Archives for category: Quora

Should there be straight pride?

…as answered on Quora….

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To opposeheteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv

Why do conservatives love Ayn Rand?

…as answered  on Quora….

Only some conservatives love Ayn Rand’s work. But why do they do so?

Since I am not a conservative or extremely enamored of Rand, I am going to try to answer this based on observation of others.

  1. Rand was a good writer. She did some literary things very well. Quite a few people who dislike her politics, or other aspects of her philosophy, often say she is not, but a former colleague of mine took passages from her novels around to his fellow literature professors in a ‘blind taste test,’ so to speak, and they rated those passages very highly, recognizing the genre and tradition which they exemplified and judged them as quite successful literarily. So one reason to like or even love an author is because the author wrote well.
  2. Rand extolled human industry, vision and responsibility. Conservatives tend to love that stuff, and since many political writers (especially on the left) sure seem to be opposed to these things, characterizing entrepreneurs and businessmen as thieves and the standards of individual responsibility as somehow compromised and/or oppressive, it is no wonder that conservatives find some comfort in her writings.
  3. Rand dramatically showed the tyrannical and exploitative nature of leftist ideologies and leftists’ beloved dirigiste state. Conservatives generally favor some limits on government, and are deeply opposed to totalitarian government, so understandably some are drawn to her work.
  4. Rand supported individual rights, including rights to person and property. Many strands of American conservatism do the same, and appreciate attempts to clarify such issues, which, right or wrong, Rand attempted to do, with bravura and persuasiveness.

I could go on and on in this vein. There is much in Rand for conservatives to hate, of course — her atheism, alien moralistic dogmatism, and surrounding cult (!) — but we tend to love writers for their merits and, if those merits speak to us, we ignore or downplay their demerits.

twv

N.B. Do a search on this site and you will discover many “anti-Randian” thoughts. Ayn Rand had no significant influence on my intellectual development, other than in the reverse. That is, dissecting a few of her errors helped me to hone my normative social philosophy. Of the handful of Rand’s major literary works, I’ve seen her most famous play in a local production and read the novel The Fountainhead. The latter I deemed a brilliant but imperfect work.

When will Republicans do something about so many Americans being shot, wounded and killed by other Americans? Nine killed in Atlanta and then several shot in Colorado in two shootings in the past 24 hours.

…as answered on Quora….

Odd question. Why focus on Republicans? And why mention two much-publicized shooting events and not the overwhelming number of shootings and murders in inner cities (such as Chicago) which is ongoing and dwarfs the body count of spree murders?

Take this seriously, why focus on Republicans? Democrats are in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency — and the cities where most of the routine criminality occurs. And that latter fact is even more important. Why? Crime-fighting is properly a local matter.

It is almost as if the questioner has no real interest in crime reduction but … merely seeks to ply a tired and false agenda for “gun control.”

More entertainingly, when we ask somebody to “do something” about a problem, we ask the somebody with direct connection to the problem, in this case crime. While Republicans are generally thought of as “tough on crime,” Democrats are regarded as weak and lenient — so consider, for a moment, the obvious question of responsibility: Democrats commit most of the violent crime. A supermajority of convicted criminals are registered Democrats, not Republicans.

So, the question should become when are Democrats going to do something about violence in their ranks?

But aha! They won’t. Because violence sure looks like part of a strategy.

The Democracy is now the party of anarcho-tyranny, where the plan is to go easy on violent and property crime, and then criminalize civil matters like environmental issues, business competition, socializing sans masks. The idea here is to make peaceful people the subject of police power and ultra-coercion, while letting the mob (whether antifa or looters) and criminal gangs and habitual criminals thrash about, endangering peaceful people. This ramps up demand for increasing State power and (especially) wealth redistribution, and amounts to engaging in terrorism as a means to consolidate authority behind a cult-backed group of ruthless insiders.

I am not a Republican. I have an instinctive dislike for a party that runs on a sort of inertial piety and extreme tolerance for dumb-assery. But Democrats sure seem to be pushing me into the GOP. Please, no, Democrats. No. Give up on idiotic panaceas like “gun control” and evil practices like anarcho-tyranny.

twv

Why do so many libertarians support Trump (no true Scotsman arguments)?*

…as answered  on Quora….

