Archives for category: Quora
Democratic Congresswomen wore white, to celebrate the centenary of the 19th Amendment.

Much is being made about the Democratic women in white, and their bizarre self-celebration of privilege. Well, maybe I am the only one who sees their position as one of privilege. But if you have been elected to Congress, you do not inhabit your rank or wield your power by right, but by privilege.

Further, the much-vaunted “right to vote” is not and cannot be a basic right. Is voting itself a privilege? But you can see why politicians might wish to upgrade the status of the political act, for our votes mean more to them practically than any single person’s vote could mean to that person practically. That is, our votes elect them. But not one of our individual votes elect anyone, have any effect. It is a problem of marginal productivity. Our votes thus mostly have symbolic meaning to us. So politicians have a strong and quite natural interest in managing the symbology.

It is one of the many ways in which politicians’ interests are at odds with ours.

For the rights that have practical importance for our lives, like the rights to free speech, a trial by jury, or to self-medicate (one we wish to obtain legally that we retain informally), trump all others. It is these that matter directly. They are about us, and they secure what liberties we can achieve in our government-run world, separate from political whim. So to witness anyone aggrandizing a mere privilege as a fundamental right is breathtaking. Their agenda is almost (but apparently not quite) obvious to everyone: it allows politicians and political factions (voting blocs) to expand the reach of the State, and undermine our basic rights.

Which is why it is all-important for politicians to upgrade the legality of voting above more fundamental, more basic rights, the better to shore up their privilege.

The scowl B.S. displayed after Trump promised an anti-socialist American future, and … horror … a heritage and future of freedom!

The great moment in President Trump’s State of the Union speech this week regarded his decisively negative statements about socialism. Nancy Pelosi weakly clapped; Bernie Sanders scowled . . . until he composed himself. Alexandria “Occasional Cortex” yammered on after the events in a pointless manner, not addressing the horrors that come from socialism. Not understanding why.

And why? Why does socialism so regularly dissolve into poverty and tyranny?

Because it cannot work as promoted. What is impossible but nevertheless attempted has real effects distinct from fantasy.

F. A. Hayek on a problem not often recognized. Especially by “socialists.”

If you do not understand and cannot reasonably answer Hayek’s argument about the calculation problem, you shouldn’t be pushing for socialism. Frankly, you probably shouldn’t be voting.

All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.

President Donald Trump, State of the Union address, 2019

I do not see why we should “be proud” of having “more women in the workforce.” Do we think working on the job market is better than managing homes for families, than raising children, than — not contributing to federal income tax revenue?

Female workforce participation is not an outcome to congratulate ourselves about. Or, perhaps, worry about. It is an outcome not any of government’s business. And as a standard set apparently to judge social engineering, it has a huge problem — what if we should not be engaged in piecemeal social engineering? What if that is precisely the wrong thing to do?

It is certinaly no good way to judge politicians’ speeches.

Yet Republicans cheered.

We live in a sick society. Too much government is the problem. It is into everything. Including life choices of men and women.

And it is not just feminism that is to blame, either.

Shills selling poison as panacea look like this when confronted.

Is Socialism easier to sell than Capitalism?

Magic beans are sometimes easier to sell than real beans.

You know to whom.

The droll thing about capitalism vs. socialism in the current context is that the capitalism we have is not the capitalism usually identified. We live in a heavily dirigiste capitalist society, a neo-mercantilist kludge-fest. Yet I have met many socialists who say we suffer under free markets. It is bizarre.

Truth is, laissez faire capitalism is not what we have but what a few of us want. Our markets are heavily regulated, taxed and subsidized — though not equally, sector by sector. And not a few institutions are run upon socialist and quasi-socialist lines, complete with public ownership and political-bureaucratic control. Everyone with a brain in his head recognizes this. Yet we regularly encounter arguments to the effect that “capitalism has failed” this group or that, with a prescription ready at hand: socialism. But this is just one alternative to our mixed economy. The other option, a free society with extensive private property, free markets, limited government and a simple rule of law, is just as logical and promising on the face of it.

Why socialism so often seems the more obvious option is quite fascinating. It has something to do with cognitive biases, the tribal nature of Homo sapiens, etc. The full story and wider perspective are much too vast to relate here. So let me end by returning to the original thought:

Magic beans are remarkably easy to sell to those who don’t know Jack about history or social science.

