Why Utopia Fails

The battle of the day is about government/leftist attempts to control speech (and just about everything else), but this is a symptom of their core mission to create (force-ably if necessary) the “perfect” society of their dreams — where everyone obeys their wishes.  This desire to create their vision of “heaven on earth” comes with a hefty price.  Even a cursory look at history paints a somber picture of experiments in utopianism; they tend to fail, lead to great human suffering and frequently high death tolls (of which people today are often ignorant).  There’s a reason that depictions of these attempts in fiction, whether text or film, also end badly.  Storytellers understand something about human nature that liberals cannot allow themselves to recognize: Eden was lost by the sin of our first parents and there’s no going back; human nature and our world are fallen, broken, incapable of perfection until the end of time.  You cannot will Earth back to the state of an Eden.

The term Utopia, from the title of St. Thomas More’s influential book, has a bit of a double meaning even from its inception:

Derived from the Greek, that title means “no place”, but it hints at an alternative meaning: when the book was first published in 1516, it included a short poem claiming that the better world More described really was “Eutopie”, a “happy place”. It’s a paradox and a pun, playing on the British inability to distinguish between the pronunciation of the two terms, and it suggests that something’s not quite right. (The word “dystopia” seems to be a much later invention.) Is this paradise, whichever name you give it, unobtainable? That’s assuming the place really is meant to be a paradise in the first place.

[The] description of Utopia has meant different things to different readers. In the 19th century, it could be drawn on as a prototype for Communism. A historian interested in the Tudor period could draw satirical lines between Utopia and the disorderly London that More knew all too well in his capacity as one of the city’s undersheriffs (he once had to face down a rioting mob). A good Roman Catholic familiar with him primarily as Saint Thomas More (he was canonized in 1935) could point out how divorce, married priests and euthanasia might not fit that easily with their beliefs.

All of these approaches ought to make us question what we think is going on in the book, just as More’s contemporaries and fellow humanists were invited to do… there is also a fine tradition of Utopias going terribly wrong when people tried to put their ideals into practice… acting on a dream can sometimes land you in a nightmare.

Utopia, And Why It’s A Bad Idea:

Everyone who knows their political philosophy, knows that the main difference between conservatism and communism lies in utopianism – communism supports it, conservatism rejects it. The striving for utopia is old. No-one knows when it started, but the idea of the “perfect society on earth” has always had a strange appeal on humans. However, conservatives, being realists, reject utopianism: We don’t think we can great the perfect society. As a matter of fact, conservatives have always found utopianism – the idea that humans can turn the world into paradise – to be harmful…

Those who believe utopia to be possible are willing to do anything to achieve it.  Let that sink in. Doesn’t it kind of make sense? If it is possible to create a perfect world, then we should do whatever it takes to achieve it. It’s basic economics really: The bigger the reward, the more work you’ll be able to put in to earn that reward. You may be willing to work 1 hour for say $25, but if someone wants you to work 4 hours, you want $100. Now, what if the reward is infinite? What if someone offered you an INFINITE amount of money? How many hours would you be willing to work, and what would you (not) be willing to do, to get that? The entire cost-benefit analysis gets screwed up, as the benefit is so big it can’t be measured – it’s infinite. And that, dear readers, is what communism offers – or claims to offer. If you believe in the promises of communism, then you’ll be willing to sacrifice anything to reach the “worker’s paradise” that is promised. Anything.

And that is why communism leads to totalitarianism.  Think about it: Wouldn’t it be OK to restrict freedom of speech a little, if it led to paradise? Sure it would – I mean, you get paradise in return, of course it’s worth it. And wouldn’t it be OK to do away with a few dissenters, who might otherwise threaten the coming paradise society? Sure, can’t let them stand in the way. Oh, and what if you had to do away with a little bit of material wealth, just temporarily for a while, just so we can be happily ever after? No problem.

The focus on paradise allows the government to infringe on basic democratic rights – “just give up your rights and paradise will be just around the corner”.

Now suppose someone said “Give up your right to vote and the economy will grow 2 % faster”, or “Give up your right to vote and unemployment will be cut in half” – you probably wouldn’t agree to it. Why? Because now suddenly, the benefit isn’t infinite anymore – it’s measurable. Once goals become measurable, people become less willing to give up essential freedoms, and they begin to ponder other ways of reaching these measurable goals (maybe we could just cut down on regulation to reduce unemployment?). However, with immeasurable, infinite benefits, that isn’t nearly as easy. Utopianism is blinding. It makes us ignore our rights and instincts. Anything can be done in the name of paradise. Those on the far-left like to claim that the fact that every communist country that’s ever existed has been a dictatorship, is just a coincidence. Or that it’s a result of external factors. Or that those weren’t “real” communist countries. And, even among more moderate leftists, you will hear things like “communism was a good idea, applied badly”, or “the concept is good, the leaders were evil”. That to me shows that they just don’t get it – communism is not a good idea, because it assumes that every negative human trait (you know, those traits that makes paradise on earth an impossibility) was caused by capitalism and can be removed. It assumes that humans really have a perfect “core” that has been corrupted by a bad economic system. Therefore, all we need is a state that can remove these traits, and we will get a perfect world – a utopia. Now if this means re-education camps, sending dissidents to Siberia and just in general oppressing free thought – so be it. This flawed assumption – that humans are good – is what makes communism flawed. The totalitarian governments and genocides are just natural consequences.

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