The graphic at the top of this post is derived from the logo of the Socialist International. The original image — which can be seen on the left side of my adaptation — is vaguely repellent. A clenched fist holding a rose — what is that supposed to mean?
Is it going to punch me in the face to make me accept the socialist state, and then hand me a flower as a consolation prize? Or is it maybe a kinder, gentler version of the upraised clenched fist, the venerable symbol of World Revolution?
That image was brought to mind by last night’s post of an op-ed by Ahmad Mansour, a secular Muslim in Germany who called on German leftists to stop trying to prevent criticism of Islam. He urged them to engage him in a dialogue about Islam, in hopes that his religion might be reformed.
Since he refused to consider the possibility of dialogue with the supporters of AfD and PEGIDA, it was clear that he spoke to the Left as a man of the Left, in effect demanding an intra-Left conversation. Yet he concluded his essay with these words: “Dare to listen to us and discuss with us!”
I’d be glad to do that. Listening and discussing are what we love to do here at Gates of Vienna. Far from avoiding them, I enjoy conversations with leftists, provided that they remain reasonable and civil. Reasoned discourse is always welcomed. We’ve published guest-posts by Marxists and anarchists in the past.
Unfortunately, it’s rare to find a left-leaning person who is willing to engage in civil discourse with a committed right-winger such as myself. Most discussions with Progressives devolve rapidly into one of the following tropes (or a combination of them):
|1.||Name-calling. People like us are “haters”, “racists”, and “xenophobes”. We’re “intolerant” and “bigoted”. We lack “compassion”. Engaging the nuts and bolts of what we say in a reasoned fashion is thus not worth a Progressive’s time.|
|2.||Pigeonholing. We conservatives are assigned a certain set of beliefs and positions, which we may or may not adhere to. Often these alleged convictions are caricatures. For example: “You Christians believe in the divine right of kings!”|
|3.||Pronouncing anathema. “People like you have no place in a civilized society!”|
|4.||Guilt by association. If our opinions are shared by anyone who has had anathema pronounced against them, those opinions are automatically discredited. For example: if David Duke shares my views on immigration (which he may well do), then those views are obviously benighted and evil, and I am a racist neo-Nazi lover of the KKK.|
|5.||Mind-reading: An extension of pigeonholing, e.g.: “You think all Muslims should be rounded up and put in concentration camps!”
There are probably other general categories that could be added to the list, but I’ve covered the major ones.
And lefties don’t have a monopoly on this style of argumentation — during my decades of right-wing extremism I’ve witnessed a distressing number of conservatives using the same techniques, only with the polarities reversed.
By and large, however, the willingness to engage in calm, reasoned argument is more often to be found on the Right than the Left. So whenever I encounter a Progressive who’s willing to state his case in a rational fashion and listen to conservative responses, it’s a pleasant surprise. It gives me a chance to actually engage the issues.
For instance, when I talk to American liberals about ObamaCare and similar matters, I ask them to show me any evidence — any concrete examples — that demonstrate the federal government can do a better job of administering health care than private companies. I’ll probably remind them of how much public education has improved (need irony mark here [؟]) since the feds stuck their noses into it. If I’m talking to a calm, reasonable Progressive, at this point he’ll probably mention Canada and the British NHS (although the British example is heard less and less often as the NHS progressively deteriorates).
And so the discussion goes. Neither of us will convince the other of anything, and we’ll end up agreeing to disagree. But I occasionally learn something from the exchange, and I hope my interlocutor walks away from our conversation saying the same thing.
But back to the Socialist International.
Whenever Socialism comes on stage, you get the Fist. It promises to bring you the Rose, but there’s no rose without a fist.
When voters in their naïveté casts their ballots for the Socialists (which they do over and over again, depressingly enough), the first thing that happens is that their taxes go up. It’s a systemic requirement — if a socialist government is to keep its promises to distribute wealth and benefits more equitably, it has to get the money from somewhere. Perhaps it should invade a neighboring country and loot it. Or maybe it can pronounce anathema against a despised subgroup (Jews, say, or kulaks) and expropriate all their assets. Or it can borrow from the banksters, which has lately been the preferred tactic of redistributionist regimes on both sides of the Atlantic.
But eventually it has to raise taxes. There’s no way around it.
