What’s Left? To Be Decided.

Thomas Sowell, in his excellent book A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, discusses the two main opposing ways of viewing the political, economic and social landscape.  These views have come down through time to the present dichotomy of visions, namely the Left or Liberal (modern sense) vision and the Right or Conservative vision.  Sowell denotes the two visions: one being the unconstrained vision, the former, and the constrained vision, the latter.

I will try to make this a short post. Here is my brief take on The Unconstrained Vision:

The unconstrained vision relies heavily on surrogate decision makers, men or women of “superior” intelligence and virtue, to make our decisions for us.  The implication of this vision is that the common man does not know what is good for himself and for those around him.  But those with super-rational intelligence and sincerity do.  And because of our lack of “fair and just” decision making, we the people need an over-arching Decider – someone to rein in society.

I recently read what I would call a perfect description of this viewpoint’s totalitarian heavy-handedness, an oppressiveness which is often disguised as omniscient benevolence which hides its use of debilitating control methods:

“…Nurse Ratched is the Decider; under her unblinking gaze, the privileges, rewards, punishments, dosages, and furloughs for the patients are parceled out or denied. Time itself seems to run at whatever speed Nurse Ratched decrees, the clock slowing down to bring everything to a snow-globe standstill to conjure a sense of suspended animation, a zombie twilight.  Sparks of resistance are ruthlessly snuffed.  Waiting in the wings is the Shock Shop, where you go in as a person and are wheeled out as a vegetable after sufficient voltage to the brain…” (source listed below)

If you haven’t noticed by now, we are living in the “zombie twilight” of the Obama Presidency. Obama is our country’s Nurse Ratched.  He is a prime example of the unconstrained vision’s all-powerful omniscient Decider.  He is someone who talks down to people.  And enabled by the main stream media He has become the Chosen One, the chosen articulator of reason and we are his hapless patients waiting for him to put us in our place. Obama certainly believes that we the American people should follow his lead down the road to social justice and fairness. He believes that he knows what is best for us because he also believes that we the people are inept, confused and inferior in intelligence, unenlightened, lazy and worst of all, free to think for ourselves.

It certainly appears from Obama’s messages to the American people that his vision, historically filtered by the teachings of the radical Bill Ayers and “God damn America” Jeremiah Wright, has given him the understanding that he has seen the light while we the people walk in pre-enlightenment medieval darkness. It is with unbridled hubris that he stands above society, a mullah standing in an ivory tower minaret, lecturing us and calling us to pray to the god of one-world socialism and to the jihad of class warfare.

Those with this unconstrained vision see institutions as being at fault for man’s condition and not man himself.  They believe that man is a victim of inept policies and inadequately funded schools, food programs, housing programs, bailouts, etc.  And the free market, where Capitalism operates, is the impersonal culprit who steals fairness away from the victimized society. The unconstrained vision seeks to reign in the free market in order to control the outcomes of supply and demand using price controls, wage controls, unions, rent controls, quotas, the Dodd-Frank Act, ad infinitum.

Controlling the market place and controlling outcomes are what those with the unconstrained vision use to promote social justice and fairness. They want the results of economic, political and social activity to be fair in terms of their rationalistic values.  Yet, they will often, in fact, bypass statistical fact to promote fairness and equality.  In so doing they will often create a domino effect of economic havoc and inequality. This type of Stage One thinking is common for those with the unconstrained vision.  They want “fairness” implemented now at any cost regardless of the many negative repercussions that will be sure to ensue (e.g., Obamacare).

For the Left life is a zero sum game.  If someone gains then someone else must be losing out – there is only so much pie to go around. The Left must “right” this perceived wrong.

The legal system is another thing to be controlled by those with the unconstrained vision.  Instead of black and white laws known to everyone they seek to implement ad hoc reasoning per every legal situation.  Take for example a man who steals and is arrested.  He knows that he will be punished for his crime.  The law clearly states the crime and lists the options for punishment that the judge may impose.  The criminal knows that everyone will be treated the same way in the same situation within the letter of the law. Even though the criminal does not like the situation he still knows that the law applies to everyone and therefore deemed fair by everyone. In fact, he stole knowing the law and the consequences of his actions.

An activist judge with an unconstrained view, on the other hand, will have the same law before him but he will use his own ad hoc articulated reasoning to determine whether the man should be punished.  This judge may decide that the criminal acted badly because of his poor living conditions or because he was having a bad hair day or…and then decide to let him go. The judge would consider this a just outcome. The victim would not, of course, consider this fair.

While the unconstrained vision is all about controlling the political, economic or social landscape for specific outcomes the constrained vision is hands off or laissez-faire in its dealings, seeing man as having sufficient accumulated knowledge and being capable of making prudent trade-offs that would benefit himself and society in the process. Nothing is done in isolation. Benefits abound because for the Right life is not a zero sum game. Everyone can win.  Everyone can have their own pie.

The constrained vision sees man as he really is:  self-motivated. This realistic vision sees man as selfish and greedy but also willing to respect tradition and rules and certainly able to make prudent trade-offs based on knowledge gained from centuries of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, knowledge and wisdom not confined to an omnipotent Decider. One with a constrained vision doesn’t have all the answers. He or she must operate with humilty, tolerance and cooperation in order to support the freedom and liberty within which they seek to live.

 While there is much more to be said here I promised to keep this short. I highly recommend Thomas Sowell’s book, A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, as a means to understand the vast differences of the two visions behind the political, economic and social struggles affecting our world today. 

I can see clearly now.

Quote source:  Vanity Fair article, Still Cuckoo After All These Years, by James Wolcott, December 2011 issue.

*****

“The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”  Thomas Aquinas

*****

**An aside into constrained thinking:

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