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  • Why Leftists Are Elitist

    Posted by Shannon Love on September 23rd, 2010 (All posts by )

    Non-leftists spend a lot of time these days telling leftists that the leftists are “elitist.” Leftists usually respond with something like this:

    But somehow these born-into-wealth aristocrats get away with calling people who advocate for, say a living wage, or universal health care, or decent public education “elites.”

    Translation: We leftists are not elitist because we do things for the economically non-rich that we leftists believe to be in the best interest of the non-rich. Elitists only do things that leftists believe to be in the interest of the rich.

    By the leftist definition of elitism, we could live in an absolutist, hereditary aristocracy and still not have an elitist government as long as the aristocrats made decisions that, in the opinion of leftists, benefited the poor.

    The leftists are wrong. Elitism isn’t defined by who benefits, elitism is defined by who decides.

    The very idea that a subset of society gets to decide what is in the best interest of everyone is intrinsically elitist.

    Ideologically, both communism and fascism invest totalitarian control of entire societies in the hands of a tiny subset of the governed society. They both define membership in the subset solely by an individual’s advocacy of a single, pure version of their respective ideologies. Even minor deviations cause ejection from the subset, often with lethal consequences. In societies controlled by these doctrines, individuals have little input into the major decisions that most affect their lives. Indeed, individuals can often be killed on the barest whim of the subset. In no other modern political system has so much arbitrary power over others been invested in the hands of so few.

    However, according to leftists, neither communism nor fascism are elitist ideologies because, in the opinion of both communists and fascists, they each sought to benefit the ordinary citizens at the expense of the wealthy and historically privileged.

    The leftists’ definition of elitism is clearly stupid and self-serving. It allows leftists to arrogate to themselves virtually all decisions about the most minute aspects of an ordinary individual’s life, while still claiming they are not elitist, based entirely on their own estimation that their decisions will best improve the individual’s life. In other words, they adopt the same rational that every elitist political system since the dawn of civilization has used to justify its power.

    An ideology is truly egalitarian and its proponents truly anti-elitist only if the ideology invests legal, decision-making authority in the hands of individuals. In an egalitarian system, individuals make the primary decisions about their own lives. Whether others believe those decisions to be the best choices for the individual is irrelevant.

    A glance at a few policy differences between the contemporary American right and left shows clearly that the right invests individuals with the authority to choose while the left wants to keep that authority in the hands of small number of government agents who think like leftists do.

    Self-Defense:

    Right: Believes that mature, law abiding individuals can own and wisely use firearms for the defense of themselves, their loved ones and their communities. Advocates laws that let individuals decide whether or not to assume the responsibility of owning and using firearms.
    Left: Believes that even mature, law abiding individuals cannot be trusted with firearms and that all firearms should be restricted to government officials or a small number of private individuals whom the government decides can be trusted.

    To highlight this difference look at the varying predictions back in the ’90s when concealed carry was first being seriously debated. The right, being non-elitist, predicted that individuals would use weapons wisely. The left, being elitist, predicted that individuals would use weapons unwisely. They predicted that minor traffic incidents would erupt into gun fights and that our communities would turn into “Dodge City.”

    The right’s predictions proved correct. The overwhelming majority of ordinary people use firearms wisely.

    Education:

    Right: Believes that individual parents can be trusted with spending the money the community allocates for their child’s education. The right advocates a voucher system that lets parents choose schools and directly manage their children’s education.
    Left: Believes that individual parents cannot be trusted at all with their children’s education. Advocates all education spending be allocated by politicians, education “experts” and judges. They prefer that all education decisions be made at the highest level of government possible, with the weakest input from parents.

    Medical Care:

    Right: Advocates giving individuals the widest possible authority in managing their own medical care. Advocates removing mandated policies and providing vouchers and medical savings accounts.
    Left: Wants to centralize primary medical decisions in an unelected federal medical bureaucracy. Panels of “experts” will decide what treatments individuals will receive based on a cost/benefit analysis. Individuals will be free to choose from a list of allowed treatments and doctors. If individuals are allowed to purchase private insurance, the government will strictly mandate what coverage every individual must purchase.

