Archives for category: Social Theory

Why do libertarians focus so much on taxation?

…as answered on Quora….

Libertarians pride themselves — not unreasonably — on their principles, which they say make sense from root to leaf of society. Whereas most of politics is argument over fruits and twigs, libertarians aim to go much deeper, down the trunk to the structure in the soil.

Politics is the art of influencing the behavior of the State, and taxation is the most basic state activity. Organizations without the power to tax do not qualify as States. Libertarians extol voluntary (reciprocal; multilateral) interaction, and correctly point out that taxation is hegemonic . . . based, ultimately, on initiated violence and the threat of it. So libertarians look at taxation suspiciously — at best.

Classical liberal theorists were of a similar mind. French economist J.-B. Say, for example, argued that “A tax can never be favorable to the public welfare, except by the good use that is made of its proceeds.” The idea here is that taxation itself is the worst way of going about building a civilization, but if there is no other way to protect the public, then tax, and expend the conscript resources only on projects (rule of law, national defense, say) that truly benefit everybody.

Libertarians often argue that most government spending, these days, does not fill the old liberal standard of benefiting everybody. Instead, most spending of taxed resources aids some at the expense of others, and amounts not to serving a plausible public interest, but, instead, serving private, or factional interests.

Therefore libertarians argue against all variants of statism on grounds that would have been familiar to the old liberals, often making arguments like this: government funds built on taxes must inevitably present a “tragedy of the commons” where individuals and factions fight each other to exploit the common resource each for maximum advantage, gaining more than the other — or at least not gaining too little to become a net taxpayer. This endangers the common resource — just as overgrazing of a common field, or over-fishing of a commonly owned lake, river, or stream — and can have the effect of favoring the greedy and powerful over the masses, and eventually leading to the degradation of the commons.

Classical liberal economists, individualist social theorists, and libertarian political philosophers have been elaborating variations on this theme for centuries. These arguments have demoralized statists, over and over, to the point that they turn to obscurantism (Marxian fancies or Keynesian farragoes) or mere name-calling, in response. (Statism is the idea that the public good can be served by massive state regulation and spending, all dependent upon taxation.)

But this is mostly conflict over branches. Down at the root libertarians emphasize what the old liberals usually just “understood”: taxation is expropriation by force, and is an intrinsically bad way to run a civilized enterprise.

And, on this level, we see many to the far left taking the opposite approach. It is not uncommon, these days, for “progressives” and socialists and other statist politicians to look upon taxation as a good thing in and of itself. It is good to take most of the wealth of some people, and some of the wealth of most people, and not only to “do good” with that wealth. People should not have that wealth. They do not deserve it. They cannot properly use it. Marshaling the State to confiscate this wealth is a virtuous and indeed noble activity!

President Barack Obama took that tack when he argued that the capital gains tax rate should be kept high or even raised even if lower rates would yield more revenue. He flouted J.-B. Say’s rule; he flaunted the thief’s ethos, right in our faces. And when he and Senator Elizabeth Warren floated the “you didn’t build that” meme, they were carrying on that fundamentally illiberal program. It is an attack on voluntary society and an upgrading of the State to a kind of super-paternalistic (and maternalistic) Authority.

Libertarians focus on taxation to counter these fiends. Taxation is the key to the whole super-state mania. Libertarians see in the statist defense of the intrinsic righteousness of taxation an assault on civilization’s liberatory principle: the growth of reciprocity, voluntary cooperation, and peaceful relations. And libertarians see in the lip-smacking lust to ply the State to take other people’s money as the grossest corrupter of morals: the celebration of greed and envy and malice under cover of bogus “social justice” and pharisaic “caring.”

Libertarians oppose the demagoguery behind super-state transfers of wealth, hoping that humanity can avoid the cementing of tyranny by means of the greatest long con in history.

Is libertarianism or authoritarianism a better government model to build a strong community?

…as answered on Quora….

Three terms here are easily disputable: libertarianism, authoritarianism, and community.

I shall stipulate, at the beginning, “libertarianism” to be the body of individualist thought running from classical liberalism to private property “voluntaryism” (panarchism, or anarcho-capitalism); “authoritarianism” is either (a) statism in some form that makes no pretense for democratic/republican control or (b) any system of governance in which command dominates over rational deliberation, general rule-following (rather than command-following) and compromise; and “community” I take to be society above the family/clan level based on propinquity or regular interaction, but not society at large, and certainly not either the “open society” or “the nation.”

In tribal life, all there was, basically, was family and community — and other families and communities, and individuals wandering among them, trading, gambling, and fighting.

In chiefdoms we see a coalescence of a kind of political governance, and in the early conquering states and watercourse empires we see vast populations with many communities integrated under authoritarian political and ecclesiastical governance.

Were they “strong communities” way back when? To some extent they had to be. But as military organization gave way to industrial institutions, with extensive scope for trade, the nature of both family and community shifted. Liberal ideas came to dominate, becoming quite explicit. In the 1830s, the most advanced form of “democracy” was in the new United States, and Alexis de Tocqueville was most interested in community in that egalitarian context. They were astoundingly vibrant, he found. People set up committees to make community projects when business activity could not fill the perceived need and where government was not even thought of to provide it. I used the word “egalitarian,” for it was “equality of conditions” in America that most astounded Tocqueville. But by this he did not mean equality of wealth, or even opportunity. He meant openness to social movement, a lack of class stratification (as in Europe), a leveling of ceremonial expectations and a lack of pretentiousness in the rich over the poor. What he meant was an amazing degree of liberty, which was his chief interest. What he saw in America was remarkably libertarian, in the sense I stipulated above, for the heyday of classical liberalism was about to dawn with the rise of the LocoFocos and the advance of both free trade and abolitionism.

