You are here

Magical Thinking in Liberal Land

Like fairy tales?  If so, I've got some doozies for you.  See if any of these ring a bell: These are not your garden-variety fairy tales, however. Instead of being told to -- and believed by -- children, these and countless similar fables are told by -- and believed in -- by politicians of the genus liberalis. Grownups holding the reins of power actually believe these and similar notions, regardless of any historical or economic proof to the contrary. Why? Why do people believe in things like ESP, alien abduction, or the economic sustainability of Medicare? It's easy for people who consider themselves "rational," those who luxuriate in things like facts and proofs, to look down on those who cling to this type of magical thinking. But in his book, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane, psychologist Matthew Hutson reminds us that belief in preposterous things is an ancient and species-wide condition, and therefore must have conferred some evolutionary benefit to our ancestors. In other words, believing in stupid things may make sense -- at least some of the time:
Once you've accepted that the brain constructs reality and that the brain has evolved like any other organ to help its owner survive and reproduce, it follows that the brain constructs reality in the most useful way possible for its owner. The key word here is useful, which is not to say accurate. The brain doesn't care so much what's really out there, it just needs to stay alive and be replicated, which might involve telling us a white lie now and then.
In light of Hutson's entertaining insight, liberal magical thinking on economic matters begins to make at least some sense. Liberal politicians believe and say these things because it helps them get elected; people like to be given free stuff, and they like to get it from the rich (those bastards!). Marxist and Keynesian economic prescriptions are always and everywhere disastrous wealth killers -- but that is not the point. The only jobs they create are those of liberal politicians, but that is quite their purpose, after all. Magical economic thinking is a survival mechanism, and a very effective one for the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama. The liberal brain couldn't care less whether liberal ideas work in the real world -- the real world has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with telling the masses what they want to hear in exchange for wealth and power. Libertarians and conservatives rejoice in charts and graphs and history; liberals in wishes, fear, and fables. A peak into the balance sheets of the the West gives a sense of which side is better armed for the long, Darwinian struggle ahead.