Of Course They Don't Know What It Is

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Jonah Goldberg considers an apparent paradox of our younger generation regarding socialism, namely that so many at once profess support for it and demonstrate ignorance of it.

On the other hand, what are we to make of the fact that only a fraction of the young people who say they like socialism can explain what it is? If left-wing indoctrination is so effective at getting kids to like socialism, you'd think it would have more success at getting kids to at least parrot back a serviceable definition.
I disagree with that last sentence.

Goldberg notes a lack of confidence on their part in the government's ability to run the economy, and ends with the following expression of astonishment at a missed connection:
If government planners can't even provide goods and services efficiently, how will they ever provide togetherness?
All of this reminded me of a quote, bolded below, which is part of a larger one that explains important aspects of any attempt at indoctrination:
Some people might answer: "Sure, I've said those things at different times, but I don't have to believe that stuff all of the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it's not true today." They got it from Hegel. They might say: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." They got it from a very little mind, Emerson. They might say: "But can't one compromise and borrow different ideas from different philosophies according to the expediency of the moment?"

They got it from Richard Nixon -- who got it from William James.

Now ask yourself: if you are not interested in abstract ideas, why do you (and all men) feel compelled to use them? The fact is that abstract ideas are conceptual integrations which subsume an incalculable number of concretes -- and that without abstract ideas you would not be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems. You would be in the position of a newborn infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed.

You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions -- or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew. [bold added] (Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 279-280)
Socialism has been tried numerous times and, because of its nature, it has failed to create or maintain prosperity every single time. (That nature includes both a failure to respect individual rights (most egregiously the right to property) and an attempt to replace the minds (and knowledge) of millions of people with the relative handful of the central planners.) A student who knew this much about socialism, or (God forbid!) had a mind intact enough to make this realization for himself, would be a poor target for any indoctrination attempt.

Although the ultimately oxymoronic term "useful idiot" is often misattributed to Vladimir Lenin, it is a perfect description of the kind of electorate straight socialism needs to take root in a republic, since almost anyone with an ounce of desire for self-preservation, a decent educational background (especially in the post-Soviet era), and a functioning intellect would "drop [it] like a hot potato" otherwise.

Note the term, "almost." Human beings have free will, and some would advocate socialism even knowing full well what it is. (Some of these want to be the "planners" due to power-lust, and some regard equality of results (even if they are miserable) as a moral ideal.) It is also important to note that acceptance of the positive alternative of capitalism takes more than just common sense. Recall that Ayn Rand wrote an entire book called Capitialism: The Unknown Ideal. Even with a much-better educated electorate, there would be a need to argue against socialism and, more important, for capitalism. But we would not have hoards of people mouthing support for universal slavery in the name of "togetherness" and with the false hope that such togetherness would be pleasant.

-- CAV

P.S. Let me add further that I do not attribute the current popularity of "socialism" entirely to leftist propaganda. Many people wrongly believe that the current poor economy is capitalist and understandably want an alternative. These individuals are reachable, and hardly deserve to be called "useful idiots."

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