Archives for category: Ideological currents

Something I just learned: associating the “right” with both “west” and “moral rectitude” (“dexter”) and “left” with both “east” and “evil” (“sinister”) goes back many millennia to ancient Egypt, when the Theban priests expelled and crushed the Amarna pharaohs and their Atenist cult. The worship of the Aten, you see, was a rite directed at the rising sun. The Theban priests who re-took complete control of Egypt under Horemheb reinstated the worship of the setting sun, the worship of Amen.

So Akhenaten’s religious revolution was not an aberration, not a mere foreshadowing. It was a forming feature of our civilization. Well, we can regard it as so if more linkages with our traditions can be found. And I think there are many such linkages.

But regarding directions: the victorious Amenists won.

It is amusing how “left” and “right” in politics has so transformed our values, though, for in popular discourse “right” no longer carries the implication of moral rectitude, “left” does. Right-wingers are generally despised as evil — by our cultural elites, I mean. Yes, these highly influential left-wingers think of themselves as utterly good, their causes wholly just because (they think) for the good of all, while rightist causes are only for the good of some.

Of course, in truth, popular opinion is filled with illusions.

The drollery here is rich, for, as everyone knows, whether something is to our left or our right depends on where we are looking.

But it is fun to see a memeplex sport such deep roots in our civilization.

Which we can watch burn, livestreamed.

twv

I remember the first time a Christian friend belittled reason in my presence. I was actually a bit shocked, just as I was a bit shocked the first time I heard my pious mother tell me that one of my friend’s books should be burned.

I shouldn’t have been at all surprised, of course. I had read church history as a teenager; indeed, the pastor of the church my family “attended” (that is itself an un-Christian way of putting it) had encouraged me to read his Bible College history of the Christian religion, and that may have been a bad move on his part: what I took away from the reading was a long, sad parade of censorship, persecution, torture and death. It was quite a bracing history, to say the least.

I am trying to remember exactly what my Christian friend said about reason — something like it was fallible and limited and “just a human perspective” and blah blah blah. But I do remember the book my mother thought merited fire: Job Opportunities on the Black Market, by Burgess Laughlin.

I wonder what she would have said about the book I had read not long before that fateful conversation, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, by Walter Kaufmann.

Christian conservatives still ply these notions. And while slighting reason and yearning to censor may be foreign to my way of thinking, it is on the resurgence. Lee Waaks invited Robert Tracinski to talk about this on the latest episode of my LocoFoco Netcast:

LocoFoco Netcast #10: Saturday, May 23, 2020.

You can listen and comment on the audio version at LocoFoco.net, or subscribe via Apple and Google podcast services, or Spotify:

LocoFoco.net is the easy way to get to the podcast hosting site.

N.B. I reloaded the SoundCloud file to get rid of an editorial mistake, and will upload a new video file soon. (5/23/2020 10:46 PM PDST)

Jean-Paul Sartre defined history as “that long road that led to me.” But, let’s talk “existential threat” — not the solipsism of an existentialist. What specific history led to the current debacle of the lockdowns?

That it is a debacle is becoming all-too-clear. As I’ve explained, here and on the LocoFoco Netcast: “It’s the productivity, stupid!”

But how did we get here?

How did we get to the place that we allow governments to just shut everything down based on a virus scare?

Well, part of it is: accept a real scary prediction and over-react. The prediction was wrong. It came from a serial prophet of doom — one who had to resign from his government post because he twice broke the quarantine/lockdown order he had publicly suggested and defended. This Neal Ferguson character was off by orders of magnitude in past predictions, and this time was hardly any better. Where he had numbered COVID-19 deaths in the millions, what has come to pass, so far, number in the thousands. And, it turns out, so far not even as bad as a normal flu among the healthy population. It’s a nasty killer mainly among the very old and the immune-compromised. Still, this is NOTHING LIKE the Spanish Flu.

