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By John J. Ray (M.A.;Ph.D.)

The answer in five words: "Leftists need to feel superior".

Or, as T.S. Eliot famously put it: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." (From the 1950 play "The cocktail party")

But now for the details:

The Sociology of Leftism: The leaders and the led

The Leftists referred to in this monograph are committed Leftists. It is important to realize that such people are only a small proportion of those who vote for Leftist parties (according to the Harris poll, in 2002 only 19% of U.S. voters self-identified as "liberal") and that what is true of committed Leftists may not be at all true of most people who vote for Leftist political parties. Leftist leaders and Leftist followers may sound the same -- there would hardly be a leader/follower relationship between them otherwise -- but to assume that leaders and followers are similarly motivated would be naive. If, for example, most of the people who vote for Leftists are good and kind people who just want to help others, the leaders have to sound as if they too are like that -- but the evidence is that the leaders are in fact very differently motivated from that, as we shall see.

Another complication is that vote may not reflect ideology at all. People sometimes vote for a candidate they do not in general agree with. It may be the exception rather than the rule but it is at least a large exception. A good first step in seeing that is the fact that, although most people tend to get more conservative as they get older, older people are in fact more likely to vote for Leftist parties. So we have conservatives voting for Leftists. And, of course, many working class people (including mmany blacks) are socially conservative but vote for Leftists. And despite the many very rich people (such as George Soros, John Edwards and John Kerry) who are clearly Leftist sympathizers, a small majority of rich Americans do vote Republican. One interpretation of that would be that elites are basically Left-inclined but many vote Republican despite being inclined the other way. I will have more to say about that very shortly and I also have a separate article on it here.

What the surveys show about the VOTERS can be seen in this exit poll data from the U.S. election of the year 2000. You will note there, for instance, the preponderance of older people who vote Democrat. So why do so many who do not see themselves as "liberals" vote for Democrat candidates?

1). In part it is because ALL successful Presidential candidates (Democrat or Republican) are in fact centrists. They have to stay pretty close to the political centre (regardless of what their real, personal views might be) in order to maximize their appeal. No candidate can hope to win unless he appeals to a lot of centrist or "floating" voters and both candidates will try to offer something to everyone. The candidate can only be Right-leaning or Left-leaning rather than truly Rightist or Leftist. And there could be no clearer demonstration of that than Senator John "flip-flop" Kerry. In the 2004 Presidential campaign, he carried the attempt to be everything to everybody to a ludicrous degree. And George W. Bush too wooed "liberal" voters by stealing Leftist rhetoric and campaigning (in the year 2000) as a "compassionate" conservative.

Another sign of how centrist successful Presidential candidates have to be is that there is a quite respectable case for arguing that the U.S. government was more conservative under Bill Clinton than it has been under George W. Bush: Work for the dole took off under Clinton and Clinton balanced the budget whereas George W. Bush oversaw a major welfare expansion (prescription drug benefit) and ran the budget into deficit. So in those respects the two men did exactly the opposite of what the ideologies normally attributed to them would lead one to expect. Both have been conservative on some things and "liberal" on others.

So while it would be extremely odd indeed if conservative-leaning candidates were not preponderantly backed by conservative people, the correlation is rarely strong (the strongest correlation I have found in my surveys was .5 -- implying only a 25% overlap between ideology and vote). So George W. Bush would have got votes from all sorts of people for all sorts of different reasons: For instance, as well as getting votes from Christians and committed conservatives, George W. Bush would have got votes from centrists who liked his balance of "compassion" (i.e. being pro-handout) and caution about social change and from some genuinely compassionate but also well-informed "liberals" not because they liked his views in general but because they thought he would be most likely to bring about economic betterment for all (through economic growth etc.). A vote for George W. Bush was, then, only on some occasions an indicator of real voter conservatism. And a vote for Clinton/Gore/Kerry was on only some occasions motivated by Leftist ideological beliefs. In general, then, the centrist orientation of major candidates makes vote a poor indication of ideology. It is rather a wonder that a vote for a centrist indicates anything at all. Many such votes could in fact be a result of essentially random factors.

2). Secondly, S.M. Lipset pointed out decades ago that vote is often determined more by perceived economic self-interest (what in Australia we call the "hip-pocket nerve") than by ideological affinity -- so that you can have socially conservative working-class people (particularly blacks in the U.S. case) voting for Leftist candidates solely because they believe Leftist promises that the Left will give them personally a better deal. They might want to castrate homosexuals but they want bigger welfare cheques even more. See here for some survey results on working-class ideology.

Conversely, the exit-poll data from the year 2000 show that the wealthiest Americans mostly saw GOP policies as better for them -- which is unsurprising given the characteristic attack on wealth by Leftists. So how come a large minority of wealthy people voted against the GOP? Obviously there was a big ideological pull among wealthy people that was influencing them to vote against economic self-interest. It shows that once you are well-off yourself, you are more likely to put money worries aside and concentrate on other goals -- such as telling the "peasants" what to do.

It has often been noted too (see again here) that it is education rather than occupation which is the major social class influence on ideology. Exposure to the current educational system is a Leftist influence. And the Gore/Bush election results do show that. Gore's strength was among both those with the lowest level of education (for economic reasons) and those with the highest level of education (for ideological reasons). Just why education is a Leftist influence is set out at some length again here and here.

