Meanwhile, as anger over the legislation being debated in the Congress spills over into town hall meetings, news is emerging from all over the country that Democratic congressmen are simply avoiding meeting with their outraged constituents. As I discussed in my last post, the Democrats in Congress have condescendingly dismissed these protests as "manufactured", "astro-turf" protests carried out by racist "anti-reform mobs", or as Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid recently called them, "evil mongers". (I should note that Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee did graciously make time for the town hall protesters, although, the speakers did have to talk loudly in order to be heard over her cell phone conversation! And, Barney Frank managed to insult and disrespect his constituents very nicely as usual - although give him props for showing up.) For the latest example of their tactics, consider this post which details a left wing organization's attempt to pressure Glenn Beck's sponsors into pulling ads:
“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers.
“What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
We're making incredible progress. As Glenn Beck's advertisers learn of his hateful rhetoric, and how deeply it concerns thousands of organized people across the country, they're deciding that they don't want their companies associated with Beck's divisive fear-mongering. [emphasis mine]As always, there is no discussion of the content or validity of Beck's claims - only the accusation that he is "hateful" and a "fear-monger."
When liberals take time off from ad hominem and smears in order to broach the subject of proof, what do they offer as "evidence"? Consider this op-ed written by Obama himself arguing for socialized medicine in which he offers nothing but mushy sentimentality, vague platitudes, and outright contradictions . Additionally, recall Harry Reid's reference to Sen. Mark Begich's melting glacier "pictures" as evidence, and Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk's "feeling" that glaciers were melting - while literally in space. And finally, we can now add this smoking gun offered by Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow:
"Climate change is very real," she confessed as she embraced cap and trade's massive tax increase on Michigan industry - at the same time claiming, against all the evidence, that it would not lead to an increase in manufacturing costs or energy prices. "Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes." [emphasis mine]
While scientists like Dr. Will Happer rely on scientific reasoning to explain the causal relationship of CO2 to climate, economists such as Dr. George Reisman soberly demonstrate how individual rights and capitalism allow for the best possible way to adapt to any circumstance, and rational businessmen, like CEO John Mackey, offer intelligent approaches to health care that address the causes of the crisis, the liberals offer us anecdotes and expressions of their feelings.
In a previous post, I attempted to explain the reasons why such tactics are necessitated by their approach to ideas. Since they take a non-conceptual or non-objective approach, they must rely on faith or belief in the absence of evidence which necessitates appealing to others on the basis of non-cognitive factors such as emotion or mysticism. Consequently, the left must urge others to believe their ideas, not because they can prove that they are right, but because it feels good, or equivalently, because the opposing view scares them. Any rational scientist would be eager to stand up and demonstrate the validity of his theory by reference to the facts and the use of logic. Conversely, the intellectually bankrupt left hides from their opposition and offers nothing but slurs and appraisals of their emotions.
This is part of the reason that liberal congressmen, in defiance of economic and scientific logic, impetuously vote for Byzantine bills that threaten to upend a significant portion of the economy without bothering to analyze the details. The bills appeal to them on an emotional level - the level on which they are accustomed to operating. While it is a fact that the bills appeal to them emotionally, the question of why the particular content of these bills appeals to them still remains. I believe the answer rests on further consequences of the denial of objective epistemology and ethics.
To start, consider a another popular leftist tactic. Quoting an Obama adviser on their failure to pass health care:
Another adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "We always knew how challenging health care was. We knew it in the campaign. It's really compounded by trying to do it in a very tough environment. I think a lot of the stuff we've been doing lately is right. You've just got to figure out how to penetrate the message war." [emphasis mine]
This sentiment is expressed over and over by members of the Left. In other words, they never question the logic or reasonability of their own position - only the notion that the message is not being conveyed properly, i.e., people are not being properly conditioned by their appeals to emotion or the public smearing of the opposition. Consider their absolute obsession with Fox News, their threats to impose censorship of conservative talk radio (excuse me, a "fairness doctrine"), and their own diabolical emphasis on propaganda [1,2]. It is also not a coincidence that they connote these efforts as a form of "war".
