CultureWatch

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Beware Green Utopianism

Aug 24, 2010

With a newly elected Green MP, and four more Green Senators set to join the existing five in July, the nation and the media are beginning to pay some attention to the Greens as a political force. And many are rightly saying that with this new found political clout comes responsibility.

That is, all the lavish rhetoric and utopian spin of the Greens now needs to fit in with the real world. Idyllic rants shouted in protest must now give way to some political realism as the tough stuff of governance is entered into. But that will not come readily.

With such a long history of the rhetoric of revolt, getting back down to planet earth is not going to be easy, and will likely not come very quickly. Consider the acceptance speech of the Melbourne Green when he was elected on Saturday. A friend and I were listening to him and we broke out laughing.

He said, “We need more love in this world, not less”. Thanks for that Adam Bandt – that should solve all our problems in a hurry. Of course what he meant by that is we need more homosexual love, since on top of his priority list is same-sex marriage.

Indeed, he sounded like some old hippy spaced out on LSD as he rambled on about how all we need is love, love, love. Yeah, that is the stuff modern politics is made of all right – utopian hippy-isms. But that is really what the Greens are all about – a bunch of aging hippies, idealists and utopians who think they will somehow usher in heaven on earth with mindless platitudes.

Those cynical about the present state of Australian politics might welcome such romanticism, idealism, and starry-eyed vision for a new world order. But the problem is, there is nothing new under the sun, and we have seen utopians come and go for a number of centuries now. And the historical record is not looking too good.

Utopianism usually fails miserably, and/or imposes huge costs on the hapless victims of it. The Greens’ blueprint for utopia falls into this very category. Thus we need to learn the lessons of history here. Instead of becoming the guinea pigs of their social experimentation, let’s recall the lessons of the past.

Many have written about the utopian urge and its consequences. I have pulled a few older volumes off my shelves, blown off the dust, and revisited their words of wisdom. The first book worth highlighting is Thomas Molnar’s 1967 volume, Utopia: The Perennial Heresy.

In this important book the Hungarian-born Catholic social thinker rightly argues that utopianism is always heretical; and that in at least two senses. Says Molnar, “utopia is to the political realm what heresy is to the theological”. The idea of human perfectibility without Christ is of course heretical, and it also flies in the face of political reality.

It is a political nonsense and a Christian heresy. This is because the utopians ignore political reality, human nature, and theological truth. They think that man is malleable and perfectible, and it is only corrupt societies keeping mankind from evolving into a perfect order.

Denying the core biblical doctrine of the Fall, the utopians believe in “an unspoiled beginning and attainable perfection,” – all by human effort alone, of course. Men can be free if we break the chains society put upon us, they believe. So they are forever seeking to remake society to create the perfect world order.

The word ‘utopia’ is Greek for ‘no place’. Quite so, for nowhere on earth will a Christless utopia ever be found. It will be attempted often – and it has been – but utopia is not the right word to describe the actual outcome. Attempts to create the New Man as in Marxism, or to create a pristine, spotless environment, as in radical environmentalism, are always doomed to failure.

Creating the perfect society by creating the perfect individual is the utopian’s quest. Says Molnar, “the very foundations of the human situation are precisely what utopians would like to uproot and reconstruct. In this sense, utopian thinkers fully deserve to be called ‘radical’ because their reconstruction of society and man demand total re-thinking about God and creation.”

But in this quest for perfection, the only way the desired outcome can come about is through enforcement, which leads, in turn, “both to loss of freedom for the members of the community and unlimited power and pride for the rulers – the Elect.”

Indeed, at “utopia’s roots there is defiance of God, pride unlimited, a yearning for enormous power and the assumption of divine attributes with a view to manipulating and shaping mankind’s fate.”

There are plenty more nuggets to be gleaned from Molnar, but I want to focus a bit further on this theme of enforcement and coercion. Erich and Rael Jean Isaac have written an entire book about this. I refer to their helpful 1983 volume, The Coercive Utopians.

