*My friend Bill teaches a branch of liberal arts, at a State University, which precludes his talking or even writing or possibly thinking too loudly about his opinions. This means I’m almost his sole outlet for (usually text) rants. When I say “a friend and I were talking” Bill is one of the two friends it might be. Something about the migrant horde has got him the wrong way and he’s done a series of articles for me. He says it better than I could, so I hope you don’t mind the guest posts- SAH*
Through the Leftist Glass
As someone who lives and works in a very liberal environment, I can’t help but hear their view on matters. That includes thing like the Migrant Horde. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me explain to my fellow conservatives why their arguments don’t seem to connect at all to either the Left or Left-of-Center independents. It’s not that the arguments are bad. It’s that there’s a whole other set of premises that even relatively rank-and-file Leftists accept without really thinking, and if you don’t even acknowledge those premises—more specifically, if you don’t bring fire on them—you aren’t going to make any kind of a dent.
Democrats will view this as a pure pejorative, and yet this is, as I hope to demonstrate in some depth, simply a description—the Democratic view of the world is Marxist. It’s not thoroughgoing in the same way that the average Republican does not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the federalist papers (or the anti-federalist papers, which I would argue are also an important part of that puzzle). It’s the sort of relatively superficial understanding of the term that leads Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to identify as socialists. However, there are certain ideas about how the world is organized that Marxism takes on faith and pigeonholes available data into the framework of instinctively.
Here’s something that I would lay excellent money on—while we’re happy to take the media to task for identifying the Horde as migrants or refugees depending on the convenience of the moment, I strongly doubt that the average person on the Left cares. The Left does not identify the suffering of people in 3rd world Hellholes as the result of the idiot social policies in those locales. Intuitively, that makes sense. They can’t, because from Cuba to Honduras, from Mexico to Europe, the social policies are largely some variation on, and to a greater or lesser extent represent, the desired social policies of the Left itself.
Rather, the Left sees these manifestations of radical Leftism as evidence that these places are run by the “good guys”. They look elsewhere for the source of the troubles that hound these places. And the place where Marxism cuts in, and organizes their world view, is that in doing this, they see the most prominently prosperous and least socialist place happens to be the same place— the United States. The obvious conclusion, in their minds, is that other places are poor, and the United States is not, because the United States stole its wealth from the places that are poor. Apply some window dressing to that fairly rudimentary cognitive bias, cover it to a depth of about twenty feet with out-of-context examples, arguments against a standard of perfection rather than a standard of existing alternatives, and friendly, one-sided peer-reviewing, and you have a whole field of study—cultural imperialism.
And while the Left will complain that calling this Marxist is an overreach, cultural imperialism itself, certainly its explanations for why it impoverishes the third world, indeed require you to accept certain core tenets of Marxism. First, that value is best measured in a combination of raw resources, and work. The organization of work, the direction of work towards specified goals, is either excised from the Marxist perspective or outright villainized. It is exploitation, surplus to requirements. A CEO can do nothing worth millions of dollars, including, for example, the careful, difficult, and successful stewardship of billions of dollars in resources that none of the workers in his or her (But not xir, because that’s idiotic) factories could not do. Rather, management is assumed to be valueless if the actual work to create the product isn’t done by the manager. It’s likewise why Marxists advocate for the constant hampering or obfuscation of free markets, which in turn removes the ability to direct work towards sensical goals and replaces it with work towards government-defined goals. The goals still succeed or fail in relation to how close their outcomes are to the underlying reality but, in their new context, officials have the ability to blame on their opposition failed results more rightly attributed to the social engineer’s own meddling.
