A Further Perspective

The Liberals’ Reality Problem

A primer in the politics of denial.

By 8.23.11

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A basic problem for liberals is their rejection of and discomfort with reality. That attitude, unfortunately, creates a number of problems for them as well as for the rest of us.

There is, for example, much about human nature that bothers liberals. They do not like the fact that self-interest is the prime motivator in human decision making. This is at the root of why they speak so disdainfully of profits. The profit motive makes them cringe. For liberals "profits" is a four letter word. They would prefer people to be motivated strictly by charitable impulses and altruism. Rather than recognizing that being motivated by self-interest is a necessary survival tool, liberals conflate self-interest with greed and then blame greed for many of society's ills.

Part of the genius of Adam Smith was his non-judgmental acceptance of human nature. He recognized that self-interest is the primary motivator in human behavior. Rather than wasting his time denying or lamenting that, he explained how a market economy does the best job of bridling that force and can actually lead to beneficial outcomes for society in general. He wrote, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

There are a number of features of a market economy liberals do not like, and they do everything they can to suppress or eliminate them. In their minds a market economy leads to an unacceptable level of inequality. In a market economy, some people get extremely wealthy. Liberals simply cannot abide that. It irritates them beyond belief. Because it results in an unequal distribution of wealth, liberals are willing to essentially scuttle the entire market economy. Their attitude is essentially, "Stop the economy! I want to get off."

A critical component of the market is competition. Competition results in winners and losers, but liberals don't want anyone to lose. Of course, competition isn't unique to the market; it occurs almost everywhere and bestows profound benefits. Competition is quite literally a fact of life. As Darwin made clear, it's a key component in the process of evolution. The late economist George Stigler called competition "the patron saint of consumers." It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to like reality if you don't like competition.

Because intentions govern their policies, liberals show no interest in looking at evidence. Their denial and disregard of evidence is another reflection of their dislike of reality. Evidence is about reality; intentions are about fantasizing and self-indulgence.

Another clear example of the liberal rejection of reality is their absolute dislike of budgets. Budgets are one of the clearest instances where reality meets the road. Living within a budget is a form of living in reality. Liberal Democrats in Washington and various state capitals do everything they can to delay passing budgets or living within them once they're passed. Deficits as far as the eye can see are the unfortunate result.

Humanity is another part of reality that liberals aren't particularly happy about. They're convinced that humans should be far less plentiful. In terms of global population, the smaller the better. Many of them feel that in most instances an abortion is preferable to a live birth. A variation of liberalism is environmentalism. Environmentalists consider humans to be much more a curse than a blessing.

The problem with the liberal dislike of reality is how it's affecting the rest of us. If you don't like reality one response is to deny that it exists. Denial is a frequent cause of individual and societal problems. From a practical standpoint, this means behaving as if consequences don't exist or don't matter. We will be dealing with the damage done by their ill-considered good intentions for many years to come.

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