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First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.

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Intellectuals and Other Dangerous Characters - Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 00:03


Idealists, Intellectuals and Other Dangerous Characters

David C. Stolinsky, MD
Feb. 11, 2010

Most people live in the real world. They have to. But some people have the luxury of living in their heads. They have the leisure time to imagine an ideal world organized in an ideal way and run by ideal officials − in other words, themselves.

These people went to a university, and perhaps graduate school. They studied gurus from Plato to Marx, who fantasized their own version of the ideal. They were taught by professors who often had done nothing outside the university, and who looked down on ordinary working people.

Yes, they preached the virtues of the working class. But in private these elitists held blue-collar workers in contempt, just as Lenin called the peasants “cattle.” Similarly, Sarah Palin is derided for graduating from a non-Ivy-League university. President Obama belittles newly elected Senator Scott Brown for driving a pickup truck, and disparages Middle Americans: “They get bitter; they cling to their guns and religion…” No, Mr. President, they get bitter because liberal idealists like you pour scorn on their deeply held beliefs.

● First came Plato, whom we studied at the university. His idea of a “republic” was a state where a few self-anointed “elite” governed the ignorant masses, using propaganda to control them. He believed that − surprise! − philosophers like himself should be in control. One can only speculate about how much misery has been caused, and is still being caused, by people − consciously or subconsciously − trying to put his ideas into practice.

● Then came Marx, who was from an upper-middle-class family but had difficulty supporting his own wife and children. He constantly thought about money, because he rarely had any. So he assumed everyone was like him, motivated by economics. He sat in the British Library, theorizing about work he had never done, performed by workers he had never met and whom he held in contempt. He was an atheist, so he transferred his zeal to politics. He imagined a beautiful system where “the people” owned everything. He believed that − surprise! − “intellectuals” like himself should be in control. Others composed variations on the same theme.

A glaring example of intellectual hubris is Tolstoy, perhaps the greatest novelist who ever lived. Because he could write well, he believed he could redesign society. (Similarly, because he graduated from Harvard Law School, Obama believes he can redesign the health-care system.) Tolstoy was wealthy, so he thought private property was unnecessary. He lost faith in the church, so he thought organized religion was unnecessary. He had seen war, so he advocated pacifism. He sought to benefit “the world,” so he tried to disinherit his wife and children.

Then we have Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union and disciple of Marx. He proclaimed his devotion to the peasants, but privately derided them as “cattle.” And what do you do with cattle? You herd them, pen them, and then slaughter them. Lenin was followed by Stalin, who put this program into effect.

These people, and those like them, were enormous narcissists. They judged everyone and everything by themselves. They had no insight that others might have different experiences and different needs and wants. Thus Obama cannot believe that most people do not want government-run health care, so he repeatedly tries to “teach” the ignorant masses what they should want.

These people “love all the peoples of the Earth,” but have little feeling for their own nation. They “love humanity,” but have no respect for individual humans. They want to “save the planet,” but have no regard for the wants and needs of the people who inhabit it. They “respect all cultures,” except their own. They “honor all religions,” except their own. Their empathy is like a doughnut − with a hole in the center.

Voltaire taught us, “The best is the enemy of the good.” Liberals compare our nation, and our political and economic systems, to some theoretical ideal, rather than to actual alternatives:

● Does our Constitution have flaws? They don’t compare it to the constitutions of other nations. Instead, they compare it to some ideal constitution that exists only in the minds of liberal law professors. So we need not amend it by the difficult process it requires. We need only declare it a “living document,” subject to constant reinterpretation by the latest decisions of liberal judges. These judges do not understand that law which is arbitrary and unpredictable is not law at all, but merely their own whim − and thus undeserving of the people’s respect or obedience.

● Does our government have flaws? They don’t compare it to actual governments elsewhere, with their restrictions of freedom. Instead, they compare it to some ideal government that exists only in the minds of liberal political-science professors. So we need not take care to avoid the fatal pitfalls into which others have blundered. We need only rush blindly toward “change” and “transformation.”

● Does our economic system have flaws? They don’t compare it to actual economic systems elsewhere, with their stagnation and smothering of individual initiative. Instead, they compare it to some ideal system that exists only in the minds of leftists. And if we point out that the Soviet Union, the Eastern European Bloc, North Korea and Cuba are abject failures, they simply parrot, “True communism hasn’t been tried yet.” Yes, it has, from the first two years of the Plymouth Colony to the Israeli collective farms. It doesn’t work. But never mind, it’s the “ideal” system.

● Does our health-care system have flaws? They don’t compare it to socialized systems elsewhere, with their lethal waiting times, their severely rationed care, and their stifled innovation of new medicines and treatments. They don’t ask why America accounts for only 4% of the world’s population, but over 60% of the Nobel Prizes in Medicine, as well as having the best survival rates for most forms of cancer. But never mind, socialized medicine is “fairer.”

Even the finest horse can’t compare to a unicorn. But unicorns exist only in the imagination. Idealists spend their lives − and often the lives of others − searching for unicorns, while horses suffer from neglect.

Instead of comparing our systems and policies to actual alternatives, liberal idealists compare them to ideal systems and policies that always work perfectly − in their imaginations. Instead of comparing us to real people, liberal critics compare us to mythical beings who can defeat homicidal fanatics by nonviolence and diplomacy.

It’s not easy being a wife, if your husband compares you not to real women he has a chance to attract, but to plastic-surgery-enhanced, air-brush-altered Miss February.

It’s not easy being a husband, if your wife compares you not to your peers, but to flashy millionaires, or to stars on movie-magazine covers.

It’s not easy being a kid, if your parents compare you not to your classmates, but to ideal children who get straight A’s while being champion athletes and volunteering in homeless shelters – in their non-existent spare time.

It’s not easy running a war against fanatics who want to kill us, if your critics compare you not to your political opponents, but to a vague concept of the ideal leader − who can win a war without bloodshed, and who treats terrorists like honored guests.

The best is enemy of the good. If the best were available to us, we wouldn’t deserve it, or probably even recognize it. In real life, we must choose between imperfect alternatives. The ideal is something we keep in mind as a distant landmark toward which to strive. The ideal is not something we expect to reach in this world, and certainly not something we insist that others achieve in order to gain our support.

Only ideal husbands deserve ideal wives, and only ideal wives deserve ideal husbands. Only ideal parents deserve ideal children. Only ideal bosses deserve ideal employees. Only ideal citizens deserve ideal leaders. The rest of us must choose between less-than-ideal alternatives that exist in the real world, not merely in our imaginations. The rest of us must not allow our good society to be torn down, in the vain hope that we can create perfection.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: