By Dan Flathers
For a better understanding of the ongoing battle between left and right in this country, I recommend a terrific book: "The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, by Arthur Herman (Random House, 2013).
Many of the fundamentals of our modern debate can be found in the two very different revolutions that occurred in America and France. In essence, I've concluded that Jacques Rousseau would have found a friend in the modern Democratic Party.
I'm also of the mind that, sadly, perhaps only 25 percent (or less) of modern college graduates have any useful clue about the insights the subject book offers, because Democrats would be otherwise shunned on campuses.
Rousseau's neo-Platonism leads to the insane meltdown of carnage during the French Revolution under the banner of "social justice" -- as it's called today -- and to the ultimate rise of Napoleon and the horrors he caused.
Ironically, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were early fans. But their attempts to turn French society and the economy around (albeit minimally by our standards) failed because they had drained the treasury beyond the ability of regeneration (in part by their financial support of the American Revolution, which was based upon the philosophies of David Hume and John Locke -- the antithesis of Rousseau.)
The royal couple admired the stated American ideal -- but failed to appreciate the fundamentals of it. For them, the stronger motivation was strategic: the American Revolution was giving their British rivals a very hard time.
King and queen ended up with their heads literally handed them -- as eventually did the Rousseauian's own leaders. So much for good intentions and irony.
Eventually, Karl Marx would expand on the Spartan model admired by Plato and Rousseau. Ironically, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany were two sides of the same coin: modern Spartan societies.
So much for the inherent dignity of the individual.
The modern socialists of France are quickly draining its treasury anew with clearly bad consequences. Public dependency saps personal initiative. As but one example, Goodyear wants out because its French fulltime workers essentially labor just three hours a day.
The French press is exceedingly hostile to the rich, who understandably are emigrating.
(London is now known as the sixth largest French city in the world.)
Similarly, the American press and academia ritualistically support our president by underemphasizing his clear policy failures while denigrating his opponents.
The French societal and economic example is a manifestation of what the American liberal agenda advocates: artificially mandated private trade (such as labor for compensation), causing lower revenue to counteract an ever-more draining of the public coffers for never-ending UE benefits, more expensive control over health care decisions and stunting of religious expression; and expansion of the state as primary protector and educator of children.
We are witnessing the growing acceptance of the state as an active economic arbiter and provider in place of its proper limits as a neutral governor of free trade. This can only lead to less freedom and toward the "social contract" of totalitarianism -- all the while rationalized by the coordinated demonizing of those who disagree as traitors to the "fairness" offered by the state.
The near result will be that we become modern France. Not long after this, we become Sparta wearing a happy face.
The ongoing political "circle of life."
Dan Flathers is a retired labor advocate. He is a resident of Toms Brook.