President Trump vowed at his State of the Union address “that America will never be a socialist country.” But legendary economist Dr. Thomas Sowell sounded a more pessimistic note this week, saying that as far as avoiding a dystopian socialist future goes, “I wouldn’t bet on it.”
Sowell, a Hoover Institution senior fellow and author of more than 30 books, issued his warning during a Tuesday appearance on Fox Business Network’s Cavuto: Coast to Coast. After being asked by interviewer David Asman if the United States was “destined to go through a period of socialism,” the economist replied, “I do have a great fear that, in the long run, we may not make it.”
“I hate to say that. The one thing that keeps me from being despairing is that we don’t know,” Sowell continued, trying to inject some optimism. “There are so many things that we can’t possibly know. And so, we may make it, but I wouldn’t bet on it” (video below. Relevant portion begins 6:25).
Expounding on our ideological descent’s causes, Sowell explained “that some of the blame could be put on the media and educational institutions in the country for not doing a better job of putting socialism to the test,” reports Breitbart.
“‘Unfortunately, neither our educational system nor our media encourage people to test ideas against facts,’ Sowell said. ‘Socialism is a wonderful sounding idea. It’s only as a reality, it is disastrous,’” the site continued.
Sowell, now 88 and staunchly conservative but a Marxist as a young man, complained that many people today cannot be moved by reason and evidence.
“Before I was a Marxist, I was an empiricist, and I stayed an empiricist,” he said. “And with the passing years, as I look into more and more things, I saw the difference between the reality and the rhetoric. Unfortunately, so many people today including in the leading universities don’t pay much attention to evidence,” Breitbart further relates.
There’s a reason for this, though, one we must understand to have any hope of remedying our woes.
Likely every politically passionate conservative has had an experience similar to that of Thomas Lifson, American Thinker editor in chief and ex-Ivy League professor. He recently related that when he’d attend debates years ago populated by leftist academics, subjects would be “dropped because they would only cause name-calling.”
It’s not just name-calling, however, but also diversionary tactics, rationalizations, and outright denial of facts that leftists use to avoid accepting inconvenient truths. This leads to behavior far more stupid than the people exhibiting it, and, in fact, most of the principles argued don’t require greater-than-average intelligence to be understood, anyway. Explanation?
You’re trying to reach these people’s minds when you’d have to change their hearts — they’re blinded by emotion.
To paraphrase British essayist Jonathan Swift, “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.” Our problem today isn’t just misguided minds; teaching is relatively easy if people are receptive to Truth. Our problem is that as “the twig is bent, so grows the tree”: Too many Americans’ emotional foundations have been warped, twisted, and deformed, yielding strong erotic attachments to misbegotten ideas.
Really, people are not governed by reason as much as we may like to think. In fact, without “the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism,” as writer C.S. Lewis put it.
This training’s necessity is why ancient Greek philosopher Plato emphasized that children “ought to be brought up in an atmosphere that provides them examples of nobility and grace,” wrote William Kilpatrick in Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong. “This imaginative education is not a substitute for a reasoned morality, but it paves the way for it, making it more likely that the grown child will happily accept the dictates of reason. In this way, the child develops an erotic attachment to virtue, by which Plato meant not so much sexual as passionate.”
Unfortunately, children can even more easily develop an erotic attachment to vice, by which I mean passionate and sexual (often). And with our corrupt — and corruptive — media, academia, and, in particular, entertainment, which attachment do you think most kids today develop?
The Founding Fathers so emphasized the need for virtue because, as Ben Franklin put it, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” In contrast, we’re now descending into socialism not mainly because of a lack of available “knowledge” — it’s all out there (this is the Internet age, after all). No, we’re embracing what Winston Churchill called “a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy” largely because it correlates perfectly with a degraded, vice-born emotional foundation.
It’s ironic, but the ideologues who bloviate endlessly about social justice and economic justice will, barring an about-face, get only poetic justice.