Returning to Eden
How an ancient religious myth inspired a modern political movementhttps://www.mega.nu/ampp/eden/overview.html#metatop
This is a book about the utopians, what their visions entail, and how they try to make them real. Since by definition utopia cannot be made real, the utopians are on fools' errands, like schizophrenics obeying the voices in their heads. Nonetheless, the history of their campaigns and programs is not just a sorrowful tale of futility but also one of very serious destruction. Explaining the appeal and various forms of human utopian aspiration is an involved and difficult enterprise, neither started nor finished by the book before you. But perhaps this contribution will be of some practical use to someone.
Since the time of Rousseau, utopianism — particularly, of the socialist variety — has been eroding and undermining Western civilization like so many angry ocean waves. Utopian socialism — by which I mean chiefly the idea that human welfare can be divorced from economic and biological reality — has for so long been a part of the political landscape of the West that most people have accepted it as the cultural embodiment of an idea that is fundamental to the world. In fact, it is just so much inherited wishful thinking and confabulated flapdoodle, sewn together from fragments of ancient mythology, chiefly those relating to the Eden of the Hebrew Bible and its antecedents and descendants. While its roots are ancient, a program that recognizably constitutes a form of modern socialism was first assembled by the Sozzinis of sixteenth century Italy, whose ethic became known as “Socinianism” and set the stage for the utopian aspects of the Enlightenment.
This treatise dissects the psychological, cultural, and historical anatomy of the modern utopian movement, presenting it in ten parts: an overview, an investigation of ancient roots, a survey of biblical parallels, some meditations on the Eden motif itself in modern settings, a discussion of the phenomenon of cargo cultism, a survey of population control programs, meditations on egalitarianism, meditations on environmentalism, a survey of the main players in the invention and institutionalization of socialism, and a comparative survey of occult Edenism.
My purpose is simple, and I don't pretend impartiality. This book is descriptive, not prescriptive, but by way of description and explanation I seek to guide the liberal-minded toward classical liberalism, and away from the utopianism that infests modern liberalism. This book should perhaps be viewed first as a warning to those who, like myself, envision radical progress in the human condition. In the minds of mere mortal men, the perfect all too easily becomes the enemy of the good.
We have likely already seen the high water marks of radical utopian socialism — in the West, 1933-1945, and in the East, 1949-1968. Now it is creeping, moderate socialism that presents the greatest threat to human prosperity and advancement, because the utopian aspirations (and attendant tendency toward totalitarianism) largely remain, concealed within.
It is chiefly on the Enlightenment that this history of utopianism pivots, and the view of the Enlightenment as (at least in part) more religious and less reasonable than advertised, is not new. In 1932, Carl L. Becker (a historian at Cornell) took just such a view, in The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers. Here, from pg. 29-31 in the 2003 Yale Nota Bene printing, is the essence of his thesis:
We are accustomed to think of the eighteenth century as essentially modern in its temper. Certainly, the Philosophes themselves made a great point of having renounced the superstition and hocus-pocus of Medieval Christian thought, and we have usually been willing to take them at their word. Surely, we say, the eighteenth century was preëminently the age of reason, surely the Philosophes were a skeptical lot, atheists in effect if not by profession, addicted to science and the scientific method, always out to crush the infamous,[;] valiant defenders of liberty, equality, fraternity, freedom of speech, and what you will. All very true. And yet I think the Philosophes were nearer the Middle Ages, less emancipated from the preconceptions of medieval Christian thought, than they quite realized or we have commonly supposed. If we have done them more (or is it less?) than justice in giving them a good modern character, the reason is that they speak a familiar language. We read Voltaire more readily than Dante, and follow an argument by Hume more easily than one by Thomas Aquinas. But I think our appreciation is of the surface more than of the fundamentals of their thought. We agree with them more readily when they are witty and cynical than when they are wholly serious. Their negations rather than their affirmations enable us to treat them as kindred spirits.
