America is in the midst of a giant ideological war between the Left and the Right, and it has been for some time. What is the fundamental nature of that conflict? It is a battle of ideas – very different ideas and strongly opposing ideas. What, then, are the fundamental differences in the main ideas in this war we are in between the "Left" and the "Right" in the United States of America today?

On the most fundamental level and very broadly we say that it is the conflict between collectivism versus individualism -- but that is pretty abstract. What specifically does it mean in terms of differences between overall policy prescriptions and political platforms and actual enacted programs? What is the essence of the agenda of the Left as opposed to that of the Right?

The fundamental essence of political leftism is not merely its snarling antipathy to "big business" or corporations or the idea of a market economy in general, or even its abiding contempt for and resentment against "bourgeois values " (thrift, honesty, work ethic, punctuality, a desire to make a better life for oneself and ones family, etc.). The essence of political leftism is in its opposition to the concept and institution of private ownership of property. To the extent that someone disrespects private property rights – either personally or through the political policies he advocates – to that extent he is a left-winger. Likewise, to the extent that a person consistently upholds and respects the private property rights of others, to that extent he is a "right winger" (in America).

As Ayn Rand reminded us, without property rights, no other rights are possible. Without private property boundaries, both in our persons and in our external possessions and in land, commercial trade or voluntary relationships in general could not function. An advanced culture based on contract and choice -- rather than feudal birth status or socialist top-down commands – could not exist.

Freedom and free markets presuppose and depend on the security of private property rights. Only when property boundaries are clearly defined and property rights are secured from coercive violation, either by criminals or by arbitrary government intervention, can incentives for long-term private planning develop, calculated risks undertaken, opportunities made available, and a sophisticated capitalist economy emerge and flourish.

A free market economy – an economy unhampered by political regulations, rigid controls, bureaucratic guidelines, high taxes, mandatory racial quotas, compulsory minimum wage rates, redistribution programs, and other coercive distortions – presupposes the principles of self-ownership and private property rights in peaceful adult citizens. The Left attacks freedom and civilization at this crucial foundation level by denouncing and undermining private property rights at every opportunity, from the income tax and antitrust laws to the Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo decision..

And since the related principles of Self-Ownership and Private Property are the bedrock core of the political perspective known as libertarianism, the Left’s ultimate target is individual liberty and it assiduously fights any significant movement in the direction toward true libertarianism. Libertarianism is the ultimate ideological opposite to Leftism and the Left’s anti-property, anti-individualist Orwellian agenda.

The Left often postures as being in favor of "tolerance" – but only in such superficial matters as skin color, not in the realm of ideas. The Left’s long-time and continuing ideological monopoly in America’s universities seethes with anti-conservative and anti-libertarian bigotry and intolerance much uglier and much more unrelenting than the personal prejudice of any stereotyped Southern racist.

Leftists also claim they are for freedom – but it is not the freedom from coercive interference with peaceful adults for which libertarians stand. No. The leftists clamor for freedom from want, freedom from deprivation, freedom from poverty, freedom from being disadvantaged, freedom from discrimination, freedom from having one’s feelings hurt, freedom from the real world, and other such bogus "freedoms" which, if they can be achieved at all, come only at the forced expense of productive peaceful adult citizens. They think people have a "right" to "free" medical care, food, schooling, retirement funding, disability assistance, housing subsidies, etc. – all to be paid for by the forced expropriation of other people. In other words, they believe that some people have a "right" to violate the rights of others.

This is emphatically not the same concept of individual rights championed by true libertarians or by America’s Founding Fathers. The Left hates America and its libertarian heritage because, traditionally, private property rights and freedom of commerce were upheld and secured to a far better degree in the United States than in other previous cultures.

The attack on America, on rational moral values, and on individual freedom comes almost entirely from the Left in this country – from the limousine "liberal" leftists who live in San Francisco and Marin counties to the hard-left socialists who have dominated the Democrat Party since 1972, and the semi-literate America-hating Hollywood leftists who have contempt for even the middle-class audiences they entertain on TV and the silver screen.

There can be no stable compromise between the libertarian / conservative Right and the anti-private property tyrannical Left. They are polar opposites. Don’t kid yourself into believing otherwise.

