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Saturday, August 20. 2011
A short history of utopianism
From our archives -
To create blissful Socialist utopias, we need smart, strong, deeply caring men in charge. Lefty men, like Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, etc. Geniuses to rescue us from our pitiful fates as little people.
A quote from Fred Siegel's review of Flynn's A Conservative History of the American Left in City Journal, re 1820s socialist Robert Owen:
My, my. How little has changed in the Left in 200 years. Utopians always condescend to us ignorant, feckless, unwashed, irrational "masses," don't they?
My personal utopia is all about freedom from utopians and power-seekers. I wish to control no-one - unless they are trying to harm me.
Posted by The Barrister in Best Essays of the Year, Our Essays at 13:45 | Comments (13) | Trackback (1)
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My wife and I stumbled upon an old Owenite utopian dream when driving through Illinois/Indiana. Located just over the Wabash river at the southern tip of Indiana is "New Harmony", which has some of the most beautifully preserved early 19th century buildings around. We'd never heard of it, and it was interesting to research the Utopian movements of that era.
But our favorite recollection of that portion of the trip was the gentleman manning the toll booth at the bridge over the Wabash, who was delightfully surly. I just googled it, and apparently the bridge is now closed due to deterioration. Understandable, since when we drove across it we were questioning it's stability even while marveling at it's age.
We remember vividly the most liberal - and young - professor of law at Stanford expressing horror (!!!) at a suggestion of a Constitutional Convention - "I mean, who knows what 'The People' might do!" We were too timid at that to remind him of the phrase "We the People of the United States . . ." He would, of course, respond that the Constitution was drafted by educated elites for the masses, and that's the way things should be done.
We also remember after the shocks experienced by the Left in the 2004 election the educated young hard-left son of a friend saying that democracy didn't work, and should be replaced by a benign dictatorship. I asked who would chose the dictator, and he wasn't sure - hadn't thought that far. I responded (to his surprise) that I thought his idea was splendid. "You do?" "Of course, because in going from democracy to dictatorship, it is always the military who has the last vote, and we have some extremely well trained generals and admirals who would made teriffic leaders. Straighten a lot of things out too!" End of discussion....
Heh - the whole idea of a "Benevolent Dictatorship" is not an idea strictly of the left - the whole Neo-Nazi Storm Front White Supremisist movement (extreme far right) consider similar concepts - it's just a question of whose "Benevolent Dictator" is put in place.
I believe that President Obama with his penchant for "Executive Orders" and runaway Departments of this and that is pretty close to what one could envision as a "Benelovent Dictator".
I've had this theory for a long time concerning the idea and its basically this - the more politically Right you go, the more politically Left you become. Simply put, there is no difference in tone or politics of the Far Left and the Far Right - they are essentially one and the same.
I'd actually place the Nazis on the left, although they were a bit of an amalgam and not traditionally left like, say, the Italian fascists or Argentinian Peronists. There was far more variation among the various fascist/volks parties than among the various communist movements.
As to Obama, his traditional solution to doing anything is to fob it off on someone else. Hence the proliferation of czars and study groups.
New Harmony was founded by Owens as a socialist utopia. However, it had a couple of minor problems. People with talent and ambition shunned the place and it attracted needy people who wanted someone to look after them. When Owen ran out of money New Harmony collapsed economically. Thank God it wasn't a government project or it would still be sucking up taxpayer dollars.
Gwynnie ... I'm charmed by your conversation with the educated young hard-left son of a friend who advocated that the good old USofA style of democracy didn't work and therefore should be replaced by a "benign dictatorship." [not a lot of benign dictatorships around, because mostly they don't stay benign very long]. Your answer was great, that it's always the military who has the last vote, and thus chooses the dictator. That must have rattled his cage.
Not that I think it's a bad idea. I would like to have a military man as our next President. I'm thinking in terms of Petraeus who, after all, is brilliant, more tactful than most military men, and has high military and scholastic honors. After all, Eisenhower did a pretty good job, after winning World War II for us, and then taking on the job of President of Columbia, and then being elected President of the United States. No one can claim that either Eisenhower or Petraeus could or can be spooked by tin-pot dictators, and, Lord knows, they had scads of experience handling real SOBs diplomatically.
With our present educational system in its current parlous condition, and a current President who specializes in giving away his best marbles before even starting the game, there are very few systems in our democracy which can train a leader to fight bravely, negotiate without losing the advantage and plan strategically for the best outcomes. The military does this, and very successfully, better than any other of our civilian schools train folks.
I personally would feel most comfortable with a President who has a successful military background.
At least he'd know something about Strategy and Tactics, and the difference between them.
...negotiate without losing the advantage and plan strategically for the best outcomes.
I've been reading Michael Barone's Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers. As he describes it, a good part of the education of William of Orange was devoted to learning to negotiate, a necessary skill for potential leader of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Emphasis on the Seven ;) It is a shame that modern leaders are seldom so well prepared to govern. I don't even know where one could obtain such an education outside of hard experience.
The best thing about many of the utopias was that they managed to murder large numbers of utopians. Of course a lot of innocents were also caught in the undertow, but eggs, omelettes, and all that...
I nominate Chuck's comment as "BEST THREAD POST OF THE WEEK".
Is there an earlier utopia, albeit not a utopia in name, than that presented in The Birds, Cloudcuckooland?
Utopian leftest unwillingness to work and their parasitical nature to live off other peoples money was the prevailing reason many communes failed as noted by Flynn. A good read that filled a few historical memory holes that my high school history teacher passed over back in the day (1972), mostly the salacious parts.
Robert Conquest's "Reflections on a Ravaged Century" drives home the point that the "Idea", no matter what flavor of the day that idea just might be is more important to the left than that ideas eventual outcome or its harmful effect(s) on humanity.
I need to finish reading and find some corroborating evidence before I pass judgement on Victor Suvorov's "The Chief Culprit-Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II" and how he manipulated Hitler into invading Poland so as Hitler would get all blame for starting a war that Stalin desired. If only half of Suvorov's premises are factual, he clearly demonstrates the success of leftest propaganda and their ability to wipeout so much of our historical memory.
As I recall, Marx spent years in the reading room of the British Museum, writing Das Kapital. Meanwhile, his hapless wife had to fend for herself to survive.
Typical utopian: He had the perfect solution for everyone, but not for the one closest to him.
Tracked: Sep 13, 06:01