Because of his enemies.

Trump was opposed not only by the easily offended Democrats, but also by the Republican establishment that had betrayed its supporters for years. More importantly, Swamp creatures from the shallow end of the Deep State came out of hiding to take Trump down in the insane Russia collusion and Ukraine Phone Call scandals. So some politically savvy libertarians took note of this.

They know that were an actual libertarian to attain high office, the assassination bureau would kick in. Trump’s term was instructive. So many libertarians warmed to him, for they saw the lies and hysteria directed against him for what it was, and also for the warning it serves for libertarians — who seek a much larger change in government than the under-educated Trump ever contemplated.

Trump was not of course a libertarian. But he is an anti-socialist at a time when the Democratic Party has become increasingly socialistic. He was also skeptical of America’s insane foreign policy, which is what really pissed off the establishment, and caused some libertarians to prefer him over warmonger Hillary Clinton and over the insiders of the DNC who pushed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It should be noted that there are several distinct tribes of libertarians. The beltway types live amongst progressives in the major cities, near the corridors of power, in orbit of the academic and media cultural centers, and seek the approval of these progressives. They tend to do his by virtue signaling anti-racism and anti-sexism and other social justice obsessions. These libertarians of course hate Trump, because to even defend Trump a bit would be icky.

Those of us who understand that social justice is a mirage and that liberty is a competing paradigm of justice, well, we find the Ms Grundies of the beltway libertarians decreasingly impressive. They often buy into politically correct psy-ops, and toe the line as drawn by disinformation artists behind the scenes at the CIA and even shadier outfits. So their opposition to Trump often seems, to us, as witless as progressives’.

For my part, I have never looked upon Trump as a savior, never picturing him as a valiant champion of liberty. That is preposterous. But Trump was not the devil, either, so I could see why a number of libertarians I knew voted for him. I mean, contra Bill Weld’s statement in defense of Hillary Clinton, and Gary Johnson’s, too, I think Trump was a far better option for the country than Hillary. Still, in 2016, I voted the Johnson-Weld ticket despite the bone-headedness of the Johnson-Weld team. That fewer Americans (and, presumably, libertarians) voted for Jorgensen-Cohen in 2020, while Trump received an extra eleven million popular votes, suggests to me that anti-Democratic Party sentiment had increased over Trump’s term.

It is all about voting against these days. Not voting for.

This of course also explains (to some extent) the whopping increase in votes for the Democratic candidates in 2020 over the previous outing.

At what point do Americans realize they are being played — by the system, by the major parties, by the people behind the scenes?

twv

* The question was worded oddly on Quora. The parenthetical remark was a warning that the questioner was utterly uninterested in arguments like “no true libertarian could vote for Trump!” And I sympathized. That is a stupid person’s response.

Frédéric Basiat (1801-1850)

What is the third school of political economy, and how is it distinct from the French liberal school?

…as answered on Quora. . . .

The term “Third School of Political Economy” was coined by Scottish economist H. Dunning Macleod (1821–1902). Whereas the designation “French Liberal School” focuses on the nationality of its members and on their general laissez faire policy positions, Macleod focused on the catallactic point of view of Condillac’s Le Commerce et le gouvernement, considérés relativement l’un a l’autre (1776) as it spread among dissident economists all over Britain, Europe and America. While most historians refer to J.-B. Say as the fountainhead of French Liberal Political Economy, Macleod placed Say squarely in the “Second School of Political Economy,” which Adam Smith famously launched and most of us know as Classical Political Economy.

The train of thought Macleod identified as “Third” is indeed distinct from Smith, Say, Ricardo and the Mills, as well as from the Physiocrats (the “First School”) before them. In Elements of Economics, and other works, Macleod discussed a handful of economists as the school’s exemplars: Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (French); Archbishop Whately (British, first in a long line of heretical Oxford economists); and Arthur Latham Perry (American). He made much of the science as all about exchange, though he came to prefer the name “economics” for the science over Whately “catallactics.” But Macleod was a quirky fellow, and used the Physiocrats’ term, “Economical Philosophy,” in the title of one of his better treatises.

