The economic theory of Leftist hopelessness vs. conservative optimism

by CynthiaYockey on October 31, 2010

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.

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Stinky October 31, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Excellent piece. I re-read it three times.

And I am looking forward to hearing how you’ve lost 27 pounds!

CynthiaYockey October 31, 2010 at 8:02 pm


Thank you! About the weight loss — if I haven’t written about it within the next couple of weeks, please remind me.


Liz November 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

This is probably the best explanation of why it’s so dangerous to let the other side set the narrative, and then react to it, rather than making a positive case. Nicely done.

It’s also interesting that you hold that the left is run by sociopaths, rather than people who mean well but are catastrophically wrong.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Sociopaths always seek to control others and they use both the virtues and the vulnerabilities of their prey to control them. So, yes, the Left DOES look like it’s run by sociopaths — they use the idealism of the people who mean well to control them. So these people who mean well are more catastrophically misled than wrong. The example in literature is in Animal Farm by George Orwell — the more equal animals who lived in the house are the sociopathic leaders saying anything to get and keep power, while the idealistic animals in the barn believe everything they are told and do all the hard labor.

Fiscal conservatism is the road to opportunity and self-realization for most of the Left’s constituencies: gays, women, Jews and blacks. I think the reason more members of these identity groups don’t join the Right is that they are justifiably turned off by social conservatism and they don’t know that individuality is so revered on the Right that they can embrace fiscal conservatism without social conservatism and declare themselves fiscal conservatives who are social liberals — after all, we do have a large faction of their mirror opposites, social conservatives who are fiscal liberals. THAT’S how big the conservative tent is — we have two groups in it that have mutually exclusive goals.


Gina November 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Well said!!! You have a gift!

WJ November 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

“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.”

Must confess to a little comprehension problem, at least on specifics. Can you provide more details (or examples) on what you meant byt the two statements I copied into this comment?

The first part of your post (1st 4 paragraphs) are crystal clear.


CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm


In a few minutes I will have an update to do exactly that.


Marty November 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Good post. Your point was really the main theme of the “Joe the Plumber” thing in 2008; Joe hoped to buy out the bsuiness where he worked when the owner retired, and his objection to Obama was that higher taxes would keep him from being able to make that work. A working person pursuing “the American Dream.”

But our insipid level of political discourse and McCain’s lameness on any matters of economic priniciple (as opposed to his personal honor) meant the issue was never properly framed.

Phrosy November 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm

There is another argument that often gets lost–the one about the opportunity costs involved in fulfilling that potential (which is often called “privilege” by the Left). The left perpetuates the idea that conservatives were all born with a silver spoon in their mouths and never faced the same challenges that the permanently aggrieved classes do.

I’m a white middle class male who makes a pretty decent salary. That makes me a bad guy. But it wasn’t fate that got me here. If I hadn’t tried, and tried hard for many years, I’d still be making minimum wage. I’ve worked hard, made choices, and–here’s the kicker–forgone many pleasures and entertainments to get where I am today. I worked my way through (a non-elite) bachelor’s degree. I took out (and repaid as quickly as possible) loans for graduate school several years later. I’ve lived a frugal life throughout my twenties and early thirties and in because of THAT (not because of handouts or a trust fund) I am in a good financial position today. By trying to create equal outcomes for all, liberals ignore that paths that lead to the desired incomes. The Left never emphasizes the NEED for hard work–only that the lower/middle classes aren’t getting paid enough for whatever work they already do!

I’m not a conservative because I make well above median household salary. I’m a conservative because of what I’ve had to do to get to that point–and because I see that others would take the fruits of my outcome from me without even trying to walk the path I have.

DADvocate November 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm

particular identity/grievance groups are members of a permanent underclass, which entitles them to pity and unearned privileges and money.

One thing that is so hypocritical about this is that it is an appeal to greed also while accusing those who work and earn of being greedy for not “sharing.”

You are quite right about the goal of power. Give me a money miser over a power monger any day.

Andrew Dalton November 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I’m not sure why you think that Ayn Rand didn’t understand the power-lust behind Leftist slogans; this is more than evident in Atlas Shrugged, and doubly so in The Fountainhead. (See in particular the passage near the end where Ellsworth Toohey bares his soul to Peter Keating.)

