Archives for category: Politics

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

…………………………………………………………………..as answered on Quora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

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

As Answered on Quora

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

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

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

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

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

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

twv

E825E5B2-BDD1-4EE2-B1A3-A4BC3C7041B7

Why are so many libertarians for the Space Force? Isn’t this expanding government?

Other Quorans having taken on the main question, I go in a different direction . . .

. . . there are reasons why libertarians might find this funny. The move by Trump could be what Scott Adams said it is: a negotiating chip with destiny, gaining historical brownie points while not really having to do much for those points. Brilliant politics. Trump is a hoot.

Or it could be a step in negotiating with the Deep State.

[Trigger warning: readers weak in the Subtlety Department might find the rest of this too odd to contemplate.]

We out here in Everyday America have few facts to guide us regarding what the deepest, most secret parts of the military-industrial complex know that we do not. We do not know what was in the dossier that a pair of the Deep State’s agents gave Trump, which informed him of how limited is his power within segments of his Executive Branch. This feint with a Space Force could be an offering of peace to an out-of-control sector of the government that cannot account for $21 trillion in Pentagon (and HUD!) spending.

How could this be relevant? If the biggest secret is a known high probability of major, near-extinction level environmental catastrophe (caused by solar activity, vulcanism, comet hit or bolide, or some combination of these, perhaps made predictable by ecidence of a long history of a cyclical nature) or something even more bizarre, the “Space Force” notion may be a way to signal acceptance of the done deal that is the Deep State — for as anyone with a lick of sense knows, the Deep State is deeply unconstitutional, and arguably treasonous. (But more on the relevance problem below.)

They may want to come in from the cold of ultra-secrecy. They may wish to go partly public. And Trump could be gambling. Perhaps for his life. How so? Well, to play against the shallower end of the Deep State that is resolutely against him, as this insane Russia brouhaha seems to show.

Sometimes I wonder whether Trump won the presidency not because of the flaccid and ridiculous Russian propaganda efforts, but because the deepest and most secretive elements in our government couldn’t trust the most corrupt presidential candidate in American history, Hillary Clinton. The idiots in charge of the FBI and those in the NSA and CIA who are tasked with keeping the Great Distraction (of our incoherent foreign policy) going — yes, they naturally went all the way for the corrupt insider. But the Deepest State may not have been that stupid.

So perhaps they threw in their lot with the longshot, whom they thought they might more reliably play ball with. And with moves like the Space Force, Trump is sending them a big Puff of Smoke as Signal. “I will play along with you if you keep me alive and from being removed from office.” The Space Force works by showing that POTUS knows about a catastrophe problem, and that, say, sending up an orbital Ark could become official policy without the need for super-secrecy. After all, towards zero hour, secrecy could get in the way of the actual mission.

He may even be signalling that he wants on board.

Or likely not.


 


 

A few hours after I wrote the above, the following video came up in my YouTube queue:

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

Mind your business

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

As Answered on Quora

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

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

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

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

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

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.

As Answered on Quora

The classical liberal theory of the state expects citizens to defend themselves while ceding to the state the right to retaliate after the fact of any conflict, or to seek recompense for any rights violently and criminally violated. The point of police and courts is not to protect you, but to protect everyone from those seeking vigilante justice after instances of perceived harms.

So classical liberals will, by their very nature, support an armed citizenry. Anyone who wishes to disarm citizens is not a classical liberal. I would argue, further, that the anti-armament advocate is not any kind of liberal. This and the rights of free speech, conscience, press, and assembly, constitute the demarcation between liberals and non-liberals.

A person who may not arm and defend him- or herself is not free. A state that fears its armed populace is not a republic.

Contrariwise, a people that routinely extracts private justice in secret is not free, either. It is, instead, well on its way to tyranny or chaos. A state that exacts retribution or redress in secret is also tyrannical, just as is a state that prevents its people from self-defense.

Now, this does not mean that a free society cannot support private law justice. We still have elements of that now, especially in civil law. But secretive, hidden retaliation leads to vendetta and civil warfare, a sort of Hobbesian war of all against all. The key to justice, in republican theory, depends upon the public, open adjudication of potentially violent disputes. And that is the basic idea of a republic, according to classical liberal theory. You can find this theory in the writings of John Locke, early theorists of the American Constitution like John Taylor of Caroline, and in the work of J. S. Mill and Herbert Spencer.

So, some form of armament must be ready in the hands of the citizenry of a republic. Some kinds of armaments might be disallowed (no nuclear warheads in basements!) but I think the basic rule should be — and would be among all informed, honest liberals — that the citizenry must not be prohibited from owning and carrying any weapons that the state, in its policing, owns and carries.

Yes, classical liberals would be, almost certainly and by definition, “pro-gun.”

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.

Friedrich W. Nietzsche


A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears to me, for now I will speak to you about the death of peoples.

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: ‘I, the state, am the people.’

It is a lie! It was creators who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.

Destroyers are they who lay snares for the many, and call it state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.

Where there are still peoples, the state is not understood, and is hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs.

This sign I give to you: every people speaks its own language of good and evil, which its neighbor does not understand. It has created its own language of laws and customs.

But the state lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies; and whatever it has it has stolen.

Everything in it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites often. It is false down to its bowels.

Confusion of tongues of good and evil; this sign I give you as the sign of the state. This sign points to the will to death! it points to the preachers of death!

All too many are born: for the superfluous the state was created!

See how it entices them to it, the all-too-many! How it swallows and chews and rechews them!

‘On earth there is nothing greater than I: I am the governing hand of God.’ — thus roars the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees!

Ah! even in your ears, you great souls, it whispers its gloomy lies! Ah! it finds out the rich hearts which willingly squander themselves!

Yes, it finds you too, you conquerors of the old God! You became weary of conflict, and now your weariness serves the new idol!

It would set up heroes and honorable ones around it, the new idol! Gladly it basks in the sunshine of good consciences, — the cold monster!

It will give everything to you, if you worship it, the new idol: thus it buys the lustre of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes.

Through you it seeks to seduce the all-too-many! Yes, a hellish artifice has been created here, a death-horse jingling with the trappings of divine honors!

Yes, a dying for many has been created here, which glorifies itself as life: verily, a great service to all preachers of death!

The state, I call it, where all drink poison, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all — is called ‘life.’

Behold the superfluous! They steal the works of the creators and the treasures of the wise. Education, they call their theft — and everything becomes sickness and trouble to them!

Behold the superfluous! They are always sick; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour each other and cannot even digest themselves.

Behold the superfluous! They acquire wealth and become the poorer for it. They seek power, and the lever of power, much money — these impotent ones!

See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus pull each other into the mud and the abyss.

They all strive for the throne: this is their madness — as if happiness sat on the throne! Often filth sits on the throne. — and often also the throne on filth.

Madmen they all seem to me, and clambering apes, and too eager. Foul smells their idol to me, the cold monster: foul they all smell to me, these idolaters.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra