Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why loony leftists matter

The consequences of giving power to the far-left -- whether the loonies in the London city council, Politically-Correct socialists in the ivory tower of macademia[1] or the genocidal criminals in Soviet Russia and Cambodia -- has been baneful and calamitous. As James Wimberley of the Reality Based Community says:

The record of these people in power is so disastrous that it would be tempting to wish them gone, as has more or less happened in the USA. Tempting but wrong. Like the gene for sickle-cell anaemia, the far left plays a useful irritating and balancing role, so long as it stays in a permanent minority.

I'm a great believer in the value, no, the necessity, of a few irritating trouble-makers, malcontents and enfants terrible who can stop us from becoming complacent, arrogant and self-satisfied. In the late 1800s and first few decades of the 1900s, capitalism was scared of communist revolution. Marxism was still a vigorous intellectual paradigm. The workers were flexing their muscles and demanding improved working conditions, better conditions and a measure of justice. Consequently, those hard-hearted and selfish capitalist leaders feared for their profits and their lives, and (eventually, reluctantly) modified their behaviour, and so the 20th century saw massive improvements in quality of life for those who weren't at the top of the social pyramid: pensions, universal health insurance and education, the 40 (or even 38) hour week, holiday pay, unfair dismissal laws and much more.

But in countries like the USA, where the masses turned their backs on unions and swallowed the lie that class warfare is by definition the lazy and envious poor against the deserving rich, things are very different. It seems like at least half the country -- even many of those going hungry because of medical expenses -- believes that having the government use its massive purchasing power to buy medicine at a discount is one tiny step away from outlawing private property and sending everyone to the gulag. Far-right wingers pose as centrists and moderate right-wingers are vilified as communists. Consequently, the fat cats in the capitalist classes have been behaving like the fox in the henhouse for decades now, with crisis following bubble every couple of years. Every crisis is followed by an even bigger one, and those perpetrating the disasters get rewarded each time. After losing inconceivably large amounts of money, the banks have gone to the US government begging for bailouts. No social safety net for the tellers, but the CEOs and executives get to give themselves massive pay rises.

Pigs at the trough
And why not? What have they got to be scared of? The working class in the US is convinced that all they need is a couple of lucky breaks and they too will be as rich as Bill Gates, or at least comfortably middle-class, when the reality is that income inequality has exploded over the last thirty years. It's not clear whether the current economic crisis will level things out again, or simply punish those who work for a living while allowing the mega-rich even more opportunity to buy up assets. A lot will depend on moral outrage, and very few people do moral outrage over pigs-at-the-trough like old-school leftists. So let's give three cheers for the Loyal Opposition of Loony Leftists, may they prosper, but not too much, just enough to keep the bastards honest.

[1] Caution: May Contain Nuts. Back

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