This is how they begin their volume: “Most of the diverse groups we will describe are utopian because they assume that man is perfectible and the evils that exist are the product of a corrupt social system. They believe that an ideal social order can be created in which man’s potentialities can flower freely. They are ‘coercive’ because in their zeal for attaining an ideal order they seek to impose their blueprints in ways that go beyond legitimate persuasion.”

They note how the utopians especially target the economic system, which they think is deeply flawed. Thus the free market is the chief enemy of the utopians. But other aspects are also in their sights: “The utopians do more than reject our economic institutions: ultimately, their attack is directed against modern technology and science itself. In a very real sense, the coercive utopians are twentieth century Luddites.”

Hey, this is sounding more and more like the modern day Greens. And like the Greens, all utopians seek to harness the power of the state to achieve their ends. They have “accommodated their vision to a powerful central government, run by themselves, as an intermediate state.”

They close their book in this fashion: “And while they cannot build Utopia, ‘dystopia,’ the antithesis of Utopia, men have the power to create”. They quote a Czechoslovak student who said during the 1960s while visiting the US, “You simply haven’t faced up to the fact that you can’t build a Utopia without terror, and that before long, terror is all that’s left.”

Or as G.K. Chesterton put it back in 1908: “The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.” That seems to be a pretty good description of where we are heading in Australian politics, especially as the Greens take control of the Senate next year.

Utopianism has always been with us. Sadly it seems we have not learned from their mistakes. Thus it looks like we are set to make them all over again real soon.

[1184 words]

36 Responses to Beware Green Utopianism

  • How do the Greens want to achieve Utopia? With money. Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax.

    – Introduce a new “wealth tax” of 50% on the highest incomes
    – Increase company tax to 33% from 30%
    – Introduce death duties / estate tax
    – Abolish private health insurance rebate
    – Introduce progressive rates of superannuation tax
    – Bring back the 40% super profits tax on the mining sector

    Yes, money (in the hands of the Government) will solve all the world’s problems.

    Jereth Kok

  • Thanks Jereth

    According to this report the Greens will bombard us with at least 40 new taxes! http://www.ipa.org.au/library/greenpolicies.pdf

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’m reminded of Whittaker Chambers “Witness” where he tells the story of a man who was a Marxist until he visited the Soviet Union and “one night he heard screams.” Hopefully it will not come to that.
    Ed Sherman

  • Thanks Ed

    Yes, everyone should read, or re-read, Witness.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • G’day Bill,

    Great piece again. As always. I open your blog daily and am never disappointed.

    We are in for some difficult times with the ‘useful idiots’ in power in the Senate.

    A Christian’s issue with the Greens is much more significant than taxes. We have to pay them (Jesus and Paul said that) and exactly how the mix of different taxes are adopted is a matter of opinion and economics. There’s hardly a clear Christian position.

    Actually, I think that there’s a lot to be said for death duties and estate taxes. For one thing, even criminals want to own property which is clearly definable by title deeds to be transferred to others. And so the government will get a cut even of ill-gotten gain.

    Anyway, the issue is not taxes in themselves, it’s the mix of taxes for which at least I can’t see that there’s a clear Christian point of view.

    Regards

    Andrew Campbell

  • Thanks again Bill for presenting a thinking Christian worldview. I am praying for you in your role at the frontline of the culture war here in Australia. May you and your tribe increase.
    Glenn Christopherson

  • Thanks Andrew and Glenn for your kind words and support.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The ignorance of educated people defies description. Our friends in the Asian community said their peers mainly professors and the wealthy have voted for the greens because they did not like labour or liberal. I asked if they had read the Greens philosophy – sadly they had not and had only believed the rhetoric – it is all about the environment. When i pointed out that their agenda was all about same sex marriage they were horrified. Why does no one in government spit out the obvious that the Greens have agendas that have nothing to do with the environment. The Greens do not have hidden agenda they spell it out clearly on their web site.
    Why are the educated immigrants who have fled communist regimes not bother to check out who they are voting for. I recently returned from Melbourne and met many Aussies who had not checked out the Greens website. All the prayers in the world can’t counteract apathy and ignorance on our part.