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Andrew Dalton,

Rand did get the power lust but she tried to defeat it by reasoning with the messages of the slogans, rather than the purpose of the slogans, which was to gain control over people by giving them reasons to surrender their power peacefully. In contrast, the right way to fight the power of the slogans is to fight their purpose by directly inspiring people to keep their power and use it to make the most of themselves.


Andrew Dalton November 1, 2010 at 9:53 pm

But you’re missing the point of Rand’s arguments. They’re not intended to convince the power-lusters; she took it for granted that they were beyond reach. Rather, the purpose is to convince their innocent *victims*, who have been deceived into thinking that the power-lusters have reason and morality on their side, that their own lives and liberty are worth defending.

If this deception is not broken — and yes, that requires some amount of “reasoning with the messages of the slogans” to the extent that they purport to be serious arguments — then people will willingly march to their doom, thinking that its reasonable and just for them to suffer and die at the hands of their self-declared intellectual and moral betters.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Andrew Dalton,

We connect people with how they can fulfill their deepest aspirations. No much how much fake security a welfare state/planned economy may promise, that’s not what people dream of. Rand argued with the darkness. You can reason with darkness all you like, but only light gets rid of it. We turn on the light. THAT’S how we should be framing the discussion.


Redman November 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm

One of the best things I’ve ever read on the web.

gus3 November 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I suggest reading it aloud.

Ayn Rand was writing from her own life, when she wrote AS. She saw first-hand how Communism turned people into scheming slaves, and she portrayed that in the attacks against Hank Rearden. I think the mental illness aspect of Leftism is captured well in the nervous breakdown of James Taggart, who is forced to admit to himself the agenda of those he has supported, and that of Orren Boyle, who is confronted with the worthlessness of his credentials. They were so invested in the government-as-savior, that the reality of government-as-destroyer exposed their insanity.

Unfortunately, Rand’s life experience being the basis of her writing, also denied her a fundamental experience of adulthood: being a new parent, having an infant or small child who is completely dependent on the parents for food, clothes, and protection. A parent will go through all seven levels of hell for a child, far more so than for some grand philosophy. Parenthood inverts one’s priorities rather quickly.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm


Yes, those were the most compelling scenes in Atlas Shrugged. I was especially moved by scenes that began with the straw that broke the camel’s back: a copper wire snapping.

But still, the book is one rant after another, and those are the parts I’m thinking about when I say that Rand was arguing with the bait, not the hook.


Seerak November 2, 2010 at 5:26 am

Ah, if you saw those As just rants, then no wonder you didn’t get the book.

The character representing the Leftist lust for power was called Cuffy Meigs in the book; he and others like him were the ones taking over towards the end, to the impotent apprehension of the slightly less thuggish looters who had cleared the way for them.

That was Rand’s real point, by the way. Power lusters are present at all times and in every era. What distinguishes this recent era of freedom from most of the rest of history was the development of a set of ideas which took sufficient root in the West to act As a cultural immune system against such opportunistic social virii. The Left’s goal is to function as an AIDS virus, whose goal is to destroy that immune system in order to return the body politic to its pre-Enlightenment state of undefended vulnerability to such ideas.

The principle which defeats the rise of the power-luster, which reduces them to a mere nuisance, is that of individual moral sovereignty – the idea symbolized by the Gadsden flag, and which Rand and a few others recognize as moral selfishness– i.e. That there is nothing that is morally prior to an individual’s right to his life and his liberty.

The opposing doctrine, what you think is merely the bait, is in fact the powerluster’s primary weapon against you — the idea that anything has a claim to any part or proceed of your life before you do. That’s altruism ( see the wikipedia entry for the Comte quote, which refutes the common misconception that altruism means simple benevolence).

Her point was that to see altruism as mere bait is a deadly mistake, one that allows the power lusters to get back up off the mat again and again – one that both you and Hayek make once again by granting the camel’s nose access to the tent (in the form of having “society” look after the needy) even while
plotting to kick out the rest of the animal.

