Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why Success Leads People to the Political Left

The primary difference between the political left and the political right is what these groups believe about the moral nature of humans. The left believes we're basically good, the right believes we're not basically good. If we are basically good, then we (and by extension the state) can be trusted with power and we shouldn't fear a powerful state. But if we're not basically good then we (and by extension the state) cannot be trusted with power and the job of a good statesmen is to limit the power of the state. A good defense of this view is made in the short clip below.

When a person is successful, that person tends to congregate around other successful people. Successful people are more likely to think highly of themselves and more likely to expect others to think highly of them.

Thus (I promise I will not use that word again) in successful circles a culture of exceptionalism naturally develops where each member believes that himself and other members of the successful circle are good, quite good in fact, certainly better than the average Joe.

Therefore if one is to argue that the political right is correct, one is indirectly arguing that each member of the elite crew (including oneself) is not basically good. And one must argue this against a very attractive alternative narrative, which is that each one in the group (including oneself!) is good. It is very difficult to argue against this alternative narrative for a couple reasons:

1. There is immense social pressure to affirm everyone as good. In fact making an argument against this idea almost automatically excludes you from self-affirming elite circles, as you won't self-affirm.

2. It is extremely tempting to think of yourself as good, especially if you've achieved considerable success. We all really want it to be the case that we are good, this is a powerful and natural desire, it is our deepest and most desperately held fantasy.

But as I've argued elsewhere, if you don't believe that you are prone to evil, it increases the probability that evil will find a way into your actions. We must be aware of our own potential for evil.

...But the siren song of denial is strong, it’s much easier to just conform.

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