It’s said that academic feuds are so bitter simply because there’s no actual there to the feud. Whatever stakes are entirely trivial if they even exist at all therefore everyone can be as bitter and angry as they like. Which leads us to this interesting question, why is the modern left so angry all the time?
It’s the defining characteristic of today’s progressive left: Anger. And it’s not just the rioters like Antifa, or the unspeakably rude people who confront administration figures in restaurants and gratuitously yell at them. Take a look at any of the new icons of the Democratic Party when they are speaking — for example Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Ilhan Omar — and you see them seething with barely controllable anger, if not outright fury. Same with essentially every left-wing commenter on CNN or MSNBC.
That is, of course, about the Americans but there’s nothing Owen Jones does that makes him any different, is there? At which point we’ll try and essay an answer.
They’re finding out how wrong and irrelevant they and their beliefs are. No, obviously not that desire, say, for greater equality, or a better education system or whatever. Rather, their proposed solutions, even methods of getting to one, have been shown to be entirely and wholly wrong.
Us free market and capitalist types used to be the left. And the policies we recommended, that free market capitalism, free trade and so on, made all richer and also, handily, collapsed inequality at the same time. Life got better for all. Further, we got poverty pretty much entirely licked. There is no one at all in any of the rich countries living in that $1.90 a day absolute poverty that was the modal experience of mankind. We were left and we were right.
Today’s left doesn’t like either those markets nor that capitalism. And yet these things still work to solve today’s problems:
I also should not have to teach these sorts of factoids to college-level students, but given the priorities of others I have to:
All humans used to be desperately poor.
The only sustained period of improvement in that condition is the current one (ongoing for about 350 years, or 7% of human history).
This enrichment is associated with regions that practice market tested betterment.
The improvement in China and India over the last 40 years are unprecedented improvements in the condition of humanity
Those changes are associated with a shift in political, social, and legal culture away from other systems and towards one market tested betterment.
Imagine that you’re absolutely certain that the presiding system is wrong. That we must overturn that entire system in order to kill poverty and make the world a better place. Then reality decides to disagree with you. In fact, those policies you recommend, when tried out in places like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, merely impoverish. And the people doing that free market capitalism stuff raise billions - no, really, billions - up out of that historic destitution.
Well, wouldn’t you be angry if it was proven to you, again and again, that absolutely everything you agree was true was, in fact, wrong? Of course, when facts change it’s always possible to change your mind but anger is so much more comforting, isn’t it?