From my Facebook author page.

Philosophy celebrates three deaths: Socrates, Epicurus, and Seneca. Two are political suicides.

I am not exactly as impressed by such suicides as are others. You know, philosophically. As literature they are great.

I am trying to remember other famous deaths of philosophers. I cannot recall any others of note. Not off the top of my head. There are other startling moments of biography, of course: Abelard’s castration and Nietzsche’s catatonic stupor come immediately to mind. But for the most part philosophers do not impress us with the drama of their lives. Not even the good ones do. 

And then there are the scoundrels, like Rousseau….

A Tweet from someone who thinks “liberals” exist, and are “liberal.”
Gotcha arguments often get you.

Patton Oswalt Gets Attacked By Troll On Twitter, Turns His Life Upside Down After Seeing His Timeline

That was the headline on Bored Panda. Another self-congratulatory progressive celebration of . . . what, exactly? Sneakily winning an argument?

The Bored Panda account is basically a bunch of Tweets.

Trump’s Tweet wasn’t much. But what was Oswalt’s? A stupid bit of mockery.

For some reason, Bored Panda did not regard this as trolling. Only one angry response was so characterized.

Remember, Oswalt was “spreading hate.” But is not so designated.
And everybody celebrated! The ailing “troll” repented! Jubilation!

I confess. Sometimes I am amazed at people’s credulity.

Most people reacted to this as a heartwarming story. But making Oswalt the hero after painting him as a non-troll strikes me as only possible with a truncated psychology.

Surely this is Pharisaic posturing on Patton Oswalt’s part, as his publicly giving alms to demonstrate his virtue and “caring” nature. Whether he actually possesses any virtue or empathy — something his original Tweet disinclines me to believe — does not really matter. The incentive to do this should be obvious to a half wit. But we are so programmed by the Culture of Caring — by prodigals masquerading as liberals pretending to charity trumped up as justice — that even bright people fall for this ploy.

And ploy it is. Has no one read Nietzsche? Can no one see that gift-giving can serve as a form of revenge? Is the Will to Power hidden so carefully behind the walls of ideology and politesse that only philosophers and cynics can see it?

The cream of the jest, though, flows over when you realize that Patton Oswalt used charity as a way to win an argument.

Win. An. Argument.

Sure, the comedian won. But everyone else lost. Everyone — except maybe for the guy who inadvertently (?) bilked a bunch of Pharisaic progressives into paying his medical bills.

Contemplating the mass of humanity, fooled by serpents and comedians.

“I’m an intersex girl with right-leaning libertarian views. Is there any place for me in the conservative or libertarian spaces on Quora?”

as answered on Quora

So, let me try to break this down.

Though the term “intersex” is quite common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. My dictionary defines it as a person or animal with both male and female sex organs or characteristics. A very, very uncommon condition.* Which would lead most folks to ask questions, if they dared — questions like “how is ‘intersex’ different from ‘hermaphrodite’?”

I say “dared” because when one does not fall into a common category, any discussion of one’s status seems uncommonly personal, and so, well, prying. The issue becomes tricky in terms of manners.

Now, consider libertarians.

Though the term “libertarian” is common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. When I was young, it was a very, very uncommon social philosophy. Espousing its ideas led people to ask a lot of questions. And they still do.

Political divergence seems to anger people even more than sexual subjects do. Why? Maybe because while most people do not act with most others in a primarily sexual way — we interact in “spaces” like markets, communities, educational institutions and the like, and for production, spiritual support, learning — our interactions all materially intersect with the political. And to hold a divergent view is to challenge others. Cannot be helped.

Indeed, the reason questions of “gender” have become such hot topics recently is not primarily that they are especially challenging to others in normal interpersonal situations (though they certainly can be) but because they have been made political by demands that differently gendered people be treated in certain specified ways, under threat of state force and mob action.

And the reason that libertarians challenge conservatives and progressives and most other ideologies is that libertarians insist that the scope of coercion be severely limited. And folks do not like being told that they should not readily resort to coercion. People depend upon coercion, set much store in it. And, what with politics being largely a matter of directing the awesome coercive power of states to favor some and disfavor others in various ways and situations, it is not shocking that folks would tend to take challenges to their reliance upon coercion as an affront.

That is how the political becomes the personal.