Community then was voluntary community. You could leave, you had exit rights, and many options to participate at many levels. If you want to see how liberty and community work together for the strengthening of community, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America makes a good case.

But though political liberty increased mightily after that, in some ways — especially in reduction of the tariffs in Britain and France, and the democratization of corporate licensure in America — a number of factors led to a move to statism by the end of the century. Slavery’s suppression in America came at the cost of the old decentralist order, and the rise of nationalism. And everywhere socialist agitation and the labor movement advanced. By the fin de siècle the U.S. was well on the way to progressive statism, starting with a frank imperialism and warfare. We can quibble about the dates and epochal moments, but a turn occurred. The rise of an administrative state in America and Britain made a huge difference; vast bureaus decreasingly controlled by democratic processes meant that a new form of authoritarianism emerged, and also the popularity of wealth transfer programs.

And though authoritarianism is in the question, it was bureaucracies and transfer programs that led to the major hits on community life. Increasingly families were atomized, and individuals, too: free radicals with little to cling onto but the Leviathan State and the political parties that squabble over its control. Nowadays community has withered under the folkways of “bowling alone,” and the scope of statist control of everyday life has greatly increased.

I would call modern society as dominated by statism, with a veneer of democratic control and the actual controls held by the unionized public employee sector, the “Deep State” intelligence agencies, the plutocracy, and the academic/newsmedia/entertainment complex. It strikes me as the opposite of a libertarian system, despite extensive markets (much of it is dirigisme, anyway, and transfer programs completely re-orient society in several anti-social ways). The scope for community has atrophied.

Right now we witness two completely different cultures fighting politically and socially: the explicitly nationalist conservative-progressives against the woke-socialist corporatist progressives. Both of these groups try to get around the tragedy of the commons inherent in a state providing extensive public goods each by finding a way to undermine the scramble for resources by competing ethnic groups. (Pluralistic societies have great trouble finding stability with a maximum state.) The nationalists attempt to build a pan-community melting pot around doctrines of national ideals, symbols, and purpose; the woke folk insist on using ideology to create solidarity among the “ethnic identities” of perceived or defined “out-groups” largely with a goal of unseating in-group people and their traditional hierarchies.

Both of these are fake communities. Both use ideology to promote the solidarity necessary to prevent the tragedy of the commons (overuse of conscript resources, mostly taxes). And the woke-socialist progressives have a revolutionary agenda as well: replacing traditional in-group hierarchies with their own ideological hierarchy.

De-politicized, communities can grow naturally, to meet group needs and express shared values. Politicized, they fight against each other for state resources.

This is necessarily violent, and war has been a necessary component to keep the nationalism going, as should be obvious, while the woke-revolutionary modus is violent by nature, as can be seen in the tyranny of political correctness and in protests that quickly morph into riot and anarchy.

The liberty that libertarians prefer would be much more conducive to peaceful and vibrant community, but that requires reducing the number of public goods provided by state fiat.

And that’s something at which both nationalists and socialists balk.

twv

What we aren’t talking about:

A month ago, the New York Times published a major UFO story, doubling down on its previous recent efforts, with research journalist Leslie Kean serving as the driving force. The article relates that not only does the UFO/UAP constitute a real, non-natural/extra-civilizational phenomenon, and that the U.S. military admits this, but it indicates that there seems to be some reality to the ufology lore that there have been crashed UFO retrievals. And that the Deep State is studying them.

Yet almost no one talks about this.

What must we make of this? The ‘newspaper of record’ unleashes onto the world what could be the biggest story in human history, yet smart people either snicker or avert their eyes, back on to (1) the ‘pandemic’ and (2) the riots and (3) the upcoming election.

Honest inquirers should consider the possibility that while we may now be gleaning the first few data from the (4) trickling UFO disclosure, we have indeed learned something HUGE about human nature.

And what is that? 

Well, boy, do we Homo boobiens have an ability to put blinders on and let dogmas rule us, while at the same time allow ourselves to be manipulated by the contrivances of politicians and media, no matter ungainly. 

What if these linked stories are deeply linked?

We may also have been given a clue as to why the coronavirus contagion has successfully turned a whole population into willing serviles to the biggest assault on freedom in American history, for so little good reason. Ours is a decadent civilization, and the people are easy to control because they are poltroonish. Fearful of death. Manipulable.

I cannot help but wonder: are the four major stories of this year related?

It is easy to speculate that the pandemic panic and the protests/riots have been orchestrated by Democrats to regain control of the White House. But what if it . . . be . . . bigger

What if it is all being done to soft-pedal the most unsettling story of all time? That is, what if (1), (2), and (3) all revolve around (4)?

After all, UFO disclosure was a pet project of John Podesta and Hillary Clinton. When Trump won, within the year AATIP was revealed and the TTSA moved mightily behind the scenes to nudge the first disclosures. 

The nature of the disclosure was determined by the Trump win.

And even the Trump win could be part of the story. After all, Trump’s most significant achievement during his presidency so far has been engagement with China. The SARS-CoV-2 came from China. The Democratic Party has served for a generation as the pro-China party. And China is quickly building a powerhouse of a space program. If the world’s governments have been sitting on the biggest story in human history, but the epochal secrecy is now in jeopardy, perhaps this is why (or at least part of why) they are now are scrambling into space. Advantage. Priority. Positioning. 

The Chinese warlords/pseudo-communists want in on whatever is coming.

And the reason the least attractive and least plausible candidates for the Democratic Party’s P/VP ticket were selected over better alternatives? Both are in on parts of the secret — Biden having been Vice President and briefed; Harris being on the Senate Intelligence and briefed — and both can be trusted by the DNC or the donor billionaires (or the archons or whoever) to leverage the information and advantage “correctly.”