Macleod is generally considered an “also-ran” in the history of economics. His own contributions never really gained much ground, though he had a rather surprising influence on American institutionalism. But one thing you glean from reading his work, as well as that of Perry: Frédéric Bastiat was the most-admired (or at least most inspiring) of the writers in this school. And since Bastiat was French, and a radically individualistic laissez faire proponent, “French Liberal” is hard to argue with.

Other “members” of this school include Destutt de Tracy (French, but translated into English by Thomas Jefferson), Henry Charles Carey (American), Amasa Walker (but not his eclectic son, Gen. Francis Amasa Walker, both Americans), Gustave de Molinari (Belgian), Jean Gustave Courcelle-Seneuil and Yves Guyot (both French). But taking a hint from W.S. Jevons, I include not only Leon Walras’ father, but Leon himself, and especially Jevons, Menger, and their followers. Vilfredo Pareto, an admirer of Molinari, probably also qualifies.

But that is argumentation, a thesis to be established. Or maybe a mere waste of time.

That being said, the distinguishing feature of the school is the idea that in trade both parties [expect to] gain. This is a bedrock notion of today’s neoclassical economists, who sometimes sniff and snort that this idea is “obvious.” Or “just an assumption.” A presupposition. But what the Third School did with it does differ from modern economics in important ways. But that, I think, is another story.

twv

Yves Guyot (1843-1928)

In the Summer of 2016, I answered a question on Quora that does not look very good in retrospect, “Will we ever see a Libertarian president in the USA?”

Until this crazy year, 2016, I said “no.”

Now, after all these years, it appears that the Johnson-Weld team might pull off something astounding. The intellectual death of the two major parties, instantiated in their terrible candidates for office, Hillary and the Donald, might send desperate voters left and right and center into the LP camp.

The Johnson-Weld team did not pull off something impressive. The vote totals, while better than for any other LP ticket in the party’s now long history, were not all that impressive, considering the terrible candidates of the major parties. Surely they could have done better.

One reason that the team did not do better was obvious from almost the first day. When asked about Hillary Clinton, Bill Weld — apparently leading the team — and Gary Johnson, the ostensible Presidential candidate, said she was a good kid, basically, a good and faithful public servant.

If a Libertarian candidate cannot come out swinging against a statist like Clinton, he (or she) is not even a little libertarian.

This milquetoast anti-provocationism could be seen in 2020, too, where Jorgensen-Cohen spent more energy courting the SJW anti-racist vote than the anti-lockdowner vote. It was almost as if the mask-wearing pair didn’t really believe their alleged ideology.

But the problem with the LP remains. Its membership is too radical to succeed in a big way. Their choice of two marginal-to-the-movement candidates suggest the membership’s recognition that the old PlumbLine stance will get them nowhere.

While in 2016 I wrote, above, that Libertarians are “too radical,” the most obvious problem with the candidates since Harry Browne has been that they are not radical enough.

But mainly, the candidates and their supporters in the party do not seem to understand their place in history. They do not understand what they are up against.

So, in that, they are very much like Donald Trump.

They do not see the American union as highly unstable, constitutionally — having lost most of its original federal character — and dangerously over-stable — being run as a nation-state-cum-empire, fed on sectoral greed and guided by Deep State psy-op.

Libertarians do not seem able to grok the most important fact of contemporary partisan electoral politics: the two parties are driving each other insane, ratcheting up their levels of ridiculousness, as can be seen easiest in the fact that Americans just swapped one allegedly corrupt billionaire of erratic temperament and dubious moral character for a super-corrupt, senescent puppet of DNC/Deep State hacks. Libertarians have no sense of story. They do not seem to understand the roles they are playing.

And before you can succeed, you must first understand what you are doing.

