Socialist Hedonism and Our Shrinking Economy

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Though pundits continue to write as if there has been an economic recovery, the raw numbers tell a different story. It is the story of a false recovery and ongoing mal-investment. The Business News headline reads, US economy shrinks for the first time since the recession ended. Here we are told that the “economy shrank unexpectedly late last year….” But was this really unexpected? Our society has fallen away from the old rules, from the old truths. Market hedonism now stands united with socialist hedonism and gives us a new kind of society which no longer understands the fundamentals of economic science. It is a society that borrows and goes deeper into debt. It is a society which suggests the idea of getting something for nothing.

And here is the beginning of our troubles. What comes of nothing is nothing. In order to grow an economy you have to have incentives, especially through the free exchange of goods and services. The enemies of capitalism and the market do not like this kind of freedom. Better to denounce it as a delusion which is no longer “sustainable.” This explains their fondness for talk of “climate change, peak oil and the internal contradictions of capitalism.” Obstacles of every kind must be placed in the way of the market system. Men must not be free to buy and sell. And finally, when poverty has resulted from trampling down the free market system, the free market system will nonetheless be blamed.

In a lecture given on July 28, 1967, the Frankfurt School “philosopher” Herbert Marcuse charted the future path of the New Left. “We are dealing with the dialectic of liberation,” Marcuse explained. This liberation was to be from a repressive system. Of course, this system had grown affluent, powerful and well-functioning; but the system (according to Marcuse) was morally bad and characterized by “voluntary servitude.” Marcuse had long abandoned rigid Marxist formulas in favor of a loose hedonistic formula for revolution. Here is the cultural Marxism of women’s liberation, gay marriage and the modern welfare state. For that is what Marxism in the affluent West now turns to.

According to Marcuse, “If socialism is defined in its most Utopian terms, namely … [as] the abolition of labor … [then it presupposes] … a total trans-valuation of values, a new anthropology.” In that case, socialism presupposes “a type of man who rejects the performance principles governing the established societies: a type of man who has rid himself of the aggressiveness and brutality that are inherent in the organization of established society, and in their hypocritical, puritan morality….”

Here Marcuse, as the father of the New Left, bequeathed to his children the ideal to which they firmly remain attached today. It is the iceberg upon which our ship of state is wrecking itself. It is the idea of something for nothing – of pleasure without labor, of civilization without morality. According to Marcuse the new man does not work. He devotes his time to “little joys and pleasures with good conscience.” Rejecting the performance principle, he is unwilling to better himself. In short, he is socialist man – and he is also Nietzsche’s last man about which Nietzsche wrote, “The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small.”

We see how the work ethic has declined. The rebellion of the 1960s was not a passing phase, but was the trans-valuation spoken of by Marcuse. We also see how everything has become smaller. Man himself is diminished as he becomes increasingly incapable of taking care of himself under an ever-enlarged welfare state.

In 1900 most Americans were born on farms. Now consider what was required to maintain a farm in 1900. Does anyone today work as hard as the farmers of yesterday? The transition from an agricultural society to an urban society brought us many benefits. And these benefits were acquired because brainpower became king. Instead of working hard from dawn to dusk we are now aided by machines, and by the clever engineers and capitalist organizers who save us from back-breaking toil on a day-to-day basis. And we should all be reminded that it is capitalism that has mobilized this brain power. It is investment, and it is the market, that has brought us out of drudgery. It is not socialism that has done this. It is, rather, the socialists who have organized an attack on the very mechanism that has brought real liberation to countless millions.

“This is liberation from a repressive, from a bad, from a false system,” said Marcuse in his 1967 lecture. But Marcuse was wrong. Capitalism was the liberator and the false system was socialism. It was, ironically, capitalism that made socialist hedonism possible. It was the abundance of capitalism that allowed the welfare state to come into existence to the extent we see today. For without abundance there would be nothing to redistribute. The reversion to socialist hedonism, therefore, is an outgrowth of a successful though far from vigilant capitalism. The Marxism of today is not the Marxism of worker’s revolution but the Marxism of government freebies and special interest groups.

As news reports suggest, the economy is shrinking and will continue to shrink. For the moment there is no force in play that will stop this downhill slide. The disciples of Marcuse are in power and there is no immediate prospect of beating them in an election. The welfare state will continue to grow even as the productive side of the economy declines. Keeping in mind that free market economics is part of our heritage, there is more to say on this subject, but I will finish with a quote from Paul Gottfried’s book, The Strange Death of Marxism, where he writes: “The Post-Marxist Left goes beyond the totalitarian movements of the past … in emphatically rejecting Western culture and historical heritage.”

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About JR Nyquist