The Aristocratic Left: Enemies of the Human Race
Professor Roderick Long is a Harvard grad who currently teaches philosophy at Auburn University. He is also a devout “Austro-libertarian,” an ideology that synthesizes Austrian economics with individualist anarchism in the manner championed by Murray Rothbard. He is associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank, the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and the left-libertarian Molinari Society. Professor Long is someone whose work I generally respect and which contains some interesting and valuable insights into matters involving political theory, class theory, political economy, legal theory, and a number of other matters. Unfortunately, Long is also a PC lunatic on social questions who once compared pro-lifers to Guantanamo torturers during an online discussion he and I were both party to. His argument? Childbirth is physically painful, therefore denying a woman an abortion at any time she wants for any reason she wants amounts to the imposition of physical torture. Pretty thin, huh? Apparently, women who undergo abortion procedures never experience any kind of discomfort, physical or otherwise. (By the way, I generally favor legal abortion, in case anyone is wondering.)
I was therefore surprised to see Professor Long offer the following insight during a discussion of how “Austro-libertarians” might engage in outreach to the Left:
There are some left-wingers whom I call the “aristocratic left,” and whom I despair of reaching. These are left-wingers who have a particular vision of an idyllic society and are prepared to hammer into place anyone whose preferences or behavior don’t align with the vision; in effect they see other people as their property. Back when I lived in North Carolina, on the city line between Chapel Hill and Carrboro, I used to watch with mixed amusement and horror as the affluent white “liberals” who ran the city councils of those two communities competed to see which city could impose the most callous and intrusively micromanaging legislation. In Carrboro, which incredibly billed itself as the “Paris of the Piedmont,” the council thought that old cars looked unsightly, and so declared that residents would be forbidden to park in their driveways any car older than a certain number of years (I forget how many). Unsurprisingly, this law had a more burdensome impact on lower-income households than on higher; so much for the idea that liberals are supposed to care about the poor. The Chapel Hill council, with similar solicitude, forbade a local copy shop to post its (low) prices or to use words such as “discount” in its advertising, because the emphasis on low cost seemed tawdry, and clashed with their vision of an upscale community. (I am not making this up.) I have to laugh when conservatives accuse liberals of practicing class warfare, because these regulations were certainly class warfare-but from the opposite direction from the one suggested by the accusation. The Carrboro council also thought that cul-de-sacs looked unfriendly and standoffish, too much like private communities, and so proposed not only to ban new ones but to ram streets through existing ones; apparently the beloved mantra of children’s safety only applies sometimes. Mercifully, I don’t think that one finally passed. The same council also wanted to require drive-in banks and restaurants to install downward-sloping exits, thus allowing cars to turn their engines off and glide soundlessly and emissionlessly back down the street. (I am still not making this up.) What gun laws were favoured by these two hyperactive city councils I leave to your imagination. I have no suggestions on how to sell Austro-libertarianism to left-wingers of this variety; they seem like enemies of the human race.
Of course, Professor Long goes on to contrast this evil “aristocratic Left” with the good Left:
There are many, many left-wingers whose primary motivation for their left-wing political stance is the very libertarian impulse to protect people who are being pushed around. These left-wingers look at contemporary society and see an economy dominated by massive, impersonal corporations with enormous and seemingly unaccountable power; they see lower- and middle-income people disempowered in the workplace and struggling to make ends meat; they see institutions and social practices rigged against blacks, women, gays, immigrants, and other oppressed groups-and they turn to government to address these inequities, viewing the democratic state as an institution in principle accountable to the public, and thus able to serve as a bulwark against private power and privilege. Call this variety of left-wingers the anti-privilege Left. And this is the Left we can reach.
Not so fast. Taken together, the two statements quoted above represent a dizzying combination of genuine perspicacity and utter obliviousness. On one hand, Professor Long is one of the very few from what might be called the “cultural hard left” to recognize that there is indeed such a thing as an “aristocratic Left.” (Obviously, “aristocratic” is being used here as an adjective or metaphor for the more general category of educated, affluent or wealthy elites.)