You evidently are unfamiliar with how humble the beginnings of our current welfare state really were, or how much stronger our cultural immune system (individualism) was back then. You would do well to study it, perchance to learn not to underestimate the importance of the moral weapons used by power-seekers throughout history to disarm their victims, convincing them to surrender and hand over to those pathetic virii a victory they could never have won in a straight fight.

CynthiaYockey November 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm


I appreciate your thoughtful comment, but I still feel confident in my points about Rand, objectivism and Atlas Shrugged. I will have to write more posts about the foundation for the ideas I’m presenting here, so I hope you check back for them. Also, thank you for directing my attention to Comte regarding altruism. I highly recommend that you read The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout — it is essential for understanding sociopaths/power-lusters.

We are using different terms for the same ideas, so to clarify, sociopathic leader = power-luster, followers of the sociopathic leaders motivated by selfish reasons = looters, and followers of the sociopathic leaders motivated by idealistic/moral/altruistic reasons are both the looted (if they have anything to loot) and looters (because they give their support to others being looted).

I still insist that Rand had the dichotomy wrong. It is NOT moral selfishness — as you put it, “that there is nothing that is morally prior to an individual’s right to his life and his liberty” — versus altruism as the doctrine that needy others have first and unlimited claim to the work and wealth of the prosperous. The real dichotomy is between the realization that the source of wealth is the limitless reservoir of consciousness within each individual — which is the source of ideas, creativity, invention and initiative — and the rage of those who, for various reasons, have no experience of success as something originating in their own inner abilities, or, who are furious with society for not rewarding them to the degree to which they feel entitled. (The link goes to a recent post on this blog exploring that idea — be sure to read the comments, too, and read the essay linked in Liz’s comment explaining why the college-educated/men of words favor big government, planned economies and tyranny in general. The short version is that it is what they are used to in the education system, and it’s the environment in which they have experienced success and power so it feeds their narcissism and sense of entitlement. Eric Hoffer explains these things about the “men of words” in more detail in The True Believer.)

The short version of the real dichotomy is that it is liberty vs. tyranny.

It is essential to fighting tyranny to understand that tyrants/power-lusters/sociopaths will use ANY argument to get power. They use arguments that appeal to virtues to capture the idealistic. They use arguments that appeal to vices to capture the vicious. The argument of altruism is perfect for appealing both to the virtuous and the vicious. The virtuous are shamed into compliance, while the vicious who resent the virtuous for succeeding where they have been unwilling or unable to succeed to the degree they desire, are gleeful about looting the virtuous, whose success shames them by its very existence.

Another way to express the dichotomy between fiscal conservatism and the Left’s looting/planned economies is the fiscal conservatism teaches everyone to fish, while the Left claims that the people who, for reasons unknown to them, know how to fish must provide fish for everyone else in perpetuity on account of their innate inability ever to fish for themselves.

One of the reasons fiscal conservatives lose moral battles with power-lusters is that they fail to point out that they are the ones on the high moral ground because it is liberty that allows people to realize their full potential and create the most prosperous societies.

Also, Hayek really is correct that fiscal conservatism can exist while providing for the people who truly cannot provide for themselves, generally due to physical or mental disability. That is not the camel’s nose in the tent. Are you saying that fiscal conservatism can only exist if societies abandon their disabled, elderly and pretty much anyone who hits a rough patch to their deaths? If you are ruthless enough to draw that boundary, why are you not ruthless enough to draw the boundary that those who really can’t work should get assistance while everyone else who CAN work had better do it and not be a burden on society? Hayek’s fiscal conservatism is the one that everyone can embrace. The fiscal conservatism of pure selfishness is easy to portray as demonic in nature and suicidal to embrace because … it is.

What I’m working to point out is that the best argument of fiscal conservatism is NOT individualism, or even liberty, it’s one that fiscal conservatives don’t even seem to be aware they have and that it’s the true foundation of fiscal conservatism. One of my intentions for starting this blog springs my perception that fiscal conservatives have this blind spot about the superiority of their philosophy and are unaware of it — so it is my intention to make them aware of it and restore their vision of it. Here it is: fiscal conservatism is founded on the reality that every individual has an unlimited inner reservoir of creativity and intelligence that is the source of their ability to succeed. However, this inner ability does require external conditions for its full expression and these are individual liberty and the right to keep the majority of the fruits of one’s labors because that right harnesses the power of human ambition and rewards it.

