Feeling the Bern

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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.

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Doug
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Doug
3 months 5 days ago

Couldn’t possibly be anything to do with the lowest common cultural/political denominator? The nasty dirty underlying bedrock precepts of cultural marxism?

alzaebo
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alzaebo
3 months 5 days ago

Inviting disaster to save themselves. So short-sighted, and the same as the Deep State grifters.
Nobody is working on the two great emergent problems of surplus: automation and the swelling horde of Southern Hemisphere savages.

Doug
Guest
Doug
3 months 5 days ago

Dude, don’t you get it? The bastards don’t give a shit about America, importing those savages is the final solution to the dirt people and bitter clingers. You think any of those illegals aliens care about rule of law or a constitutional republic? Rule of men is all they know, and if it’s a gravy train in America and nobody is shooting or bombing them, they are not going to be questing those running the show.

Wombat
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Wombat
3 months 4 days ago

Excuse this southern hemisphere savage for tossing another shrimp on the barbie. 😉

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo
3 months 4 days ago

You’re living proof that colonialism is the only thing that works!
(By the way, the second most popular talk radio show in the US is the Savage Nation- Michael Savage)

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago

So we have Brits, Krauts and Aussies on here? Nice international exchange!

Member
3 months 5 days ago

Them’s some good insights, Z. Establishmentarian conservatism is dying. Economic progressivism is dying. What’s next? De Codevilla’s country class (your dirt people) versus the ruling class (cloud people).

If I was the cloud people, I’d be shutting down the identitarian progressives fast. They’re stirring up the dirt people… politicizing them. If I was in the ruling class, I’d want my political shills out handing out Big Macs and tickets to Cirque de Soleil, not provoking the country class to buy guns and ammo.

Doug
Guest
Doug
3 months 5 days ago

Angello Codevilla’s piece is seminal and cautionary as you say, not very many reference it’s provincial premise.
Big Mac’s don’t stop ruling class psychopaths and other tyrants. And they are no substitute for liberty either. It is always left to the Dirt People to do the ugly dirty and nasty bloody work of balancing evil.

Magical gringo
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Magical gringo
3 months 5 days ago

Bernie is just a Socialist Jew, he is like the American Leon Blum but we’re not going to be luck in seeing him whiskied to a German concetration camp.

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago
@ Magical gringo – The Jews were the intellectuals, bankers and industrialists, artists, musicians and basically hard working, honest people who made a positive contribution to Germany and Europe. Unlike the influx of Islamists and their pure hatred of all things non-Muslim we have here today. The Nazi’s did more than wipe out 6,000,000 people, they obliterated an entire generation of great minds and thinkers and stole humanity from the rest of the world. Thankfully many Jews made it to America (Albert Einstein, Béla Bartok, Raphael Lemkin are just a few) where they could flourish away from that brutal regime.… Read more »
alzaebo
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alzaebo
3 months 4 days ago

The problem with the world’s highest IQ group is that half of them aren’t the patriotic, empathetic other half. I call them the Golden Calf faction, it goes all the way back.
Their capability makes them dangerous, and the good guys get lumped in with the blame.
Physician, heal thyself!

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago
Let’s just say I’d rather have 1,000,000 Jews trying to come here than that same number (and more) of Muslims. Just look at the state of Israel; in 1948 they took a desert and in less than a generation, turned it into a garden. Meanwhile, their neighbors have yet to get over their envy and hatred of people who know how to work and make things better for themselves and those around them. You need only look up the number of patents and inventions coming out of Israel vs. those from their neighboring countries. Seriously, who would you really want… Read more »
Buckaroo Banzai
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Buckaroo Banzai
3 months 3 days ago
Karl, swallow the red pill. Six million? Hmmm. People over here are waking up and figuring out we’ve been sold a load of bullshit. Everybody forgets that both Germany AND the Soviets invaded Poland– and nobody seems to consider that between those two, America might have picked the wrong side. Cultural Marxism and Internationalism/Globalism, (aka New World Order, aka Global Technocracy) are crushing western civilization. One wonders how things might be different if Stalin had been defeated. Stalin’s spies in Washington DC and Hollywood would have been orphaned, and maybe the Cultural Marxists would have been stopped in their tracks.… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 3 days ago
@ BB – There’s no question the numbers are higher, 6-million is just a number people know since it’s well published. What many don’t understand about the end of the war was the effect on the German psyche. We had been told we were the future leaders of the world, a thousand year Reich. And then it all came apart. The Americans didn’t just defeat the German army, we were a conquered people and occupied nation just like Japan. That didn’t happen in WW1. On top of that, Germany lost around 3-4 million working age males which is why if… Read more »
Backwoods Engineer
Guest
3 months 5 days ago

” 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.”

