Robert Tracinski was challenged to identify one thing the Left could learn from Ayn Rand. Naturally, he felt initially at a loss to restrict the list to one thing. So he thought and thought, and concluded in the end that the left really needed to learn to think critically.
The War on Poverty has spent trillions of dollars over 50 years and has merely fixed poverty into place. Yet if you advocate the expansion of the welfare state, you are regarded as proving how deeply you care about the plight of the poor. Criticize the welfare state, and you are regarded as callous and indifferent to all human suffering.
If your brain is now feeding you a torrent of counter-arguments, half-remembered bits of Paul Krugman columns about how European socialism or the Great Society was really a roaring successâ€”all Iâ€™m asking is that you take a few moments to stop that process and really, genuinely consider whether those of us on the right might have a valid point to make about the achievements of capitalism or the shortcomings of the welfare state. Assess how comfortable you are doing this. Assess whether youâ€™re even able to do it, whether youâ€™ve ever bothered to find out enough about our counter-arguments to fairly consider them.
Then ask yourself this. Which big-government regulatory or welfare programs would you choose to eliminate? Realistically, they canâ€™t all be successful. Any task requires a certain amount of trial and error, and certainly there must be some programs where the costs have overwhelmed any conceivable benefit. Can you name such a program? Would you campaign to eliminate it if a politician proposed its repeal?
If you canâ€™t name such a program, if youâ€™ve never really asked yourself the question, ask yourself why.
The gap between the leftâ€™s laudatory self-image and the less-than-spectacular results of its programs is widely interpreted on the right as evidence that smug self-congratulation is the real purpose. It doesnâ€™t matter whether a government program actually works, so long as you can pat yourself on the back for being progressive enough to vote for it. But Iâ€™m beginning to wonder whether the actual goal is the avoidance of evil thoughts. Ask yourself: how much of your political self-image is tied up in regarding yourself as better and purer than those wicked â€œdeniersâ€ on the right?
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