    Jobs:

    Right: Believes that individuals should be free to negotiate pay and conditions of employment. Believes that no one should be forced to join a union and forced to donate part of their dues to leftwing political parties just to have a job.
    Left: Believes that the “experts” should determine pay and conditions for all but the highest paid. Believes that the government should set a minimal pay threshold below which no one is allowed to work regardless of individual circumstances. Believes that as a condition of employment individuals can be forced to join unions and can be forced to donate part of their dues to leftwing political parties.

    And so on…

    In every issue, down the line, with the exception of matters relating to sex (and, increasingly, recreational drugs) the right advocates allowing individuals to make the decisions that profoundly affect their lives while the left advocates having a small elite make the decisions and imposing those decisions on everyone by the violence-based power of the state.

    Leftism is built on the principle of elitism. Its great emotional appeal to intellectuals is that very elitism. Leftism seduces intellectuals and their wannabes with a vision of the world in which they are not only saviors but justly the most dominant, highest status members of society as well. Scratch a leftist and you find a philosopher-king.

    This fact is obvious to all but the leftists themselves. That so many leftists seem genuinely unable to see their own elitism speaks volumes about their capacity for self-delusion.

    In the end, it is that capacity for self-delusion that makes leftists truly dangerous. They grind their boots in our faces while deluding themselves that they do so out of pure altruism. There is no greater danger than individuals who see their own base selfishness as the greater good.

    The 20th Century proved that conclusively.

     

    43 Responses to “Why Leftists Are Elitist”

    1. Anonymous Says:

      Very well put.

      It is self-delusion that allows leftists to be identical to Nazis, yet claim to be egalitarian.

    2. Retardo Says:

      You’re pretty much exactly right. It’s trivially obvious to any leftist that nobody outside his own identity group can trusted to look after HIS interests, but utterly mystifying (and enraging) that many of us outside his identity group don’t trust him too look after ours.

      Even if the left were as supernaturally smart and magically ethical as they believe they are, and if we were as dumb and venal as they believe we are, we’d still be fools to let them decide for us what our interests are — because it is simple human nature that even smart people have imperfect knowledge, and even virtuous people are subject to conflicts of interest.

      This is the point of democracy (a point that lefties almost by definition are unable to comprehend): The goal of representative government is to make representative decisions, not ideal ones. Its failure to make ideal decisions is no big deal. The tendency towards sausage-making and halfassed compromise isn’t a bug.

      There’s one typo: “Abrogate” for “arrogate

    3. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Another phenomenon is the level of ignorance of science and practical things by the self proclaimed elite. The other day, at Washington Monthly, this statement was posted. These are the people who say 96% of scientists are Democrats and Republican all oppose evolution.

      Ron Johnson is currently leading Russ Feingold and is tea party supported.

      “Ron Johnson is one of the year’s stranger Senate candidates (and in 2010, that’s saying something). He’s the far-right candidate who rails against government intervention in private industry, but has sought and received federal aid for his business enterprises. He thinks “sunspots” cause global warming, which doesn’t make any sense. ”

      The candidate is crazy because he believes sunspots cause global warming. My point is the tone of absolute disdain in which a false and ignorant statement is made. Has this man ever heard of the Maunder Minimum ? Or the “Little Ice Age”? Maybe he hasn’t because Michael Mann eliminated them from his graphs.

      It makes me think of nothing so much as the English gentleman of the last century uttering some scientific inanity in a tone that brooks no objection.

    4. cjm Says:

      it’s like rosie o’donell said: “who ever heard of fire melting steel”.

    5. Zenpundit Says:

      “who decides”.

      Spot on.

      It just occurred to me that Leftists also don’t know what “aristocracy” means any more than they do “elitism”.

    6. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

      Leftist elitism offers an explanation for why Leftists do not strongly oppose totalitarian governments such as in Iran, which currently restrict most of the social goods that Leftists say they want.

      Progressives accept totalitarian regimes because of the progressive’s own plan:
      (1) Take control of government.
      (2) Invest government with absolute power to make wise decisions.
      (3) Guide society to peace, prosperity, and happiness.

      A totalitarian regime has already accomplished (1) and (2). That regime may be nasty and currently against all of the progressive’s desires, but the progressive doesn’t want to throw away that accomplishment. The progressive wants to use diplomacy and cooperation to bend the totalitarian regime to progressive ends.

      Finding a totalitarian regime in place changes the task of transformaing society into a type of grant proposal. The Leftist assumption is that our elite will convince their elite of a better way, without having to engage a large number of stupid peasants.

    7. Verity Says:

      Why can’t the left learn grammar?

      Is it too constricting, as in, there are rules, and these may inhibit free, caring spirits?

      I loathe this kind of illiteracy: “… But somehow these born-into-wealth aristocrats get away with calling people who advocate for, say a living wage,” … Can this moron understand the spine-tingling uselessness of the preposition?

      Wordiness. Especially multi-syllable illiterate wordiness, is the left’s favourite hand grenade.

    8. mlyster Says:

      This is such a beautiful synopsis. Concise, and yet expansive in scope. Thank you!

    9. The Monster Says:

      This nicely illustrates what I call “The Fundamental Contradiction of the Democratic Nanny State”. If I am too stupid to run my own life, when I step into the voting booth, what mystical transubstantiation occurs to make me competent to (either directly in the case of referenda or indirectly by electing lawmakers) create laws that run everyone’s lives?

      “He can’t even run his own life, be damned if he’ll run mine, Sunshine.”

    10. cjm Says:

      seems like the first thing leftists do once they do get into power, is execute most of those who put them there.

    11. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Cjm, I don’t know that I would endorse your point with simple leftist election victories although Obama is rapidly shedding the knowledgeable people around him and replacing them with cronies like Valerie Jarret. With violent revolutions, your point is right on. After Castro took power he executed 10,000 people, many of them former followers. Khomeini did the same.

    12. PenGun Says:

      It’s wonderful but completely made out of straw. I am starting to think of this place as chicgostrawmen, It is your favorite method of discourse.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      PenGun,

      Simply crying “stawman” isn’t very convincing. You might want to elaborate a bit. For example, is it straw to say that the vast majority of leftists policies remove decision making authority from individuals and instead invest it in elite government “experts”?

    14. Alex Says:

      Crying strawman is so easy to do. Be real sad, pucker your lips and suck.

    15. Sam Grove Says:

      They predicted that minor traffic incidents would erupt into gun fights and that our communities would turn into “Dodge City.”

      They may be inadvertently right about this, as dodge City had a much lower crime rate than Detroit today.

    16. mlyster Says:

      I believe it was Robert Heinlein who said, “An armed society is a polite society”.
      I live in a town that has three gun shops, and a gun range on the main street.
      People are mighty polite here. And home invasions are exceptionally rare…

    17. Scott Eudaley Says:

      This is so pathetic. Elitism, properly understood, is a profoundly conservative (even libertarian) value. Capitalism is fundamentally an elitist system, which is how it has always been attacked historically and the reason for the leftists embrace of egalitarianism. Elitism includes, among other things, the upholding of standards, the search for value and the recognition that the egalitarian conceit is wrong.

      The problem with modern leftists is not their elitism. It is their arrogance and their willingness to substitute coercion (the law) for persuasion (the market). As Ayn Rand slyly noted, socialism is inherently anti-elitist in the sense that such systems invariably end up being governed, not by the best, but by the worst of humanity.

      I would encourage all of you pontificating on the evils of elitism to read the book In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry III. Henry is/was a critic for Time, a registered Democrat and a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Despite all of that, there is much in his book that you might agree with. He attacks multi-culturalism, moral relativism and egalitarianism. If you will bear with me, I’ll quote him at length, so that you might gain a sense of the book:

      I realized that the wrath directed at elitism has less to do with money than with populist, egalitarian scorn for the very kinds of intellectual distinction-making I hold most dear: respect and even deference toward leadership and position; esteem for accomplishment, especially when achieved through long labor and rigorous education; reverence for heritage, particularly in history, philosophy and culture; commitment to rationalism and scientific investigation; upholding of objective standards; most importantly, the willingness to assert unyieldingly that one idea, contribution or attainment is better than another. The worst aspect of what gets called “political correctness” these days is the erosion of the intellectual confidence needed to sort out, and rank, competing values.

