Excellent post by Chris Dillow giving some home truths to the left on the major obstacle confronting it. As he puts it (after quoting Socrates in his support):
…a just society requires a just people. Which we don’t have.
Or to be more specific:
The brute fact is that there is no public demand for liberal socialist policies. Voters don’t want worker ownership, a citizens’ basic income, a liberal immigration policy, steeper inheritance taxes or many other items on the left’s wish list. I’ll grant that there is some demand for higher taxes on the rich, but I fear this is arises less from socialist ideals than from the same motive as hostility towards paedophiles and immigrants – a hatred of people who are different.
Of course, some reading this will disagree vehemently that Dillow’s “wish list” would represent a “just society”, but his point still stands: it’s impossible to build a society like that unless the people in it want a society like that. And, by and large, people in western societies don’t want a society like that.
As Dillow goes on to point out, it’s no use telling people that they are stupid and blinded by the capitalist media, either. So if we want to build “a significantly better world” from “the crooked timber of our own humanity”, how can we go about it? As Dillow asks:
are there any social institutions which can use people’s imperfections – their selfishness, greed and stupidity – for beneficial purposes?
Because that’s what’s needed. And the answer is not a comfortable one for the left:
[H]erein lies yet another embarrassment for much of the left. There is indeed one such institution. It’s called the market. The left – so far – has not found anything to match it.
This is similar to the late G.A. Cohen’s argument, in his book Why Not Socialism?, that socialism is unachievable (at least at present) because of the lack of mechanisms as effective as the market – though Cohen sought mechanisms that would harness people’s instincts for community and altruism rather than (as does the market) harnessing their selfish desires for public benefits.