Rebirth of Reason


The Left and Intentions
by Joseph Rowlands

To understand the political left, the role of intentions in their ideology needs to be understood clearly. It informs their entire perspective. It is the foundation of their understanding of the nature of politics, opposing views, and the explanation for various consequences.


The foundation of the belief is that the way things are is due to conscious choices by people. If teachers seem to be underpaid, it is because someone has chosen to underpay them. If a minority is underrepresented in a profession, it is because people are racist or sexist. If the price of oil goes up, it is because the oil industry or speculators have chosen to increase the price. Everything is intentional.


In this view, the only thing preventing us from living in a utopian society is that there are people who don't want to fix it because they are benefitting. This is tied to the view of altruism vs. selfishness. The evils of the world are a product of selfish choices. Evil people choose to create problems so they can personally benefit. Every problem in the world is viewed this way.


In politics, this means that there are two camps. There are those who want to do good, and those who want to do evil. There's nothing here that allows for differences of opinion on the best means to achieve an end. From the left's perspective, it isn't method that is the issue. It is always the intended results that are in question. It is assumed that if you want to achieve goals, you can in a straightforward manner. Bad results are because of bad intentions.


This is why the left views conservatives as evil, and not simply mistaken. If the left suggests a policy like additional welfare benefits, they see opposition of this policy in terms of intended goals. Conservatives might reject the policy because it is too costly, it perverts incentives, it creates a class of irresponsible people, etc. The left ignores the specific criticism and assumes it is all an excuse or rationalization. Ultimately, they conclude that the conservatives are against the policy because they don't want poor people to have more money.


The same is true for other policies. If conservatives oppose a policy of wealth redistribution, it must be because they are for inequality. If conservatives oppose a policy of government funded universal healthcare, it must be because they want people to not have healthcare. The focus on intentions paints their view of all political discourse. If you disagree on a policy, it has to be because you disagree with the intended outcome.


One of the implications of this view is that bad things always need a villain to explain them, and they have a number to choose from. The other political party is an obvious target, since they often oppose the new laws that the left desires. Big business is another one, and a popular one for a number of reasons.


Business fits the moral narrative of altruism vs. selfishness. It is an institution that is dedicated to personal profit. Whether the leftists believe profit is really at the expense of other or recognize that the world isn't zero-sum, it is still an institution out for its own sake and thus makes a fitting enemy and explanation of undesirable results.


Business is also privately run, which means it is outside of the control of the populace at large. The left views government as a voice of the people, and business as individuals controlling the lives of livelihoods of others. Government is controlled, even if only in theory, by the people, while business is controlled by individuals looking out for themselves.


Even if it didn't fit the rest of the narrative of good vs. evil, business would be seen as a source of power outside of the control of the government. It would be seen as an obstacle to the benefactors in government that want to make changes for the betterment of society. In this sense, business is viewed as reactionary. It opposes social change, or at least tries to maintain its own power, preventing the government from accomplishing everything it wants.


Other enemies include speculators who manipulate prices, tax-dodgers who manipulate their finances to avoid paying their fair share, and of course rich people who have concentrated power just like businesses. The latter is interesting because many people consider the hatred of the rich to be primarily because the old method of getting rich was through political favors and coercion. That belief implies that hatred of the rich today is simply a mistake in assuming all rich people got their money illicitly. But if the hatred of the rich is simply because the rich have an "uncontrolled" influence on society, meaning it can be used in a manner inconsistent with the leftist intentions, then it isn't a category mistake at all.


Finally, as many people have discovered, any attempt at providing evidence or explanation for why the leftist policy shouldn't be pursued is responded to by a questioning of your motives. They will suggest you've been bought by big business, are getting paid to lie, and that you are simply a pawn. Any argument you have is dismissed as not genuine.


Along with the list of enemies, there is often a list of motives that explain why people would oppose the leftist intentions. First and foremost is selfishness, of course. That includes profit, but also power, fame, influence, or political power. Others include racism, sexism, and bigotry of various kinds. Another is a desire of the upper class to maintain its privileges and other kinds of class warfare.   Anything could work, but it has to explain why people oppose policies the left views as morally obvious.


Recognizing the central role of intentions in the leftist ideology allows us to understand their perspective and see where their focus is.

Sanctions: 24Sanctions: 24Sanctions: 24 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (9 messages)