Thursday, March 03, 2011

Running Low On Utopias

Robert Tracinski thinks the left/Democrats are running out of utopias. The five year plans have only been delivering three years of results. People are starting to notice.

...there is something deeper here than just favor-selling and vote-buying. There is something that almost amounts to a twisted idealism in the Democrats' crusade. They are fighting, not just to preserve their special privileges, but to preserve a social ideal. Or rather, they are fighting to maintain the illusion that their ideal system is benevolent and sustainable.

Unionized public-sector employment is the distilled essence of the left's moral ideal. No one has to worry about making a profit. Generous health-care and retirement benefits are provided to everyone by the government. Comfortable pay is mandated by legislative fiat. The work rules are militantly egalitarian: pay, promotion, and job security are almost totally independent of actual job performance. And because everyone works for the government, they never have to worry that their employer will go out of business.

In short, public employment is an idealized socialist economy in miniature, including its political aspect: the grateful recipients of government largesse provide money and organizational support to re-elect the politicians who shower them with all of these benefits.
Ah. Yes. Utopia. As close as you can get to heaven on earth for $100,000 a year minus union dues and fees.
Every political movement needs models. It needs a real-world example to demonstrate how its ideal works and that it works.

And there's the rub. The left is running low on utopias.

The failure of Communism-and the spectacular success of capitalism, particularly in bringing wealth to what used to be called the "Third World"-deprived the left of one utopia. So they fell back on the European welfare state, smugly assuring Americans that we would be so much better off if we were more like our cousins across the Atlantic. But the Great Recession has triggered a sovereign debt crisis across Europe. It turned out that the continent's welfare states were borrowing money to paper over the fact that they have committed themselves to benefits more generous than they can ever hope to pay for.

In America, the ideological crisis of the left is taking a slightly different form. Here, the left has set up its utopias by carving out, within a wider capitalist culture, little islands where its ideals hold sway. Old age is one of those islands, where everyone has been promised the socialist dreams of a guaranteed income and unlimited free health care. Public employment is another.

Now the left is panicking as these experiments in American socialism implode.
Community organizing didn't bring in the hoped for cash flow. What do you call a system that can no longer service its debt? Bankrupt.

Of course the right has its utopia problems as well. But we can deal with them at a later date. First Hitler then Stalin.

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