The renowned philosopher and economist Adam Smith is famous for saying “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” For fans of the economic way, this is objective reality. For fans of the political way, this is horribly divisive. In today’s politically religious culture, this is blasphemy.
The Pavlovian response of elected officials and their wannabes, from both the so-called left and right, are continual pleas for unity while denying the reality of free markets. For them, their public schooled audience isn’t supposed to see the division being sown is designed to keep the politicos powerful and wealthy.
Author, documentary filmmaker and Poetic Justice Warrior Shelby Steele has identified these contradictions, and the false premises that support them. In a recent cable television interview with Jeanine Pirro, Steele analyzed the essence of the political division,
The left says that we’re racist, that we need to leave that old, ugly America. The conservatives on the other hand, people on the political right, tend not to make high moral claims. They can’t give society the moral innocence it seems to long for.
He concluded, “it seems to me we’re trying to work that out, but not very well.” And they won’t, so long as both sides of the political debate pander to their crony corporate and foundation donors. However, to the credit of the left, they have successfully seized the moral high ground. This is despite their false premise of a Malevolent Universe – success, happiness, and achievement are not available without our fealty to their collectivist tribe.
To the right’s credit, they seem to hold a benevolent universe creed, but for only pragmatic reasons. Its premise is that our capacity for reason is perfectly human, but the right fails to defend reason as fundamental to lives of purpose and pride. As a result, the conservative argument for free market capitalism is the “common good.” That is the collectivist’s turf.
To further explain those who favor the political way, Steele adds,
What you see makes no sense, except as a power grab. The left is saying this country is shameful. We reserve power because we are innocent of that other past. The right says we want law and order. They are right, yet not claiming the high ground.
To claim that one’s country is shameful, without offering context, is itself shameful. At its core, shame can only belong to individuals who adopt anti-life behavior. When these like-minded souls organize themselves, these groups attain political power, and their influence permeates a large segment of the culture, then we have a problem. In American history, that would be the Democratic party.
In the wake of their handling of the Wuhan virus inspired supply-side economic disaster, the Republican party also deserves scorn. Not the least of which is their pathetic defense of capitalism and its requirement for objective law. In the context described by Shelby Steele, conservative media has failed to make a strong moral case for law and order. Instead, they serve up images of cops as good deed doers, for the common good.
Of course, nearly all of them are, and so are the countless butchers, bakers and brewers whose livelihoods are being wiped out by government and anarchist looters. In reality, these officers would love to protect the business operators, for the sake of their individual productiveness. That is the morally defensible purpose. Regarding the events we are witnessing at the moment, Steele observes,
As we speak, we see the enormous power the left has simply claiming themselves to be more innocent than the rest of us. Political correctness has taken one institution after another, where you are required to express your innocence over America’s past.
Inversion, when vice becomes virtue, manifests itself when mobs demonstrate their innocence with spray paint, ropes and gasoline to deface and destroy monuments. Ironically, many of the statues being desecrated actually glorify Democrats. So it makes sense that when reason and reality are abandoned, this behavior is hailed by partisan Democrats in media and Washington who share the attitudes of their forebears, to this day. Shelby Steele continues,
So if you’re in a position, at a university for example, to exploit that, that’s how you get ahead in American life now – to nurture that innocence. The left more and more claims its innocence, the right more and more is frustrated by that.
Bear in mind, this cabal of politicians, chanting marchers, and thugs have no idea how paint, rope and gasoline are produced, not even a Pencil. Those things just happen. What they do know is how to produce mobs. Malevolent life is good when a mob is confused with legitimate protest. Armed with pedestrian slogans and bricks, they aspire to show the world their clean hands and individuality.
Conformists all of them, if they lived in the 17th or 18th century, the DNC would be the chieftains selling their brothers and sisters, and their media partners would be the merchants transporting them to market under the trademark BLM. The protesters would be buying them, assuming they had the wealth to do so. That is not likely, unless they had the political pull.
However, lacking wealth doesn’t matter when need is virtue, independence and ability are punished, and the coin of the realm is envy and guilt. This is where Steele identifies the looters house of cards,
What people on the right do, you can say in one word. They practice deference. We defer more and more to the moralism of the left. Will that get it? The left comes back with something else for us to prove our innocence. That’s power in American life today.
Deference is defined as humble submission and respect. When questions of morality are involved, to submit requires the acceptance of guilt. However, to accept unearned guilt is the highest moral crime someone can commit against themselves. This is Steele’s achievement, to expose the deference offered by innocent Americans as the left’s only weapon, and weakness. Guilt can, and must be, refused and withdrawn.
Whether the looters are politicians, journalists, social justice warlords, or anarchists, they have nothing if they don’t have the unearned guilt of their victims. Their power over American life would be crushed without it.
The cure to sanctioning one’s own victimhood is reason, individualism, and capitalism. In his book The Content of Our Character, Steele confirms America’s founding principle – the protection of the greatest minority, the individual,
Whites must guarantee a free and fair society. But blacks must be responsible for actualizing their own lives. The barriers to black progress in America today are clearly as much psychological as they are social or economic.
As Poetic Justice Warriors, Frederick Douglass was a self-made man in the era of Democratic slavery, Booker T. Washington taught the virtues of economic independence in the Democratic Jim Crow south, Marva Collins taught children how to create lives of understanding and purpose despite the Democratic Chicago school system, and economist Thomas Sowell demonstrated the rising living standards of two parent African American families before Democratic Great Society dependence and despair took over.
Shelby Steele has shown us that a morally vigorous defense of capitalism must be our campaign. As Poetic Justice would have it, Adam Smith brilliantly wrote The Theory Of Moral Sentiments before publishing The Wealth Of Nations – in 1776.