It is not just in Iraq that the political left has an investment in failure. Domestically as well as internationally, the left has long had a vested interest in poverty and social malaise.
The old advertising slogan, “Progress is our most important product,” has never applied to the left. Whether it is successful black schools in the United States or Third World countries where millions of people have been rising out of poverty in recent years, the left has shown little interest.
Progress in general seems to hold little interest for self-styled “progressives.” What arouses them are denunciations of social failures and accusations of wrongdoing. One wonders what they would do in heaven.
We are in no danger of producing heaven on Earth, but there have been some remarkable developments in some Third World countries within the last generation that have allowed many very poor people to rise to a standard of living that was never within their reach before.
The Aug. 18 issue of the distinguished British magazine the Economist reveals the economic progress in Brazil, Argentina and other Latin American nations that has given a better life to millions of their poorest citizens. Some of the economic policies that have led to these results are discussed in the Economist but it is doubtful that members of the political left will stampede there to find out what those policies were.
They have shown no such interest in how tens of millions of people in China and tens of millions of people in India have risen out of poverty within the last generation.
Despite whatever the left may say, or even believe, about their concern for the poor, their actual behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left’s denunciations of society.
When the poor stop being poor, they lose the attention of the left. What actions on the part of the poor, or what changes in the economy, have led to drastic reductions in poverty seldom arouse much curiosity, much less celebration.
This is not a new development. Back in the 19th century, when Karl Marx presented his vision of the impoverished working class rising to attack and destroy capitalism, he was disappointed when the workers grew less revolutionary over time, as their standards of living improved.
At one point, Marx wrote to his disciples: “The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing.” Think about that. Millions of human beings mattered to him only in so far as they could serve as cannon fodder in his jihad against the existing society. If they refused to be pawns in his ideological game, then they were “nothing.”
No one on the left would say such things so plainly today, even to themselves. But their actions speak louder than words. Blacks are to the left today what the working class were to Marx in the 19th century — pawns in an ideological game. Blacks who rise out of poverty are of no great interest to the left, unless they attack society to do so.
The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994 but the left has shown no more interest in why that is so than they have shown in why many millions of people have risen out of poverty in Latin America or in China and India.
Where progress can be plausibly claimed to be a result of policies favored by the left, such claims are made. A whole mythology has grown up that the advancement of minorities and women in America is a result of policies promoted by the left in the 1960s. Such claims are often based on nothing more than ignoring the history of the progress made before 1960.
Retrogressions in the wake of the policies of the 1960s are studiously ignored — the runaway crime rates, the disintegration of black families, and the ghetto riots of the 1960s that have left many black communities still barren more than 40 years later.
Whatever does not advance the left agenda is “nothing.”
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a nationally syndicated columnist.