But what drives the mania for lockdown overkill? I’ve argued that progressives love it for a rather simple reason: it conforms to their values, it “fits”: the lockdown overkill “feeds their prime conceit, the notion that the freedom of all must be sacrificed for the good of the most vulnerable.”

But why would non-progressives fall for it? Out of a willingness to obey? Merely out of fear? Paul Jacob offers a more sophisticated theory (citing my line, nicely):

Shutting down capitalism almost worldwide may prove to be grandest disaster of all time. Folks on the margin of poverty in poor countries are already starving. Though scads of people seem to think we could ride out a lockdown indefinitely just by cashing government checks, the problem is that if we don’t produce, we cannot buy and consume products.  
It’s not about money, or profits as such. “It’s the productivity, stupid!” 
Elon Musk put it this way: “If you don’t make stuff, there’s no stuff.” 
A “universal basic income” won’t help if the re-distributed money chases few-to-no goods.
So how did we come to believe that we can just shut down most business activity and still survive?
Maybe the idea seems plausible because many people already do not work to survive. As their numbers have increased, our civilization has forgotten that they survive upon the work of others. 
We guffaw at young children who, when their parents say something they want is too expensive, they innocently respond, ‘well, just go to the cash machine!’ But the more people rely upon checks and bank deposits from the government — for any reason — the harder it is to remember that the power to buy stuff doesn’t ultimately come from government. With taxation, redistribution and inflation thrown into the mix, even adults think of government as Cash Machine. 
And the Cash Machine as a model for the economy.
To fight a virus, the world has shut down production — as if we do not survive by producing goods in order to consume them.
Government has reduced capitalism — and us — to absurdity.

Paul Jacob, “Cash Machine Cachet” (Common Sense with Paul Jacob, May 18, 2020).

The theory here is akin to “the money illusion,” where normal people tend to confuse the nominal prices of goods over time with “real prices,” not understanding that money changes value over time. (Or, as Irving Fisher put it, ‘We simply take it for granted that “a dollar is a dollar”—that “a franc is a franc,” that all money is stable, just as centuries ago, before Copernicus, people took it for granted that this earth was stationary, that there was really such a fact as a sunrise or a sunset. We know now that sunrise and sunset are illusions produced by the rotation of the earth around its axis, and yet we still speak of, and even think of, the sun as rising and setting!’) But here the illusion is that since money buys goods, and we get money from the government, government supplies goods!

There are many illusions like this in society. (The most notorious I call the Beneficiary Focus Illusion.) And this one strikes me as close to Karl Marx’s Alienation Theory, but works like this: whereas under barter producers are buyers and buyers are producers, under a money economy the buying is separated from the producing-and-bringing-to-market — by the monetary mechanism itself. Thus human beings do become alienated from their productive activities, so separated are they from their consuming activities. That is, buying and selling become radically different activities. And the Economic Man of a commercial society is not One Who Exchanges, but two different people: One Who Produces and Sells, on the one hand, and One Who Buys, on the other. The more these two are separated, or compartmentalized, Paul Jacob argues, the easier it is to forget that production is key to consumption. What’s key to consumption is money, and the government can give us that.

No need to work. Bob Black’s wet dream!

But this alienation — an “economic contradiction,” in Proudhon’s phrasing — has not led to a communist utopia or to an anarchical mutualism. It has led to masses of people accepting an end to production as a solution to a viral menace, with living off of government checks and direct deposits as “enough” economically to tide us through the downtime.

Yes, this is an absurdity.

But this one isn’t a funny absurdity.

Unless we die laughing?


Tarl Warwick has just come out with a video explaining how idiotic a lockdown society is:

Quotation from Irving Fisher, above, is from The Money Illusion (1927).

Lockdowns in the first world will cause deaths because of untreated disease, and will lead to suicide and madness and violence. Depending on how long this crushing of capitalism goes on, we could see starvation here in America and Britain and the rest of the first world.

But it is leading, quickly, to the death of marginal peoples elsewhere, around the world, people on the edge of poverty who have no stocks of food in their pantries and whose lesser-developed countries have less supply warehoused and in the supply chains.