    Ilona Sturla

  • Thanks Ilona

    Yes the rampant apathy and ignorance in the church is reprehensible. Much of the church not only needs to be prayed out of such a diabolical condition, but it could use a good kick in the backside as well!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ilona,

    I am one Asian who did not vote Green. In fact most of my Asian friends who have attended university vote Liberal. They were exceptional in that during our uni days, while the majority of Aussie uni students were Far Left, the Asians (who generally come from families with a good grasp of business and the economy) voted Liberal. I was the exception among them because while I was at uni I voted Labor.

    My experience is that Asians generally speaking vote along fairly similar lines to Anglo-Aussies — eastern suburb dwelling Asians vote Liberal (with the notable exception of the Box Hill area) and western suburb dwelling Asians vote Labor. The odd hip trendy inner suburban Asian will vote Green. I am speaking of Melbourne here — if you live in another city this might not mean much to you!

    Just yesterday, Adam Bandt told the media that he will give his support to Labor if they are prepared to “work with him” on 3 issues
    1. carbon emissions
    2. asylum seeker policy
    3. gay marriage

    It is just a matter of time before Labor caves in to its grass roots and supports a change to the marriage Act; I am willing to bet that it will happen during their next term of Government.
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/government-refuses-to-bend-on-gay-marriage-20090801-e4x8.html

    And then glorious utopia will be upon us at last.

    Jereth Kok

  • Everyone here has heard of the term “useful idiots”. Bill has used it very recently. I think The Greens shouldn’t be too arrogant though. What would happen if both the major parties and most of the others put them LAST on the order of preferences? I made sure I put them on the bottom on my two papers. Another friend did likewise. He too told me of people he knew that think The Greens are just about the environment. If people took more and interest in politics we may not be in the situation with a hung parliament here in Australia at the moment and over in the US Obama would not be President. But would that er McCain have been any better? Would he have been the same?
    Carl Strehlow

  • Thanks Carl

    While McCain was not my first choice for the Republican nominee, he would have been light years better than the Obamanation.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill,

    I was being just a little sarcastic.

    Sadly over there, I don’t see the Republicans are not a real opposition, sorry for stating the obvious. Having a biased Main Stream Media doesn’t help either. That is one of the big problems both in the US and in Australia. Thank God in America at least for the few Conservative talk radio stations and a few papers like the Washington Times. WorldNet Daily is one of the good websites. While some are not perfect, all are doing a good job trying to be the “forth estate”.

    Carl Strehlow

  • God is not mocked and its a long time between now and July {an especially long time in politics} We keep on praying and speaking the truth to those who will listen.
    Anna Cook

  • Thanks Bill for your voice in our nation. I have been spurred on incredibly by your commentary and detailed information that we as Christians need to be aware of.
    I even started my own campaign (sounds ominous I know!) sending out information to everyone I could on party policies so that people could make an informed choice based on correct information given, not biased assumptions as we continually hear and see on the media. Incredibly my husband and I found there were many people in the work places that voted Green simply because they didnt like either Government leader. When asked if they understood what their policies were and mentioned just a few; most were horrified and regretful of giving their vote to the Greens.
    Unfortunately people will not go looking for information about the party’s it has to be put in front of their faces, the media campaign puts too much emphasis on personal attack and not enough on individual party policies. I would love to see a detailed party policy information list sent to every household prior to upcoming elections. Too many times we hear the phrase “I’m over it” from people not interested. This is very frustrating for those who want their votes to make a difference.
    Tracey Baker

  • Well done Tracey

    Yes there are a lot of apathetic and misinformed voters out there – even many in the churches. Keep up the great work.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, I’ve just heard of a new DVD: SOCIALISM: A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. This documentary is rated very highly at
    http://www.movieguide.org/dvd-releases/8/10258-socialism-a-clear-and-present-danger. Incidentally, movieguide.org, a source of reviews of movies from a Christian perspective, is now FREE.