When an individual rejects the efficacy of his own mind, like an animal, he must turn to a group for guidance, protection, and a sense of pseudo-self worth. The subjectivist left regards people, not as individuals, but as members of collectives whose identities are determined by the attributes of their group. Accordingly, they do not evaluate an idea in terms of truth or falsehood. That is too "simplistic." According to the left, people are conditioned by their circumstances, their "environment", or their race, socio-economic class, or gender. Therefore, it is not necessary to reason or offer a policy that is logically consistent with abstract principles pertaining to individual rights or the laws of economics. One must condition the opposition or "penetrate the message war" by finding some non-cognitive form of appeal, i.e., by offering warm and fuzzy platitudes or demonizing the opposition.
Accordingly, the left must view ideas as the arbitary products of warring mobs. "Of course you would argue for capitalism," they might say, "you are a white male." "Of course you would argue that 2+2=4", they might say, "you are funded by the math lobby." The view that the validity of an idea is a function of group identity is the root of the now famous statement made by Justice Sotomayor in a lecture:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
It is also the root of the fact that in the same lecture "she raised the possibility that people of different races 'have basic differences in logic and reasoning'" which would imply the existence of "Black Logic, White Logic, or Latino Logic." Such a view combines two theories: determinism and collectivism. Determinism holds that man is a product of factors outside of his control. Collectivism holds that the factors which determine him are a function of his membership in a particular group. Both reject volition and the efficacy of the independent, reasoning mind.
As I argued in the previous post, a faith based approach to knowledge has a frightening corollary. If there is no objective frame of reference by which to resolve truth and thereby provide a rational means for persuasion, the only alternative is physical force or violence. This has particular implications in the case of collectivism. Quoting Ayn Rand:
The philosophy of collectivism upholds the existence of a mystic (and unperceivable) social organism, while denying the reality of perceived individuals—a view which implies that man’s senses are not a valid instrument for perceiving reality. Collectivism maintains that an elite endowed with special mystic insight should rule men—which implies the existence of an elite source of knowledge, a fund of revelations inaccessible to logic and transcending the mind. Collectivism denies that men should deal with one another by voluntary means, settling their disputes by a process of rational persuasion; it declares that men should live under the reign of physical force (as wielded by the dictator of the omnipotent state)—a position which jettisons reason as the guide and arbiter of human relationships.
For a practical example of this, consider my previous analysis of the philosophy of Cass Sunstein, Obama's regulatory czar, who holds the view that people are an amorphous blob that needs to be "nudged" by the state into performing their duty as "citizens". Quoting Sunstein:
...If people are mostly watching a conservative station – say, Fox News-they will inevitably be affected by what they see. Whatever one’s political view, there is, in an important respect, a problem from the standpoint of freedom itself. This is so even if people are voluntarily choosing the limited fare. [emphasis mine]
In other words, people are "inevitably" conditioned by what they experience which implies that people do not have volitional control over their own mind. Apparently, according to Sunstein, once an idea impinges upon someone's consciousness, they are helpless to stop it. This, he declares, is a problem "from the standpoint of freedom" which implies that the government must monitor and control what people "experience" so that they are not conditioned improperly (meaning conditioned by non-liberal ideas.) In principle, such an idea leads directly to all out dictatorship. No problem for him. Consider another Sunstein whammy related to your "duty as a citizen":
...If people are constructing a Daily Me that is restricted to sports or to the personal lives of celebrities, they are not operating in the way that citizenship requires. This does not mean that people have to be thinking about public affairs all, most, or even much of the time. But it does mean that each of us has rights and duties as citizens, not simply as consumers. As we will see, active citizen engagement is necessary to promote not only democracy but social well-being too. And in the modern era, one of the most pressing obligations of a citizenry that is not inert is to ensure that “deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.” For this to happen, it is indispensable to ensure that they system of communications promotes democratic goals. Those goals emphatically require both unchosen exposures and shared experiences. [emphasis mine]
(Do not ask what an "unchosen exposure" might be.)
In effect, he is implying that since people will act in accordance with how they are conditioned by their group identity or by the nature of the ideas which they unconsciously assimilate (mostly from Fox News), it is up to special philosopher-kings to rule (or "nudge") the masses into performing desired behaviors and effecting desired outcomes.
So, what is a desirable outcome and how will our leftist philosopher kings ensure that they can achieve it?
