By the (self-chosen) end of his life, the late great David Stove, one of the fiercest defenders free thought ever had, was arguing in all sincerity that expressing what he called “the equality opinion” should be a death penalty offense. Admit that “society” will always be “unjust” so long as one person has more than another, and the whole catalog of totalitarian horrors follows, by necessity, as surely as ice follows from water and freezing temperatures. He mostly meant “equality” in the material sense (this was c.1991), but even then the Left was making the Harrison Bergeron implications obvious — more looks, more brains, more talent, more drive, more self control, whatever it is, we shall never have Social Justice while anyone has more.
He was right. A Stove-ian look at the history of philosophy forces one conclusion: The whole of Western social thought, stem to stern, top to bottom, is an attempt to change Envy from a vice to a virtue. (This includes theology). And the reason for it is simple: Philosophers have less. Less looks, less self control, less money, less power, and often less brains and drive, too, and they damn well know it. The only thing they have more of is talk.
Up to about 1500 or so, this didn’t matter, since nobody who had more ever listened to philosophers. But by 1500 or so, European society was prosperous enough that lots of people had more, such that it was obvious that having more is not due to God’s special favor (which used to mean “blue blood”), but is largely chance. As the now unjustifiably obscure philosopher Rodericus Stewartus once said, “Some guys have all the luck,” and instead of taking that as proof of God’s special favor like the bluebloods did, your Martin Luthers and John Calvins …
…well, ok, they took it as proof of God’s special favor, too, but they also — in a leap of “logic” that makes sense only to them and modern-day Leftists — concluded that God’s special favor can be purchased by saying the right things. How do you know you’re among the Elect? By having more… then feeling the overwhelming urge to lecture everyone about how sinful having more is (see the famous Codex Murus for examples).
But the philosophers still aren’t satisfied, because while the guys who listen to them have more, all right — that part of the doctrine’s rock solid — they themselves still have less. And that doesn’t follow, because not only do they say the right things, they’re the ones telling everyone else what to say! But when you point that out to the guys who have more — those Puritan merchants who just bought Manhattan for a handful of beads, for instance — they tell you to go get a job, parchment breath.
I’m sure y’all have noticed the inverse relationship between material prosperity and intellectual rigor, so fast forward a few generations. Now it seems that “having more” is actually the default condition of mankind. And yet, the philosophers still have less. Which can only mean: There is an active conspiracy against the philosophers. It’s the ____’s fault we don’t have more. Fill in the blank with whatever you like: Jews, Capitalists, Aristocrats, Designated Hitters, it’s all the same, only the names have changed.
And now we come to the heart of the problem: Material prosperity produces these people, in the same way Stove says “the equality opinion” produces secret police and slave labor camps. Indeed, it’s the exact same process, because the idea of The ___ Conspiracy simply is “the equality opinion.” One’s expressed intellectually, the other emotionally, but it’s the same thing. Objective considerations of emergent historical phenomena compel us to conclude, comrades, that first we must kill all the Kulaks, and then we shall have Utopia.
The only social policy question, then, is: What to do with these people? A certain level of material prosperity will produce them. It’ nature’s way of keeping the balance — just as a predator or a pathogen always evolves to kill off an over-abundant grazer, so human over-abundance results in an intellectual pathogen to keep us from amusing ourselves to death.
That’s what college was for, back in the days — a containment room for intellectual pathogens. When Harvard was just a four-year sleepaway camp for the sons of privilege, letting them sow their wild oats before joining the family firm on Wall Street, it didn’t matter that all Junior’s professors were moron Marxists. That was probably still the case into the early 90s, when everyone understood what “middle class values” meant — deconstruction and the like are fun to play around with over a few bong hits, but they’re useless out in the ‘burbs, so it doesn’t matter that all the “English” classes at Big State only study Derrida and Zambezi war chants.
The professors got to think of themselves as “revolutionaries,” and we agreed to let them, with our fingers crossed behind our backs — yeah yeah, “revolution,” but only in the sense of spinning around and around and around, constantly chasing your head up your own ass, going nowhere.
But just as material abundance and intellectual rigor vary inversely, so prosperity and pathology vary directly. Now everyone goes to college, and people really believe this shit. For proof I give you the Kavanaugh hearings. That’s a freshman “diversity” seminar, comrades, at any college in the land. And now we’re on the brink of civil war, though everyone with the power to stop it is too flabby and coddled and stupid to realize it.
What’s to be done with these people, should we ever decide to give things like “indoor plumbing” and “living past 35” another go? David Stove said we should shoot ’em all on sight. I’m really hoping someone has a better idea….