The Liberal Syndrome
Observing the constant discrepancy between what liberals say and what they do, between their stated goals and the actual results of their policies, it becomes obvious that their purported motives are not their real ones. In fact all Leftists, whether they call themselves liberals or libertarians or socialists or communists or whatever, display the same basic pattern of behavior: professing fine-sounding ideals about freedom, equality, justice, democracy, etc., while ignoring these ideals in practice, or actively destroying them to the extent that they have already been realized.
Now, the appeal of welfare-statism (the idea that the purpose of government is to give people goodies; that government is, in H. L. Mencken's phrase, "a milch cow with 150,000,000 teats") is obvious, and almost rational. Who wouldn't want to get something for nothing, as long as they can get away with it?
What is a socialist? One who has yearnings
For equal division of unequal earnings;
Moocher, or looter, or both, he will holler
That paying his penny will earn him your dollar.
Of course, this has nothing to do with justice, since it's nothing but legalized and organized robbery on a mass scale. It violates the freedom to earn one's own living by forcing the productive to support the parasites. It is not democratic, because the parasite-class can never be a majority: the system can only work as long as enough of the productive majority can be gulled into voting with the minority of parasites. It is not really egalitarian, even if it happened to reduce the "ever-widening gap between rich and poor" that liberals are always wailing about (though liberals really despise the middle class and do everything in their power to destroy it), because it is founded on the inequality of rights: the "right" of some to subsist at the expense of others.
Precisely because socialism (the thing, if not the name) is so popular, it does not reveal the liberals' real motives -- certainly not the motives of the anti-socialist libertarian Left. Precisely because they are so unpopular, libertarians reveal the Leftist mentality in its pure form.
You will seldom, if ever, catch a libertarian doing anything that will actually increase the amount of liberty in the world. Quite often, in fact, you will find them advocating policies that would have the effect of extinguishing liberty where it exists. Yesterday they advocated unilateral disarmament in the face of Soviet aggression, and today they advocate opening our borders to all the foreigners who want to crowd into our welfare offices and voting booths. They are so concerned with their so-called "principles" that they will never compromise them, no matter how absurd and self-destructive those "principles" turn out to be.
You can see the same phenomenon in the politically-correct, "postmodernist" academic Left. Insulated from electoral and economic reality, they are free to espouse the most bizarre and nihilistic doctrines their fevered imaginations can dream up. But why do they do it?
Why do native Americans buy into an ideology that demonizes America? Why do heterosexual women (and men) buy into an ideology that denigrates femininity and demonizes men and manhood? Why do white people buy into an ideology that demonizes the white race? Why do intellectuals buy into an ideology that denigrates the intellect? Why do human beings of any culture, shape, or hue, buy into an ideology that sacrifices human well-being to the "rights" of spotted owls and lab rats?
Unless people are literally and certifiably insane, there must surely be some kind of payoff for their behavior, however counterproductive it may seem. Sometimes the payoff is literal and material -- but more importantly, it is psychological.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are perfect examples of the liberal syndrome. It is well-established that they are liars, crooks, and hypocrites. Both have profited materially by various forms of corruption in their political careers; at the same time, they are smugly and arrogantly self-righteous. To them (and to the whole Democratic party and their sycophants in the "news" media), lying, cheating, stealing, and abuse of power are perfectly fine as long as you pretend to be working for a "better world." This is why liberalism pervades Hollywood: the combination of make-believe and effortless righteousness -- in a word, the phoniness -- is nearly irresistible there.
A liberal can be as crooked as a corkscrew or as dumb as a box of rocks, and still feel better and smarter than everyone else, merely by holding "advanced," "progressive," politically-correct opinions. Actually being a good person takes effort: sometimes you're obligated to do things you don't really feel like doing, or refrain from doing things you do feel like doing. True intellectual superiority means having native intelligence, and actually using it. Liberalism requires neither. Reciting the party line, like a Buddhist spinning a prayer-wheel, is the easiest thing in the world.
All Leftists live in the mental prisons of their respective ideologies. To them, the utopia projected by their ideology seems more real than reality. Whenever reality deviates from the utopia, they either ignore reality or condemn it for not living up to their utopian fantasies. Liberals, however, take a singular, perverse pride in their alienation from reality: they can always be counted on to take the most irrational, unjust, and antisocial position on any issue.