Libertarians might be called “interpolitical” people, because they do not fit the main accepted categories of party and cultural group — or “tribe.”

Example? Well, are libertarians “on the right” or “on the left”? They themselves disagree on this. And non-libertarians disagree on the matter, too. I have often been called an evil leftist by conservatives, and an evil right-winger by progressives. The whole left/right issue is a matter of contention. So, to mimic current gender-identification trends, I might aptly describe myself in political terms as an “interpolitical trans liberal.”

Conservatives, on the other hand, are part of a major political group. As a political philosophy, conservatism is much less coherent than libertarianism, mainly because by a common definition it is more attitude and approach than program. Conservatives often do not know what they stand for as much as what they stand against — which is “progressivism.” But, as I have explained elsewhere, conservatives today are largely, on substantive policy matters, merely the progressives of a century ago. What we now witness in this tumultuous age of ideological turmoil is two branches of progressivism vying with each other for power.

It gets confusing in part because of this goofy popularity of the left/right political spectrum. To today’s leftists, they see everything that is “not left” as “right-wing.” But the political animal is not just two wings: there is a head and tail, torso and feet. You might guess, I do not think of libertarian ideas as either “right” or “left.” Indeed, I hazard that the core attitudes of both rightists and leftists are defensible and even praiseworthy, but because both sides leap to policies of mass coercion, demanding that states engage in extravagant displays of force, it seems to me that both conservatives and progressives are very dangerous to themselves and others.

So, I am neither a right-leaning libertarian nor a left-leaning one.

This puts me in an ideological situation not unlike many of today’s young people who identify themselves as intersex despite being, biologically, not really all that ambiguous. It has become a matter of how one “identifies.” I find this confusing in matters of sex. But I note the parallels with my philosophy. Outwardly, I look like a normal person. But once one asks me a few questions, my normality evaporates faster than a puddle on a hot August day.

As for “spaces,” I just ask and answer questions on Quora. I get very few upvotes, and I am prone to providing arguments that do not fit into standard categories, are perhaps quirky or challenging. I actually do not worry about “spaces.” I find myself interacting with a very few other Quorans. I guess a map of our interactions would define our “space,” but I do not worry about it much.

Because of this, I suggest making a space for yourself by honestly asking and answering questions on Quora, and, on occasion, rethinking your positions. Which is especially appropriate for young people. You call yourself a girl. That indicates youth. It is when you are young that you learn the most, and — rightly — change your mind most often.

It is the metaphorical space between your ears that matters most, here


N. B. (*) As far as I know, every male has some female sex hormones and every female has male sex hormones, and surely we would say that most people have some traits that are regarded as “of the opposite sex.” But these facts surely are not what people are talking about when they talk about “intersex.” Surely?

What made the Great Depression different from the depression of 1893-97?

as answered on Quora:

Much of what I was taught in school about the Great Depression was wrong, or at the very least proved to be extremely skewed. Not a few accepted truths are little more than red herrings. Public schools in America do us all a great disservice, but regarding boom and bust cycles, you can usually count on them to have it backwards. The truth is more complex than commonly admitted, and will likely startle students of history.

But hey, instead of a long, scholarly explanation, I would like merely to mention a handful of issues:

