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Friday, December 13, 2013

Progressives on Parade

Crooked Timber is an avowedly progressive blog. (Unsurprisingly, nearly all the contributors are academics; none are in reality-refereed fields.) A recent entry, Brother, that's socialism. You know it is. lauds an "impromptu" speech by David Simon (creator of The Wire ) at this years Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia.

There is a reason for the scare quotes. That is the Guardian's characterization, perhaps looking to provide an excuse for incoherence. However, I find it singularly difficult to believe that a headliner for this event would go all the way to Australia, while giving no thought to what he was going to say.

Cutting straight to the chase, Simon asserts the US is arguably the most broken country in the world. Here is why, paraphrased:

Inequality. He's not a Marxist, but. "The ultimate tragedy of capitalism is its dominance without regard to a social compact …" He hates the notion that profit is the metric by which we measure the health of our society. He dates that to 1980. Between then and the beginning of the 20th century, the US created a consumer class by the the ongoing compromises between capital and organized labor. Then 1980 and poof, we suddenly believe in trickle down economics, and that a free market knows best,
… where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It's astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don't need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I'm not connected to society. I don't care how the road got built, I don't care where the firefighter comes from, I don't care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It's the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.
Therefore socialism. And because the US isn't socialist, it is a horror show:
You're seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you're seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You're seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we've put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.
Therefore socialism, because:
The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
And Americans are idiots for the debacle of a debate over something as basic as healthcare policy [He said this despite six weeks of the unfolding disaster that is Obamacare in action]. So imagine how bad Americans are going to be when it "… comes to something as complicated as global warming.

Group health insurance is socialism, you idiots. And because it is, that is just the same as doing it for 300 million Americans. Americans are stupid because they don't get that.

Therefore, more New Deal. Which won't happen because the popular will is completely suppressed. Therefore, America is the most broken country in the world.

You can judge for yourself, but I think my summary fairly represents what he said.

Which is so astonishingly incoherent that it is hard to know where to start. Capital and organized labor can compromise in exactly the same way as electricity and doing the laundry. He can't have been alive since 1980 and glibly dismiss trickle down economics. He likes his strawmen by the squadron. He attributes to capital effects for which it cannot be the cause. Libertarians aren't fans of the war on drugs; by the way, where is the socialist paradise that has legalized them? Not satisfied with a mere squadron of strawmen, he concocts an entire army. He is a perfect example of why the Church of Warmenism is so attractive to progressives. He has no idea how it came to be that employers purchase health insurance, and can't understand the difference between a company and a society.

And we are the idiots?

So far, not really worthy of a post. Another progressive smugly mowing down straw armies by hurling talking points grabbed almost at random from the progressive bag of bollocks is hardly news. Far more interesting appalling is the thread that followed, from which there come such gems as:

#16: We are propagandized into a culture of the self, which Simon alludes to. [I am a firm believer in free speech, but if I was the Head Dude What's in Charge, the first thing to go would be passive voice. Why is that practically the progressive default writing style?] … The Left is not going to get anywhere in these circumstances without accepting class warfare as a fact, and without accepting the necessity of destroying individuals and institutions on the Right. [I think we have found Dzerzhinsky's replacement]

#17: The big problem, as I see it, with social democratic politics is that is has been true to its Marxist roots in embracing a deterministic notion of historical progress and so, almost a century after Bernstein called it into question, just haven’t given the problem of the parliamentary road to democratic socialism any serious attention. Part of that laziness of vision might be because of a ambivalence to the more decentralized strategies favored the cooperative movement, the unfavored sibling to the institutions of Big Labor and the Welfare State (almost everywhere except for Sweden interestingly). But whatever the cause, it is a problem that needs attention. [If you have a taste for leaden prose, progressives are far more likely to satisfy than anyone else. Why is that?]

#33: Expropriation must precede, logically and historically, the creation of democratic processes.