One of the more important insights advanced by the “radical right” is the recognition that liberalism is in fact an ideology of the elite. Most hard leftists regard nearly everyone to the right of Leon Trotsky to be an “extreme right-winger” and it is not uncommon to see such people denounce moderate conservatives as “fascists” or “crypto-Nazis.” The publications of the hard left persistently lament the supposed ongoing drift of domestic American politics to the “far right” even though American society continues to become ever more liberal, and the ideas of yesterday’s loony leftists become ever more mainstream and respectable. For example, expressing support for gay marriage, which would have been regarded as insanity during the supposed Golden Age of Decadence of the 1960s and 1970s, is now just another somewhat controversial but still respectable middle-of-the-road, perhaps slightly left-of-center opinion.
Likewise, the election of the first black president is somehow dismissed by the Left as just a cosmetic feature that hides what a horrid, racist, white supremacist society America really is, even though nothing destroys the reputation and career of a public figure any quicker than accusations racism, no matter how mild or dubious.
Further, Professor Long recognizes that the upper classes and affluent upper-middle classes are hardly consistent or even frequent proponents of ostensibly conservative economic values such as “free markets” or “limited government.” Rather the wealthy and affluent are like every other socioeconomic interest group in that they want state intervention into the economy on their own behalf, not “free enterprise” or “market discipline.” This is a sharp departure from the usual leftist habit of dismissing conservative and libertarian critics of state-managed economies as mere apologists for the plutocratic status quo. But what Professor Long is missing is the insight that perhaps many of those who present themselves as champions of the workers, the poor, minorities, women, gays, immigrants, and on down the list of the officially oppressed might also have less than honest or honorable motivations, and might in fact frequently be charlatans, crooks, scam artists, or aspiring tyrants. Nor does it occur to him that perhaps those “aristocratic leftists” whom he labels as “enemies of the human race,” and who are persistently agitating for repressive gun laws and intrusive economic regulations, might in fact be the same class of folks who are similarly pushing the vast array of attitudes, institutional policies, and bits of legislation that have collectively been given the popular label of “political correctness.”
For it is among this class of upper-middle income and wealthy liberals that Long describes that we typically find the most zealous proponents of affirmative action, amnesty for illegal immigrants, legislated “rights” for the organized gay lobby that in fact abridge the associational, religious, and economic liberties of others, radical feminists who are not downtrodden seamstresses in garment factories but tenured academics or activist attorneys or other professionals, university professors and administrators, public sector bureaucrats who oversee the managerial state, corporate executives who pride themselves on their extensive commitment to “diversity” and “sensitivity,” and so on. Might it not just be that this socioeconomic demographic, those “aristocratic leftists” who are “enemies of the human race,” are in fact the exact same people who are the most zealous proponents of PC fundamentalism? And might they indeed have sinister ulterior motives for assuming such a stance?
This is not to say that many liberals and leftists do not hold the political beliefs that they do out of sincere regard for those whom they consider to be oppressed or downtrodden. But when we see the affluent and influential classes championing things like mass immigration or the suppression of public debate concerning taboo subjects along with all sorts of other pernicious legislation, economic policies, or social practices, perhaps we should ask ourselves why this is the case?
Whenever I have presented my “totalitarian humanism” theory to seemingly sincere liberals, the main difficulty they seem to encounter in comprehending my analysis is their inability to absorb the idea that those who claim to be waging a righteous crusade against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, et. al. ad nauseum could possibly be motivated by anything any other than a desire to do good and make the world a better place. At worst, I am often told in response, the PC zealots are guilty of mere overreaction to past injustices or excessive exuberance in pursuit of a noble ideal. Indeed, I believe that it is this same mindset that accounts for the otherwise inexplicable phenomena of why Nazism has come to symbolize the ultimate in evil, while Communism has rarely received such a treatment in the history books, and is certainly not regarded in the same manner by intellectual and cultural elites, even though its murderous and genocidal propensities certainly rival that of any of its ideological competitors. Therefore, exposing the destructive proclivities of PC for the tyrannical anti-human ideology that it is becomes one of our most important tasks.
