The socialist left purports to promote universal acceptance, the provision of basic human needs, and the freeing of spontaneous creative impulses. But due to several fundamental misunderstandings about humanity, which play directly into the hands of totalitarian politicians, socialists actually destroy human rationality, content families, harmonious societies, productive economies, and any semblance of government based on true justice.
The implementation of the value of equality is the cover the left runs under to destroy capitalism, hierarchical political and social structures, and reason as a prelude to human reinvention. Since equality is not an ethic grounded in reality or reflected by nature, this moral imperative wars against nature, and by extension, human nature itself.
Why are those on the left so dismissive of human nature in their worldview? Why do they not account for economic limitations whatsoever? The answer is that they share a deeply totalitarian desire to create values in absolute freedom and to remake humanity as they see fit. This necessarily entails giving the state unlimited power.
Leftists argue that conservatism is obsolete because its assumptions about human beings’ rational nature are ill-founded. Many on the left believe that the Enlightenment’s emphasis on reason portrays a half-human view of people. They claim that they desire to integrate man’s rational and emotional sides in order to restore human relations and a government based on compassion, empathy, and love, rather than rational self-interest.
But primarily because they tend to live in a state of material comfort, leftists are led to believe that civilization is an artificial state of affairs where man is insulated from the demands of nature; and therefore, natural law. Human nature and history do not apply. In other words, man can be reinvented and re-engineered by a socialist vanguard. This endeavor would supposedly save man and eliminate war, poverty, and misery.
Human experience does not support the left’s point of view. The main source of the leftist’s misunderstanding of human nature is that he assumes that man is a product of society. He also directly and irrationally wars against the chief factor that led to human civilization: rationality.
Rationality to the left is a grave enemy. It is a state of mind appearing to the left as rigid, blunt, and alien. The leftist adopts this view of rationality because he fears the regimentation of human life and thought, the formalization of human relations in a market (what Marxists might call “commodifying” human relations), and the withering of emotions such as compassion and empathy. Ironically, it is the pursuit of a society rooted in emotion and not reason that leads straight to the collectivist mob mentality so characteristic of totalitarian regimes.
The left’s emotion-based outlook creates what has been called “repressive tolerance,” or an irrational lashing out against human judgment and all forms of traditional morality. The cultural marxist left cannot accept “civil society” as a place of free-ranging emotions and spontaneous value creation, competition, and destruction in the industrial-capitalist context; to him, society must be co-opted and managed towards the obliteration of value judgment as a necessary step towards domination of the economic system.
Mankind must be economically dominated so that social engineering can proceed from a material basis. In the capitalist hierarchical context the left’s destructive plan is carried out by rewarding conformist behavior or non-critical thought; by suppressing those who succeed relative to others and who refuse to bend to leftist dictates; and by incentivizing failure. This system insulates the entrenched elites from challengers from below and embeds the elites’ fiats in all human relations.
Thus, there is an important flaw in the left’s reasoning (if we may distinguish it for sake of argument from rationalization), one encapsulated well by Michels’ “Iron Law of Oligarchy” or the idea that in every political system, oligarchs have a tendency to rule — the left exculpates itself from its own moral system, which is supposedly based on equality.
So we return to our original problem of man: Is he naturally a rational animal or an irrational emotional animal? The answer is that he is “naturally” neither.
Man has the capacity to reason; and as Ayn Rand shows in The Virtue of Selfishness, this faculty must be actively engaged and exercised or it decays and shrivels. Man has emotional instincts as well, and these are the most fundamental of needs to satisfy for healthy humans. But emotion must be put in the service of reason in order for civilization to flourish. Why is this?
Because a society that operates purely on emotion is not a society at all. It is animalistic in orientation at its very core. Justice itself is a concept that implies the application of uniform standards of behavior in society as a whole. This aspect of civilization proper requires reason, and not empathy or emotion removed from logic.
Without justice, the strong are free to oppress the weak, the clever to swindle the dull, and ruthless megalomaniacs to manipulate and rule the masses. There must be a set of codified morality to guide society, or else arbitrary or pure emotion will cause fluctuations in social relations, occasionally spilling into mob violence.
Only individual rationality can prevent the exploitation of man by man. Emotional manipulation, primarily employing fear, can only be countered with critical reason. The opposite of fear that is blind hope has been the preferred tool of demagogues since the dawn of civilization.
Yet emotion, and the display of it, has an important role to play in human relations. There is no actual dispute on this point here. There is the matter, however, of the role emotion plays in politics. For this matter, we should refer again to the importance of values.
Socialism fails because of its inability to acknowledge human nature and motivation. To quote Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action:
We call contentment or satisfaction that state of a human being which does not and cannot result in any action. Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly happy. (13)
Socialism sets out to fulfill human happiness through the provision of base material needs, but incentivizes idleness by removing the necessity to produce what satisfies those material needs. Socialism therefore leads ultimately to economic implosion. The system also debases people by destroying virtue, since loyalty to the party trumps all else. It demoralizes society by crushing the human spirit, thereby leading to precisely the kind of widespread alienation it proclaims to cure.
Men, being ultimately demoralized, do not cooperate with their enslavers under socialism, but are rather ambivalent. After society’s values are obliterated, wanton corruption and shameless inhumanity ensue. The result is an unproductive, impoverished, irrational, and vulgar society that collapses according to its own internal contradictions.
The task for the American patriot who seeks to preserve his society intact is to engage in rational discourse and value transmission with his fellow citizens. Individualist ethics, shared humanity, and truth are the weapons to prevent our demoralization and economic destruction.
Most importantly, it is our behavior in our community, our little kindnesses, our kindred observations, our understanding of the point of view of others and our friendly challenges to erroneous thinking that make the difference in the long-run. As Vaclav Havel put it, we must “live in truth” in order to defeat socialism.