Liberal Mythmaking and Theory Over Reality

Daniel Fernald at American Thinker discusses the creation and application of political myths and narratives by the left. While he doesn’t say it as such, he very ably identifies what I consider to be one of the major failings of leftist though: the supremacy of theory over reality.

Karl Marx, the original voice of “hope and change,” said it best in the eleventh of his “Theses on Feuerbach”: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”
In this, he was merely extending the logic (such as it was) of others who had come before him, including René Descartes and Immanuel Kant, who made the human mind — rather than the world — the starting point for scientific inquiry.
The goal of these earlier thinkers was, broadly speaking, scientific rather than political. Even so, Marx would later use a Hegelian variation on Kant’s position to make the political argument that external reality is an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a fact to be objectively, dispassionately, and scientifically understood. The good Marxist knows that the world is but raw matter to be reworked into the shape predetermined by the ideological mind.
Of course, putting ideas first and remaking the world in one’s own image can be a good thing. Such is the story of the American Founding. Much later, the seemingly unreachable dream of true racial equality was “midwifed” from the realm of ideas into flesh-and-blood reality by the heroes and journeymen of the civil rights movement. The nation responded to Dr. King’s words because he challenged the American people to live up to their ideals. He also drew from the deep well of our shared cultural and religious heritage.
What, then, distinguishes the Founders and Dr. King from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his Alinskyite White House protégé?
In a word: Memory.
What has historically distinguished conservative (or what used to be called “classical liberal”) political thought from that of leftists is that conservatives remember their mistakes and consequently can learn from them. Conservatism adapts its ideology to contrary evidence; liberalism reinterprets contrary evidence to fit its ideology.
For example, our Founders crafted our Constitution using the failed Articles of Confederation as both inspiration and object lesson.
In contrast, no matter how many times statism fails, the left mystically assures itself — and us — that “this time” it will work, somehow.
Historical ignorance and misology — i.e., the hatred of logic and reason — are part and parcel of the liberal mindset. Remembering the past spotlights the left’s repeated failures. Logic demonstrates the inevitability of those same failures.
The left is stuck in an endless cycle of error because it rejects negative feedback on its ideas. Like Kant and Marx, they know that their ideas are correct (even though they aren’t). Thus, if the available data contradicts the ideas that they know to be true a priori, then reality must be wrong. If it weren’t for liberals’ insistence on inflicting their ideas on the rest of us, their devotion to repeatedly debunked notions would almost be funny. Almost.
We are living in the midst of the topsy-turvy spectacle of these absurd ideas come to life.
How many times have you heard someone utter the ludicrous, self-contradictory but commonplace “Well, Communism may not work, but it’s a great idea”?
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  1. #1 by palabrer on Thu 15 Apr 2010 - 09:26

    An unfortunate but not uncommon misreading of Marx. Marx’ philosophy was very much a departure from Descartes, Kant and Hegel. To quote Marx, “instead of taking as point of departure the activities of human beings in pursuit of their workaday aims and the conditions under which they are formulated, [Hegel] begins with the ideas and thoughts which men offer as an explanation of those ends.” Likewise, the insinuation that the left, post-Marxist schools of thought have not reevaluated and adapted to the movements of history shows either a grave ignorance of leftist theory or a willful distortion of it.

    As for conservative assurance of rationality. We still hold history against you. Be it Reagan’s rationally unaccountable expansion of the military during peacetime (government expansion by any other name), his support for repressive Latin American governments including an unConstitutional debacle with the Contras, TEFRA, his huge expansion of the national debt. GWB brought on much the same: expanded government, deficit spending, add to that a Patriot Act that was unConstitutional upon delivery, a reliance on faulty or just manufactured intelligence that brought us into an extended war with a state that sponsored no terrorism, and let’s not forget the Recession where the laissez-faire brought down not just the banks and lenders but destabilized nearly everyone. If conservatives were on a winning streak we wouldn’t have Democratic control of the legislature and presidency.

    • #2 by The Republican Heretic on Thu 15 Apr 2010 - 09:53

      I’m not quite sure what historical evidence you can hold against conservatism in support of socialism. Reagan’s military buildup was an appropriate response to the Soviet military buildup — remember how those peaceful utopians in the USSR were planning for a nuclear first strike scenario? Reagan’s supported “repressive Latin American governments,” which were fighting against even more repressive communist regimes in the area, which now brutalize millions. The Patriot Act — which was voted for overwhelmingly by congress, including Democrats that still hold office – is not constitutional, and was even renewed by a Dem dominated congress. And continuing to pretend that free market principles, and not the heavy regulation and government control, cause the housing market to fail, only further illustrates my point.

      We’ll see if your alleged popularity of socialist policies continues over the next few years, and if the Democratic control over congress is maintained.

  2. #3 by palabrer on Thu 15 Apr 2010 - 22:36

    What I hold against conservative ideology is its inconsistencies, hypocrisy and ineffectual governance. If logic and reason were such hallmarks, again I would question why debt, tax hikes, public deception, disasterous foreign policy decisions (Saddam, Al-Qaeda, allies, Reagan?), sanctioned homophobia… became legacy?

    As for what I can offer in defense of socialism. I have never been or come close to being any kind of apologist for any socialist governments, at least none that survived (Spain came awfully close, pre-Franco.) Where strictly capitalist societies have provided reforms, I do see promise in the fact that the public right to intervene in what would otherwise be purely market-driven decisions has proven stable and popular. Public education, social security, Medicaid, environmental control, labor law, European health care, the EU…

    • #4 by The Republican Heretic on Fri 16 Apr 2010 - 18:03

      Do you have any objections to conservatism that aren’t straw man arguments? What hypocrisy is shown by conservative ideology? The most hypocritical actions by conservatives have been when they adopted liberal policies. Now there’s an example of true political hypocrisy: claims to increase freedom by dictating action, claims to share wealth by confiscating and taxing it, claims to reduce the national debt by reckless spending. You want public deception? Take a look at the propaganda spread by the left — you can start with the failed and flawed theories of Marx, move on to the tactics of the SA, and finish with the media smears of the Tea Party.

      Sanctioned homophobia? I missed that one as a party platform, sorry. Maybe you should look at how the Democrat Party treated gays throughout its history. Look at how gays are treated in communist countries.

      I’m also amused at your reluctance to defend socialist policies while trying to defend them. Your so-called “public interventions” in free market decisions have not “proven stable and popular.” Public education is a dismal failure, with political indoctrination, social promotion, and functional illiteracy among graduates being the norm. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that would land any other organization running something similar in jail, and has a negative return on your “investment,” if the government decides you can actually collect before you die. Medicaid is bankrupt, and the model of inefficiency. Environmental policies cost businesses and taxpayers millions, increase fuel costs dramatically, and result in some of the most draconian property restrictions imaginable. European health care is an abomination, with rationing and declining care the norm — the UK is producing pamphlets on how to perform home dentistry and minor surgery. This is the progress you want? These are promising reforms in your view?

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