The Unbearable Lightness of Clots, Part II
Just adding to the article below, I was thinking on the train home last night, that every
political position could claim at least some of that below. But there is a difference. Most other political leanings are chosen first, and then the arguments are sought to bolster it. For instance, I may choose to be a socialist at 14, because some other 14 year old, who's richer than me, steals the girl I was after, because he can afford to take her to the cinema, and I can't. I have therefore chosen to be a socialist, because of emotional reasoning. From then on, I apply my logical mind to locating all of the written arguments why it is good to be a socialist, and bad to be anything else.
But whatever happens, and whatever I read, I always remain
a socialist. I am unprepared to change, possibly even remain incapable of changing, because my brain has been fixed
at a young age, by an initial powerful emotion. So even if God himself comes knocking on my door, and tells me socialism is bunk, I will still cling to it. Even though the Soviet Union failed, even though the Gulag was caused by it, even though Cambodia was caused by it, even though Britain's long decline after the war was caused by it, even though Africa's modern poverty is caused by it, whatever it is, we cannot shake it. Whatever the evidence, we stick with socialism. The needle is stuck, clicking forever in the same groove. And we only listen to, or accept, arguments which leave us comfortably where we are, or which convince us, even more, that we are correct. So we may tend to become more, and more, extreme, in our socialism, until reason is left a long way behind. Some even go so far, of course, that they'll blow themselves up in the cause, or murder others - for the good of society! Try telling that, of course, to the relatives of the murdered victims.
So socialists get stuck, whereas classical liberals are both prepared to change their views, in the face of the evidence, and remain capable of changing their views, until after a process of Popperian experimentation with ideas, they come to a general stable resting point, which cannot be shaken by further past argument. Though if it is, new arguments are welcomed, which may still shift this position.
Hence, virtually every classical liberal holds certain principles to be self-evident (people have a right to life, and a right to property, for instance), but good-natured argument and debate is allowed between each person. For instance, the debates between the Randites, the Rothbardians, the Hayekians, the Popperians, and so on. In fact, it is impossible to classify any single group
of classical liberals, into a strictly defined sect. Because each one individual is different, having arrived at their position independently, by themselves, helped with mixtures of the acknowledged greats (Von Mises, Hayek etc), to make up their individual position.
Whereas collectivists are easy to lump together. In fact, if some collectivist is in a "lump", and in some conversation comes up with something not held by the rest to be "in line with the party", they are quickly persuaded to change their views accordingly, indeed they are often happy to do so, to get on the correct road to the truth, the way, and the path; though without the unnecessary process of their own thoughts on the matter, getting in the way. So all socialist workers hold one party line, all trotskyite militants hold one line, all Hitlerites follow one line, all New Labour spin-doctors hold the same line, unserweiter, unserweiter.
(This is the major thing which sometimes disturbs me about the Randites, which to me brings them close to socialism. You sometimes see debates among them, where they don't know the "Party" line, because Rand didn't write about the particular topic. It is only when a Randite scholar discovers some obscure thing she said, in a meeting in 1961, to clarify her position on this particular issue, that they seem to be able to relax. Because they have found out, from the one true God Rand, what to think
These "party lines" are therefore imposed upon the mind of the collectivist, in addition to their initial emotional impulse to adopt a position close to this particular line, when their minds were still capable of change. So let's say 100 individuals decide, usually in emotional teenagerhood, to become Trotskyites. They start reading Trotsky, and come to a point where they hold 100 different views on what Trotsky wanted. At this point, they're almost like classical liberals, in that they have independently arrived at an individual position (though a position they deliberately sought to reach, before
they'd researched any evidence.) They then get serious, and decide to join a group to further their aims.
Let's say there are four groups, the Trotskyite Workers, the Trotskyite Activists, the Trotskyite Spartacists, and the Trotskyite Militants, and that 25 of our original socialists all join each group. It will not take very long, before each group of 25 will hold identical views to all of the others in their particular group, regardless of where they came from, and regardless of how different their individual minds are. At this point they become true mindless slaves to socialism, and it becomes almost impossible, for most of them, for the rest of their lives, to shake off this mind-numbing infliction. They have, in effect, stopped thinking. It is only if they start thinking again, that they can be saved.
And it is sites such as Samizdata
which can kick-start this re-thinking process. We draw them on, in their hope that they can shout us down, and we hold such a strong position, based upon evidence long worked over, that we can sometimes, very occasionally, shake off the socialist layer of control which is holding these intelligent minds trapped within, under a deep layer of unreasoning fury, aggression, and emotion. Or, at least, rattle them sufficiently that their awoken thinking processes can do this job for them, internally. They may even challenge their group-held positions, cause socialist schism within their group, or even break away from it entirely, back towards the light of reason.
And if they can maintain this attitude of thinking
, for a decent period of time, something they abandoned at 14, we can even save them entirely, and bring them entirely over to the light side, where they can hold an individual position of classical liberalism.