#48: My favorite kooky little gem would be having governments (at any level, but especially the national level) going into business as competitors of private business. Key areas of re-industrialization (consumer electronics, clothing and textiles, etc.) would be targeted by chartering, and initially capitalizing, co-operative, employee/ government-owned, manufacturing entities of various kinds, with an eye to moving gradually toward worker-ownership and operation of virtually all industry …

… Increase taxable base for SSI to 500g and means test. [Progressives really do love expropriation.]

#55: Expropriation is an attitude, a recognition that there is no private property or personal rights.

Communities, as opposed to collections of individuals are formed, I believe, at the moment and in the act of public open (at least to themselves) expropriation. [I'm sensing a pattern here.]

#76: There will and must be crime, even if it is nothing more than illegal strikes and mass demonstrations and occupations of property and public spaces (and who can question, really, the legitimacy of the outbursts of spontaneous rage that can seize whole communities?). The question is always: How much crime, and how much, if any, violence? That is the nut, and it’s a hard one.

#101: The [US] “Constitutional Republic” is probably the most efficient anti-democratic system, creating as I said a Leviathan to limit democracy and implant authoritarianism in the minds of the citizens. Elitist and propertarian.

And the esteemed David Simon wonders why we idiot Americans are so suspicious of socialism.

27 comments:

Bret said...

"The ultimate tragedy of capitalism is its dominance without regard to a social compact …"

One person's bug is another's feature I guess.

I personally don't want a set of economic institutions to also be the set of moral institutions (i.e. including some sort of social compact). I'd rather those be separate, much like separation of church and state.

Howard said...

Mind blown!!!

Peter said...

Eavesdropping on the musings of the dogmatic left can be a real eye-opener. If you are the sort who measures insight and intelligence by the ability to juggle wispy abtracts without ever letting them drop into the real world or the muck of historical failure, then Ian Welsh's blog is just the ticket for you. Here is what the comrades are thinking these days. With so many rich, exciting ideas it's hard to choose a favourite, but I think I'm going with #35.

But that's not all. If you thought the enemy was capitalism, you don't understand the real problem. The real problem is everyday life. It's a damned tragedy that the people won't sit back and let bureaucrats and academics fix everyday life. They have such a sterling record of success when they have tried elsewhere.

Surely there comes a point when one stops arguing with one who hates everyday life and diagnoses him instead. I know compulsory re-education camps aren't our thing over here on starboard, but let's have a heart. Compassionate conservatism lives, does it not?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

The most interesting thing is to take his #32 together with his #35. It means that you can not have environmental controls and keep liberty.


C'mon guys, you've set a too easy job for yourselves here. I would prefer to go back discussing Krugman, if you want to ditch a Liberal. At least he can keep himself out of a contradiction in between 3 phrases.

erp said...

You guys underestimate the ability of lefties to hold opposite and opposing opinions at the same time. Today at the local library, I overheard a bunch of people outraged because there was only one person working the counter at the post office and the line was out the door. I piped in that that's a preview of our health care when Obamacare takes over.

To a (wo)man, they were even more outraged at me because OF COURSE health care would not be the same as the post office! I took the opportunity to agree that it wouldn't be the same, it would only be similar, because instead of a letter or package being delayed, essential, perhaps life-saving, services would be delayed while only one union employee serviced the counter.

Much indignation ensued.

Peter said...

Clovis:

Indeed. The slogan seems to be "War is not healthy for children and other living things, but let's roll for the biosphere!".

That list is actually pretty banal, but it is notable for what it doesn't address as much as what it does. Note the complete absence of anything addressing constitutional government. Take # 30: Government is either your worst enemy, or you best friend, depending on whether it is controlled by the public, by private interests or running rogue. Now, you and I may accept a greater role for government than others here, but "Our Friend, the Government"? This, of course, was the most chilling and catastrophic thinking behind the old East Bloc and Asian Maoism, not to mention Cuba and other totalitarian-lites. For twenty-five years since the fall of the Wall, the left at least had the decency to admit something went wrong, but no more. We're back in the thirties with no memory of the forties and fifties.

