Archives for category: Quora
Me, playing with filters . . . and not with my cat, Bene.

On Quora, a question was asked — “What aspect of ‘big government’ frightens conservatives and libertarians?” And answered: dependence. And that answer was then commented upon . . . which then received an additional comment. That last little comment — nothing more than a quip, really — irked me enough to respond.


As the old saying goes, “Libertarians are like housecats. Completely dependent on the people around them for survival, yet utterly convinced of their own independence.”

Ben Patch

This misconstrues the nature of interdependence.

Libertarians celebrate our interdependence in the form of voluntary cooperation — especially in trade. This is the most obvious thing about individualist intellectuals, and has been since Adam Smith and Anders Chydenius. When libertarians talk about dependence we are talking about non-reciprocal aid over long periods of time. The goal of an adult should be a morally autonomous being capable of offering moral (and economic) support to family, friends, and neighbors, but is not a burden to same.

Conflating interdependence with dependence is something of a perversity.

And as for the cat thing — “I bought me a cat” a decade ago because I needed protection from rodents. My cat could have survived for some time in the wild. But in my house he kept it vermin-free for ten years — and has survived longer than he could have on his own. This is important. It is reciprocity. And he certainly is not my slave; and neither, really, am I his. He is not my dependent, not like many people on the dole are to the state.

The “old saying,” above, is a calumny against both cats and libertarians.

twv

Nota Bene: Then followed more discussion, which the curious may drill down to with the link given above.

Why isn’t corporatism talked about as an alternative to capitalism and socialism?

…an answer on Quora by Ethan Lee:

‘Corporatism’ is not an alternative to capitalism, it is capitalism. Albeit not free market capitalism, it is capitalism none the less. Calling X corporatist is just a cop out to avoid admitting that is in fact capitalism.

Capitalism = Private ownership over the means of production

Socialism = Worker ownership over the means of production

Is that exactly right? Workers can own the means of production in capitalism. 

I own my small business. There do exist workers’ cooperatives. And laborers’ pensions often own stock in companies, though most often not majority stock in any one company, and not in their own — which, since they invest at their own discretion, suggests that workers, generally, do not want to own the means of production. Only a few exceptional people do.

And, interestingly, under several of the socialist societies that have existed — the most prominent one, anyway, that called itself socialist, explicitly — small business was not exactly tolerated, was it? And workers did not own their factories, etc., the State did. And, further, it was industrial workers that were focused on: agricultural workers were despised, expropriated, and killed en masse. For “workers” owning “the means of production” was not the point of socialism, historically. Not really. It was “everybody” owning the means of production through a central planning office, through the State. Which in practice just means tyranny.

And I note that the socialists I know personally, and the ones I see on TV, do not seem much interested in workers as such, or the means of production as such. They are concerned with consumers, making sure that everyone can consume about the same amount of goods: equal access to healthcare, equal access to housing, equal access to iPhones, complete financial security for all, etc. Which suggests, once again, that “workers” is the reddest of red herrings. Socialism always comes back to a form of consumerism. State-supported and -enabled consumerism.

What “corporatism” means is not always clear, either. We have a lot of publicly* traded stockholders’ corporations in these United States, and they sure look like market institutions, and not a few are even basically operating within something like a free market. But many — though, once again, certainly not all — of the most successful are dependent for their success on government contracts (some of the biggest corporations are those within the ambit of the military-industrial complex) and, when the biggest fail (most recently in the financial sector) they are bailed out, at taxpayer expense. Further they are regulated in such a way that “just so happens” to protect established businesses from upstart competitors. This system is certainly not laissez faire, as stated in the answer, above. But its capitalist nature, while being there, is certainly open to some interrogation. What it looks like to me might best be called “producerism.” A form of it. Producerist arguments were dominant in 19th century support for protective tariffs, and they now dominate the government practice of regulation and bailouts.

Which should indicate my approach to free-market capitalism: it is consumerist-producerist . . . both. We produce to consumer, sure, but no consumer and no producer should really be given special favors. “Workers” and “business” do not compete so much as cooperate, and foisting a class narrative on their relations is a bad idea. They are just two special interests, and our rule of law should serve the general interest, not any specifically identified class or group. Neither consumer-oriented socialism nor worker-oriented socialism make sense, and corporatisms that focus on bolstering up specific industries for the sake of stability are not much better.

============

* Note that we call publicly traded stock companies “private” — our nomenclature sure must confuse the young.

TDS, the malady of the age, leading to questions like these . . .

Why hasn’t Donald Trump been impeached yet?

. . . as answered on Quora, June 2, 2018 . . .

Every president in my lifetime could have been impeached on some grounds or another. Only one was. And that was for something rather trivial and stupid. Besides, the Senate did not concur with the House impeachment. So it was all a rather pointless enterprise. (Sorry, Bob Barr.)

And, to repeat, every president can be found doing something illegal. Why? Because there are so many laws to break. Just as every American is said to break “three felonies per day,” there are enough regulations hemming in political life that one infraction or another could be found.

Impeachment is not a criminal justice matter, in which Congress must react as a hanging judge over every crime committed by a president. Impeachment is a political matter, and it is by politics alone that the decision to impeach should be made — once a plausible ground for impeachment (“high crimes and misdemeanors”) has been found.

It looks to me that the Trump campaign did break at least one campaign finance law. It is still a bit obscure, but if Congress really wanted to, it could probably impeach him. But since campaign finance laws do not usually end up in prison time — with the exception of the Obama Administration’s successful prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza — one would not expect a simple abridgment of a goofy regulation to end in impeachment and trial.

Other than for political reasons.

And the Republican House is not likely to impeach its own party’s inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Democrats need to regain the House to hope to do anything of this kind.

Which brings us back to pure politics: if Democrats keep up talking about impeaching Trump for minor points of law, and keep conjuring up wild, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the man, they are going to wind up increasing turnout for Trump in 2020. Americans do not take kindly to the witch-huntery involved in this.

That is, hinged Americans do not. The unhinged remain enthusiasts of impeachment.

But back to my main point: Presidents commit crimes. Just as you and I commit crimes. Because there are so many idiotic regulations defining often quite innocent or at least tolerable actions as crimes.

What bothers me are the worse and worst things that presidents do — like authorizing mass murder overseas and the torture of combatant prisoners, not to mention all the unconstitutional actions the three major branches of federal government routinely engage in. These get scant pushback from the American people, partisans in particular.

It was not for bombing an aspirin factory that Clinton was impeached.

As far as I’m concerned, George W. Bush and Barack Obama should both be in prison for their foreign policy “missteps.” (They were not just mistakes.) But almost no one talks about that, and if they do, then only in a partisan way: Democrats wanted Bush in chains; Republicans wanted Obama under lock and key.

Perhaps because all this oppositionalism is mere partisan hysteria, our political leaders are — to too great an extent — unrestrained by the Constitution. Or by political pressure. Because sensible people dismiss it as idiotic. And because the really bad stuff is tacitly and explicitly supported by both parties.

We should not be talking impeachment. We should be talking, instead, about placing actual, effective limits on the Imperial Presidency.

twv

as answered on Quora:

What prevents countries from attempting libertarian policies?

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 current 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 statism as a hole, and all we have are shovels — and, further, that 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. It sure seems easier.

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. But my hopes are not very high.

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 all programs establish that. So all government programs tend to grow, and kludge must become the rule.

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

Statism is the “it” of our situation:

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

twv

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?

…………………………………………………………………..as 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.

712ACAE8-55AA-4566-A0F7-44CCA5EF70A9

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.

twv

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.

twv