  1. No one in government attempted, in the earlier debacle, what Herbert Hoover did to “heroically” save the country from the difficulties associated with the bust part of the boom-bust cycle. For examples of what he managed to “accomplish” — which included trying to prop up wage rates — consult Murray N. Rothbard, America’s Great Depression. And yes, you read that right, Hoover was no advocate for laissez faire. He was, instead, a celebrated progressive who lived up to his reputation by doing his damnedest to prevent the deepening of the depression — and for humanitarian reasons (and Hoover was indeed a great humanitarian). But instead of improving matters and steering the nation away from crisis, he made the situation far, far worse.
  2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for the presidency in part on what we would now call (idiotically) an “austerity” program. But when he took the reins he doubled down on Hoover’s progressivist interventionism, offering These Benighted States* a great number of massive interventions into market adjustment processes, most famously the National Recovery Act. There are a lot of sources for this; I needn’t list any. Just recognize that FDR extended the depression well beyond his second term in office. The U.S. was, in effect, in a depression all the way through World War II (see the work of Robert Higgs on this, especially the concept of regime uncertainty). Nothing like any of this happened under President Grover Cleveland’s watch. And when World War II ended, the Keynesians were panicky: “another Depression!” was their cry. To their horror, a Keynesian stimulus was not delivered, yet the recovery was fairly swift, even with all those soldiers coming home and flooding the labor markets.
  3. The Great Depression was part of a worldwide, post-Great War trend, the precipitating element of which was Britain’s going back to the gold standard at parity after the wartime inflation. This daring policy might have worked out just dandy, but unions were strong, and downward price adjustments were thus disallowed in the industrial sector. Massive unemployment was the result — the obvious and predictable result. This was a known thing, yet Keynes was scraping together his “theory” to work around what amounted to a political logjam. (See W. H. Hutt’s The Keynesian Episode for a great analysis of this, including some great stories, like Sidney Webb calling the unionists “pigs.”) And in America? Well, enter a new institution, the Federal Reserve, which inflated the money supply in part to help the Brits, thus setting the stage for the crash of 1929. Though the late 19th century had huge monetary issues — America’s gold/silver bimetallism question was quite the mess, and was not resolved properly — at least old Grover did not have to out up with a central bank! This is the biggest issue. See Philips, McManus, and Nelson, Banking and the Business Cycle, for a thorough investigation of the monetary causes of the Great Depression, and the nagging disequibrium aspects to what has been called “the secondary depression.” It is also worth mentioning that the United States has always been plagued by goofy money and banking policy. See Calomiris and Haber, Fragile by Design, for the best discussion of this I have encountered.
  4. And then there is Smoot-Hawley. What can I say about this that has not been said? Well, that is not the point. Let me merely hint at a summary. The tariff bill hampered not only American trade, it hurt the very farmers it was meant to help (the agricultural sector being the one sector that never quite bounced back from the post-Great War bust). But there is more: it also inflicted a series of huge stressors to the banking system. And it did worse, its protectionism ushered in a global trade “war.” Thus setting the stage for World War II. It was devastating, and made the Great Depression far worse — which, after Hoover, FDR, and the Federal Reserve, did not need more such “help.”

The Great Depression was a perfect storm of bad government policy.

And note: I did not quite get to the thesis of “The Great Contraction” (Friedman and Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States) or Irving Fisher’s brilliant debt-deflation theory. And I have skimped (but not ignored) the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.

There were structural problems at play in the depression during Grover Cleveland’s second presidency, sure. But they did not dovetail to work woe as happened later, under progressive politicians and that great, unwieldy, and quite dangerous progressive program, the Fed.

* I am especially fond of this manner of referring to our increasingly disunited (but nevertheless nationalistic) hodgepodge, the United States. My coinage. The people and its governments are such disappointments, having turned back on the original promise and persisting in an astounding cluelessness.

Is complete revolution possible in modern day democracies, where the passion of a person matters none as they are limited to one vote, and a militaristic overthrow is unimaginable?

………………………………………………………………… answered on Quora

Revolution is always a longshot. For game theoretic reasons, leadership in revolution is almost always severely punished by the State, so such extreme endeavors that require leaders also require them to risk their lives, which in turn requires tremendous self-sacrifice. Spontaneous mass uprisings (which can be nearly leaderless) are super-unlikely because the first to step up in revolt are also likely to be treated as leaders. And people — especially contemporary serviles — are basically a cowardly lot, so it is only the most desperate who would do so.

Further, the incentive of the desperate to revolt depends on gaining the sympathy of the masses. The most pathetic populations in the U.S. right now are pissing away most of their pitiable cachet, so we would need to find a new group of desperate people. Illegal immigrants, inner-city blacks, trans-folk, and young collegians have burnt almost all their bridges, so any revolt they might attempt would be put down by the State with the enthusiastic backing of the masses.

But note: we do not live in democracies. Democracy is merely the pietistic term for the kludge mess of republican-plutocratic-imperial churning states.

The utility of holding democracy more as a piety than as a reality lies in getting distracted, easy-to-fool marks, I mean, citizens, to misidentify the State as “theirs.” This helps maintain the authority of its leaders and functionaries. Making revolution less likely.

Modern states do, of course, have democratic elements. But the inherently least effectively democratic parts, the national governments, steal the limelight, further distracting citizens from taking control of the potentially most effectively democratic parts, the state and local governments. This allows those institutions to shore themselves up as de facto anti-democracies. City governments are typically interest-group dominated one-party states. The citizens do not realize this, of course, because they are completely fooled or uninterested. So if they revolted, they would do much more harm than good. A military dictatorship would undoubtedly set up a better government than anything today’s citizen-fools could possibly concoct.

