Addiction and Liberalism
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THE FREE LUNCH ADDICTION:
THE CURSE OF CONTEMPORARY LIBERALISM
In its most benign form, the liberal ethos enlists the power of government to make life better for those members of society who are struggling to make ends meet. These are the paleo-liberals and the group now includes most conservatives. Note the limitation here -- ‘struggling to make ends meet’ and ‘make life better’, not make our individual situations ‘perfect’ or ‘equal’. This form of liberalism was grounded in the biblical reality that ‘we’ll always have the poor among us’ and in the social reality that ‘we are equal in dignity, but not ability’.
The slogan of Carl Marx, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ was a formula for a temporary alliance of revolutionary cohorts during a period of oppression and struggle. It was not a valid prescription for a working social order any more than ‘take some time off’ is an effective prescription for a compound fracture of the tibia.
When involuntarily administered by the state, Marxism became a clumsy parody of social policy, denying workers and capitalists alike legitimate payment for the fruits of their contributions to the economy and leading to economic paralysis. A soviet factory worker captured the spirit of that system’s inevitable decline in her lament that ‘We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us’.
Addictive liberalism is addicted to the endless utopian quest for social and economic equality, and to debt-creation without payback as the magical path to that Holy Grail.
Every family that has suffered through life with a son, daughter or spouse who is in the grip of drug or alcohol addiction knows the signs: denial, dysfunction, character disintegration, mendacity, and a downward life path. These are the universal side effects of addiction to our social demons.
Denial comes in many forms: ‘It’s not my fault, or ‘I’m not really addicted’ or ‘it’s not that bad,’ or ‘with a little maintenance, I’ll be OK.’
And the variants of mendacity are as prolix as they are transparent and pathetic: ‘I’ll clean up and get a job tomorrow’ or ‘I did NOT take any of that sh.t!’ or ‘I promise to pay you back....’
The specter of an addicted political order headed to the bottom is on front stage at the moment, like some spectacular multi-vehicle freeway crash caught in stop-motion. The California fiscal morass and legislative paralysis is the US in 2014.
The post-modern, boomer version of Marx’s slogan has degraded to this: From each according to her whim, to each according to her greed.
There is a growing division among modern liberals. The primary fracture point is revealed when the attractive persona of this administration’s leader is separated from the long term consequences of his unfolding agenda. “Yes we can!” doesn’t seem to relate to paying the bills or curing the malignent debt problem. Frankly, “Yes we can!” is beginning to sound more like “I’ll clean up and get a job tomorrow.”
The LIBERAL ADDICTION Test
Here is a simple liberal-addition detector examination. To conduct it effectively, you need to be among those of us (liberals and conservatives alike) who have broken the addiction to utopian idealism and the magical thinking that there really are free lunches...just around the corner.
It helps in administering this simple test if you have live in close proximity to the gritty subculture of substance addiction. The real world has a lot to teach us.
Talk your liberal friend about the recovery process from severe drug or alcohol addiction. If you draw a blank or get some hand-wringing bromides about ‘giving those addicts a maintenance dose’ or that ‘it’s not a crime problem, it’s an illness’ or that ‘love solves everything’, you probably have a live one. But if your friend actually understands that an arrest by police can be a life-saving moment, then there is real hope for addressing the six trillion dollar deficit issue...before its too late to recover.
Good luck with this. The tough, realistic, conservative/centrist subset among American liberals has never been smaller than at the present moment.