It hardly counts as genius material, but I know decisively that Jeremy Corbyn is a Utopian. This was demonstrated beyond any doubt to me on the day he won the Labour leadership contest. In his victory speech, Jezza announced that his intention was to 'construct a society' in which injustice would be eradicated, working people would have more money in their pockets there would be peace in the Middle East (although what that has to do with us I remain as perplexed about as ever), it would never rain etc. I'm going to leave aside the content of the man's politics for a minute - we can and will do 1500 words about that some other night. It's the three words in inverted commas a few lines above that I really want to focus on for now.
Free societies and economies aren't 'constructed', they emerge as a result of people making rational decisions about their own self-interest (enlightened or otherwise) within conditions that, yes, can be influenced by such instruments as taxation, regulation etc but even within that framework, people are (or at least should be) free to make choices the government wouldn't necessarily want them to make and/or could see as the wrong ones. For instance, a married couples' allowance might be offered to people as an incentive to marry their significant other, but in any free society the right to stay unmarried shouldn't even have to be spelt out.
Once you utter the words 'construct a society' then by definition no such respect for free will exists. If the harmless desires of an individual happen to stand in the way of the building and maintenance of Utopia then they become a disruptive dissident, the proverbial egg without whom no omlette could ever be made. Their wish to live their own existence out quietly, pursue their own interests in both the economic and personal sphere, can and must be trampled on in the name of a clearly defined greater good. Some attempt will then be made by the State to bring that individual into line and where that goes, well, we'll go further down that unfortunate road later.
I'm sick of hearing Marxists in particular being excused as people who mean or meant well, but their wonderful ideas were either corrupted or maybe didn't work in reality. As if the multiple lessons of history do not serve as conclusive evidence to give up on this line of extremism forever, raw collectivism of all types can not be described as 'lovely' or 'nice' in any way. Collectivism means force, it means coercion and when it comes down to it, collectivism will mean brutality if free will backs it into a corner. Of course some watered down 'balance' between individual and collective is a different proposition but that means rejecting Utopia as a concept in the first instance.
This is the counter-intuitive crux of the matter - when push comes to shove it's the individualist who will consistently defend the oppressed and victimised from a position of principle. Utopian collectivists, on the other hand, could politely be described as complete shits who will happily stick people in mass graves in the name of their revolution or promised land. Individualists have nothing like the Holocaust, Stalin's purges, the Khmer Rouge and its Killing Fields or Mao's Great Leap Forwards on their (our) record - collectivist Utopians did all of that. Yet conventional wisdom depicts collectivists as 'well meaning' and individualists as greedy and selfish.
The mind boggles.
Look, there is no such thing as an objective Utopia and anyone who believes otherwise in the face of overwhelming historical evidence gets the square root of zero in the way of charity from over here. There is 'your Utopia', the construction of which will almost certainly involve the use of force and/or eroding the liberty of others to pursue their own goals and express themselves. For the sake of argument (although it doesn't happen) let's just say that this Utopia is achieved relatively peacefully, at least without political violence. Even then there will be dissidents, people who regard your heaven as their hell. How does the Utopian State interact with these troublemakers?
Of course you could allow them to express themselves freely, form some sort of opposition in the true sense of pluralism and accept that Utopia might be demolished one day. But having worked so hard to get to the promised land, why on earth would you throw it all away so casually? Besides which, the biggest single defining feature of a Utopian collectivist is their particular brand of moral superiority, an unshakeable belief that their Utopia is good for you too, even if you haven't worked it out yet through ignorance, stupidity, or whatever. Only a selfish, treacherous individual could fail to recognise the wonders of the society they had worked so hard to build, right?
Perhaps dissidents will be sent for 're-education' in the mould of Mao's Great Leap Forwards or the seizure of education systems for brainwashing purposes by the Communists and Nazis? Well we're already in 'bad enough' territory but what happens when somebody refuses, or rejects the 're-education' in favour of what they believed in all conscience beforehand? This is the point of no return with Utopia construction, sooner or later you're going to have to a) accept the rights of others to hate and seek to undo it, or b) eliminate them from society by force. Again look at history and, inevitably, Utopians select option b - "without breaking a few eggs" and all that.
This cultish modus operandi indicates a clear use of belief and politics by Utopian collectivists as a faith substitute. The quasi-religious nature of Communism, Maoism, Nazism etc upon close inspection should nail it completely.
Make no mistake, Utopian collectivists are mad, bad and dangerous.
Once we accept that there is no Utopia, no messiah and no magic formula with regards to the 'construction' of the perfect society then we stop trying to prevent every last unfortunate thing in the world from happening. Again our good friend counter-intuition makes an appearance as the pursuit of 'the greater good' invariably causes serious net harm across all those impacted by it. There will always be inequality, social injustice, unfair outcomes and people holding unfortunate or offensive opinions, perhaps expressing them rather loudly. This is far from perfect, but it's a damn sight better than the alternative of poverty, labour camps, misery and mass murder.
Perfection isn't (and never has been) an option, so get it off the table.
At the risk of telling you what to think, we should all be worried by anyone who promises to build Utopia, or 'construct the perfect society', regardless of the supposed idealism behind the architecture. A 'constructed society' cannot be a free one and deep down its designers know that.
These are not 'nice but misplaced' ideas at all, but inherently dangerous ones.
I may get another in tomorrow if I get time, so feel free to suggest titles for future pieces.
In the meantime I'll leave you somewhat appropriately with the Cult - thanks for reading and I'll catch you soon.