The Progressive Blind Spot - Human Nature

As I was heading out during my lunch break I made the mistake of listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR, where guest host Frank Sesno had author/sociologist Juliet B. Schor as a guest. Schor's book, Plenitude talks about the need to make profound changes in how we live. As I listened I came to realize that while her goals may be laudable, those goals have ignored one thing that she, being a sociologist, should understand: human nature.

How many times over the decades have utopian/progressive/socialist plans for this country or for the world tried to make it sound that if people would only change how they look at things that we could create a perfect society/world? The problems is that people tend to resist change, particularly when they see little return for all the effort that will be required. They have higher priorities, such as providing for their families. Unless people can be shown up front such changes will benefit them and their families directly, they will resist those changes. To rely on altruism to fuel such changes is foolish and a waste of time. As I and many others have come to realize, altruism is something we feel from time to time. It cannot be sustained 24/7/365. Unfortunately far too many of the Left have chosen to ignore that one little truth. Most of there utopian ideals demand altruism from is all day, every day. It's the only way their world will work.

If people like Schor want to see those kinds of changes they shouldn't waste their time appealing to people's better nature. They may not have one, particularly when it comes to their families or businesses. Those are the most important things in their lives. If someone tries to convince them they should sacrifice the well-being of either in the name of some nebulous cause, the response they get will likely be “Screw you and the horse you rode in on!”

More than once during the show Schor lamented the “greed” that seems to drive the Western world and tried hard to guilt us into giving up everything everyone has worked so hard to achieve. I had a hard time figuring out exactly how she defined greed. Was it overweening avarice? Was it profiting from the misfortune of others? Or was it simply making money at one's job or business and having a little left over to do something other than buy necessities? (I get the feeling she didn't differentiate between them at all, with the last one being the worst of the three.) More than once she played the leftist egalitarian card, implying no one should have [place name of item or possession here] unless everyone can have one. But that's a straw man argument because by that logic no one will ever be able to have whatever it is because no one has them. Someone has to be first. Call it the Lowest Common Denominator premise, which always turns out to be false, unrealistic, and impossible to achieve.

One of her favorite targets was the oil companies. Another target was big corporations. While I have no love for either, her remedy (smaller innovation driven companies to replace them) isn't something that can be forced. For one thing, who decides and on what basis? Some things can't easily be done by smaller companies, if at all. Does that mean they shouldn't be done at all? Again, who decides?

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that Schor and those like her seem to think that someone should be making these decisions for us rather than letting things develop on their own. Forcing the issue, either by heavy government intervention or outright government control, never works out and always causes far more problems than such changes were meant to fix. History is rife with examples of how and why we should not to do such things. Yet the Left sees the previous failures not as a flaw in their theories but as poor execution of them. They'll explain that this time they'll get it right...but they never do.