I have heard about the Cloward-Piven strategy of the America political left for several years. It is supposedly the brain-child of those who are opposed to the existing structure of our society and political system. In brief, the idea is to overwhelm the social and governmental structures at all levels with debt, demands and crises to the point that they collapse. The traditional social structures that support individuals, families and communities fall apart, financial systems become unstable, economies break down, and governments are bankrupted. Out of the chaos and confusion of this engineered catastrophe, the left, which has been preparing to take over during the ensuing panic, would seize all power – economic and financial, educational, political, military and police, medical, industrial, agricultural, etc., allowing the ushering in of the ultimate leftist paradise. Of course, it might get a little messy, and resistance would have to be quelled quickly, and, perhaps brutally. Any bloodshed would be but the placental blood from the birth of a truly new order, an end to the old constitutional republic and the rise of a people’s republic.
As a hypothetical, academic exercise in utopia-building, Cloward-Piven is interesting. It could never happen in the real world because there are too many entrenched interests with conflicting and competing goals. Conspiracy theories are usually wrong because the alleged conspirators would never be able to cooperate sufficiently to implement a unified agenda.
Besides, the stake-holders in a Cloward-Piven-type conspiracy would have to be dumber than posts not to see that a planned breakdown would not go as planned. There would be too much feedback. Social structures tend to be self-perpetuating and self-healing. This is true of families and religious organizations as well as bureaucracies, informal networks as well as formal ones. They can be disrupted, but, like a wounded biological entity, they want to put themselves back together, re-integrate, heal and revive even if it means suffering and scarring or a degree of disfigurement.
Free market forces are not perfect. Sometimes the wisdom of the crowd is pretty foolish. Those who think perfection is possible – and they are idiots however high their IQs and however lauded their academic achievements – latch onto the imperfections and slack in free markets among free people. They are certain they can clean up the system and make it tighter and more efficient. They need to restrict freedom just a little, have more control, and get the right people into place to run things. When these efforts not only fail but make things orders of magnitude worse, they complain that they didn’t have enough control. Those who consider themselves the elite insist that recalcitrant and reactionary segments of the population sabotaged them, that they were targeted and resisted by political opponents, by Luddites and Christians and racists and other undesirables.
The true believers in the Singularity, in Socialism, in the upward, progressive march of human history will never accept that their vision of compulsory freedom through central planning won’t work. They believe they can remold human nature, forgetting that the mold they use is their own human nature, idealized and whitewashed.
I am a little pessimistic in the short-term, because the demagogues and dimwits running things at the moment know not what they do. I’m optimistic long-term, though, because the desperate and delusional who think they are running things right now know not what they do. They are going to be burned with their own fire. What comes out of the ashes, we can’t predict. God knows.