The Virtues of a Lack of “Imagination”

TraditionalGuy makes a tongue-in-cheek comment on this Althouse post [h/t Instapundit] on the damage the Wisconsin Democrats’ budget would have done the state:

Wisconsin can always balance the budget for needed re-distribution spending by immediately withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And think of the Bullet Train, windmill and solar panel jobs sprouting like weeds everywhere for free after the coal industry has been fully deemed illegal by King Obama I.
The GOP just lacks the necessary fantasy life to govern.

One constant refrain from leftists is that non-leftists just don’t have the “courage” to imagine a better world. Leftists actively credit themselves not for actually making the world a better place but for making intense emotional investments in delusional, fantasy utopias such as the communist utopia predicted by Marxism.

It’s childish. Leftists congratulating themselves on their “courage” to fantasize is akin to a geek like me congratulating myself back in the day for the exploits of one of my Dungeons & Dragons characters.

Marxism is just an elaborate roleplaying fantasy for pseudo-intellectuals. It constructs a fantasy about a world in which material equality and the eradication of social classes leads to a society in which only “intellectuals”, i.e., individuals skilled at persuasive communications, would stand out from the individually undifferentiated “masses”. As Marx himself said, in the future communist utopia, men would be differentiated only by their “innate intellects”. It’s clear what Marx and all his educated followers since thought about their own intellects relative to the rest of population.

For anyone with intellectual pretensions, embracing Marxism doesn’t take courage any more than it takes courage for anyone else to fantasize about winning the lottery and marrying a movie star.

It doesn’t take courage to fantasize about a world where we end up on top. Self-aggrandizing fantasies don’t take courage. Instead, they feed all that is selfish and craven in us. It is those types fantasies which feed the great evils of the world.

It is no accident that Marxism, communism and fascism appealed to “intellectuals” everywhere whereas free-market philosophies appealed to virtually none. In a free-market society, self-styled intellectuals are reduced to the role of teachers and authors. The ability to manipulate people to vote this or that way grants little influence in a society in which the vast majority of decisions are made by individuals who must assume immediate responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. It’s easier to persuade someone to spend someone else’s money collected at the point of a state gun than it is to persuade them to spend their own money voluntarily.

In a society and polity based around state coercion, “intellectuals” have more power and status so intellectuals fantasize about changing contemporary society to one in which state coercion plays a much greater role. That is why leftists always argue for greater state involvement in every facet of life (except sex). The greater the power of the state, the greater the power of those who manipulate the state. All leftist ideology has been an ever-shifting set of rationalizations intended to persuade non-intellectuals to invest more power in the state and thereby elevate the power and status of the intellectuals.

Modern leftists lack the courage to imagine and work towards a world in which they are not particularly important. Instead, they are moral cowards like Milton’s Lucifer who would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. They would rather live as the highest status members of an impoverished and authoritarian society than live as ordinary members of a wealthy and free society.

So, if you’re a non-leftist, be proud of your lack of “imagination”. Failing to have the “courage” to imagine a world were pseudo-intellectuals rule the rest of us is a moral and mental “failing” we can all live with.

19 thoughts on “The Virtues of a Lack of “Imagination””

  1. When I read Currents of Marxism (Kolakowski) you can sometimes see him shake-his-head as he’s typing his analyses of various Marxist and post-Marxist ‘thinkers’ and the natural conclusions (or lack of any content.) Heck, if only the muddled post-Marxist left were as analytical as some of the earlier Marxian philosophers, that might not be, ‘post-modern’ in their use of language and public exchange of ideas.

    The magical thinking one needs to engage in to be the contemporary Leftist beggars the imagination. Some of their ideas, excuse me, almost all of their ideas, are beyond the realm of even the most fantastic myths and religious dogma. When you really contemplate this unity between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ that was supposed to come about and that somehow, the nationalization of production and land, would pave the way for this eschaton, you come away with a dismal view of the capacity of the human brain to let imagination compel it to kill and enslave billions of fellow beings and engage in worship and incantation and call it philosophy.

  2. Reminds me of the movie “The Lives of Others” set in Communist East Germany. It’s the story of a Stasi spy following some state-sponsored artists. So long as the artists won the approval of the party bosses, they lived a darn good life. Run afoul of the the party line and they were suddenly in cold, deep trouble.

  3. Marx and Lenin were very uninterested in real people. It was all theoretical. If they had known more real people, maybe they would have realized that the theory didn’t work.

  4. It has always seemed to me, Mr. Kennedy, that a lot of leftists follow in Marx and Lenin’s footsteps re: “uninterested in real people,” except I would go farther. While some might seem to love humanity in the abstract a great many seem to have nothing but disdain, if not out right contempt, for real in-the-flesh people. I think it has to do with how regular people always seem to get in the way of their utopian plans for us.

    “The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets.” – Eric Hoffer

    I would agree with Hoffer, but say that the only difference between the would-be savior and totalitarian despot is where they are in the revolutionary time line. For surely they both mean to use people to their own ends.

  5. …and of course one’s efforts at bringing about this nirvana are to be lauded no matter how ineffectual, or damaging, it is.

    It’s the thought that counts not the deeds.

  6. Perhaps we need to start distinguishing among different types of intelligence. I’ll cheerfully grant that solid socialists such as Obama and his coterie are adept at understanding the rules and manipulating the play pieces of an elaborate and intricate fantasy world. I agree that there is a high degree of mental activity involved.