Further, Donald Trump, nephew of the scientist who inventoried Nikola Tesla’s many trunks after the inventor’s death, himself may be playing for another faction — also likely Deep State — to gain that UFO advantage.

He who controls the disclosure controls the world.

But I am dubious that it can be controlled. Not really. It is too huge.

twv

Herbert Spencer’s ten-volume Synthetic Philosophy.

What are the sociological arguments against socialism? (Not economic) I guess one of the stereotypical ones is ‘makes people lazy and unwilling to work.’ ‘Infantilises people.’ What others can you think of?

The question was asked of libertarians in a private group on Facebook. Many interesting answers were given. But I see a lot of talk but no mention of actual sociologists.

Two should immediately come to mind, for at classical liberal theory’s last gasp stands two pioneering sociologists who could very much be called libertarians: Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Both argued against the rising intellectual and political movement in their day, and both brought a lot of intelligence to the debate. I can imagine Sumner being a favorite, in part because of his more vigorous prose, but I just want to sketch Spencer’s arguments as they appear in the latter chapters of The Principles of Sociology: Part VIII, Industrial Institutions.

In the 22nd chapter, titled “Socialism,” Spencer began, ‘Some socialists, though probably not many, know that their ideal modes of associated living are akin to modes which have prevailed widely during early stages of civilization, and prevail still among many of the uncivilized, as well as among some of the civilized who have lagged behind.’ After giving a number of examples of primitive societies in then-recent history — citing the ‘aborigines of North America’ and their system’s brake on thrift and industry; the affable and easygoing ‘Croatian house-communities’ whose high rates of child mortality and lack of education (with the ‘children unkempt and neglected’) and industry still-born because of the share-out ‘sub-divisions’ of communal work but whose group orientation was spurred by the rigors of defense and warfare — Spencer concluded like this: ‘Hence the socialist theory and practice are normal in the militant type of society, and cease to be normal as fast as the society becomes predominantly industrial in its type.’

He of course admitted that a ‘state of universal brotherhood is so tempting an imagination, and the existing state of competitive strife is so full of miseries, that endeavours to escape from the last and enter into the first are quite natural — inevitable even. Prompted by consciousness of the grievous inequalities of condition around, those who suffer and those who sympathize with them, seek to found what they think an equitable social system.’ But then Spencer turned his attention to the many attempts to set up better systems, the utopian community movement — the ‘experiments in living,’ as J.S. Mill characterized them, the movement with which I started my own political inquiries over four decades ago. There he found failure after failure. Problems identified by the sources he cited include

  • too much ‘diversity’ of opinion to make coördination of labor anything like efficient
  • grumbling and frowardness
  • recognition that lack of rewards for extra work must entail general low performance
  • fights on the job, sans punishment; violent discord

Utopian communities rarely sported any kind of success. Spencer regarded it a plain fact that ‘human beings as now constituted cannot work together efficiently and harmoniously’ in the ways proposed by socialist reformers. And he noted that socialists rarely admit this obvious truth — or, ‘if by some admitted, then it is held that the mischiefs arising from defective natures may be prevented by a sufficiently powerful authority—that is, if for these separate groups one great organization centrally controlled is substituted.’

But such resort to force, Spencer argued, would not be sustainable.

He rested quite a lot on what he calls ‘the general law of species-life’ which has it ‘that during immature life benefit received must be great in proportion as worth is small, while during mature life benefit and worth must vary together.’ But ‘collectivists, socialists, and communists,’ ignore this ‘distinction between the ethics of family-life and the ethics of life outside the family. Entirely under some forms, and in chief measure under others, it proposes to extend the régime of the family to the whole community.’ Spencer here pushed a theme we encounter later in F.A. Hayek, who, incidentally, pointedly never read Spencer’s work.

‘The socialist does not ask what must happen if, generation after generation, the material well-being of the inferior is raised at the cost of lowering that of the superior. Even when it is pointed out, he refuses to see that if the superior, persistently burdened by the inferior, are hindered in rearing their own better offspring, that the offspring of the inferior may be as efficiently cared for, a gradual deterioration of the race must follow. The hope of curing present evils so fills his consciousness that it cannot take in the thought of the still greater future evils his proposed system would produce.’

Spencer went on to argue that ‘people who, in their corporate capacity, abolish the natural relation between merits and benefits, will presently be abolished themselves. Either they will have to go through the miseries of a slow decay, consequent on the increase of those unfit for the business of life, or they will be overrun by some people who have not pursued the foolish policy of fostering the worst at the expense of the best.’

We see that today, even in our own semi-socialist Euro-American context. I just finished reading Edward Dutton’s book Why Islam Makes You Stupid … But Also Means You’ll Conquer the World, and his careful speculations add to Spencer’s sociological argument. Dutton follows Spencer, by the way, in advancing a kind of theory that is a no-no among academic neo-Darwinists: group selection theory.

Calling the ‘doctrine of the socialists … psychologically absurd,’ Spencer argued that it ‘implies an impossible mental structure.’

The socialist society ‘must be composed of men having sympathies so strong that those who, by their greater powers, achieve greater benefits, willingly surrender the excess to others.’ Spencer queried the nature of this altruism: ‘The intensity of fellow feeling is to be such as to cause life-long self-sacrifice.’ But what of the beneficiaries? What must be the attitudes of those be? They gain at their betters’ expense. How can they share the same moral attitudes, then, under such circumstances?

Spencer calls this ‘contradictory,’ and the ‘implied mental constitution … an impossible one.’

Then the rubber really sticks to the pavement ‘when we recognize a further factor in the problem — love of offspring. Within the family parental affection joins sympathy in prompting self-sacrifice, and makes it easy, and indeed pleasurable, to surrender to others a large part of the products of labour. But such surrender made to those within the family-group is at variance with a like surrender made to those outside the family-group.’