The other notable thing is that, unlike the dreamers of old-style socialism, today's left is very up front about wanting to impose equality by pulling the top half down rather than the bottom half up. Look at #22: The most important rule of all is this: your elites must experience the same life as ordinary people. They must go to the same shitty schools. The most important rule of all? This is the rallying cry for a New Jerusalem? On this and other leftist blogs, I have noted very little focus on the actual conditions of the poor, but much on conspicuous consumption and the baubles of the wealthy. They basically don't like consumption at all. I have concluded that they know full well that destitution has been abolished for pretty much all but the dysfunctional, and they are not happy about it. I suspect that if they ever took power, their first gift to the poor would be to restrict their diets to cure obesity.

Then there is #23, which reflects another theme I've noticed. They don't want to work and they resent those who do. No happy proletariat driving tractors in the name of the Revolution for this gang. I call it Boomer Marxism.

Finally, there is the moral inversion the left talks itself into to make it all work in theory. They do it all the time with crime and sexual morality, but look at #42. Nice work if you can get it. I actually believe general debt forgiveness should be considered in a crisis, but this wasn't what I had in mind. I guess they need this to support their life of leisure.

There comes a point where their whole world is so bitter and topsy-turvy that the only thing one can do is circle the wagons. One of my all time favourites came from a guy on a Canadian blog. The man gives every evidence of Das Kapital being his bedtime reading and is very skilled at writing those long, turgid polemics they love, but one day his heart took over and he broke away from an anti-American Simon-like rant to lionize Chavez for letting the homeless squat in semi-finished parking garages. I could feel the tears in his eyes right through the Internet. Hugo was a prince.

Erp:

I don't think we underestimate that at all. But the left aren't the only ones who do it.

erp said...

Peter, I don't know to what you are referring above, but whatever it is, the left is more or less of a single mind, perhaps some a little more or less dogmatic than others, but the non-left is more ragtag from capital "L" Libertarian to centrist, so our views aren't able to be put into one neat package as the current disgrace in congress proves.

I believe this is the biggest problem in gathering in all those opposed to big government control, even some who don't realize it yet.

If we could present our case clearly and get behind a leader who can articulate it well and not be distracted by media demonization, I don't think the left would have a chance of ever winning another election.

Prior to recent years, there wasn't the track record you mention above which clearly shows the failures of socialism or whatever it calls itself now.

Hey Skipper said...

Rules 1 - 43 amount to a catechism.

I get that "is" almost never amounts to "ought". There are, indeed, many distressing problems for which the free market is not a cure.

However, that isn't the same as saying (If not free market) then (put the vanguard in charge). Indeed, more often than not (the CRA for example) even the most widely shared good will in the world is useless in the face of reality: for some problems there may well be no solutions within human ken.

What fascinates me most about progressives, aside from their inordinate fondness for passive voice, impenetrable jargon, and promiscuous use of the first person pronoun*, is the inability to distinguish the stage between "is" and "ought"; i.e. "can".

Those 43 rules are a perfect example of what AOG calls "logo-realism". Where objective reality contradicts ideology, so much the worse for reality.

In that thread I linked to, just before #35, a commenter insists there is no such thing as democracy in the US. Then says if it was up to him, he would (among other things) destroy the big box stores in favor of local merchants.

Without realizing for a moment that those stores are the consequence of democracy in its purest form. In other words, democracy is fine until it supplies the wrong answer.

Reading that post you linked to, or the one I did, leaves me completely mystified as to how these people's brains work. Clearly, people can put different values on different considerations and consequences.

But progressives such as these are, to me, utterly inscrutable. Even if one utterly hated capitalism, what possible solution could be better than all the chaos that would come in destroying it? Hasn't it occurred to any of them that there is no such thing as a good theory that doesn't work in practice?