But, if we examine the foundations of their faith, we find that at every turn the Philosophes betray their debt to medieval thought without being aware of it. They denounced Christian philosophy, but rather too much, after the manner of those who are but half emancipated from the “superstitions” they scorn. They had put off the fear of God, but maintained a respectful attitude toward the Deity. They ridiculed the idea that the universe had been created in six days, but still believed it to be a beautifully articulated machine designed by the Supreme Being according to a rational plan as an abiding place for mankind. The Garden of Eden was for them a myth, no doubt, but they looked enviously back to the golden age of Roman virtue, or across the waters to the unspoiled innocence of an Arcadian civilization that flourished in Pennsylvania. They renounced the authority of church and Bible, but exhibited a naïve faith in the authority of nature and reason. They scorned metaphysics, but were proud to be called philosophers. They dismantled heaven, somewhat prematurely it seems, since they retained their faith in the immortality of the soul. They courageously discussed atheism, but not before the servants. They defended toleration valiantly, but could with difficulty tolerate priests. They denied that miracles ever happened, but believed in the perfectibility of the human race. We feel that these Philosophers were at once too credulous and too skeptical. They were the victims of common sense. In spite of their rationalism and their humane sympathies, in spite of their aversion to hocus-pocus and enthusiasm and dim perspectives, in spite of their eager skepticism, their engaging cynicism, their brave youthful blasphemies and talk of hanging the last king in the entrails of the last priest—in spite of all of it, there is more of Christian philosophy in the writings of the Philosophes than has yet been dreamt of in our histories.
In the following lectures I shall endeavor to elaborate this theme. I shall attempt to show that the underlying preconceptions of eighteenth-century thought were still, allowance made for certain important alterations in the bias, essentially the same as those of the thirteenth century. I shall attempt to show that the Philosophes demolished the Heavenly City of St. Augustine only to rebuild it with more up-to-date materials.
Later (pg.101) he describes the backwards historico-moral methodology endemic to the Enlightenment:
According to Condorcet, Montesquieu would have done better if he had not been “more occupied with finding the reasons for that which is than with seeking that which ought to be.” And even Rousseau, who admired Montesquieu more than the others did, finds that he, like Grotius before him, is too much inclined to establish the right by the fact. It is surely a paradox needing explanation that the Philosophers, who professed to study history in order to establish the rights suitable to man's nature on the facts of human experience, should have denounced Montesquieu precisely because he was too much inclined to establish the right by the fact. Is it, then possible that the Philosophers were not really interested in establishing the rights suitable to man's nature on the facts of human experience? Is it possible that they were engaged in that nefarious medieval enterprise of reconciling the facts of human experience with truths already, in some fashion revealed to them?
Alas yes, that is, indeed, the fact! The eighteenth-century Philosophers, like the medieval scholastics, held fast to a revealed body of knowledge, and they were unwilling or unable to learn anything from history which could not, by some ingenious trick played on the dead, be reconciled with their faith. Their faith, like the faith by which any age lives, was born of their experience and their needs; and since their experience and their needs were in deadly conflict with the traditional and established and still powerful philosophy of church and state, the articles of their faith were at every point opposed to those of the established philosophy. The essential articles of the religion of the Enlightenment may be stated thus: (1) man is not natively depraved; (2) the end of life is life itself, the good life on earth instead of the beatific life after death; (3) man is capable, guided solely by the light of reason and experience, of perfecting the good life on earth; and (4) the first and essential condition of the good life on earth is the freeing of men's minds from the bonds of ignorance and superstition, and of their bodies from the arbitrary oppression of the constituted social authorities. With this creed the “constant and universal principles of human nature,” which Hume tells us are to be discovered by a study of history, must be in accord, and “man in general” must be a creature who would conveniently illustrate these principles. What these “universal principles” were the Philosophers, therefore, understood before they went in search of them, and with “man in general” they were well acquainted, having created him in their own image. They knew instinctively that “man in general” is natively good, easily enlightened, disposed to follow reason and common sense; generous and humane and tolerant, more easily led by persuasion than compelled by force; above all a good citizen and a man of virtue, being well aware that, since the rights claimed by himself are only the natural and imprescriptible rights of all men, it is necessary for him voluntarily to assume the obligations and to submit to the restraints imposed by a just government for the commonweal.
It is apparent that, in professing with so disarming an air of candor to be studying history in order to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature, they are deceiving us, these philosopher-historians. But we can easily forgive them for that, since they are, even more effectively, deceiving themselves. They do not know that the “man in general” they are looking for is just their own image, that the principles they are bound to find are the very ones they start out with. [...]