Libertarian Party members do not understand what they are doing. They do not understand why they are losers. In 2016, I at least had a clue:

The even bigger problem is that the party has the stink of death about it. Americans give political upstarts a fairly narrow window to show their mettle. (Because of how votes are counted, only two parties can remain viable for long, simultaneously. See the work of Condorcet; view FairVote.org. This systemic two-party bias nudges voters to accept a challenger parties only when there is immediate hope of displacing one of the current major parties.) The LP lost in 1980, with the Clark campaign, and hasn’t had a significant chance until now. Americans see it as a party of losers. The brief time in the early 1980s, when there were several Libertarian state representatives in the Alaska legislature, has long passed. No significant wins have occurred since. Each presidential outing an irrational hope bubbles up, for one candidate or other. I remember economist Murray N. Rothbard’s insistence that Ron Paul could win over social conservatives for new life for the party, in 1987. The 1988 Paul campaign was an embarrassing bust. My colleagues claimed Harry Browne as the breakout hope several elections later. As good a speaker as he was, he received few votes. Candidates Michael Badnarik and former Rep. Bob Barr likewise fizzled.

I’ve been saying for 28 years: the party should fold, and reorganize as several vital activist groups, none of them running presidential candidates — though running deliberate mockery runs, a là Pat Paulsen, might be worth a shot.

But I underestimated the Libertarians’ predicament, here. Libertarians are not serious. They are merely earnest. No Libertarian candidate challenges Libertarians to actually make a difference. No Libertarian candidate dares take the bull by the horns and acknowledge, as a bedrock truth, the party’s always also-ran status, and therefore cannot overcome the Wasted Vote argument — an easy argument to destroy, logically, but Libertarians haven’t the wit to see that their only hope is to face it head on and rub Americans’ noses in the inherently scammy nature of electoral politics, of pretending that democracy can rule an empire.

In other words, Libertarians are intellectual cowards. They have been staring down the Wasted Vote argument since the beginning. Somehow, it never occurs to them to give a good answer. I say that a good answer is to be found, but running with it would be honest and therefore dangerous.

Libertarians would get further by pushing initiative and referendum measures, lobbying Congress and state houses, protesting bureaucracies, etc.

Some day, forming a less radical, explicitly Libertarian Lite party might make sense, a Liberist Party, or, more entertaining and useful, a Receivership Party to fold a bankrupt federal government and form new unions in its place, might make sense.

The idea of a Receivership Party still makes sense, but a Libertarian Lite party is a bad idea. That is what the Libertarian Party is right now. What Libertarians need is not lite, but enlightenment.

But for now, let us see if Johnson-Weld can at least send the 2016 presidential election into the House of Representatives! (Or win?) Right now the campaign’s strategy is to offend as few people as possible, capitalize on their experience, and create whimsical, light-hearted tugs at our heartstrings, hoping to grab NeverHillary and NeverTrump voters, along with disaffected independents, to really send the system into an epochal change.

Best of luck. It is a long shot. But no one else is worth voting for. So why not vote for them?

Yeah, that was dumb. There was no hope. Not with two former Republican governors.

And while the Libertarians’ pathetic hope for respectability, seen in choosing such candidates, may merely parallel the ratcheting-up of ridiculousness by the major parties — all part of the Law of Nemesis that we should (were we paying attention) understood as well now as our ancestors did in ancient times, when memes were myth — take a breath: something more nefarious may be afoot.

Libertarians should ask themselves: are they being played?

Specifically, by the Deep State.

The CIA and NSA and other behind-the-scenes manipulators of public opinion have had a huge hand in politics from the JFK assassination on. The FBI’s James Comey tried to blackmail Trump, after all, and the hidden hand was in plain sight in trying to remove the outsider prez from office for his first three years. In the last year, we must wonder, did the Deep State go back to being professional, bringing out the Big Guns to take down Trump?

For remember, prior to the pandemic, Trump was set for reëlection, the Democratic presidential candidates being so horrifically unimpressive and all, and the economy doing surprisingly well. But in comes the Wuhan bug, and Trump crumbles. While he resisted going as authoritarian as Democrats demand (and that was funny, I admit) the way he handled Fauci and pushed “vaccination” meant that he was doomed. The Democrats worked mightily both behind the scenes and in plain sight (as Time so niftily explained) to ensure that the pixillated puppet, Joe Biden, got more votes than Trump. It was an astounding thing to watch.