Economic self-interest matters a lot to older people too. The Democrats are big advocates of welfare and older people are big consumers of wefare so it was no surprise at all that George W. Bush's share of the elderly vote was well-down in the year 2000. It was of course to help reverse his anti-welfare image among the elderly that George W. Bush sponsored the prescription drug benefit initiative. And that effort was duly rewarded in 2004 by a rise in the GOP vote among the elderly from 47% to 54%. Aging as such, however, is very strongly associated with conservative thinking. There is a list of some of the beliefs here that strongly differentiate the old and the young. You will see that what old people tend to believe is in fact rather amazingly Right-wing. Older people were likely to believe, for instance, that "Patriotism and loyalty to one's country are more important than one's intellectual convictions and should have precedence over them" and "Treason and murder should be punishable by death". They rejected views such as "Our treatment of criminals is too harsh: We should try to cure them, not punish them" and "People should be allowed to hold demonstrations in the streets without police interference".

So vote is the outcome of many influences and for most people ideology is not the crucial influence (remember that 25% maximum mentioned above). Ideology is important to party leaders and activists, however, so is still an important thing to study and analyse. I in fact have had over 200 papers reporting on aspects of it published in the academic journals.

As something of a footnote to the above, it may be worth noting that even self-identification as a "liberal" (etc.) may be misleading and unreliable. Not only vote but even self-identification may correlate poorly with ideology. Some 2004 Pew Research survey data (summarized here) shows that the views held by so-called "moderates", for instance, can in fact be very Leftist. And there are no doubt many conservatives who regard themselves as moderate too. In other words, what people see as conservative, liberal etc varies widely. If George W. Bush and Clinton are in fact both mostly centrists but are widely described as being of the Right or the Left, it should be no surprise that such confusions arise. It is only by asking questions about particular issues (as I did above in looking at the beliefs of the elderly) that one can have some hope of placing people realistically on an ideological spectrum. And it may be worth noting that when one does that, most people fall around the middle (in statisticians' terms, political ideology "approximates a normal distribution") -- which is why successful politicians head in that direction too.

And some people reading this (particularly libertarians) will no doubt want to argue that the very idea of a Left/Right ideological spectrum is simplistic and wrong. To answer that, however, I will have to refer readers elsewhere.

So the fact (already noted previously) that a centrist such as President Bush is hated with a passion by the ideologues among American "liberals" (really Leftists. Liberty is a very low priority for them) does at first seem puzzling. If you look at the legislation and policies that Clinton and Bush have supported and implemented, it would be a hard task to say which was the more Leftist. With his support for all sorts of expansion of government, I would definitely say that Bush is the more Leftist but the fact that the matter can be reasonably debated shows just how centrist both men are. But if Clinton and Bush have been so similar in their policies, why do the Left adore Clinton and loathe George W? And in the American politics of the period leading up to the 2004 election, I saw nothing directed towards Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry by conservatives that remotely approached the rage and hate that was routinely directed towards Bush by the Left. Contempt for Kerry's dishonesty was common among conservatives but that was about all. So why do American Leftists hate a man who has done much of what they in the past have themselves advocated (e.g. expanded welfare and deposed a Fascist dictator)?

One key (but see also here) to the answer is that, although a vote for the GOP is SOMETIMES a vote for conservatism, American politics are essentially interest-group politics. Each party has its client groups (particularly poor minorities in the case of the Democrats and particularly New Testament Christians in the case of the GOP) and it is speaking for them that brings in the great majority of votes -- which is why lots of GOP supporters who deplore Bush's expansion of government will still vote for him in the next election and which is why American blacks who are conservative on lots of social issues almost always vote for the Democrats. It is only small minority of centrist (swinging) voters who decide which candidate will win or lose and that is a major part of the reason why both candidates themselves have to be centrist.

So, for the ideologically committed, it all boils down to power. Does your team or the people you like occupy the top positions or not? Do the people in power sound like you? Are people you can identify with in charge? As this author put it:

"And unfortunately, in my own mind, when I hear of a gaffe or embarrassment for the party I don't prefer, I think, 'Oh good, a point for my side.' When 'my side' is called for a foul, I think that the officiating might be biased. So many recent events highlight the polarized context we are now operating in"

Orwell describes the extreme version of such loyalty very well. Excerpt:

Quote:"By "patriotism" I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.... Nationalism, in the extended sense in which I am using the word, includes such movements and tendencies as Communism, political Catholicism, Zionism, Antisemitism, Trotskyism and Pacifism. It does not necessarily mean loyalty to a government or a country, still less to one's own country, and it is not even strictly necessary that the units in which it deals should actually exist. To name a few obvious examples, Jewry, Islam, Christendom, the Proletariat and the White Race are all of them objects of passionate nationalistic feeling: but their existence can be seriously questioned, and there is no definition of any one of them that would be universally accepted.... Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception"

And for Leftists, politics is NOTHING BUT power. They have no principles and openly ridicule (particularly via postmodernism) the idea that anything could be right or wrong. Policies that were once popular but which have become unpopular (such as eugenics) are abandoned so completely by Leftists that only historians know that such policies once had large-scale Leftist support. And with the way antisemitism is surging on the Left, the time will come when people will have forgotten that Leftists were for a time anti-racist. So for Leftists it is only party that matters and conservative thinkers such as myself and many others who take ideas, principles and ideology seriously are simply incomprehensible and fit only for ridicule. Leftist thinkers do very often work their way carefully through an argument or set of ideas but do so only if the conclusion of the argument is suitable for propaganda purposes. They want to persuade others that something which suits them is "right" but they themselves do not believe in "rightness" at all. And for many conservatives too, of course, their conservatism is more of an instinct than a systematic philosophy -- as R.J. White in The Conservative Tradition notes (see here).