---

OT: It seems likely the sun is going to re-enter a Maunder-like minimum (a prolonged decrease in sunspot activity). This has happened twice in the last 350 years that humans have been observing sunspots.

Both times were accompanied by a considerable decrease in temperature.

Here is my prediction: should this happen, then unbridled free market capitalism will be the ticket to avoiding significant climate disruption.

At which point progressives will lose complete interest in AGW theory, and move on to their next apocalypse requiring their dictatorsh... sorry ... guidance.

Clovis e Adri said...

Guys,

As far as I can see, most of the arguments those links present resemble the ones I see from semi-teenagers students all around in my campus.

What amounts to say, again, that you've chosen a straw man.

There is a good case to make that in a robotic future, in absence of jobs for a good part of the population, we will have a collective problem to solve. That is surely not the same as to endorse that #23 Boomer Marxism dictum, which looks like more the motto of a teenager who really does not want to clean his room today.

The same goes for debts and #42: banks, and lenders in general, charge interests to take in account the possibility of a default, and should go broken when they do not make their homework. Yet most countries realized it would be more expensive to let them fall than to cover their mistakes. I do not know to this day if I really buy that line, and it is only natural that the little citizen, who do not happen to be big-enough-to-fail, feel cheated on. Yet, to conclude that everyone should be easily getting away with murder is to advocate financial chaos, to say the least.

Which brings me to my main point: such views are not really the same ones the grown up Liberals are defending.

I think Skipper and Howard's last posts are trying to argue that socialism is alive and still fighting. But the examples you bring to the table are like pointing to those students using Che Guevara T-shirts and saying "look, didn't I tell you?"

Hey Skipper said...

What amounts to say, again, that you've chosen a straw man.

I'm not sure what word you are looking for here, but "straw man" isn't it. A "straw man" is a caricature of an opposing argument, not the argument itself. Here, Peter and I are citing the arguments themselves, as written.

Peter's links are to people who might be completely barking mad, if not for their taxpayer provided meds.

However, mine featured a famous rich guy, and at least one academic. Some of the commenters might have been barking, but in that crowd it is hard to tell.

I think Skipper and Howard's last posts are trying to argue that socialism is alive and still fighting. But the examples you bring to the table are like pointing to those students using Che Guevara T-shirts and saying "look, didn't I tell you?"

Speaking only for myself, for me it is an exercise in trying to fathom how they think. After all, if my worldview has a chance of being consistent with the world as it is, I pretty much have to determine that diametrically opposed world views are not, and avoid self justification in the process.

E.g.: Harry Eagar is an ardent gun confiscationist; I believe the Second Amendment should be honored as written. The tie breaker is the fact that, like it or not, guns cannot be un-invented, so that even if a world without guns would be preferable to the one we have, there is simply no getting there from here.

So while we are on the subject of distinguishing between world views:

Feminism and Programming Languages

Feminist Software Foundation implements new language: C+=

(AOG might as well hang it up now.)

And in case that isn't enough, Queer Technologies.

(h/t Ace of Spades

There is a good case to make that in a robotic future, in absence of jobs for a good part of the population, we will have a collective problem to solve.

Absolutely. Essentially that same sentence has been sloshing around in my head instead of becoming an actual post.

I'll no doubt get around to it in due course, probably when our robot overlords ensure I have plenty of time on my hands.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Skipper;

I can't tell what, and how, of those are parodies or not. And even if it's a parody, that doesn't mean others don't take it seriously (e.g. the Sokal Hoax). Maybe I should show this to SWIPIAW and see if she could code better in one of these languages :-).

As for this being non-representative of the MAL, it seems directly in line with the "Occupy" movement, which was treated as main stream by much of the MAL.

Hey Skipper said...

I can't tell what, and how, of those are parodies or not.

Well there's the problem, right there.

Who, other than progressives could be punked like Sokal did do, and F&PL might have, without them knowing it, or the rest of us being sure?