The preferred method is the time-honored “Tax the rich!” imperative. However, even if it were tax every rich person (whatever level of “rich” seems fair to the lumpenproletariat) at 100%, that still wouldn’t provide enough money to redistribute to favored groups — whatever money is left over, that is, after all those newly-hired administrators have been paid. And the lower classes have almost nothing that can be extracted, so that leaves the middle classes — you and me — to foot the bill.
Most middle-class people, even those who vote for the Socialists, would not voluntarily surrender the portion of their wealth necessary to run a socialist system. That’s just too much money — they want to keep more of it. They have reactionary tendencies. They may even be class enemies. Counter-revolutionaries!
That’s where the fist comes in. Or the truncheon. Or the gun. The government is unable to extract the amount it needs without coercion. And the longer the system continues to function, the more coercion is needed. Higher taxes and government meddling inhibit productivity and discourage innovation, so the pool of taxable wealth shrinks. More money is needed! It’s a vicious circle.
So they crack down on any “illicit” economic activity. Monitor every aspect of citizens’ lives, so that whenever two nickels change hands, the state can grab one of them.
An increasing level of coercion is an inherent feature of the system. Without forcing you to give up more and more of your wealth, Socialism will fail.
So what would happen if Progressives were to stick to reasoned discussion and avoid the use of force to achieve their goals? What would happen if they listened to their conservative interlocutors, agreed to disagree, and then walked away from the conversation without doing anything else?
The whole system would fall, that’s what.
And that’s why it will never happen. It’s also why you run into so few Progressives who are willing to use reason to grapple with real issues of political economy. Deep down, subliminally or otherwise, they know that the system they advocate will eventually require the use of naked force.
For the last sixty or seventy years, the Democratic Socialists of the West — those represented in the Socialist International, that is — have relied on unobtrusive persuasion to achieve their ends. Thanks to the wealth of a previously capitalistic society, they have been able to borrow their way to socialist prosperity, and mostly eschew open coercion. They’ve been eating their seed corn.
All that is now eroding. We’re seeing the use naked force a lot more than we used to.
Welcome to the Socialist future — Kiss the nice fist!
Kiss the nice fist and then tell the government, when it shows up to help you, why it’s a wonderful fist and the one fist you have always and will always, prefer.
That will make them leave you alone…until they run out of your money again. Then another round of kissy-fisty until all your money is gone. What then?
Since socialism shows up on the top of a prosperous capitalism with lots of money to spare for hare-brained ideas, it takes quite a while to gnaw one’s way down to the seed corn. By then, institutional memory is amnesiac and no one can remember how to produce…
…at that point, those meanie conservatives pick up the shovels and begin digging through the festering detritus created by all those well-intentioned totalitarian democrats. The fist folds, crushing the rose, and the socialists mutter once more: the “real” socialism wasn’t tried, that’s why this round failed. Next time, though…but first they have to wait for the producers to create the exuberant excess they lust after…
…they never, ever learn. Learning is for suckers.
The concept of a centrally-planned economy is idiotic. Hard to believe that millions have fallen for the idea over the years. I’m sure most of it is out of a hope for revenge.
It’s nice to have a calm and professional discussion about Islam and Muslims but while the Left and Right slowly gets to it. the Muslims continue to do hijra (migrating and breeding out of control). Time is running out and it is on their side once they “infected” a country. When the Left and Right finally agree, we will be living under Sharia.
It almost seems like a lot of people think that mohammedanism can be reformed. The same way nazism can be reformed?
It can be reformed, just like Japanese militaristic Shintoism was.
Two nuclear bombs, well-placed, with the promise of more, combined with years of military occupation of their entire territory, where the practice is banned unless the militaristic component is excised, MIGHT do it, just like it did in Japan.
I’m certain that nothing LESS than that would do it.
Most likely it would take MORE than that. But yes, it CAN be reformed, at least temporarily. But only if the West were willing to engage in a MASSIVE show of force. Because a militaristic/conquering ideology falls apart when it gets militarily pulverised.
My guess would be 20 nukes, followed by 2 million occupying troops for 50 years. That would lead to reform.
I’m not commenting on whether this is a good idea or not. I’m just saying that on such terms, I do believe that reform *would* be possible.
The radiation from 20 nukes would kill many innocents, and necessitate the occupying troops’ wearing protective gear. But I daresay you’re not entirely serious?
Yes I agree. No violence. Someone might get hurt.
I don’t buy my political opinions wholesale, which is something that leftoids have a hard time dealing with.
