This is a tale of a shocking discussion with a young man, one who is about 19 or 20 years old. It’s a disconcerting tale because the young man is brilliant, but has been taken in by a terrifying right-wing narrative that will not only endanger the country, but create a permanent underclass relegated to indentured servitude.
If progressives do not find a method and narrative to reach those newly indoctrinated by a corrosive ideology, the demise of our path to an egalitarian society is doomed.
I was sitting in Starbucks, my usual blogging spot, when a young man came and sat next to me. During the prior few weeks, he displayed an interest in appearing on my radio show Politics Done Right to discuss his conservative point of view. I love entertaining different points of view, especially if they are consistent.
Conservatism isn't inherently wrong. It is a matter of whether we want to be constrained by the rules of any given ideology. If you want small government and are willing to live in a country where "we the people" render control to the owners of capital, then it is not wrong or right, but simply your preference. Inconsistent positioning, however, is untenable. It’s even worse when one builds their position on lies they fell for via specific methods of indoctrination.
The young man is a very hard worker. He does not mind the hard work because he sees it as not taking handouts, with the expectation of self-sufficiency. The man does not realize that his ideological position will relegate him to permanently treading water.
Two scary narratives came out in our discussion. The first is that he believes a high school diploma has become worthless—not because new technology requires a better-trained workforce, but because too many people have it, which makes it useless. He fell for the trick of applying supply and demand to every aspect of life. In fact, he said that when people have less education than a high school diploma, it’s more valuable.
The sad part about that argument is that it is partially correct, but wrongheaded. An economy based on unneeded or false scarcity is at best inefficient and at best immoral (i.e. paying farmers not to grow, or the government buying up overages of cheese, milk, and other products).
It is clear that the right is seeking a less-educated populace through its policies. They likely figure they can control the uneducated more easily as automation and robotics make many jobs irrelevant to humans.
The part of his pathology that got to me was the second part of our dialogue. He was very anti-government, desiring that the private sector control mostly everything. I asked him what he thought about oil companies making profits on a substance they did not create. Shouldn't the U.S. Treasury be the beneficiary of most of the gains after they extract the oil? He said no.
I explained that the Treasury getting the excess profits would be for the gain of we, the people. He said he/she who extracts it, owns it. I disagreed, but offered a proffer: let the government remove the oil. In that way, under his tenet, “we the people” would own the oil and all profits would go to the Treasury to make the lives of all better, instead of a few. I made him think, but he was not convinced. I closed the conversation by asking him to answer—not right then, but when he went home and slept on it.
If he believes that whoever extracts owns the resource and only those with substantial capital can do so but the government (or we the people) could do the same, why is that a problem? Isn't he giving those wealthy few the inherent right to pilfer us all?
The young man did not have a satisfactory answer, but promised he would return with a response. I cannot wait to hear it.
This young man did not learn what we discussed from Fox News. Instead, he mentioned several right-wingers he listens to, some of whom I have never heard of at all. But they are indoctrinating a willing audience.
It takes a lot of work and patience to talk to guys like this young gentleman. But ultimately, it is the only solution in our repertoire.