You see what is coming, though, don’t you? A ready and old communist solution: ‘Parental relations are to be superseded, and children are to be taken care of by the State. The method of Nature is to be replaced by a better method.’ Spencer was obviously not impressed with this, and related it to the aforementioned ‘general law of species-life’: just as ‘socialists would suspend the natural relation between effort and benefit, so would they suspend the natural relation between the instinctive actions of parents and the welfare of progeny. The two great laws in the absence of either of which organic evolution would have been impossible, are both to be repealed!’

So you see that Spencer is — in addition to be a structuralist, functionalist, and a general systems theorist (see Jonathan Turner’s terrific little book on Spencer’s sociology) — an evolutionist. He has thus been attacked as a dread ‘Social Darwinist,’ but see that he is not talking about letting people starve. He was a forerunner to sociobiology, and the likes of that “Jolly Heretic,” Edward Dutton, whose works are certainly thought-provoking.

Now, Spencer readily conceded that something like socialist arrangements might work in some simple societies. ‘It would not be altogether irrational to expect that some of the peaceful Indian hill-tribes, who display the virtue of forgiveness without professing it, or those Papuan Islanders among whom the man chosen as chief uses his property to help poorer men out of their difficulties, might live harmoniously under socialistic arrangements; but can we reasonably expect this of men who, pretending to believe that they should love their neighbours as themselves, here rob their fellows and there shoot them, while hoping to slay wholesale men of other blood?’ Spencer thought that character is an important aspect of social evolution, and that character changes according to circumstance. Most importantly, above the tribal level, and that of chiefdoms, the militant mindset predominates before we ever really get to the industrial mindset, and that the attitudes of militancy that might spur some to dream the socialist dream themselves militate against such a dream.

Now, what is really ‘at issue between socialists and anti-socialists … concerns the mode of regulating labour.’ Earlier in his big book he ‘illustrated in detail the truth, emphasized at the outset, that political, ecclesiastical, and industrial regulations simultaneously decrease in coerciveness as we ascend from lower to higher types of societies: the modern industrial system being one under which coerciveness approaches a minimum. Though now the worker is often mercilessly coerced by circumstances, and has nothing before him but hard terms, yet he is not coerced by a master into acceptance of these terms.’ That is, the general condition of hardship remains from difficult, pre-capitalist times, specific terms of hardship are not, in a mostly free society, themselves coerced.

This is, of course, a distinction modern leftists refuse to acknowledge.

Spencer saw a parallax view problem, here: ‘while the evils which resulted from the old modes of regulating labour, not experienced by present or recent generations, have been forgotten, the evils accompanying the new mode are keenly felt, and have aroused the desire for a mode which is in reality a modified form of the old mode. There is to be a re-institution of status not under individual masters but under the community as master.’

Spencer also insisted that a ‘complete parallelism exists between such a social structure and the structure of an army. It is simply a civil regimentation parallel to the military regimentation; and it establishes an industrial subordination parallel to the military subordination. In either case the rule is — Do your task and take your rations. In the working organization as in the fighting organization, obedience is requisite for maintenance of order, as well as for efficiency, and must be enforced with whatever rigour is found needful.’

So, the socialists’ perennial recourse to force upon the failure of their schemes entails quite a lots of regimentation. And with regimentation ‘must arise a new aristocracy for the support of which the masses would toil; and which, being consolidated, would wield a power far beyond that of any past aristocracy.’

But that specter of what was later called totalitarianism, along with its necessary inequalities, does not faze socialists. ‘Just as the zealous adherent of a religious creed, met by some fatal objection, feels certain that though he does not see the answer yet a good answer is to be found,’ Spencer explained, ‘or just as the lover to whom defects of his mistress are pointed out, cannot be made calmly to consider what will result from them in married life; so the socialist, in love with his scheme, will not entertain adverse criticisms, or gives no weight to them if he does.’

The dream must go on for the besotted. ‘He will continue to hope that selfish men may be so manipulated that they will behave unselfishly — that the effects of goodness may be had without the goodness. He has unwavering faith in a social alchemy which out of ignoble natures will get noble actions.’

In the next chapter, Spencer turned to the problem of individual ownership … self-ownership … the individual’s ownership of himself (or herself). But Spencer is a sociologist here, not a radical libertarian, and his point is to explore such issues to understand the ebb and flow of social change.

‘There is small objection to coercion if all are equally coerced; and hence the tendency to regimentation reappears in one or other form continually.’ Equality thus can breed not only liberty, but illiberal suppression, as well. This is a key observation, and helps us understand not only tyrannical systems but liberated ones. ‘Along with increases in that direct State-ownership of the individual which is implied by use of him as a soldier,’ Spencer explained, carrying the thought over to ‘observe the increase in that indirect State-ownership which is implied by multiplication of dictations and restraints, and by growth of general and local taxation.’ 

In the late 19th century, when Spencer was writing these final chapters to the final segment of his magnum opus, France and Germany were militarizing heavily. This led, a decade after Spencer’s demise, to a continental war, the First World War. And ‘with extensive ownership of the individual by the State in military and civil organizations, there has widely coexisted advocacy of that ownership by the State to which socialism gives another shape,’ Spencer recognized. But in his somewhat more liberal England, ‘with approximation to the continental type in the one respect, there has gone a growing acceptance of the continental conception in the other respect.’

What began as a middle-class Fabian movement grew enormously. 