      And:

      The kind of elitists I admire are those who ruthlessly seek out and encourage intelligence and who believe that competition–and, inevitably, some measure of failure–will do more for character than coddling ever can. My kind of elitist does not grade on a curve and is willing to flunk the whole class. My kind of elitist detests the policy of social promotion that has rendered a high school diploma meaningless and a college degree nearly so…. My kind of elitist hates tenure, seniority, and the whole union ethos that contends that workers are interchangable and their performances essentially equivalent.

      I certainly don’t agree with everything he writes, but it is a far more balanced discussion of what elitism actually is (as distinct from the strawman you keep attacking). It is worth reading.

      Once again, conservatives are demonstrating (by attacking your own value system) that conservatives don’t have the foggiest idea of how to win the battle of ideas. And you wonder why you keep losing.

    18. mlyster Says:

      Quite a long post, for an attack on pontification…

      Elitism is characterized by exclusion of the majority by a set of permanent features: ethnicity, economics, faith, region, or career.
      Conservatism is a tent with an open door. We don’t insist upon the proletariat and exclude the rich. We don’t insist upon the degreed, and exclude the working man. We don’t focus on the urbanite at the expense of the agrarian. We insist upon adherence to a set of values. You can be a rich, black neurosurgeon; you can be a poor white farmer; you can be a Polish family living above the dry cleaning store. Welcome aboard.

      Let’s see the New York TImes crowd ascribe to that. No….thought not.

    19. Alan K. Henderson Says:

      Instead of right/left, let’s label the divide as Thomas Sowell did:

      Tragic Vision: Human ethics and knowledge is not perfectible. Because humans run governments, policy is not perfectible. Policymaking must therefore address both the maximization of benefits and the minimization of ill side effects. Since the world is full of would-be tyrants, and the strongest interest in government employment is found in such persons, power must be decentralized in order to minimize the opportunity for tyranny.

      Utopian Vision: Human ethics and knowledge is perfectible. Because humans run governments, policy is perfectible. Policymaking must therefore seek the perfect solution. Since perfection is possible only if the most enlightened rule without interference from the unenlightened, and (currently) the latter outnumber the former, power must be centralized.

      You can have earthly paradise only if everyone agrees on the definition of “paradise.” Which leads to a personal saying of mine: all utopias are dystopias.

    20. Alan K. Henderson Says:

      Dr. Sowell’s wording can be found here, cited in Mark Cenedella’s review:

      http://www.amazon.com/Conflict-Visions-Ideological-Political-Struggles/dp/0465002056/complainandresol

    21. cjm Says:

      eudelay,

      there is a cohort on the pseudo-right that matches your description. they are in the process of being driven from power. the people here, whom you clearly are unfamiliar with, are not in that cohort.

      elitism: position without merit.

    22. Ike Says:

      Mr. Eudaley –

      It’s my experience that most of the unnecessary heat in modern online debates comes about because the parties have jumped in without properly defining the terms.

      Mr. Henry’s book does appear to be an instance of refreshing intellectual honesty, but I do not believe Mr. Henry’s use of the word “elite” matches up with the definition as it is generally understood by the community at ChicagoBoyz.

      Specifically, it seems to come to this:

      Mr. Henry would have the word elite refer to those people who in some respect or another have set themselves apart through achievement, resources, influence or power.

      The CB Community (if I understand them collectively) would proffer that an individual who truly excels in his field, through fair dealings in a meritocracy, is not in fact an “elite.” Here’s an example: A man who studies at Harvard medical school, and uses his knowledge to develop a groundbreaking cure may indeed be elite… but when he starts exuding an attitude of entitlement based on his diploma instead of his accomplishments, he becomes an Elite.

      In the case we’re talking about in this thread, the Elite designation is an intellectual tautology: “I am Elite and deserving of your respect and following because I happen to hold certain ideas I consider to be enlightened… and a bunch of people with lofty diplomas seem to agree, so it’s settled, now shut up.”

      The elite thinker, by your definition, would never shy away from the Marketplace of Ideas, because he has the confidence that he is right.

