Ok here is the long delayed second part of the post I started last week. As with many things in this blog, this is more a basis for further analysis and writing than a real essay. This is a work in progress.
Let’s go back to the Israeli debate about the « right-wing » laws in the Knesset. A troubling characteristic of the left in Israel and all the Western world is its tendency to identify democracy and human rights with itself. I has always been puzzled by the discourse of the left, which proclaims the sanctity of free speech while, each time left-wing people have any power, they shut down any dissenting opinion. But the most incredible of all is that they suppress free speech … in the name of democracy ! How can we explain this Orwellian behavior ?
Let’s remember that the Soviet satellites States in Eastern Europe were called « Popular democracies » that were neither democratic nor popular. Nevertheless, according to the logic of the communist party, they were. The communist party being the expression of the popular exploited classes and representing the true will of the people, any other party was therefore an enemy of the people and of « real democracy ». So a one party State could claim to be a democracy.
The same kind of convoluted logic seems to be working today within the left. The left loves pluralism and different opinions, as long as they express a basic acknowledgment to the left core values. Because the left identify its core values with democracy itself, any opinion dissenting from these values is, by definition, anti-democratic, « fascist », and in consequence – a danger to democracy that must be suppressed, because, if we let these dissenting opinions free, Hitler will come back from the grave or something like that. Hence, the left can affirm its commitment to free speech and at the same time, feel perfectly good at suppressing free speech in the name of democracy.
The left is however perfectly aware of this contradiction and developed in the last decades a new definition of democracy in order to answer it. There is, according to them, a difference between the democracy as a system and the real « true » democracy that they call the essential democracy or the « democratic society ». The first one is just a set of technical rules and processes used to elect the representatives of the people, while the later is a set a values based on the universal declaration of human rights as interpreted by progressive judges. The democratic system is expressed by voting, the democratic society by the rights of minorities.
All this has been empirically applied in Israel as a sort of test field for the rest of the world: the left, after losing elections, diverted the real power toward the Supreme Court, and since then, what former president of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak called « the enlightened people » are supposed to rule for us all and decide what the elected members of the Knesset have the right to do and not do, the media acting as the executive branch of the new regime.
On a broader scale, all over the Western world, this alliance of left-wing intellectuals, media and judges changed the meaning of democracy from the State of Law to the State of Rights, from the rule of the majority to the rule of minorities as analyzed by French thinkers like Alain Finkielkraut or Jean-Claude Milner.
This biased and almost insane logic is the ugly offspring of the Rousseauist theory of the Nature of Man. Civilization corrupted Man and so it must be fixed. Interestingly, no one on the left never proposes to go back to the way things were before civilization but the most extreme of the deep ecology activists. But they want to change society and they believe they are the only one who can do it. The left always wants to change things, as a motto, whatever the current situation, whatever the trends, even if things are improving. The facts don’t really count and there is no need to think about the consequences and externalities – only the intention has any real meaning, because the left is interested only in moral posturing and not what happens in the real life.
Thomas Sowell described this behavior as « the vision of the anointed », a kind of messianic credo about how the left elites and particularly intellectuals see themselves. Sowell defines intellectuals as people who deal with ideas. In general, medical doctors, physicists or engineers do not fall in intelligence in comparison to writers or philosophers – on the contrary. But they are not intellectuals because they deal with real world objects and subjects, and they are accountable for the mistakes that they do. Intellectuals are not. They can propose and criticize, do and say whatever they want, their work is never under any outside scrutiny and there is no reason for them to be honest and right because there is no punishment for their mistakes. They have no incentive to improve themselves and produce sounding and empirically tested ideas.
Sowell goes further and also proposes a theory of knowledge that explains and completes the distinction between left and right following the Hobbes/Rousseau debate.
Sowell has a very inclusive definition of knowledge that includes all sets of informations, know-how, practical and professional experiences, and not only erudition in science and philosophy. The knowledge of a carpenter does not have less value that the knowledge of a professor. It is not the same kind of knowledge but both are useful for human society. So the array of knowledge is limitless and no one can expect to have a grap over it. The most knowledgable man in the world does not have a fraction of the known useful information available.
In these conditions, the left and intellectuals claim that « they should run the State because they know more and better » is worthless. Even if the left consisted of the most brilliant and brightest brains ever born (and it clearly does not), together they would not apprehend but a tiny percentage of what they need to know to run and manage everything.
That’s why things work better when there is as little government intervention as possible. That’s why institutions that has been tested by time and millions of people, a process involving a lot of trials and mistakes and corrections, should not be discarded quickly and changed without thinking. The older the institution, the greater its value. It does not mean things should not be adapted all the time to new situations. But, as we saw according to Hobbes, civilization is so fragile, the disturbing of ways that has been patiently build over generations, can be only catastrophic.
In the third part of this post, I will at last demonstrate how the left suppositions are scientifically unfounded and wrong.