Libertarians should wonder whether they have also been manipulated. By infiltrators into their ranks (like, say, former Libertarian National Committee chairs and former state governors as candidates) and by strategically placed temptations.

We should speculate and inquire: what has the Deep State been thinking about us?

Wonder, especially, what to make of Brennan’s new direction, of placing libertarians under direct investigation — “even libertarians”!

I suspect that libertarians are the group in America that the Deep State most fears — intellectually. Because libertarianism has such a strong connection with the tradition of American independence — the United States began as a secessionist revolution spouting ideas of liberty! — libertarian ideas are potentially the most destabilizing for the Deep State’s mission of managed politics. So, Libertarians have been managed. For a very long time.

But with Brennan’s floated idea of treating libertarians as open enemies of the State, libertarians might want to now rethink their insignificance.

Could we be insignificant by design?

And if we made ourselves significant, by confronting reality as it is, not reality merely theorized and dreamed about, would we survive?

The question then becomes, are libertarians brave enough to take the next steps? So far, bravery has been associated with dunderheaded stupidity, as in the whole Tea Party movement and Trump moment. But for actual libertarians, the bravery will become necessary after the stupidity is foresworn. Do libertarians have the necessary courage?

I doubt it.

As far as I can tell, witlessly pushing the LP rock up Sisyphus’ hill is what libertarians want to do, over and over, forever.

Scant savvy and no courage required for that.

twv

What prevents countries from attempting libertarian policies?

…as answered on Quora….

Not enough libertarians.

That is the main reason. All other reasons are speculative.

But there is, I think, a baseline reason for why there are so few libertarians, and I am not referring to genetic predisposition or the early stage of libertarianism’s development. What is that reason?

Statism is a trap.

The dirigiste state — the robust modern state, as well as the various states of limited-access societies in the past — presents people with a set of incentive traps that embroil them in self-defeating behavior.

Think of it as a hole and all we have are shovels, and the loosest loam is under our feet, not on the sides. It takes longer digging steps for an upward ascent. So people, mostly distracted, living their lives, convince themselves that digging further downward is the obvious response.

They forget that the first rule to apply when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging downward.

The social sciences provide some familiar and not-familiar-enough terms that help define and explain aspects of our predicament: rational ignorance, preference falsification, the Thomas Theorem, the prisoner’s dilemma, public goods, rent-seeking, market failure, and the like. But people get confused by the situations identified by these terms, and are tempted to see in further state-control and -interference solutions to the problems state-control itself causes.

Example? Take that term “market failure.” It is a term of art that economists use, but it often confuses even economists. It is not, like it sounds, about the failures of markets. It refers to the failure to establish the groundwork for markets. The most common market failures are in government.

It sounds paradoxical.

But it isn’t.

It is just a bit complicated.

Smart people are supposed to be able to unravel such convolutions, untangle these puzzles. But the dirigiste state presents smart people with a huge temptation: to live at others’ expense — gain unfair advantage — all the while feeling self-righteous in advancing “the public good.”

But what if the public good can only be achieved through the establishment of the limits that liberty provides? What if it is only by limiting coercion so that people have to get ahead by serving others through trade and other forms of voluntary coöperation that redounds to the general benefit?

Well, smart people would have to work a bit harder, in such a system, and might have to live with dumber people getting ahead of them. So smart people just naturally find the statist modes of the ancient world’s limited-access societies and revive them through licensing, regulations, taxation, even subsidies. And, in the process, “just so happen” to set up their class as dominant. Technocracies don’t run themselves!

It “just so happens” that the biggest winners in a modern dirigiste state are members of what we call the cognitive elite.

It is almost as if intellectuals — good students, remember, great test-takers and essay writers and bright young scholars — saw the world of market capitalism at the end of the 19th century, where anyone, regardless of IQ or credentials, could advance by leaps and bounds so long as they provided services to others on a contractual, voluntary basis, and said “fuck that shit.” It is almost as if they set up a system of massive coercion all built around the guidance of “trained professionals” wherein said professionals would achieve the security that markets do not readily provide, at least for so little real work.

It is almost that!

That, my friends, is Progressivism.