Which is a problem, you see, because while places like the United States have considerable natural resources and considerable manpower, what we really provide is ideas. Which is to say, our success hinges on making it as convenient as possible to direct resources towards new and unexplored market exigencies, and to organize resources around filling them. Where the materials and the work come from that help shape these dreams into physical facts are increasingly incidental—they can and do come from everywhere. We may occasionally find ourselves in uncomfortable or uncertain positions. When we finally gave attention to China’s market hijinks— thereby addressing the trade war we were already in in earnest, rather than taking the calming panacea of assurances from what is at the end of the day a geopolitical enemy with a diametrically opposed philosophy— it shifted the economic landscape. The best relative value for work and raw materials may land elsewhere. The ideas are flexible, however.
Marxism can provide no insight into these machinations. To them, what is made rightly belongs to the most proximal people who make it, as do the tools that make the things. These people are meant, under classical Marxism, to rebel against the unnatural order where this does not obtain, to thereafter be organized first by a dispassionate central government, then later by themselves, through unspecified magic involving the government withering away. What this means in practical terms is that people who mostly could not name the major exports of Honduras on a bet, instinctively believe that exploitation by the first world, and more specifically by the US, is what has reduced them to abject poverty. The first world, and the United States, must be taking something from them that is keeping them poor. Whatever key thing they export, we don’t pay enough for it. And never mind that the sale price is a piece of information arrived at by indexing what a person’s competitors are charging and what the buyer will actually pay—which is to say, economically their true complaint is more that the relative value of the bananas, say, to the people buying them, only goes so high. Anyone talking seriously about trying to “fix” this economic “problem” ought also to be prepared to explain to Americans why bananas should cost twenty dollars a bunch. Not than any amount of explication would help, when Americans turned to experimenting with plantains and the effective price of a banana became zero dollars, because nobody would be willing to buy them anymore.
Or else the first world is exploiting the third world, by buying and using cheap labor in the area—ignoring the fact that if the labor were not cheap, then given the inconvenience of having the labor done abroad, the labor would not be practical to have done in the area at all. To the Left, it is generally better to have no economic opportunity, and not be “exploited”, than to have economic opportunity that pays less than, say, an American living in completely different circumstances on a different continent would get. Or I should say, this is true unless Donald Trump is talking about incentivizing hiring the American worker, in which case they complain about us not hiring the foreign worker they would then complain about us exploiting.
And in these examples you will note, thereby, the second underlying Marxist assumption, which is a natural extension of the first. If only work and raw materials constitute the value of a product, then value is absolute. It is detached entirely from what a person is willing to pay for the thing. It is detached from where it is done, occasionally excepting the work and resources required to move it somewhere else and other times not, depending on the regime. It is detached from the regulatory environment that makes it harder or easier to do. It is an inherent property of the thing, and how that original value is established only the good lord knows. [Adam. In Eden. When he named the animals he also fixed price tags to everything-SAH]
I have heard, and I know for a fact that you too have heard, the Left railing against the above two things for exactly these underlying reasons. The first generally comes under the heading of “fair trade”, and the second comes under the heading of “third world sweatshops”. These kitten fits don’t make an ounce of sense economically. Whether a person is apt to explicitly call the workers of the world to unite, or use these disguises, they are invoking the same concept. Namely: value is absolute, the world over. Competition is a lie— if people in the third world are paid less for the same work, it is not a representation of them offering services at a price that competes with what the US offers— the US companies that buy the service are exploiting them. And if you infer from this that applying this rule everywhere would make life unbelievably more expensive, uncomfortable, and difficult, and make items like tropical fruits from far-flung provinces virtually inaccessible, you certainly haven’t been listening to Leftist Millennials, who agree with you— but believe this is necessary to end exploitation. We would indeed be worse off, for our sins. The fact that we would, in all probability, still have all the microchips, the technology, and the commodities, but they would now be much more expensive and available only to the very wealthy is lost on them. That applies to the poor in the third world too, incidentally—those cheap phones that are becoming so ubiquitous that kids in Iraq have them are only available at the cost they are because of the globalized economy. They would likely never even be developed without economies that let people take risks on new technologies like smart-phones—meaning cooling it with the regulations and letting people compete to offer better or cheaper things. But even if they were, they’d be in the hands of el presidente and his posse, not the proletariat. But at least the third world, bless them, would still have all their tropical fruits.