It is worth mentioning, though, that during this same period the ranks of self-identified ‘individualists’ also grew, according to Wordsworth Donisthorpe in Law in a Free State, published within the year of the edition of Principles of Sociology that sits by my side. Apparently the fin de siècle was a time, like now, of ideological polarization. And the result was war, from which the individualists did not recover, but the statists did, in several forms: fascism, social democracy, progressivism, and socialism.

But that was a few decades later. Towards the end of Spencer’s life, socialists were urging the ‘ultimate absorption of all kinds of fixed property’  and advocating general strikes ‘against rents as an immediate method of procedure’ as well as showing ‘an absolute disregard of all existing contracts, and, by implication, a proposed abolition of contract for the future’ — all of which Spencer saw as a ‘return to the old system of status under a new form.’

Like Hayek after him, Spencer regarded socialism as atavistic.

‘For in the absence of that voluntary cooperation which contract implies,’ Spencer explained, ‘there is no possible alternative but compulsory cooperation. Self-ownership entirely disappears and ownership by others universally replaces it.’

And the political incentives towards this end sound eerily similar to today’s partisan/bipartisan lurch towards ever-bigger government. ‘Naturally the member of parliament who submits to coercion by his party, contemplates legal coercions of others without repugnance. . . [B]eing the creature of his party and the creature of his constituents, he does not hesitate in making each citizen the creature of the community.’

And socialists, in this kind of environment, have a field day, gaining converts. I mean, the promises! But, as Spencer observed, the new convert ‘is not told that if he is to be fed he must also be driven.’

Spencer did not predict revolution, though, despite how often it was advocated: ‘A sudden substitution of the régime proposed for the régime which exists, as intended by bearers of the red flag, seems less likely than a progressive metamorphosis.’

But the end-game seemed obvious: ‘a state in which no man can do what he likes but every man must do what he is told.’

Spencer lets bitterness creep into his treatise: ‘An entire loss of freedom will thus be the fate of those who do not deserve the freedom they possess.’

But how long would the new, collectivist social state last? Spencer did not predict. But he did guess, in his last chapter, how the new socialist order might end. Such orders end, sometimes, with a ‘sudden bursting of bonds which have become intolerable may in some cases happen: bringing on a military despotism. In other cases practical extinction may follow a gradual decay, arising from abolition of the normal relation between merit and benefit, by which alone the vigour of a race can be maintained. And in yet further cases may come conquest by peoples who have not been emasculated by fostering their feebles — peoples before whom the socialistic organization will go down like a house of cards, as did that of the ancient Peruvians before a handful of Spaniards.’

Now, Spencer is often castigated as an advocate of necessary unilinear progress, yet he was, at the end of his sociological work, explaining ‘retrogression.’ 

He tried to paint in landscape, not minute portraiture: ‘if the process of evolution which, unceasing throughout past time, has brought life to its present height, continues throughout the future, as we cannot but anticipate, then, amid all the rhythmical changes in each society, amid all the lives and deaths of nations, amid all the supplantings of race by race, there will go on that adaptation of human nature to the social state which began when savages first gathered together into hordes for mutual defence—an adaptation finally complete.’ He understood that his basic perspective is, to most people, ‘a wild imagination.’ But evolution was not the whole of his Synthetic Philosophy, not the whole of his famous schema, for he insisted that the ‘cosmic process brings about retrogression as well as progression, where the conditions favour it.’ Contra his critics, he asserted an obvious point: ‘Evolution does not imply a latent tendency to improve, everywhere in operation. There is no uniform ascent from lower to higher, but only an occasional production of a form which, in virtue of greater fitness for more complex conditions, becomes capable of a longer life of a more varied kind.’

But he did insist that there are indeed higher forms that can be distinguished from lower forms, the higher ones corresponding to ‘greater fitness for more complex conditions.’

And socialism is not that highest form.

Liberty is.

twv

Notions of right and wrong, variously derived and changing with every change in social arrangements and activities, form an assemblage which we may conclude is even now in large measure chaotic. . . .

Originally, ethics has no existence apart from religion, which holds it in solution. Religion itself, in its earliest form, is undistinguished from ancestor worship. And the propitiations of ancestral ghosts, made for the purpose of avoiding the evils they may inflict and gaining the benefits they may confer, are prompted by prudential considerations like those which guide the ordinary actions of life.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

If, instead of asking for men’s nominal code of right and wrong, we seek for their real code, we find that in most minds the virtues of the warrior take the first place. Concerning an officer killed in a nefarious war, you may hear the remark — “He died the death of a gentleman.” And among civilians, as among soldiers, there is tacit approval of the political brigandage going on in various quarters of the globe; while there are no protests against the massacres euphemistically called “punishments.”

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

As the ethics of enmity and the ethics of amity, thus arising in each society in response to external and internal conditions respectively, have to be simultaneously entertained, there is formed an assemblage of utterly inconsistent sentiments and ideas. Its components can by no possibility be harmonized, and yet they have to be all accepted and acted upon. Every day exemplifies the resulting contradictions, and also exemplifies men’s contentment under them.