This means that fiscal conservatism has morality on its side because it creates the system for the largest number of individuals to flourish, while not abandoning the truly needy to their deaths and assisting the temporarily unlucky back to productivity and self-reliance. In contrast, the Left and planned economies are fundamentally immoral because they deny individuals the possibility of self-direction and self-realization — since the will of others is imposed in place of their own — and individual initiative is punished, thwarted and strangled so that the entire society stagnates and rots.

When we frame the fight in the terms of fiscal conservatism — “you are strong, and capable of great things, we put in your hands the tools you need to fulfill your own dreams your own way” — then we win. We’ve been losing because we’ve been fighting in the Left’s terms, because we took their bait — especially their rationale that wealth cannot be created and therefore must be re-distributed, so our losing argument is “If you are unsuccessful it is because you are weak, needy and incompetent; you are a loser; and you deserve to die if you are sick, elderly and too frail to work, or too disabled to work.” As long as we argue with the Left by accepting its false premises, we are going to lose. However, we are going to win once we start consistently and persistently emphasizing our own big idea: the truth that wealth is created from ideas that have the conditions of liberty that they need to flourish.


Gordon November 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Thank you for this post. Conservative optimism vs. Leftist pessimism (hopelessness) is a useful contrast.

A cynic, I have long held that the Left is the religion of cowards who would rather hide behind moral fantasies than to make an honest effort to succeed (and thereby risk failure). Accordingly, I submit that optimism & pessimism are respective companions to vigor & sloth and courage & cowardice.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm


You’re welcome. A lot of Leftism/liberalism really is based on the inability to imagine how something is made out of nothing — that wealth — that everything — comes from ideas. Fiscal conservatism is founded on the realization that everything is created from ideas, but that ideas need the right conditions to flourish.


JT91Isles November 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I don’t think there are just two liberal principles. I would add these to the list:

1. Those who succeed did so by exploiting those who are not successful (they prefer dividing the pie differently vs. expanding the pie). Some of this is in your first principle.
2. They are smarter than anyone else
3. Those who are successful must feel guilty (really a corollary of the first point, and in sync with your second principle)
4. They know what’s good for you, though it doesn’t necessarily apply to them (public schools are fine for YOUR kids but they will send theirs to private schools, you have to reduce your carbon footprint while they can go private jetting all over creation, etc.)
5. As long as you had good intent, results don’t matter (justifies a slew of failed social programs)
6. Emotionalism rules – It’s not what you think, but what you feel.

Henry November 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm

“One prominent author who failed to see the sociopathy behind using these ideas to attract, trap and manipulate followers is Ayn Rand.”

I had to reread this to see if I missed ‘never failed’ but apparently I did not. Did you not see what Rand was showing us in Wesley Mouch?

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm


You are correct that Rand’s villains in leadership positions were aptly drawn sociopaths. But I just have to keep repeating, the rants in the book reasoned with the arguments of the sociopaths — the arguments they use to bait to attract, trap and manipulate followers. The real motive of the sociopaths is to get and keep power by any means. You can only defeat them when you see their real motive because you need entirely different weapons for THAT battle — you need to be able to inspire people to keep their own power and show them you have the way for them to make the most of themselves.


jag November 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

It constantly amazes me how conservative politicians and pundits so often accept absurd liberal formulations without, first, calling them on their ludicrous premises.

I want to scream whenever a liberal pundit makes an assertion that could be easily rebutted if only the conservative first qualified the issue (re-frames it conservatively) . You are absolutely right Cynthia. You can’t win an argument that is OVER before it starts because it has been distorted by one side.

Just the word “progressive” illustrates this fact. Does anyone NOT know that liberals have just shifted to calling themselves “progressive” to a) avoid using liberal (as it is largely now, obviously, considered a pejorative term) and b) because any “progressive” idea is, by definition BETTER!

I want to scream whenever a conservative even uses the term “progressive” to describe liberal ideas. If you let someone qualify their ideas as “progressive” what is the opposite position?

