Archives for category: Ideological currents

It has not yet been made clear to our chattering ideological courtesans that the border/migration issue and the welfare state stability issue are strongly linked. In all the accusations between President “Cheeto” and the Democratic duo of Chuck and Nancy, for example, the great truth about the long-running government shutdown seems to have been lost.

It is almost as if we feel compelled to talk past each other about the border wall.

But it’s not about the border. Not really.

It’s about raising the debt level to accommodate continued increases in federal government borrowing. It is about stressors long ago placed upon the American union.

The border wall hysteria is, in a sense, very convenient. It allows everyone to keep avoiding any serious discussion of runaway federal spending and skyrocketing government debt, and, instead, play to each side’s constituencies’ prejudices. 

Why, it is almost as if no one wants to confront the fragility of our governmental way of life!

Democrats, of course, talk up the freewheeling idea of unrestricted immigration and “being inclusive” . . . while gleefully contemplating the naturalization of illegal and legal immigrants who are far more apt than not to vote for the party with an ass as its mascot.

Republicans, on the other hand, devote their elephantine bellows to border security and the common-sense notion that “good fences make good neighbors” . . . all the while eagerly blaming on foreigners the perceived immiseration of the middle class — which, to the extent it is happening, is largely the result of bipartisan government policy and not free trade or free immigration.

And though it is true that President Trump could have advanced his pet populist promise of “the Wall” while he had Republican majorities, is he really doing anything new? 

Democrats say he is holding America hostage to get what he wants.

But Trump merely mirrors what Democrats and establishmentarians do every debt-ceiling round: hold Americans hostage by pitting a working federal government against politicians’ addiction to ridiculous overspending. “Let us spend more than we have and we will let you have everyday governance.”

Increasingly, the prisoners’ dilemmas and games of chicken dominate our politics.

To repeat, the border issue is in an important sense a distraction from the real issue, out-of-control federal spending, and the ever-increasing debt.

But how big a distraction is it?

Super-sized

While socialists build walls to keep citizens in, the better to hold them captive, welfare states build walls to keep non-citizens out, to avoid over-exploitation of resources.

Meanwhile, free societies let people move about peaceably, letting populations find an unplanned, natural balance.

But we do not live in that kind of free society. A fact that is rarely recognized. Both Republicans and Democrats pretend that we are free, though, if for different reasons. 

By pushing for free migration that only makes sense in a freer society, Democrats jeopardize the solvency of their beloved welfare state. Is this just for the thrills? No. By undermining the solvency of the welfare state they send it into crisis. Which is awfully convenient for them, since they always have a ready response for a funding crisis of mini-socialism: more socialism. For them, the failure of government must always be more, more, more.

And I’m not being paranoid. Or, my paranoia finds ground in experience. What we witness from the Democrats looks suspiciously like an actual strategy famously advocated by respected leftists, the breathtakingly brazen Cloward-Piven strategy — but in this case using illegal immigrants to precipitate the crisis that would drive politics leftward towards their ersatz “utopia.”

Republicans have a different reason to deny the truth. They pretend that border walls are what free republics typically ballyhoo. Not true. It was the Progressives who put immigration quotas and controls into place in America. And, as Milton Friedman famously suggested, a responsible welfare state requires such controls. But we approach a rich vein of antinomy when we witness Republicans proclaim they are against the welfare state, for, no matter what they think of it, their border obsession serves as an attempt to save the welfare state, not peel it back. By pushing “border security” they avoid the uncomfortable task of confronting their own divided loyalties. Which is it, conservatives: a free society or the Redistributive Leviathan State?

That’s enough repressed ideas to send the whole country to the psychiatrist’s couch.

For Whom the Cuck Clucks

The conservatives manqué are not the only muddleheads.

Progressives have to live with all sorts of contradictions and cognitive dissonance. Internal contradictions are what it means to be a progressive, these days. Perhaps not one contradiction is more richly droll, though, than the fact that they jeopardize their beloved welfare state to let poor people in, who, to the extent they actually support themselves and not behave like leeches do so chiefly by flouting the labor regulations and taxing policies that progressives hold so very dear. And for which they would gleefully send in men with guns to take down . . . “evil white rich people.”

But libertarians have no standing to gloat, for they are in an even sorrier predicament. We want to live in a free society. And so, naturally enough, we want to support migration, even illegal immigration, and of course oppose the Trumpian border wall. But libertarians should be worrying about whether, in so doing, they are not introducing a moral hazard into the mix by going along with the progressive inclusion-über-alles mob.