Some see this disunity within us, the classical liberals, as a weakness. I see it as a strength. It means we're the only group who actually think for ourselves. And given the choice of another group, who are told what to think from some book, or some prophet, I know which group I'd rather be in.
You know, the more I think about the Matrix films, the more I see them as an excellent allegory on this exact process, as we welcome just a few of these blinking, thinking, ex-socialists, to the real world! :-)
The Unbearable Lightness of Clots
There really are some clots out there, nearly all of them socialists. You give them a debating point, they complain about the debating hall. You give them a nice hall, they complain about the expense of the hall. Whatever the point is, they avoid talking about it, and stick to peripheral issues, whenever it stops being a soft target. And then they start shouting, and screaming, when they know their childish, violence threatening, game is up.
What they've failed to realise, is that the reason most of us classical liberals are
classical liberals, no matter what our starting position was, whether socialist, fascist, communist, Tory Boy, or whatever, is because we have been prepared to argue our case in a sensible calm fashion.
And gradually, in my case as a socialist, our previous convictions have been worn down, and argued logically away, until we are left with only one valid position. That of classical liberalism. It is the only system of human living which bears close examination, and has stood the test of time, and argument. All the rest crumble under close scrutiny, into emotion, and unreason. That is why we are classical liberals. Not because we are evil, not because we are stupid, and not because we hate our parents.
We've been forced into this position by the logic of argument, the same way Physics scientists were forced into believing in a spherical Earth, then a Sun at the centre of the solar system, then Newtonian physics, then Einsteinian physics. Some of us may not have even wanted to be here, from where we started out, but if you rid yourself of irrationality, and emotion, when debating any topic, you end up as a classical liberal. Or you shout down your opponents, because the truth hurts.
If there were a better position, we would move to it. One may come along. And it is only classical liberalism which will allow it to develop, if it does. Yet another argument as to why it is the superior belief system! :-)
Trial by Samizdata
Today was my first day as a "proper" Samizdata
contributor. Blimey, that was tough, I've got a lot to learn. I found it much harder writing an "original" post, on such a major site, rather than commenting upon other people's post, sort of like doing the lecture, rather than asking questions at the end of the lecture. You've got to get it right, get it accurate, make it readable, and keep that length down. Because if you don't, boy, are you for it! :-)
Respect is due to Mr Carr, Mr De Havilland, and everyone else running the show. I hope I don't let them down.
Face to Face With the Enemy
Heaping derision upon socialists, via the comments section of a blog, can be fun. But discussing issues face-to-face with them, I've often found a troubling experience. Take last night, for instance. I was having a rather pleasant dinner, with friends, and got into some debate with one or two about the rights and wrongs of the building list system.
This is the system, I think introduced by the Labour Party in 1945, though it may have been an earlier statist government, whereby a local council can declare that your building property cannot be altered, except with their explicit permission, in its architectural appearance. And if they do give you permission to alter it, you have to use building materials and construction techniques of their choosing, "in keeping" with the character of the building (ie. far more expensive than otherwise).
Now I won't bore you with details of the debate, but it was more the reaction of the socialist, once their logical argument started crumbling, which was more interesting. I got it all, the pointed jabbing finger, the screwed up face, the barely-hidden anger, the outright aggression, the raised voice, the personal insults, unserweiter, unserweiter.
I've witnessed this in many other conversations too, in which I've not been involved, but which I've overheard (or been forced to overhear). Everyone's happy and smiling, talking politely, discussing issues as mature adults, and then the statist's arguments start falling apart. And then their voice goes up, it starts getting personal, the anger rises, the red mist comes down, and their opponent starts being insulted, especially for daring to have a contrary opinion; the word "racist" is often bandied about, in these situations. The other trick, to shut down the debate, is to start speaking faster, as well as louder, to prevent the other person either coming back to them, or even, as happened to me last night, shutting down the conversation and walking away.
It's almost as if they do know
their "arguments" have been comprehensively undermined, but they must finish "winning" the argument, first, before you can get away from their illogicality.
They are fragile beasts, these socialists, blind anger and unreasoning emotion never far from the surface, especially if you poke them in their sensitive spots. I find the word "fascist" is particularly good for this, if I want to send them over the edge, once they're on a roll. They really don't like that one up 'em! :-)
For example: "...but doesn't what you've just said sound like the very definition of fascism, where the group can tyrannise the individual, not just because of agreed-to rights, but because they can use state-sponsored violence to impose arbitrary group will on somebody else's life or property?..."
Try it out, sometime. Watch that blood pressure rise.
And to any socialists reading this, next time, do please try to remain calm. And once you've realised your arguments are bunkum, and that you're only sustaining them in your own mind because of emotion and unreason, drop them. And come over to the light side. Try the books, on the right-hand column of this page. They really are the cure for your disease.