But the appeal of Leftism to the average person is simple: The preacher of Leftism offers something for nothing. And that is always hard to resist -- fraudulent though it usually is. If the Leftist offers to redistribute somebody else's wealth into your pocket, that is one hell of an appealing scam. The Leftist's constant hypocritical preaching of equality does sometimes succeed in creating the impression that the Leftists will manage to give poorer or working class people a bigger slice of the national cake -- and poorer people must obviously find that at least initially appealing. This is of course why labour unions have always had strong affinities with the Left. Leftists appear to want a better deal for union members.

And this is partly why Leftists have recently become such opponents of globalization. Globalization does tend to relocate simpler jobs to poorer countries and the Leftist's union allies tend to oppose the changes to employment that this brings about. Unlike other Leftists, unions generally dislike change. They dislike change because it requires workers to find new jobs and that is understandably distressing to the workers concerned even if at the end of the day the cheaper goods now coming from overseas mean higher living standards for all. The Leftist however feeds on discontent so conveniently turns a blind eye to the longer term benefits of globalization and assists unionists in opposing it. The change-loving Leftist assists change-hating unionists! The corrosive discontent and hatred of existing power centres that motivate the Leftist enables him to ignore the incongruity of this alliance. Leading a protest of any kind is far more important than what the protest is about. Ultimately, change too is just a tool for Leftists.

That Leftists can even oppose their beloved change if they think it will help them gain power was also very much on display in the 2004 U.S. Presidential elections. As this author rather mischievously pointed out:

Quote:"It was Bush's progressive agenda that kept him in office.... The left's conservative policies of get-along diplomacy with dictators and theocracies have been rejected in favor of more progressive and proactive strategies of freedom and pluralism..... Bush's victory was due to the fact that nationally the majority of voters was tired of the status quo, tired of the knee-jerk conservatism of the left and wanted a progressive administration. Kerry wanted to take us back to the ideas, policies and attitudes that prevailed before the 9/11 attack.... The majority of Americans wanted a candidate and an administration with new ideas and a plan, and the Democrats offered an administration that was anti-everything.... . The left has shown itself conservative and reactionary on the domestic front as well, resisting in political lock step such progressive ideas as the testing, standards and performance required by the No Child Left Behind Act, against any reasonable limitations on abortion, against any and all aspects of "ownership society" such as partial privatization of social security or health care savings accounts..."

[size=13]I expand on that a little more elsewhere.

As mentioned already, Lipset (1959) pointed out long ago, however, that poorer or working class people may in fact not only be change-haters in matters that affect them directly but also be conservative in other senses -- despite their (self-interested) vote for a Leftist political party. This tendency towards conservatism among working class people has been noted at least since the time of British Prime Minister Disraeli in the 19th century (McKenzie & Silver, 1968) and is so prevalent that it forms a vital electoral support for conservative political parties. How? Because something like a quarter to a half of working class people are in fact so conservative (accepting of inequality etc.) that they resist the blandishments of the Left and vote conservative -- AGAINST what would initially seem to be their class self-interest (McKenzie & Silver, 1968; Ray, 1972c). So the primary concern of the present paper is with "real" Leftists -- people who subscribe to and promote a Leftist ideology rather than those who merely vote Leftist or support the Left solely out of self-interest.

Before I abandon discussion of Leftist supporters (as opposed to Leftist leaders and ideologues), however, I must make clear that not ALL mass support for Leftism is motivated by economic self-interest or group loyalty. As I said at the outset of this section, there would appear to be large numbers of Leftist supporters who are genuinely caring people and who hate to see unhappiness in others and want something done about it QUICKLY -- and are misled by simplistic talk from Leftist ideologues into thinking that the Leftist candidate or ideologue can and will achieve something in that direction. It is they in fact who dictate what the Leftist has to advocate. Kind people in a hurry are the key part of his "market", the people for whom his apparent "quick fixes" are tailored -- and the rhetoric that serves that part of his market also of course pleases the rest of his market: those whom the Leftist claims he will benefit. And it is the good and kind average people who are susceptible to argument (by showing, for instance, that there ARE no shortcuts), where the Leftist ideologue is not. It is important to comprehend Leftist ideologues but not as a means of "converting" them. The best that can be hoped for is to isolate them by showing what really makes them tick.

For the sake of simplicity I speak above as if the leaders and the led were strict and mutually exclusive categories but there are of course intermediate cases -- for instance, people who are thoroughly imbued with the ideas or passions of their side but who do not evangelize for those ideas or passions in any way. Such people presumably share most of the motivation of their leaders but just do not have the opportunity, personality or talent to be anything but a chorus -- and perhaps helpers on election day. Whatever satisfactions they get from their side winning in some way would therefore usually be vicarious rather than personal. But the general idea of most voters being a "market" for political ideas that come from an elite or from a leadership group is of course an old one. Schattschneider, for instance, suggested that voters are to parties as "customers" are to "merchants", mere choosers among competing alternatives in the electoral marketplace (Schattschneider, E.E., 1942, Party Government. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pp. 53, 60)

So WHY does an ideological Leftist oppose the existing social, economic and political order? Why are they usually so keen on advocating change, no matter how irrational or counter-productive it might be? There can in fact be many reasons why and for many Leftists more than one of the reasons listed below will apply.