Ideologies have their own entelechies. “Ideas are forces,” wrote G. H. Lewes, “the existence of one determines our reception of others.” And once a people embraces the welfare state, the draining of its funds through the tragedy of the commons almost never leads to the divvying up of said commons into a distributed division of responsibility. Government failure breeds more government.

It is an old and sad story.

I just do not see how opening up the borders to economic refugees could, in the current context, lead to a freer society. That is not how actual politics works.

The more I analyze our current situation, the more certain I am of the cucking of the libertarian mind. Trendy libertarians so want to be thought of as “on the left” that they let leftists push policy into what Sam Francis aptly called anarcho-tyranny, where government increasingly lets criminal and dependent elements dominate public life while directing the heavy hand of the State onto people who are basically peaceful, who are not subsidized, who earn their keep and don’t steal, murder, and grift their way through life. That heavy hand is the increasing burden of the regulations progressives love.

I have actually had one young libertarian correspondent berate me and ridicule me (ah, these ideologues really know how to persuade!) for my skepticism about the efficacy of open borders for bringing about freedom. This particular interlocutor to whom I am referring actually welcomed the degradation of the welfare state, offering up his own libertarian variant of the Cloward-Piven strategy: initiate a crisis to change policy in a libertarian direction. How he thought libertarians could convince a national government to go in the direction they do not want to go I have no idea.

The word “cuck” is made for libertarians such as these. Just as the cuckoo bird destroys the eggs of other species of birds and then lays its own eggs in their nests, tricking those hapless marks into devoting all their effort to support cuckoo life, not theirs, libertarians who think that opening up borders within the context of the welfare state are tricked by progressives — in a perhaps unwitting grift, I admit — to expending their wealth on others’ children for their benefit and not libertarians’.

And definitely not the general, public benefit.

Now, if these libertarians would dare confront progressives, telling them, in no uncertain terms, “if you want open borders and an end to ICE, then you have to end the welfare state first, and stop placing the institutions of the rule of law in jeopardy,” that might work.

The left could be met square on, disallowed from their haphazard course towards the fake anarchy and real tyranny.

It might be a workable strategy. But I have never heard one of these “principled libertarians” ever dare confront progressives in such a way.

Have you?

They seem, instead, to merely fall back in line as the meek marks of progressives.

And when libertarians or anyone else show any real independence of mind on this subject, they will get called racist.


To be continued…

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What’s the difference between classical liberalism, anarchism, and libertarianism?

as answered (5/20/2018) on Quora:

Most of the answers given so far concentrate on the terms liberalism and libertarianism. I discuss these two terms, and the two main varieties of anarchism, too, on a blog post I recently wrote, “Grand Theft L-Word.”

So I will summarize: Classical liberalism is today’s term for 18th and 19th century liberalism. Most scholarly people, and most who call themselves libertarians, understand this. But many people today, perhaps not so well read, think “classical liberalism” is FDR’s ideology. This is an error. But carelessness and ignorance are the leading causes of lexical drift, so maybe that will become an accepted truth some day. But, as of now, the truth is, “liberal” was taken away from individualists by collectivists, and the remnant started using the designator “libertarian.” It, however, had already been taken up by anarchists of a variety of stripes, so things get complicated.

Anarchism is the term for a variety of anti-statist philosophies all of which oppose political governance through The State. But those on the ideological Left think that the reason to oppose the State is because it props up private property and trade, and does so with its laws and institutions. But individualist anarchists opposed the State because they see monopoly political governance as a chief opponent of private property, and a perverter of trade — and they want a rule of law, and think such a thing can emerge without the institutions of defense and adjudication to claim or practice any kind of territorial sovereignty. Individualist anarchists insist that all alliances among individuals and institutions be built on explicit contract, not fake “social contracts” that are nothing more than the result of bluster, duress.

The modern terms for individualist anarchism are “anarcho-capitalism” and (more confusingly) “libertarian anarchism.”

None of these terms are incontestible. It is worth noting that the first coherent exponent of the individualist anarchist position, Gustave de Molinari, a Belgian economist of the French Harmony School, never referred to his system of “competitive government” (see “The Production of Security,” 1849) as anarchistic. He considered himself a liberal, and argued extensively with socialists of all varieties, including those many incoherent advocates of “anarchism.” A better term for the Molinarian proposal was devised a bit later in the century: panarchism. But it has never caught on.