Millions of people.

Dead.

Starved and suffering.

Brown people, mostly.

The lockdown is now strongly ideologically aligned, with progressives being generally gung ho for shutting down all or most commerce. This will make progressives’ guilt in pushing the debacle of Prohibition seem like a baby fart in a hurricane.

Supporting lockdowns will in the future be seen as akin to genocide.

Consider this a ‘pro tip.’ Repent now and save yourself guilt later.

There is a reason for the ideological divide regarding pandemic “mitigation,” why progressives generally love the lockdown pseudo-quarantines: it feeds their prime conceit, the notion that the freedom of all must be sacrificed for the good of the most vulnerable.

In this case, the most vulnerable just happen to be aging Boomers and senescent Silents. And the corpulent. And other immune-compromised medical cases.

Having once been corpulent, and still being overweight, and having just entered my seventh decade of life, I knew early on that I was in a compromised position. But shutting down commerce to protect me is something that would never have crossed my mind.

The idea of demanding extreme mitigation strikes me as effrontery bordering on tyranny.

But progressives have no such compunctions. They hold to the principle of sacrificing the freedom of all for the lives of a few. That is their chief fixation. Because some people are vulnerable to misfortune, no one must be free to make their fortunes.

Traditionally, Americans see the political ideal as “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Progressives see this series in a different order: “Life, a stab at happiness, and liberty.” In cases where there is any conflict of the goals in this series, you sacrifice them by order.

That is, you first achieve life — and that’s life for everyone. Then you guarantee a chance at happiness for everyone, equally. Then, if the situation allows, you obtain what liberty you can for as many people as you can.

This revision of the order of ends, conceived ordinally rather than as many classical liberals and libertarians do, as a rhetorical pleonasm — three different views of the same thing, as Hokusai viewed Mount Fuji — is a key to understanding the progressive mind.

But we must add to this the messianic mindset: for progressives, as for most socialists, the “vulnerable” are seen as outsiders, as members of some out-group, and successful insiders are by definition or imaginative fiat their oppressors. That is, successful insiders, merely for not ensuring the success of those on the outs therefore must count as “oppressors.”

So the “privilege” of being an insider must be destroyed . . . or at least minimized — to rescue the un-privileged outsiders.

In America, the “privilege” of Americans is liberty, security, wealth, even health.

Progressives cannot help themselves: they must do their rescue. They must play messiahs. Their soteriology is always in play, and they are willing to conjure up revolutionary eschatologies to ensure the ritual acts of sacrifice. Well, strike “ritual.” VERY REAL acts of sacrifice: take from some to give to others.

Now, for individualists, sacrificing some for others is a perversion, the most horrifying social act imaginable — we would call it the ultimate anti-social act. But progressives see sacrifice as the whole point. These people are post-Christians. No act of salvation is worth it without sacrifice. Not sacrifice of opportunities forgone to invest in improvements. Not that kind of sacrifice. They need to sacrifice some powerful and privileged (as imaginary as that power and privilege often is) people to make the whole thing feel right.

But whereas Christians believe that the only sacrifice worth fretting much about be Christ’s sacrifice for their sins, working out their own sacrifices with fear and trembling away from the madding crowd, progressives must do their sacrificing in public.

Progressivism is inherently Pharisaic.

Which is why they tend to be such “Karens” regarding mitigation and quarantine. The joy is in seeing themselves as righteous in public, and for that there must be an identifiable group to be saved, and an identifiable group to sacrifice.

But we can take this post-Christian interpretation too far. There is something quite chthonian in progressive soteriology. We may have to look back to Ba’al and Beelzebub to understand the kind of sacrifice they demand.

How far back? Let me consider that in some future essay.

While I should be writing something for pay, or mowing the lawn, today I wrote a bunch of answers on Quora:

Can authoritarianism come to America?

It’s here. In the platforms, habits, demands and reverenced rhetoric of both major parties.

