Where the Left is Going I Can’t Follow

I’ve said it so many times during the past couple of years, I must be starting to sound like a broken record to the few readers I have left. Although my major ideological commitments were towards things like freedom of speech and other individual rights associated with liberalism, I have generally found myself on the political left on most issues since I found first started paying much attention to politics around the age of twelve or thirteen. I think I was thirteen when I first called myself a feminist.

For the past couple of years, however, the left seems to be playing a dangerous game of who can say the craziest thing.

Once upon a time, I thought the left had some ideals that were universal and did not change with political expediency. I thought universal franchise was one of those things. When, in the wake of the Brexit vote I saw some people arguing that people over a certain age should not be allowed to vote, I dismissed it because emotions were running so high in the lead up to that vote people were saying all sorts of crazy things on both sides.

Today, I saw an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that the franchise be taken away from white men. Now, there’s no self-interest involved here for me, beyond the general sense of not wanting to have ideals that are so relativistic that what was a moral imperative today is to be fought against tomorrow. The rationale for this is a confused grab-bag of reasons. The first one the writer, one Shelley Garland, states:

Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.

If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened.

This is pretty clear. The writer would like to disenfranchise the demographic which was least likely to vote the way she wanted them to. Is anyone naive enough to think it would stop there? Who else would be disenfranchised after the white men? If you know what the ideal outcome is, why bother to hold votes on anything at all?

Besides the fact that white men, on average, don’t vote the way Garland likes, she also justifies this by invoking the 2008 financial crisis. The idea that people on the top in the financial sector, an infinitesimally small percentage of white men, are somehow representative of white men is so laughable it’s hard to believe anyone might even float this as an argument. Other white men don’t even like them, let alone feel any kinship with them. Then she just tosses out “toxic masculinity.” I guess she thinks only white men are masculine….?

Her next justification is at least something more serious than two votes in countries where Garland doesn’t even live that didn’t go the way she wanted.

At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners.

However, in the case of South Africa, where the writer appears to live, I’m not sure how the connection between voting and global assets works. Eighty percent of the population of South Africa is black, so voting should work in favor of blacks. I’m not sure what disenfranchising white men in South Africa would achieve in this regard. I’m not familiar with the details of how South African politics works, but I think the party in power at the moment is the African National Congress. In any case:

The Land Expropriation Bill was passed by Parliament in May last year – three months before the 2016 local government elections.

In its current form, the bill requires the state to exhaust efforts to purchase property on reasonable terms in the open market before being allowed to consider expropriating it.

The ANC however has in recent months hardened its stance on economic transformation, calling for de-racialising over-concentrated sectors of the economy and transferring ownership from white people to the black majority among other matters. At its annual birthday celebrations, the ANC said the economy will be overhauled radically to allow for meaningful black participation.

She mixes up land ownership and ownership of assets and broadens it to include the whole world, which is necessary because linking assets to democratic representation doesn’t make sense in the case of South Africa.

This redistribution of the world’s wealth is long overdue, and it is not just South Africa where white males own a disproportionate amount of wealth. While in South Africa 90 percent of the country’s land is in the hands of whites (it is safe to assume these are mainly men), along with 97 percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, this is also the norm in the rest of the world. Namibia has similar statistics with regard to land distribution and one can assume this holds for other assets too. As Oxfam notes eight men control as much as wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population. In the United States ten percent of the population (nearly all white) own 90 percent of all assets – it is likely that these assets are largely in the hands of males. Although statistics by race are difficult to find from other parts of the world, it is very likely that the majority of the world’s assets are in the hands of white males, despite them making up less than 10 percent of the world’s population.

Sticking to land for the moment, since white people are the indigenous people of Europe, it would only be expected that they would own most of the land there. In China, “most land is owned by collectivities or by the state.” (Strangely, a search for “land ownership India” came back with a result for the Dawes Act.) I wasn’t able to find quickly a racial breakdown of land ownership in India. The articles on land reform I came across focused more on economic factors than racial ones. So, basically, it seems to me that we’re talking about Africa, the Americas and Australia.

Anyway, I was about to go on a rant regarding white guilt (which I don’t believe really exists) but that would take some time and I have to get other things done today, so let me return to where I started.

Either you have principles or you don’t. Either I believe in universal suffrage or I don’t. My views on this have not changed. Apparently the view on the left is changing. If I had found this on a personal blog like my own, I would just ignore it, however it was in the Huffington Post and I fear that this is the way the left might be heading.

Sorry this is garbled and all over the place. Although I don’t feel like my own politics have changed much, it is clear that the political terrain around me has changed greatly. I’d like to try to articulate my positions, but it’s such a big job and I don’t have the leisure at the moment to do it full-time, which is what it would take.

  1. Ruth said:

    To be fair I don’t think it’s the entire left but, just as there is an “alt-right,” there does, indeed, seem to be a regressive left or an “alt-left”. While they seem to be the loudest I think those of us who cherish rights and freedoms for all are still in the majority.

    The regressive left are the ones shutting down free speech on campuses, etc. I don’t think their numbers are by any means the majority, but I think the rest of us leftists would be remiss and lumped into the same category if we don’t call them out on it.

  2. I see more than a little of what was a strain of “radical feminism” from back in the 80’s, as promulgated by people like Andrea Dworkin, in that article, along with a hefty amount of pseudo socialism. Yes, it seems to be something promulgated a lot by the more radical left, and it’s why I took to calling myself a pragmatic liberal several years ago.

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