In the late 19th century, many of the more radical classical liberals had abandoned Liberalism for “individualism.” See the writings of Auberon Herbert (who coined a term for his variant, “voluntaryism”), J. H. Levy, and Wordsworth Donisthorpe. A mere generation later H. L. Mencken used that term to defend a simple market-based republicanism in Men versus the Man. More radical forms of individualism were revived by Albert Jay Nock, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand in the decades after, and at mid-century this group in America took “libertarian” from the anarchists. And then these anarchists manqué reinvented the Molinarian idea, and things got even more confusing.

In the 1960s, a simple newsletter called Innovator had begun its life as Liberal Innovator. Other samizdat journals abounded in this decade, and by 1972, the Libertarian Party had been formed by Ayn Rand fans who had given up on Nixon’s heavily statist Republican administration.

The Libertarian Party has always harbored both so-called anarchists and “minarchists” — advocates of a strictly limited minimal (“nightwatchman”) state — and, increasingly in recent years, hordes of vague “constitutional republicans.”

Amidst this confusion, I sometimes clarify by recalling an 1830s political movement, Loco-Focoism. Since I am agnostic about the ultimate legal and political status of an ideal free society, I often call myself a “LocoFoco agnarchist,” the latter term a droll coinage of an erstwhile colleague of mine, the Reason writer and editor Jesse Walker.

“Neoliberalism,” an ugly term for libertarianism, classical liberalism, or just pro-market conservatism and crony-capitalist globalism, is a pejorative often used by Europeans and leftists. I know of no libertarian who can stand the term. The fact that it is used by witless leftists of the Naomi Klein variety helps explain that.

It is worth noting that Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce coined a simpler term for the anti-fascist, anti-statist liberal revival: liberism.

It has not yet caught on. It seems that Croce was not a supporter of laissez-faire, though, so the propriety of appropriating it for modern individualist liberalism is open to question.

And now you should be able to see the rationale for my preferred term for all these terms for private property, rule of law, free trade individualists: “individualist liberalism.”

It hasn’t exactly caught on either.

An ebook published by Laissez Faire Book Club a few years ago.

Is there systemic racism and systemic sexism in America today?

as answered on Quora:

Yes. But ask the next question: which system are you talking about?

There are many social systems. Do the race and sex isms affect families and clans and communities and churches and schools and businesses and law enforcement and legal adjudication?

Yes.

Equally?

No.

And there are many forms of racism and sexism. Some of them may be benign. (Sometimes it matters how you define the terms. It always matters how you define the terms that define these terms.) Several are corrosive.

Then ask the questions after that: how much does discrimination on irrelevant racial or sexual grounds (which is racism and sexism by accepted definitions — until recently) affect outcomes? Can people withstand irrelevant criteria used against them, or hatred or distaste based on group identification dissuading normal commerce? How would you determine percentages?

What if some people can withstand invidious discrimination better than others? Dare we ask if there be any way to extend the ability to withstand that discrimination?

And we know the above implied situation to be true: Chinese and Japanese have a long history of race-hatred against them in America, but by the stats they do better, wealth-wise, than whites in America. They are doing something right, even if some whites continue to do something wrong against them. Does anyone care to consider what these minority groups are doing right? And emulate those habits and folkways and philosophies?

Indian-Americans also do better than African-Americans of slave descent. And certainly better than Native Indian populations. They even do better than us Caucasians, on average. And yet, I’m told, that not a few Indian-Americans get the “go back to your own country!” shouts all too regularly.

So how do they do it? What do they do right? Or is it “just an accident”? Cannot what they do be mimicked and adopted by Native Indians on reservations or African-Americans in inner city ghettoes and housing projects?

Oh-ho: we just got somewhere.

You should have reservations about Reservations, and “Indian Affairs” in general. And perhaps also express dubiety about the claims made for the welfare state that leaves so many American blacks — and increasing numbers of whites — in poverty.* In Great Britain, where the problems of inner-city and rural poverty are mainly concentrated amongst whites, the same behaviors endemic amongst American inner-city minority populations is exhibited among whites on the dole — “the chavs.”

What if what these folks are hampered by is . . . “being ‘helped’”?

Is that unhelpful “help” racist? Probably not by intent. Not most of the time.

Or is it racist to object to the very question, and immediately lash out at those who raise the question and worry about the possibility?

