Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Finally Understand the Attraction

I have been pondering all year trying to understand the attraction one-third of US citizens have for some form of statist. I get it that bleeding hearts want all to be treated fairly. I understand those who want to exercise power through the state. But, I never understood what was in it for the rest.

After reading Bret Stevens review of “Last Exit to Utopia", I got it. They are masochists and need to be hurt. They want the pain that statist brings. That is something I can understand.

Now when you encounter a hard-core liberal, you can ask them if they view themselves as progressives wanting to make the world a better place through regulations and sacrifice, aspire to be like Pol Pot or if they are closet  masochists who want to feel the boot of tyranny.

Below is part of the review, with the key points in bold. If you want to read the whole review, you can find it here.


“Last Exit to Utopia" was first published in France nearly a decade ago. It concerns itself primarily with the failure of much of the French left to come to grips with the collapse of communism and the exposure of its innumerable crimes. The events and debates under its review date mainly to the 1990s, and its author died in 2006.

Yet the book, at last available in English in this fine translation, ought to command close attention because it was written by Jean-Fran├žois Revel, who deserves to be ranked as the pre-eminent French political philosopher of the second half of the 20th century. What's more, the book's themes continue to resonate today, when murderous ideologies still compete for legitimacy and "enlightened" understanding by the Western intelligentsia.

Revel's great subject was totalitarianism, not just its practice but also its intellectual methods, deceits and disturbing psychological attractions. In books such as "The Totalitarian Temptation" (1976) and "How Democracies Perish" (1983), he dissected the mind-set of Western intellectuals who, living in democracies, found much to admire in gulag countries like the Soviet Union and Cuba and much to detest in free ones—the U.S. most of all.

Why was that? "The totalitarian phenomenon," Revel observed years ago, "is not to be understood without making an allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to exercise it themselves or—much more mysteriously—to submit to it."

The tipping point, in Revel's view, was the publication in 1997 of "The Black Book of Communism," an 800-page compendium of the serial barbarities of communist regimes from China and Ethiopia to Russia and Cambodia. This massive scholarly undertaking, meticulous in its research and incontrovertible in its findings, was instantly greeted with fury by much of the French intelligentsia, which refused to accept that its own eyes-wide-shut apologetics for the likes of Mao, Mengistu, Stalin and Pol Pot were no less a form of complicity in mass murder than Holocaust denial.

….. Revel acidly writes: "Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to produce results: its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not."

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