      The Elite thinker, however, scoffs at the notion there’s still a debate, and that only fools and evil bastards would say otherwise.

      http://ike4.me/4arg

    23. mlyster Says:

      Ike, CJM and ALan H:
      Great summations; thanks for elucidating this (really).
      “Position without merit” is, imperfect though it may be, perhaps the best condensation of the idea of Elitism that I’ve seen.
      Thomas Sowell’s division, which bypasses the right/left distinction, provides an intellectual tool by which one can evaluate a candidate, or a concept, or a method of government in a fairly objective fashion. It necessarily requires acceptance of his concept of humanity, and somewhat overstates the Utopian stance, but nonetheless allows for quick identification of the “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” crowd.

      I see this distinction in medicine. There are physicians, well trained and (usually) well-meaning, who feel it is their duty—indeed, their right—to convince patients to follow their directives (not suggestions: that would imply that there is an alternate position), because: well, just because, as it is clearly THE right answer.
      When I recommend one option versus another, I will sometimes hear one of them inquire, “So, how are you gonna convince Mrs M____ to go along with your recommendations? ” My answer is almost inevitably, “I’m not. She has the right to choose for herself, and it’s not my place to make her do anything. She’s made decisions for herself for 70 years: it’s not my place to grab the reins out of her hands”. Some physicians are bewildered by this. Interestingly, they are often individuals whose voting preferences would not match the people on this site.
      Individuals faced with illness are, by and large capable of deciding what is good for themselves. Sometimes they make bad decisions. Such is their right as individuals, so long as they are given enough information to make informed decisions. What one person decides about a risky surgical procedure at age 45 is different from what a 75 year old might decide about the same intervention. Elitism as applied to this setting is the idea that we, the informed Experts, know better. The ‘meritless position’, in this instance is decisionmaker for another grownup. We know tools, and medicines, and tests and statistics and such. We don’t know what Mrs. M___ wants to do with her life. Nor, to bring it back to the central theme here, does a governing body of Elites.

    24. David Foster Says:

      “Elitism isn’t defined by who benefits, elitism is defined by who decides”…in Britain prior to the expansion of the franchise, there was a doctrine known as “virtual representation.” The theory was that, say, the agricultural laborer didn’t need to vote because the landowner he worked for represented the “agricultural interest” of which he was a part. Similarly for the textile worker and the millowner.

      We have a rather similar situation now in that our “virtual representation” is provided by a class of professional politicians and bureaucrats who are mostly lawyers (increasingly also academics, among the bureaucrats) by training and experience. Indeed, there was at least *some* genuine commonality of interest between the landowner and his laborer, and the millowner and his employee—but it’s hard to see much common interest between our politician/bureaucrat class and the rest of us.

    25. David Foster Says:

      Ike..”The CB Community (if I understand them collectively) would proffer that an individual who truly excels in his field, through fair dealings in a meritocracy, is not in fact an “elite.””

      I’d argue that the existence of elites (note the plural) is not a bad thing, and that all societies must have elites. Our problem now is the attempt being made to consolidate multiple elites into a single elite, with position on the ladder of elite-ism being tightly controlled via educational credentials.

    26. Shannon Love Says:

      Scott Eudaley,

      I think you completely misunderstood my argument and you did so because you are employing a different definition of elitism.

      I’ve read some of William A. Henry III’s work and his concept really doesn’t apply to what we are talking about here. Henry is actually arguing (whether he understands it or not) against the Marxist concept that holds that all the benefits of modern society arise from a predestined (historically inevitable) evolution of society driven along by natural forces and that therefore no individual or group of individuals could claim superiority over others because of any material or intellectual accomplishments. It would be akin to someone taking credit for rain that falls on their land while mocking others who did not receive such rain.

      This concept extends to societies and cultures as well. A more advanced (literally “out in front”) society or culture is simply by natural fluke farther along in the predetermined evolution of all human societies and cultures to the single uniform communist state.

      The entire Marxist argument for power hinges on this concept so Marxist apply it relentlessly to all areas of human endeavor. For the Marxist, the only superior person is the one who realizes the truth of Marxism before others do.

      Therefore, Marxists don’t really believe in what I would term “empirical elitism”. Empirical elites are individuals who have materially demonstrated that they have a superior predictive model of some particular phenomenon. For example, when we say that someone belongs to an “elite” military unit, we mean they are highly skilled warriors and not that they are generals. We are talking about their empirical demonstrated ability, not their granted rank.