But passions of individuals do matter. Passions and a plausible narrative with rationale makes them leaders. And leaders matter. Rank-and-file voters, on the other hand, matter only in the mass.

Militaristic overthrow is the most likely form of revolution in contemporary states. But since military men seem the most pietistic elements in our societies — the patriotic piety being the urge that nudges them to defend the State — they are likely to take charge only in the case of deep financial panic and social chaos, and after legal governments have proven worse than useless: disutile.

So, give it a few years and the next crisis, then we will see.


What question would you ask Satan that he has never been asked before?

As Answered on Quora

“So, how tired are you of that old memetic trap, ‘the biggest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he did not exist’?”

Of course, that would probably be the best I could come up with on short notice.

If I spent time in his waiting room, though, I would surely formulate something much better.

“Your greatest invention is without question the State. Ubiquitous, useful for no small good but even less doubtfully for much greater and horrific ill. It is all demons and ideologues can talk about. But, I have to wonder: after all these millennia, do you still laugh when people call it God’s ordained instrumentality, as they did when kings were worshipped as gods, or the servant of The People, as they do even unto this day? I mean, I find it hilarious. Do you find it at least worth a chuckle?”

Satan polishes an antler and his slender mouth grows wider and wider.

I cannot determine if it is an evil grin or the knowing smile of a serpentine sage.


American Statesmen

Why does libertarianism, a radical form of classical liberalism [that] is ideologically more similar to liberalism than to conservatism, receives [sic] a lot of criticism from liberals rather than from conservatives?

As Answered on Quora


Political parties and ideologies must not simply be distinguished one from another by a list of demands and normative principles. Indeed, there are cultural and institutional forms — along with strong bedrock folkways relating, even, to sexual selection — that loom large in politics. But even ignoring that, consider these three factors, these elements of any ideology:

  1. Vision of the world as it is, a Weltanschauung — which may include fact and error, theories of varying coherence, such as about the modes of social causation, etc.;
  2. Vision of the world as it could and should be, a fantasy — which may or may not actually be possible to achieve;
  3. Preferred sets of procedures to achieve the latter in the context of the former in our objective world, in other words, compromises.

Thomas Sowell, in his late-80s book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, dealt with some of this, in a broad way. He distinguished between two different Weltanschauungen, what he called the “constrained vision” of human nature versus the “unconstrained.” I think there is something to what he said (I reviewed the book in Liberty, v. 1, n. 1), but my main concern is with the nature of compromise. There is more than one type.

There is the compromise you consciously make, and there is the kind forced upon you, because not all things are possible. Not only do politicos lie to others about the compromises they readily undertake, they often lie to themselves, especially about the compromises they must make, willy-nilly. That latter kind they often fard up with lipstick, as if on the pig of existence.

So any ideology contains a vision of the world as it has been and is, but also a vision of how it could be. And ideologues are rarely objective philosophers. Not only are they often wrong, but they are often commited to their errors and to their fantasies, regardless of outcome, in no small part because fantasy is preferable to reality.

That is why we create fantasy.

In modern America, broadly speaking, conservatives idealize the classical liberal principles of the our federal union’s founders. So, for many thinking conservatives, libertarianism is a key element of their fantasy life.

They betray those fantasies all the time, of course, in no small part because they fudge the degree to which American life has been transformed by the warfare/welfare/regulatory state of the progressives. To understand conservatism, one must understand better than conservatives themselves how embroiled in the actuality of progressivism they are, and then the compromises they always make with their fantasy of liberty. One interesting thing to witness in libertarian conservatives like the terrific Andrew Klavan and Ben Shapiro, of the Daily Wire, is how they cannot bring themselves to make the kind of criticism they readily apply against the domestic aspects of our Leviathan State also against foreign policy. They are too invested in the messianic myth of America, for that. And in protecting Israel. It is fascinating to watch.

Progressives, on the other hand, no longer hold much love for the American founding principles and constitutional system. Their fantasy is almost wholly of the socialist State, of Leviathan as Messiah . . . in all domestic matters. And their compromises are now byzantine in complexity. For instance, they like to pretend that they are constantly fighting a guerilla intellectual battle against Big Money, not realizing that the plutocrats not only coöpted them long ago, but that they are serving as their useful idiots.