And it is going to get worse and reach its full flower with the new coronavirus menace, for people of vacuous spirituality demand to be “saved” by the sacrifice of others’ freedoms.

That’s authoritarianism in a very popular form.

It is effrontery first, tyranny second.

twv (5/13/20)

Why is it that people either intensely love Trump or […] intensely hate him?

I do not either intensely hate Trump or love him. You may be surprised to discover that this attitude is actually very common in America.

I do find him funny, though. But his enemies are funnier, if not in a praiseworthy way. He is not the idiot that his detractors incessantly insist he is, for it is obvious that he is smarter than most of his political opponents.

But he really is a different creature in the White House, and he breaks many norms. Since presidents following those norms have led us to war and insolvency, seeing them broken does not offend me much. I laugh at those who are offended, but I also chuckle at his adoring acolytes.

As for what he has done and what he believes or pretends to believe? I dislike Trump’s protectionism, his know-nothing nationalism, his crankish approach to policy, his inelegant and seemingly racist speech, but at least he is not a warmonger, and I would never side with the Deep State that demands his ouster. I am an anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist. Trump’s forays against the empire? I had some hope for him. But we did not see his ideas put into play. We saw reaction. At least now we can see who the real rulers are, for they have come out of hiding by trying to remove Trump from office. I know who freedom’s real enemies are, and they reside in the national security state and in shady global alliances of the hyper-wealthy.

But that does not get to the heart of the love/hate, does it? So let us confront one obvious truth: the main bone of contention is his sexual style. He is a traditional “alpha male.” As such, this offends beta male cultures on the Christian right and the pagan left, as well as modish feminism. But most women are not feminists, and his style does not offend everyone. And the right-leaning Christians have lost so many battles that they have in a sense given up: if God gives them an imperfect defender, they no longer prissily complain.

And the enthusiasm for Trump appears to be enthusiasm for someone who regularly humiliates their persecutors — and if any group is openly scorned in America, it is evangelical Christians . . . by coastal cognitive elites. And Trump makes a mockery of them.

Besides, could it be that Americans are beginning to see an ancient principle at work?

The Law of Nemesis turns pride and hubris inside-out, into some form of destruction. Sometimes this occurs by flaunting a parody of one’s enemies against us, other times by turning ourselves into parodies of our own values.

Bush Era hubris brought the empty and ludicrous sanctimony of the Obama years, while the selection of the ultra-corrupt Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s standard bearer fed fuel to the rise of Trump. Part of the comedy here is that Hillary is thought of as a feminist, but she was cruel and unjust in persecuting her husband’s lovers and victims, so a parody of Bill Clinton became her conqueror. And Trump’s most infamous sexual indiscretion? That was his boast how women would fall over themselves for a rich and powerful man, even going so far to allow such men to “grab them by the pussy.” So what do Democrats now promote? A man accused of literally grabbing her accuser by the pussy, but against her will, not, as Trump said, by permission. This is almost a parody of the basic philosophies of right and left: the right produces and entices, the left steals.

All quite hilarious. I laugh at Americans every day. Sometimes I laugh at Trump, but more often I laugh at his enemies. Ridiculous is our descent into madness!

And why?

In times past I would have given reasons out of sociology and political economy — the Thomas Theorem, the Tragedy of the Commons, etc. — but now I suggest we wonder if the gods may not be jesting, playing with us. “The Progressives have had their century, and are a proud tower of folly; now we shall inflict their fall, as we take away their power, dignity, and reason for being.”

Why the love/hate? Because the participants are too entrenched in their own fates, unable to see the principles at work.

Take a step back and laugh with the gods.

twv (5/13/20)

Do you favor libertarian separatism?

I have written about this on my blog. I will summarize.

I support putting the general government of these United States under receivership. I think all the states should secede from the union and form several smaller unions, and those unions, or the departed states, should appoint the Receiver to liquidate the assets of the U.S.A., bring home from abroad all the military and divvy it up, with close attention to major contractors of the military-industrial complex, and pay off what debts can be managed without creating a worse situation than before.

