Thursday, August 17, 2006

Castro, liberty and equality

Steven Pollard finds the soft Castro adulation amongst sections of the left irrational and then goes on to argue that the roots of it lie in the belief he attributes to the left of the 'ends justifying the means':
"The roots of such bizarre hero worship are complex, but for all its apparent incompatibility with a Left which claims to promote freedom, equality and prosperity, there is a linking thread. Whether it be Robespierre, Stalin, Castro or al-Qaradawi, all their actions stem from the same certainty that the broader Left holds: that the ends it seeks are so incontrovertibly proper that the means are justified for the greater good."
There's a couple of problems with this. One is Pollard's view that the 'end justifies the means' is irrational. He doesn't justify this. This leads me to think what he really means is that it is politically wrong. Fair enough, except as Norm has also pointed out, it is entirely false to attribute this type of means-ends rationality exclusively to the left.

Proper conservatives believe that the first virtue of the state is order and consequently believe all kinds of unpalatable things are justified to achieve this end. Hasn't Steven Pollard ever read Hobbes or Machiavelli or even Roger Scruton?

I don't think this has much to do with attitudes to means-ends justifications; the answer is much simpler. While historically the left has advocated the expansion of liberty and equality, they have not done so in a way that gives equal weight to both. Political freedom and economic equality are not the same thing and there has always been a strand on the left that has believed that in the event of a collision between these two goals, priority should be given to equality. These are the people who fawn over Castro. They rarely express it in those terms, preferring instead to insist that equality and liberty are one and the same thing. It's a division on the left that dates from at least the Russian Revolution.

The other strand of the left believes the priority of liberty and this is the view I favour. I don't care how good Cuba's education system is supposed to be. I dare say it produces highly literate and articulate people but what's the point of that if you can't read what you want or say what you think? So that you can better understand party releases, so that you can praise the Leader more fluently?

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