But even the plutocrats are stumbling in the dark, juggling fantasy and reality with compromises and prevarications.

At present, the left is less open to liberal ideas in general (not to mention libertarian principles in particular) than is the right, because the left, in addition to its collectivist fantasy, is in the conservative position, vis-à-vis institutions, of trying to hold on to its pet major institutions of socialized pensions and subsidies for the poor and for women with children. And to protect us from soft drinks, verbal disagreement etc. Though the total state of pure communism has been widely rejected (except among the deluded young and some of the collegiate class), the administrative state is here, and leftists are hysterical regarding its fragility (quite aghast that anyone, libertarian, conservative, whathaveyou, opposes it even in part), and, at the same time, they wish to expand it. And since the administrative state, the ulta-Leviathan State, is not a liberal conception but a mercantislist-progressive one, this means that “liberal” does not really fit with the left any longer.

This divorce between fact and fancy presents a huge stressor on both conservatives and progressives. It helps explain the fundamental fact of ideology today, namely that progressives misunderstand conservatism and that conservatives misunderstand themselves. Because the administrative state is what has been bequeathed to us — as if new wine poured into the old, somewhat brittle wineskin of our liberal Constitution — the legal and intellectual compromises necessary to maintain this, especially in our pieties, has made nearly everyone crazy, especially on the left.

To conclude — once upon a time “the left” sported a “liberal” element. No more. Which explains why liberalism and even libertarianism finds more favor on “the right”: because of the fantasy.

Fantasy is a powerful social force.

Always consider, in politics, the explanatory power of the Thomas Theorem.


Mind your business

Why should we care about freedom of the press when most media companies are already owned by billionaires with their own political agendas?

As Answered on Quora

The freedom of the press is not just for big media companies. It is for you and me, with our blogs and videos and the like. A “press” is just a means to distribute “speech” beyond the sound of our voices in distinct places.

The American Revolution was the background of the founders’ understanding of “the press.” It was a period of pamphleteers. Think tracts, one-sheets, booklets, etc.

All recent judicial perspectives and decision that treat “journalists” and “newspapers” as different from you with your printer and me with my blog are without foundation. Let us get these silly, corporatist notions out of our heads. We are “the press.”

So, it doesn’t matter much, for constitutional interpretation, who owns the major media outlets. The fact that they are owned by billionaires, and all of them technocrats and most left of center, is irrelevant in terms of principle.

Why would anyone think differently? What part of the rule of law is confusing?


What would happen if the world stopped using money?

As Answered on Quora

Billions of people would die.

Without a medium of exchange and unit of account, coördination of capital would become utterly incoherent, and the established interdependence of the modern age would vanish.

Most people would become useless to others, unrewardable.

And violence would reign supreme, as there would be a scramble to capture existing resources. Economists would utter the words “consumption of capital” before they were placed against the wall and shot en masse.

Mass starvation, rioting, tyranny, and death would follow, and quickly. Progress would not merely halt, regress would set in. We would go back to a stone age. A few technological utopias may survive, but the cost would be extraordinary.

For billions and billions of people would die miserable, horrifying deaths.

And the population would reduce itself to something like twice the population of bears.

In the meantime, certain infrastructure elements, like nuclear power plants, might very well fail and poison the planet . . . that is, if the malign individuals who capture the nuclear arsenal do not usher in nuclear winter, first.


Does Philosophy Affect Culture?
What philosophies to you think craft the world today — or do they not matter?

As Answered on Quora

Academic philosophy does not affect culture very much today, except for the far left strains of Marxism, neo-Marxism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism. These have had a disastrous influence on our culture. Why? Because bright people are very susceptible to cults, and these philosophies gave blueprints and marching orders for cultic intellectualism and intellectual cultism.

In Greek and Roman times philosophy deeply impacted culture. Then philosophy deeply influenced Christianity, which in turn influenced western culture greatly. There is also evidence that philosophy affected Judaism, which influenced Christianity and Islam. And philosophy was a part of Islam in its fairly early years, until the anti-intellectualism and cultic nature of the religion squashed it.