Regressive, no? Its a clever, rhetorical, trick, I’ll give them that. And liberals must laugh up their sleeve every time a conservative hands them this gift of accepting “progressive” in their discussions.

Conservatives; just ask liberals what is the difference between a liberal and a “progressive” position. Then ask them why any political “movement” would want to obfuscate their real character.

To ask this is to answer it, no?

Weirddave November 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Good point, which is why you will only ever hear me refer to “so-called “progressives””. Longer, but ultimately more accurate. There is not a single thing that could reasonably be called progress in the so called “progressive” agenda. This country was founded to get away from traditional, top-down governance by so-called “elites” (see? I do it there too. 😉 ). There is nothing, NOT ONE THING, “progressive” about an agenda whose goal is to reimpose that statist control. If you take half a second to analyze what they are actually proposing to do, it is obvious that so-called “progressives” are unquestionably REgressive in thought, word and deed.

HeatherRadish November 2, 2010 at 12:42 am

There’s nothing “liberal” about it, either–they want to control every aspect of our lives, from lightbulbs to chemotherapy to what we’re allowed to listento on the radio.

Craig November 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Don’t sell ol’ Ayn short and don’t try to judge her philosophy by her novels.

I would very much recommend “The Return of the Primitive.” She understood full well that the goal of liberals in the education system was to cripple the minds of the children. This has always been the easiest way to shape society and it was she who made me realize it.

It’s non-fiction and, perhaps, a

Kyle Haight November 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I think Rand did exactly that in her defense of egoism. Whenever she argues that it is morally right for individuals to pursue their own values and live their own lives by their own rational judgment, she is giving people the intellectual ammunition they need to keep their own power in the face of those trying to guilt them out of it.

One of Rand’s major complaints about conservatives is precisely their refusal to reject the narrative the statists (on the left and right) use to frame the moral issues that underlay their political advocacy.

PMS November 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

This is a great article, but I would argue that Reaganism was the political embodiment of this economic argument, and that most conservatives make this argument ad nauseum.

Class warfare, race warfare – these are the swamps of the left. I think we are waking up, but I know many people who have been indoctrinated to hard.

Hopefully, tomorrow the soma starts to wear off.

DANEgerus November 1, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I think you are very insightful, as a self identified member of one of the “ever-expanding list of identity/grievance groups in the permanent underclass”, to realize that “The real purpose of Leftist leaders is to gain power for themselves.”

Your vision does you great credit.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm


Thank you — but you know what? On the Right, as a fiscal conservative, I’m an individual who is lesbian. That’s one of the great arguments in favor of fiscal conservatism — it empowers every individual to make the most of themselves. That frees people from being manipulated and controlled as grievance groups.


Rusty R. November 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm

As I have heard, the original Jeffersonian text of the Declaration of Independence used the phrase, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Profit” but was amended by the drafting committee. Of course, this before “profit” became a dirty word.

Ken H November 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

“You can’t defeat the hook by arguing with the bait;” I think in one sentence you’ve managed to epitomize the problem with the entire debate– well said!

Michael Smith November 1, 2010 at 7:25 pm


I don’t understand what you mean when you say that Rand is “arguing with the bait and not with the hook”. What is the “hook” that Rand has not argued with?

The real problem is that conservatives by and large agree with the left’s moral premise, which is altruism. Altruism is the morality that denies our right to exist for our own sake and demands self-sacrifice for the sake of others. According to altruism, working strictly or primarily for one’s own benefit is selfish and therefor evil.

I challenge you to find a conservative willing to denounce altruism and uphold it’s opposite — the individualist morality of egoism, which holds that all men are ends in themselves with the right to exist for their own sake, by means of their own honest effort, without being required to sacrifice for anyone one else.

You chide conservatives because you say they “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.”

The reason they don’t is because the left simply says that allowing individuals to “keep and control the majority of their rewards” is selfish and heartlessly ignores the needs of the poor, the elderly, etc. And that accusation shuts conservatives right down — they don’t dare to challenge it.