The simplest reason may simply be that one is BORN into a Leftist outlook. Being born into a Northern English or Scottish working-class environment, for instance, almost guarantees that one will favour a Leftist stance on many issues. Union activity and Leftist advocacy generally has been so strong for so long there that it has radicalized in many ways what might otherwise be a fairly conservative population and caused Leftist views to become simply traditional there. One might say that the explanation for Leftism there (for both leaders and followers) is a "sociological" one.

Another example of such a "sociological" cause for Leftism would be the way in which US college students are radicalized by the predominantly liberal academic environment of US humanities and social science schools. To be liberal in such an environment is almost a survival need (Sommers, 2002). And schoolteachers too, often seem to be Leftist. Many of those who lecture and control others in their working hours would seem to want to carry on doing so after work as well. (For more on that see here). So an ideological committment there may be simply learned behaviour.

Also, because of its pretensions to standing up heroically for various difficult causes, Leftism can seem "cool" to many of the unthinking young and not so young. Particularly in the worlds of the media and entertainment (as well as academe), being Leftist means being "in" with the "smart" crowd. Not to be Leftist is to be left out. How awful! Even if such people can see faults in Leftist thinking, they are afraid to come toward the Right for fear of losing the approval of others around them. So an ideological committment may in that case also be something of a survival need.

The focus in the present paper, however, is more on "psychological" causes. What makes someone "voluntarily" a Leftist? What makes someone a Leftist who does not come from a predominantly Leftist environment? What makes a Leftist that comes from inside the Leftist himself rather than coming from an accident of birth or social position?

The Psychology of Leftism

It should by now have become fairly clear that Leftist ideologues don't really believe in anything at all (see also my comments on post-modernism elsewhere and my comments on psychopathy elsewhere). They have no fundamental beliefs -- only postures that they adopt from time to time in order to make themselves look good, wise, kind, caring etc. Some postures (such as their devotion to "equality") are of durable usefulness to them because the posture concerned has lasting appeal (to envy etc.) but any posture (such as their former devotion to eugenics) can be abandoned if it falls out of popularity. So while it is important to point out the falsity of the many simplistic theories and assertions that Leftists put forward, it is a mistake to think that they will be seriously influenced by that. What they assert has, in other words, a psychological rather than a philosophical or systematic foundation.

It is submitted here that the major psychological reason why Leftists so zealously criticize the existing order and advocate change is in order to feed a pressing need for self-inflation and ego-boosting -- and ultimately for power, the greatest ego boost of all. They need public attention; they need to demonstrate outrage; they need to feel wiser and kinder and more righteous than most of their fellow man. They fancy for themselves the heroic role of David versus Goliath. They need to show that they are in the small club of the virtuous and the wise so that they can nobly instruct and order about their less wise and less virtuous fellow-citizens. Their need is a pressing need for attention, for self-advertisement and self-promotion -- generally in the absence of any real claims in that direction. They are usually intrinsically unimportant people who need to feel important and who are aggrieved at their lack of recognition and power. One is tempted to hypothesize that, when they were children, their mothers didn't look when they said, "Mummy, look at me".

This means that the "warm inner glow" that they obtain from their advocacy and agitation is greatly prized. So it is no wonder that anything which threatens to disturb it -- such as mere facts -- is determinedly ignored. This view of Leftism as a club of the righteous that must never be disturbed or threatened is set out by Warby (2002). Excerpts:

Quote:"The key motive for self-replicating propaganda amongst the Western intelligentsia is status-seeking -- what in this context I have labelled moral vanity.... The benefits of being seen to be a member of what I call Club Virtue are clear enough -- a feeling of higher moral status buttressed by the mutual self-congratulation of peers, and the avoidance of the costs of non-conformity. Greater leeway for error is also possible. Club members tend to forgive or ignore mistakes if made in the name of a cause that protects the status of Club members (or if exposure of such lapses would undermine said status).... Moreover, because opinions and beliefs are substantially selected on the basis of their ability to confer and confirm status, such status markers have a natural tendency to part from reality....

One of the effects of the collapse of socialism as a serious locus of belief has been the snowballing reversion to the historically much more normal pattern of intellectuals despising the general populace. The terminology has been updated -- rednecks, xenophobes, racists, etc. instead of the mob, the rabble or whatever -- but the return to an age-old pattern is very clear.

Another sign of how the status games operate is the way so many of debates about totemic issues juxtapose concern with practicality against parading of intent. Dissenters typically raise concerns about how things are working in practice, while the response typically draws attention to intentions. For intentions are what mark moral superiority; concern for practical effects can only undermine such status-markers. Hence members of Club Virtue talk about intent, dissenters about practicality.... The genius of such status-games is that they appropriate the public good of open debate for the private good of status-seeking. What was once common -- and so owned by no-one -- becomes fenced off, and legitimacy in public debate becomes the shared property of Club members.... A public debate that is pervasively corrupted by this culture of status-through-paraded-virtue is a major problem for any democracy."