I suspect that this particular reaction is a kind of racism — an ideological anti-racist racism — that leads folks, chiefly on the left, to dismiss this possibility that state aid can be unhelpful, and to call scholars like Thomas Sowell, who have demonstrated how this awful dynamic has affected society, “Uncle Toms.”

But more importantly than racism or sexism, is the underlying ism: statism. The love of the state above and beyond all reason. The attachment to power, and dreams of concentrated power.

To believe that The State can solve all our problems is an ism worse than racism and sexism. Statism is a scourge upon modern society. It devastates those groups with the least moral capital. And it infects us all with crippling memes of victimhood and blame and desperation.

It sometimes seems that the Last Man of our times can only rise above nihilism by obsessing about and protesting racism, collapsing on clichés in private life, or else hypocrisy.

But the Last Man is also a feminist, obsessed with making Woman equal to Man — but using as a standard of judgment only the successes of the most esteemed men. Today’s feminists notoriously insist that the numbers of women should equal the numbers of men in roles of political and corporate leadership, and as workers in STEM fields, and the like. But somehow they never complain about the ratio of men to women in homelessness, suicides, or in dangerous, grisly jobs. Do feminists thereby make of their anti-sexism another form of sexism? Maybe. And their agenda may, like the statism that keeps some populations away from responsibility and progress, be, indeed, systemic.

What it is, really, though?

A form of classism.

Feminists only look to match the successes of the alpha males, and impute to alphas and betas invidious discrimination, all the while scorning the failures among men, the low-status men, the daily workers and get-byers — the gammas; the “neckbeards”; the “deplorables” — and carrying on the old class hierarchies of “patriarchy” into their brave new world of welfare-state gynocracy.

In complaining about systemic sexism, and racism, the modern intersectionalist progressive advances systemic classism. These progressives/socialists/social engineers abandon any attempt at establishing a general, universalizable rule of conduct, instead demanding that the State engineer “just the right” consequences in terms of ratios by race (which they get to define) and by “gender” (which they cannot help but misdefine) — making a systemic form of discrimination that is worse, I think, than what we find in an open society.

Perhaps they are well-intentioned. But I am, increasingly, failing to see the good intentions. When they have so much opportunity to look at the actual numbers and trends and evidence (as well as logic) of human interaction, instead always pushing the same sort of class-based, group-indexed agenda, and, further, deflecting when evidence is brought against their ideas —

  • by Thomas Sowell, for example;
  • by Charles Murray, for another;
  • by Christina Hoff Sommers, for a third;
  • by a host of others

— then I think the question to ask is: are the biggest proponents of systemic discrimination the social engineers themselves?

The answer is yes.

And their favored forms of systemic racism and sexism are blighting more and more lives every year, male and female, white as well as all the darker shades. These isms create new class structures. Indeed, the class structures are well in place. It is the old rule: insiders and their protected groups versus the outsiders. And it should surprise no one that the most enthusiastic supporters of intersectionalist progressivism can be found in the most pampered and “privileged” of institutions, the Academy, and in the cheerleader corps of journalism, as well.

The only sure response to this is establishing a rule of law. That is, encourage a refined individualism that judges everybody by their actions, not their skin color or sex organs. Judge people by themselves, the “content of their character” and the fruits of their deeds, not by whatever group they happen to belong to.


* It is worth noting that the trend lines for poverty in America were in steep decline in America . . . but leveled out only a few years after LBJ’s much-vaunted, much-promoted “Great Society” welfare system kicked in.

The existence of politicians makes us all poorer. A society where someone can become a politician is a broken, inhuman society. Leveraging political power is an obscenity. Every politician is murdering the poor and the powerless, simply by existing.

There. Fixed. (twv)
Not a scandal.

Robby Soave, over at Reason, defended Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against those on the right who mock her for her telling of whoppers about her past, about her pose as a poor person, and for her recently unearthed dance video, which I have no interest in seeing. Since AO-C is a pulchritudinous woman, I am certain I would have no great objection to her alleged Terpsichorean antics.

There. I got out my inner Bill Buckley, so I can move on.

Anyway, the meat of Soave’s defense and remonstrance (or is that mere warning?) is this:

Conservatives who obsessively comment on Ocasio-Cortez’s wardrobe and dance video are feeding into the narrative that the right is anti-women and does’t treat them seriously. Bafflingly, they are also attacking her strengths. Being a young person with a sense of style is a good thing! Occasionally unwinding, dancing, and livestreaming dinner while taking questions from constituents: also good.

