on the future instead of the present, and an understanding that economic exchange isn’t a zero-sum game.
Please, go read the rest. It’s worth your time.
One more, very short excerpt:
Liberty is not a built in — much less universal — value, and I think you can see how this is a major part of understanding the motivations — or shall we say, the deep structure — of leftism. Classical liberals wonder why leftists don’t value freedom, but they shouldn’t.