    Utopium:

    Some in the church have a tendency to endorse practicing homosexuals and to major on the social-gospel rather than calling for repentance and righteousness to exalt a nation. This is the utopian heresy, the opium of the masses, that mankind is essentially good, rather than inherently fallen.

    But even those who are straight and argue the biblical case against homosexuality often fail to follow through with a completely biblical argument. E.g. Peter Jensen at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=557 has no effective counter to Roger Magnuson attack at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=558, who wrote: ‘For those who accept biblical authority, there is, despite Jensen, plenty to argue about. Romans 1:26-27 seems pretty clear in its condemnation of men who “burn with passion for each other”. But Genesis 1 is equally, and literally, clear that the world was created in just 7 days.’

    Here, many misguided Christians shoot Christianity in the head by tacitly conceding that the Bible is wrong – and the atheists love it! Richard Dawkins in one place said: ‘Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual. Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad!’

    Yet elsewhere Dawkins commends Christians for honesty in admitting that the Bible is wrong. Another atheist, Eugenie Scott said: ‘One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day! … What we [such clergy and atheists] have in common is that we want to see evolution taught in the public schools … ’.
    Hmm, the term Useful Idiot may apply here to those who follow the Green Utopium agenda.

    Peter Newland

  • Terry McCrann thinks the problem is with our preferential voting system that seems to give more power to the Greens amongst others;

    ‘The preferential voting system is the ultimate electoral free kick. You can vote for the Greens – or the Sex Party or the No-sex Party or whomever – for whatever reason; and know that your vote will still count on a later preference.

    This is very different to the situation in first-past-the-post systems. There, if you vote for a minor party, you really have to want to make a statement, knowing that your vote will not only disappear but could actually help elect the very person and party you don’t want.

    Look at the situation here. Would the Greens have got half as many votes as they did, if the second or later preference wasn’t going to flow on – back? – to the Labor Party? And therefore elect Abbott with a thumping majority?

    There’s an added, more subtle factor. You can vote Green – or one of the other loonies – and not fear you’ll actually end up with their policies being implemented.

    Yet despite this freest of free kicks, 82 per cent of supposedly ‘disillusioned’ voters still gave their first preferences to the two major parties; they actually wanted to vote for a real government.

    And the Greens got just 3.6 per cent more votes in the Lower House than they did last time. Sure that’s an extra 500,000. But still just one-in-14 opting to take the free kick via the Greens.’

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/terry-mccranns-column/its-a-result-quite-like-any-other/story-e6frfig6-1225909616882

    Damien Spillane

  • Great article, as per usual, Bill. But check out your definition for the Greek word ‘utopia’. Your gloss of ‘no place’ would come from the Greek a+topia = no place. Utopia, I believe comes from the Greek eu+topia = good place.
    Steve Swartz

  • Thanks Steve

    Topos is clear enough = place. But it depends if we use ou = not (thus no place) or eu = good (thus good place). Both can be used, but it was Thomas More of course who coined the term, and he used the former. So I was going back to his source. His book Utopia is still available and is still a good read.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Latest news is that the Coalition votes in the closest seats are edging forward.

    And when the independents and the Green fellow put forward laughable bargaining points, it becomes easier to sideline them in public, expose their radical and futile agenda, and ignore their influence in the Parliament.

    So like Daniel, who could see the 70 years ending, let’s keep praying.

    John Angelico

  • “Actually, I think that there’s a lot to be said for death duties and estate taxes. For one thing, even criminals want to own property which is clearly definable by title deeds to be transferred to others. And so the government will get a cut even of ill-gotten gain.”

    Andrew, we certainly need to debate the kinds of taxes, and here I can’t agree with you. There are already criminal asset confiscation laws in place to deal with that aspect.

    Estate taxes, probate and death duties have had the effect of killing off the inheritance of businesses and shifting retirement planning towards private assets (residential home, private residential investment property, superannuation).

