Remember when Ben Stein was thought to be smart? I suppose he still is, but highly delusional. And he likes to pretend that his callous disregard for others is a way to protect them.
In his latest piece in the American Spectator, Stein makes the argument that every attempt at social justice has always ended poorly (or at least that many have), so therefore working toward it will only empower dictators. Also, Republicans love it when everybody gets the same shot at life.
It begins with a friend of his who is dying of COPD. Stein was looking for a quote from Hayek to help make her feel better (who the fuck quotes Hayek to comfort a dying friend?).
I cannot find that quote in this edition — maybe a 1976 edition — but I did find a better one from Hayek which I paraphrase here: the attempt at social justice causes more misery than almost any other factor in human life (again, a paraphrase).
We get it, you are paraphrasing and apparently too lazy to find a webpage with the full quote and maybe some context so we, as readers, can come to our own determination on what it means. I know that the American Spectator is terminally allergic to citations, but I want to make sure this isn’t like David Barton’s claim that Genesis was totes predicting DNA evidence.
Also, quoting Hayek about social justice issues is a lot like quoting Haley Barbour on race issues.
Yes. The Communists. The Jacobins. The Communards. The Maoists. The Khmer Rouge. They all caused untold suffering in the phony and vain attempt to make everyone equal… phony because it was just a fig leaf for terrible people to seize power.
While I agree with parts of this, Stein repeats himself and throws in random names to bulk out his list. Also, notice, no links to evidence.
First, Maoists and the Khmer Rouge were both Communist organizations, so really he’s just listing the same right wing boogy man over and over again. I’m not saying that what they did wasn’t horrible, but it would be like me saying, “Ben Stein, the guy who played the teacher in Ferris Bueller, and the guy who gave away his money on a game show all wrote a dumb article” in order to make it look like like three articles were written when it’s only one.
The Jacobins I’ll give him, since they were the orchestrators of the Reign of Terror, but the Communards? Does he even know what a Communard is, or did he just see “Commun” and immediately thought it was another type of Communist to add to his list of violent Communists? They were, in fact, socialists, and they tried to take over Paris at one point, and were then slaughtered by the French army. They were considered for many years a rallying cry for rights for the working class…oh, now I understand why Stein thinks they’re the same as the Khmer Rouge.
Also, he forgot Christians, Muslims, the post-Revolution US army, the British monarchy at times, and basically every political or religious group that has attempted to rule by authoritarianism.
And let’s not forget the untold suffering caused by the black civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the gay rights movement, etc. The trick to not being a “fig leaf for terrible people,” is to keep terrible people from running your movement without question. Which, for the record, is why I’m an A+er.
We are not supposed to be all equal. Let’s just forget that. We are supposed to have equal rights under law. If we do that, we have done enough. If we try to engineer outcomes, if we overturn tradition to make everyone the same, we ruin society. If we upset tradition to allow for an equal shot at the starting gate, everyone wins, except for the charlatans and would be dictators.
This is what we in the social justice movement call “missing the fucking point.” We’re all supposed to have equal rights under the law but not be promised equal outcomes? You think? Why didn’t anybody ever tell me that, Ben? And while we’re at it, why didn’t anyone ever tell me I’m supposed to be for equal outcomes and not equal opportunity, because I have never heard liberals arguing that equal outcomes were the desired goals.
Unless you’re making a strawman argument. Or, I don’t know, that’s really what liberals want in your fevered imagination. Citations would cut down on this problem, just so you know.
Yet another reason to be a Republican. Give everyone an equal shot — but do not require equal outcomes or even roughly equal outcomes by law. That way lies catastrophe.
Every soul deserves a shot at a Cadillac, but not everyone should be guaranteed a Cadillac… that way lie the tumbrels and the guillotine.
With that melodramatic pronouncement, Stein has illustrated the point very nicely. The problem with arguing with conservatives is that they run under the assumption that equality under the law has already been achieved and that equal application of the law is a given. The thing is, it’s not. The criminal justice system is remarkably racist, not to mention biased in favor of the wealthy. LGBT people cannot get married to their same-sex partners and, while LGB people can be fired in 29 states for no reason other than that they’re LGB, trans* people can be fired in 34 states for being trans* . Women are targeted for specific medical decisions to be made by the state. Atheists can still be denied custody of their children based solely on their lack of believe in god.
Ben Stein is a rich, straight, white, Christian male. There’s nothing wrong with being any of those things, but when he suggests that he wants everybody to start off equally, he’s lying. Best case scenario is that he doesn’t give a shit whether they do or not because he’s at the head of the pack, so his ability to get ahead doesn’t change at all by helping others get the same start he does. At worst, he enjoys not having to work as hard and, like any good free market worshiper, will crush any potential competition as ferociously as he can get away with it without accruing bad PR.
Either way, Stein’s great reason to be a Republican seems to be the ability to pretend the system is perfect (and trying to fix it would only break it), so any problems people face are their own fault. It’s a brilliant way to avoid having to give a damn about anyone else, just claim that there’s nothing wrong.