A funny thing happened in Poland. Donald Trump gave a good speech, one that highlighted an element of his appeal to those who voted for him. He spoke in glowing terms of Western values and society, and their roots in individual liberty.

Hold on – that’s not the funny part. Trump has given good speeches before, and Trump has long demonstrated that he likes America and, by extension, the values and beliefs that America is rooted in. The funny part is the Left’s nonlinear, non compos mentis reaction to Trump’s message. The big thinkers over there saw racism and dog-whistle code phrases scattered throughout Trump’s speech, and had no qualms about saying so.

Two possibilities come to mind as to why this might be. Deep, gut-level hatred of Trump and fury at the nation that made him President may bend their brains enough to cause them to hear all this nefariousness, or they may simply hate the message itself. I do believe there’s plenty of the former, but it is the latter that’s more enduring. Trump will eventually not be President, but the mind-set that considers the extolling of Western values as bad or evil will endure.

Consider one passage from Trump’s speech:

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

In two clear sentences, Trump articulates a core element of Western society and the failure of leadership to protect and preserve that element. He echoes the Declaration of Independence’s “pursuit of happiness,” channels Ronald Reagan in declaring that “government is the problem,” and celebrates individual liberty.

So what’s the Left’s problem?

Or, should I say problems? They are myriad. There is the idea that government over-regulation is bad for liberty and prosperity. That’s anathema to statists, who cannot look at a lemonade stand without wanting to regulate it. Some will chase dreams that run at cross purposes with the Left’s agenda, and that’s intolerable. There’s the implied rejection of socialism and communism, philosophies that the Left still admires and aspires to despite their myriad failures and horrific toll of death and suffering.

The one that most irksome, however, is the multiculturalist premise that no society is inherently better than any other, and that’s the core of the Left’s hyperventilation over Trump’s speech.

There’s an element of automatic gainsaying in modern politics. For many, if their ideological opponents support a position, they feel the need to oppose it, and vice versa, even if it makes no sense. Ideological tribalism is often more important than intellectual honesty or consistency. Thus, the Right’s dislike and suspicion of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, of Sharia, and of Radical Islam prompts many on the Left to defend the first two and not even admit to the existence of the third, despite the utter illiberality of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs.

Fact is, the West’s way is better. Individual rights, free markets, and the “melting pot” society have produced far greater gains in living standards, individual success, prosperity, and human happiness than any other system that’s ever been tried. As the great Milton Friedman observed:

So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.

Western values aren’t about “letting” the wealthy get wealthier, or permitting the oppression of workers by the bourgeoisie. They are about the pursuit of individual happiness, in whatever form each person wishes, and they have proven, time and time again, to be the best means for achieving that happiness.

Those who wish to control others, either because they think they know better or because they think those others don’t know enough, have trouble abiding such liberty. Those who continue to believe in the failed and disproven notions of wealth redistribution, central planning, and “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” subordination of individual rights to the collective see such values as a threat to their goals. Those who judge people by their demographic checkboxes rather than by the content of their character hate that such values allow others to reject their rule sets. And so forth.

Unfortunately for them, admitting that their own beliefs clash with the individual liberty at the core of Western values would create a terrible dissonance. So, they reinterpret “Western values” by assigning negative elements, including racism, bigotry, selfishness, greed, indifference to or hatred for the poor, and various flavors of intolerance. This lets them hang onto their socialistic fantasies and elevate them over the belief system that has proven itself time and again to be far superior.

And, thus, it lets them interpret a speech full of positivity about the beliefs that have done so much good for humanity as an odious homage to racism, bigotry and intolerance.

Being perpetually cranky, negative, and a scold is hard work. While it may impress one’s philosophical peers and draw the eyes of those of similar bent, it’s really tiring for everyone else, especially when the scoldings are deemed untrue or unjust. But, when your philosophical beliefs have been rejected both by history and by the voters and you don’t want to consider changing your mind, you really don’t have much else left to do. And, when someone reminds you of the success an ideology you oppose has made your world better, your natural reaction is to lash out, irrationally if that’s all that’s available.

There’s a positive takeaway from all this. The Left’s anger at Trump’s speech speaks of the broader anger at his election and at the underlying rejection of… well… whatever form of statism is currently their vogue. Since Trump’s speech spoke positively and repeatedly of the West and its values, the Left needs to voice its anger at the West and its values, no matter that it is those values that enable that voicing and that created the prosperity in which the Left lives. The rage, vocal though it may be, speaks of impotence, and that impotence is the result of the voters’ rejection. There may yet be hope for liberty in the West.

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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