When, after prayers asking for divine guidance, nearly all the bishops approve an unwarranted invasion, like that of Afghanistan, the incident passes without any expression of surprise; while, conversely, when the Bishop of Durham takes the chair at a peace meeting, his act is commented upon as remarkable. When, at a Diocesan Conference, a peer (Lord Cranbook), opposing international arbitration, says he is “not quite sure that a state of peace might not be a more dangerous thing for a nation than war,” the assembled priests of the religion of love make no protest; nor does any general reprobation, clerical or lay, arise when a ruler in the Church, Dr. Moorhouse, advocating a physical and moral discipline fitting the English for war, expresses the wish “to make them so that they would, in fact, like the fox when fastened by the dogs, die biting,” and says that “these were moral qualities to be encouraged and increased among our people, and he believed that nothing could suffice for this but the grace of God operating in their hearts.” How completely in harmony with the popular feeling in a land covered with Christian churches and chapels, is this exhortation of the Bishop of Manchester, we see in such facts as that people eagerly read accounts of football matches in which there is an average of a death per week; that they rush in crowds to buy newspapers which give detailed reports of a brutal prizefight, but which pass over in a few lines the proceedings of a peace congress; and that they are lavish patrons of illustrated papers, half the woodcuts in which have for their subjects the destruction of life or the agencies for its destruction.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

But side by side with the ethical conceptions . . . originating in one or other way and having one or other sanction, there has been slowly evolving a different conception — a conception derived wholly from recognition of naturally produced consequences. This gradual rise of a utilitarian ethics has, indeed, been inevitable; since the reasons which led to commands and interdicts by a ruler, living or apotheosized, have habitually been reasons of expediency more or less visible to all. Though, when once established, such commands and interdicts have been conformed to mainly because obedience to the authority imposing them was a duty, yet there has been very generally some accompanying perception of their fitness.

Even among the uncivilized, or but slightly civilized, we find a nascent utilitarianism. 

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

Habits of conformity to rules of conduct have generated sentiments adjusted to such rules. The discipline of social life has produced in men conceptions and emotions which, irrespective of supposed divine commands, and irrespective of observed consequences, issue in certain degrees of liking for conduct favoring social welfare and aversion to conduct at variance with it. Manifestly such a molding of human nature has been furthered by survival of the fittest; since groups of men having feelings least adapted to social requirements must, other things equal, have tended to disappear before groups of men having feelings most adapted to them.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

Survival of the fittest insures that the faculties of every species of creature tend to adapt themselves to its mode of life. It must be so with man. From the earliest times groups of men whose feelings and conceptions were congruous with the conditions they lived under, must, other things equal, have spread and replaced those whose feelings and conceptions were incongruous with their conditions.

Recognizing a few exceptions, which special circumstances have made possible, it holds, both of rude tribes and of civilized societies, that they have had continually to carry on external self-defense and internal cooperation–external antagonism and internal friendship. Hence their members have required two different sets of sentiments and ideas, adjusted to these two kinds of activity.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 1, “The Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

“[F]urther confusions . . . arise, not from the conflict of codes, but from the conflict of sanctions.”

Among uncivilized and semicivilized peoples, the obligations imposed by custom are peremptory. The universal belief that such things ought to be done, is not usually made manifest by the visiting of punishment or reprobation on those who do not conform, because nonconformity is scarcely heard of. How intolerable to the general mind is breach of usages, is shown occasionally when a ruler is deposed and even killed for disregard of them: a sufficient proof that his act is held wrong. And we sometimes find distinct expressions of moral sentiment on behalf of customs having nothing which we should call moral authority, and even on behalf of customs which we should call profoundly immoral.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 2, “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

Everywhere during social progress custom passes into law. Practically speaking, custom is law in undeveloped societies.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 2, “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

[I]f ideas of duty and feelings of obligation cluster round customs, they cluster round the derived laws. The sentiment of “ought” comes to be associated with a legal injunction, as with an injunction traced to the general authority of ancestors or the special authority of a deified ancestor. And not only does there hence arise a consciousness that obedience to each particular law is right and disobedience to it wrong, but eventually there arises a consciousness that obedience to law in general is right and disobedience to it wrong.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 2, “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

A trait common to all forms of sentiments and ideas to be classed as ethical, is the consciousness of authority. The nature of the authority is inconstant. It may be that of an apotheosized ruler or other deity supposed to give commands. It may be that of ancestors who have bequeathed usages, with or without injunctions to follow them. It may be that of a living ruler who makes laws, or a military commander who issues orders. It may be that of an aggregate public opinion, either expressed through a government or otherwise expressed. It may be that of an imagined utility which every one is bound to further. Or it may be that of an internal monitor distinguished as conscience.

Along with the element of authority at once intellectually recognized and emotionally responded to, there goes the element, more or less definite, of coercion. The consciousness of ought which the recognition of authority implies, is joined with the consciousness of must, which the recognition of force implies. Be it the power of a god, of a king, of a chief soldier, of a popular government, of an inherited custom, of an unorganized social feeling, there is always present the conception of a power. Even when the injunction is that of an internal monitor, the conception of a power is not absent; since the expectation of the penalty of self-reproach, which disobedience may entail, is vaguely recognized as coercive.

A further component of the ethical consciousness, and often the largest component, is the represented opinion of other individuals, who also, in one sense, constitute an authority and exercise a coercion. This, either as actually implied in others’ behavior, or as imagined if they are not present, commonly serves more than anything else to restrain or impel.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 2, “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

[E]thical sentiment and idea properly so called, are independent of the ideas and sentiments above described as derived from external authorities, and coercions, and approbations — religious, political, or social. The true moral consciousness which we name conscience, does not refer to those extrinsic results of conduct which take the shape of praise or blame, reward or punishment, externally awarded; but it refers to the intrinsic results of conduct which, in part and by some intellectually perceived, are mainly and by most, intuitively felt. The moral consciousness proper does not contemplate obligations as artificially imposed by an external power; nor is it chiefly occupied with estimates of the amounts of pleasure and pain which given actions may produce, though these may be clearly or dimly perceived; but it is chiefly occupied with recognition of, and regard for, those conditions by fulfillment of which happiness is achieved or misery avoided. The sentiment enlisted on behalf of these conditions is often in harmony with the proethical sentiment compounded as above described, though from time to time in conflict with it; but whether in harmony or in conflict, it is vaguely or distinctly recognized as the rightful ruler: responding, as it does, to consequences which are not artificial and variable, but to consequences which are natural and permanent.

