During quiet moments in the dark of night, the more reasonable members of the left must realize that their positions are unsustainable – just as the schizophrenic, while taking medication, knows that there is problem.
The dogmatic assumption of America among liberals is that vicious inequality is the result of an unregulated free market that, by its very plutocratic nature, favors the rich, and sentences the poor to life without parole in a prison of poverty. The doctrine, religious in its totality and irrationality, follows that the majority of Americans are unable to break the chains of their oligarchic bondage, because they are hypnotized into self-restraint by the omniscient and omnipotent boogey man called “consumer culture.”
Pathologizing the purchasing power and decisions of ordinary people exposes a hatred of individuality at the core of liberal philosophy, but it also provides its adherents with a golden opportunity to engage in the liberal sacrament of cheap moralization masquerading as sophisticated, and compassionate, cultural criticism.
If Americans could only activate their brains, the liberal catechism states, recognize that there is more to life than money and commodities, and stop marching in lockstep to the shopping mall like wooden soldiers, they could empower themselves, participate in vague and sentimental protest movements without clear agendas, and find joy in the eradication of all social ills.
Nevermind that such a narrow vision of American life ignores most of the discoveries of psychology, sociology, and philosophy, not to mention economics, it also leads to devastating contradictions within the leftist worldview. Liberals, when it comes to income inequality and “consumer culture”, have created a cultural criticism that undermines their political argument. Like the schizophrenic, the liberal attempts to sustain sanity while living simultaneously in two intellectual worlds, but often resorts to yelling at phantoms, shadowboxing the wind, and babbling incoherently in a jargon-laden language that only fellow asylum inmates comprehend.
Free Market Sexism
The phony equal pay for women outrage is one of many psychotic episodes symptomatic of the left’s contradictory analysis. Liberalism contends that the patriarchal poltergeist haunts the hallways of corporate offices, college classrooms, and small businesses. Its evil influence results in the salary disparity between men and women workers. Statistical data and deductive reasoning reveal the farcical nonsense of the “77 cents on the dollar” figure that receives constant recitation in the parrot media.
Christina Hoff Sommers recently added a few layers of brick and mortar to the tower of evidence showing that the small pay gap (more likely around five to 8 cents, not 23, with every dollar) that exists between men and women is not the mechanism of an oppressive society, but the predictable result of different choices. Women tend to choose careers in less lucrative occupations than their male counterparts, and while in those careers, they also tend to work fewer hours. Some of the most popular professional fields for women are counseling psychology, early childhood education, and social work, while men more often select occupations in engineering and computer science. Given that women now graduate college at higher rates than men, and that a wide variety of female recruitment programs exist in the STEM fields, it is obvious that young women have the intelligence and the opportunities to work as petroleum engineers or computer programmers. They choose to enter careers that will provide them, based on their own preferences, with greater intellectual stimulation and emotional satisfaction.
A reasonable observer would expect feminists and other liberals to celebrate the independence of women and the average woman’s selection of a career based not on money, but on passion. The woman who considers both options, and chooses a career in teaching rather than engineering, should serve as a liberal model of someone opting out of consumer culture, and reacting to the realization that there is more to life than money.
Instead, the left degrades that woman, denies her agency, and insists that she is a pre-programmed robot. She hasn’t made that decision according to her own free will. The “patriarchy” coerced her into it by training her, since childhood, to believe that she is capable only of nurturing, not leading or working in mechanical and technological professions. This element of feminist ideology works only on the assumption that the early childhood educator is too stupid to decode her programming.
Liberals want people to remove themselves from consumer culture, renounce greed, and work in service professions. When women do just that, the left condemns the income inequality that results from it, and in doing so, contradicts their cultural argument. They place all the emphasis on money with their insistence that women should myopically focus on the highest paying jobs in order to achieve pay parity with men. The critique of “consumer culture” undermines their political argument, because it recognizes the importance of choices, but the obsession with income inequality implies that there is nothing more important than money. The message that liberals seem to transmit to women is “Don’t be a slave to consumer culture, but ignore the priorities and passions of your own lives. Make sure you make as much money as possible, even if you hate your job. But don’t be greedy.” What?
The looping talking points of liberals, and their mind numbing inconsistency, indicts the entire campaign for more intrusive central planning, and it also degrades the empowerment of all free individuals, not just women in service professions.
The Importance of Choice
My best friend and I went to the same grade school, grew up in the same kind of middle class family, and had the same opportunities following high school graduation. He now makes more money than I do, has a job in a field that provides much more financial security, and receives a much more generous benefits package from his employer. He is a lawyer with the federal government. He developed a plan to matriculate into the institution that is now America’s largest employer, and because of his intelligence and commitment, effectively executed that plan.
If I wanted to pursue a field in law, I could have – all the opportunities and resources were there, and because of my propensity for painstaking analysis and longwinded conversation, many family members encouraged me to apply for law school. My priorities and passion led me elsewhere. Following college graduation, I began writing for a small newspaper, and I obtained a Master’s Degree in English. Since then, I’ve written two books, have become a columnist with a larger newspaper, and earned employment at a small, liberal arts college.
Despite the financial tumult of my profession, I’m satisfied with the choices that I have made, because they were my choices, and my choices alone. If I were to complain about the size of my salary compared to my best friend’s, likely invoking the trendy key words, “fair”, “deserve”, and “inequality”, I would deny the beauty of the free market that allows for individual empowerment through the pursuit of one’s own preferences. I would also be committing the worst act of self-betrayal, considering that I had full knowledge that there were more lucrative professional choices I was not taking when I decided to become a writer.
Even if the free market were not the best means of ensuring the highest levels of prosperity and the most momentous mobility, and even if one was willing to dismiss all the simple and practical arguments in favor of its robust existence, the moral argument of individuality, liberty, and choice would prove sufficient in demonstrating its superiority to central planning.
The liberal obsession with inequality amounts to an attack on the free market’s most ethical attribute, because it denies, and subsequently demonizes, the results of individual choices made without coercion.
The chemical imbalance in the collective brain of the left responsible for its schizophrenia is the intoxicating effect of the lust for control. The madness of power hunger induces a psychosis that cannot satisfy itself until it fully achieves its aims of dominance. The assault on “consumerism” is a cover story for smuggling into the culture a disapproval of the spending habits of free Americans who must be unable to best decide how to take advantage of their own wages that result from their own labor. Surely, the experts of government could better spend that money through the undemocratic processes of taxation and regulation. The fixation on inequality is a disguise for a detestation of the behavioral difference that comes with personality variance, because free behavior and free personalities are not subject to control.
Given the fear, resistance, and anger toward individuality at the occupational, behavioral, and result level among liberals, their utopian vision of an entirely equal culture can end only with everyone occupying a psychic cell. Such a grim future, the liberal promises, is made bearable only by the guarantee that government funding will provide all the padding necessary to ensure the survival of those who will cope by banging their heads against wall.
David Masciotra is a columnist with the Indianapolis Star. He has also written for the Daily Beast, the Atlantic, and Splice Today. He is the author of All That We Learned About Living: The Art and Legacy of John Mellencamp (forthcoming, University Press of Kentucky).