I do not think there is any other way of restoring balance to our political-legal system. Culturally, financially, militarily, monetarily, the United States is a mess.

I liked the idea of the Constitution, I confess. Federalism — as conceived by the true federalists, called “anti-federalists” — is a pretty good idea. But it was a dead letter on accession in the early 1790s, and quickly became a mercantilist national state. The nationalism grew and grew, and morphed into a new form of imperialism.

I oppose nearly everything the United States have become.

So, this all assumes the persistence of large states. It also assumes that we might be able to make an orderly reorganization. This latter is a long shot. But barring this sort of thing, I foresee major chaos, and probably a triumph of totalitarian controls. Our nation of serviles is pushing for that now. Ugh.

What should libertarians do? I do not know. In a time of chaos it might be good to have a sovereign state with a concentrated population of libertarians. But if the totalitarianism comes, then they sure would be easy to round up.

Obviously, I support secession and voluntary, peaceable assembly. But the cult of the total state is getting ugly. And the cult’s acolytes are whipping themselves into a bloodletting frenzy. I know many leftists right now who would be glad to see me carted off to a prison camp.

The biggest problem? There are just so few libertarians. Congregating in one area will mean a slight increase in influence in that area, sure, but also would entail few per cultural checks in the regions abandoned.

If we have time, and if the Q Anon folks are wrong about what is really going on, a slow migration to specific regions might make sense. Perhaps to encourage the idea of restructuring by secession we should encourage the partitioning of a half dozen or so states. New York’s boroughs should be separated from the rest of New York; Chicago’s Cook Country should become a separate state; California needs to split into many pieces, with LA County being itself a separate state, and the much requested “Jefferson” created out of the north of the state snd southern Oregon; eastern Oregon and eastern Washington should become a new state of Adams; King Country, Wsshington, and the counties directly north, should become a separate state as well. The point of all this is to wrest power away from ruling cliques and make manageable states that could actually sport something close to founding era ideas of representation.

I think libertarians would have a better chance to influence politics for the better in any of the more rural new states: Jefferson, Adams, new Illinois, greater New York, etc.

But libertarians would be spread pretty thin. I fear that what will happen will be chaotic, tyrannical, and a horror. Pushing secession as a solution to problems might save the country, though, and, if not, allow for future formal bankruptcy proceedings, as I suggest up top.

I of course think all peaceful people should separate themselves from criminals, if they can. And the biggest criminal is the total state.

twv (5/13/20)

I am old enough to remember when censorship was a conservative thing.

By the Law of Nemesis, censorship by conservatives doomed conservatism in America; conservatives conjured up their enemies and ensured their enemies’ success. By censoring, conservatives provided the major impetus to the astounding successes of the left-progressives.

But the Law never ceases to make fools of Homo politicus: as left-progressives won battle after battle and came to dominate the institutional make-up of modern society, the progressives could not help but become reactionary, protective of their successes and fearful of intellectual attacks upon them. And so the left became alarmed. They girded their loins and moved to censor their opponents, for fear of losing political power and institutional dominance.

And their leftiness became rightiness as they adopted the essentially conservative stance of the Censor. Their attitudes and arguments today are almost identical to those of the conservatives of my youth.

Yes, every day I laugh at left-progressivism.

And nearly every day I openly tell progressives how reactionary they have become, and how they are losing their grand battle. You might think that my explicit explanations of their error might lead them to reform, nudge them to shore up their power by laying off the censorship and cultural heavy-handedness. But they cannot help themselves. Power corrupts, and their success has made them stupid. They will continue to oppress until they begin to lose. Hubris is in full play.

The only real danger is that they throw off all constraints and set up the totalitarian state at the heart of their statist imagination.

And prevent the lurch back, rightward, thereby. If you kill enough people, you can win.

If they do this, I, too, probably will die in their gulags.

But the normal course is for them to lose. The pendulum swings, and their nemeses shall conquer.