Peter said...

Clovis:

Yes and no. I readily agree that there can be a world of difference between a liberal and a dogmatic socialist and that it's a mistake for conservatives to lump everyone who calls themselves progressive together. I don't fear liberals nearly as much as our friends here, and in some ways I am grateful liberals are there to keep me on my toes and the far left at bay. You and I seem to agree free markets and self-reliance can't deliver all that their champions promise, and that a society of winners contains lots of losers to worry about by definition. Walmart may deliver great deals on Nikes, but it's not a font of justice and virtue. I also worry about the pas d'enemie a droite syndrome that seems to be infecting the right today.

That being said, I find far too many liberals don't know where to make a stand and end up simply advocating socialism-lite on soft emotional grounds. The most common complaint liberals make about socialists is that their hearts are in the right place, but they're too impatient. I'm sorry, but neither their hearts nor their brains are in the right place. You liberals are badly in need of cerebral muscle. It's rare to see a liberal criticizng excessive government or coming out for personal responsibility or standing up for the West & democracy unapologetically against some corrupt hellhole. They may not buy into anti-capitalism rhetoric, but they can be very apologetic for it nonetheless and seem to have a limitless appetite for creative government intervention. Our friend, the problem-solver.

Che t-shirts may be passé, but the influence of the dogmatic left is still there and in some cases well beyond their numbers. They are so prevalent in academia it takes years for many graduates to learn how to trust what their lyin' eyes tell them. Welsh and several of his colleagues aren't basement pyjama bloggers, they are active Democrat operatives. Uncritical apocalyptic environmentism has become a kind of intellectual blackmail and many liberals seem to have difficulty getting beyond the "Spaceship Earth" stage of analysis. The "shitty schools" thinking has all but destroyed quality education in Britain--even public education. I don't know the answer to the urban decay that drives so many Americans nuts and attracts them to tough-love extremes, but I'm pretty sure it isn't more government cheques and safe-needle clinics, which seem to satisfy most liberals I know.

So, Clovis, we agree on some things, but not all. For example, you seem to have this strange attraction to Krugman. Clovis, he's a self-impressed fruitcake and a menace. That Nobel prize should have tipped you off. :-)

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper & Peter,

---
[Skipper] Speaking only for myself, for me it is an exercise in trying to fathom how they think. [...] I pretty much have to determine that diametrically opposed world views are not, and avoid self justification in the process.
---
It is a laudable effort.

In my experience, when a view looks so ridiculous that it makes you question the sanity of its adherents, it is either that (i) it is indeed the case, or (ii) you did not stop to actually understand the implicit assumptions behind it.

You give me the impression to have, at least to some degree, quite a positivistic view of the world. Which is quite common among people with military background, BTW. You look for order in the world and judge much of what is "good" or "bad" through that.

Now, given our post-modern atheistic world, some people may see no value in so much order and morals without an absolute arbiter. They may very well wish for different metrics for what is good or bad, right or wrong. Peter up above comments that:

"I find far too many liberals don't know where to make a stand and end up simply advocating socialism-lite on soft emotional grounds. [...] Che t-shirts may be passé, but the influence of the dogmatic left is still there and in some cases well beyond their numbers. "

IMHO, the reason for that "influence well beyond their number", is that marxism (or even socialism-lite) provides for a new metric. It establishs a new framework for morals and values. Powerful ideas - even if wrong - usually need to provide that kind of big frame. And if you pay attention, you see that much of the "barking mad" progressives you were mocking are indeed following some strict logic. They are in fact not much less rational than you judge yourself. It is their axioms that are different.

For all the Libertarian ideals displayed here, one thing is missing: what to say of the fundamental beliefs that define what is truth, or what is right or wrong? I guess many Libertarians would say that political systems should have nothing to say about that. It should be let to the free individuals to choose their own set of moral ideals. I may like that position too, but the problem is that we end up with an egg and chicken problem, for some agreement on those basic values is needed to ensure success of any political/social system. It may look like cliche, but IMO the divide we see today on our societies, and in politics, have their most deep roots on those questions.