And, with the smart people — er, the good students and dutiful drones of the collegiate crowd — almost all on board with statism, and in control of the commanding heights of the culture — public schools, higher ed, major media and the entertainment industry, not to mention the many bureaucracies and government contractors — it is very hard to make much headway against the trap that they have fully set.

Amusingly, these geniuses routinely set up systems that self-destruct. At least, after entangling increasing numbers of the population into servility or exploitation or both. So, we run headlong into crisis, and move from crisis to crisis. There may be some hope in a growing realization that these long-term cycles of the dirigiste state are not All to the Good.

And, lastly, at the basis of the trap, at least in terms of democratic action, is this: government programs are routinely judged not on the merits of their ostensible and original purposes, but on whether they establish beneficiaries. That is, constituencies. But allprograms accomplish that. So all government programs tend to grow, and kludge must become the rule.

While retreats from social kludge can be made, and have been made, they are politically costly, difficult to negotiate.

Statism is the “it” of our situation:

twv, December 16, 2018

Why is capitalism not liberalism?

…as answered on Quora….

Which capitalism? Which liberalism?

What came to be known as “capitalism” grew out of mercantilism and the freeing up of such systems in part by liberals — “classical liberals” — who sought to limit government interference in the workings of markets. Arguing for a generally ‘laissez faire’ approach, and persuaded by economic reasoning that most of the goals and methods of mercantilists achieved socially negative results — often the opposite of the promised results of the traditional advocates of private-public partnerships — these liberals helped spur the astounding economic advances of the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

But almost no country has ever sported pure laissez faire — such a policy seems austere to folks in government, whose power is limited under such a policy — and Actually Existing Capitalism has always been to some degree mercantilist, filled with goofy and exploitative favoritism, transfer payments, deceptive and slippery regulations, tragedies of the commons, vast public work projects, and persistent rent-seeking manias. Self-proclaimed liberals fought this for many decades of the 19th century, but the popularity of socialist ideas infected the class of people who called themselves liberals, and this class of people reverted to a kind of neo-mercantilism, dubbed ‘progressivism’ in America and ‘social democracy’ in Europe, often pushing to dirigisme — sometimes called fascism and other times called national socialism and often pitched with eulogistic, sloganeering brand names, like The New Freedom and The New Deal.

It is time to take back the term ‘liberalism’ from the advocates of some jury-rigged ‘third way’ between laissez faire and state socialism. But we may have to stick with alternatives, like ‘libertarianism’ or Benedetto Croce’s ‘liberism.’

It would be easy to argue that ‘capitalism’ has almost always been used as a pejorative, and should be dropped like a scorched spud. Worse yet, naming a system of private property, free production, free trade, free labor, and free banking by only one of the three traditional factors of production — ‘capital’ (instead of by land and labor as well) — makes capitalism unsuitable for those who wish for any sort of precision. But we are probably stuck with it, too. In my nitpickier moments I sometimes talk up The Catallaxy — the emergent order of all voluntary exchanges (Richard Whately defined economics as ‘catallactics,’ or the Science of Exchanges, nearly two centuries ago, and F.A. Hayek coined the above term for the liberal system sometime in the 1960s or 70s) — but that isn’t going to fly.

When someone says they are for or against ‘capitalism,’ we must ask for clarification. When folks call themselves a ‘liberal’ but are only liberal in spending other people’s money, laugh in their faces.

Today’s critics of capitalism must not be allowed to get away with their most characteristic legerdemain, pretending that every problem in our mixed economy is caused only by the ‘free market’ aspect of the system, and not the government part. And conservative defenders of capitalism have got to stop calling the current system ‘free enterprise.’ Wake up and throw out the coffee grounds.

In my opinion, liberals are those who advocate laissez faire capitalism. They oppose the neo-mercantilists of all varieties, and socialists even stronger.

So, back to the question. Why is capitalism not liberalism? Capitalism is an economic order; liberalism is an ideology.

Alas, we are almost always stuck with the tedious job of disambiguating both terms.

twv, October 24, 2019

People not tempted by a weird belief express their incredulity. They dismiss the belief out of hand, with a kind of contempt that gives them a feeling of being special, set above the other. They think they are superior.