Robby Soave, “Criticize Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Socialist Policies, Not Her Extremely Likable Dance Video” (January 3, 2019)

Just as Aristotle reminded us that one swallow does not make a spring, I insist that calling attention to the young pol’s pretentions to poverty and Woman of the People status is not an obsession. Not yet.

And just calling attention to a dance video? It is fun to note the quirks of one’s opponents,

Of course, criticizing her for her mad policy preferences is best.

But it is not as if progressives do not actually obsess about Trump’s looks and his manner of speech. And it is not as if they did not relentlessly attack Sarah Palin for her looks and her cultural goofs more than they did her substantive errors.

Sure, anyone not a leftist criticizing a leftist woman on non-policy grounds is going to “feed a narrative” of misogyny. But that is just a marker for the besetting sin of the left, who regard negative comments against any particular woman as being a sign of the dread attitude of being “anti-women.” There is not much we can do about that.

Donald Trump, though, was brilliant in his response to Megyn Kelley’s famous and rather sexist challenge of his alleged anti-woman attitudes. Did he say nasty things about a few women? Sure. He also said many nasty things about men. But no one ever accused him of misandry. Just misogyny.

Mr Trump — one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides. In particular, when it comes to women. You call women you don’t like, ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals.’

So Trump’s reponse was spot on: “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” He particularized. Megyn Kelley collectivized. As is so common in the media, as well as, generally, on the left.

The cultural left.

Which is why any criticism of a famous left-of-center woman will be added to the evidence for misogyny. Because leftists will take even the most iffy opportunities as license to make the misogyny charge.

It is a similar case with feminism. Were I to say that “I hate feminism,” such a statement routinely would go through at least three transformations: (1) “I hate feminists”; (2) “I hate all feminists”; (3) “I hate all women.” Truth is, of course, feminism is not feminists is not all feminists is not all women.

But ideologues of a collectivist bent proclaim the opposite.

Miss AO-C is quite obviously “Trumpian” in one important way: she has a few peculiarities in the looks department, she is astoundingly ignorant, she says goofy things, and she is not on the side of the angels. And, in our rather superficial age, I reserve the right to make fun of her for any and all reasons. Which narratives that might feed? I do not care much. Progressives cannot be reached. I make my pitch to convince others.

Still, caving in to doing politics like the left does politics is, I suppose, not any great advance.

twv


You realize that Trump’s Wall is symbolic, right?

Arguing about its efficacy seems pointless to me. You either like the symbolism, or no.

And making much of opposing it? Seems like symbolic inaction, to me.

Is it really worth spending so much thought over, when so much else is on the line?

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

I asked a question about Menippean satire and the works of Jack Vance, in a Facebook discussion group, and in the conversation that followed I encountered this:

What is remarkable about this passage from a fellow Vancian is how easy it would be to satirize, in Menippean fashion.

But instead of doing so, I will just explain: the truth of the matter is almost precisely the opposite of the notions for which my interlocutor expresses certainty.

“We” do not destroy the environment to enrich the “1 percent.” This “1 percent” works mightily to fulfil our desires, and in the course of the process some damage is done to the “environment.” Trendy progressives — by which I mean “trendy anti-progress doomsayers” — never seem to understand how the world works. They seem to think that if the 1 percent goes about enriching themselves, we allow them to do that because we are suckers. Not quite. We allow them to invest, and to build businesses, so that those businesses can increase the quality of our lives. The dreaded Greenhouse gases do not come, primarily, from the recreational activities of the very rich. They come from all of our driving in automobiles, heating our domiciles, and eating meat. Sure, many people get rich providing us with cars and fuel, electricity and natural gas, and raising beef animals that fart up methane. It is because we engage in consumption that production is developed, and some people — serving vast hordes of consumers — get very rich.

Capitalism is mass production for the masses.

It is a defect of leftist thought that what leftists object to is the great successes of the most productive, not the real drivers of the market system, consumers.

I find it hysterical coming from folks who readily parrot Keynesian doctrine, since Keynesians fixate almost wholly on consumer spending as the driver of market activity. I think the actual implementation of capital is way more complicated than Keynesians think, but nevertheless I more than acknowledge the consumer sovereignty idea embedded (perhaps precariously) within Keynesian dogma.

