A topic that gets little attention, but is probably at the core of what is going on in the West is the collapse of the intellectual Left. Not so long ago, at least for men my age, you really could not be an intellectual unless you embraced the economics of the Left, which meant some form of socialism. Even intellectuals well outside political-economy would make clear they were fine with some form of socialism.
It’s how, for example, you could be a good liberal, like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and also a critic of what we now call multiculturalism. The Left in the West started with economics as the core of the ideology. There was simply no way to be a man of the Left and not embrace some form of economic socialism. It was the intellectual engine of the Left. It provided the goals and most of the justification for the great liberal project.
The collapse of the Soviet Union put a stake in the heart of socialism. The stagnation of the 70’s in the West did a lot to discredit socialism. The economic liberalization of the 80’s and subsequent economic boom had socialism on the ropes, but the collapse of the Soviets killed intellectual socialism forever. It still staggers on in the domestic policies of Western countries, but that’s just cultural inertia.
Progressives no longer have a coherent economic ideology. They have accepted global capitalism without thinking much about it. Many of them come close to arguing that economics is no longer in the domain of politics. Instead, it should be left to supra-national organizations like central banks and global trade organizations. The EU is the most obvious example.
Technocratic managerialism has absorbed the political and intellectual Left like an anaconda swallowing a small animal. Through the outlines of the creatures skin we can still make out Marx, Engels, the old FDR coalition, the Fabians and so on, but each passing year it is more difficult to detect them. What’s left of political-economy is a debate over who has the better spreadsheet skills.
Progressives used to think they were on the side of the angels, because they wanted to bring economic prosperity to the masses. The central argument of the Left from Rousseau until the early 90’s was that the correct economic arrangements would result in surplus and prosperity. The math was therefore simple. The rich had too much and the poor too little so polices that addressed that imbalance were a moral duty of the Progressive.
The collapse of the Soviet Union took with it the economic arguments of the Left. If market capitalism was able to dominate the premier socialist enterprise, it was no longer possible to argue for socialism. Not only that, the opening of the Soviet Block revealed the true horrors of socialism. They even managed to rape the very earth on which they stood. Chernobyl, in many respects, came to symbolize the idiocy of socialism.
The problem for the Left was that the road to salvation could no longer run through the economics department. What was the point of massive government intervention in the lives of citizens if economic equality was no longer a legitimate goal? That’s when they lurched into identity politics. Salvation was now about making sure the black guy or the lesbian felt wanted.
The problem here is no serious man of science accepts the claims of the social justice warriors. That’s why the Left is now just a collection of fashion statements. It has no intellectual underpinning. It makes no claims to transcendent truth. It’s just a bunch of people, who think they can gain salvation by harassing other people. Modern liberalism is a cargo cult with no real point beyond salving the emotional wounds of the adherents.
That’s why Bernie Sanders is such a threat to Hillary Clinton. Free stuff from your neighbor is a terrible idea, but at least it is an idea. If you are a young person loaded down with college debt, debt relief sounds pretty good compared to Clinton’s weird howling about transgendered rights. Something always sounds better than nothing, even when that something is just a museum piece brought out of mothballs by a guy who looks like a character from another century.
That said, nuts and bolts commies like Sanders are seen as a threat to the boys and girls running the Cult of Modern Liberalism, because he exposes the core problem of their new religion. If the people start caring about material stuff again, they may not be willing to sign off on the cultural suicide that promises salvation. If politics is once again about material prosperity, the Left has nothing to contribute. That makes old school commies like Bernie dangerous.
The quest to invite the world into Western countries is in many respects an attempt to create a new victim class the Left can defend. In a world where the poor are fat and live long lives, being the champion of the little guy is not so glamorous. When the oppressed have their own cable channels and control the national culture, even the fanatic has a tough time feeling heroic on their behalf.
That I think is what lies at the heart of the open borders fanaticism. Angela Merkel and her coreligionists are inviting the Muslims in so they can be victims in need of protection. It’s Mother Theresa having run out of lepers giving the village a plague so she can tend to them. It’s Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Instead of being a nurse that poisons her patients, Merkel is a politician, who poisons her country so she can cure it.
That’s why guys like Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK are a symptom. The intellectual Left has collapsed. What’s left is the spiritual trappings that have nothing to offer other than short term spiritual relief to the adherent. While there is always a market for crackpot religions and suicide cults, you cannot build a large scale political movement on them. Bernie Sanders is the ghost of socialism past, warning the present they are headed for destruction.