Google defines idealism as “the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically.” Generally, in the English language, idealism is considered to be a somewhat optimistic world-view. Idealists are people who hope for the best case scenario – one of the synonyms Google gives for “idealist” is “wishful thinker”.
So how does optimism and expecting the best cause billions of deaths over the course of humanity, destroy entire races, cities, and religions, and slow the spread of knowledge in the world?
Simply put, it is because idealists and the practice of idealism do not consider ramifications to their actions. They are blinded by the Utopian best-case scenario to the point where they do not see the worst-case scenario.
Some of the world’s greatest villains were idealists. Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Pope Urban II (the Pope who called for the Great Crusades to begin) are some that come to mind. These men were by no means unintelligent; Lenin and Hitler were both prolific writers and all men were dedicated readers. They all worked with other intelligent people to create theories for the success of the world, and all three dedicated themselves to their respective causes. However, the plans of all three completely backfired. Pope Urban II caused the greatest genocide up until then, and remained as the greatest genocide until Hitler caused a greater one. Lenin thrust his country into a totalitarian regime dominated by elites, the full opposite of what he envisioned.
I would personally argue that these men were not as evil as their actions seem to speak. Rather, it was their inability to recognize the possible ramifications of their theories and plans that caused hundreds of millions of deaths.
Successful companies and countries do not have people at the helm who are pure idealists like Urban, Hitler, or Lenin. Even Kim Jong-Un, regarded as the most idealistic and radical leader of any country in the world, displayed a sliver of pragmatism when he called for peace a few months ago. Still, it cannot be denied that his country is failing and falling apart due to the communist idealism that dominates North Korea.
The future of the world depends on the suspension of idealism, but unfortunately the ideals of communism and extremist religion continue to threaten the well-being of the world.