    That doesn’t strike me as having much use in the real world (unless your job involves developing computer games)>

    The type of intelligence that does matter involves internalizing a process for obtaining and understanding information about the real world. It involves self doubt in order to accommodate error detection and correction. It involves the ability to recognize and correlate the multiplicity of factors that interact in any real world problem – and an understanding that most problems are wicked. In sum, intelligence of a useful sort must be based on some definable ability to effectively interact with the real world.

  7. I think actually they are the ones who lack imagination.

    They have the “imagination” to visualise a fantasy world that works they way they want it to work.

    We have the ability to visualise how real people will react to policies based on how they want to behave, rather than how we want them to behave. This allows us to reject policies which sound good but will have poor performance in the real world. Doesn’t that require more imagination, not less?

  8. The sad truth is that when leftist intellectuals achieve their goal they are pushed aside by people who are very ruthless, very focused and very adept at developing and using political power. Most intellectuals die painful deaths unless they learn to follow orders and keep their opinions to themselves (which is not the same thing as keeping their mouths shut). History remembers them as useful idiots.

  9. of course. the drones are driven from the hive, to die, once they have served their purpose. too bad there is no stomach here to drive them out now, before they complete their odious task.

  10. “The sad truth is that when leftist intellectuals achieve their goal they are pushed aside by people who are very ruthless, very focused and very adept at developing and using political power.”

    Not something I’d be sad about, myself. I like to put it this way: technocracy is run by the most corrupt.

  11. “technocracy is run by the most corrupt.”

    Jules Verne (remember him :)) had a book on this theme called “City In The Sahara” that is just fantastic. the basic premise is that a crime gang sets up a secret town, deep in the sahara, where this super scientist (along with various other technicians) is creating amazing new machines and technologies. all the head scientist cares about is his work, blind to how it is being put to use by the crime boss.

    eventually the scientist is forced to confront what is going on, and there is a climatic battle between the two sides. it’s much better than my description, and amazingly relevant to today’s googles and facebooks. cjm says “check it out”

  12. Leftists may not want state intervention in where you place your little man, but they are plenty keen on state intervention in any relationships and associations that might be related to inserting your little man in an appropriate orifice.

    Leftists are responsible for the high and ever rising age of consent. Leftists arrest a 24 year old hot teacher for having sex with a sixteen year old football player, who could easily put teacher over his knee and spank her.

    Leftist think that if a women does not consent to sex in words that could in principle be notarized by a justice of the peace, it is rape.

    Leftists have the state break up families. Leftists throw husbands out of their homes.

  13. “when leftist intellectuals achieve their goal they are pushed aside by people who are very ruthless, very focused and very adept at developing and using political power”…it’s not just intellectuals who are attracted to the radical/utopian movements (though many are) but, more generally, people who feel they have not been adequately recognized, and will not be adequately recognized, by the existing order of things.

    In a book by a woman who grew up in an Eastern European country, focused on the time shorty after the Communist takeover, she observed that the Communist youth organizations were invariably run by “the girls with perfect hair.” The irony is that the pre-takeover Communist movements had surely been especially attractive to the girls and guys with very *imperfect* hair, who believed that after the revolution their time would finally come.

  14. The towering leftist intellects of the faculty lounge who promoted revolution are rememberd as useful idiots by the leaders of the Revolutionary People’s Republic and they are not mentioned in the new history books.

  15. “Marx and Lenin … If they had known more real people, maybe they would have realized that the theory didn’t work.”

    They both knew plenty of real people. They just didn’t care. The same is true with their liberal descendants.

  16. They both knew plenty of real people. They just didn’t care. The same is true with their liberal descendants.

    I’ve read a bit about Lenin and he was pretty solitary. I don’t know as much about Marx. These big thinkers would know better if they knew as much psychology as Hitler or Huey Long. The left seems to hive together and avoids contact with other opinions. Kevin Drum, who I respect quite a bit after reading his blogs for years, has it figured out.

    Ronald Reagan was successful because public opinion supported him: he wanted to cut taxes and raise defense spending and so did big chunks of the public. He was leading in a direction that they already wanted to go.

    But no matter how many times we try to kid ourselves with one poll result or another, liberals just don’t have that advantage. The public is mostly in favor of raising taxes on the rich — though I suspect its support is pretty soft — but on the bigger issues they mostly aren’t on our side. They think deficits are bad, they don’t trust Keynesian economics, they don’t want a higher IRS bill (who does, after all?), and they believe the federal government is spending too much on stuff they don’t really understand. Conservatives have just flat out won this debate in recent decades, and until that changes we’re not going to be able to make much progress.

    He knows what he wants and he knows that the public doesn’t agree with him. He is still wrong to think he can change the public’s mind, short of dishonest propaganda which has become too obvious. Lenin probably thought that collective farms would work. He just didn’t understand people. God knows they had 70 years to try. Now, when Obama fails, we will hear that socialism has never really been tried. Mitterand tried it and France nearly collapsed around him. He had to backtrack pretty quickly and France has always had a far more accepting culture for leftism, going back the French Revolution where it all started.

    If it won’t work in France, where the socialists “vote left and live right,” there never was a chance here.

  17. Hidden Bek,

    If I may go off-topic somewhat: I’ve just started Main Currents of Marxism (the volume that combines all three of the originals) and so far have found it a very heavy philosophical slog. Tell me, can I expect better readability farther in? If the whole book is like the first 50 pages I know I’ll never come close to finishing it.

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