The Left and Feudalism

There are enough rotten chestnuts in this video to stink up Madison Square Garden.  Let’s knock out the most obvious one:  the assumption that “the rich” are a corporate, permanent group.

In the real world, of course, punitive taxation on “the rich” leads to no more rich people in pretty short order — the Econ 101 maxim “if you want less of something, tax it” has held since taxes were paid in goats.  If you define “rich” as X dollars per year, every taxpayer in America will make damn sure that his annual income is $X-1 …. and will simply stop working the minute his paycheck threatens to crack the barrier.

I simply can’t believe that the left doesn’t know this.  Marxism makes even smart people dumb, but not that dumb.  Something else is going on here.

I have two theories, neither of them flattering to our friends across the aisle.  The first, probably correct, one is that the elimination of “the rich” is in fact the goal — “tax the rich” is just the political expression of destructive envy.  I haven’t fully thought through the second — hence this post — but it goes something like this:

The left not so secretly longs for stasis.  The ideal leftist world is in fact a medieval world, a feudal world, secure and ordered and above all legible.

There’s some basis for thinking this in the left’s intellectual pedigree.  Classical Marxism allows for no intermediate state between “capitalism” and “communism.”  Utopia exists across the chasm of The Revolution; “Progress,” in the sense the Obamatons use it, is impossible, since capitalists will by definition never surrender their power(pre-1917, communists hated “moderates” and “socialists” more than the capitalists themselves, because compromise only delayed the violent overthrow of the state).  This is a harsh worldview, but nonetheless comforting to limited thinkers — there are nice bright distinctions between Good and Bad; there’s a readymade explanation for one’s feelings of impotence; and of course there’s the pleasure of having an intellectual justification for one’s hate and rage.

And with that, we’re firmly in the Middle Ages.  For just as the medieval worldview pinned all its hopes on an unprovable afterlife, so too the socialist utopians pinned their hopes on a Revolution that by their own definitions could never happen — in all 50 volumes (!!!) of their collected works, Marx and Engels never got around to explaining just how the light of revolutionary truth could ever break through capital’s total control of all social institutions.

In other words: The socialist trinity of proletariat / bourgeoisie / capitalist is just the feudal pyramid of nobility / clergy / commons in modern dress, just as the Marxian “dialectic” thesis / antithesis / synthesis (the doctrinaire explanation for the breaking of Revolutionary dawn) is nothing more than Father / Son / Holy Ghost slathered in Hegelian squid ink.

I can’t prove this, of course (and I’m sure any grad student worth her salt could pound out 6,000 words about why I’m wrong at the drop of a Birkenstock) but it makes psychological sense.  I’m hardly the first guy to point out that Marxism is an emotional tic, not a philosophy — since they’re so singularly incapable of separating a proposition’s content from its speaker, Marxists want to enforce a strict congruence, not between word and deed, but between word and appearance.  How many times have we heard, for instance, that Sarah Palin “isn’t a real woman,” or that Clarence Thomas isn’t “really” black?  There are medieval parallels — a real rise in the standard of living was almost always accompanied by new sumptuary laws, for instance, and while heretics could be reconciled to the Church and infidels baptized, both were forced to wear special badges in perpetuity.

Thus the Marxist world, like the medieval world, is a legible world.  Since all eyes are fixed on the impossible future, they want to know at a single glance where everyone stands in the social hierarchy of the here-and-now. Our Obamarxists have fixated on the nice round number $250,000, I think, largely because it looks so plump there on the page — not so large as to be meaningless to the average taxpayer (the way, say, $1,000,000 would), but certainly big enough to pass the sniff test of “rich.”  And when that proves insufficient, of course, they’ll just move on to another number — $100,000; $75,000 — because the point isn’t the dollar figure, it’s the label. 

They need to know who to hate, you see.  And since we can’t make conservatives wear special badges (yet)……

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5 thoughts on “The Left and Feudalism

  1. model_1066

    I’ll ask a lefty about how they never seem to take into account the fact that the rich can easily stay rich elsewhere…that gets them really riled up. It starts with talk of laws that make it easier for the IRS to get taxes from the wealthy if they and their money goes elsewhere. Then I ask if they think the Berlin wall was built to keep outsiders from spoiling communist paradise, or to keep the slaves from escaping.

    1. Severian

      the rich can easily stay rich elsewhere

      This is very much the kind of thing I was trying to get at (albeit poorly) in my post. Marxism, like leftism in general, is binary — by definition The Rich stay rich, since they control everything from the economy to the culture to the designated hitter rule. There’s the Benighted Now, and the Glorious Post-Revolutionary Future, but moving from one to the other cannot happen except by some mysterious process of synthesis.

      This is one of the reasons they’re so reluctant to actually define a policy outcome, especially a term like “the rich” — in reality, those who can afford to take their wealth elsewhere, and the suckers who (are economically forced to) remain suddenly find that they themselves are somehow “the rich.”

      Which is why I maintain that the point isn’t really to fund whatever gajillion boondoggle government programs — not even liberals are mathematically illiterate enough to think that taxing “the rich,” however defined, will cover the costs. The point is to hate the rich, and before you can hate ’em, you gotta identify ’em — in this case, those who fail to evice sufficient enthusiasm for “tax the rich!” are your counterrevolutionaries.

  2. model_1066

    Which is why I maintain that the point isn’t really to fund whatever gajillion boondoggle government programs — not even liberals are mathematically illiterate enough to think that taxing “the rich,” however defined, will cover the costs. The point is to hate the rich, and before you can hate ‘em, you gotta identify ‘em — in this case, those who fail to evice sufficient enthusiasm for “tax the rich!” are your counterrevolutionaries.

    Good point…my grammatically incorrect comment is just another example of class warfare used by the left. When they say they want the wealthy to pay a ‘fair share’ it only means knocking them down however many pegs it takes to make them as well off as most others. Pure envy, hatred and scapegoating.

  3. philmon

    You know, the irony is that “The Rich”, with few exceptions, aren’t even the same people over time.

    Pick up Sowell’s “The Vision of The Annointed” sometime.

    Studies that follow particular individuals over time have shown that most Americans do not remain in one income bracket for life, or even for as long as a decade. Both the top 20 percent who are often called “the rich” and the bottom 20 percent who are called “the poor” represent a constantly changing set of individuals. A study of income tax returns showed that more than four-fifths of the individuals in the bottom 20 percent of those who filed income tax returns in 1979 were no longer there by 1988. Slightly more had reached the top bracket by 1988 than remained at the bottom. For one thing, individuals were nine years older at the end of nine years, and may well have accumulated experience, skills, seniority, or promotions during that time. Other studies show similar patterns of mobility….

  4. Pingback: Things I Wish Liberals Understood: Predictions vs. Wishes | Rotten Chestnuts

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