I’ve referred to Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions repeatedly in the past, because to me, it (along with the 11 nations model offered in Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America) provide an excellent model to help explain modern politics in the United States.
In his book, Thomas Sowell theorizes two visions of mankind; one associated with the liberal progressive view of the “unconstrained vision” of mankind:
Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.
As a result:
Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection.
And now, Governor Jerry Brown outs himself as a believer in the “unconstrained vision”:
“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world
To Mr. Brown, the election of Trump is a sign: a sign that we have gone down the wrong “moral path” and need a wholesale correction before we go down the wrong path to our destruction.
After all, this (and not environmental warming) is the ultimate message of Global Warming alarmists in the media: that we must repent, that we must see the errors of our way, and we must give ourselves to the Bodhisattvas on the Left who can lead us out of the desert and to the promised land.
The environmental damage itself is really just a sign from Gaia for our moral imperfection–and while there is a “scientific explanation” for these signs (though “tipping points”–future predictions without past examples–are about as scientific as reading tea leaves), they are sold to us as a sign of our moral failures. And they are sold to us in the same way the sins of mankind were justification for Noah’s flood, or for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Think I’m being silly? Again, Governor Brown:
“The power here is prophecy. The power here is faith, and that’s what this organization is supposed to be about. So, let’s be about it and combine with the technical and the scientific and the political.”
“The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort … It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.”
It is our moral failures, deciding to lead wicked lives of comfort and joy and abundance behind the walls of Sodom. We have been given signs and portents by almighty God, and if we could only just find 10 righteous people who can lead us to salvation, we will surely die.
Instead, Brown called for a fundamental transformation of people’s way of life.
It has always fascinated me that the Liberal Progressive movement, so deeply rooted in the “Unconstrained Vision”, fails to understand its own religiosity.
After all, you cannot have a moral arc without absolute morality–and absolute morality is only philosophically justifiable with an external frame of reference.
To the religious, God provides that external frame of reference; there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs on which to hang a moral framework because God said so.
But without God–there can be no absolute external frame of reference on which to hang morality. I mean, you can (as I do) assume at the bottom of your ontological stack there are certain truths which are informed by reasonable assumptions. But you must start with reasonable assumptions. You must start, for example, with the assumption that individual life is precious, and as thinking beings our desire for self-expression is important.
But without an absolute truth, you have nothing to hang your hat on.
Which, to me, is the ultimate irony of global warming alarmists who parade around in the press demanding we repent for our comfortable lifestyles. Because the world will survive, even if we do not. Even if we make the world so inhospitable that human life goes extinct, the world will survive and carry on without us. And, if some on the Left are to be believed, it would carry on far better without us.
So caught in this inherent philosophical trap of believing we must save the world from us, but save it for us, all the Left can do is appeal to an absolute moral arc that depends on absolute morality–an absolute morality that can only be provided by a God many on the Left profess not to believe in.
The only way out of this philosophical trap is to either believe in God (and that you are doing the Lord’s work), or to believe there is no absolute moral arc–and all that is left is for each of us to cut our own way through the Jungle.
But if you arrive there, you arrive at Sowell’s “Constrained vision” of mankind. Because without an absolute moral arc to serve as your compass, how do you sort between the Bodhisattvas and the charlatans?