Try it: the healthcare example is a good one. Socialised medicine works reasonably well around here. It’s not perfect, but it’s no worse than the free market variant overall. That’s because it’s a service for which there is an an absolute critical need, a lack of information, and a lack of negotiating ability at a moment of high vulnerability. Thus, while government doesn’t do a great job of it, it does a job that in practice is no worse the free market. What I think would work best is a system whereby competition and profit motivates are engineered into a controlled market, in this particular case. Fire departments and police are a similar case. Those things need government involvement – which isn’t to say that they should be government workers. I’d like to “tender out” fire protection districts, with a partial profit motive worked in. This should work well in big cities. In smaller communities, volunteer forces work wonders – I’ve seen their response first-hand once, and can only say good things about that particular lot.
I’m also not against abortion. I dislike it and don’t recommend it, but I find that in balancing rights, the rights of the mother take precedence.
I don’t get all excited about gay flags flying, but have nothing against gays. Do your thing, and leave the rest of us alone, and we’re all good.
So I sound like a pretty good leftist, eh?
Except that on just about everything else, I’m hard right! Immigration, getting Islamists under control, university brainwashing, overreach of government, etc – I’ve no use for leftist received opinions on any of this.
So I argue with both sides. And I have to say, I do also find that people on the right are more tolerant. They don’t have freakouts at my having different opinions. This may be a factor of not being in power, but it’s nonetheless true.I don’t have fear of violence from arguing with anti-abortion protesters, for example. We can actually have quite civil discussions. I like asking them whether they think that it’s murder to refuse someone a kidney donation. They don’t freak out.
Another comment: I’m Jewish. I don’t sit well with anti-semites, but I’ll still talk to them. I think that a lot of them have accurately figured out that something is wrong in society, but have put the blame in the wrong place, and are “retrievable”. There are a few that I can tolerate as people, even though we have a very fundamental disagreement. I try to encourage them to look at whether their theories might apply better to outfits like the Saudi Royal Family instead. I point out that I hate George Soros as much as they do, and that he also does huge harm to Israel. Still, I actually find them more tolerant than leftists, these days. That’s how bad leftists are.
Hi Mike, in most of these opinions you sound exactly like me. Maybe we’re part of a growing trend?
I don’t think it is a growing trend. Mike’s views are aligned with critical thinking and a solid understanding of nature, thus many “thinkers” will share most of his views.
The issue, I believe is, too few have felt the need to articulate and promote these views.
But, in partial agreement with you, that may be a changin’.
Scary, I must be doing something wrong if people agree with me :-).
Nice to know I’m not too alone, nonetheless!
Incidentally, I think that I recently talked a racist out of being a racist, and recognising that “race” is really largely a proxy for “culture”. I wonder what a leftist fly on the wall would have made of it!
Socialised medicine still works quite well in the UK, considering we pay fewer taxes for it per capita than, say, the French (but they’re famously a bunch of hypocondriacs!) Americans who can afford it get a very high standard of care, as I understand it, but should life and health be rationed by income?
Britsh governments (the previous “Labour ” lot as well as the Conservatives) have been gradually privatising the system, introducing “competition” into a natural monopoly. It seems they haven’t learned the lesson of the formerly state-owned railways, whose privately owned successors receive 3-4 times their subsidy.
Aren’t the French World Champions at consuming the most prescribed drugs?
Or, maybe just European Champions?
I am afraid we are massive consumers of prescription drugs. When I still lived in the UK and was brushing up my school French with a view to moving here our French teacher told us that the average person who goes to the doc expects to leave with at least 4 or 5 items on his prescription. If not he feels the doctor has cheated him. Things have improved abit with the move to generics etc but there is an enormous debt incurred by the “Secu”. That said you don’t have to fight the receptionist to get a GP appointment like my sis in England and referral to a consultant is swifter. We pay about € 2500 a year for two people in health insurance which is pretty good.
Re rose-fist – I saw it as a presentation in which one is meant to see the rose, and unfortunately ignore the fist until it’s too late…
The truncheon or the gun comes into play no matter what political model the state (government) uses. Whether it’s Europe or America, the citizen wants their governments to ensure peace, freedom, and domestic tranquillity yet they do none of this. This is why I don’t believe in governments at all (as we humans devise them). No matter what the political model, we are led to war, increasing lack of freedom, and domestic violence and upheaval. Of course, I tend to disagree most with those on the Left yet even the Right falls into the traps of cultural myths society has perpetuated since the beginning.
“You Christians believe in the divine right of kings!”
