Saturday, August 14, 2004

Refuting Rousseau and His Progeny

I've been pinging on Rousseauvian philosophy in recent posts (here, here, here, and here). Rousseau is the spiritual father of socialism and communism. His modern adherents, who might disclaim socialism and communism by name, nevertheless spout the party line when they claim that we don't deserve what we have. Their ideas hark back to Rousseau's The Social Contract, about which Wikipedia says, in part:
According to Rousseau, by joining together through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free. This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law.
In other words, individuals will be free only if they surrender their freedom to the "collective will" -- which, of course, will be determined and enforced by a smaller group of citizens, whose authority cannot be questioned by the majority.

Latter-day Rousseauvians dress it up a bit by making assertions like this:
[T]here’s no good reason to believe that a system of free-market and private property is anything close to a merit-based system. Some people work hard on worthy projects for their whole lives or take exceptional risks on society’s behalf and nevertheless remain comparatively poor; others, through being lucky or rich, get to be as rich as Croesus. Is Warren Buffet more morally deserving than the firefighters on 9/11? Of course not. He doesn't think so, they don't think so, we don't think so....
Warren Buffet can speak for himself. Those who remain comparatively poor can speak for themselves. And the "we" at Crooked Timber can speak for themselves. But they cannot speak for me or the millions like me who disagree with them. They are promoting a view of the world as they would like to see it -- nothing more, nothing less.

And therein lies the refutation of their worldview. There is no Rousseauvian social contract. There cannot be when millions of us reject the concept. Rousseau's self-appointed priests and acolytes may judge us to their heart's content, but their judgments are meaningless because we, the millions, do not accept those judgments.