The quantity theory of...
The writer Will Self has an idea called “the quantity theory of sanity”; his theory holds that the amount of sanity in the world is finite and, therefore, if someone becomes more sane then someone else becomes more insane to balance everything out. The thought occurred to me again the other day because I noticed that as I became healthier my relatives—particularly any I had disagreed with in the past—became more unhealthy, often indulging in negative activities I used to enjoy. Perhaps there is some truth to this idea and yet, a little while later, I remembered that Self is a leftist. This matters because his quantity theory of sanity is basically how leftists think about the economy: there is only so much to go round—and some people have hoarded the largest share.
The Victorian socialist Ruskin once stated that if people had the same amount of money then there would be no rich or poor people; all we had to do was make sure everyone had the same amount. Ruskin was fundamentally a printmaker not a thinker, but the basic thought is “the quantity theory of wealth”. For the right, money is a means to transmit information and coordinate activities; for the left, it is literally a quantity of coins or notes that some people have sequestered all to themselves for selfish reasons.
A few posts ago, I lauded peasant common sense; here is the downside to peasant common sense: the peasant cannot understand how something could come from “nothing”. For them wealth is tangible: wealth is a mule, turnip seed, or a nice brass ornament to hang over the fireplace. This empirical or tangible sense of wealth can be exploited by rhetoricians. National socialists, in the broadest sense, can say: “Look at those Jews in the City; they don’t do any real work, don’t make anything—have you seen them make any wealth? Can you touch what they produce? No! That is because they suck your blood with interest. What we need to do is…”
This exploits the way in which the peasant cannot understand that a clever person can solve an abstract problem in an hour and produce more value than a peasant could in his whole career; the results may never be tangible like a turnip. To think in this way sounds unlikely, but remember that Ruskin and Self—both men smarter than some backwoods peasant—fall for the same idea, as does the left-wing comic book writer Alan Moore; he thinks some people are wealthy because they hoard the money—or he claims to think that, anyway. I am not sure that men like Ruskin, Moore, and Self are really that naïve.
And so the Jews or the aristocrats or the kulaks—whoever fits the bill—are dragged down to the concentration camp to do “real work”, such as moving earth from one hole to another. “Ah, that’s real work, you capitalist pig!” (Sweat of the brow, sons of the soil, and other clichés abound). Unfortunately, both Aristotle and Christianity contributed to this attitude through the way they tackled interest and usury—so be wary of “virtue ethics”, it is often an attempt to smuggle socialism in through the backdoor.
Former libertarians sometimes turn to men like John Gray or Alasdair MacIntyre for inspiration; but both these men found their way back to socialism—back to the supposedly unimpeachable civil service and NHS—by way of Aristotle’s virtue ethics; they reacted against Thatcherism in the wrong direction. Virtue ethics is a fine thing for the most part, but it has elements that can be turned to socialist aims. All this is not to say that smart people—looking at you, Bernie Madoff—do not engage in perverse behaviour when the opportunity presents itself; it is just that they are not the reason some people are relatively poor.
The left-wing view is genuinely primitive and superstitious: “Big man he have plenty coin because he hoard coin. He take coin from poor man. Therefore, poor man no money.” There is an element of magical thinking in the sense that primitive societies hold that nothing is an accident; if you are poor, it is because someone has cursed you—the most reasonable explanation for the curse, the rich man. This viewpoint also reflects a zero-sum attitude: leftists think that in all games if someone loses then someone has won at their expense—true in war and chess, not true in economics. Leftist societies—from Hitler’s Germany to the USSR—cannot produce wealth; they can only predate on other societies in the zero-sum game of loot and plunder, until someone stops them or all the plunder is used up or hidden.
We can also see from this situation how women are inherently leftist and uncooperative. The primary function of woman is to be the genius of the species and find the best mate available. Mate selection is a zero-sum game, a mate is either fit or unfit to impregnate the woman. Consequently, for males, all encounters with females turn into a win/lose dynamic to see if the man is fit to breed with. This situation is inherently destabilising for organisations and undermines the ability of people to cooperate; hence to have women in the workplace, unless segregated by sex, is a drag on economic efficiency.
This zero-sum attitude feels a lot like selfishness; although the left claims to abhor selfishness their actual conduct is de facto selfish. Just think about Lenin, a belligerent man who forever berated his opponents and saw every political encounter as a win/lose situation—think about all those bitter splits in the socialist parties; they split because they are made up of people who think in zero-sum terms. “You are with me or against me, comrade.”
Perhaps the explanation is biological: Lenin was bald, baldness—along with left-handedness—is associated with high testosterone; perhaps leftists are slightly mutated, left-handedness is also a mutation, and cannot get along with other people as much as the normal population; they see everything as a fight to the death—an attitude they often project onto “capitalists”—due their hormonal constitution and aggressiveness; the mystery of blood.
Leftists relate to the environment in the same way as they do to the economy. The environment is regarded as a finite resource that is being used up; as we have heard ad infinitum in the case of the Amazon rainforest. If we use up too much of the resource there will be no more and everyone will starve or die—the mother goddess will punish us. However, the environment is really a dynamic system; it is not an unchanging quantity of coal or tin in the ground; it is an interrelation that can be managed. The idea that the environment could be managed—always has been managed through man’s interface with it—is alien to the left; probably because it suggests that someone could exert stewardship. The left does not care for responsibility.
Left-wing environmentalism holds that we can have the same level of civilisation if we simply stop “pollution” or “climate change” to save a greater quantity of landscapes or animals; in reality, genuine limitation on civilisation is akin to the deep ecology suggested by Kaczynski
or Linkola and it would involve the death of about 80% of the world’s population if implemented. Leftists never really want that to happen; genuine “ecology” would kill the leftists first and leave only the fittest behind—effectively the most virtuous men who loyally serve their extended family network and fight hard, somewhat like the Taliban. Neither do left-wing approaches to the environment ever really help cuddly seals or noble wolves; they generally take away private interests and replace them with the state—and the state always squanders resources, whether cuddly seals or noble wolves.
Leftists want the benefits of civilisation without the extractive activities that go along with it; in other words, they want the impossible. This comes about, in part, from the one-sidedness of their view: they only see bountiful nature, the provider. They have a consumer attitude to nature; nature is there to adorn us and provide for us, rather like a husband as it turns out—and yet, narcissistically, the left speaks of “Mother Nature”; they only see “Father Nature”, the provider. What they disdain to acknowledge is Kali, the destroyer in nature; and they do not see her because they are the destructive element of Kali, they only consume. Nature is only a bountiful producer because she is stewarded by the masculine principle in dynamic interrelation with the feminine principle. The left looks at nature quantitatively, as a woman does when shopping, because the left picks from what has been produced and processed from nature; but to relate to nature is not a purely quantitative affair, it is a dynamic relation. Hence the left works in quantity: “How much is it? How much is this dress?” The right asks: “How does it work? What lies behind it?”