And the great Gibbon? Gibbon, so often bracketed with Thucydides and Tacitus as a model historian, so impeccable in his scholarship, so objective, so apparently objective, so accurate at all events in his statement of facts—what of him? Simply this: That it was Gibbon after all who sought out the enemy in his stronghold and made the direct frontal attack on the Christian centuries. [...] Gibbon is commemorating the death of ancient civilization; he has described, for the “instruction of future ages,” the “triumph of barbarism and religion.”
The triumph of barbarism and religion! The words fittingly call up the past as imagined by the philosophical century. It was as if mankind, betrayed by barbarism and religion, had been expelled from nature's Garden of Eden. The Christian Middle Ages were the unhappy times after the fall and expulsion, the unfruitful, probationary centuries when mankind, corrupted and degraded by error, wandered blindly under the yoke of oppression. But mankind has at last emerged, or is emerging, from the dark wilderness of the past into the bright, ordered world of the eighteenth century. From this high point of the eighteenth century the Philosophers survey the past and anticipate the future. They recall the miseries and errors of the past as mature men recall the difficulties and follies of youth, with bitter memories it may be, yet with a tolerant smile after all, with a sigh of satisfaction and a complacent feeling of assurance: the present is so much better than the past. But the future, what of that? Since the present is so much better than the past, will not the future be much better than the present? To the future the Philosophers therefore look, as to a promised land, a new millenium.
This is my starting point — the Enlightenment as ground fertile for the growth of utopianism, lingering since then, and through the present, under the banners of socialism, libertarianism, and fascism. Where did the Enlightenment creed originate? How did the Enlightenment culminate in epic atrocities, such as those of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union? Questions such as these are what motivate this treatise.
The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1510
Socialism as we know it today is a social movement that began in earnest in eighteenth century Europe, and is now the organizing principle of many of the world's political establishments, and by dint of its utopian undercurrents, the faith of much of the world's population. In its utopian strains it is a loosely bound cultish religion, usually fancying itself strictly secular, but centered cryptically on the biblically revealed premise that humanity once enjoyed a paradise, long since lost. To varying degrees, the modern proponents and adherents of utopian socialism have internalized the ancient mythology specifically, linked only (or mostly) subconsciously to their overt, ostensibly modern programs. They believe they can, through ritual propriety, restore earthly paradise as a new Eden, tended by a benign paternal authority tantamount to that tending the mythical Eden. This monotheistic messianism has been largely transmuted into faith in an eventual world government acting as an omnipotent, omniscient, infallible savior, empowered by ideologically regimented voters. Clearly, utopian socialism is also abstractly millenarian and apocalyptic. Utopian socialists empower their deified governments to pass judgement on the people and purge (by extermination or radical disfranchisement) those deemed unworthy of life, in order to realize the promised idyllic harmonious society. One can plausibly describe utopian socialism as a form of ultrareactionary biblical fundamentalism, albeit aiming to reinstitute conditions under which humanity and its forebears never really existed or can exist. Millenarism encroaches with sufficient directness on the territory of the Catholic church, that it provokes explicit condemnation as blasphemy.
Deified government is simply a modernization of the “divine right” claimed by kings and emperors throughout world history. As for the idea of Edenic paradise reconstituted on earth, this is actually found in the Hebrew Bible itself, in Isaiah and Psalms. The overt messianism of the Abrahamic religions and Zoroastrianism is tantamount to Edenic reconstitution, and (at least in the Abrahamic ones) in most cases clearly relates to the Eden motif specifically. Their messianism is just as utopian as socialism's, and through syncretion with their occult derivatives and with Buddhism, it serves to elaborately theologize socialism under the “New Age” banner. In the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all tell the same story, exhorting the faithful to radical egalitarian charity, and promising the eternal torment of damnation for those who refuse. Thus, on a deep level, Jews, Christians, and utopian socialists, are coreligionists, and their squabbles are sectarian.
