Today Instapundit — here and here — linked both Megan McArdle’s explanation of why we should get rid of income taxes on corporations and Amity Shlaes using the story of Triple-Crown winner Secretariat, whose bio movie was recently released, as a cautionary tale for the tsumani of increased estate tax rates set to begin wiping out small family businesses and farms on Jan. 1, 2011.
Leftist leaders attract and control their constituencies with two fundamental ideas, both of which have their foundation in hopelessness and passivity, attitudes that have the bonus powers of making it easy to control anyone who buys into them. The first fundamental idea of Leftism is that particular identity/grievance groups are members of a permanent underclass, which entitles them to pity and unearned privileges and money. This idea has been particularly attractive to black Americans and led to the Great Society welfare state, the destruction of marriage and the black family, the rise of race hucksterism and racial protection rackets and a holocaust of ambition, talent and genius in the black community because welfare rules punish these traits ruthlessly.
The second fundamental idea of Leftism is that there is a privileged overclass who owe their pity and earned privileges and money to an ever-expanding list of identity/grievance groups in the permanent underclass.
As noted by Eric Hoffer (The True Believer), Friedrich Hayek (The Road to Serfdom) and Jamie Glazov (United in Hate), these two fundamental ideas of Leftism have nothing to do with the real goal of Leftist leaders, which is identical to the goal of all sociopaths: the power to make people jump. The real purpose of Leftist leaders is to gain power for themselves. The fact that they are using pity, shame and guilt to get it gives them away and what really clinches the diagnosis is the fact that wherever they gain power their community or nation falls into stagnation and decay and they have no remorse whatsoever about the lives they destroy to get and keep power.
One prominent author who failed to see the sociopathy behind using these ideas to attract, trap and manipulate followers is Ayn Rand. While I was recovering from my cough and back injury this month, I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time. Rand repeatedly derides the destructiveness of the Communist slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” and I have the impression that she developed her philosophy of objectivism to argue against it. But she failed to see it was only the bait and that you can’t defeat the hook by arguing with the bait.
Where was I? Oh, right, back to a thought I had while reading the essay by Amity Shlaes on the estate tax: Leftists perpetuate hopelessness while conservatives are optimists. If you believe that you have no hope of making the most of yourself and building a prosperous life, then the hopelessness of Leftism makes sense to you and you believe that money comes from luck and/or exploitation and you can only get it by taking it from those who are making it. In contrast, fiscal conservatism is about optimism in the individual’s ability to create wealth and the recognition that the system that allows individuals to keep the majority of the wealth they create harnesses one of the greatest powers in the universe: human ambition.
As I was reading Shlaes’s essay, I had the thought that conservatives reading it would identify with the families whose businesses are threatened or destroyed by the estate tax. Conservatives also would assume that anyone reading it would see the threat estate taxes pose to their own well-being, their own futures, their own opportunities. Then it occurred to me that Leftists reading it would feel justified and even gleeful about the slaughter of geese laying golden eggs that the sacrifice of family businesses to the ax of high estate taxes represents. Why? Because the Left has trained them to be permanently hopeless about their own prospects or the prospects of their preferred grievance/identity groups. Money is not something that anyone can make, it’s something you take — or ransom you pay to assuage your guilt.
And this is where the Right makes its biggest mistake, a mistake on such a grand scale that I think it is the real reason the economic fate of America hangs in the balance now. Conservatives don’t keep emphasizing that fiscal conservatism is about creating and preserving a system where individuals can make their dreams come true — a system where individuals get to keep and control the majority of the financial rewards they have earned through their creativity, courage, thrift, wise choices, hard work and ambition.
In other words, fiscal conservatives NEVER use their big idea to drive the discussion about America’s economy and inspire people about fulfilling their full potential. Yet this big idea is the one that exposes and destroys the hook that is the true motivating force of Leftist leaders: gaining control over others, regardless of the destruction that causes.
Instead, fiscal conservatives speak almost exclusively — as Ayn Rand did — to the ideas the Left uses as bait. This means the Left is always in control of the discussion, leading fiscal conservatives on a perpetual wild goose chase and tricking them into articulating only the positions that validate the Left’s framing them as demons. The solution is for the Right to begin every discussion with a statement of its own big idea of individual empowerment and self-realization. This will leverage one of the fundamental rules of a paradigm shift: people only give up their current paradigm when they see the advantages of a better one. And it is fiscal conservatives who have the better paradigm.
Update, 10/31/10, Sun.: Babalu has more on reports of small business owners planning to die in 2010 when their estate taxes will be zero, instead taking a risk that they would live past Dec. 31 because the jump to 55 percent that estate taxes will take on Jan. 1, 2011, will destroy their family business.
Update, 11/1/10, Mon.: Thank you, Prof. Reynolds, for the link, and welcome Instapundit readers. One commenter requested clarification on the following:
“Instead, fiscal conservatives speak almost exclusively — as Ayn Rand did — to the ideas the Left uses as bait. ”
“…leading fiscal conservatives on a perpetual wild goose chase and tricking them into articulating only the positions that validate the Left’s framing them as demons.”
The ideas of fiscal conservatives that allow the Left to frame them as demons start with the phrase, “We need to get rid of …”:
- Social Security
- the IRS and our current tax code
- Medicare and Medicaid.
Come to find that there are legitimate ideas behind these that never get mentioned because the debate is happening in code. Also because the Leftists’ heads burst with rage before fiscal conservatives can offer their alternatives and explain them. I’m new to fiscal conservatism, so as near as I can tell, the above proposals are code for the following ideas:
- We can starve government into being smaller and make it interfere less by depriving it of the rivers of revenue for Social Security from the FICA tax, which go into the general fund and can be used for anything.
- Our tax code is so burdensome and complex that we would be better off throwing it out and instituting a flat tax.
- Caring for the elderly and the disabled is the camel’s nose in the tent for socialized medicine. (Hayek specifically states in The Road to Serfdom that a prosperous society should provide support for those who truly can’t provide for themselves, so I’m not including the other conservative argument that we can’t afford the care of the elderly and the disabled and because I have no idea what fiscal conservatives offer as an alternative.)
Old and busted — the ideas the Left uses as bait for fiscal conservatives:
- Wealth must be re-distributed
- Planned economies are better than free markets because outcomes are guaranteed
- Taxes and regulations are good and only bad people want to limit them
- Identity groups have perpetual grievances
The new hotness — if fiscal conservatives framed the discussion in their own terms:
- Wealth is created when human ambition is harnessed by a system that gives it liberty and the right to keep a majority of the wealth it has created.
- An economic system that empowers people to create wealth doesn’t have to pay as much in welfare.
- We can provide opportunities for all, but nothing should guarantee an outcome.
- Keeping taxes and regulations to a minimum unleashes wealth-creating power.
- People should be treated as individuals, not members of identity groups.