The rejection of objective reality leads to the belief that anything is possible as long as one believes it is possible. Quoting Ayn Rand:
A later school of more Kantian Pragmatists amended this philosophy as follows. If there is no such thing as an objective reality, men’s metaphysical choice is whether the selfish, dictatorial whims of an individual or the democratic whims of a collective are to shape that plastic goo which the ignorant call “reality,” therefore this school decided that objectivity consists of collective subjectivism—that knowledge is to be gained by means of public polls among special elites of “competent investigators” who can “predict and control” reality—that whatever people wish to be true, is true, whatever people wish to exist, does exist, and anyone who holds any firm convictions of his own is an arbitrary, mystic dogmatist, since reality is indeterminate and people determine its actual nature.
In other words, at some level, the politicians believe that they can control reality. If they can form a consensus, condition people to accept their ideas, or "keep hope alive", they can make anything "work". Since anything is possible (as long as the right people are in charge), anything can be made to happen. The government can create prosperity by taking over auto companies and forcing them to make cars that no one wants. They can prop up toxic banks with money they create out of thin air. They can create prosperity by robbing the earnings of some to literally buy junk or "clunkers". They can stimulate prosperity by increasing the costs of energy. They can enslave doctors, increase quality, and decrease the cost of medical care all at the same time!
And what is a desirable outcome?
The philosophical pragmatist does not hold any explicit moral theory but absorbs it from others. Obama's default morality is altruism, or self-sacrifice which has dominated the West for two thousand years. In particular, he upholds liberation theology which fuses Marxism with Christianity. As a Marxist, Obama views the world in terms of two warring collectives, the capitalists and the proletariat or, in their terms, the exploiters and the exploited. Since the "exploiting" mob is evil, any idea espoused by the"exploiters" must be tainted or "manufactured" in order to acheive some selfish end. Conversely, since Obama regards his goals as morally "pure", i.e. based on religious altruism, any claims made or actions taken in defense of the exploited are morally valid, i.e., the ends justifies the means.
A moral theory that upholds sacrifice must uphold egalitarianism, the belief in equal outcomes regardless of effort, ability, or character. Since such a theory is a contradiction, in practice, it means that the state must punish the most productive in order to serve the least productive. Quoting Ayn Rand:
Since nature does not endow all men with equal beauty or equal intelligence, and the faculty of volition leads men to make different choices, the egalitarians propose to abolish the “unfairness” of nature and of volition, and to establish universal equality in fact—in defiance of facts. Since the Law of Identity is impervious to human manipulation, it is the Law of Causality that they struggle to abrogate. Since personal attributes or virtues cannot be “redistributed,” they seek to deprive men of their consequences—of the rewards, the benefits, the achievements created by personal attributes and virtues. It is not equality before the law that they seek, but inequality: the establishment of an inverted social pyramid, with a new aristocracy on top—the aristocracy of non-value.
The premise underlying virtually every welfare scheme, every intervention into the economy, and every strangling regulation is altruism and egalitarianism, i.e., the idea that those who pursue their own life and values are evil and that the government is morally justified in expropriating the wealth of those who have earned it and redistributing it those who have not.
In summary, leftist ideology can be reduced to the following: People need to be ruled in order to effect outcomes that are consistent with the default morality of altruism or self-sacrifice. Why do people need to be ruled? Because, people will act in accordance with how they are conditioned by their group identity or by the unconscious assimilation of evil ideas. It is up to special philosopher-kings to rule (or "nudge") the masses in order to bring about desired behavior and outcomes, i.e., behavior untainted by the pursuit of selfish motivations leading to equal outcomes regardless of individual effort or character. Therefore, as long as a proposed bill is morally consistent with altruism and practically entails state control, the liberals will vote for it. The details are irrelevant.
The similarity in form to secular leftists in government to theocratic dictators in the Middle Ages or the Inquisition is not a coincidence. The difference between the non-conceptual left (who reject objectivty on secular grounds) and the non-conceptual right (who reject objectivity on religious grounds) is nominal. In both cases, a non-objective approach leads to appeals to faith, bizarrely arbitary or contradictory claims (such as religious miracles or Keynesian economics), warring mobs, violent censorship of dissenters, philosopher-king power lust, economic stagnation, and human misery. Conversely, historical periods associated with belief in the efficacy of reason and the power of the human mind give rise to the valuation of freedom and individual rights, scientific progress, technology, economic prosperity, and human happiness - and individuals who proudly and explicitly defend their ideals.