The eighteenth century was the setting for the inception of organized socialism. At the time, the apparent juggernaut of rationalism (revived in the Renaissance and culminating in the scientific method of the Enlightenment) was widely and reasonably perceived to threaten with imminent collapse the traditional religious faiths of Europe. Because traditional religious faith is, at heart, open belief in the plainly preposterous, this was only natural. Moreover, because traditional religion is transmitted chiefly by authoritative speech, and fails without it, it was particularly vulnerable to Enlightenment rejection of authority. The perception of a threat was particularly pronounced among the intelligentsia, who most thoroughly embraced the tenets of the Enlightenment. People with a psychological appetite satisfied by traditional faith were thus receptive to an equipotent replacement, one that was not immediately vulnerable to demolition by Enlightenment rationalism, naturalism, and libertarianism.
Enter socialism, appealing to this appetite, conceived and promoted by men who shared this appetite, and who moreover were intensely conscious of the rationalist threat by dint of residence in the social heart of the Enlightenment. Consistent with this account, the embryo of socialism came out of Renaissance Italy, borne by the Sozzinis. Utopian socialism is a sort of ark amidst the flood of rationalism, harmonizing with the Enlightenment's theme of progressive improvement of mankind, and keeping alive certain fundamental themes and promises of the Abrahamic tradition, including the premise that deaths have spiritually redemptive power for the dead and living alike. For a movement advertised as supremely reasonable and skeptical, it is a sharp irony that the parents of socialism — the “Idealists”, particularly Kant and Hegel — are to this day considered key figures of the Enlightenment, and the Sozzinis and their Brethren are credited with spurring its birth.
Those who have joined their movement hew steadfastly to the conceit that they are paragons of reasoned enlightenment. They have come to sneer with dismissive contempt at “religion”, and this attitude is the basis of a crucial self-protection mechanism within the fanciful meme complex — Edenism — with which they are infected. Indeed, the very man who coined the term “meme” (Richard Dawkins) is a prominent member of the movement. He is apparently oblivious that his meme mechanism explains Edenism, and his obliviousness underscores the effectiveness of the self-protection mechanism. The sheer obviousness of the movement's many blunt counterfactualities (regarding biology and economics, for example) further underscores the mechanism's effectiveness. Natural psychological constraints prevent most adherents from undertaking even an abstract consideration of whether their belief system shares any of the definitive characteristics of a religion. Likewise, they react with angry hostility to a suggestion that a tenet or cause within their movement has the character of “religion”. In their conception, “religion” and its hallmarks are for fools, and a self-styled and self-congratulatory intellectual and moral elite can't imagine that it is, in essence, grievously foolish and indeed wicked. They wage an intellectual war of attrition by applying the methods of criticism to all beliefs and institutions except their own, and do not even attempt to explain why they exempt their own beliefs. Such introspective inquiry and criticism is simply taboo, though unwitting self-criticism does regularly emerge, as in socialist George Orwell's 1984, wherein the term “thoughtcrime” first appeared.
The Edenic movement is but one branch of the utopian tree, that family of ethical systems that envision “perfection of the human character” (as Thomas Jefferson summarized Adam Weishaupt's view of the gospel of Jesus Christ). In principle, perfection is intrinsically hostile to freedom, since freedom can only be exercised as change, and a change in something perfect ruins the perfection. In any case, from the poisonous, infectious fiction that the character and conditions of consciousness can be made pure and flawless spring the Indo-European afterlife promise (e.g. moksha/nirvana, Valhalla), the Zoroastrian-Abrahamic afterlife myths (the familiar promise of a heaven of effortless plentiful bliss), and the Edenic agitation for earthly paradise. The former two are explicitly attained through death, and the latter third — the bringing of heaven, the canonical realm of the dead, to earth, the actual land of the living — is in practice inextricably associated with death on a cataclysmic scale.
Death is the predictable companion of rebellion against the physical laws of nature. It is philosophically defensible to hold that the design of the universe (its physical rules and conditions) supplies a definition of what is perfect. That the universe has such a design (physical rules) is a central finding of science. Granting this, the only logically defensible concept of perfection is one articulated in the language of, and harmonious with, those physical rules. But we can't know those rules with absolute certainty, and the rules as we understand them rule out the possibility of absolute certainty on any question. Thus, those who promote the pursuit of absolute perfection must invent the precise form of that perfection, at fundamental variance with the physically possible. Those who pursue such invented ideologies waste humanity on fools' errands, to varying degrees.
