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12/19/2004 Archived Entry: "Left-wing utopian coercive hellholes"
I'VE BEEN READING SOME VERY LEFT-WING UTOPIAN BOOKS lately -- part of a research project for a book I've been asked to write (and on which I haven't decided whether I have anything useful to say). The "nurturing, sustainable" societies described in these books are uniformly horrifying. There is no room for people like you and me. Not anywhere. And the authors blithely overlook the most obvious questions and the most blatant outrages against individuality. (Once you've banned all private vehicles, how does a farmer transport crops? Or a family transport large quantities of groceries?)
I've never understood the appeal of these cruel Utopias, because they leave no room for individual differences or inventiveness. They define every single facet of life for everyone. Conform and be happy. Dissent and ... die a miserable death, you polluting, capitalistic, greedy, unmutual individualist.
Of course, you're also free (if not required) to smoke cannabis and have sex when you're 15. But somehow, those seem grim comforts when the entire rest of your life is lived in a fishbowl where all the other fish control what you do and every aspect of life runs counter to your nature and principles.
Yikes! That's anybody's idea of Ideal?
On the other hand, I understand the attraction of Libertopias, even as I scoff at their creators and decry the uselessness of spending time discussing whether private covenants in a pure anarchist society could theoretically violate rights, whether a free person could ever sell himself voluntarily into slavery, or whether the roads should be paved with gold ... oh, whatever!
What I don't understand -- or didn't, back in my idealistic days -- was why liberals and left-anarchists don't like Libertopia. After all, in the most outlandish libertarian fantasy ever evolved, there's still room
for people to go off and voluntarily start social security programs, communes, welfare systems, or any other collective institution they wish. And to do it without fighting endless political battles or having outsiders control or screw up your good intentions.
What could be better? Every group and individual can have -- or at least freely seek -- whatever life they want.
I can't see how anyone would object to this.
I do understand why many (most) leftists don't trust the particular libertarians who propose these lofty ideals. Their classic objection -- "You libertarians would leave the poor to die in the streets!" -- may be based on a misunderstanding of free-market economics. But it's true of many individual libertarians.
Many of the loudests theorists are also louts who really would let the poor starve in the streets and consider it a noble act of Social Darwinism. (They'd also leech off the talents of creators without compensation and crow over their economic virtue, but that's another story.)
But these people aren't going to run any future libertarian society (assuming we ever achieve one and assuming the word "run" is even remotely applicable to Ancapistan). Except in a few fanatical places where crazed idealists (Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Mao) have gotten into control, societies are "run" by moderate influences, because moderate types are the practical folk who know how to get things done while all the radicals and theorists are screaming at each other or sitting alone in their ivory towers, sniffing about how nothing is pure enough for them. So even with the most egregiously bad experience of free-market economics, even with depressions, unemployment, and bubble economies, there aren't going to be any poor starving in the streets.
Those poor who can't work will be taken care of by churches, charities, community fund drives, and family aid. Those poor who don't want to work will find themselves unsupported and will either get real and get earning, find some sucker to take care of them, or will take to a nice, easy life of crime, get shot by one of their intended victims, and not have to worry about starving.
Of course, we're never going to get this society. But it's obvious to me that this ultimate form of freedom-for-all is worth striving toward, unlike all those You-Will-Obey-Or-Die Utopias of the left. The only people in our ideal society who are going to suffer from the political freedom are those whose own choices and attitudes lead to suffering. Oh yeah, and those who crave coercive control over others and can't find any coercive institutions to latch onto.
So why don't left-idealists pull together with us to achieve this? Last time I foolishly got into an argument with a left-idealist over this, I recall that we crashed head-on on the exemplar issue of social security systems. Outraged and red-faced with fury, my acquaintance bellowed at me that, by even talking about a retirement system enjoyed only by voluntary participants, I was depriving him of his right to force everyone in the country to be part of his system.
And it made complete and perfect sense to him that everyone else should suffer once he and some amorphous, undefined collective decided what they should or shouldn't have.
Though I can't fathom this mindset, I do see why people like him write these strange books they do, where crushing cruelty to the majority is considered virtue on the part of the highly politicized and pure few.
These folks are as weird in their way as the libertarian anarchist who gets on a 100 e-lists to expound (and pound) upon the demand that penis-shaped brothels must always be allowed to be built (apparently this guy has never heard the word "covenants") next to elementary schools in Libertopia or the world really isn't free enough for him and he damn well won't settle for such shockingly unprincipled compromise.
THE OTHER THING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE (the ones who believe any majority has the right to force any minority to its will) ... They love to say, "Well, you'd do the same thing if you were in the majority!" And when you object, "No. To force even one other person to do my will -- against his own will -- goes against my most deeply held beliefs. I would not do it and cannot even conceive of doing it" ... they snort in disbelief.
The temptation of coercion is that deep in their soul that they can't even imagine the existence of a person who doesn't crave power over others.
Posted by Claire @ 12:46 PM CST