Even a totalitarian state, which they itch for, will not ensure permanence to their program, though. In the end, they will fall. Unfortunately, if they take on full authoritarianism, their fall will only come after another genocide, probably of white people. (Their memes insist.)

But let us not pretend that the Law of Nemesis is all tragedy and horror. The comedy of American politics shows each swing right-left/left-right to be a droll dance of inanity one-upped by insanity. The hubris of Democrats in pushing Bill Clinton led to Republicans selecting that buffoon George Walker Bush; the over-reach and managerial incompetence of the Republicans led to the cultural reaction to the stylistic “cool” of a half-African “black” man, who pushed into law an unpopular reform, and then ginned up a race war; Democrats’ choice for champion of the most unpleasant and corrupt and incompetent warmonger of all time, Hillary Clinton, dared Republicans to select as their agent of chaos Donald M. Trump — all quite ludicrous.

But now, to counter the “unqualified” and “sexist” Trump, Democrats have embraced . . . Joe “The Sniffer” (and alleged “Fingerer”) Biden — a man clearly more corrupt and inappropriate than the Democrats’ nemesis, Trump.

It is as if left and right are driving each other crazier and crazier each election.

So to ensure defeat of Trump, Democrats now embrace censorship. It is a performative admission of their pathetic vacuity. But, what can they do? Wise up before November? Hardly.

Alas, conservatives in conquering mode are hardly better. There is a reason I despise conservatism. 

The will to censor is at the heart of all statisms, and these “leftist” and “rightist” urges are unbalanced.

And libertarians, who offer a balancing principle, probably will be of no help in governing these two goofy warring tribes, for libertarians think that they, themselves, are either radical or right-wing or (most pathetically) the “true left.” Unable to see themselves as moderates, they cannot moderate.

And we are doomed to witness the Law of Nemesis make fools of us all.

twv

Benedetto Croce, anti-fascist (liberist) philosopher

The Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals was first published in Il Mondo, then by most Italian newspapers on April 21, 1925 — the national, anniversary-day celebration of the Founding of Rome (ca.  April 21, 753 BC). 

Nowadays, all sorts of people call their political opponents “fascist,” often on the shakiest of rationales. It might be a good idea to look up this original document, for a good idea what politics’ “f-word” originally meant. Here is an excerpt:

Fascism was . . . a political and moral movement at its origins. It understood and championed politics as a training ground for self-denial and self-sacrifice in the name of an idea, one which would provide the individual with his reason for being, his freedom, and all his rights. The idea in question is that of the fatherland. It is an ideal that is a continuous and inexhaustible process of historical actualization. It represents a distinct and singular embodiment of a civilization’s traditions which, far from withering as a dead memory of the past, assumes the form of a personality focussed on the end towards which it strives. The fatherland is, thus, a mission.

The manifesto was written by Giovanni Gentile, in support of the regime of Benito Mussolini.


The Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals, written by philosopher Benedetto Croce [pictured, above] in response to the Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals by Giovanni Gentile, sanctioned the unreconcilable split between the philosopher and the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, to which he had previously given a vote of confidence on October 31, 1922. 

The manifesto was published by Il Mondo on May 1, 1925, which was Workers’ Day, symbolically responding to the publication of the Fascist manifesto on the Natale di Roma, the founding of Rome (celebrated on April 21). The Fascist press claimed that the Crocean manifesto was “more authoritarian” than its Fascist counterpart — a typical leftist dismissal of what used to be called “liberalism” — in Italian, liberismo — but which Croce dubbed liberism, to distinguish it from the dirigiste quasi-socialisms of self-described “liberals” of the time.


The two articles, above, appear annually on their respective dates on ThisIsCommonSense.com — now ThisIsCommonSense.org. I reprint them because I think we should pay some attention to the actual words and arguments of both our opponents and allies, and not conscript them into our fantasies and flame wars merely for their temporary convenience and ultimate confusion.