      Since we here at Chicagoboyz are not Marxist, Henry’s argument doesn’t really apply to us. We all believe in empirical elites.

      Remember, we are talking about political ideology here. The major flaw in leftism is that they hold that (1) empirical elites exist in all areas of human decision-making and that (2) real-world political mechanisms exists which can pick out those empirical elites and empower them to enforce their elite knowledge on the rest of society by the violence based power of the state.

      Proposition (1) is wrong because we still lack the ability to measure the majority of the most important phenomena that strongly affect our lives. E.g. We cannot measure economic activity in real-time or really at all. All our measurements are largely notional. That in turn means that economics is not a predictive science and that therefore there are no empirically elite economist. In the vast majority of cases, your are as well off flipping a coin as asking an economist.

      Proposition (2) is wrong because the real-world political system cannot reliably choose empirical elites even in fields in which they do exist, such as engineering. If that was true, we would still have four space shuttles.

      Free-market capitalism works precisely because it selects and empowers elites via a process of continuous empiricism. It forces, people to prove they understand a phenomena by forcing them to repeatedly make accurate predictions about that phenomena. If they make accurate predictions more resources are route to them in the form of money so they can hopefully make accurate predictions on a larger scope. If they make inaccurate predictions, resources are routed away from them to mitigate the damage they can do.

      This is anti-elitist because the ultimate decision on whether any particular individual is elite is distributed among all the candidate’s customers. Individuals empirically test whether the candidate’s predictions bear out and provide feedback through the market to the elite.

      Leftists have spent the last 150 years attempting to hijack empirical elitism and claim it for themselves. They will say things like, “Well, since physicist understand how to send a rocket to a specific point on the moon, sociologist understand precisely how to reduce crime. We should all defer to sociologist in matters of sociology just like we defer to physicist in rocketry.”

      Because they believed that the only superior individuals were those who properly understood Marxist ideology, they believed that any Marxist would make better political decisions about anything than any non-Marxist no matter how skilled or experience the non-Marxist had proven to be in any particular area. Contemporary American leftists have inherited this idea and believe that any good leftists will make better decisions than any non-leftist.

      Therefore, they advocate policies in all areas in which decsion-making authority is taken out of the hands of individuals and invested in the hands of either a leftists or someone selected by a leftists.

      That is what makes them elitist.

    27. David Foster Says:

      Shannon…”We should all defer to sociologist in matters of sociology just like we defer to physicist in rocketry”…a big part of what has happened in the last 50 years is that the credibility of academics and experts who REALLY DO know important stuff has been borrowed/stolen by other academics and experts whose claim to knowledge is largely faux.

      At the end of WWII through the mid-1960s, scientists/engineers had enormous credibililty, even if they were often considered a little strange. They had made huge contributions to winning WWII, including radar and the atomic bomb; peaceful nuclear power was popular; computers were viewed as awesome, almost magical; aviation was advancing rapidly, as was medicine. Thus, psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists tended to be believed when they asserted that they *also* had special knowledge. Now we have gotten to the point where many English professors also claim that their special jargon gives them a unique insight into the proper organization of society.

    28. Shannon Love Says:

      David Foster,

      Our problem now is the attempt being made to consolidate multiple elites into a single elite, with position on the ladder of elite-ism being tightly controlled via educational credentials.

      I think there are two problems: (1) The belief that being an empirical elite in one focused area makes you a globally superior decision-maker in all areas and (2) the attempt by leftists in non-emperical fields to parasitize the deference given to empirical elites.

      You can demonstrate this by simply pushing a leftists to demonstrate that their non-emperical ideas work. They will first say that such-and-such smart person believes as they do and then claim that you don’t believe in the results of some largely unrelated empirical field so obviously you are an idiot.

    29. Snorri Godhi Says:

      This [Marxist] concept extends to societies and cultures as well. A more advanced (literally “out in front”) society or culture is simply by natural fluke farther along in the predetermined evolution of all human societies and cultures to the single uniform communist state.