But leftists and environmentalists and other responsibility-evaders must always shift blame for unfortunate social patterns away from themselves and onto the dreaded Rich.

I guess this allows them to justify their lust to tear away at other people. And because they do not see the integral role of entrepreneurs in markets, or recognize the symbiotic relationship of all market participants, including between “classes,” they eagerly attack one sector, in vulgar fashion, while inflicting harm more generally.

Then, of course, they blame the rich for not being more productive.

This general attitude is what I think of as a satirizable — and is satirized in some of the character types to be found in many of Vance’s best work, such as Wyst and Emphyrio.

It is not just the attitude that is bothersome, however. Also latent in my interlocutor’s sort of complaint is lack of recognition of a fairly basic truth: it is only the comparatively rich societies that find ways to make industry cleaner. America and Europe developed strategies for cleaning up industrial excess only after a level of wealth was reached, far in advance of what big polluters in India and China now possess.

This may be a sad truth, but it is a truth regardless.

Environmentalists so rarely recognize it.

And yet they often do so tacitly, by focusing their ire on First World polluters more than in China and Africa, for instance.

Pure comedy gold.

twv

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

as answered on Quora

Both do, but to different “identity” groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Ralf, Flickr, some rights reserved

A big problem with the political left is that hard-left illiberality is on the rise. But the bigger problem may be that the moderate left — called “liberals” from Hobhouse and FDR on to about a decade ago — forgot their convictions, and confused themselves into thinking they were close to Marxists (the world’s Most Failed Philosophy). The result? A sharp rise in mob insurrection and social terror in the name of “the oppressed and the (socially) marginalized.”

Jonathan Chait has posted more than one perceptive explanation on New York magazine’s website in which he demonstrated that, unlike his comrades, his moderate left/“liberal” credentials have not fallen prey to the hard left line. “The problem with Marxism,” he wrote in 2016, “lies in its class-based model of economic rights. Liberalism believes in political rights for everybody, regardless of the content of their ideas. Marxists believe political rights belong only to those arguing on behalf of the oppressed — i.e., people who agree with Marxists.”

This sets up a logic that leads to tyranny. Chait argues that the “standard left-wing critique of political liberalism, and all illiberal left-wing ideologies, Marxist and otherwise, follow” a relentless and rather bizarre dialectic:

These critiques reject the liberal notion of free speech as a positive good enjoyed by all citizens. They categorize political ideas as being made on behalf of either the oppressor class or the oppressed class. (Traditional Marxism defines these classes in economic terms; more modern variants replace or add race and gender identities.) From that premise, they proceed to their conclusion that political advocacy on behalf of the oppressed enhances freedom, and political advocacy on behalf of the oppressor diminishes it.

It does not take much imagination to draw a link between this idea and the Gulag. The gap between Marxist political theory and the observed behavior of Marxist regimes is tissue-thin. Their theory of free speech gives license to any party identifying itself as the authentic representative of the oppressed to shut down all opposition (which, by definition, opposes the rights of the oppressed). When Marxists reserve for themselves the right to decide “which forms of expression deserve protection and which don’t,” the result of the deliberation is perfectly obvious.

When I posted this to Facebook, I got some interesting commentary. Brian McCall wrote this:

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the socially marginalized concept myself, and the way they have so deeply fetishized it. Since no one is ever that marginalized, weak, downtrodden, I wonder if this isn’t some psychological need on their part. It reminds me of a piece I read long ago. . . .

And he refers to a passage from Isabel Paterson’s God of the Machine (1942). As always with Paterson, there is much to chew on. But she gets to the point regarding Lenin’s and Stalin’s western supporters, who should have known better:

The Communist regime in Russia gained control by promising the peasants land, in terms the promisers knew to be a lie as understood. Having gained power, the Communists took from the peasants the land they already owned — and exterminated those who resisted. This was done by plan and intention; and the lie was praised as “social engineering,” by socialist admirers in America. If that is engineering, then the sale of fake mining stock is engineering.

Why would anyone accept such criminal behavior? Certainly, many in America did — and not just self-designated socialists. The question lingers. Paterson has an answer:

The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others. And the good people cannot be exonerated for supporting them. Neither can it be believed that the good people are wholly unaware of what actually happens. But when the good people do know, as they certainly do, that three million persons (at the least estimate) were starved to death in one year by the methods they approve, why do they still fraternize with the murderers and support the measures? Because they have been told that the lingering death of the three millions might ultimately benefit a greater number. The argument applies equally well to cannibalism.

