April 9, 2010
The Scientific Socialism of TodayBy Gene Schwimmer
A certain kind of mind believes that human beings exist as objects to be experimented upon as society is perfected by the privileged class -- a utopia engineered by elites. There's a reason why Engels called it Scientific Socialism. Thomas Sowell alluded to it when he wrote:
But Sowell's insight tells only half the story. Allow me to furnish the other half with a little posthumous help from Thomas Edison.
Conventional wisdom credits Edison with inventing the electric light bulb, but conventional wisdom is wrong. It was actually an English physicist, Sir Joseph William Swan, who invented the first working light bulb. But sadly for Sir Joseph, his "working light bulb" did not work very well, burning itself out after only 13.5 hours -- far too short an operating life to be commercially viable. What Edison did was improve Sir Joseph's invention, extending its operating life first to forty hours, then to a hundred, and eventually to fifteen hundred.
This did not happen overnight. It took three years and the testing of "at least three thousand different theories" to develop the first practical incandescent light bulb. When Edison famously described genius as "one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration," he knew what he was talking about. Three years passed, during which time the public did...what? They continued to use the existing technology -- candles, kerosene lamps, and (for public lighting) arc lamps. And if Edison had failed, if developing a practical incandescent light bulb had proved impossible, surely people would have continued using the old technology until someone came up with something better.
Now imagine a different scenario. Imagine that 21st-century liberals had governed 19th-century America. Would anything have been different? In the words of a certain hot biker chick, "You betcha!" For one thing, candles and kerosene lamps cause pollution (soot), and to liberals, even the most miniscule amount of pollution is intolerable. So it's a safe bet that a liberal in 1878, as today, would already have been on the lookout for an alternate, less polluting source of illumination -- a "green" light, as it were. But then, as now, that would be just step one. Step two would be to force people to use the new stuff by banning the old stuff. This, in fact, is precisely what a Democratic Congress did in 2008, when it banned the incandescent light bulb in favor of the "CFL" (compact fluorescent light bulb).
To be fair, Congress didn't actually ban incandescent light bulbs; they merely set new, higher, and more energy-efficiency standards -- standards so high that no incandescent bulb could possibly meet them. Perhaps a liberal Congress circa 1878 would have decreed that all candles and kerosene lamps produced after 1891 would be required to emit a flameless light. A bolder Congress might ban candles and kerosene lamps outright. But one way or another, candles and kerosene lamps would be banned.
Needless to say, complaints that the new light bulbs cost much more than candles and kerosene and needed to be replaced after only 13.5 hours of operation would be ignored, as would arguments that the new bulbs' "pollution-preventing" effects might be more than outweighed by the pollution-creating effects of the new power plants needed to generate the electricity to light the bulbs. And anyway, improvements in cost and efficiency would come. In time.
But how to get that time? Edison, of course, had all the time in the world because Edison conducted his experiments with inanimate matter in the world of the physically tangible. But how does one guarantee oneself sufficient time to conduct an unlimited number of experiments on an entire society?
For liberals, the solution is a simple as it is obvious: Eliminate all the alternatives. Entice, if possible, and force, if necessary, the American people to cross the bridge, and then burn it behind them. Cut off all paths of retreat and leave no alternative to the old ways of doing things, even if the old ways were better, and, liberals reason, society will have no choice but to go in one direction: theirs. And they -- we -- will thank liberals for having forced us against our will to go there.
For liberals, it's not enough merely to promote their policy preferences, insufficient to argue the merits of their ideas in the marketplace of ideas, intolerable to allow people to test these ideas against competing ideas. And there is no room to allow people to decide for themselves which ideas have the most merit; to communicate their preferences to their elected representatives in letters, phone calls, town hall meetings, and, ultimately, at the ballot box; to choose, each of us, what we want and allow that same freedom of choice to others. All of this is intolerable. Liberals' ideas are just too important, too "incandescently" brilliant, the need to implement them too urgent.
So if one is a liberal, one must ban drilling for oil now, in as many places as possible (ideally everywhere) before an efficient, economical and practical alternative energy source can be developed. Private companies must be forced, both by law and through the creation of artificial shortages, to produce whatever products and services liberals deem best for us. And finally, Americans must be forced to buy and use them, whether they want them or not, cost and efficiency be damned.
As it is with light bulbs and oil, so it is with health care. Anyone who thinks that ObamaCare won't put a lot of private insurance companies out of business, or perhaps even eliminate private insurance in America entirely -- anyone who doesn't think that the bill the Democrats rammed through both Houses without a single Republican vote was purposely designed to do precisely that -- is either naïve or a liberal, and probably both.
Some call it socialism, some call it fascism, and some call it Chicago politics. I call it what Marx and Engels called it: Scientific Socialism. And our system of government? No, it's not a tyranny: The American people who voted these pols into office retain the power to vote them out. But it's not a democracy, either, when elected representatives ignore and govern diametrically against the will of the people who elected them.
What we have in America today is a new system of government for which a new term must be coined: Scientific Oligarchy, wherein a self-styled enlightened elite arrogate to themselves the right to decide the kind of society in which they would like us to live someday and then experiment on human beings until they can get it right -- however long it takes, however much their unwilling subjects suffer in the process. In this system, this scientific oligarchy, we are neither citizens nor subjects. We are guinea pigs.
Edison never gave up. Liberals won't, either. If we vote them out in November, they'll wait patiently for the day when a future generation foolishly votes them back in. Then they'll pick up where they left off.
Maybe it's time we conservatives did a little bridge-burning of our own.
Gene Schwimmer is the author of The Christian State.