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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Make money, not war

After learning that Yoko Ono had given Nike the permission to use John Lennon's image for a new shoe model, a Politiquébec forum member (Politiquébec is a great French-speaking discussion board on Québec politics) reacted by sarcastically suggesting that Nike adopt "make money, not war" as a slogan. I believe that, without necessarily doing it on purpose, he put the finger on a fundamental difference between the Left and the Right.

Whereas the Left, with slogans like "make love, not war", believes in the possibility of forging a new man that would have been liberated of all destructive pulsions and of all negative sentiments and that would be a model of kindness, goodwill and love, the Right is more skeptical about the possibility of changing human nature and prefers that this human nature, with its good sides as well as with its less good sides, be accepted for what it is and be harnessed to more constructive ends. Francis Fukuyama explains that ambition and the desire for recognition, which used to be satisfied through warring struggles, have been harnessed by modern capitalism to rather support the creation of wealth. "Make money, not war" is not a sexy slogan, but it works:

Prior to modern liberal democracy, the struggle for recognition was carried on by ambitious princes who sought primacy over each other through war and conquest. Indeed, Hegel's account of the human historical process began with a primordial "bloody battle" in which two combatants sought to be recognized by the other, leading one ultimately to enslave the other. Conflicts based on religious or nationalist passion are much more intelligible if understood as manifestations of the desire for recognition rather than rational desire or "utility maximization." Modern liberal democracy seeks to satisfy this desire for recognition by basing the political order on the principle of universal and equal recognition. But in practice, liberal democracy works because the struggle for recognition that formerly had been carried out on a military, religious, or nationalist plane is now pursued on an economic one. Where formerly princes sought to vanquish each other by risking their lives in bloody battles, they now risk their capital through the building of industrial empires. The underlying psychological need is the same, only the desire for recognition is satisfied through the production of wealth rather than the destruction of material values.

-- Fukuyama, Francis (1996) Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press, pp. 359-360.

(Crossposted at Polyscopique)

Posted by Laurent Moss on August 31, 2004 in Books | Permalink


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Laurent Moss makes a good observation on a key characteristic of the left. Socialists habitually misread, deny or ignore fundamental human nature. They ignore or deny the fact that individual freedom, free markets and capitalism harnessed by the rule of law have built wealth and improved every aspect of human existence. They deny that self interest, properly harnessed, is a force for great good.

The left is (mis)guided by an ideology that focuses on unrealistic and false ideals including equality of outcome (egalitarianism run amock), man’s communal nature (versus clear impulses towards autonomy) and the competence, virtue and efficiency of big government (despite obvious evidence to the contrary). Most dangerously the left devoutly ‘believes’ (alla Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot and Fidel) that man’s nature can be molded or warped to fit its false ideals - which explains its notorious penchant for social engineering.

Socialist ideology leads inexorably towards totalitarianism. And, with its enthusiasm for big government, state monopoly health care and Wheat and Milk Marketing Boards, Canada seems well established on this path.

Posted by: JR | 2004-09-01 1:18:29 PM

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