Once you accept the sacrifice of some for others — most commonly, in rhetoric, anyway, a few for the many — there is no enormity you will not commit.

And “modern liberalism” — the one that L.T. Hobhouse, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Jonathan Chait adhere to — fully embrace such sacrifice, if on a low  level, the level where lives are not necessarily on the line. Fortunes are enough. Take just enough from the rich to give to the poor. And next year take more! Paterson argues that this principle has ineluctable consequences. One of them may explain why these “liberals” were always soft on the murderous communists, and why, in recent years, they have mistaken folks of the hard left for people who care — and not the murderous, thieving, bullying thugs they are.

Economist Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan noted a “failure of those on the left who are not an active part of the problem to have a sense of a need for self-policing of the left.” This blind spot was noticed by Clancy McMurtrie: “It’s a conscious and explicit camaraderie based on shared principles. ‘No enemies to the left,’ as I understand it.”

The self-policing issue is a fascinating one, since some might call it “in-fighting.” I noted that “the right” — by which I meant “the conservative movement in America —

doesn’t seem have that problem. Which may be why it is politically imbalanced and inchoate. National Review purged its extremists, and kept anti-Semites, anti-imperialists, et al., at bay.

Why would the moderate left feel better about its “radicals” than the moderate right feel about its “extremists”?

Well, note the two words: radicals and extremists. The former sounds better, and that is traditionally what far left extremists are usually called. This is not just a parallel to the popular put-downs: on the right it is “wing nut” and on the left it is “moon bat.” Those two seem equally derisive to my ear. But other designations, left and right, tend to form a pattern: the leftists get more respect.

From the relentlessly “liberal media,” anyway. And from rank-and-file “liberals.”

But my initial charge (stated in the first paragraph of this page, repeating my Facebook post) was that moderate leftists/center-left liberals have largely forgotten their differences with Marxism (once again, “the World’s Most Failed Philosophy”) and Marxists (the world’s worst economists and most dangerous cultists) puzzled another of my friends, Mr. Lee C. Waaks:

In what sense did moderate liberals see themselves as “close to Marxism”? Marx would have rejected their ideas, no? It seems moderate (or did you mean “modern”?) liberals are just interventionists, although, at one time, many were sympathetic to varieties of socialism but now recognize the need for markets. But milquetoast socialist is not Marxist. Am I missing your point?

I should say that by “moderate left” I meant recent “liberals” — that is, “modern liberals” not “classical liberals” — and readily express my usual vexation, that nomenclature is a messy business in politics. Which Mr. Waaks knows full well, admitting to its “topsy turvy” nature:

I don’t interact with many of these folks on the left but they seem to identify “socialism” with Sweden, as does Bernie himself. I don’t have a clue what most self-identified Marxists think of Sweden, although I did see one blog post by a Marxist/socialist who explicitly repudiated Sweden as socialist. I doubt he is anything like the typical Fannie pack-wearing Bernie supporter.

Mr. Mc Kiernan clarified matters (I am the “Timo” he refers to):

Sanders has pointed to a number of other nations, which are not as he describes them to be. When it comes to actual prescriptions, he has shown himself either still to be a Marxist or to be close to one. And people who imagine themselves as close to Sanders thus imagine themselves as close to Marxists. (Timo did not say that they were close to Marxists; he said that they had come to think themselves close.)

The Twentieth Century forced the Marxists either to abandon Marxism, or to become still more absurd. Those who stayed Marxist made more use of the always ill-defined word ‘capitalism,’ and moved fascism and the programmes of states such at the Soviet Union from the Socialist column to the Capitalist column. The world may or may not be topsy-turvy, but Marxism does not describe that world accurately, and its topsy-turvy features should be understood as confined to its incompetent description.

Mr. Waaks questions this account, noting that even “if Bernie has an affinity for Marx, he may not accept any of Marxism’s tenets (e.g., labor theory of value, historical materialism, etc.). I assume if Bernie and Marx had been contemporaries, Marx would have loathed Bernie. Bernie & Co. seem like welfarists to me.”

Mc Kiernan elaborates:

It’s possible to have protracted controversies about what is and is not essential to Marxism. For example, the importance to Marxism of the labor theory of value is disputed by Ian Steedman and others, who propose to graft Sraffan economic theory into Marxist economics. I don’t propose to wrestle with that issue here or anywhere else, merely to note it.