Pride goeth before the abyss.

I have been fascinated by QAnon, as I occasionally mention. Not fascinated enough to research it much. But contact with Q posts online gave me an extra window into a world I know exists, but which I experience chiefly through fiction: the world of myth, legend, mania. . . .

I have oft repeated two judgments about Q:

I have no evidence against much of the lore, and that the final months of Trump’s administration would put the theories to a falsifiability test.

This last idea seemed especially important. And I was as pleased as anyone to witness QAnon lore largely falsified.

You know, because, come what may, Truth is better than lies.

But those who see in QAnon only insanity and partisan madness, and in their rejection of it see evidence mainly of their own high moral standing? Well, they tend to look at the phenomenon with less open-ended interest. For example, this question-and-answer on Quora:

How can I convince Qanon supporters that Q is a hoax?

Let me summarize Qanon for you.

There is a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles who are running a sex-trafficking ring and are working against Donald Trump in order to ruin the world.

Think about that for a moment.

Let it sink in.

Do you really think that there is anything you can say to a person who believes in that which will change their mind? They must have armor built from the thickest, laminated slabs of fabricated lies welded together that is proof against the strongest facts or logic.

As a coworker once told me (and I’m sure it’s not an original from him):

“You cannot reason someone off of a cliff they didn’t reason themselves onto.”

Or, as another coworker put it (and I suspect this is an original):

If you don’t speak crazy, don’t talk to crazy.

In short, there is nothing you can tell them. They will just assume that you are part of the cabal.

This answer seems all very knowing and savvy. I am sure its author felt very satisfied with his answer. But all of his assumed “wisdom”? It is all as fake as QAnon proved to be.

The main assumption is false. And this is important. Yet it is a falsity sanctified by the very best authorities. It was pithily stated by Jonathan Swift long ago:

Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion,
which by Reasoning he never acquired

Fisher Ames restated it:

Men are not to be reasoned out of an opinion
that they have not reasoned themselves into.

But this is more obviously untrue than the QAnon conspiracy accounts themselves. I rejected many ideas using “reason” that I had acquired in a much more careless way. In fact, most of my ideas that are of a controversial nature were so acquired. Writing before Swift, Dryden is more nearly right:

A Man is to be cheated into Passion, but to be reason’d into Truth.

Of course, “reasoning” can err; or, more precisely, reasoning man does not always find the truth. Using evidence and logic, one can conjure up a conjecture, knead it into a theory and proclaim it “verified” in proper positivist fashion and remain completely wrong. Indeed, in my experience, people who do this can be as obstinate (or more) than those who haphazardly accumulate convictions.

The Quoran’s answer was mere pride and prejudice. I would trust nothing about about that person’s epistemics. His core beliefs that he thinks define himself as a rational man bear, likely as not, all the weight of gossamer.

After all, we have seen many a QAnonster drop the more fanciful notions. You have probably even read a report or two about such a recantation: the “shaman” of January 6 has so confessed to having been fooled.

Of course many Q enthusiasts only reject select parts of the lore. And perhaps that is what is warranted. Break the Quoran’s litany into separate points:

  1. There is a cabal seeking to run (ruin?) the world.
  2. Its members worship Satan.
  3. They engage in strange anthopophagic rites.
  4. They are pedophiles.
  5. Many political insiders participate in or are blackmailed by sex-trafficking rings.
  6. One or more of these cabals worked mightily against Donald Trump.

With just the above, quite slight restatement, Q lore looks less nutty. Is there a cabal for global governance? Well, yes; more than likely more than one. Do some of these folks worship Satan? Well, have you heard of the Temple of Set and its status within the U.S. Government, courtesy of lobbying by a man who became a top NSA official? Set may or may not equal Satan. Cannibalism? Yes, it is now being openly defended as a sexual fantasy on lefty websites, and I wouldn’t be shocked to hear of worse. Pedophile sex rings among the very powerful have been uncovered in Britain and Europe, and Jeffrey Epstein may not have killed himself. Finally, Donald Trump was indeed opposed by very connected members of the FBI and CIA etc., and this is not at all controversial.

