Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Perks of Power

Free market supporters love to use the hypocrisy argument against statists. It's been around a long time. To name a few examples that come to mind:

  • The health care of Senators and Congressmen is better than what Americans would get in the plans of those politicians.
  • Al Gore's house leaves a huge carbon footprint. Political leaders from around the world flew carbon-spewing jets to Copenhagen.
  • Nancy Pelosi's relatives flew military jets instead of commercial airlines.
  • A Canadian politician goes to America for his heart surgery.

You can probably think of more examples. None of these is actually hypocrisy. The politicians involved all believe they are in a special class to which the rules do not apply. It's not hypocrisy, it's the prerogative of power.

In socialism there  are two classes: the rulers and the ruled. The rulers, a small elite, were called nomenklatura in the USSR. The rest of the people functioned as the elite's slaves.

Robert Tracinski explained the phenomenon at TIA Daily:

The left is Platonist at its root. It does not begin by observing the actual requirements of human life or the means by which much of the world has risen from mass poverty to opulent wealth in the past two centuries. Instead, it begins with a whole series of moral and philosophical preconceptions—that self-interest is evil, that money-making is corrupt, that achievement in the material world is morally suspect, that the independent individual is dangerous—and then tries to bend the real world to fit these preconceptions.

Or to put it in more philosophical terms, instead of starting with observation and moving up to concepts, the method of Aristotle, the left starts with concepts and projects them onto the world, the method of Plato.

In keeping with this approach, the left is also Platonist in its attitude toward the minds of others. Like Plato's philosopher-kings, the leftists like to imagine themselves as endowed with a superior mental faculty which entitles them to look down on the fact-bound reasoning of the unenlightened masses.

Fundamentally, there is no hypocrisy. The rules they dictate to the masses were never intended to apply to the rulers. They're special people, motivated by altruism and uncorrupted by greed like the rest of us blinded by capitalism.

Taken to its logical end, the rulers are above the rule of law. In socialism there is no rule of law, only the rule of men. The rulers dictate to the ruled, and they call whatever whims of rule they establish law.

The only hypocrisy involved is that because of America's tradition of liberty, the rulers must pretend they are "public servants." They must pretend they serve the constitution, which they regard as a meaningless document. This pretense is convenient because it mollifies those who are ruled and keeps them from rebelling against the ruling class.

Instead of calling it hypocrisy, I think it would be better to point out that our rulers' actions are perfectly moral by their premises. They get to live by their own special rules. That's the way statism works, and that's the way it will be until we restore freedom in America. If you put it this way instead of using the hypocrisy argument -- as if the norm were that politicians were humble "public servants," a bunch of Mr. Smiths going to Washington -- then you stand a better chance of educating the people. A man won't lose his chains until he sees them.

8 comments:

Sam said...

This is an edifying and powerful message. I wonder why you've tucked it away here in your personal blog instead of posting it at The New Clarion.

Myrhaf said...

I posted it at New Clarion first. Sometimes I post them here as well just so I can put them in the favorite post archives.

Thanks, Sam!

Chris said...

Great blog.

Norma said...

Good stuff. Why do you write so seldom?

Myrhaf said...

Thanks, Norma. I blog over at newclarion.com all the time.

Anonymous said...

Interesting posting. Thanks

Bigvic said...

"Taken to its logical end, the rulers are above the rule of law. In socialism there is no rule of law, only the rule of men. The rulers dictate to the ruled, and they call whatever whims of rule they establish law."

What is the point in this statement. In capitalism there is no rule of law either, only the rule of men with money.The rulers dictate to the ruled, and they call whatever whims of rule they establish law the same exact way.

I will also like to add that the "left" (I can only speak for myself here), doesn't see self-interest and money-making as evil, it sees self-interest and money-making at the expense of others as evil. To me it is not really a matter of morality per se (morality rooted in religious doctrine) but a matter of Game Theory (if morality were to be rooted on best outcome Nash equilibria). If people keep acting on their own self-interest to the detriment of the whole in which the optimal outcome for society becomes unachievable then that is a problem, or as you termed it: "evil".

Also, the Plato - Aristotle dichotomy is completely overstated here. I know this wasn't written by you, but the re-posting here completely simplifies both these philosophers thoughts and ideas.

"love may be described as the everlasting possession of the good" - Plato, The Symposium

By good, what Plato is referencing is goods and services, which is motivated by self-interest. This further shows that he has no opposition to self-interest, which would be apparent if one did not only read his Republic, and give a sophomoric interpretation of it.

And while I am not in possession of any of Aristotle works at the moment, I do recollect from his Taxonomy where speaks of Ethics and the nature of good citizen. He speaks of Natural and Unnatural citizens, of which a good citizen can only be a Natural citizen. He describes a Natural citizen as a person who had limited wants and who only need for money was that as a rate of exchange (C-M-C) not the practice trading money for commodities and then reselling it for money (M-C-M) which is what merchants of his time did and is currently the basis for our system of Capitalism, which he called unnatural. Aristotle was vehemently opposed to this notion, as well as to sophistry (the practice of arguing and promoting something for money). One could argue that Aristotle was against capitalism, but I wont go that far because that would be too simplistic a few of Aristotle. I just don't believe the difference among Aristotle and Plato are what the author is making it out to be as anyone with enough reading of either men can find multiple similarities and differences that contradict this simplified notion. The author makes a valid point that Plato was more about concepts and the abstract, but so was Aristotle in many instances.

Mo said...

I will also like to add that the "left" (I can only speak for myself here), doesn't see self-interest and money-making as evil, it sees self-interest and money-making at the expense of others as evil. To me it is not really a matter of morality per se (morality rooted in religious doctrine) but a matter of Game Theory (if morality were to be rooted on best outcome Nash equilibria). If people keep acting on their own self-interest to the detriment of the whole in which the optimal outcome for society becomes unachievable then that is a problem, or as you termed it: "evil".

The problem with your comment is collectivism ("the optimal outcome for society"). One must first defend the proper standard of morality (man's life) and beneficiary of values (oneself) before quibbling over decision-making algorithms.