Thomas Sowell sums it up well too, pointing out how the pursuit of ego reinforcement seems to go on with complete disregard for its consequences. It's an article that every living soul should read in full but here is an excerpt:

Quote:"Over the years, the phrase "unintended consequences" has come up with increasing frequency, as more and more wonderful-sounding ideas have led to disastrous results. By now, you might think that people with wonderful-sounding ideas would start to question what the consequences would turn out to be -- and would devote as much time to discovering those consequences as to getting their ideas accepted and turned into laws and policies. But that seldom, if ever, happens.

Why doesn't it? Because a lot depends on what it is you are trying to accomplish. If your purpose is to achieve the heady feeling of being one of the moral elite, then that can be accomplished without the long and tedious work of following up on results.

The worldwide crusade to ban the pesticide DDT is a classic example. This crusade was begun by the much revered Rachel Carson... Carson and the environmentalists she inspired have succeeded in getting DDT banned in country after country, for which they have received the accolades of many, not least their own accolades. But, in terms of the actual consequences of that crusade, there has not been a mass murderer executed in the past half-century who has been responsible for as many deaths of human beings as the sainted Rachel Carson. The banning of DDT has led to a huge resurgence of malaria in the Third World, with deaths rising into the millions.

This pioneer of the environmental movement has not been judged by such consequences, but by the inspiring goals and political success of the movement she spawned. Still less are the environmentalists held responsible for the blackouts plaguing California in the past year or the more frequent blackouts and more disastrous economic consequences that can be expected in the years ahead, despite the key role of environmental extremists in preventing power plants from being built.....

Advocates of rent control are not judged by the housing shortages that invariably follow, but by their professed desire to promote "affordable housing" for all. Nor are those who have promoted price controls on food in various countries being judged by the hunger, malnutrition or even starvation that have followed. They are judged by their laudable goal of seeking to make food affordable by the poor -- even if the poor end up with less food than before.

Some try to argue against the evidence for these and other counterproductive consequences of high-sounding policies. But what is crucial is that those who advocated such policies usually never bothered to seek evidence on their own -- and have resented the evidence presented by others. In short, what they advocated had the intended consequences for themselves -- making them feel good -- and there was far less interest in the unintended consequences for others".

See also Ridley (2002) for a good account of the way Lomborg's upsetting (to Leftists) but rigorously factual findings about the environment were greeted primarily by abuse rather than by any serious attempt at refutation. Ridley's earlier letter to The Scientific American in response to its attack on Lomborg is here (short PDF). See also "A Danish Galileo" for comments on later attacks on Lomborg.

And one of the more amusing results of the Leftist hunger to be noticed is the "naked" demonstration. Leftist women, in particular, often take their clothes off en masse to get attention. ANYTHING to get attention! See, for example, here or here.


And, of course, people who themselves desperately want power, attention and praise, envy with a passion those who already have that. Businessmen, "the establishment", rich people, upper class people, powerful politicians and anybody who helps perpetuate the existing order in any way are seen by the Leftist as obstacles to him having what he wants. They are all seen as automatically "unworthy" compared to his own great virtues and claims on what they already have. "Why should they have ........ ?" is the Leftist's implicit cry -- and those who share that angry cry have an understanding of one-another that no rational argument could achieve and that no outsider can ever share.

The Leftist's passion for equality is really therefore only apparently a desire to lift the disadvantaged up. In reality it is a hatred of all those in society who are already in a superior or more powerful position to the Leftist and a desire to cut them down to size. As Bob Parks observed:

Quote:"I was watching the responses from a political focus group the other night, and I have to admit it was depressing to see so many duped, whiners in one room. All of these economic experts KNEW we were presently in a recession. All of these economic experts KNEW that the tax rates were unfair, and the "disgusting" rich should pay more in taxes. How raising their taxes would improve the lives of the focus groupies was unclear. But it seemed as though they just wanted to get back at someone, and THAT would make their lives better."

This explains the common puzzle of why it is that modern-day "liberals" are still indulgent about the old Soviet system. As Amis (2002 -- review here) points out, the many people in literary and academic circles today who once supported Stalin and his heirs are generally held blameless and may even still be admired whereas anybody who gave the slightest hint of support for the similarly brutal Hitler regime is an utter polecat and pariah. Why? Because Hitler's enemies were "only" the Jews whereas Stalin's enemies were those the modern day Left still hates -- people who are doing well for themselves materially. Modern day Leftists understand and excuse Stalin and his supporters because Stalin's hates are their hates.

Nonetheless, it still is pretty strange how being a Communist can be regarded by apparently well-informed people as being so much more forgivable than being a Nazi sympathizer. I certainly cannot see that there is not much to choose between the two. Both were murderous Leftist sects. A reader sent one explanation to me:

Quote:You know how Hannah Arendt claims, in Antisemitism, that part of the reason why antiSemites hate Jews is that they fear that Jews might really be the "Chosen people"? Well, by the same line of reasoning, one could argue that the reason Americans hate the Nazis is this: Americans fear that the Germans might really be the Superior Race. That is probably why the U.S. Media focuses so much more on the crimes of Nazi Germany than those of Soviet Russia and Red China, despite the fact that Soviet Russia and Red China were each chock full of Concentration Camps too, and were at least as vicious and savage about how they had captured, tortured, and killed their victims.

