The blatant hypocrisy, the obstinate ignorance and the penchant for authoritarianism within the American Left today are the three reasons why I left the Left in the first place. Riffing off of my recent post on Leftist thought and its major deficiencies, I thought I’d point out a few more recent examples.
Remember, Leftists by and large don’t realize that what they are doing is a) hypocritical, b) ignorant, and c) authoritarian. It is, as Brian Gothberg pointed out, more of a cognitive block than anything. However, there is really no excuse for this cognitive dissonance once it has been explained. Perhaps I need to work on doing a better job of this, but I suspect, as does Dr. Delacroix, that most of it is simply obstinate ignorance and a failure by Leftists to actually read what their opponents are writing.
Writing over at EconLog, David Henderson points out the blatant hypocrisy of the Left in regards to freedom of speech. He draws readers to the attention of calls for solidarity by Leftist academics blogging at Crooked Timber (it’s to the right, on our blog roll, and has been for quite some time) for one of their own after he was targeted by Right-wing groups for his vile thoughts on the NRA’s CEO (a Mr. Wayne LaPierre). Henderson writes:
Crooked Timber is willing to publish a statement defending Loomis’s freedom of speech but not LaPierre’s [...]
It turns out, by the way, that Crooked Timber also misled by omission. Everyone knows that the expression “head on a stick” is a metaphor, and that is how Crooked Timber defended Loomis. But see here for some of his truly vile comments. Crooked Timber quoted none of these.
Also, the other person, besides the people at Crooked Timber, who is unwilling to defend freedom of speech is . . . Erik Loomis. When given a chance to clarify his views on LaPierre, he wrote, “Dear rightwingers, to be clear, I don’t want to see Wayne LaPierre dead. I want to see him in prison for the rest of his life.”
And what would he want LaPierre in prison for? For murder? No. It would be for speaking out in favor of, and lobbying for, people’s right to own guns. So, again, “freedom of speech for me, but not for thee.”
Blatant hypocrisy indeed. On the issue of obstinate ignorance, I think the current congressional debate over the looming fiscal cliff (see Dr. Foldvary’s explanation of the fiscal cliff, by the way, it’s very good) stands out best. Russ Roberts, blogging at Cafe Hayek, sums up the inability of Leftists to gather and compute the relevant data. On the issue of austerity in the UK, Roberts writes:
How does it come to pass that everyone comes to know something that isn’t true? A simple answer is that if enough people treat it as true and those people have some credibility, then most people will assume it is true.
Which brings me to John Cassidy’s recent New Yorker piece, It’s Official: Austerity Economics Doesn’t Work. HT: JoshDoody) It’s been recommended by 17K people on Facebook. Over 2000 people have tweeted on it. The New Yorker is a fine magazine. I’m sure those 19,000 people and the other thousands who found the article believe that if something is in the New Yorker, it is probably true, especially if it confirms your other views. They will join the millions of people who know that reducing government spending is a bad idea when you’re running large deficits.
But just in case some of those people find their way here, I thought it might be worthwhile to examine Cassidy’s analysis. Is it official? Is austerity economics a failure? [...]
Unfortunately, [...] the only data in the article [is] pretty strange data. Which data am I referring to? The fact that in June of 2010, Cameron “slashed the budgets of various government departments by up to thirty per cent.” That’s the official confirmation that austerity doesn’t work. If you slash the budgets of “some government departments” and you still get a recession, that confirms that austerity isn’t good for the economy.
That’s like a guy who drinks too much wine, beer and scotch every day claiming he’s not an alcoholic anymore because he reduced his consumption of some varieties of wine by up to 30%. Wouldn’t you want to pay attention to his overall consumption of alcohol? Some government department budgets were reduced by up to 30%? What happened to overall government spending? Cassidy never tell us. There are no data in the article about the overall level of spending in the UK [...]
So let’s take a look at what actually happened [...]
In real terms, the Eurostat data show a slight drop in 2010. Less than 1%. Let me write that again. Less than 1%. That’s the austerity that plunged the UK into a double-dip recession according to Cassidy and provided the natural experiment that makes our understanding of austerity official. In 2011, according to Eurostat, real spending fell 4.1%.
Draw your own conclusions.
And of course, these changes in government spending are not the only things that are changing in the world.
Roberts goes on to explain that the EU’s economic crisis plays a big role in Britain’s ongoing struggles. This reminds me of an exchange I had with the friend-of-a-friend on the issue of gun control. I provided a pertinent link to a good statistical analysis of gun violence in the US written by a scholar familiar with good statistical methodologies, and the friend-of-a-friend responded with a half-assed blog post by a policy wonk in DC with a title that said something like “9 things you should know about gun control.” There were, of course, more than 9 things on the list. Why not actually take a look at what the other side is saying? Why remain in such a deplorable state of ignorance?
I think this answer can be found in the Left’s penchant for authoritarianism. As I’ve repeatedly stated: the Left doesn’t care about fairness or freedom, only the power to tell others what to do because of a belief in their own moral and intellectual superiority.
This authoritarian strain within the American Left can be found in any number of examples, from the four-year tenure of President Obama to the City Council of Santa Cruz, but I thought I’d highlight this particular one from an op-ed at CNN by Peter Bergen, a director of “national security studies” at the Left-wing think tank New America Foundation. Bergen argues that gun control is, in this dark age of terrorism, a national security necessity. After citing a whole slew of bad statistics (like Mr. Cassidy in the New Yorker article), Bergen concludes that
The Second Amendment is, of course, very much part of the American fabric. But the intent of the founders was that the amendment protected the rights of citizens to bear arms in a militia for their collective self-defense.
Today, we are not likely to need to organize local militias for our defense now [that] we have something called the Pentagon.
Just for balance and a desire on my part to end this post on a positive note, here is John Lott, an economist and author of More Guns Less Crime on his ongoing cross-national study of gun violence in the US and Western Europe. Pay close attention to the methods used by Mr. Lott and compare them to the methods of Mr. Bergen (hint: Lott explains his methodology, Bergen doesn’t).
As I keep repeating: I left the Left because of its blatant hypocrisy, obstinate ignorance and penchant for authoritarianism. I by-and-large sympathize with Leftist ideals. In fact, I still consider myself a Leftist at heart. Gay people should be able to get married. There is still racism in American society that needs to be dealt with. Our foreign policy is evil. Our health care system sucks. Corporations have too much influence in Washington. Our education system sucks. The war on drugs is an abomination. Et cetera. Et cetera.
However, the worst thing to do when it comes to relieving these problems is to grant the State a monopoly or quasi-monopoly charged with alleviating these ills. If Leftists actually cared about these issues, they would take a second look at libertarian arguments. If they were smart enough, or open-minded enough, they would see that not only will statist solutions fail, but that the State is actually the cause of the problems to begin with.
Abandoning one’s cherished beliefs is never an easy thing to do. After all, a big part of who you are as an individual stems from the beliefs that you hold about the world and yourself. I’d be more sympathetic to Leftists in this regard if I didn’t already know that their beliefs are rooted in the primal desire to rule over their fellow human beings.