Defeating the Left is not an impossible dream and it does not mean having to convert every American – or even a majority – to our laissez-faire prescription (although that would be great!). That isn’t necessary. Bad ideas and their derivative fallacies must be refuted and fought with good ideas. And the more fundamental the ideas involved, the more powerful an impact they eventually have on the course of civilization. Merely using marketing gimmicks to try to trick people into voting "Libertarian" in one or two elections is not likely to result in any durable victory for freedom. Before we can get large numbers of voters to cast their ballots for less government involvement in our lives and businesses instead of still more regulations, taxes, and counter-productive welfare programs, a sufficient number of influential thought leaders must have a sufficient grasp of the refutations of the anti-free market fallacies and some appreciation for the libertarian alternatives to the failed bureaucratic schemes of the moribund Liberal-Left Establishment. Such mavens will then be able to apply these truths to particular issues in news stories and public controversies.

The great 19th century libertarian economist and statesman Frederic Bastiat used humorous analogies and short stories to drive home the lessons he had learned from J.B. Say, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo. When the pro-freedom Right has a weekly TV program like Saturday Night Live which ridicules the sick notions of liberalism and humorously exposes the contradictions and hypocrisies of prominent leftists (the way Rush Limbaugh does on his radio show), Americans will laugh the fallacies of the anti-capitalist Left off the stage. Politicians like Ted Kennedy or John Kerry or Albert Gore will lose all credibility and will cease to run for public office. They will crawl back under their rocks where they belong. Even now, they have nothing but old, stale, failed ideas – nothing new or positive to contribute.

Where will the pro-capitalist thought leaders and talented individuals come from? What can we do to help provide an environment for their emergence? Initially, this will mean getting more of the right kind of person to read the right books – such as Capitalism by George Reisman, Atlas Shrugged and other works by Ayn Rand, The Law and What is Seen by Bastiat, Economics In One Lesson by Hazlitt, The Anti-Capitalist Mentality by Mises, The Road to Serfdom by Hayek, Capitalism and the Historians, and other such classics defending laissez faire. and summaries of their principal arguments found in such books as The Incredible Bread Machine by Richard W. Grant and so on. There are many other good libertarian books, of course, but these are among those which have formed the foundation of modern libertarianism and on which later works attained their footing.

Who are the potential thought leaders? We cannot always predict who will be sufficiently capable and articulate and motivated to take up the task of persuasively retailing to their friends or audiences, either as writers or as talk show hosts or as teachers or in other capacities, the truths and refutations of fallacies found in Reisman, Rand, Bastiat, Hazlitt, Mises, and the rest. The brighter high school and college students should be targeted of course, but others should not be excluded if they don’t happen to fall into those categories. It will always be a difficult feat of judgement to steer a course between spending too much time or effort on someone who turns out to be closed-minded to ideas on the one hand and writing someone off too hastily on the other. But when a "critical mass" of capable individuals (not a majority by any stretch) have read and sufficiently understood the right ideas, their influence will begin to spread quickly in the culture.

Think that is "unrealistic" or not possible? Think again. The only libertarian talking head I know of on regular (non-cable) television became a libertarian by reading certain specific myth-shattering books. I am talking about John Stossel who is (still) employed by ABC News and produces a regular program called "Give Me a Break" on that network. How did he become a libertarian thought leader? He read Atlas Shrugged in 1996. Since then he has made his own personal investigation of this war of ideas between individual liberty and private property under limited constitutional government on the one hand and the anti-private property, anti-capitalist Left on the other. He has read books on market economics and classical individual rights philosophy. He has absorbed the truths brought forward by libertarian authors. He has done his homework. Because he was already ensconced in the bowels of the Liberal media establishment, it was too late to screen Stossel out – though there is assuredly an ongoing attempt to have him fired by the organized Left, so intolerant is it of even a single dissenting voice on network television.

So there he has been, for the past several years, alongside Barbara Wah-Wah and other liberal fascists, giving an alternative perspective – the libertarian perspective -- on current events and political issues from environmentalism to FDA regulations. And don’t get distracted by side issues – such as questioning whether or not Stossel is your idea of a "pure" libertarian or is "hard core" enough. He is doing pretty much what he can do given the circumstances in which he works. He is a libertarian hero for bringing the pro-freedom perspective to millions of America by way of the medium which heretofore was dominated almost entirely by the Liberal-left establishment.

May a thousand Stossels bloom!

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Source: Eddie’s Rants & Raves

Copyright © Sam Wells, March 2006

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