Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Conservatives Are Right

As in correct.

So, the world is ruled by a combination of Empires and Corporations. As the world is, it is basically a Capitalist's wet dream. Why? Why do conservatives always win, aside from the initial stages of various communist revolutions?*

I've seen two examples recently that lead to me believe that conservatives are very often simply smarter than lefties.

First, 2 weeks ago I was invited by a friend to a UWO group called 'Theology on Tap." It was a short lecture held in the grad club. The speaker was talking about Neo-Con godfather Milton Friedman, leftie populist Naomi Klein, and Jesus.

He first discussed Friedman. Friedman was the ideological go-to guy for various U.S. administrations in the 20th century. Buddy buddy with Reagan and Thatcher. What he taught the cons boils down to this: "Only during a crisis can the impossible become the inevitable."

So, various crises around the world were used to shuffle in free market reforms, to crush trade unions, etc. Often violently and painfully -- see Chile and Pinochet, or Thatcher and northern England.

Naomi Klein calls this the "shock doctrine." She sees it as unforgivable manipulation, a brutal violence used against the people. Klein's solution for the world is a return to Keynesian economics, which in a nutshell means government spending in lean times, and financial reticence in times of plenty. This is meant to stave off the worst excesses of capitalism. The return to Keynesian economics, to Klein, is entirely possible and desirable.

For the Jesus bit, the speaker presented his own economics -- a return to the jubilee economics of the Old Testament, in which debts are forgiven at particular intervals. He claimed that while he was sympathetic to Klein and found Friedman reprehensible, Klein's liberal humanism was too "thin," or too insubstantial to really found any sort of serious politics. So a serious dose of Jesus is required to fix these problems.

Now, my response. I agree that Klein's ideas are entirely too thin. I saw it coming a mile off when the speaker finally said that Klein insists she is not a revolutionary. Well duh, obviously. here's the thing: any politics that is not too thin must accept that Friedman is right.

Serious change, the kind that sees the impossible become inevitable, only happens during a crisis. How often is a crisis part of a religious conversion story? What was the crucifixion but a crisis that made the twin impossibilities of the resurrection and founding of the church inevitable? And as for the speaker's jubilee economics, surely he'd be the first to admit the idea is totally impossible. But could it be made inevitable?

Klein's rejection of the impossible is exactly why leftist humanism so often ends up being so anemic, so whiny, so utterly fucking retarded. Lefties need to start thinking in terms of the impossible, just like cons.

The second anecdote is taken from here. In 2004, the New York Times Magazine quoted a conversation between the article writer and an anonymous, highly ranked member of the Bush admin:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

And that's kind of it, isn't it? The cons win on a strategic level because they act and change reality, while lefties can only claim tactical victories (ie, civil rights) because they insist on spending all their time coming up with good, correct propositions about reality. The conservatives learned Marx's maxim about changing the world, not studying it; the lefties didn't.

A leftist politics that is going to be able to compete with conservatives needs to be able to embrace the crisis, and the impossible, and it needs to be able to work upon the public imagination, the fantasies that bind us together. Conservatives have done this really well, and it's time to start learning from them.

*I'm fully aware that conservatives have plenty to complain about - gay marriage, etc. But the world is basically a place in which conservatives can be basically happy about the status quo, and all problems are merely hiccups that can be ironed out with enough prayer, guns or free enterprise. Unlike lefties, who think the status quo itself is rotten.


Jamie A. Grant said...

Fascinating idea. I wonder if leftist ideals like the solution to global warming will be fixed via crisis-mode. Or maybe the conservatives, like Harper, will complain about the leftist solutions until they eventually create a crisis and force through their own solution.

That Bush-admin quote was awesome, too.

Jamie A. Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

Yeah, the global warming thing might end up being an example of this. I have no idea, though. The warming is happening, but are humans causing it? I don't know.

dan said...

Yo' mama's so fat, she's causing global warming!

Maximos said...

Nice post. I'd add, which I don't believe Klein does, though I've not yet sat down with her book for a spell, that this exploitation of crisis, even the creation of crises which are subsequently exploited, is merely the extension of the founding moment of capitalism into the present - the present of established, but expanding, capitalism. Capitalism begins with the confluence of modern banking practices and modern attitudes toward trade, but really only takes off with the primitive accumulation of the commons, the Church lands, the smallholdings of the peasantry, and so forth. The shock doctrine is merely the recapitulation of, the sacrament of, this founding.

That I can say this as a conservative (you know me from What's Wrong With the World), and as one who, moreover, execrates this reality, makes me an outlier among outliers. But there it is.

Mike said...

Sure, I can acknowledge that. It seems like such growing pains is necessary for any kind of change.

One lesson to be taken from this is that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the ends do retroactively justify the excreble means.

Maximos said...

Well, being a reactionary fellow, I'm never going to affirm that execrable means can be sanctified by the nobility of the ends - especially in these cases, since I think the ends themselves execrable!

However, with regard to the question of suffering, sometimes doing the right thing in the right way engenders suffering of some sort, and those are the growing pains that must be endured. Then, it is a question of what, who, and whom. I'd not mind watching hedge-fund managers, a few CEOs, and others of the same ilk squirm, because it would be the right thing to do.