Now, David Ramsay Steele’s advice on the meaning of fascism is worth considering. He warns of treating definitions as somehow not conventional, but intrinsic to, well, an object we point at. Definitions are conventional, and what Mussolini meant by fascism started out as one thing and ended up as another, but the career of the term has largely hijacked by Marxists, who needed a scapegoat and to deflect away from their own beloved regimes’ astounding failures. That being said, it is weird to call somebody something by a term they never used, and even shunned. We have to tread carefully here. Whom should we call socialists and fascists? Only those who called themselves socialists and fascists?

I don’t think we should call anyone a fascist whose ideas are not very close to Mussolini’s, who rejects the label, and whose intellectual heritage is markedly dissimilar.

But I have argued with left-leaning friends making my case that, say, today’s grass-roots Republicans are nothing like fascists, and that the Democratic Party has far more fascistic elements than does the ideology of everyday Republicans, but who, nevertheless — away from conversation with me — immediately revert to calling Reaganites and Trumpians “fascists.”

Deeply anti-intellectual and dishonest, both. But that is how I see leftism in general.

Though, interestingly, what do I call these people? Leftists? Progressives? Those are two currently acceptable-to-them terms. But they used to call themselves liberals. And that was not acceptable to me. The best term is Mises’ term for them, statist — or the French, etatist — but that is an exonym, not an endonym.

If leftists can call everybody not a leftist a fascist, I can call them statists, and with far more warrant. For the term was designed to encompass all forms of activist state policy and ideology above a limited state, whether limited by constitutional law, balance of countervailing powers, custom, or ideology. Fascists and socialists and progressives and communists and, frankly, most everyone, are statists. They are flavors of the cold, cold popsicle. Only those of us seriously seeking to limit the state are anti-statists.


Il Popolo, May 1, 1925.

You can find Dr. Comegna on Twitter as @DrLocoFoco

Anthony Comegna joins host Timothy Virkkala to explore the meaning of LocoFoco-ism.

This is the history America’s historians shun as if it were the … coronavirus.

The issues from the 1830s and 1840s:

  • anti-monopoly
  • anti-central bank
  • abolitionism
  • anti-censorship
  • extending the franchise
  • general pro-freedom

Walt Whitman was a LocoFoco, and much admired its intellectual leader, William Leggett.

They were a radical bunch, and they took the liberty idea to some logical and sweeping conclusions. Their transit through America’s ideological landscape was astounding, and they changed minds. Whose?

William Lloyd Garrison’s, for one. His “no union with slaveholders” notion came from Leggett!

President Martin Van Buren — the true father of the Democratic Party — put LocoFoco positions into policy, and a number of LocoFocos into his administration.

But these LocoFocos came to learn something, and learn it hard: their love of democracy brought them face to face with an unlovely truth, that democracy corrupts its practitioners, and leads to slavery, war, and special privileges. As well as to themselves, the “equal rights” republicans.

Libertarians still struggle with these issues.

Maybe the way to really confront them is to do what most historians will not: learn from the history of actual libertarianism, in its first full flowering.

And, after catching this episode, you will also understand why our logo is a match:

LocoFoco Netcast #6 on YouTube

Or go to iTunes, Spotify, or (perhaps) some other podcatcher to listen to the podcast hosted at LocoFoco.net:

LocoFoco Netcast #6, LocoFoco.net.
William Leggett

A satirical article by the Genius Times begins in this manner:

POLL: Most people unimpressed with their 30-day free trial of Communism

A poll conducted by the Pew Pew Institute shows that a majority of Americans are unimpressed with their 30-day free trial of Communism.
“It kinda sucks,” 19-year-old San Diegan Britta Fowler said of the trial. “I was expecting all this free stuff, which I guess we’re getting, but I also didn’t expect empty store shelves and house arrest for everyone. It’s really lame!”
The trial was imposed involuntarily by governments across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Yesterday I called the current economic system of the United States “State Bailout Capitalism.” But I also called it “Pseudo-Stimulus Socialism.” That latter term is only half-right, since socialism, surely, would be a system in where capitalism’s profit-and-loss mechanism has been replaced by socializing both the gains and the losses of human coöperation. Under State Bailout Capitalism, the socialism part is the protection from loss. Profits still can be reaped, only now it is a protected class that reaps them — existing businesses targeted for bailout, and those with early access to loosened credit, have had some of the burdens of business risk removed from them by the federal government. So, we are not all gaining from protection of loss — unless you call the $1200 or $1400 personal subsidy for most taxpayers just such a protection — and we are not all sharing in profits, which is what socialists want.