      It should also be remembered that this relativism did not prevent Marx and Engels from claiming that genocide (of people who failed to reach the industrial stage when the most advanced people had already reached the socialist stage) was a historical necessity, and therefore a “good thing”.
      (My source is The Lost Literature of Socialism, which I mentioned in a previous discussion.)

      Perhaps after writing this post you have another hint of why I claim that the “left” is actually the Right?

    30. The Monster Says:

      It forces, people to prove they understand a phenomena by forcing them to repeatedly make accurate predictions about that phenomena.

      The word “phenomena” is the plural of “phenomenon”.

    31. Shannon Love Says:

      Snorri Godhi,

      Perhaps after writing this post you have another hint of why I claim that the “left” is actually the Right?

      Well, no, unless you’re making some kind of argument that mass killings are somehow intrinsically of the Right/

    32. Shannon Love Says:

      The Monster,

      The word “phenomena” is the plural of “phenomenon”.

      Thanks, I didn’t pay attention to my spell checker. Latin plurals are always longer than latin singulars.

    33. Snorri Godhi Says:

      Shannon Love: no, I am making the argument that elitism is intrinsically Ancien Regime.

    34. Shannon Love Says:

      Snorri Godhi,

      I am making the argument that elitism is intrinsically Ancien Regime.

      I see, however, you won’t get far unless you explain to people that you are not talking about the left and right as most people understand them today but instead use a definition 2 centuries old. Most people won’t understand your are referring to the political order of France in 1792.

      More importantly, you are wrong. You are making the mistake I warned of: defining elitism by who the elitists believe will benefit instead of defining elitism based on the belief about who decides.

      As the history of the French revolution showed, the left of that era was every bit as elitist as autocrats they replaced. When they gained power, they immediately set about concentrating that power in fewer and fewer hands based on the argument that only a few could actually understand what was best for most.

      In the end, only doctrines that advocate the devolution of decision-making authority from the few to the many are truly egalitarian. Elitism is the core of any doctrine that advocates the centralization of decision making in the few. How those few are chosen e.g. birth, race, religion, ideology etc is irrelevant.

    35. Snorri Godhi Says:

      PS: it occurred to me that, if I was misunderstood before, I should make an extra effort to be clear now. So I withdraw this comment:

      Shannon Love: no, I am making the argument that elitism is intrinsically Ancien Regime.

      And replace it with the following:

      The argument that I was making was that Marx and Engels were not as different from nazism as most people think.
      IN ADDITION, I also suggested [not argued, just suggested] that writing about elitism might lead one to see the similarity between the “left” and the Ancien Regime.

    36. Snorri Godhi Says:

      Sorry, my PS was written before your reply; but apparently my PS was not really needed.

      You are making the mistake I warned of: defining elitism by who the elitists believe will benefit instead of defining elitism based on the belief about who decides.

      No, I am not.

      As the history of the French revolution showed, the left of that era was every bit as elitist as autocrats they replaced.

      That is the Jonah Goldberg view of the French Revolution, but it is based on a gross misunderstanding: it reduces the French Revolution to the Committee of Public Safety [created 1793].

      In the end, only doctrines that advocate the devolution of decision-making authority from the few to the many are truly egalitarian.

      Well put indeed; but as I said before, such doctrines were know as Left-wing at the time of Tocqueville, down to the time when Hayek was growing up.

      Of course there was some entryism, e.g. Robespierre, Proudhon, Lenin claimed to be “left-wing” [not sure about Marx and Engels]. But it is only after ww2 that “any doctrine that advocates the centralization of decision making in the few” was equated with “left-wing”. (And even now, this equation is unconditionally valid only in the English-speaking countries.)

    37. Shannon Love Says:

      Snorri Godhi,

      I am aware that in Europe the battle against aristocracy continued into the early 20th century and that as a consequence, many Europeans still consider hereditary aristocrats somehow part of the modern political debate but for the vast majority of cases, this is a pointless distinction. It really doesn’t matter what terminology was used in the 1800s.

      As I noted in an earlier thread, all modern political ideologies, from Communism to including the ideology of the American Founders would be classified as “left” by the standards of 1792 France. You may be, therefore, technically accurate when you say all modern right is left but that renders the use of the terms right and left useless for discriminating between modern ideologies.