---
[Peter] For example, you seem to have this strange attraction to Krugman. Clovis, he's a self-impressed fruitcake and a menace.
---
He's sure a fruitcake, the other day he was blogging (and weeping) about his dying cat. Still, even fruitcakes can know quite a lot about macroeconomy.

BTW, one of the things the Guys here most loathe about him - his openly Liberal and unabashed Democrat credentials - is one more thing I find positive about his writings: you know beforehand it is warped and partial, so it makes easier your job of taking what matters.



Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

That was the point of Objectivism, an attempt to create a libertarian ethos on an objective basis. We don't have to fully accept Objectivism in order to say that some moral orders work, in the sense of being autopoietic, and some do not. This is to me a key dividing line, and the point of talking about "LogoRealism", which rejects this view.

Alternatively, if one actually diversity (as opposed to using it as a meaningless rhetorical device), one should look at a basic moral ordering that maximizes it. A libertarian order can support sub-orderings of a socialistic / tranzi nature, but not the reverse.

P.S. As for Krugman, I disagree that he is openly a liberal and Democratic Party supporter. I think he, and most of his fans, treat him as simply an objective economist. If he were in fact generally regarded as you view him, I wouldn't be so contemptuous of him.

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter:] I readily agree that there can be a world of difference between a liberal and a dogmatic socialist and that it's a mistake for conservatives to lump everyone who calls themselves progressive together.

Over the years, you have changed my mind in your direction.

If humans had the same distribution of talent as, say, my golden retriever, then libertarianism is the obvious choice.

But we don't. Besides the free-rider problems for which libertarians have no answer, there is the inescapable quandary of how to arrange society so that "dumb but decent" people can have lives materially consistent with the rest of society. (Not scare quotes, but rather a phrase I remember from an outstanding analytical article in The Economist before it lost its mind.)

Individualism has no answer for Detroit, or the provision of health care, other than "sucks to be you". In both cases, there has to be some re-distribution of resources; the only question is in what manner to so as to avoid all the unintended consequences that progressives fail to take on board.

Obamacare is a perfect case in point. Charitable foundations have worked hard to get the poor signed up, to the extent of paying some, or all, of the insurance premiums post subsidy. Unfortunately, that is further aggravating the perverse selection problem inherent in the system. Ironically, Obamacare is trying to stop what would seem to be a good thing because it will wreck Obamacare. Hospitals, seeing that it be more profitable for them to pay the premiums, are looking for ways to set up such "charitable" "foundations". (Sorry for no link; can't remember where I read it this morning).

BTW, any society creates winners and losers. The question is in which society are the losers best off.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] In my experience, when a view looks so ridiculous that it makes you question the sanity of its adherents, it is either that (i) it is indeed the case, or (ii) you did not stop to actually understand the implicit assumptions behind it.

Taking my recent post "Right Effect, Wrong Cause" as an example, I believe I made a serious case that a sociology professor had excluded every bit of the world that failed to meet his preconceived notions, and that the result was, as always in these cases, for More Government Policies to Correct Wrong Thinking.

Keep in mind that this was published in the US's Paper of Record.

To the extent I'm right, then someone who is getting paid to know more in this area knows less than someone who isn't.

That requires explaining. Either I'm wrong about being right, or people who profess to know systemically do not.

Which is where I cannot agree with IMHO, the reason for that "influence well beyond their number", is that marxism (or even socialism-lite) provides for a new metric. It establishs a new framework for morals and values. Powerful ideas - even if wrong - usually need to provide that kind of big frame. And if you pay attention, you see that much of the "barking mad" progressives you were mocking are indeed following some strict logic. They are in fact not much less rational than you judge yourself. It is their axioms that are different.

