I was writing a post about the possible nexus between the leftist school policies implemented in Broward County Florida prior to February 14, 2018 and the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that occurred on that day. In the process, I realized that I was addressing an item that is part of a much larger set of issues having to do with leftist thinking and policies. I decided that providing a context was in order. This post provides that context for many future, non-sequential posts that will present a case for my hypothesis that the supreme aspiration of a growing swath of leftists is to be considered virtuous by fellow leftist, particularly the glitterati, and that this trend is harmful to society. In short, for these people, virtue signaling, not virtue or good policy, is the goal.
In an odd way it is an incarnation of something Adam Smith, the father of economics, wrote, “Man actually desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely…He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful.” Imprecise, but handy, substitutes for “lovely” and “hated” in Smith’s claim would be “a virtuous and good person” and “a vile and bad person,” respectively.
That people want to be loved is probably universal among humans—at least until they decide that being loved is an impossibility, at which point they often snap. Smith’s observation that people also want to be lovely is very insightful and generally true. There are, however, people who are not guided by the better angles of our nature. Those people can fairly be considered to be evil whether they are responsible for their state of mind or not. Evil, however, can take many forms. An insidious form of evil is people who desire to be both loved and lovely, but are blind to what is not lovely about what they believe, advocate, and do. (An example of this form of evil will be the subject of the first post in this series having to do with the Broward County School Shooting.)
A vast majority of people in a society desiring to be lovely leads to a good society only in cultures that ascribe to a rational and constructive set of morals, and the culture has a reasonably humane, fair and effective means of maintaining those morals. Cultures that adopt irrational or unconstructive morals are doomed to poor outcomes, if not demise. Cultures that value virtue signaling over virtue are surely doomed to demise.
Despite the serious blows on America’s rational and constructive morals that were inflicted by the early 20th century progressives and mid-20th century communists, the core principles of the America culture remained reasonably intact (held by a large enough majority) until the 1960s. Since the early 1960s, what the American culture considers to be virtuous and good has been changing dramatically and rapidly—for the most part for the worse. (This is not to say “things were better” in the 50s and early 60s, they weren’t. The most of the morals of most Americans in the 50s, however, were better than the morals of today in many respects—despite the fact that some morals are better now than then.)
People of all political persuasions are susceptible to the virtue signaling bug. In my estimation, however, a smaller fraction of other groups are susceptible. Why that is the case may not be identifiable, and the why may be unimportant. For what it is worth, my hunch is that it is driven by a desire to be a member of the “in-crowd,” whatever the in-crowd happens to think and believe from time to time, i.e., they want to be part of the in-crowd regardless of what the cool people think or believe. Clear traces of this phenomenon can be found in all those people who idolized both JFK and Obama, despite the fact that their economic and social policies were radically different.
This phenomenon would not be a problem if the in-crowd always had the best ideas and solutions, but, as it turns out, the phenomenon leads to a disastrous blindness to tradeoffs. If one is blind to the costs of the benefits they seek (a particular bug of leftists generally), the next thing you know, the country is $20 trillion in debt, and has runaway unfunded future liabilities. It is a reason so many leftist policies do more harm than good. Worse, as we saw in the cultures that ushered in Margaret Sanger, Hitler,* Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung, Castro, Chaves, and many other like-minded (leftist[i]) activists and tyrants, lots of people get killed under leftist regimes.
With this prelude as a backdrop, I will soon post an article on the Parkland, Florida shooting that will be the first of many.
* AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many leftist will take umbrage at the inclusion of Hitler in the list of leftists above. Many of those will base their feelings on the kind of “analysis” used by Snopes in its article, “Were the Nazis Socialists?” This Snopes article is like so many others that attempt to obscure the issues in order to obscure the facts of the matter. (In a surprising display of scruples, Snopes did not declare whether the answer to the title’s question is yes or no? Those scruples did not, however, prevent them from trying to mislead with respect to the answer.) In this attempt to disassociate leftists from Hitler, Snopes takes the following tact:
Although the terms “left” and “right” as used in American politics can be somewhat less than perspicuous, they are helpful in delineating the basic ideological divide between liberalism/progressivism (as embodied mainly by the Democratic Party) on one side (“the left”), and conservatism/traditionalism (as embodied mainly by the Republican Party) on the other (“the right”). Seen as a spectrum or continuum of ideologies, socialism/communism traditionally falls on the far left end of this scale, nationalism/fascism on the far right.
The sleight of hand lies in this sentence, “Seen as a spectrum or continuum of ideologies, socialism/communism traditionally falls on the far left end of this scale, nationalism/fascism on the far right.” Consider these definitions extracted from Google’s dictionary:
A socialist state is one in which “…the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated [by the state/community].” [Emphasis Added.]
A communist state is one in which is “a society in which all property is publicly owned [by the state/community] and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.” [Emphasis Added.]
An extreme form of a nationalistic state is “…marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”
A fascist state is a “…regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
As you can see, communism is a form of socialism, i.e., the economies of both are collectivist, which is the essence of socialism. To be a communist, a state must own the means of production, while a state is socialist if it controls the means of production, even if done only with regulations.
By contrast neither nationalist nor fascistic states are defined by their economic systems. A fascistic state can be either collectivist/socialist or capitalist. There are varying degrees to which a state is socialist. Modestly socialistic states need not be nationalistic or fascistic, but being either would not affect their status as a socialist state. Theoretically, very socialist states need not be nationalistic or fascistic either, but rarely, if ever, are they not. In other words, Snopes based its argument on a false and inept comparison of two unlike criteria.
Snopes cited many supposed authorities as to whether Hitler was a socialist. All of the quotes were designed to leave the reader with the impression that Hitler was not a socialist. None of the quotes Snopes used to prop up the proposition that Hitler was not a socialists, however, denied the pivotal fact that Hitler’s government exercised very extensive command and control over business through regulations, i.e., whether or not Hitler was, in his heart, a socialist (i.e., he was lying when he said, “We want to see no more class divisions.”) or a racist nationalist, under Hitler government “…the means of production, distribution, and exchange were regulated [by the state].” As such, the Natzi regime was socialist.
[i] See, “Fascism” by Sheldon Richman “Obama, Hitler, And Exploding The Biggest Lie In History,” which is worth reading for this quote alone, “The label “fascist” has subsequently meant anyone liberals seek to ostracize or discredit.” Or this video, “MYTH BUSTED: Actually, Yes, Hitler Was a Socialist Liberal.”