      Like all directions, even the metaphorical right and left are always relative and defined by their position relative to each other. As times change, the relative positions of right and left change as well. What is the point of talking about hereditary aristocrats with the divine right to rule in discussion of modern American politics?

      Your definition is interesting in tracing the evolution of the terminology but terminology and taxonomy are not reality. Unless you accompany your use of the terms with a long historical digression, no one today will understand what you are talking about.

    38. Donald Sensing Says:

      Today we call the elites the political class. Whether Democrat or Republican, the political class fears the Tea Party movement precisely because the TP wants to return power to the people, while the political class, whether Rep. or Dem., simply wants to keep it. (“Bitter clingers” indeed.)

    39. The Count Says:

      That’s why they hated “the decider” so much.

    40. Snorri Godhi Says:

      As I noted in an earlier thread, all modern political ideologies, from Communism to including the ideology of the American Founders would be classified as “left” by the standards of 1792 France.

      The standards of 1792 are not very important. What matters are the standards of Tocqueville, Hayek, and those of their contemporaries (roughly 1815 to 1940) who are still worth reading; and by THEIR standards, NOT everybody today would be classified as “left”.

      What is the point of talking about hereditary aristocrats with the divine right to rule in discussion of modern American politics?

      Although the question was meant rhetorically, it is actually answered quite well by your own post.
      I don’t really need to add anything, but I wish to point out that:
      [a] the aristocracy, unlike the monarchy and church, did not claim any divine right afaik;
      [b] claiming that the people don’t know what is good for them, is as close to claiming divine right as any atheist is likely to get.

      terminology and taxonomy are not reality.

      Indeed, as I wrote in the earlier thread:
      “left/right” is what is called “left” or “right” in a specific time and place, e.g. the Anglosphere today.
      I am a committed nominalist, you see. However, now that you have defined elitism [insightfully, I may add], I hope you won’t shrink from the consequences of your own definition.

      Unless you accompany your use of the terms with a long historical digression, no one today will understand what you are talking about.

      That’s fine, because no one today understands what anybody else is talking about, when talking about “left” and “right”. My main concern is to know what I myself am talking about, a concern that neither Jonah Goldberg nor his critics seem to have.
      (I hope that I can be forgiven a bit of sarcasm in this last paragraph.)

    41. mlyster Says:

      What is the point of discussing hereditary aristocrats when considering American politics?
      I dunno. Let’s ask Jesse Jackson Jr; Patrick Kennedy; Rory Reid; Mr Cuomo the Younger, Richie Daley, and the Carnahans what they think. While we’re at it, let’s fire an Email copy to Senator Murkowski (soon to be known as Ms. Murkowski), and get their take on the issue.

      No, they are not entitled by Divine Right to a position in government. Just don’t tell them that, however: rest assured, they believe quite the opposite, no matter what that…Constitution…thingy…seems to say about it.

    42. GettingReal Says:

      Shannon Love: Delightful post, how I would like to see this go viral into all the world. But, alas, I doubt that it will. Keep up the good work.

      Snorri Godhi and Shannon Love: Thanks for the good discussion about the historical roots and linguistic movement of the terms left and right. I have wondered about why it seems the ideologies seem to fluctuate over the course of time. Much of what you said was way over my head, but I got the general gist of it and enjoyed the illumination.

      Mlyster: Thanks for the Constitution thingy humor! Brainy humor makes me smile. You are also right on target with your political aristocracy factor of electability.

      It seems to my lower level brain that society operates in similar patterns over the ages. The carpenter’s son becomes a carpenter, the mayor’s son becomes a mayor, the pastor’s son becomes a pastor… I think it has to do with the fact that a lifetime of knowledge, skill, power and influence is transferred most readily from father to son.

    43. GettingReal Says:

      David Foster said: “I’d argue that the existence of elites (note the plural) is not a bad thing, and that all societies must have elites. Our problem now is the attempt being made to consolidate multiple elites into a single elite, with position on the ladder of elite-ism being tightly controlled via educational credentials.”

      David, I second that argument and add that the elite is also required to be able to lie very efficiently in order to be able to speak out of both sides of his mouth and smile for the camera at the same time.