All of the major Republican politicians are altruists and agree that the “poor”, the “homeless”, the “needy”, the “disadvantaged”, etc. are entitled to help at the taxpayers expense — hence we have an ever-expanding welfare state. All major Republican politicians agree that “greed” is evil and must be controlled by government regulations — hence we have the on-going destruction of capitalism and an ever-growing fascist regulatory state. This is why Republicans refuse to fight for capitalism and, instead, wind up inevitably advancing the left’s agenda.

And, sadly enough, the voters let them get away with it because the voters, too, by and large, accept altruism or at least don’t know how to oppose it.

It is thus the moral argument that must be won first. Until it is, there is no chance of winning on a purely economic argument, for there will ALWAYS and FOREVER be some who are “poor”, “homeless”, “needy” and “disadvantaged”.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Michael Smith,

To recap, the bait is all the promises Leftists make — with no intention of keeping them, in my experience. The hook is the reality that all they really want is power. They make their promises to get your power, money and labor from you voluntarily. Then whenever you try to cash in their promises — which they never intended to keep — they will tell you that their promises will be fulfilled later, always in an ever-receding future. Or they will shame or befog you or get really angry that you would have the nerve to shame them by insisting they keep their promises in a timely way. The best illustration is how the Left has treated gays and lesbians over the last two years. They had one-in-a-lifetime majorities and could do anything they pleased and repealed DOMA and DADT and passed ENDA all in an hour, tops. Instead the Democrats told gays in September 2009 that “never” was looking better, instead (find my link to my 2009 post here in a recent post).

The reality is that the fiscal conservative economic theory is the one that is the most altruistic because it creates the largest number and variety of opportunities for people to make the most of themselves AND because it leaves the largest number of people with enough money to donate to charity. Charities flourish under capitalism and vanish under planned economies for two reasons — first, under planned economies people don’t have enough money left over for the charities they prefer, and second, under planned economies people become passive and expect the government to do everything.

One of the reasons I became a fiscal conservative, as I state on my “About Me” page, is that I realized that a Leftist planned economy would not leave me enough money to support my favorite causes and that these causes would never get the support of a government.

One of the most beautiful stories about the power of fiscal conservatism to get people off welfare and motivate them to make the most of their talents is told by Afrocity, who got a job so she could buy the beautiful prom dress she wanted, which her mother couldn’t afford because she was on welfare. It’s stories like Afrocity’s that made me understand what a holocaust of talent the black community has suffered because it was seduced by the phony altruism of the Left. Whether it’s welfare at the personal level or stimulus money for an entire nation’s economy, you don’t jumpstart an individual’s ambition or an economy with the Left’s brand of altruism BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HARNESS AND REWARD THE POWER OF HUMAN AMBITION the way the altruism of the Right does for the poor, needy, homeless and disadvantaged.

This leaves us with the people who genuinely DO need government help and that is the elderly who can no longer support themselves or live independently and people with disabilities that require assistance with a number of activities of daily living — “ADL” is both a medical and a legal term — or who have a progressive condition that will result in death. Hayek specifically says prosperous, free market societies can and should do this. Even so, more people with disabilities could be empowered to support themselves.

What I’m saying is the it is fiscal conservatives who have the best moral argument for creating the most well-being and prosperity in a society. Hayek also has a chapter in The Road to Serfdom on how planned economies, due to their structure, immediately become corrupt as well as stagnant, in his book, The Road to Serfdom. Seriously, dude, fiscal conservatism totally wins the morality argument while Leftist “altruism” is a total FAIL — assuming you go by actual results, rather than intentions.

Thank you for bringing this consideration into the discussion.


jgreene November 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Extremely well thought out article! Keep up the good work. I’m a Conservative, married for 39 years, and have always been optimistic even when times were/are difficult.

I agree, that leftists by nature are passive pessimists.

michael reed November 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm

DEAR Ms. Yockey,
Thank you for a wonderful post, and another reminder why we should all be more optimistic… people like yourself.