Utopian socialism, anarchism, and libertarianism are actually all aspects of the same Edenic movement. All three are centered on the promise that constraints on hedonic personal behavior will be released. They are also all philosophies that give priority to thoughts (ideals) over nature — to the worshipping of abstract idols. Socialism distinguishes itself with a promise that personal responsibility (chiefly for the security and welfare of oneself and one's family) will be released — in its utopian strain, this promised release is universal. For the authentically liberal-minded, this is particularly appalling: the principle that personal freedom must be accompanied by personal responsibility, likewise asserts that avoidance of personal responsibility will be accompanied by the loss of personal freedom (modus tollens). This leads us to fascism, also part of the Edenic movement, exhibiting radical philosophical idealism. It envisions the forcible molding of society and its members into an Edenic form, through the abrogation of independent hedonic initiative and unleashing of collective hedonic initiative. Utopia can also be framed as a condition in which everyone gets what he wants — simplistically, the realization of the hedonist's dream — but this construction drains “want” of all meaning with respect to the individual (since wants freely chosen will always be knotted in existential conflict), leaving only the phantasm of unitary collective want imagined by Hegel (as “World Spirit”). Thus can fascism's extinction of individual initiative be restated — indeed, thus can nirvana be restated.
Each branch of the Edenic movement has its own characteristic deontological degeneration: libertarians tend to believe that that which is permitted should be done and therefore that disapproval is tantamount to proscription, anarchists that everything is permitted and nothing is required, fascists that that which is permitted is required and that which is not required is forbidden, and socialists that no one who is idle can be required to take responsibility for himself but that anyone who is able must be required to take responsibility for others.
The earliest expressions of socialism were overtly and explicitly revolutionary — as in the programs of the Sozzinis, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Jacobins, Robert Owen, and (to a lesser degree) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Anarchism and fascism are, of course, usually framed in overtly revolutionary terms. The revolutionary character of utopian socialism inevitably remains, but most socialists now hide it from plain view, out of political and psychological expedience. But in the fascist socialist regimes of the Third World, revolutionary rhetoric is still commonly used by those in power.
In the United States, socialism is usually called “liberalism” or “progressivism” (It is important to differentiate the “liberalism” of Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), even though it led promptly to the pacifistic libertarianism/anarcho-capitalism of Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) and its attendant symbiosis with the “liberalism” of the socialists.) Socialism has many fellow travellers: through variation and extension, and through combination with anarchism and libertarianism, it developed into a zoo of -isms, featuring communism, syndicalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, libertarian socialism, and democratic socialism.
All of these movements, including the liberalism of von Mises and other reform movements besides, are historically associated with the “left”, i.e. with the left side of the National Assembly of Jacobin era France, while those sitting on the right side of the chamber were proponents of monarchy and royal patronage (a political alignment that is, at least superficially, long since deceased as an advancing movement). Socialists in the modern era falsely associate free market principles and universal private property rights with the “right” (and bristle at proponents of these principles), while beavering away to cryptically reinstitute a feudalism reminiscent of the old French right (the “ancien régime”). Ronald Reagan, often derided unfairly as a vacuous showman, once observed along these exact lines, “if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories”. Ludwig von Mises himself observed, in his introduction to Liberalism, that the “liberalism” of England had by 1927 come to more closely resemble “Toryism and socialism” than free market classical liberalism.
The influence of Edenism has broadly corrupted the Western academy, notably including the judiciary and journalism. (See, e.g., “Forbidden Knowledge”, from Science 2005-Feb-11.) The scientific method of Renaissance and Enlightenment naturalism, wherein intellectuals work in service to demonstrable truth and utility, has been largely replaced by the utopian zeal of Enlightenment idealism, wherein thoughts, programs, and results, are accepted or rejected, continued or arrested, published or buried, based on their harmony with Edenic principles. Having created a market for intellectual accreditation, and having secured a monopoly position therein, the academy now systematically and zealously imposes this degenerate idealism on the world's youth, and often demands outrageous fees for the privilege of their sanctification.