It should be remarked that along with established supremacy of this ethical sentiment proper, the feeling of obligation, though continuing to exist in the background of consciousness, ceases to occupy its foreground; since the right actions are habitually performed spontaneously or from liking.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 2, “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

The prevailing ethical sentiment in England is such that a man who should allow himself to be taken possession of and made an unresisting slave, would be regarded with scorn; but the people of Drekete, a slave-district of Fiji, “said it was their duty to become food and sacrifices for the chiefs,” and “that they were honored by being considered adequate to such a noble task.”

Less extreme, though akin in nature, is the contrast between the feelings which our own history has recorded within these few centuries. In Elizabeth’s time, Sir John Hawkins initiated the slave trade, and in commemoration of the achievement was allowed to put in his coat of arms “a demimoor proper bound with a cord”: the honorableness of his action being thus assumed by himself and recognized by Queen and public. But in our days, the making slaves of men, called by Wesley “the sum of all villainies,” is regarded with detestation; and for many years we maintained a fleet to suppress the slave trade.

Peoples who have emerged from the primitive family-and-clan organization, hold that one who is guilty of a crime must himself bear the punishment, and it is thought extreme injustice that the punishment should fall upon anyone else; but our remote ancestors thought and felt differently as do still the Australians, whose “first great principle with regard to punishment is, that all the relatives of a culprit, in the event of his not being found, are implicated in his guilt”: “the brothers of the criminal conceive themselves to be quite as guilty as he is.”

By the civilized, the individualities of women are so far recognized that the life and liberty of a wife are not supposed to be bound up with those of her husband; and she now having obtained a right to exclusive possession of property contends for complete independence, domestic and political. But it is, or was, otherwise in Fiji. The wives of the Fijian chiefs consider it a sacred duty to suffer strangulation on the deaths of their husbands. A woman who had been rescued by Williams “escaped during the night, and, swimming across the river, and presenting herself to her own people, insisted on the completion of the sacrifice which she had in a moment of weakness reluctantly consented to forgo”; and Wilkes tells of another who loaded her rescuer “with abuse, and ever afterward manifested the most deadly hatred towards him.”

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 14, “Summary of Inductions.”

Among men at large, lifelong convictions are not to be destroyed either by conclusive arguments or by multitudinous facts.

Only to those who are not by creed or cherished theory committed to the hypothesis of a supernaturally created humanity will the evidence prove that the human mind has no originally implanted conscience. Though, as shown in my first work, Social Statics, I once espoused the doctrine of the intuitive moralists (at the outset in full, and in later chapters with some implied qualifications), yet it has gradually become clear to me that the qualifications required practically obliterate the doctrine as enunciated by them. It has become clear to me that if, among ourselves, the current belief is that a man who robs and does not repent will be eternally damned, while an accepted proverb among the Bilochs is that “God will not favor a man who does not steal and rob,” it is impossible to hold that men have in common an innate perception of right and wrong.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 14, “Summary of Inductions.”

“[T]he sentiments and ideas current in each society become adjusted to the kinds of activity predominating in it”

Where the predominant social cooperations take the form of constant fighting with adjacent peoples, there grows up a pride in aggression and robbery, revenge becomes an imperative duty, skilful lying is creditable, and (save in small tribes which do not develop) obedience to despotic leaders and rulers is the greatest virtue; at the same time there is a contempt for industry and only such small regard for justice within the society as is required to maintain its existence. On the other hand, where the predominant social cooperations have internal sustentation for their end, while cooperations against external enemies have either greatly diminished or disappeared, unprovoked aggression brings but partial applause or none at all; robbery, even of enemies, ceases to be creditable; revenge is no longer thought a necessity; lying is universally reprobated; justice in the transactions of citizens with one another is insisted upon; political obedience is so far qualified that submission to a despot is held contemptible; and industry, instead of being considered disgraceful, is considered as, in some form or other, imperative on every one.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 14, “Summary of Inductions.”

If any one says that the men who form the land-grabbing nations of Europe, cannot be ruled in their daily lives by an ethical sentiment, but must have it enforced by the fear of damnation, I am not prepared to contradict him. If a writer who, according to those who know represents truly the natures of the gentlemen we send abroad, sympathetically describes one of them as saying to soldiers shooting down tribes fighting for their independence — “Give ’em hell, men”; I think those are possibly right who contend that such natures are to be kept in check only by fear of a God who will “give ’em hell” if they misbehave. It is, I admit, a tenable supposition that belief in a deity who calmly looks on while myriads of his creatures suffer eternal torments, may fitly survive during a state of the world in which naked barbarians and barbarians in skins are being overrun by barbarians in broadcloth.

But to the few who, looking back on the changes which past thousands of years have witnessed, look forward to the kindred changes which future thousands of years may be expected to bring, it will be a satisfaction to contemplate a humanity so adapted to harmonious social life that all needs are spontaneously and pleasurably fulfilled by each without injury to others.

Herbert Spencer, The Inductions of Ethics (1892), Chapter 14, “Summary of Inductions.” [conclusion]

The concluding pages of Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability (Rabushka and Shepsle, 1972) are interesting, and shed much light on recent American history. 

Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth A. Shepsle (1972), p. 217.