That is one explanation they believe for poverty abroad. Another, even more implausible, is that it is the fallout of years spent under colonial rule during the discoveries. Someone must have taken everything of value that was there and shipped it out, so that the people there had nothing to work with. In a world of economies run on fiat currencies and now on electronic blockchains, where gold is valuable mostly for circuit boards and jewelry, they continue to attribute modern-day misery to Spaniards digging up and shipping home shiploads of gold hundreds of years ago. Never mind that, in response to the iron laws of economics, all this likely served to do was reduce the relative value of gold in Spain by making it less rare. [Did. One of my history projects was tracing the devaluation of a particular coin as a result of the discoveries- SAH] Or was it years of the colonial boot keeping people on the banana plantations, oppressing them until they could not live an independent existence? Poor Canada, so subjugated under the British boot that when said boot tried to kick them out they remained permanently affixed to it, somehow miraculously dodged a bullet, I suppose, because they were as colonized as anyone. Speaking of gold, someone just remind me where the Yukon is located? And Japan, which didn’t really have much in the way of resources and was nuked besides—and then had military emplacements put in it by the people who nuked them, speaking of colonization—through some inexplicable mechanism, nevertheless became one of the world’s largest economies. The mind boggles. Benefits of a dark pact with the Hentai monsters, perhaps?
Or from yet another angle—we put a thumb on the scales in their elections, don’t we? We uphold one candidate or another, and so on. So really, they’re currently vassal states, and therefore all of the problems they face do not proceed from their social system or from hundreds of years of backwards culture, or modern adoption of idiotic Marxist principles of—well, funnily enough, of the kind increasingly encountered in StarBucks, so perhaps we ought to hold onto our lattes. No, the moment we supported so-and-so over whatsisface—whatever the latter believed, however insane or hostile or socialist—we inherited all the problems of their screwed up system. What we call “minimizing the damage” they call “policing the world”. Never mind that when we have policed local areas of the world, as noted above, it seemed remarkably stabilizing. Given the relative success of Germany and Japan one is tempted to ask if it would help to install some military bases.
It seems comical, and I make light of it. But the truth is, this is the organizing principle of the leftist mind. To them, by one or all of these routes, we have sown the wind. They believe we have, in fact, achieved the enviable position of putting all our proletariat some distance away, and erected a border as a kind of protection. Viewed in that light, the border is not a necessity to prevent the tragedy-of-the-commons dissolution of our way of life, and it’s not a peaceful and unambiguous way to establish mine and thine, but a barrier to justice. That is why the Left does not particularly care whether these people are refugees, or just out and out random South Americans come calling for all the stuff we “stole”. The Left is dandy with the concept of helping them redistribute the wealth. They don’t see themselves as giving other people’s stuff away, they see themselves as moving incrementally towards giving it back. If all of South America started marching North, demanding everything the US has down to the territory, at the root of everything? The Left would regard that as fair, just, and no more than we ultimately deserve for the years of “exploitation” as delineated above.
Hence, you aren’t going to dissuade them even with robust arguments that these people are not refugees. On some level, you excite them. They would be quite happy to get confirmation that these people came with violent intent. You can hear it in the way they phrase things. Note the military imagery CBS paints for its audience when they say the migrant horde “marched on through Mexico like a rag tag army of the poor”, and consider for a moment that their readership is meant not to be hardened by the military framing of people marching towards what is technically said readership’s own border, but heartened by it, sympathetic to it. But even if they were merely refugees, they see us as the ultimate cause of what they are refugees from, so they think it’s our responsibility. And they don’t care about the expense, because they think ultimately in paying the expense we are paying them back. In point of fact, precisely because of the Marxist muddle-headedness they are suffering, they conveniently render themselves unable to process almost any cogent argument.
If you really want to start—or keep— taking this thing back, start going after the Marxist muddle-headedness itself.