Andrew November 1, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Thanks Cynthia – great ideas do make for great societies. I think this is why Ronald Reagan was such a phenomenon. He inspired us – he used the liberating language of which you speak. We all know his line about the scariest statement – I’m from the government and I’m here to help. But his speeches about our abilities not just as individuals but collectively (not in the governmental sense) about people coming together to make things happen is what has and will make the US the greatest nation on the planet. I will never forget having goose bumps listening to him speak. I felt like there was an American Dream and I could be part of it. I was in high school during the Carter years and even high school students knew that Carter was a dud. We mocked him after the Iranian hostage rescue fiasco – hey if we need something done militarily – better let the Israelis do it. I know Reagan had his faults and I didn’t worship him but I do think he meant what he said. And his inspiring words, attitude, and actions brought the US out of a very, very dark place. Unfortunately, I don’t hear many conservatives these days who inspire me in the same way.

CynthiaYockey November 1, 2010 at 9:38 pm


Please become a regular reader because I present fiscal conservatism as the most inspiring economic philosophy there is. And I intend to inspire other conservatives to realize how powerful and positive our message is, so we can inspire everyone. The more we connect people with how fiscal conservatism empowers them to make their dreams come true, the more we will attract them from the Left.

Thank you for sharing your insights and your story.


Andrew November 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Thanks Cynthia – and yes, I shall return!

Mike C November 2, 2010 at 1:16 am

Great piece. On our side of the aisle… we need to guard against our own Rightist demagogues, who use morality as bait to obtain and hold onto power. And, as Cynthia pointed out, they don’t care how many lives they crush in the process.

Eternal vigilance truly is the price of liberty.

CynthiaYockey November 2, 2010 at 9:35 am

Mike C,

The totalitarians on the Right are the social conservatives. Like the Left they are largely comprised of idealistic people trying to be good. However, I do think many of their leaders are only after power, which is a nice way of saying that they are sociopaths. This is why I have been careful to specify that I am speaking of fiscal conservatism. Liberty is structured into fiscal conservatism, so it is resistant to totalitarianism — although, I suppose, monopolies are a form of totalitarianism.


Thorne Cassidy November 2, 2010 at 4:16 am

This is spot on, well thought out and well written–aimed squarely at my libertarian heart. Worth the read. Now I’m off to find a lefty that can speak as well to social freedom as you did economic freedom.

Michael Smith November 2, 2010 at 9:22 am

Cynthia wrote:

“Seriously, dude, fiscal conservatism totally wins the morality argument while Leftist “altruism” is a total FAIL — assuming you go by actual results, rather than intentions.”

Then why, oh why, have the leftists/liberals won? Why have they succeeded in establishing an ever-expanding welfare state that will eventully bankrupt us — and why have they succeeded in establishing an ever-expanding fascist regulatory state that will eventually strangle us?

You will say, I assume, that it is because conservatives fail to make this wonderful argument you propose. But then I ask, Why? Why won’t they make that argument?

Peter A. Taylor November 2, 2010 at 9:46 am

I agree about the hook and the bait. I have an Objectivist co-worker who I think tends to credit Bad Philosophy (socialism) with honestly deducing false conclusions from false premises. I regard Bad Philosophy as more often involving dishonest application of abductive logic, starting from a self-flattering conclusion and working backwards to find premises that justify it.

Michael Smith November 2, 2010 at 10:14 am

Andrew wrote:

“I think this is why Ronald Reagan was such a phenomenon. He inspired us – he used the liberating language of which you speak.”

Yes, Andrew, Reagan’s rhetoric was inspiring. But are you aware of his actual record in office?

In his first major speech after getting elected, he caved in. Just 29 days after being inaugurated, Reagan — the man who promised to cut the size of government and roll back spending and regulations — said this about his proposed spending “cuts” in a speech to a joint session of Congress:

“Now, I know that exaggerated and inaccurate stories about these cuts have disturbed many people, particularly those dependent on grant and benefit programs for their basic needs. Some of you have heard from constituents, I know, afraid that social security checks, for example, were going to be taken away from them. Well, I regret the fear that these unfounded stories have caused, and I welcome this opportunity to set things straight.”

“We will continue to fulfill the obligations that spring from our national conscience. Those who, through no fault of their own, must depend on the rest of us — the poverty stricken, the disabled, the elderly, all those with true need — can rest assured that the social safety net of programs they depend on are exempt from any cuts.”