I wonder if there is a grain of truth in that? I simply do not know. The idea that Northern Europeans are innately superior in any way is SO politically incorrect these days that one wonders whether a fear that the idea might have some truth in it might be part of the reason why it is rejected so furiously.

Another reason for the different evaluation of Nazis and Communists by opinion-makers, however, is that Communists are better hypocrites. They make good use of the distinction we make between intended and unintended crimes and pretend to be well-meaning and compassionate -- where the Nazis made no such pretence -- so people give Communists the benefit of the doubt. No-one who knows history would do so, however.

Much the same explanation applies, of course, to the similar puzzle of why the French military dictator, Napoleon, is to this day generally regarded as a hero even though practically every family in the France of his day lost a son in his wars. The figures for Napoleon's Russian campaign alone are horrendous. He took 600,000 men into Russia but brought back only 70,000. In terms of loss of life, Napoleon's wars were every bit as bad for France as Hitler's wars were for Germany but Hitler is universally (and justly) reviled whereas Napoleon is still admired!

But some French historians do perceive Napoleon for what he really was: Maturin sees Napoleon as a kind of early Stalin: "Yes, I do agree with Maturin. Buonaparte did France -a country that he hated as a youth- very great harm indeed, not only because he brought about the death of vast numbers of Frenchmen, far more than even Louis XIV, but because he left the country with a curiously vulgar notion of glory, which Louis did not. I do not think he restored French national identity at all, but superimposed upon it a trashy chauvinism that is still sadly active"

Napoleon, however, justified all his actions as extending the French revolution and its "enlightenment" to other lands and this explanation still resounds favourably with today's Left-leaning intellectuals -- bloodshed regardless.

V.D. Hanson has an interesting review of a recent book about Napoleon that also looks at why the murderous Corsican dictator is still widely admired -- even by his chief victims (the French). Excerpt:

Quote:"Indeed Napoleon's enduring resonance in some parts of contemporary Western society tells us as much about ourselves as it does the self-proclaimed emperor. Johnson's matter-of-fact chronicle of executions, grotesque battle losses, betrayal, and outright lying - stripped of Napoleonic fluff and bluster- reflects deeply-rooted Anglo skepticism about messianic killers, as the principled careers of Englishmen like Edmund Burke, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, and most recently Tony Blair attest. In contrast, for the insecure, megalomaniac, and duplicitous, Napoleonic power holds an eternal appeal."

In his post of November 13, 2002, Arthur Silber has also put up an excerpt from the same biography of Napoleon that points out how totalitarian Napoleon in fact was. And Leftists love power over other people with a passion:

Quote:"The [French] Revolution was a lesson in the power of "disgusting" to replace idealism, and Bonaparte was its ideal pupil. Moreover, the Revolution left behind itself a huge engine: administrative and legal machinery to repress the individual such as the monarchs of the ancien regime never dreamed of; a centralized power to organize national resources that no previous state had ever possessed; an absolute concentration of authority, first in a parliament, then in a committee, finally in a single tyrant, that had never been known before; and a universal teaching that such concentration expressed the general will of a united people, as laid down in due constitutional form, approved by referendum. In effect, then, the Revolution created the modern totalitarian state, in all essentials, if on an experimental basis, more than a century before it came to its full and horrible fruition in the twentieth century. It also became, as Professor Herbert Butterfield has put it, 'the mother of modern war...[heralding] the age when peoples, woefully ignorant of one another, bitterly uncomprehending, lie in uneasy juxtaposition, watching one another's sins with hysteria and indignation. It heralds Armageddon, the giant conflict for justice and right between angered populations, each of which thinks it is the righteous one. So a new kind of warfare is born--the modern counterpart of the old conflicts of religion.'"

Envy is a very common thing and most of us have probably at some time envied someone but, for someone with the Leftist's strong ego needs, envy becomes a hatred and a consuming force that easily accounts for the ferocious brutality of Communist movements and the economically destructive policies (such as punitively high taxation, price controls and over-regulation generally) employed by Leftists in resolutely democratic societies. So the economic destruction and general impoverishment typically brought about by Leftists is not as irrational as it at first seems. The Leftist actually wants that. Making others poorer is usually an infinitely higher priority for him than doing anybody any good.

We have some experimental evidence of that. There is a summary here by Ilana Mercer of some research in which the researchers gave people the opportunity of destroying wealth belonging to others as long as they accepted that some of their own wealth would be destroyed in the process too. So how much were people are willing to lose themselves if they could at the same time destroy the wealth of others? Lots! Impoverishing others is demonstrably worth a lot to some people:

[quote]The countless individuals who are at the receiving end of irrational malice from their lessers will agree with me that an experiment conducted at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford was more of a confirmation than an investigation of human nature. Ingeniously operationalized by Professor Andrew Oswald and Dr. Daniel Zizzo, the experiment demonstrated the lengths to which people will go to destroy the wealth of others, even if, in the process, they knowingly wipe out their own funds.... Whether or not they are aware of the indirect harm to themselves, a sizeable majority of people in society does indeed want to see the wealth of others burned

One suspects that most individual Leftists realize that no revolution or social transformation is ever going to put them personally into a position of wealth or power so the destruction of the wealth and power and satisfaction of those who already have it must be the main thing they hope to get out of supporting Leftist politics.