The questions for Q enthusiasts are:

how organized are the groups they oppose?

how knowingly do how many of their enemies share the negative, lurid attributes Q assigned to them?

how explicit and how extreme are their aims, or are some or all driven by a sort of memetic blindness?

how much of Q lore was hope, how much of it was a prank, and how much was disinformation by masters of psychological operations?

I heard quite a few science fictional scenarios from Q folks. You know, about Trump directing the military to engage in secret operations against underground caverns of devilish pedophile cannibals. That kind of thing. It felt like open-source sci-fi. And while it would be easy to dismiss all this out of hand, I had no trouble just setting it onto my Epoché shelf, carefully filed.

Why not just dismiss it?

Well, were the government not officially disclosing UFO information in dribs and drabs, while ignoring eight decades’ worth of leaked memos about UFOs, I probably would. But we have a huge mystery here, the government has been all over the map concealing, denying, acknowledging and ignoring the UFO lore, making it a huge matzo ball looming over our culture and over our conception of the world. I know that most intellectuals prefer to ignore this. I cannot. In my philosophy, inconvenient evidence requires explanation, not damning. (I relish every Charles Fort reference.) And I recognize what C.G. Jung recognized, that government handling of the UFO issue is driving people nuts.

Nuts enough to believe Q? Yes. But also nuts to disbelieve everything even slightly Q-adjacent.

Oh, and the nuttiest thing in Q? That Donald Trump was going to save us from the bad guys. Turns out: nope. The globalists have taken control, shamelessly engage in a concerted suppression of dissent, and have used the excuse of a contagion to marshal unconstitutional powers to rob millions of the freedoms. And they insist on doing more.

Oh, and not only was Trump unable to stop them, in the key area of COVID insanity, Trump fed the beast.

Q was obviously way off. And I do hope Q enthusiasts can reason their way out of placing inordinate hope in mythic champions who — it just so happens — deliver them to their enemies. For sacrifice.

twv

It is largely an artifact of World War II, our age’s relentless demonization of fascism. The fascists lost; “we” won.

I have long been in the inconvenient position of itching to demonize fascism as a political and economic system while also sweeping under the Demon rubric the forces that did the grand work of defeating the Nazis, Italian fascists, and Japanese imperialists. For the nation-states and ersatz empires of the Allies shared more in common with their enemies than with the polity for which I advocate. They are all cultists of the omnipotent state. Though I readily admit, by happy accident I was born an American, where the omnipotence of the federal government was contained, traditionally, by some constitutional procedural niceties . . . legal limitations on governmental scope. American fascism was a thing, but fascistic elements of the Progressives’ beloved central government were even more important. And those American limits on state potency have eroded over time.

Nevertheless, it is today’s social justice, intersectionalist “pseudo-progressives” (to use the Misesian pejorative form) who are most likely to use “fascist” as the ultimate term of abuse. They have World War II behind them, and the modern Democratic Party beside them, to make their terminology stick. But their abuse of history and language remains an issue. For more on this problem, consult David Ramsay Steele and The Mystery of Fascism. It is an essay in a book. Look it up. Last year Lee Waaks and I talked with Mr. Steele about it on the LocoFoco Netcast:

But there is no end to the discussion, apparently. See a recent post to Liberty at Large on Quora:

Fascism and anti-fascism, in popular debate, are usually just political tribalism. Fascists were worshipers in the Cult of the Omnipotent State who made much of their differences with Socialists. Progressives in the Progressive Era preferred fascism, generally, to socialism; since World War II they preferred socialism to fascism. But what any of them “really mean” when they say “fascism” (bad) or “socialism” (good) is open to dispute. For, like always with political people, between fantasy and compromise lies a vast tract of spongey territory with no sure footing.

I sometimes find one fantasy worse than another depending on where the action is on the spongey marshland. I try not to be distracted by each will-o’-the-wisp conjured up out of swamp gas.

But hey: it is hard, since usually there is more gas than light. And we need the light.

twv

N.B. This afternoon I chatted with Anthony Comegna again, for an upcoming podcast. But I should mention two recent episodes of his podcast, Ideas in Progress, are about actual America fascism, with historian Katy Hull. Highly recommended!