Thanksgiving is Due to the Fact that--Up Until Recently--America Preferred Balance to Statism

Between the time he was purged and the time he was ice-picked, Leon Trostky partly grasped this problem in discussing what went wrong in the Soviet Union: “The party organization substitutes itself for the party, the central committee substitutes itself for the organization, and, finally, a dictator substitutes himself for the central committee.” The problem with Trotsky is that he believed that if the party organization had kept all the power then everything would have been just fine. But he’s just reflecting the profound flaw in Marx’ original concept.

Here’s what Marx said:

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

Think about what this means. All of the money and power would be focused in the state, but then the state would not do anything with that concentration of power. The state was innocent. There would be no cronyism, no corruption, no bureaucracy, and no concentration of stupidity so as to make mistakes much bigger.

This is precisely — without the proletarian aspects -- the Obama worldview. Good citizens with high levels of education will be the philosopher kings, telling everyone what to eat, drive, and do for their own good. Naturally, these people would have no interests of their own. Naturally, their learning from books and theories rather than from real life would not lead them into really big mistakes.

And naturally this system will make the economy grow (“increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible”) rather than collapse because the people running the state know nothing about creating jobs or meeting a payroll or actually producing anything.

Then, there is Marx’s view of what later became known as the withering away of the state:

“When…all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. ... If the proletariat…makes itself the ruling class…then it will…thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.”

What we have here today is not the triumph of the proletariat but the triumph of the managerial-bureaucratic-intellectual-cultural elite. The best describer of this is not Marx but James Burnham, a former Marxist whose writings in the 1940s were the basis for George Orwell in writing 1984. Then there is Karl Popper, who pointed out that the greatest threat to freedom (the “open society”) were those who thought they knew everything.

And those who seek political power, with few if any exceptions, are people set on accumulating power, glory, and wealth. All the more reason to limit what they can do.

Nevertheless, this grasping elite views itself as disinterested. It does not act from selfish motives but because it knows better than anyone else how to promote the public good. And even with the best will and highest morality that mortals are capable of achieving, political leaders and bureaucrats are still limited by their own worldview, life experience, and specific role (where you stand is where you sit, as one popular Washington, D.C., maxim has it).

There’s nothing here that would surprise America’s founders, who knew that freedom always depended on restraining such people.

Finally, Marx unleashes his inner utopian:

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Completely losing any sense of critical evaluation of human society, he posits the magical transformation into a society where everyone was unselfish, sensitive, and generous, willing to work overtime (from each according to his ability) for those less fortunate (to each according to his needs) without recompense.

In short, Marx ends up like a hippie who’s smoked too much dope or, if you prefer, much of California. (Okay, that last phrase was a joke.)

Marx’s equivalent of God thus becomes the state, at least a state run by “good people” (proletarians) rather than “bad people” (the bourgeoisie). And that’s precisely the concept being pushed by those currently in power in America and most of Europe with disastrous results, be it economic stagnation, contempt for dissent, and stifling regulation rather than concentration camps and firing squads.

This leaves us with two possibilities:

1. Government is a value-neutral machine made up of those who merely mirror society's desires. They have no ambitions, no institutional interest, no greed or lust for power. They don't possess, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, “The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to.” Christianity calls it “original sin”; Judaism the “evil impulse.”

2. Those who purvey that notion know it isn't true and are merely pursuing their own interests that include imposing their vision of society on everyone else.

Marx’s basic error on that point is contained in his third “Thesis on Feuerbach,” published in 1845:

“The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.”

In other words, there is a sudden leap that breaks all the rules that have hitherto governed human history. Indoctrination through education only makes people less able to conduct their affairs successfully because it fills there heads with ideas, that then become a guide to action, that don't work. And once you divide society into two parts, the "superior" one reintroduces class warfare all over again.  After all, the governmental class may not personally own the means of production but they control them to an ever-larger extent.

For Marx, the concept was to, in the words of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," say, "Together we can take it to the end of the line."

But democrats understand that the key concept is one of sensible balance. Both liberalism and conservatism have made sense as long as they have been involved in dialogue and compromise about achieving that balance. For example, the best way of coming close to balancing the budget is by making cuts and reducing spending by setting reasonable priorities (rather than spending the country into oblivion).

And that concept of balance has been discarded today in favor of unlimited spending, unlimited government, unlimited debt, unlimited regulation, and throwing away the concept of national interest and American virtue.

Thomas Jefferson put it this way:

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”