The Left’s Greatest Mind-Trick: Politicizing Emotion
The greatest mind-trick in the left’s entire arsenal is politicizing emotion. Once one accomplishes that, there is no limit on a government’s mandate to take action, since there are no rational limits on emotion.
Take the following emotionally extreme examples into consideration. Is it right or wrong to kill a baby for a million dollars? How about murdering a school full of children for a billion dollars? Or how about shooting a family member for a trillion dollars?
As horrendous as it is to contemplate committing any of these foul acts, the monetary amount, itself a reflection of material resources and human labor, doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not something is right.
Now, consider the welfare state. Is it right or wrong to help a poor person? What about providing for children’s education? Or making sure that everyone has health coverage? These things appear self-evidently right, and therefore the cost doesn’t matter to the left. Scarcity and how resources are employed don’t enter into the equation. Voluntary or involuntary, it doesn’t matter how these things are done. So it doesn’t matter if government forces people to do something or not.
Now consider the case of gun control laws, which have no factual evidence to back up their effectiveness, given real-world constraints. Guns cannot be un-invented — only taken away and put into some people’s hands, but not others. But since guns make leftists feel yucky, it’s best to have the government make them disappear.
Since so many on the left are dominated by feelings, and not animated as much by concern for facts and reason, most don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They just hope that things will get better. This is not to say that left-wingers are stupid; they are rather expert rationalizers and sophists. They put the cart before the horse — emotion before reason.
Today’s typical totalitarian leftist is thus not a jackboot-wearing thug, but an overly sensitive, cardigan-wearing milquetoast, whose obsessions about feelings make him immune to rational argument. The danger of granting the government endless power to do good, like everything else, is rationalized away or dismissed by the leftist, since even the thought of making peace with an imperfect world makes him uncomfortable. This is why the left will never learn from history: the past is only prologue to the coming utopia, which will be perfectly just and fair.
Leftists are convinced they are on the side of right. They don’t care about the cost; they care about humanity. Due to their preoccupation about humanity, they don’t particularly care about individuals (ask any leftist what he thinks about the tens of millions killed by avowed socialists). This does not mean that leftists are hard-hearted; rather, they tend to be hyper-sensitive stars in their own imagined melodrama. And furthermore, their emotion-centrism does not rule out calculation and cunning, since their entire thought process is focused on effecting power, which they believe will be used for good. The ends justify the means.
Left-wingers tend to be crusaders who love everyone so much that they are willing to stick others with the bill for any cause they deem fit. Save the planet, even if that means some people suffer. (See malaria and DDT; ethanol subsidies and world hunger; fracking and man-made global warming hysteria, etc.) Wage an endless and self-defeating war on poverty, meanwhile impoverishing the nation. Rationalize away human nature, as if punishing productive behavior and subsidizing idleness will not damage an economy over generations. We are equally poor, but the left feels better for having tried.
Such slipshod thinking makes all discussion about debt pointless. It doesn’t matter what rational limits one wants to impose on do-gooderism; the leftist just perceives the arguer as evil for even suggesting that there are limits, let alone that there should be limits. And the obvious fact that government cannot cure all the world’s ills is lost on him. As Thomas Reed wrote, “[o]ne of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.”
Aggravating this delusion, if someone suggests that he owns his own life, the leftist has two reactions: first, that person is selfish and greedy; and second, that socialist schemes are perfectly compatible with freedom and democracy. Of course, they aren’t — as the shrewder political observers since Alexis de Tocqueville have been able to figure out.
Democracy values each man at his highest; socialism makes of each man an agent, an instrument, a number. Democracy and socialism have but one thing in common-equality. But note well the difference. Democracy aims at equality in liberty. Socialism desires equality in constraint and in servitude.
Human beings don’t need coercion to do what’s right for themselves, but coercion is needed for human beings to force others to sacrifice on their behalves. The way to make the world better is simple: people should stop using coercion to make others serve them, and people should serve themselves. Economy and society should be free and respectful of individuals. This is what the market system is about: serving oneself by serving others, and specifically, by offering goods and services in exchange for money.
Oh, but that’s so heartless!
“But what is the conservative’s response to all the world’s suffering?” the leftist screams. “What are we to do about [name the anecdotal case of misfortune]? Do conservatives really want to do nothing?”
The best answer is captured by Frederic Bastiat.
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
The principled answer to the leftist who believes he is on the side of right, and therefore that the means to his ends are inconsequential, is that no one is born into this world owned by anyone else, including the abstract concept of “society.” An argument against such reasoning is implicitly an argument for the enslavement of some human beings to others. Since this is anathema to the state of nature and is self-evidently a grotesquery, all rational justification for omnipotent government is ruled out. A human being’s life is his own means and end-in-itself.
Since civilization flourished due to reason and not pure emotion, as agricultural and productive organization allowed human beings to employ resources in the environment to better their situation, the politicization of emotion, or the use of force to back feelings, leads to anarchy and social destruction. Leftists should consider this well before believing that any particular misfortune obligates the socialization of suffering, forestalling but never removing accumulated ruin — whether through the means of debt or through the mass wreckage of human lives.
Running counter to this history of social disaster, the Constitution is the pinnacle of reasoned political science and the legal barricade against the mob mentality that drives majoritarian democracy. Demagogues arise under such a system of government, because they promise the majority the spoils of government looting, meanwhile stoking the flames of populist passions. The rule of law and the scientific method were developed precisely to protect human beings from the hazards of acting on raw emotion and ignorance. Democratic politicians and left-wing activists, on the other hand, thrive on these human vulnerabilities.
Cross-posted at American Thinker.