David Horowitz

David Horowitz’s Archives: A question for the millennium

Posted on October 19 2010 6:45 am
David Horowitz is the editor-in-chief of NewsReal Blog and FrontPage Magazine. He is the President and CEO of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His most recent book is Reforming Our Universities

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From generation to generation, the message has not changed one iota. Declaims the Nation: “A corporate-dominated WTO that puts profits before people and property rights before human rights can no longer sustain its current course.” It quotes Gerald McEntee, a leader of the government unions and a major power in Democratic Party politics: “We refuse to be marketized.” Quoting the famous words of a ’60s leader, McEntee proclaimed: “We have to name the system, and that system is corporate capitalism.”

In other words, the Nation’s war is still directed against a system that in the last 50 years has brought unimagined well-being to millions of people previously excluded from all but the barest minimum of the fruits of their labor — a system which is the only creator of democratic freedoms the world has ever known.

The Nation’s mantra — “Profits before people and property rights before human rights” — is the anathema on the system that was formulated by Marx and is now resurrected in Seattle. But how is it possible for any sentient human being to have lived through the 20th century without coming to understand that property rights are the basis of any rights that human beings have ever been able to secure, and that far from conflicting with human needs, profits are the only practical engine ever devised that even half-succeeded in fulfilling them.

Such willful ignorance does not stem from lack of intelligence, but has a deeper source in human desires that can only be satisfied by religious faith. The socialist dream of achieving a kingdom of heaven on earth is as old as Eden. “You shall be as God,” was the serpent’s fatal promise then. It is the “Promethean” dream that Marx identified as his own and that the Nation editors are intent to keep alive. It is the idea of putting a human design on the impersonal structures of the social order beginning with the economic market and extending to the constitutional order. In wishing this, socialists fail to understand that a market that human beings cannot control and a political process they are bound to respect are the very disciplines that human beings require in order to be human.

Without such restraints and the limits they impose, humanity quickly descends into the barbarism the 20th century has made us all too familiar with, yet whose lessons — as we go into the 21st — the Nation and its comrades have not learned.

In the end, is there anything really new under the sun, as far as the passions that inspire and the reasons that guide us are concerned? The Homeric epics, which are the first literature of our civilization, were written three millennia ago, yet they are inhabited by people whose emotions and calculations are familiar today. The ideas of Plato and Aristotle, the ethics of the religious founders who lived more than two millennia ago, pretty much encompass the ideas, ethics and religious faiths we see around us today.

Call this continuity “human nature.” We are bounded by who we are and what we can learn. In the matter of how we live and react, what we can learn about ourselves is pretty well set by the real individuals who connect with us, and by whom we are touched. One or two, or at most three generations encompass this extended family of flesh and blood contacts. A century or so will do it.

So that’s my millennial question: Have we learned from the Marxist disaster of this century, or are we doomed to repeat it in the next?

This article was first published on 28 December, 1999, at Salon.

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