    This has a debilitating effect upon business development and continuation – especially within families, as a business founder will rarely take a son or daughter into the business these days (which is a separate issue).

    S/he is more likely to sell out to a large conglomerate which will absorb the bits it wants and discard the rest (witness the National Foods consolidation of its cheese factories, with a possible loss of over 600 jobs).

    This works against the economic thrust of many proverbs about passing on a good inheritance to one’s children and grandchildren, or of leaving enough to ensure they have sufficient to fulfill their filial duties to support parents.

    A complex issue, for sure.

    John Angelico

  • I can echo the sentiments of many contributors who know well meaning people that had no idea of what the Greens are all about. I was also appalled by the constant outcry that “Labor and Liberal are the same”. Nothing could be further from the truth when we have two leaders with such completely opposite values. The cautious campaign style of Gillard and Abbott may have been similar but that’s about all.
    Peter Coventry

  • Well the Greens may be in Federally but we need to do what we can to stop them getting more representation in Victoria. it was the Greens who introduced the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 which was passed and a euthanasia bill which was defeated, but they will be trying again to get a euthanasia bill through.

    We need to stop bleating about how bad things are and do something positive by getting behind the good politicians and candidates. go to http://www.lifevote.org.au
    for information about politicians who voted for and against the Abortion Law reform bill, make sure you vote pro life. You can make campaign donations to pro life pollies, hand out how to vote cards for pro life pollies, not just vote for them, they need your help in many ways.

    Patricia Madigan

  • “it was the Greens who introduced the Abortion Law Reform” (Patricia Madigan, above). Abortion can only be supported (in my view) by people who are ultimately purely-this-worldly, ie. ultimately materialist – and Greens (I don’t know your Australian variety, of course) are usually in reality materialist in their world-view/value system, despite layers of pretence about been “spiritual” etc.
    John Thomas, UK

  • Patricia,

    Actually, it was the (Labor) State Government who introduced the Aborton Law Reform Bill 2008, not the Greens. And the Bill got through the State parliament on a conscience vote of both houses. People on both sides of politics voted in favour of it.

    Also of note, the abortion law reform was officially supported by the Anglican church in Melbourne but opposed by the Presbyterians, the Catholics and the ACL.

    Just 1 month after the abortion law reforms, the (Labor) State government introduced (and passed) the Assisted Reproduction Treatment Act which gives lesbians and gays access to IVF and surrogacy.

    Jereth Kok

  • Damien, (non-Australian voters can skip this diversion)
    the problem is not the Preferential Voting system. It is probably the best system in use. It tends to give us the government we deserve, even when it is due to voter ignorance in accepting the Above-the-Line preferences of parties who have done deals that their supporters probably would not accept: E.g. Diametrically opposed parties Family First and Australian Democrats effectively traded preferences, which resulted in the election of Senator Fielding. This example shows that ‘Voting-1-Above-the-Line’ facilitates dirty deals and should be banned. Instead we should be required to vote 1-9 or whatever above the line for Parties or, 1-99 below the line for Candidates.

    Some voters may vote for a minor party as a protest vote, not expecting that party to succeed. But we must generally assume that voters would be pleased if their first-choice candidate actually is elected.

    Now Preferential-Voting is usually better than First-Past-the-Post voting, but both systems have limitations. Consider 99 voters using the Preferential Voting system to choose between Parties A, B & C. Suppose the Parties:1/2/3 preference votes received are A:40/0/59; B:35/24/40; C:24/75/0.

    In this contrived situation: A has a handy lead, and C is significantly behind on first preferences. But consider whether Parties are ‘acceptable’ as the first OR second choice of voters. Party A is ‘acceptable’ to only 40 voters, while B is ‘acceptable’ to 59 voters, and C is ‘acceptable’ to all 99 voters!

