Left and Write

When I was young, I thought all science fiction writers were like me: people who believed in science, and, hence, in rationality and, by extension, in the virtues of reason, such as individualism, independent thinking, self-reliance, non-conformity. Hence, it was with considerable surprise that, going to my first science fiction convention, I found that most of the writers were leftists, socialists, mystics and collectivists. There are a few (libertarian) exceptions, and one or two gray-haired writers from the pre-1968 era (Mr. Pornelle springs to mind) who still support a rational, individualist world-view: but they are a quiet minority.

How can this be? When did science fiction suddenly become so — unscientific?

I have a theory as to why writers tend to be leftists. My theory applies, not just to science fiction writers, but to all writers and all artists or all ilks.

The fundamental difference between the left and the right is that the left follow ideologies, and the right study history. The left dream big dreams, and say, “I look at what might be, and ask, Why Not?”
whereas the right say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Now then, there would be no division between Right and Left if the theories of the dreamer and the fact of history led to the same conclusions. Not to place to fine a point on it, with all due respect to my colleagues on the Left, the problem with Leftist theories is merely that they are wrong.

Common sense says that if you take from the rich and give to the poor, everyone will end up in the contented middle. Common sense says, that if there is only a finite amount of oil in the ground, and we use it up, it will be all gone some day. Common sense says, no guns equals no gun crimes. Common sense says that if a man makes too small a wage, the way to get him a higher wage, is to pass a law requiring employers to pay him a higher wage. What could be more obvious?

Students of the Left wonder how anyone could argue these points, as obvious to the naked eye as the fact that the Earth is flat, and can only assume that the Right are being obstructionist, disingenuous, fools, cowards, liars, etc., etc.

Common sense is wrong in all these cases, because common sense relies on superficial, static analysis. Common sense does not take into account the dynamics of how rational men will react when these policies are enacted. Common sense does not regard humans as creatures with common sense.

When the Robin Hood law is enacted, the line must be drawn between rich and poor. The man who may fall a dollar above the line or a dollar below it will use his common sense to realize that if he works one dollars worth of work to make himself fall just below the line, he will get two dollars for less labor, than if he works to one dollar above the line and loses it. All the other rational men, seeing the same thing he sees, will act likewise. The end result is, when you take from the rich and give to the poor, soon there are none but the poor, and no means to feed them.

Likewise, when oil reserves start running low, the rational man purchases futures in oil, knowing the price will rise: the higher price will force buyers to economize the resource, and whichever other rational actor seeks to avail himself of the changed market conditions will economize likewise, either by investing in an alternate form of energy, converting stock to use the resource in an more efficient way, or finding a more profitable use of the resource. Where and if the research will pay off cannot be deduced beforehand, but, in any case, the resource will not be exhausted, compared to its economical uses, any more than whale-oil and whale-bone has been exhausted, a resource we no longer use for making buggy-whips, corset stays, or kerosene.

And so on, for the other examples.

Now, please note the inequality between these two arguments, the difference in size. One can be stated in a sentence, the other requires a paragraph of analysis even to state in rough summary.

An artist deals with dreams, with arresting images, with emotion. It is easy to depict a starving child, shivering in the snow. It is hard to depict the invisible connections of cause and effect that lead from the Robin Hood Law (meant to save that child) to the aggregate result of many decisions in the market-place, leading to capital decumulation, and the production of many more shivering children. The artist can depict the dozens of starving children the Robin Hood Law will create, but, to the Leftist, these children seem to pop out of nowhere and for no reason. The cause-and-effect relationship whereby the law mean to save the children harms the children is abstract, and not concrete.

The nature of art is concrete: images and examples are meant to stand for or represent a whole class of entities. The whole effort of the artist is to reduce the abstract, the aetherical, the mystical, into some clear and striking image that will haunt the audience: a symbol, in fact, that will capture the whole idea involved. Charles Dickons was most expert at this: Scrooge is not merely a British businessman, he is an archetype, namely, a Scrooge. Falstaff is not merely a swaggering drunk, he is an archetype, a Falstaff.

Leftist thinking is concrete, and relies more on emotion than on rational analysis of the underlying issues. Even in a novel, it is hard to show the opportunity costs, the prospects lost, the invisible diminishments, caused by the small but concrete gains created by socialism. The author can show Little Nell, now scrubbed and well-fed in the kindly workhouse barracks, and grateful to be alive: but no one can show the mill, or the factory, or the ship-yard Scrooge would have built with the funds that were diverted to build that workhouse, or the wealth those stock would have created for worker and employer alike.

Hence, by the nature of art itself, art inclines to the left.