If you dabble in political sandboxes, you are likely familiar with the term “intelligentsia.” It’s been around a couple centuries, if Wikipedia is to be trusted for that datum, and it speaks to both a category of people and to disdain for them.

Or, at least, disdain for those of that category who sell ideas that infringe on our lives. That is what they do, “sell ideas.” Someone far more erudite than I defined the intelligentsia thus, drawing a distinction between people who have ideas and convert them to goods and services for sale and people whose end product is ideas. You find far more of the latter in affluent societies, since therein is where the fraction of human productivity devoted to the basics of survival (food, clothing, shelter) is small.

Throughout history, cultures, societies, and nations have been shaped by the sellers of ideas.

For better and for worse.

The great thinkers of the Enlightenment (aka the Age of Reason), including the grand master of it all, John Locke, gave us classical liberalism, the foundation of modern Western culture that includes individual liberty, religious liberty (or at least tolerance for those not of the State’s religion), property rights, the notion that we are all created equal, and challenges to the unfettered supremacy of the State. America’s Founding Fathers relied heavily on the principles set forth herein (and indeed, several of them are pre-eminent Enlightenment figures) in drafting the single greatest achievement in human political history, the US Constitution.

A scant century later, Marx and Engels, also merchants of ideas, gave us the principles of communism, a philosophy that runs directly counter to the premise of Enlightenment liberty in subordinating the individual to the State.

The history (and body count) of the 20th century tells us which of these two world views advances the human condition and creates healthy societies.

By any rational measure, the debate over which political philosophy should be used to guide modern society is over.

The intelligentsia, however, are not always rational.

There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them. — George Orwell

Human beings, while perfectly capable of overriding their evolutionary hard-wiring, are nevertheless more motivated by it than by the rational. We are, in essence, sacks of chemicals, and we don’t always choose to veto what those chemicals urge us to do or think. Entire fields of study are devoted to sorting all this out, but it all boils down to a simple takeaway: Even the smartest people in the world can be totally wrong about something.

Yes, I avow openly that those who do not embrace the teachings of the Enlightenment and classical liberalism as to the primacy of the individual are not just of a different opinion, they are flat-out wrong.

Yet here we are, in the year 2021, with highly educated people, people who should absolutely know better, declaring that classical liberalism produces systemic racism, that individualism is racist, and that equality must be replaced by equity.

Oh, and that the fruits of your labor are not really yours. As I’ve noted endlessly, it’s always about OPM.

Marxism makes a distinction between “personal” and “private” property, and despite the global ruin that Marxism produced, its ideas, including this one, are making a (horrifying) resurgence (I just recently encountered a “personal vs private” meme, as if turning the assertion into a graphic makes it valid). Note the distinction, and follow it to a terrifying conclusion: Personal property is that which can be moved, private property is that which cannot. A house, a shop, a factory, and the land upon which they all sit are “private,” not “personal,” no matter that an individual produced or acquired them through his individual efforts (fruits of your labor). The distinction is not being drawn merely for academic reasons, of course. It’s about undermining the legitimacy of individual ownership of private property.

“Owned” it must be, however. To own something is to have authority as to its use, and under any form of societal organization or disorganization, there will always be someone who has that authority. If it’s not you, who built or paid for that private property with your own money (again, fruits of your labor), and it’s not some other individual or voluntary assemblage of individuals (that includes all the varied legal structures in the private sector: partnerships, corporations of varying sorts, non-profits, etc), it’s going to be the entity with coercive power.

As in: the government.

Hmmmm, where have we heard this before? Isn’t there another phrase for shops and factories, like “means of production?”

What do they call it when the government owns the means of production?

It starts with an “S,” no?

For that matter, what do they call it when someone other than you owns the fruits of your labor?

Also starts with an “S” no?

Therein lies the gigantic and tragic irony of the woke movement, of Critical Race Theory, and of the leftist/progressive derogation of classical liberalism and of individualism itself. They’re supposedly pushing all they push because of the terrible injustice of slavery, but the inevitable outcome of their philosophy is slavery.

The only distinction lies in who is the master. Antebellum slavery was chattel slavery, wherein a person was owned by another person. The slavery toward which our intelligentsia are herding our society is state-slavery, where we are all owned by a “society” that they control.

Exaggeration this is not.

Either you own yourself and the fruits of your labor, or you do not. If you do not, someone else does. That it’s buried under euphemisms and word salad doesn’t change that reality.

The “social contract” is (or would be) an obligation to the State (formal or informal) imposed upon each of us at the moment of birth, as a form of “original sin.”

“Democratic Socialism” openly advocates employee ownership of businesses, no matter who actually created them, bought the buildings, equipment, etc. Nearly a decade ago, Obama told us “you didn’t build that,” and the political elites who have followed in his footsteps are waging a multi-front war on the rest of us to actualize that insult.

Critical Race Theory tells white people that they are born with an obligation to actively subordinate themselves to others, per an arcane and ever-changing schedule crafted by those who claim control and power over society. It also tells black people that they can never hope to achieve the “content of character” equality that MLK dreamed of, and that the only way forward for them is via the benevolence of a State that owns them just as it owns everyone else.

Your freedom of speech is not explicitly infringed by the formal government, since they haven’t managed to cancel the First Amendment, but it is obviously and absolutely infringed by a coercive “society.” See: Cancel Culture. There is a world of difference between arguing with someone because you disagree with or don’t like what he said, and imposing systemic economic or reputational damage as punishment and deterrence. See also: Big Tech censorship. The intelligentsia have found their end-around the First Amendment in Silicon Valley, to the detriment of us all.

Ditto for religious liberty, as the much-beleaguered owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado will tell you (despite his Supreme Court victory, a crusading Karen continues to make his life miserable).

Finally (not finally, this could fill a book), we have the infinitely greedy (big government politicians), driven by the shamelessly envious (the “vote themselves largesse out of the treasury), goaded by the insulated intelligentsia (who tell the envious it’s not only OK, but it’s proper to violate the Tenth Commandment and use the State to actualize their covetousness), plotting how to take more and more of the fruits of our labor. Death-by-a-thousand-cuts taxation, schemes to tax assets and not just income, dreams of stealing an individual’s lifetime of wealth creation upon his death, and endless new controls and restrictions on our economic lives are all at the fore of the Left’s agenda.

We are at a cultural crossroads. Our choice: Embrace and defend the premise of the individual and the concurrent idea that we are all created equal, or become slaves to the cultural elite who declare control over all we do, say, and think.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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