Business Week’s Debate Room features a debate between Onkar Ghate and Christina Patterson, a Brit who is obviously a leftist. The difference in the quality of their arguments is striking. Ghate argues that Ayn Rand provides the philosophical foundation for the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness put forth in the Declaration of Independence. Patterson offers nothing but sneers, and asserts without evidence that Rand is a “crypto-fascist.”
Patterson’s argument, or lack thereof, is so typical of the left. Instead of a principled discussion of ideas, they go for ad hominem attacks and intimidation.
Years ago, a liberal answered an argument I put forth for laissez-faire capitalism by saying I was “hypnotized by the oligarchy.” He ignored my ideas and said, in other words, “There is something wrong with you that you would make this argument. You have been blinded by corporate propaganda so that you will support a social system based on greed.”
The left has lost confidence in reason because it is the party of the intellectual elite, the academics and modern philosophy. The black hole of postmodern philosophy is a radical subjectivism. If you believe that individuals act from “narratives” instead of reason that corresponds to the facts of reality, then there is not much use in arguing ideas. One might as well focus on intimidating people into accepting your side and communicating that the other side will win you no friends at a cocktail party.
The left has followed nihilist philosophy to its logical end: they have no ideas. They have nothing.
Right now we are seeing in the Obama Presidency/Pelosi House/Reid Senate just how far the left can go on nothing when it is supported by lies, demagogic rhetoric, a fawning mainstream media, and, most importantly, a culture of altruism. The damage is considerable and is far from over. However, I think the worst fears of the right are a bit exaggerated: I do not think we will see a total economic collapse anytime soon.
Sheldon Richman, a libertarian, made an interesting point on Glenn Beck. In the fascist states of the 1930’s the market was abolished. In America we still have a market with a pricing system that allows individuals to make rational calculations. I think this is the dividing line between a full fascist economy and a mixed economy with fascist tendencies in which the market is heavily burdened by state control.
It seems unlikely to me that the leftists in power at the moment could abolish the market in America even if they wanted to. And they do not want to go that far — they need the market in order to avoid the blame they would get for an economic collapse. The big businessmen that the Democrats demonize and blame for our crisis will continue to pursue a profit, American innovation will find ways around the dictates of the state, and the producers will keep the welfare state from ruinous collapse.
If there were radical leftists in power who actually wanted to cross the Rubicon of abolishing the market, they would need more intellectual ammunition than the nothing of sneers, smears and “Ayn Rand? Surely, you can’t be serious, darling.” The intellectual collapse of the left makes economic collapse less likely.
We will see an intensification of state control, the direction we have been heading for over a century, but it will take further crises to plunge us into dictatorship. For now, Atlas is still there, holding up the world.
One final thought. The intellectual collapse of the left is evidence that, in the long run, freedom’s greatest enemy will be religion. Religion doesn’t have much in the way of ideas but faith. Although it is intellectually insupportable, faith is something, as opposed to the black hole of postmodern philosophy. The west’s fate could come down to a battle between faith and reason.