Reality is Leftist

I received a very interesting comment:

“I haven’t been on medium in 5 months. It was pretty left when I departed. My god it’s so far left it may have looped right now. This opinion piece? I don’t know what to call it is so ludicrous and out of touch it’s crazy”

Let’s examine this comment clearly, because I think it will teach us something, using my well worn list of Big Problems: climate change, mass extinction, inequality, nationalism. Can we solve these problems in a way that’s not “leftist”, i.e. without social investment in public goods and intervention?

Let’s take the simple example of energy grids. Grids are going to have go green, to use renewable energy, or else nations will a) stagnate b) grow isolated c) give up on the future. That’s all simple self interest. Now even if we assign carbon prices and pay people to install solar panels, it’s still determined, sparked, managed, by investment and intervention. There is no non leftist way out of climate change, sorry.

And the same is true for all our big problems in the world today. Reality is leftist.

Lets do another example. How are we to solve inequality? If we can’t, more and worse Trumps will emerge. Inequality is fixed simply by investments in public goods – healthcare, media, education, and so on. Why? They prevent wages from falling, they create jobs, and they give people ways to invest in themselves. Can inequality be solved by more Googles and Goldmans? How could it be?

Reality is leftist today. The world’s big problems can only be solved through better institutions – social and public ones – that genuinely invest in people, the planet, and the future again. That’s not to say capitalism shouldn’t or doesn’t have a role. Solar panels are made by companies – but the incentive to use them is set by societies. So capitalism and socialism are going to have work hand in hand if the world wants to prosper.

Work together how, in what way? That doesn’t mean privatisation and financialization. Often, society, not capital, is going up have to take the drivers seat. It’s going to have to set the agenda, create the incentives, and manage and allocate the investments – in healthcare, energy, etc – all the stuff that fixes my four big problems. Reality is leftist. Naked aggressive capitalism can’t fix the world it broke.

Now let’s zoom out.

Our politics, like any other belief, should fit reality. They shouldn’t be fixed forever – then we’re ideologues, not people of moral reason and genuine self interest. Reality isn’t always leftist. When societies overinvest, when they deny people self determination and autonomy, when society subsumes our humanity, then reality has gone too far to the left. But today reality is precisely the opposite. The world and its societies must cooperate to solve their great existential problems – and so must the cities, states, towns, and countries in that world. Shared interest must precede, define, govern, and manage self interest – especially in an age where genuine self interest appears to have vanished into delusion.

Reality is leftist. It might be hard for you to accept, especially if you’re American. But reality doesn’t care about your cognitive and emotional limitations, your ideology, your cherished beliefs. It just chews you up and spits you out to try to reach the part of you that loves.


July 2017

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