Academics and jurists share some important circumstances: employment and salary that are largely unresponsive to performance, and status that is mostly a function of the opinions others have of them. Free markets share none of these circumstances: employment is at mutual will, bonuses and raises (and often profit-sharing) reward performance, and status is largely determined by the contribution one's work makes to market performance. Thus, academia and the judiciary have institutionalized alienation from the free market. Journalists, for their part, are just chronically underpaid, with very limited potential for amelioration, and their stock in trade is working to please their readers while exerting influence over them. In academia proper, particularly at elite levels, principals are locked into a draining competitive cycle, vying for limited publication slots in prestigious journals, and for limited funding from granting agencies and entities. This naturally engenders a yearning for something simple and easy, to rescue them from — essentially — themselves and their mutual fur-flying competition. While for-profit business involves competition of similar intensity, there the rewards of competitive success are commensurate with the efforts, and one's fate is determined by one's paying customers wherever one finds them, rather than by the hallowed judgements of regimented peers.
The idealist academic purports to command reality — this is, in large part, the allure idealism has for the academic. Outside scholarly journals (and to a degree, even within them), authority is the currency of the academic, reinforced by eternally recurring throngs of subservient students. But the practical effect of idealism is to rob the academic of his intellectual freedom: in familiar terms, research must be “politically correct” else it is taboo. Obviously, the term “politically correct” prejudges the epistemological supremacy of a particular ideology (often some variety of socialism and almost always Edenism in some form), and is thus, in itself, an abomination to Enlightenment naturalism. This is what Richard Feynman called “cargo cult science”; it is tremendously unhealthy for the academy, and hence for civilization at large. In those sectors of academia that are capital-intensive — most notably, the sciences — research is almost entirely funded by government grants, and is shaped to appeal to the grant evaluators. In the life sciences, research directed at developing treatments for diseases and disabilities, and prolongation of life, are far more prevalent than good scientific practice would dictate. In any field with an arguable link to putative anthropogenic (industry-caused) climate change, researchers are awarded generous grants for tailoring (nay, distorting and concocting) their research to fit and promote the urgent new orthodoxy. In general, the abject dependence of these career scientists on the research dole naturally affects their political and philosophical sympathies. Many of them are nothing more than sophisticated intellectual prostitutes.
The very mission of the academy has been largely undermined: originally a meritocratic intellectual vanguard (in its own view, if not always in reality), it is now — particularly in the humanities and social sciences — viewed chiefly as seat of social power that is rightfully subject to democratic and minority representation, albeit with no representation at all of those who dissent from idealist orthodoxy. Students in the humanities are often confronted with formal evaluations driven not by their and their professors' legitimate acumen, but by highly subjective processes that reward the obedient and conformant and frustrate the defiant, independent, and original.
The academy envisions a similar conversion — from meritocracy to orthodoxical democracy — of all seats of social power, with an emphasis on government and industry. In this vein, academic Clinton confidant Derek Shearer promotes utopian socialism under the banner “economic democracy”. It is almost superfluous to note that most career government bureaucrats and law enforcement agents, throughout the Western world, believe their job is to translate Edenic principles into coercive government policy, even while there may very well be not a one among them with any conscious awareness that these principles in large part derive genetically from the Eden myth. This attitude is commonly termed “paternalism”.
The various utopian forms of socialism commonly center, implicitly and imperatively, on the premise that deliverance (from deprivation, despondency, mortality, etc.) can be attained through purely social mechanisms — elimination of bad actors and dissenters, galvanizing of zeal for the orthodoxy — with no ideological accommodation of the indispensability of economically productive action and the unfettered capacity of the institutions on which that action is predicated. In its essence, the utopian socialists' program is to build a world out of collective make-believe. Due to this intellectual vacuity, they must invariably institutionalize violent subjugation and disfranchisement of their political critics and opponents — a category that relentlessly grows to encompass, eventually, all people everywhere, including erstwhile socialists. This pattern is particularly exasperating when they couple it, as they often do, with rhetoric extolling peace (often in abstract or existential terms), and decrying, as wicked, all military readiness and engagement, and indeed, individual readiness for self-defense.