My analysis was not axiomatic, it was factual. Criticizing that guy Peter linked to is not a contest of axioms. Rather, every single one of his axioms has already been demonstratively proven rubbish. Every society organized on anything like his terms has become a bloody, soul crushing, failure. There is simply no such thing as a good theory that doesn't work in practice.

For all the Libertarian ideals displayed here, one thing is missing: what to say of the fundamental beliefs that define what is truth, or what is right or wrong? I guess many Libertarians would say that political systems should have nothing to say about that.

I"m not nearly as libertarian as I used to be, so I might be speaking out of school for those who are more libertarian than I, but libertarians believe that government past that required to defend the country from outside threats and protect property rights will ultimately produce morally worse results than strictly limited government would.

That is a very moral argument.

On Krugman. Within his specialty, he is indeed excellent. But outside it, he is overcome by hubris. He has failed, on many occasions, to account for grotesque statements. Ironic, for someone who entitles his columns "Conscience of a Liberal".

Which, in itself, should tell you all you need to know.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper: "The question is in which society are the losers best off."

That's oversimplified in my opinion since you left out the "when." I think the question is in which society in the long term are the losers best off. Otherwise, you're just asking the question that Rawls answered in his Theory of Justice and the answer is clearly massive redistribution today.

If I give a man a fish, he's better off right now. If I teach a man to fish, he's not better of right now - he still doesn't have a fish until he goes and catches one.

The moral basis for socialism is both fixed pie with all things unchanging over time and incentives having no future effect.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "...that government past that required to defend the country from outside threats and protect property rights will ultimately produce morally worse results than strictly limited government would."

I think you've oversimplified again. I personally believe a better statement would be "...that centralized government past that required to defend the country from outside threats and protect property rights will ultimately produce morally worse results than strictly limited government would."

In other words, localized governments can do whatever they like (within some constitutional constraints) and still be part of a highly moral society. On the other hand, I feel that almost any solution coming from Washington is going to end up with morally worse results than State, local, or private solutions.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "... the reason for that "influence well beyond their number", is that marxism (or even socialism-lite) provides for a new metric..."

I agree with that. I written a number of times that "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" is easily the most powerful non-religious idea of all time. (And then Hey Skipper usually counters that it is also a basically religious idea.)

The fact that it's been a disaster every time it's tried doesn't make the idea any less powerful.

Peter said...

Clovis:

Again, yes and no. I accept there is a certain internal coherence to far-left thinking. If you start with the proposition that capitalism is the source of all evil, it's not surprising that you'll find a way to blame each and every problem on capitalists (I wish they would get into the habit of just give us the short versions rather than those endless turgid polemics they so love). If you assert the highest good is equality of result, you will certainly come to different political prescriptions than one who holds it is individual freedom. But we aren't just talking about the differences between a Christian and Jew on religious observances, or a conservative and liberal differing on whether mankind is more noble than base. Or republican government versus constitutional monarchies or even how much government is sustainable and consistent with other desirables. We are talking about a kind of moral inversion based on ressentiment that defies the human nature we encounter every day and pretty much all of history. Unlike Skipper, I don't think they are insane, but when I see them in full flight spewing abstract bile in all directions with nary a concrete fact in sight (not to mention a joke or any sense of irony or subtlety about the human condition), I sense an underlying collective self-hatred, or even hatred of life, that undergirds their superficial proclaimed love of humanity and "the people". Conservatives and liberals can disagree on many things without either feeling the need to write a new dictionary. Often I do wonder whether the appropriate response is political engagement or psychological assessment.

I said above that it was a mistake for conservatives to lump liberals in with dogmatic socialists. Take that as a compliment. I just wish soi-disant "progressives" were equally discriminating about the differences within their ranks. That they are not (they used to be) explains why we here worry that the far left's influence is out of proportion to their numbers. Nobody ever said they don't work hard.