I’d love to buy this, but I meet too many Progressives that still bitterly cling to the above formula, and therefore are (at least in degree), economic socialists who thrive on economic class warfare.

Severian
Guest
3 months 5 days ago
You’re spot-on. As to what comes next, well…. ther’s a political movement that has plenty of ideas, with science!(add as many !s as you feel it needs) to back them. It gives every True Believer a crusade to join (and spiffy Party uniforms and armbands with which to virtue-signal). And it assures a decent level of material prosperity, rising as one’s rank in the Party rises. Best of all, its ideas are so old they look new again — witness all the doofus college kids who think Bernie’s warmed over Eugene V. Debs act is a radical innovation. Old left… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 5 days ago
“Instead of being a nurse that poisons her patients, Merkel is a politician, who poisons her country so she can cure it.” Interesting perspective, but highly unlikely since the problem isn’t one she could cure if she wanted to. There’s simply no way she’s going to suddenly become the “Retter von Deutschland” (Savior of Germany) in order to save the CDU party. The Bavarians are already challenging the legality of her decisions in constitutional court, and other states may join in. I would suggest that if you look back in Frau Merkle’s background, it’s simply her upbringing kicking in; a… Read more »
alzaebo
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alzaebo
3 months 5 days ago

Well done. The EU elites are preparing for, or trying to nudge towards, Silk Road Il (East Europe, the Turkic states, and Persia) and the expansion into Mediterranean Union (co-opting the Nile, the Levant, and Near East Gulf routes.)

Anon.
Guest
Anon.
3 months 5 days ago
I was heartened when I heard her say multiculturalism has failed. And when the migrant crisis became a tsunami, I heard her say Europe needs to unite in the face of this crisis and I took it to mean that Europe must act to stop this wave of immigration : ) Haha! I couldn’t believe that she actually means Europe must unite in letting them in! Now, I’m pretty sure that everyone misunderstood what she meant when she said multiculturalism was a failure. She actually meant that Europeans must adapt to various Muslim customs (and vice versa) in order to… Read more »
rumcrook
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rumcrook
3 months 4 days ago

In other words she is a cultural national traitor.

Christopher S. Johns
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Christopher S. Johns
3 months 5 days ago

How remarkable, even revolutionary, it would be if a politician from either party actually proposed policies to assist ordinary people to become both prosperous and useful.

Doug
Guest
Doug
3 months 5 days ago

Why is there any reason why the political class is required to give their blessing for what are primal rights of all men to begin with?
Those components of liberty, prosperity and happiness only require unfettered self determination.

Christopher S. Johns
Guest
Christopher S. Johns
3 months 4 days ago
Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear enough. The political class has spent the better part of fifty years creating ever more elaborate burdens on the “primal rights of men” and impediments to their exercise. I just thought it might be refreshing, for a change, to have a political class that actually espoused and encouraged those “primal rights” in those they ostensibly rule, and nurture the energies and common sense of ordinary men and women rather than hinder them. This would, to a large measure, require the political class to abolish itself, or at least to radically transform its current preoccupations… Read more »
Anon.
Guest
Anon.
3 months 5 days ago

Are you not aware that Corbyn is an open-borders nut? : ) He’s crazy about it. He doesn’t even pretend to be sane about open borders. In that sense he’s quite different from Bernie. Though they’re both socialist nutcases from the fringes.
Also, for students, transgender ‘rights’ are a Something to Believe In. It may be unhinged, but it’s Something.

Doug
Guest
Doug
3 months 5 days ago

Putting frosting on a turd, it’s still a turd.

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UKer
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UKer
3 months 4 days ago

The political doctrine of “tax the rich” is great while the taxed remain rich. Once they have been taxed to the point they haven’t got anything left, there is far less money coming in for the people organising the taxing. When that happens the tax-makers have to lower their aim of taxation, at which point they turn to both the old-poor and the newly-poor alike, because the need for taxation does not go away with supposed “equality.”

But don’t tell socialists that. It upsets them to realise that they haven’t got a clue.

James LePore
Guest
3 months 4 days ago

As (I believe) Churchill said, it works until you run out of other people’s money. At that point the police state really kicks into high gear.

jhstuart
Guest
jhstuart
3 months 4 days ago

“The EU is the most obvious example”. I read that quickly and thought you used the word
odious instead of obvious which would have been more appropriate.

