Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Progessivism and The New Noblesse Oblige

Hierarchical structures have existed throughout human history, ever since man was first able to walk on two feet and grip his rudimentary tools.  The feudalistic system of the middle ages was a direct off evolution of the patronage system of ancient Rome, which started out as an informal agreement between a benefactor and benefactee and only became formalized into the feudalistic system with the collapse of the Roman economic system, and the concept of betters leading, or guiding, their lessors have direct roots to our first governing system, the tribal system.

It is easy to see why so many individuals are drawn to government solutions, after all, our human brain is geared to operate in small tribal communities lead by a chieftain, in wolf packs we would call him the alpha, and given the relatively small size of tribes, no more than a hundred or so individuals, the system worked relatively well. After all, if it didn't, we wouldn't be here today now would we? Our societies have evolved, but the evolution isn't nearly so large as we would like to think. It is  simply complex reiterations of the basic tribal systems, I mean, if tribal thinking isn't still inherent in modern man then how can you explain the almost fanatical attachment individuals have to regional sports teams? Or just look at the social cliques of high school kids.

Rule By The Nobility Never
Really Went Away
I mention this only to offer some contextual back ground to my post.  Because, with the evolution of our tribal system into larger and more complex systems, certain concepts were articulated.  One concept, noblesse oblige, articulated a rule that was meant to not only prevent abuse of privilege by the elite, but also stipulate that the privileged inherited grave responsibility.  Noblesse oblige has existed as long as formal human social structures have existed, but it wasn't until given the name it has now until the early 19th century by the French. It has been used to articulate the need of nobility to act honorably and justly to their less privilege compatriots, and also, by the morally bereft to justify the cruelty of tyrants.

This is something we need to understand, libertarianism isn't natural, it isn't an innate part of human nature, it has to be discovered and wrestled with rationally. People who do not admit that they have to wrestle the way human beings work with libertarianism, for example the perennially stupid making perennially stupid decisions, and that they have never felt doubt about their ideology, well they are lying, or just no examining their beliefs hard enough.  Ultimately, libertarianism is an intellectual decision, of the mind, not one of our instincts. This is why so many human beings continue to elect individuals that support policies that we do not understand, they are using the instincts, rather than their rational. It wouldn't be so terrible if our instincts weren't woefully out of synch with how complex societies operate.

With this background we move onto progressivism. Now progressivism isn't really all that new, yes some of the causes of progressivism are new, and aren't necessarily diametrically opposed to libertarianism, but the solutions they propose are nothing new. And in fact I should state now, many of the solutions proposed by traditional conservatives are also nothing new. The idea that social ills must be addressed by the state. This is were the variant strains of libertarianism diverge from progressivism and conservatism. 

One of the biggest tenants of progressivism is that the state must ensure that we are all equal. I call these progressives equalists. This isn't the notional that everyone should be treated equal under the law, I support that equalism, but that every one should be equal, i.e those with more give to those with less and that special favors be given to disadvantaged groups to 'level' the playing field.  I have made my, contempt, for such a system abundantly clear so I won't say much more on the matter. I will say that most equalists aren't a huge threat to our society. They will one day be forced to deal with the reality that no, not all people are equal, and when that day comes, provided they don't become mentally unhinged, they can be reasoned with.  It is a different strain of progressivism that worries me, the progressives who would consider themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, the new nobility of America, those are the progressives that worry me.

While some of these progressives who view themselves as our nobility are equalists, in the end I think they make up a minority, and don't hold that much sway.  You see, living in a progressive city, I can attest to one thing. Not all progressives are equalists, in fact, I have met many who aren't.   They have come right out and said they do not think all people inherently are equal. This scares me. The fact that they don't think all people are 'equal' doesn't bother me, I do not think that myself, but being libertarian, I am content with everyone being treated equal under the law, and then let everyone live their own lives the best they can. Not so with the non-equalist progressive.

I can understand the allure of 'equalism' and the desire of some progressives to achieve that magical state were everyone is truly equal. It will never happen, there will never be 100% parity in representation, salary, power, or intellect, the challenge is beyond our capabilities or our systems and attempting to do so will harm society in the long run, but the intentions are well meaning. But the non-equalist progressive, well that is a contradiction.  Here we have an individual that admits that individuals are not, can not, and will not ever be equal to each other, yet they support equalist policies. The question is, why? Surely a person, who knows the utter fallacy that is equalism, that these policies will only cause ruin

The answer, I believe, is advancement. Individuals, who knowingly support policies that are ultimately futile, do so because they believe they derive some benefit from them.  'Yes,' they might rationalize to themselves, 'I can see how policy x really doesn't work, but it benefits me, helps me move up the ladder, and because it does so, I will support it.'  Millions, or even Billions, of dollars wasted. The discussion of competent individuals because they are not a protected group? It doesn't matter so long as the policy helps them achieve their ultimate destination.

There is also another aspect at play. That is the unfortunate reality that human beings like telling human beings what to do. As much as it is true that human beings form hierarchical social structures in nature, it is also true that humans, outside a select few, like being the leader, or at least enjoy the perks that leaders enjoy. Moreover, these type of individuals excel in a particular eviroment, one favored by major corporations and governments.  You can get truly exceptional individuals of great talent and intellect, but history is replete with those type of individuals being cast out, only to have them return when they shake the very foundations of whatever world, think of Steve Jobs.

And that is why they support big government, ultimately it isn't even the politics, it's knowing that whatever cause the government takes up, a new opportunity arises. Calls for government to regulate and dictate an aspect of Americans lives that hadn't been overseen before? Great, it's another opportunity to become the chief undersecretary to the secretary of the deputy director of the department of fuzzy bunnies. It's another opportunity to become part of the technocratic ruling class.

All modern progressivism is today, what it has devolved into, is the concept of noblesse oblige. But rather than the nobility be conferred hereditarily, it is awarded by credentialism. The ring you are expected to kiss is now the ring with the most certificates, diplomas, unviersities and fellowships under his or her belt.  It is the perversion of the meritocracy, were one's status is based off of their actual accomplishments, into the technocracy, were ones status is based on how many of the right kind of documented accomplishments one has.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.