Such thinking goes some way towards explaining the really rather strange phenomenon of American anti-Americanism. As James Piereson says:

Quote:"From the time of John Kennedy's assassination in 1963 to Jimmy Carter's election in 1976, the Democratic party was gradually taken over by a bizarre doctrine that might be called Punitive Liberalism. According to this doctrine, America had been responsible for numerous crimes and misdeeds through its history for which it deserved punishment and chastisement. White Americans had enslaved blacks and committed genocide against Native Americans. They had oppressed women and tyrannized minority groups, such as the Japanese who had been interned in camps during World War II. They had been harsh and unfeeling toward the poor. By our greed, we had despoiled the environment and were consuming a disproportionate share of the world's wealth and resources. We had coddled dictators abroad and violated human rights out of our irrational fear of communism.

During the 1970s an impressive network of interest groups was developed to promote and take advantage of this sense of historical guilt. These included the various feminist and civil rights groups who pressed for affirmative action, quotas, and other policies to compensate women and minorities for past mistreatment; the welfare rights organizations who claimed that welfare and various poverty programs were entitlements or, even better, reparations that were owed to the poor as compensation for similar mistreatment; the environmental groups who pressed for ever more stringent regulations on business; and the various human rights and disarmament groups who pressed the government to punish or disassociate the United States from allies who were said to violate human rights. These groups took up influential roles in the Democratic party and in the Congress, and ensconced themselves in university departments from which outposts they promoted and elaborated upon the finer points of Punitive Liberalism.

The punitive aspects of this doctrine were made especially plain in debates over the liberals' favored policies. If one asked whether it was really fair to impose employment quotas for women and minorities, one often heard the answer, "White men imposed quotas on us, and now we're going to do the same to them!" Was busing of school children really an effective means of improving educational opportunities for blacks? A parallel answer was often given: "Whites bused blacks to enforce segregation, and now they deserve to get a taste of their own medicine!" Do we really strengthen our own security by undercutting allied governments in the name of human rights, particularly when they are replaced by openly hostile regimes (as in Iran and Nicaragua)? "This"--the answer was--"is the price we have to pay for coddling dictators." And so it went. Whenever the arguments were pressed, one discovered a punitive motive behind most of their policies."

Hurting their happily prosperous countrymen and making them suffer and feel guilty was the real goal of the American Leftists concerned. For a fuller account of the enormously destructive nature of envy see Schoeck (1969).

A book on globalization by Brink Lindsey is also relevant here. Lindsey points out that globalization is just an extension onto the international stage of the long struggle against government intervention in business activity generally. Now that we know how destructive and impoverishing government intervention in business is, we should not be surprised that government intervention in the international activities of business is equally counter-productive. So if Leftists WANT to keep the general population as impoverished as possible, they would oppose globalization. And they do!

Whether or not someone is important, rich, successful, famous etc., is however of course very much a matter of individual perception. If many of the world's most famous sports stars were introduced to me, for instance, I might well in all innocence proceed to ask them; "And what do you do for a living?". And while Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is my personal hero, there are many, even in academe, who would never have heard of the Mahatma. This "relativity" of importance, prestige etc. would seem to explain why many active Leftists are in fact college or university professors. College or university professor is a generally high status occupation that provides an above-average income so might, on the face of it, be seen as already providing considerable recognition and praise. But if status is precisely why certain people have gone to the considerable trouble generally required to enter that occupation, it could well be that the ego need of that person is so big that even more recognition is then craved. A college professorship may be prestigious but still be seen as providing far too little power, public exposure and opportunity for self-display. "Seeing I am so smart, I should be running the whole show", is an obvious line of thought for such people. Just some power and fame is still not enough power and fame for them.

Robert Nozick's explanation of why most intellectuals oppose capitalism in general and the USA in particular is well worth a read. Basically, Nozick's point is that intellectuals think that our society does not reward them to the vast degree that they think they deserve. So in childish petulance they do all they can to denigrate that "unappreciative" society.

Eric Hoffer had a related idea. He pointed out that true believers were people of frustrated ego needs. Note this summary by Thomas Sowell:

Quote:Among Hoffer's insights about mass movements was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and - more important - in their own eyes. He pointed out that the leaders of the Nazi movement were men whose artistic and intellectual aspirations were wholly frustrated.

Hoffer said: "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding," Hoffer said. "When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

Egotism and hunger for power and attention do of course make a mockery of the Leftist's claim to be in favour of equality. Like the pigs in George Orwell's "Animal farm", the Leftist wants to be "more equal than others". He wants to rule or at least dominate. Beneath his deceptive rhetoric, he is the ultimate elitist. He actually despises most of his fellow men and thinks that only he and his clique are fit to run everything. The last thing he wants is to be lost in a sea of equal people. This was of course amply shown in the Soviet Union, where membership of the Communist Party became the only pathway to the good life -- conferring on the member all sorts of privileges and access to goods and services not available to other Soviet citizens.

And the converse also seems to be true. Not only are Leftists crypto-elitists but elites also tend to be Leftist. See here for more on why and how that is so.

