Last time around in Part 1, I laid out one of my primary arguments against socialism and one of the primary reasons that we need to defend against it vigorously: because it destroys human lives.

Today, I’d like to go a little further and write a fairly simple piece on what I see as the chief defense we have against socialism: cultivation of the vigorous mind. One might expect grand economic theories, citing Hayek or Friedman to come first, but I think that what has to come first is much more personal: a resolve that has to be found one mind at a time. I don’t think that a nation of vigorous thinkers will ever find itself swayed by the cheap enticements of centralized control. This is a doctrine that stands in contrast to the cheap sophistication—the veneer of learning—that characterizes today’s left; something better.

Again, I’m going to offer this one in simple fashion, just a list of behaviors or habits which characterize the alert, curious, and productive mind. Vigorous individuals with vigorous minds are the best safeguard we have against the inroads of socialism.

First, the vigorous mind needs to be challenged, to encounter new types of stress and stimuli regularly. The transcendentalist Henry Thoreau spoke of this in the mid-nineteenth century and he wasn’t the first. In Walden, he wrote of the well-worn path to his cabin, comparing it to the deep ruts of the mind worn by people who seldom deviate from the comfortable or familiar. If we made this one concept alone central to our lives, I think that the logic which follows defeats the temptation of greater “help” from government.

The vigorous mind possesses filters against distraction, minutiae, and noise. In this age information saturation this is invaluable simply to cut through clutter, find what’s important, and move ahead.

Along the same lines, the vigorous mind pursues goals and priorities, giving these appropriate time daily and likely pursuing these first.

The vigorous mind recognizes the value of diversity in many areas of life. Diversity of thought forces us to challenge our own ideas. Diversity in nature safeguards against biological annihilation. Diversity in where we go and what we do simply keeps life interesting and forces consideration of alternative perspectives. Diversity in physical exercise develops a well-rounded and well-prepared body.

The vigorous mind wants to do constructive things.

The vigorous mind sees opportunity in change and in problems. One of the chief methods of winning hearts and minds by the left is simply to point to the most longstanding and recurring problems populations face, and then sell those people on government contrived and implemented solutions. These problems include wealth disparity, discrimination, and environmental change—none of which ever go away. People are far more likely to be hurt by these things if they fall in line with programs of government assistance than if they had learned to find opportunity in imperfect and unfair circumstances. This is a matter of open-mindedness versus imposed closed-mindedness. If agents of big government really cared, they’d hesitate to impose their own lack of imagination on those who soon become their wards.

The vigorous mind is optimistic. I can’t resist referencing Walden again here wherein Thoreau wrote, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour.” I’m not going to add a lot to that.

The vigorous mind isn’t pliable. This may be because it has already thought things through before encountering strange new propositions, has already established a values hierarchy against which new ideas can be tested. Those possessing vigorous minds are less likely to be swayed by the opinion of the group all around them, more likely to lead the groups in which they find themselves.

Vigorous minds seem normally associated with good health, with good exercise, and good food.

Men of vigorous minds value growth and improvement over an idealized state of being.

Normally, vigorous minds value the individual above the collective, realizing that the collective has no will, no sentience, no conscience. and no goals partable from its leaders. The individual remains the unit that can make moral, ethical, and autonomous decisions, whereas the collective may only follow decisions of its leaders.

The vigorous mind possesses an intrinsic love of learning derived from one’s own values rather than imposed.

The vigorous mind pushes its limits, like a second-grader checking out Chaucer: it’s easy to dismiss such a student as pretentious or just foolish, but we don’t know how little bits of Middle English may embed themselves in the mind, the odd questions that may arise, or the impressions that may simply result from the text’s illuminations. We should all be inclined to jump into material that is over our heads from time to time, vigorously and curiously and perhaps even purposefully leaving our own literary strongholds.

The vigorous mind gravitates toward ideas rather than people or personalities. Abstraction comes naturally to the thinker.

Finally, the vigorous mind knows to reject that which is not true. Seems almost too simple to put in writing but we’d all be a lot better off if we could adhere to it.

We perhaps rush too quickly toward immediate political goals, propelled by today’s headlines when lasting improvement needs to happen in a more fundamental and personal place.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. josephlbast

    Nicely written, carefully reasoned, and probably flattering to many armchair libertarians who wanted to be assured that they are doing the right thing by ordering another book, studying Spanish, or sending the Cato Institute $50. But I don’t think it is enough.
    Cedric’s post is better than the counsel we often got in the past from groups such as the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) to turn inward and focus perhaps solely on improving ourselves, learning more about the freedom philosophy, and maybe homeschooling our children. Give up on changing the world, certainly don’t get involved in politics, focus instead on being part of a “Remnant” that keeps the precious flame of freedom alive in a hostile world. For the past 40 years, many libertarians I know have been doing just that. And today, the nation and the world are closer to a communist catastrophe than (maybe) ever before.
    Like the FEE folks, Cedric tells us to become better thinkers, to think more clearly and for ourselves, to avoid conformity, but also (as I hear him) to convince and persuade others to do the same. To step out of our homes and churches and temples and convince others, show others how to be complete actors, choosers, and leaders. Individuals. But as I feared in my last comment on his blog, Cedric seems stingy with suggestions of concrete things to do. Now, more than ever, we need action and not contemplation; social change, not personal improvement; to charge forth, not retreat.
    This post by Cedric may inadvertently highlight the contradiction that lies at the heart of his Long March for Freedom. Is this really a bold, self-sacrificial, and very public statement of opposition to the ascendant progressive movement and its attempt to impose socialism on all of us? Or is it actually one man’s further retreat from the battlefield? The outdoors are actually Cedric’s private library. Being the Stranger everywhere he does protects him from having to actually engage with other people, or even (heaven forbid!) help organize a resistance or even join its infantry. I’m not trying to be mean. Just sayin’.
    Joy Pullman recently posted at The Federalist a list of “85 things you can do to save America.” It’s really good, here’s a link: I think she is more aware than Cedric of the real demands placed on freedom’s defenders by these trying times, and she’s worked harder than Cedric to discover what needs to be done.

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