    Yet both First-Past-the-Post and Preferential-Voting systems will eliminate Party C, and elect B with 59 votes, compared to A with 40 votes. In practice, while both methods have serious flaws, Preferential Voting is normally the more fair.

    There is a method of weighting preference votes that correctly elects the candidate or party that is most acceptable to most voters. But even the weighting method can also produce false results, which can overturn an absolute majority. So perhaps the best voting method is a weighted preference vote defaulting to First-Past-the-Post whenever a Candidate of Party has an absolute Majority on first preferences.

    If the voting is for a multi-member electorate (as in the Australian Federal Senate), Preferential Voting gives a better result because party C will have the balance of power, which is highly appropriate for a Party, which, in this contrived example, is not unpopular with anyone.

    Peter Newland

  • Quoted in Peter Newland’s post

    “Romans 1:26-27 seems pretty clear in its condemnation of men who “burn with passion for each other”. But Genesis 1 is equally, and literally, clear that the world was created in just 7 days”

    These are two completely different things. One is a description about how the world came into being. The other is saying ‘This is wrong. Don’t do it. It is bad for you and/or society. There are consequences if you continue’.

    With regard to the creation story, literality or otherwise has nothing to do with it. The facts are:
    – At some point, humans became aware of God.
    – God said ‘Don’t sin’.
    -They sinned.
    -2000 years ago there was an act of atonement for that sin by Christ.

    At some point we have to face the avalanche of evidence that points to the universe having a somewhat different beginning than that supposed by a word-literal reading of Genesis. Sorry people, but it’s the ‘elephant in the room’ in fundamentalist circles, and it’s not going anywhere.

    But the details don’t matter. We are here, we are sinners, we need forgiveness. What’s the big deal?

    David Williams

  • Hi Jereth,

    It is strictly true that people on both sides of politics voted in favour of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, but this statement is very misleading.

    There is a huge difference in the percentage of MPs from the ‘left wing’ parties compared with the ‘conservative’ parties who supported this disgusting piece of legislation. The percentage voting FOR:

    Greens: 100%
    ALP: 81%

    Liberal: 26%
    National: 20%
    DLP: 0%

    But still, it won’t do just to assume your Liberal or National MP is against the murder of babies. Find out at http://www.lifevote.org.au and vote, lobby and campaign accordingly.

    [Note these figures are for both upper and lower houses combined and exclude MPs who didn’t vote]

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Thanks David and Peter

    If you don’t mind, I might exercise a bit of editorial privilege here, and nip this particular debate in the bud, because it is quite off topic to the discussion at hand – Green utopianism. While an important debate, it has been debated plenty of times both here and elsewhere. Thanks guys.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for the clarification, Mansel.

    One of the problems with Labor is that it is dominated by EMILY’s list. In fact, non-EMILY’s list female Labor parliamentarians are rarer than hen’s teeth.

    Jereth Kok

  • First thing on Monday I wrote to my local Labor federal MP. As well as congratulating him on his re-election, in light of the fact that if Labor retains government, it may have to negotiate and bargain with the Greens to pass legislation, I specifically asked him not to capitulate to the Greens on the same sex marriage issue.

    He agrees that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, this is reflected in the Labor Party Platform agreed to at the 2009 Federal Labor Party conference. I guess he can be taken at his word, but others in his party might overrule him. Policies can be changed at the drop of a hat.

    Ross McPhee

  • Thanks Ross

    Yes they can. The numbers for SSM are already there with the Labor caucus. A Labor-Green coalition would simply speed up the inevitable. And there will be even worse to come, as the Greens agenda gets further promotion.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Jereth,

    Yes, you’re absolutely right. All 15 of the Emily’s List MPs voted in favour of killing babies right up to birth.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • I like the quote “You simply haven’t faced up to the fact that you can’t build a Utopia without terror, and that before long, terror is all that’s left.”

    We seen such utopia pursuit in Nazi Germany, in the gulag Communist Russia, China the the killing fields of Cambodia.

    All have too high view of human nature and presumed that it can be perfected.

    Jeremy Wong

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