What about divine right of EU?
I remember I watched an interview with a lefty Brit a few years ago. That young man had the idea that royal family have no business to be in their palace; they better hand over all their properties to government and start finding a job for themselves.
People sometimes reject something to take another counterpart or something even worse. Sometimes I think there is no intellectual war going on between ideas; men are repeating a childish game of “mine is better”, even if the two toys are completely identical. In the case of “left”, I think the toys are not even identical, theirs are seriously dangerous toys that explodes (coalition with Islam increases the chances that the toy explodes badly). Left is going to replace longtime established (semi)democratic states of the West, something their fathers gave their blood for, for irresponsible totalitarian creatures that clearly express their plans to take away the rights of everyone. Isn’t it falling into medieval age despotism? What a “progress”!
“Guilt by association. If our opinions are shared by anyone who has had anathema pronounced against them, those opinions are automatically discredited.”
It is always useful when confronted by the above tactic of Leftists to inform them that Hitler was both a vegetarian and an animal lover. He destested hunting of any kind. He walked out of a screening of some footage of hunting Bengal tigers in India because he was so distraught at the sight of cruelty to animals
I’m with you on public health ( I’m inferring that you are Australian and are referring to Medicare – see below), abortion (but my very finely balanced support for its legality is based on the reality that if its not legal it will take place illegally and at great risk to the woman) and everything else you mention. I’m also against capital punishment (because there is always system error in the criminal justice system) and drug prohibition (because it corrupts public institutions, doesn’t work and costs vast amounts of money that could be better spent elsewhere or not taken from taxpayers in the first place).
Otherwise I am usually the most right wing person the vast majority of people I encounter have ever met. Many are astonished that I could possibly hold the opinions I do, yet am a conventionally polite, friendly person. They seem to have been brainwashed into thinking in the simple binary: Left, nice & concerned with the welfare of a society; Right, nasty & concerned only with their own welfare.
The Australian public health system has some problems: free IVF treatments ( two at a minimum cost of $10K each) for any woman who wants it, free abortion on demand and free neo-natal intensive care for the progeny of first cousin marriages (my 2006 source estimated that 85% of such beds were occupied by the newborns of Muslims and has advised me the percentages have risen since)
It has been my observation that a conservative usually understands most of the ideas and ideals of conservatism and understands the ideas and ideals of liberalism/left/socialism. Knowing and understanding both, the person chose a conservative path.
Likewise it has been my observation that “liberals” have no knowledge of conservative ideology beyond the labels taught them by academia or the leftist media. The reason they become so angry in an attempted civil discussion is because they are up against someone who knows what they believe, has considered it and rejected it. The lib has no such knowledge beyond the false labels and quickly looks like a fool if there are other people around. Salvation only comes, if it comes, in the form of another liberal who can begin chanting some leftist mantra or become part of a name calling chorus against the individual who has taken time to learn about both philosophies.
One could go on but that is it in a nutshell. While some are stupid, most are simply ignorant and it really angers them to have that exposed because the professors and pundits assured them they were the “good” and “smart” people.
[It is to be]Hope[d] Donald Trump will be elected in November and I hope [he] will be able to put an end to this nonsense. I’m an eternally optimistic person. This madness has to stop!!
Sorry to crimp your story line slightly, but the healthcare part can be socially managed. The example is not Canada, or Britain. The example is Israel.
Israel began with a 100% socialist health-care system which compensated the workers, IE doctors nurses badly enough so a black market flourished with cash buying the access the egalitarian system could not
When that system failed, Jewish heads came up with a compromise. Government did levy a tax, but distributed the compensation to four independent Krankenkassen (german-style HMO’s) which compete for federal sheqels. a basic level of service was determined, where no one is left to die, but many do wait in line. Those who choose to purchase an upgrade via the same HMO’s, the funds being used to pay for extra work, thus shortening lines. Government centrally determines a medication bank which it covers, and the manufacturers vie for those sheqels too, thus achiving relatively sane drug prices. its all checks and balances and competition carefully watched over by all interest groups. Spending is at least a thrid less per capita than in the US and access is better, paperwork far far far less. So not all socialism is bad, but it must be managed in a competitive way.
Rational system. Is it “Size of population” dependent: the smaller the served population, the greater the efficaciousness ?
Smaller, more intelligent populations, are easier to persuade and faster to recognize viability, thus reducing the percentage of miscreants attempting exploitation.