I think we can say that the Enlightenment had a huge influence on the modern world, and Enlightenment philosophers were big influences upon the English and American Revolutions and the direction of American culture for a long time. Names to remember, here, include Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Francis Hutchinson, who are worth remembering in this regard. At the back of the Enlightenment was not only the Renaissance, with philosophers quite various, but also the discovery of De Rerum Natura, which may have been an inspiration and much more — Epicurean atomism spurring much analysis and the scientific method, too. The Scottish Enlightenment percolated throughout the world, in part under cover of political economy, which hailed (in part) from one of the greats in the Scots tradition, Adam Smith. Then Romanticism was ignited by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from which flowed the French Revolution and the rise of socialism as a cultural and political force. Other thinkers of Enlightenment France included Denis Diderot, who did much to influence the secular trend now dominant.

John Stuart Mill has certainly had an influence on political and general intellectual culture. But remember: in the 19th century the most popular philosopher was Herbert Spencer, who definitely contributed to the making of the modern world, particularly the English-speaking world, and despite the turn against his thought around the time of his death in 1903. And in the German culture? Feuerbach and others ushered in an onslaught upon Christian dogma and certainty, which Friedrich Nietzsche ramped up to 11.

And we must remember: artists tend to be influenced by philosophy. Arch-individualist Max Stirner had a huge impact on composer Richard Strauss and on a generation of aesthetes and artists in America in the early part of the 20th century; Sartre and Camus and the whole existentialist movement deeply affected popular culture in that century’s third quarter.

And who can deny that William James and pragmatism did not somehow become part of the warp and woof of American culture, as had Transcendentalism earlier? In Italy, the influence of the anti-fascist Benedetto Croce was not insignificant.

Ideas move the world. Philosophers contribute to ideas, no?

Sometimes mightily, sometimes not.


Which American political party relies on crafty maneuvering and identity tactics more than substantive policy?

as answered on Quora

Both do, but to different “identity” groups.

The real difference, though, is how they appeal to their respective groups’ fantasies.

The fantasy on the left (the Democrats) seems to appeal to people as belonging to (and framed as) out-groups, enticing them to obtain and wield in-group power. The official mantra is equality of some sort, but behind everything is the leveraging of special government programs to gain advantages for the interest group identified and solicited. The fantasy may be egalitarian socialism, but the technique is always technocratic dirigisme.

The fantasy on the right (the Republicans) seems to appeal to traditional family people and workers, promising to protect their specific groups (families, churches, businesses) from out-group interference (government interference, usually but not always) and the whole nation from out-group threats. The general idea here is often to assert a rule of law rather than regulatory agenda, and thus the fantasy, here, is something close to libertarianism — but it is onlya fantasy, for almost no one in this camp really wants to dismantle the administrative state that Progressives set up last century. They cannot even manage to repeal Obamacare, which was set up a few years ago.

So, the groups each party identifies as core constitutencies are catered to, by promising heaven on earth, are usually betrayed in specific ways — mainly because both fantasies are impossible.

Republicans’ fantasy of Liberty is not possible notbecause liberty is incoherent and unworkable, but because it is incompatible with the Progressive institutions that are in place but which few Americans — including most conservatives — are willing to give up. So Republican politicians walk a tight rope, promising, promising, but never delivering. Republican politicians cannot even deliver on something as simple and conservative as balanced budgets and debt reduction!

Democrats’ fantasy of Equality is ludicrous in the strict sense of the term, since people are not substantively equal and cannot be made so. And instead of offering the classical liberal (libertarian) rule-of-law notion of formal equality— equality of individuals before the law under a limited state — Democrats instead divvy up society into tribes and then appeal to those tribes based on grievances, resentments and envy. The current fashionable version of this promises “inclusion” into the mainstream by displacement of power rather than sharing of power. And always, in every iteration of left-wing activism, there is the implied notion that increasing the size and scope of domestic state governance is the very meaning of progress . . . with state socialism held up as the secret and now not-so-secret fantasied end-state. And socialism is unworkable at base, since it always degenerates into tyranny and poverty and outrageous moral horror.

So we have a culture war that is getting quite ugly. Both parties are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, and both contain internal ideological contradictions that are dishonorable because unfulfillable.

And, yes, trickery, which is part and parcel of politics in any robust, extensive state, cannot help but be the modusof both.

It can only be thus, given the fantasies of the groups and the realities of human nature in general and our epoch in particular.