So, how fair a joke is this “30-day Free Trial of Communism” mockery?

Isn’t it a bit unfair?

Sure. But there is enough of Trump’s beloved “fairness” to justify the jest.

First off, capitalism has mostly been shut down. (On my podcast I called the coronavirus quarantine the worst hit to capitalism since communism.) So, socialists and communists hate capitalism, and a communist state does indeed shut down most businesses. So, that’s fair.

Second, the communist “experiments” of modern times have all produced poverty, and could not provide consumer goods like capitalism has. So, by the rules of comedy, taking an effect identical to communism’s is as fair as comedy gets.

Third, it was indeed “involuntary,” which is the whole point of making socialist and communist ideas political, rather than a voluntary community idea. Basically, utopian socialist experiments tend to work out pretty badly. But most people want them to work out better. So, why don’t they work? Well, socialists think it is the fact that everyone isn’t forced to go along. So focusing on the involuntary nature of communism and identifying that as a feature of the coronavirus quarantine is also fair.

Interestingly, the common identification of a lack of universality as the source of the failure of utopian socialism was not a universal conclusion of 19th century utopians. One utopian experimenter, Josiah Warren, fingered a different culprit, and invented the American form of anarchism in the process.

So, if you ask me, anyone who yearns for a radical alternative to our world of woe and seeks to force socialism down others’ throats is double suspect: not only has that ideologue jumped to a conclusion, he has jumped to a conclusion that proved dangerous after at least one person thought his way out of the utopian experiments’ trap.

“Yeah, they’re giving us money but what good is that if you can’t spend it on anything you want?” Fowler asked.

Here we get to the profundity of this satirical piece. With this one question we get to the heart of the beginning of economic theory, especially per David Hume:

Hume realized that money is not wealth. You can have all the money in the world, but, if there are no goods to purchase for it, money doesn’t do any good.

And if you think this is a trivial matter, you are wrong. But you would be in good company:

“Poverty is not a character failing or a lack of motivation. Poverty is a shortage of money.” 

—Barbara Ehrenreich

Ms. Ehrenreich no doubt thought she was being at once clever and expounding upon a principle of common sense. She was neither. Poverty is what humans have when they do not have enough resources to survive and thrive. But resources aren’t money. And resources without labor aren’t wealth. We produce wealth by transforming resources. And this is done, chiefly, in coöperation with others, through a division of labor. In a capitalist society this is done by trade. That’s where I offer something of mine — say, my labor, a resource of my time and attention and effort — in exchange for something I want more than that time and attention and effort. People rise out of poverty by creating wealth by offering something within themselves — often, just a potential activity — that they have more than a potential trading partner has. It is not money that is key here, it is mutual advantage. But there is no mutual advantage if you have nothing to offer. Why is there poverty? Because too many people have nothing much to offer, or are unwilling to make the trouble to develop something to offer.

Money just makes the trading easier, getting around the barter stricture of the coincidence of wants.

That Ehrenreich, a mostly witless leftist, does not see that is no surprise. Which is why we make fun of leftism’s most extreme isms: socialism and communism. And that one line makes this particular bit of satire so good.

The rest of the satire goes in different directions. I enjoyed those directions. But it is this first segment that needs explaining to some people.

Though this later paragraph is pretty funny:

“Everything went well but only a few Karens across the country are really enjoying it.” Lennon added. “They really revel in telling people to ‘stay the f**k home!’” 

Shut the fuck up, Karens. No reasonable person likes snitches and bullies.