No, you don't need to point out that these bitter topsy-turvy abstract simplicities can be seen on the far-right too. Ideology is like iodine. We can't live without it, but too much will kill us.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

I do not think Objectivist rises to that level of encompassing frame, it is more of a restatement of Libertarianism. And it fails to be as objective as it intends to be, IMHO.

Also, as Bret already pointed out not long ago:

http://greatguys.blogspot.com.br/2013_06_01_archive.html#913543262801619053

Also, only to be autopoietic is a too general requirement, with many different possible social systems able to achieve that. Even socialism.


Skipper,

When I talked about axioms, it was not about the numbered list of Santa Claus gifts those guys would like. It was about their implicit assumptions. They are also making very moral arguments, it is only that their moral is kind of different from yours.


Peter,


-----
I sense an underlying collective self-hatred, or even hatred of life, that undergirds their superficial proclaimed love of humanity and "the people".
-----
To tell you the truth, Peter, I can not differentiate their hatred of life from the one displayed by some conservatives too.

In fact, apart from naivety about the limits of their own ideas, the one thing extreme forms of ideology share, be it Left or Right, is hatred for Humanity.

I do not claim that our most radical Libertarian friends around share this trait, but if I were to describe their "feelings" towards people, "indifference" would be my word of choice.

It is quite a comforting worldwide the one where you believe that maximizing greed and indifference will result in the best society overall. You can eat the cake and have it too!


For all the talk of our corrupt societies and systems, a little bit of detachment can easily convince you that we had never been better. Erp, and to a lesser extent Bret and others here, look to be sure that we are in a declining world. I do not share this view at all. I think we are better now than before, and getting better. For all the problems - and I recognize we have too many yet - of our welfare systems, they did achieve a world with less and less (material) suffering around.

I say it all to conclude that we achieved our present status by giving steps in Liberal directions sometimes, other times in more conservative ones. Maybe all ideologies are wrong, but the schizophrenic superposition of them all, and that's what we've seen in a timeframe of decades, ends up being the best solution.


Clovis e Adri said...

Up above I wanted to say that:

"It is quite a comforting worldview the one where you believe that ..."

I've bought a Surface 2 in a spur of nostalgia for the old days of Microsoft might, and its auto correction is a little bit wild yet.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

How much have you read of Objectivism, written by its proponents? I have done so extensively and my reading of it is as I stated. You can argue about whether it achieved that goal, but that it was the primary and explicit goal is not disputable. It certainly comes to conclusions similar to libertarianism but the philosophical basis is quite distinct.

to be autopoietic is a too general requirement

Too general for what? For instance I consider it to be a qualification that excludes socialism. In fact, I would call that the primary failure mode of socialism, that it is structurally incapable of reacting appropriately to reality.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

I've never read much about Objectivism, neither from its main proponents.

But for something to be autopoietic, it basically only need to survive. Socialism may be quite inefficient, but it does not lead to mass human extinction as far as we know.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] When I talked about axioms, it was not about the numbered list of Santa Claus gifts those guys would like. It was about their implicit assumptions. They are also making very moral arguments, it is only that their moral is kind of different from yours.

There, IMHO is the problem. They don't make any arguments, they just state conclusions.

Equality of outcome might indeed be preferable to equality of opportunity, but that isn't the case merely on account of their say so.

Moreover, implementing equality of outcome has always been a disaster. That doesn't mean it will be next time, but simply stating 43 (or however many) Theses means a great deal of heavy lifting has been left entirely undone.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I've never read much about Objectivism, neither from its main proponents.

Yet you confidently write it's just warmed over libertarianism...

Socialism may be quite inefficient, but it does not lead to mass human extinction as far as we know

Well, given the population demographics in the most socialist countries, your claim may be invalidated in the next century or so.

ALso, you've moved the goalposts - if we are talking about society being autopoietic, then a failure in that regard is the death of the society which may or may not involve the extinction of the humans who comprise it. For instance, the USSR - Soviet society is gone, but the people are still there.