Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Thoughts on Extremism

It seems to me that left-wing extremists tend to come from two distinct groups, the extremely poor (typical in third-world countries) and the upper-mid class (in the U.S.). From what I understand, the typical extremist is from a wealthy family, is highly educated, and feels either disenfranchised or bored. They tend to lead double lives that consist of living very well (nice home, car, etc.) while simultaneously despising the system that allows them to live in this relative comfort.

The Left today looks nothing like the Left of 50 years ago. The Left in the earlier parts of the 20th century revolved around Marxism. I don’t know a great deal about the Communist movement, but I can see that it held sway, again, primarily in the poor and elite classes. While clearly radical in some sense, I’m not sure that there was a large effort to internally overthrown our government. This is an issue that I fully intend to learn more about.

The modern radicalization began with the anti-war movement in the 1960s. What is it that leftist extremists are looking for? I don't know yet, but it seems to me that they are simply unhappy with "now" and are convinced that they can create a better "tomorrow" (so do I to a degree... within the current system). Nobel Prize Winner (Economics) Frederick Von Hayek wrote extensively about this phenomenon. He explained that there is a difference between "made" and "spontaneous" orders. "Made" order is something that is planned and controlled and is most visible in socialism and communism. "Spontaneous" order is what happens when events are allowed to develop naturally. These are the origins of the free market. In a centralized economy a potato is worth X because a panel has deemed that the potato is worth X. In a naturally developed (read - spontaneous)economy a potato is worth X precisely because someone is willing to purchase it for X. He wrote with unfailing logic why socialism always fails and why it is always desirable to the masses.

Despite the logic of free markets and the resultant liberty, extremists seem to strive for a future utopia, no matter that this process has consistently murdered and destroyed lives. One only needs to look at recent history for utopian examples: Afghanistan was an "Islamic Utopia" and Iran still believes itself to be (BTW, I recommend reading Mark Bowden’s – Guests of the Ayatollah). The "Worker’s Paradise" failed and light will shortly be shown on Fidel’s little slice of heaven. Utopia is different for everyone, and allows extremists and despots to rule. This has always failed. This is precisely the reason that the "Great Experiment" is so appealing. Utopia here in the United States is being able to live as you choose with minimal government intrusion. Sounds good to me.

As always, I welcome your comments and enlightenment on this whole issue of extremism.