Whereas free marketeers believe (observe) that the world of humanity can be made better (more prosperous, more enduring) through the rational effort of self-interested individuals, utopian socialists believe the world will be perfect once they get their act just right — once everyone has learned the lines and recites them perfectly, and every spoiler has been booted off the stage. In this mold, Barack Obama declared in his November 2008 victory speech that “Our union can be perfected”, and the New York Times Web site asked in an ephemeral headline on 2008-Nov-14, “Will Obama Script Include Clinton?”. Indeed, to a greater degree than any of its precedents, the Obama presidency is participatory performance art and mass media stagecraft. The thinking of the Massachusetts Puritans was also along these very lines, as suggested by John Winthrop's “City on a Hill” motif. Rigid intolerance of impiety naturally follows from acceptance of several signature Genesis tales: impiety and disobedience prompting the God of Eden to expel Adam and Eve therefrom, Noah and the Flood whereby God purged wickedness from the world of mankind, and the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah, for holding that “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” (according to the Mishnah Abot, chapter 5, tenth saying), or because they “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
The utopians have a deep-seated disdain for the world as it actually is (and often wallow in self-pity for being condemned to live in it), since they always compare it to their vaunted (and quite impossible) perfect world. In their view, if things are wretched in the meantime, that's just an acceptable price to pay for perfection. Indeed they tend to systematically and relentlessly trumpet (and indeed, spread) the sharpest miseries of reality, instilling an emotional gradient that fosters zeal for the utopian program. And, matching this, they have a tendency toward self-flagellatory misery which has much, probably everything, in common with the sacrificial rituals and renunciational disciplines of the various religions of antiquity. Congruent with this zealous attention to misery is the deliberate pervasion of guilt. The prosperous who believe prosperity is a sin will be ready, if not necessarily eager, to pay taxes on their prosperity. They will believe they are thereby making amends, or at least are securing the situations they enjoy. This functions to fuel the utopian engine.
The free market, with its component rights of private property and enterprise, is a competitive system that meets the same instinctual appetites as the system of warfare and coercive subjugation that dominated most earlier civilizations, but channels those aspects of human nature into productive, constructive efforts. Abolition of the free market — a central objective of utopian socialism — does not abolish the instinct to compete, it simply forces that instinct to exhaust itself in warfare, subjugation, and corruption. This is amply confirmed by the history and present condition of actual utopian socialist regimes. It is symptomatic of the utopians' utter arrogance that they believed, and still believe, that their social constructions will be exempt from the dictates of nature.
The utopian socialist program pivots on the feasibility of a consistently and perpetually just government as a mechanism whereby the human condition is progressively perfected. Thus, when a utopian socialist excoriates actual government policy or conduct that is, in his view, wrong — as they are wont to do, as noted above — he announces his recognition that governments are fallible and morally frail, to some definite degree, and so implicitly advertises the infeasibility of his own program. It is fatuous for him to allege that his government will be exempt from the defects that have characterized all actual governments.
Socialism is routinely depicted by its critics, and by some of its proponents, as an attempt to overcome human nature. This only hints at the true opposition of utopianism to nature. Not only humans, but in fact, all naturally evolved lifeforms, and any possible viable artificial lifeforms, are constitutionally incompatible with utopian socialism. The laws of economics are not cultural artifacts, they are facts of nature reflected in the adaptations of life. Thus utopian socialists stand not just in opposition to human nature, but implacably, to life itself. The utopian socialist views vigorous competitive life as the enemy, and views mankind as the most alive. Subduing the liveliness of mankind — often, snuffing the lives of men — is integral to his utopian objective. Socialists of various stripes fancy themselves champions of the poor, and seek to alleviate poverty through systematic depredation of those who are not poor. Depredation is bad enough on its face, but even worse, it inevitably results in hostility toward those who are not poor, among the poor and particularly among the socialists, because it is psychologically impossible to sustain a campaign of depredation against a group — depredation in which coercion and force are intrinsic — without developing and sustaining hostility toward that group. But, of course, by definition (given even a modicum of rule of law) almost all the economic productivity and success of humanity inheres in those who are not poor, so hostility to them cannot but be hostility to productivity and success.
The modern Edenic movement is a natural consequence of mankind's recognition that it is the singularly preeminent species on the planet, and the mistaken conclusion of some that mankind is therefore not subject to any significant threat from outside the species, predatory or otherwise — that indeed, mankind has become like the God of its scriptures. Mankind's situation is like that of a species isolated on an island with no natural predators — such species consistently lose the instincts that subserve expansion and outwardly directed self-defense, because the evolutionary pressures to expand and defend are absent. Instincts associated with squabbling and infighting over limited and contentious sexual and material resources survive full force. Socialists on the island of Earth show a similar trajectory, though it is doubtless due largely to cultural evolution, rather than Darwinian hereditary evolution. But in societies that implement genocidal socialism (Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia, etc.), to some degree this trajectory may in fact be made hereditary.