The Ideology of Totalitarian Humanism
Many on the alternative Right are inclined to refer to PC as “cultural Marxism.” In some ways, this is an apt metaphor, as the PC ideology bears a resemblance to the reductionist concept of class antagonism that orthodox Marxism advances. If the dualistic class dichotomy of “proletarians and bourgeoisie” is replaced with a newer dichotomy pitting feminist women, minorities, gays, immigrants, the transgendered and others having been or believed to be oppressed against the “hegemony” of “straight, white, Christian, males,” then similarities between PC and Marxism do indeed emerge. However, PC could in some ways be compared with totalitarianism from the other end of the political spectrum. If the duality of “Aryans” believed to be oppressed by and in mortal struggle with “the Jews” is replaced with the aforementioned dichotomy advanced by PC, a reductionism of comparable crudity likewise becomes apparent. Yet it would seem to me that such metaphors as “cultural Marxism” or “liberal Nazism” are not really the best characterizations of PC.
The best label for PC I ever encountered was “totalitarian humanism.” I can’t take credit for this term. I lifted it from an anonymous underground writer some years ago. Read the original essay here. Here’s a particularly enlightened part:
When one looks up the word ‘Humanism’ in an encyclopedia it states that Humanism is an ideology which focuses on the importance of every single human being. That it is an “ideology which emphasizes the value of the individual human being and its ability to develop into a harmonic and culturally aware personality”. This sounds fair enough, right? Indeed it does, but it is my firm belief that the explanation here does not match the humanism of our time.
The so-called Humanists I have met have been putting a strong emphasis on humanity as a gigantic community rather than on the individual. Often one will even find alleged humanists who insist that the views, aspirations and basic happiness of indigenous Europeans is of no importance. Instead, these Humanists say, indigenous Europeans should bow down and forget about their own wants and desires for the greater good of humanity. The greater good of Humanity usually seems to be to take no interest in Europe’s cultural heritage and integrate into a grey, world-wide, uniform “globalization” with the Coca-Cola-culture as loadstar.
Totalitarian humanism is a derivative of the classical Jacobin ideology that loves an abstract and universal “humanity” so much that its proponents don’t care what has to be done to individual human beings or particular human cultures in order to advance their ideals. Perhaps the best summary of the political outlook of totalitarian humanism was provided by the maverick psychiatrist and critic of the “therapeutic state,” Thomas Szasz:
In the nineteenth century, a liberal was a person who championed individual liberty in a context of laissez-faire economics, who defined liberty as the absence of coercion, and who regarded the state as an ever-present threat to personal freedom and responsibility. Today, a liberal is a person who champions social justice in a context of socialist economics, who defines liberty as access to the means for a good life, and who regards the state as a benevolent provider whose duty is to protect people from poverty, racism, sexism, illness, and drugs.
Dr. Szasz wrote this passage nearly twenty years ago. Nowadays, the laundry list of “poverty, racism, sexism, illness, and drugs” might be lengthened to include classism, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, looksism, fatphobia, thinism, beautyism, transphobia, producerism, “appearance discrimination,” speciesism, adultcentrism, pedophobia, chronocentrism, and other creative efforts at dictionary expansion. Likewise, the therapeutic component of totalitarian humanism has expanded so as to include the supposed necessity of state action to save us all from fatty foods, salt, smoking, and soda vending machines in public schools. Like all totalitarian ideologies, totalitarian humanism has its contradictions, hypocrisies, and absurdities. For instance, public acts of anal intercourse are regarded as virtuous and courageous manifestations of human liberation and personal fulfillment, while smoking in bars or even in strip clubs is a grave menace to public health. Suggestive music videos and violent video games are symptomatic of an oppressively patriarchal and testosterone-fueled society, while surgically altering one’s “gender identity” is just routine day-to-day business, like getting a tattoo.
As one with something of a taste for the bizarre and eccentric, I might find the PC circus to be little more than a philistine but amusing bit of outrageous entertainment, akin to professional wrestling or the old freak shows of carnivals past, if it weren’t for the fact that these folks are hell-bent on imposing their “ideals” on the rest of us by force of the state. Totalitarian humanism is a war on sovereignty. It is a war on the sovereignty of individuals against arbitrary and coercive authority, the sovereignty of non-state institutions against political authority, the sovereignty of organic communities against a centralized leviathan, the sovereignty of nations against global entities, the sovereignty of history, tradition, and culture against prescriptive and prohibitive ideology. Totalitarian humanism is an effort to reduce all of us to the level of dependent serfs on a plantation ruled by an army of overly zealous concerned mommies and busy-body social workers backed up by the S.W.A.T. team and paramilitary police. Give me beautyism or give me death.