Leftist public intellectuals have been soundly defeated in the idea wars, but they keep trying to break through the ideological walls constraining their influence. The motivation of these thinkers is a desire for power, to have authority over others, to control the terms of the debate so that only THEY determine what is morally and intellectually legitimate. It’s a power struggle. Jonah Goldberg points out that every society has a “priestly” class that defines the scope of right thinking and action. That role was played by actual priests in antiquity. Our modern clerisy is increasingly found among a self-anointed class of academics, activists, writers and artists (filmmakers are the worst) who claim a monopoly on virtue. They get to decide what is right or wrong, not you.
They keep trying, with some success among the uneducated, apathetic, gullible masses. The popularity of “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders and the surprising number of foolish millennials buying into socialism is cringe worthy. However, anyone truly aware of economic and political history can see that peddlers of these concepts are merely rehashing old bad ideas that were exposed as wrong many years ago. Socialism is still socialism even if you dress it up and call it by different names. That’s how socialism manifests – through propaganda. And Leftist propaganda is becoming more apparent for what it is as history unfolds and reflects back on itself.
Robert Kuttner’s new book Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? (2018) is interesting. Kuttner’s arguments rely heavily on the ideas of Karl Polanyi (1886-1964). Polanyi’s “masterwork” (as Kutnner calls it) is The Great Transformation (1944), published in the same year as F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, as an alternative to free-market economics. [We carefully walked through every chapter of Hayek’s book here from 11/30/16-1/31/17.] Polanyi is the patron saint for bitter critics of “neoliberal” (traditional free market based) economic thought. Guys like Kuttner, Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich have a deep antipathy for loosely regulated free markets and continue to publically argue vehemently and persistently for more and more Government control of the economy. They are wrong. As I often say in an exaggerated southern Missouri accent…. Government don’t work good.
Hayek taught us that social freedom can only come about through economic freedom. Polanyi and Kuttner believe that Government can protect personal freedom in a centrally planned economy. History has shown this view to be naïve, ineffective and eventually…..genocidal.