When it comes to crime and punishment, for example, non-liberals understand that criminals are vicious thugs who deserve good long terms in the slammer, and maybe even a ticket on the Third Rail Express. Liberals, however, believe that criminals are poor deprived victims of society who only need a little TLC. Non-liberals feel compassion for the victims of crime; liberals make a show of their compassion for criminals. When crime-rates fall spectacularly (as they have in New York City, for instance), non-liberals celebrate the fact; liberals attack the policies that caused the reduction of crime.
What purpose is served by all this? Whom does it benefit (except criminals)? What can explain such perversity, except the desire to demonstrate one's moral and intellectual superiority by overthrowing common sense?
Picking out any liberal position at random, one can readily find a (seemingly) contradictory liberal position related to the same issue. The contradiction can always be resolved by asking: How do these positions reflect liberal snobbery?
With crime and punishment, for instance, the seemingly contradictory position is gun control -- which, liberals argue, is necessary to prevent crimes from being committed with guns. A moment's thought, however, should reveal that criminals commit crimes, while the effect of gun control is to make it difficult or impossible for law-abiding citizens to own guns. (It's always been against the law to shoot people. If someone isn't going to obey that law, why should we expect him to obey gun-control laws?) The truth, of course, is that the real purpose of gun control is precisely to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. To liberals, it is self-evident that anyone who owns a gun is morally and intellectually inferior to them, and therefore has no rights.
Liberals are really only concerned about two kinds of crime: "gun crimes" and "hate crimes" -- which is to say that they aren't really against crime as such, but only against guns and "hate." By "hate" they mean any attitude that is insufficiently "sensitive" to their certified minorities -- the endlessly-proliferating classes of "victims" of "intolerance." Actual, individual victims of actual, violent crimes -- robbery, rape, murder -- do not interest them.
To demonstrate their self-congratulatory "tolerance," liberals are both feminists and homophiles. Feminists argue that "gender roles," i.e. the differences between men and women, are "socially constructed," not natural. Homophiles argue that homosexuality is natural, and that only arbitrary social prejudices stand against it. Feminists suppose that obvious anatomical differences are (or should be) irrelevant to our behavior; homophiles suppose that behavior is determined by far-from-obvious genetic predispositions.
Logically, then, feminism and homophilia are opposites that could never coexist. But logic has nothing to do with either of them: their common purpose is to subvert natural sex-roles and the institution of the family. Liberals embrace both of them to show their superiority to old-fashioned notions of manhood and womanhood, sneering at housewives who "stay home and bake cookies" and at "bigots" who think that homosexuality is abnormal.
The emotional purpose, snobbery, is bound up with the practical results of liberalism: liberals raise themselves above society by tearing it down. Their economic policies punish success and productivity. Their positions on crime only make the world safer for criminals and more dangerous for the rest of us. Housewives contribute to society; homosexuals give each other AIDS and demand that the rest of society find a cure for it.
How did this come about? After all, there are plenty of things to be snobbish about, if one is so inclined. Libertarians get essentially the same payoff from an ideology that in some ways (not many) is diametrically opposed to liberalism.
Back in the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment philosophers rejected the authority of religion and tradition, and aspired to reconstruct society along rational lines. In the end, they largely succeeded in delegitimating religion and tradition, especially among the intellectual classes (which is why lawyers, professors, journalists, etc. are overwhelmingly liberal). Unfortunately, reason is not a very powerful force in human affairs. The habit of criticizing society, and the aspiration to reconstruct it, became increasingly irrational over the next two centuries. Criticism turned to subversion, and reconstruction to "deconstruction."
There were many turning-points along the way, at which the future course of "progressive" politics was set. In 1898, liberals championed Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely accused of treason; in 1948, liberals championed Alger Hiss, who really was a traitor. In 1948, liberals advocated justice for black Americans; in 1968, liberals advocated injustice against white Americans. By 1998, the liberals' tongues were black with Bill Clinton's shoe-polish, and their moral/intellectual arrogance was matched only by their moral/intellectual fraudulence.
The future course of liberalism depends on how successful liberals are. Living in the richest and most powerful civilization in the world, they are (for now) protected from the consequences of their destructive policies. They are parasites whose own survival, in the long run, depends on the survival of their host -- even as they are driven by their ideological imperatives to attack and ruin their host.
© 2001 by Karl Jahn