Orwell's Flaws


Liam Julian points them out:

Orwell, to put it kindly, does not win the Nostradamus award for prescience. Nor does he win an award for enlightened public policy. At one point, he pressed for capping individual incomes in Britain such that no person would earn more than ten times the salary of the lowest-paid worker. An unworkable plan, obviously, and that Orwell would suggest it betrays an ignorance of politics, policy, and human nature. It also betrays an ignorance of Frédéric Bastiat’s wisdom about the relationship between liberty and equality viz, that mandating the latter will always destroy the former. Orwell advocated nationalizing not a few things, too: all major industry, all agricultural land, and all privately run schools. It is striking that the author of 1984 would write, approvingly, that at “the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves.”
It is tempting to believe that societal improvement will occur once people undertake unbiased observation of their surroundings. Yet Orwell reminds us, through his errors, that such an approach is insufficient, not simply because people process situations differently, selectively blur the line between fact and fiction, and are frequently incurably prejudiced, but also because it repudiates the accumulated wisdom that lets humans order their observations. This accumulated wisdom is not one among the assorted, bungling theories that Orwell so despised, nor is it a “system” like socialism or capitalism or environmentalism. It is, rather, the agglomeration of history’s records, thousands of years of humans seeing what is in front of their noses, and the distillation from that surfeit of data of overarching lessons that govern the way of the world. Though Orwell claimed to believe in unvarying rules of right and wrong, he nonetheless found little appeal in tempering his limited personal perceptions with those of the billions who came before him. Had he so modulated his pronouncements, they would surely have been less hasty and more prudent and accurate.