“The full retirement benefits of the more than 31 million social security recipients will be continued, along with an annual cost-of-living increase. Medicare will not be cut, nor will supplemental income for the blind, the aged, and the disabled. And funding will continue for veterans pensions. School breakfasts and lunches for the children of low-income families will continue, as will nutrition and other special services for the aging. There will be no cut in Project Head Start or summer youth jobs.”
“All in all, nearly $216 billion worth of programs providing help for tens of millions of Americans will be fully funded.”

“It’s important to note that we’re only reducing the rate of increase in taxing and spending. We’re not attempting to cut either spending or taxing levels below that which we presently have. This plan will get our economy moving again, [create] productivity growth, and thus create the jobs that our people must have.”

End of quote. The text of this speech is here:

That was the end of all the fiscal promises Reagan had made. The man who promised to cut spending was now saying he was only going to cut the rate of increase in spending — and he didn’t even do that.

Reagan’s promises died because he didn’t disagree with the moral basis of the welfare state. In fact, he agreed with and endorsed its moral basis. He agreed explicitly that we have an “obligation” that “springs from our national conscience” — an obligation that obviously trumps the individual’s selfish desire to keep his money for his own benefit.

With this speech, Reagan handed the left a great victory — for not only did he agree not to cut the welfare state, he gave the left a perfectly handy way of describing welfare: he called it “the social safety net”. This expression explicitly embraces the leftist claim that capitalism and freedom are risky situations in which people are prone to “falling off” through no fault of their own and hence, need a safety net of welfare to catch them.

As a result, Reagan achieved very little fiscally. The last year Carter was in office, federal spending increased by $86.9 billion. The first year under Reagan it increased by $87.6 billion. Over his full eight year term, federal spending increased by over 80%.

Reagan, who famously said, “Government is not the solution — government is the problem”, failed to dismantle a single federal department or program. He did nothing to curtail government’s power.

Republicans are the party of free market rhetoric — but once in power, their allegiance to the morality of altruism drives them to compromise with the Democrats. And so the welfare state marches on.

CynthiaYockey November 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Michael Smith,

The bottom line is that fiscal conservatism, correctly applied, gets people off of welfare. You are ignoring the effect of the race hustlers in creating a welfare state based on the proposition that certain identity/grievance groups can never succeed in society and therefore have a claim to be supported even though they are able-bodied, which is hogwash.


Andrew November 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

So I guess 4 more years of Jimmy Carter would have been so much better?

Lame-R November 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Great post–keep ’em coming!

Peter November 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Cyn, ya done good!

Southern Man November 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Found your blog via a link to this post – and it’s terrific! Keep up the good work!

Bruce November 6, 2010 at 12:54 am

I think you are setting up and knocking down a strawman here.

Does everyone who doesn’t identify themselves as a “conservative” favor confiscatory taxes, and an enforced flat distribution of income and wealth. Are the only viable alternatives the US minus its social safety net or the Soviet Union? I don’t think so.

CynthiaYockey November 6, 2010 at 1:28 am


Actually, I’m proposing a fundamental change in how fiscal conservatives understand and describe fiscal conservatism: wealth comes from consciousness, which is an unlimited source of ideas within each person, and fiscal conservatism is about creating the conditions where people are motivated to make the most of themselves and allowed to keep the majority of the fruits of their labors. This harnesses the power of human ambition in everyone to realize their full potential.

Frankly, Leftists DO seem to favor confiscatory taxes. The conservative movement, by the way, is comprised of fiscal conservative/social liberals, fiscal conservative/social conservatives, libertarians and social conservative/fiscal liberals — the first and last groups have mutually exclusive goals.

Income and wealth are not the same things. And I did not say anything about an “enforced flat distribution of income and wealth.”

Not only did I NOT set up a false dichotomy of a U.S. with no social safety net versus the Soviet Union, I specifically pointed out that Friedrich Hayek wrote that prosperous societies can indeed remain free AND provide for those who truly cannot provide for themselves — i.e., people who cannot work due to age and/or disability. However, a permanent sense of grievance due to skin color or national origin, or whatever, does NOT merit any claim upon society’s resources.

Since you are basically saying I said something I didn’t say, then attacking it, I think you are the one setting up a straw man.


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