Dear Dr. Hurd,
You recently wrote:
“The people who command and expand our Big Government know this. They tend to be the educated elites. They tend to be the Ph.D.s and the intellectuals.”
I have wondered about this. Why are so many civilized, intelligent, well to do people so far to the left, particularly when it is ultimately against their own self-interest?
Their air of refinement and “compassion” lends an air of credibility, which can be quite convincing and alluring to those who do not think their ideas through carefully.
You mentioned control of education and the psyches of the masses through the teachings of the public schools as the motive, but outside of the president and his “leaders” I don’t think power is the goal of most lefties. There must be guilt, religion or ignorance driving their misguided ideas in the name of compassion.
I did a search on You Tube for Objectivism [Ayn Rand’s philosophy of capitalism, individualism and rationality] in my quest for knowledge and I came up with quite a few red-necked (religious) hicks who could barely string together a grammatically correct sentence touting Objectivism. This seems upside down and makes rationality a tough sell to intelligent, refined people, unfortunately.
Dr. Hurd replies:
Times change, and they eventually will. I can’t say when, but I can be sure they will. How can I be so sure?
First of all, being wrong can only sustain you for so long. The prevailing attitude in leftist circles is, ‘You’re not Republican, are you?!’ Or, ‘You’re not a capitalist, are you?!’ Ayn Rand is widely known, but not [yet] taken seriously by leftists, at least. But if you say you’re in favor of Ayn Rand, you’ll get the same, ‘What?! You don’t like her, do you?’
This is the psychology of people who are sure they are right, and see no reason to question it. In other words, they’re no longer thinking. It’s also the psychology of people who, as individuals, are very frightened of being seen as different, or as out of the mainstream. Today’s liberalism IS conservative, in the deepest sense of that term: Unwilling to reconsider, think or change.
The psychology and attitude of contemporary liberals, from Obama on down, is one of resentment, rigidity and arrogance. It’s not idealism at all. The closest they get to idealism are the rotten bums stinking up the streets in the “Occupy” temper tantrums in cities across the country. These are not the actions, attitudes or strategies of people who truly have anything of substance to say. They’re not idealists, but simply nihilists. They’re not the movers and shakers who will ever do anything to change the world as we know it.
The real, and serious, intellectual activity is taking place on the right.
The times are changing because nothing can ever stand still. Even Obama will eventually go. No, I’m not saying things are moving to the ‘right’ or to an Ayn Rand-like revolution. Most of the evidence at the moment suggests the opposite, if anything. In today’s climate, even with the sagging economy and fiscal disaster, it’s unlikely that even Ronald Reagan could win.
However, things are falling apart. And it’s happening on the socialist liberals’ watch. Everyone knows it because it’s simply self-evident.
The non-leftist point of view suggests that this was inevitable. The liberal point of view suggests all we need is MORE Big Government, and things will start to get better. Sadly (to those of us who don’t agree), we are getting more Big Government. We have been getting huge, huge doses of Big Interventionist Government since the last year of Bush’s term in office. Bush was no proponent of little government, either, but Obama has massively expanded on Bush’s interventions. The Republican House of the last year can or will do nothing to stop it. They seem to have simply given up.
The presidential election won’t change much. Let’s face facts. Obama is probably going to win. He might or might not get a more Democratic Congress—that could go either way. Romney could win, but if he does, it won’t matter much. Once Romney is President, he’s going to be like John McCain has been his whole career. He’s going to care more about pleasing the leftist establishment, and convincing them he’s not all THAT conservative, than he’s going to care about the Tea Party. He really won’t need the Tea Party, even if the Tea Party strengthens its hold on Congress. He’s got the Republican nomination for next time, and he’ll do his best to be a two-term President, by trying to get the left on his side. It won’t work. Given how little pressure the conservative Republicans in Congress have put on Obama, it seems highly unlikely they will give a moderate or left-leaning Romney any more pressure.
The bigger point here is that one way or another, we’re going to keep getting more leftist policies. They’re not going to work. Anything short of four percent economic growth a year and five percent or less unemployment will not be the American economy we’re accustomed to. By fixing and lying about the numbers, Obama is actually convincing more Americans than not (at this moment) that things are getting better. They’re not. And imagine a Republican President who had nothing better to run on than 8 percent unemployment and barely 1 percent of economic growth per year. It would be a bigger blowout than Obama’s victory against John McCain last time around.
Liberalism and socialism are about to achieve their biggest failure since FDR’s inability (after three terms) to end the Great Depression. Roosevelt was rescued by the distraction of World War II, but in today’s world it’s hard to imagine what such a “rescue” for Obama would look like. In academia, there are going to be more and more young, new people coming on the scene, people who look at the evidence of their own lifetimes and think, ‘Maybe some of those limited government people have a point. Who are those Austrian economists, again, the ones who promote laissez-faire capitalism? Didn’t that one president, Ronald Reagan, make some good points? And what about Ayn Rand? She at least deserves a reading.’
Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. It has to happen. Human beings don’t ultimately want failure. Failure is not a good thing.
The intellect matters. Just as the brain and the mind are the most important part of an individual, so too with a culture. Religious conservatives are never going to be the ones to sell America, including sophisticated cultural elites, on capitalism and individual rights. Like you say, many of these people are semi-literate and can gain no serious standing anywhere. Even the ones who are more literate are finding that you cannot base liberty on supernaturalism. Freedom is something required by the rational intellect, not by a praying person more concerned with an afterlife than survival on earth. Once enough intellectuals make this connection, socialism will have the fight of its life in academia.
It’s not the tail that will set us on a new cultural (including political) course. It’s the brain; the mind. The intellectuals will have to change. The ones currently there will have to die off. It’s the next generation we’re counting on. They’re going to need a lot of good ideas to clean up the mess that their elders created. The only creative, innovative and rational ideas are to be found on the right.