One does not have to look far to see proof of the Leftist contempt for ordinary people and their ways. Leftists who gain unrestricted power (e.g. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) would not exterminate people by the millions if they respected them. But you do not need to look at Stalin to see the hatred at work. To take just one small instance that we never cease hearing about:

Ordinary people worldwide greatly enjoy McDonald's hamburgers. What McDonald's sells is a minor variation of basic Western foods (meat, bread, potatoes and salad) but the minor variation concerned is almost universally enjoyed. And Leftists hate that! They go green with envy at McDonald's enormous success. So they turn themselves inside-out to find fault in any conceivable way with the McDonald's version of meat, bread and potatoes and salad. Examples of the hostility are so common that they hardly need mentioning but this is just one. Excerpt:

Quote:"'Hey, hey, ho, ho, drugs in meat have got to go' chanted protestors outside a McDonald's in Maine. They held up massive 'pill burgers' (hamburgers with a big pill inside) and were joined by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Michael Khoo, who recently wrote an article entitled 'Want drugs with those fries?' While Khoo tries to scare the public about antibiotics in hamburgers, the organization he works for declares that it's a non-issue."

McDonald's is of course super-careful NOT to do anything that might harm their customers so the Leftists have to resort to criticisms that would condemn most family dinners if generally applied -- but that does not worry Leftists, of course. Their hatred of other people's success and of the simplicity of ordinary people submerges all else and causes them to seethe with destructive anger and to nitpick at McDonalds constantly. THEY want the success and acclaim that McDonalds enjoys.

But nothing above, of course, is meant to suggest that pressing ego needs, self-righteousness, envy etc are confined to Leftists. It is merely meant to say that Leftism is the principal POLITICAL expression of such needs. Such needs can also be met by religion etc. and it must be noted that Communism was often described as a religion by its critics. Why people choose politics rather than some other means of meeting their ego needs would have to be the subject of a whole new enquiry but it seems possible that the potentially very broad exposure that politics provides to an individual might attract the people with the very highest ego needs. This high level of ego need among Leftists would also explain the generally much greater political activism of the political Left compared to the rather somnolent political Right.

It would also explain why Leftists so often have a "spare me the details" or "Don't worry about the facts" orientation. For most Leftists, it is the activism itself rather than what is advocated that is the main point of the exercise. As long as the cause advocated is both generally praiseworthy and disruptive to implement, that will suffice. The insincerity of the Leftist is of course an abiding theme in the many writings of Ayn Rand (e.g. Rand, 1957) -- who sees the hunger for power as the real motivation behind everything that the Leftist does. If he cannot have power, however, attention and praise are the next best thing from a Leftist's point of view.

The need for self-display does however in MOST people tend to decline as they mature -- which is part of the reason why graduates tend to be less radical than students and why older people tend to be much more conservative than young people (Ray, 1985). To misquote Lenin (1952) only slightly, much of Leftism would appear to be "an infantile disorder".

In that connection it might be worth noting that John Hudock has a fascinating summary of the ways in which "liberals" remind him of his 5 year old daughter. Excerpts:

Quote:She thinks everything in the world exists already and the only problem is distribution. I.E. How more of the stuff can get distributed to her.

She wants the government (me and my lovely wife) to solve all her problems and protect her from all harm but fails to see that this requires that we put severe restrictions on her activities.

It occurs to me that some Leftists may want to argue that it is normal to have a very hungry ego. "Everyone wants praise and to be noticed", they might say. And there may be some truth in that. It is whether the ego need is so strong as to take over all else that it the real issue, however. Note also that many people -- particularly conservatives, of course -- do NOT seek attention and praise. One everyday example (excerpt):

Quote:A true Christian conservative: "I attended the Memorial Service of Rev. Joseph Sheley yesterday. As I listened to speaker after speaker talk about Joe, it was clear that he was one of those who went to be with his Lord owning that most precious of possessions - a good name. Joe was not a flashy man. He was not one to push himself forward or to try to gain attention for himself. And he didn't have much in terms of this world's wealth. But he was a very rich man. He was rich in family who treasured him... Joe's children, grand-children, and great grand-children loved him, and with good reason. He loved them with all his heart, and taught them important life lessons that will stand them in good stead for as long as they walk the earth... He was rich in the esteem in which others held him. That was evident in the faces of the many who came to honor him at his memorial service... He accomplished many things for the Lord about which he could have boasted. I never heard him do so".

And a much less everyday example was of course Ronald Reagan:

"I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie. He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn't feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone." -- Nancy Reagan. And: "He was hated for precisely the same reasons he was loved. He had convictions and made those without them look weak. ... He knew who he was before he came to office; he did not need the office to complete him." -- Cal Thomas.

And Eamonn Butler (post of 7th. June, 2004) noted Reagan's lack of egotism too:

Quote:"The pompous conceit of the media Establishment is parried by Reagan's own epitaph on his administration, which reveals his own complete lack of both pomposity and conceit, tempering his pride in having changed minds and changed events: "Men and women across America for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.""

But Jeff Jacoby sums up Ronald Reagan's humility best. A small excerpt:

[quote]"But one trait has gone largely unmentioned: His remarkable humility.... But if no man was his better, neither was he the better of any man. That instinctive sense of the equality of all Americans never left him -- not even when he was the one with fame and power. I don't think I have ever heard a story about Reagan in which he came across as arrogant or supercilious. In a number of reminiscences this week, former staffers have described what it was like to work for the president. Several have recalled how, even when they were at the bottom of the pecking order, he never made them feel small or unworthy of notice. To the contrary: He noticed them, talked to them, made them feel special. Reagan climbed as high as anyone in our age can climb. But it wasn't ego or a craving for honor and status that drove him, and he never lost his empathy for ordinary Americans -- or his c


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