Many socialists amend the island formula by viewing mankind as an imminent threat to itself and to the island it inhabits — a self-fulfilling prophecy, in any case. A microcosm of this theme is the United States, viewed universally as insurmountably powerful. Socialists in the United States instinctually and habitually make common cause with enemies of the United States — the Soviet Union, Castro's Cuba, Islamists in Iran, etc. — believing they will thereby gain domestic political advantage (and also because these enemies purport to share the philosophy of the socialists), and with no concern whatever that actual calamity might therefore befall the United States — indeed, inviting such calamity, believing the United States to be existentially evil, and its sacrificial destruction a necessary precondition for their fulfillment. Notably, when exogenous threats materialize within previously isolated islands, indigenous island populations often go extinct.
Utopians often exude the smug superiority of the devout whose faith promises them and only them fulfillment. They frequently couple this with schadenfreude regarding those who dissent from their faith. They plan for the near term, while obstinately blind to the long term, because they have a religious faith that the attainment of perfection in the near term obviates responsibility for the long term. They have a business model. It can be summed up in three words, “something for nothing” (the something is what they take, and the nothing is the value they deliver, though usually this is on margins, not totals). In fact, it can be summed up in one word: cheating. In recent years it has been exemplified by Enron (c.f., e.g., Kurt Eichenwald's Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (Broadway, 2005) and McLean and Elkind's The Smartest Guys in the Room (Portfolio, 2003)), by the NASDAQ close at 5048.62 on 2000-Mar-10 (on 2002-Oct-9, the NASDAQ closed at 1114.11), and (to stretch the case a little) by the leaky $14.6 billion I-93 tunnel under Boston. Carbon dioxide emission cap-and-trade rackets reinstitute Enron's conspiracies, but this time as government policy (violently coerced), and girded by the fervent theology of Edenism. If this racket were to be actually implemented nationally or globally, the economic carnage would dwarf those of Enron and dot bomb combined, and probably rival the carnage of Social Security collapse.
Social Security (1935-) and Medicare (1965-) are the two preeminent examples of the utopian socialist business model in the US. They owe their heritage to Italian immigrant Charles Ponzi. In 1920 Ponzi introduced an investment scheme in Boston that amounts to an expanding game of musical chairs, in which one must buy a chair for someone else in order to join the game, the price of a chair is ever rising (so that eventually, it will be unaffordable), the last people to join the game never get a chair, the number of players always far exceeds the number chairs, and none of the players create anything of worth by way of participation.
Utopians are wishful thinkers par excéllence. They believe in building houses out of ostensibly good intentions. They choose their actions because (1) the immediate results please them, and (2) they find within their beliefs a rationale for the actions. They believe the rationales make their actions reasonable, they avoid countervailing thoughts (in particular, countervailing beliefs), and they expect others to do the same. When substantively criticized, they often condemn the critics as “name callers” engaging in “personal attacks” — utopians' flimsy proxies whereby they condemn judgement per se (evidently too obvious a self-contradiction to be spoken aloud, or thought, plainly and consciously). They cultivate and practice an enduring denial of the many obvious faults and failures apparent whenever and wherever their programs are put into practice. They persist in their rationally insupportable convictions in large part because the expectation of sublime reward is itself pleasurable, and doubting one's cherished convictions is inherently painful. Because utopianism is so militantly shallow, and because of the inherent contradictions among the practical mechanisms on which the various utopian objectives are predicated, and furthermore because the wage of earnest utopianism is economic ruin, utopians all exhibit breathtaking hypocrisy and self-contradiction. Their chief protection from charges of hypocrisy is their refusal to spell out their principles (“Yes we can!”, cried the Obamanistas, but their slogan scrupulously omitted their position and aims). Their self-contradiction is unsurprising in any case because of the philosophical and practical dissonance of the paradise concept with the predicates of viable life. In short, Utopia is no-place, so to exist while espousing Utopia is intrinsically hypocritical.
Utopian socialism is, in a word, self-defeating.