2010-06-24

The Return of a Classic Leftist Rhetorical Trick

Those of you who remember Barack Obama's 2004 Keynote Address may have pieced together by now a classic extreme leftist tactic. The goal of this tactic to pass lefitst extremism off as enlightened centrism. Remarkably, it almost always works on the majority of people, although I'm not sure why. It is completely transparent.

The gist of the tactic is this: Start with a universally accepted truth. This truth can be common horse-sense such as "live within your means," or it can be a vague easy-answer to an impossible problem that sounds just balanced enough to appeal to everyone. The second part of this tactic is to list one's own most profound extremism side-by-side with the statement that everyone can agree on, so that people draw the mistaken conclusion that the extremism and the easy answer are one and the same.

Al Gore employs this tactic in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, co-written by Gore's business partner, David Blood, entitled "Toward Sustainable Capitalism." They start off paying lip-service to their WSJ audience: "There are several well understood advantages inherent in capitalism that make it superior to any other system for organizing economic activity...." Next they rattle off a long list of very legitimate reasons why capitalism works better than any other economic "system."

A brief sidenote: You will not read about capitalism being a "system" on my blog. I don't believe that there is any validity to the phrase "economic system." Capitalism is by definition the absense of systematic, top-down, organized economic activity. The alternative to this is regulation, which is not a system so much as an attempt at transferring wealth from some to others. It has nothing whatsoever to do with any economic activities in particular, but rather the product of the activity, namely, wealth. So one is non-systemic by definition, and the other is non-economic by definition. As such, there can be no such thing as comparative economic systems. Go ahead and tell me how ridiculous I am for saying so - but please use the comments section of this post. I'm dying for a good, robust debate on the pages of my blog. :)

So, after extolling the long list of virtues possessed by the free market approach to economics, Gore and Blood deliver their inevitable "but" in the form of the usual suspects: environmental pollution and unequal wealth distribution:
Yet the recent crisis in global markets (following other significant market dislocations in 1994, 1997, 1998 and in 2000-2001), has shaken the world's confidence in the way modern capitalism is now operating.

Moreover, glaring and worsening systemic failures—such as growing income inequality, high levels of unemployment, public and private indebtedness, chronic under-investment in education and public health, persistent extreme poverty in developing nations and, most importantly, the reckless inattention to the worsening climate crisis—are among the factors that have led many to ask: What type of capitalism will maximize sustainable economic growth? At the very least, the last decade has clearly demonstrated that free and unfettered markets, as they are currently operating, have simply not been delivering optimal long-term results.
We could essentially stop here and note that the authors are basically ascribing every social ill to "free and unfettered markets." To their credit, they probably believe this from the bottom of their hearts. But then, why pay lip-service to capitalism?

Next, Gore and Blood launch into a series of quotes, drawing on everyone from Thomas Paine to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Any writer with a place in the American consciousness (and a few obscure leftists) makes an appearance in the op-ed piece. The point? We need to return to long-term financial planning instead of short-term gains.

Well, that's senseible enough, isn't it? Who would disagree with Al Gore on that one? Not a soul...

Finally, the authors launch into a promotion of the typical socialist corporate-infiltration schemes: "green initiatives," executive compensation based on "democratic" votes, and other such nonsense. These ideas have been rolling around in socialist circles for 100 years or more. They are neither "innovative" nor "new," nor do they mark a turn toward long-term thinking.

This is nothing more than a send-up of old-world ideas from a fat, old-world man who makes his living waving a moral finger in the face of the engines of creation.

Thanks but no thanks, Al.