Guest
RIchard Illyes
3 months 4 days ago
The Merkel insight is right on, and you saw it here first. Something HUUUGe is going to happen in the next year or so. Cultural virtue signalling will look as childish as it actually is when things really hit the fan.. The Black Swans have hatched and are fledging. John Mauldin has a free daily rumination that has some interesting observations today which started by looking at negative interest rates. “Some think the federal government is missing a chance to borrow gobs of money at super-attractive interest rates. Kocherlakota would like to see the Treasury issue as much paper as… Read more »
Turk Sylvester
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Turk Sylvester
3 months 4 days ago

I’m not personally familiar with Greece or Greeks, but from what I read they are a pretty lazy group. Is anything going to fix that?

Elbert Marx
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Elbert Marx
3 months 4 days ago
Yes, but this is why the Left is more dangerous today than ever before in the history of the U.S. You can argue with an intellectual position (say, heirloom Socialism a la Bernie), but not a batch of purely emotional propositions and demands. To a person who is paranoid (in psychiatric terms), any event, act, or comment supplies further proof that the demented belief is correct. To the SJW, proof of victimization is everywhere. It can only be fought be destroying the victimizer (Western civilization, white people). There is no middle ground, no possible compromise. The new, New Left —… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago
@ Elbert Marx – I suspect what’s new in today’s news regarding the stories about American campuses will pass soon enough. America is way more resilient than a bunch of winey mouthy college students pissing and moaning about their emotional struggles. Ask yourself, does anyone really care about these people? No, they don’t. Does America care when their soldiers, who volunteered, return from the middle east? Yes, they do. And guess which one gets hired; the whiney student from Yale or the ex-Sergeant who finished an online degree while deployed? I think we all know the answer. These kids are… Read more »
alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo
3 months 4 days ago

A disagreement- they are very employable.
They are future government employees in training. The New Left is firming the ranks.

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo
3 months 4 days ago

They are interns to the Red Guard Brigades, demonstrating Party loyalty.
It’s their beginning portfolio of job experience.

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago

@ Alzaebo – Fair point. I hadn’t considered those career fields. Actually, with a liberal arts degree, they’d probably be over qualified. At least if they’re anything like the government employees we have here.

Guest
Guest
Guest
3 months 4 days ago
I have difficulty with the thesis of this post. The reason there is no longer an “intellectual left” making the case for socialism is that, contrary to the assertion in this post, the socialists won. There’s no one for the “intellectual left” to debate over socialism anymore because all mainstream conservatives who used to form the “intellectual right” now accept without question the central premise of socialism, i.e., that the proper role of government is to redistribute wealth from the rich and middle class to the lower class. Virtually every meaningful market in America has been socialized. A baby born… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 4 days ago
@ Guest – This isn’t an American problem, it’s a western world problem. American, and in some regards, much of Europe, has deindustrialized and automated much of what use to be real paying jobs. No industry, no jobs. And unlike our fathers who could leave high school and work at GM or VW, those jobs simply don’t exist today. Just look at the automated Amazon warehouse…mostly robots, very few people. It’s not socialism, it’s unemployment and lack of jobs. It’s why Spain has thousands of unemployed young graduate engineers who simply can’t find work in Europe despite our new borderless… Read more »
UKer
Guest
UKer
3 months 3 days ago
Karl, I have followed your posts with interest, largely because for all the bad blood between the UK and Germany we still feel closer to your world than to say France or the Med countries. After all, the House of Windsor is German in origin and for all the devaluing of the monarchy (embodied by Elizabeth currently, though less so Charles the Nut should he ever get the throne) it counts for a lot still. One small point I would make here, allied to the things you have said: I have a distant relative through marriage who is Jewish. She… Read more »
Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)
3 months 3 days ago
@ Uker – I suspect ancient Germanic blood runs through the veins of many northern Europeans. Germanic tribes that split off and headed north to become Danes and Swedes wasted no time in building ships and make raids and settling your lands, including England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Here in Germany, tribes could farm and had all the resources they needed, so wandering around was unnecessary. I suspect you and I, and many of our fellow countrymen, can trace our roots to a common ancestor. 🙂 With regards to your Jewish friend, here’s part of a very interesting perspective on… Read more »
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Judith
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Judith
3 months 3 days ago
Haven’t read all the comments, but I thought this was a pretty brilliant analysis of our current situation. Only thing missing: what do we do immediately to stave off more dissolution and build a better foundation for the future? I mean, besides not voting for Sanders or Clinton and not voting for Trump, thereby losing our minds in a different direction. This was a great big picture analysis. People who retain their sanity and humanity need to be banding together and taking some kind of effective political action because something will come into the void. I doubt it will be… Read more »
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