Sanders’ practical policy goals have generally been those shared across Marxist parties; he was for a time an active member of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite organization. Marx himself might well have despised Sanders, but Marx was given to despise people more generally, including those of very similar political disposition. Had Engels not been his patron, Marx probably would have openly despised him. My point about Sanders, though, is mostly to illustrate one possible line of defense for Timo’s claim, though he might offer others.

I long ago lost track of people on the center-left who really knew almost nothing about Marxism and couldn’t identify what its distinctive content were or might be, but were quite sure that he’d had some very insightful things to say, because some teacher had told them as much. I’ve observed other people in the center-left who did know a fair amount about the content of Marxism and did know about some of its deficiencies, but wanted to be fundamentally sympathetic to something that they could associate with an essence of Marxism; even if they couldn’t coherently explain what it were.

It strikes me that the progressive and liberal left are both just watered-down socialists when it comes to wealth. The question is just how far the watering goes. Modern “liberals” used to accept the necessity of some private property and some scope for markets — anathema in Marx’s “scientific” utopia, of course, but one must make do with the tools ready at hand.

In my experience, having talked with many a liberal in my day, they are the kind of people who say that “communism is good in theory but bad in practice.” I have heard something like this hundreds of times. I regard it as puerile and unlearned nonsense, at best. I do not see anything good in coerced community, and that is what communism is. Socialism, argued Yves Guyot, is communism is collectivism. They all rest on force. Proponents of these ideas, when in power, cannot take a “no” (or an “I prefer not to”) for an answer. You must comply with their demands, the demands of the Central Committee, Big Brother, Politburo, or what-have-you. Because, without compulsion, there is no socialism, communism, or collectivism.

But both liberals and progressives pretend that government is a wondrous creative instrumentality, benevolent in nature — when run by them. When run by conservatives, of course, they see it in all its brutality. But when run by them — oh, what vistas open up. What possibilities for “caring”!

The blind eye that the moderate left gives to the state when run by their kind is the blind eye that they give progressives, who want even more state dominance of society. They feel the affinity in their bones. In their heads, they used to realize that Communism was pure poison. The lessons of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot taught them that. But in their hearts?

In their hearts they have long defended — and in practice they have coddled — commies. There were indeed communists in FDR’s regime. Alger Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent. According to David Horowitz, Barack Obama was raised by communists and (because Obama never repudiated communism) remained a communist — luckily constrained by popular anti-communism.

Whatever the reason, the linkages are there: in history, in today’s reality. Even when demanding individual rights to freedom of speech, press, association and religion, modern liberals’ heartstrings strain towards the Utopia described by Marx. And, perhaps because of this fantasy, and no doubt because of fading memories of the Soviet Union’s gulag, China’s Cultural Revolution, and Pol Pot’s killing fields, more and more moderate leftists tip the hat to Marx. Almost no one reads the sour old revolutionary. But they have read about him. From what I can tell, they think that though Marx erred in the positive prescription — it turns out that normal politics and compromise work in favor of ever-bigger government, whodathunkit — his analysis of the contradictions of capitalism still have something for today.

This attitude is all over the progressive left, and Jeremy Corbyn in England has stated it explicitly.

Hence the lack of patrolling the mobocracy amongst far left radicals, er, extremists.

The God of Socialism failed. Again and again. But that God was what post-christians wanted, He fit the bill. So they never cease mourning the death. And, perhaps secretly, hoping for His rebirth.

With a socialist every day is a Christmas, with goodies to be distributed all around, allegedly equally, but somehow with special treats for the very best boys and girls. Which means the cognitive elite that leans towards socialism. This tension is there in socialists, the dissonance between equality in theory and favoritism in practice, and it is part and parcel of the inevitable false consciousness that statists ineluctably succumb to. It is a Law of Power.

Still, it is good when we discover someone on the left, such as Mr. Chait, recognizing that there is a problem here.

Oh, and what a problem!

twv

P.S. I confess that I wrote this a year-and-a-half ago, closer to the time when Chait wrote his columns, but for some reason did not publish it. I have been in sort of an intellectual coma. Now that I have re-branded this blog as Wirkman Comment/wirkman.com, I am cleaning up the backlog, even as I take on new writing projects. Maybe readers will see more here in the days to come.


Photo of Karl Marx Monument, from Ralf on Flickr, some rights reserved.