A neoliberal view of progressives. The cricket of course is a neoliberal.
Pinocchio from the 1940 Walt Disney movie
In my last post I outlined what I thought was the most fundamental — and also most egregious — lie that progressives told both to themselves and to the world at large. I noted that since progressives sincerely and passionately believed in this misstatement of the truth, it was probably ungenerous to say it was actually a lie, but that it was most certainly a prevarication. This most fundamental of falsehoods about the nature of social reality is this: Government actually has the capability to solve or ameliorate all social and economic problems without creating even worse problems. A corollary to this falsehood is that individuals and non-governmental social organizations lack the power without government assistance to solve their most serious problems. The counterargument disproving this thesis starts with the observation that human social organizations are fundamentally chaotic systems. What the term chaotic system actually means and how the most fundamental assumption of progressive ideology is invalidated by considering them was the subject of my last essay. If you have not read it, you probably should before you read this one.
But fundamental lies about reality give rise to a great many other lies in support of the fundamental one. People who succumb to it will need to declare a great many other falsehoods to buttress the first. Listing what I consider such subsidiary lies is the subject of this post.
United Nations Headquarters in New York City
Wikimedia Commons / Neptuul
Very little divides American citizens more than questions about how the U.S. should interact with other nations. This has always been true about questions of national security for most of my not inconsiderable lifetime of 70 years. Lately, it has also become true about questions of international trade. What general rules should the U.S. follow in reacting and adapting to the challenges of other nations? It might be popular nowadays to assert the U.S. should not engage in nation building, but should that always be the case?
The Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Peril in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Four identical sculptures are locate in Buffalo City, South Africa; Changchun, China; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Sydney, Australia
Wikimedia Commons / paul (dex) from Toronto
Much of the impetus toward political correctness and identity politics in the U.S. and Europe has been imparted by the political philosophy known as multiculturalism. The acceptance of multiculturalism by many of the American Left is the one cultural threat (that I know of) to our present, commonly accepted basic human values at the very top level of our differing value hierarchies. For now at least, the most basic human values, which I discussed in The Basic Values Needed for Our Politics, are common both to most progressives and neoliberals (aka conservatives). As I discussed in Values, Reality, and Politics, the reasons for why progressives and neoliberal conservatives go for each other’s throats has little or nothing to do (at least currently) with differing fundamental values at the top of their respective value hierarchies. The gulf between them comes from how their clashing ideologies generate divergent lower level values to achieve the higher level values. Each ideology gives a different picture to its adherents of what Reality would allow us to do to achieve those most basic values.
Yet, multiculturalism, a political philosophy advocating a cultural relativism of basic values, threatens to change this picture to one where not even the highest level, most fundamental values are held in common. To understand this, consider how American progressivism has evolved over the past several decades. In particular, we need to understand the postmodern Left.
Five of the most important Western ethical thinkers.
From top, left to right; bottom, left to right:
Socrates (Wikimedia Commons / Eric Gaba (Sting));
Aristotle (Wikimedia Commons / Eric Gaba (Sting));
Jesus of Nazareth (Wikimedia Commons / Andreas Wahra);
St. Thomas Aquinas (Wikimedia Commons / Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.)
Immanuel Kant (Wikimedia Commons / By Unknown – Source: Eric Gerlach , first upload , Public Domain)
In my last post, Values, Reality, and Politics, I developed a picture of our increasingly brutal political conflicts as being fights over differing value hierarchies. On closer inspection, each contending structure defines the very heart of the ethics and derived morality of their adherents. One absolutely remarkable observation is the differences between the ethics of progressives and neoliberals (aka conservatives) are not so much with their most fundamental values, but with lower level derived values.
In this picture of ethical evolvements, each level of values requires some prerequisites to acquire those values or ends. Those prerequisites then become valuable themselves as means to achieve the ends of the higher level values. They are therefore derived values one level below the values needing them to be realized. One basic value is security of the community from outside threats, and to achieve national security armed forces are needed. Everything required to produce those armed forces then become derived values to obtain the higher level value of communal security. Yet in my discussion of the hierarchy of values, I left out the most important piece.
The Death of Socrates, by Jaques-Louis David (1787)
Wikimedia Commons / Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1931
Let it be stipulated the two major American political philosophies, more or less congruent with the two major parties, possess the same fundamental human values. These values are the most fundamental goals to be achieved somehow by the society. As I wrote in the post Human Values and the Dictates of Reality,
Chalk it up to our common Judeo-Christian heritage, or to the cultural inheritance from the Age of Enlightenment, or to some mixture of the two. Either way, most of us, whether progressive or conservative, would prefer to see our fellow citizens prosper and lead a satisfying life. Most of us frown on theft, and on gratuitously causing pain to another human being. Virtually all of us despise our historical involvement with slavery, and earnestly desire equal opportunity for all citizens regardless of ethnic or racial heritage. Believe it or not, progressives, this is just as true for conservatives as for progressives.
What causes the progressives and neoliberal conservatives to go for each other’s throats has nothing to do with differing fundamental values. The gulf between them is in what they believe Reality (with a capital “R”) allows us to do to satisfy our common, fundamental values.