The Constrained and Unconstrained Visions- by Bob Wallace - Price of Liberty
The Constrained and Unconstrained Visions
by Bob Wallace


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November 26, 2004

Thomas Sowell, in his book, A Conflict of Visions, writes about what he calls the "unconstrained" and "constrained" visions. The unconstrained vision is "leftism," which, according to Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in Leftism Revisited, got its start during the French Revolution (and he claims, with damning evidence, one of its founders was, of all people, the Marquis de Sade). The constrained vision is "rightism." Unfortunately, these divisions even exist among left-libertarians and right-libertarians.

"One of the curious things about political opinions," writes Sowell, "is how often the same people line up on opposite sides of different issues. The issues themselves may have no intrinsic connection with each other… [Yet] the same familiar faces can be found glaring at each other from opposite sides of the political fence, again and again."

Those who believe in the constrained vision dismiss the notion that humanity has the ability to create "solutions" to the problems that are inherent in imperfect human nature. Instead, they generally favor practical trade-offs and support the wisdom inherent in tradition, religion and millennia-old experience, instead of the subjective and ever-changing morality of a self-appointed "intellectual elite." They believe people are inherently flawed.

Those who believe in the unconstrained vision, on the other hand, support a morally superior "intellectual elite" which alone has the ability (and therefore the responsibility) to guide the masses and remake society according to their vision. They believe that human nature is plastic and can be molded according to their wishes. Consequently, they believe in complete free will, something that those who adhere to the constrained vision do not. As a result, they have no problem with destroying societies, believing something better will immediately pop up to take their places.

Adherents of the unconstrained vision are idealists, those who believe in Utopia, or Heaven on earth. Unfortunately, their attempts to create these Heavens on earth have always led to Hells, and always will. The reason? Believing human nature is perfectible, they must always project all evil onto other people, who must be sacrificed in order to leave only the "good." The term for this is "scapegoating," and as M. Scott Peck clearly noted, it is "the genesis of human evil."

If I had to describe the left (those who believe in the unconstrained vision) in three phrases, it would be the "lust to destroy," the "lust for power," and the "lust for attention." Those three traits, in the West, are the main ones of Satan, who wanted to be God. His sin was that of hubris, as it is the main sin of the left.

As I noted, these divisions exist even among libertarians. Objectivism, for example, is strongly leftist, with its belief in a minuscule group of intellectually and morally superior people who have the right to rule over a destroyed world. Since Objectivists are idealists who believe in a perfect Galtian Utopia, those who do not are in their minds not merely mistaken, but evil. This explains the oftentimes amusing but always rabid rants of her supporters against those who criticize Rand.

Libertarians who believe in completely open borders are also leftists, in that they believe human nature is infinitely plastic and easily remade. Being plastic (indeed to them not existing), they believe different tribes (even if fanatically opposed to each other to the point of mass murder) can peacefully share the same land and be united by the free market. In reality, they wish to destroy societies, nations, individual states, neighborhoods and communities, which then will--somehow--quickly be resurrected as "better" ones.

The open-borders crowd can only repeat, as a mantra, "I should be able to hire whom I want." To them, that is the "solution." Being leftists, they ignore the reality of the trade-off--the destruction always created by massive open immigration. Such immigration has brought down society after society.

Ludwig von Mises made the observation, "There is no such thing as too much of a correct theory." And he's right. If the free market cannot unite such fanatics as Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians and Wahabi Muslims--all trying to share the same land without warfare--then the theory of completely open borders is completely wrong.

The neo-conservatives (and George Bush, for that matter) are not "conservative," but leftist, with their beliefs that the US can invade, conquer and destroy societies, then remake them according to the leftist pipe-dream of democracy.

Adherents of the unconstrained vision, in my view, are much more narcissistic than those on the right. They see things as black or white, good or bad, with little in-between. Narcissism equaling leftism appears to be part of the package, since they are almost completely absorbed by the fantasies in their heads, ideas that have little to do with reality. As a result, those who believe in the unconstrained view see those on the right as bad people, and blame all problems on them. The left scapegoats the right far more than the right scapegoats the left.

Sowell writes about the unconstrained vision: "What a vision may offer, is a special state of grace for those who believe in it. Those who accept the vision are deemed to be not merely factually correct but morally on a higher plane. Put differently, those who disagree with the prevailing vision are seen not merely in error, but in sin."

"Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you are obtuse, wrong, foolish, a dope," writes Joseph Epstein. "Disagree with someone on the left and he is more likely to think you are selfish, a sell-out, insensitive, possibly evil."

Again, we can see these attitudes existing among left-libertarians and right-libertarians. Right-libertarians (of which I am one) see left-libertarians as sometimes ignorant, sometimes goofy, and always deluded. Left-libertarians, on the other hand, see right-libertarians as oftentimes "bad" people who support "bad" things. One can see this clearly among left-libertarian sites, which attack right-libertarian sites with the attitude they are inhabited by "bad" people.

The story of the Garden of Eden clearly shows the first defense of people is to blame their problems on other people. Adam blames Eve; Eve blames the serpent. The problem is worse with groups, who always blame their problems on other groups. Even in a "perfect" anatchistic libertarian world, people and groups are still going to blame their problems on others, mostly because of the envy of the less successful toward the more successful.

Russell Kirk, in The Conservative Mind, suggested one of the tenets of a true conservatism is, "Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' which would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention and old prescription are checks upon man's anarchistic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power."

He is in part writing about what the Greeks called "sophrosyne": "Know thyself," and "Nothing in excess." It's the opposite of hubris, thinking one is godlike and above the law. Hubris, partly defined by the desire for destruction, is one of the main characteristics of the left.

Since this libertarian societal perfection is not attainable in this life, it does no good to continually wax wroth about the whole thing. I am reminded of that saying about ranting about the speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the log in one's own. Instead of trying to change others (the hallmark of the left) people should try and change themselves. Since it is not possible to change others, perhaps the the phrase, "Mind your own business" is the most relevant.

I am also reminded of that saying, "You must change your hearts and minds" (which is usually mistranslated as "You must repent from your sins"). I see nothing about trying to force other people to change theirs. You can only give them the knowledge and let them decide on their own. Each person must "perfect" himself first, instead of trying to "perfect" others, or society.

I see libertarianism as an ideal, one not attainable because of the imperfections of human nature. Hubris prevents it. The tribal nature of man prevents it. The lust for power prevents it. Blaming others prevents it. Libertarianism is an ideal, one of course always to be striven and fought for, but probably never attained.

If it is attained, I am convinced, it will not be through the political process but through each person, one at a time, changing his heart and mind.

Lew Rockwell See Bob's archives there.

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A Rush to War

Feeling Sorry for the Foolish

The Bumbling Brontosaurus of Bureaucracy

Philip Roth Against America

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