The reasons for the instability of democracy in what we today call “multicultural” societies is pretty obvious from even the most basic economic point of view:

  1. A set of wealth transfer programs expresses a basic set of values, but every culture and ethnicity has a different complexion of values (so do individuals, of course, which makes any forced wealth transfer scheme unstable even in a monoculture, but this problem is ramped up another notch in the plural society). When we force different groups to conform to a patterned set of wealth transfers and other ‘public goods,’ we compel folks to compromise on their values, with some people getting programs more in accord with their values than others. This breeds resentment and conflict and even violence.
  2. Disparate values also disenable cultural checks on the Tragedy of the Commons. If we see the public goods that a State attempts to provide as a commons, then the communal checks on abusing the common resource work less well when there are separate ethnic and other cultural communities. As a good Swede you may feel some compunction about mooching off the taxpayers, but add Finns and Muslim immigrants to the mix, and that moral check on over-use and over-access — the ‘over’ leading to instability, to draining the resource — may turn to a beggar-thy-neighbor approach, as separate groups aim to game the system by abuse. Further, in a democracy where the people set policy to some degree, there develops a beggar-thy-neighbor approach to rig the system in favor of each group at the expense of others. This of course leads to outrageous taxation and financial work-arounds, like central bank credit manipulation.
  3. Our naturally limited empathy becomes even more limited when we deal with different and hard-to-understand out-groups, and forcing us into collective solutions across cultural divides actually makes for more friction not less because of over-stressed empathy.

So, what to do? The authors’ final three options for culturally pluralistic societies are (a) reduced levels of public goods provision, leaving such goods to markets (laissez faire) [and non-political community action], (b) nation-building to create homogenous ethnic societies, and (c) finding enemies to fight against, thus uniting the populace by forcing in-group solidarity among disparate elements via upping the general fear level, finding commonality because of “existential threats.”

Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth A. Shepsle (1972), p. 216.

People generally do not want laissez faire because it means they have to provide value for value, and government constantly tempts them to seek benefits at others’ expense. This is why we have welfare states, for wealth transfer systems promise magical solutions and allow folks to channel their greed in socially acceptable ways, farding it up as “social justice.”

Nation-building to achieve ethnic unity requires either genocide or partitioning down to possibly really low levels. The former is of course horrible and the latter has the same problem that laissez faire has: it removes temptation to gain at others’ expense. People demand to yield to temptation.

But there is more!

Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth A. Shepsle (1972), p. 217.

Finding enemies to fight has been of course the dominant route for America for the past century, and the success of World War II has stuck the country in the mythology of a unifying righteous war, with everybody still hating on the Nazis, despite no obvious widespread Nazi sympathies, for instance. But since WWII, however, the plausibility of constant warfare has become shakier and shakier, while attempts to focus on causes like “global warming” are marred by the transparency of the political interest, the obvious problem of the science being dubious, and the disturbing spectacle of lying scientists and lunatic religiosity among the political pushers. An extraterrestrial threat — either from comets and asteroids, on the one hand, or UFOs on the other — are apparently being worked on now in the Deep State. But in a global society all these options are difficult to achieve because they depend on creating a consensus where consensus is not rationally warranted. Hence the continual disinformation and psy-ops. Which can be seen in the recent pandemic menace. And all this helps explain why we have a warfare-welfare state in America, not just a welfare state.

If you cannot obtain stability in a large population via normal democratic methods, then we see attempts to use anti-democratic means, such as orchestrated protests and riots, all-or-nothing political machinations, the increase in Executive discretion, cultural totalitarianism (p.c.), policy making by judges, and the very existence of an administrative state and its secretive operations (Deep State).

Localizing democracy and promoting federalism in a general context of laissez faire is, to me, the most obviously humane solution. But people are greedy and angry and resentful, as well as well-programmed by deeply partisan and increasingly anti-educational schooling, so such options find few adherents. It is a pity that this “easy way out” comes at great enough cost that few people see any advance in such a “minimax.”

Of course, Rabushka and Shepsle wrote 50 years ago, and their insights did not win the day. What seems to be winning is a very different program: “multiculturalism.”

Today’s much-touted multiculturalism, as I see it, isn’t what it says it is, i.e., for multiple cultures co-existing. Instead, it is a political movement that uses a set of out-group cultures as an excuse to revolutionize the State and inflict an ideological monoculture, using techniques familiar from limited access societies of the distant past, and from more recent totalitarian states. 

A workable multiculturalism worthy of the name would decrease (not constantly increase) the general level of legal obligations and the amount of public goods provided, not requiring disparate individuals and groups to share resources with people of different values. The rule would be toleration, not compulsory “acceptance” and marginalization of all who resist.

This is very basic stuff. I did not need to read Rabushka and Shepsle to have a handle on it. Indeed, a number of years ago I wrote an essay on “The Comedy of the Commons,” and floated it by a few friends. It covered most of this. Or, I think it did. I cannot now find it!

The upshot of all this is not hard to understand. I have no problem with multiple churches in my neighborhood, or a vibrant pop music scene featuring music I’ve no interest in, or a variety of family structures, from nuclear families, single-parent families, clans, and chain marriages. The idea is I don’t have to contribute to your cause, and you don’t have to contribute to mine. That would be true, tolerant multiculturalism.

The doctrine that currently goes by the name, however, is a changeling creature designed to destroy diversity in the name of diversity.

Indeed, it is no shock to witness a de-stabilizing ideology leap to deeply anti-social attitudes: street violence on the one hand, and ingratitude to benefactors (the rich, who pay the bulk of the taxes) on the other.

To witness post-modernist multiculturalists embrace policies that are obviously de-stabilizing suggests not only that some deep quasi-religious, even chthonian impulse is in play — a societal death wish? — but also that the Rabushka-Shepsle treatise needs more attention from today’s sociologists, social psychologists, historians and Public Choice economists.

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The Nature of Leftist Hate

The greatest irony of modern leftism is its Inclusion Paradox.

Like the Tolerance Paradox, which deals with that intellectual muddle of “can we tolerate intolerance?,” the Inclusion Paradox shows an antinomy in praxis: In the cause of Universal Inclusion, opponents MUST BE EXCLUDED.

And with disdain, anger, marginalization, and even violence.

Now, this inclusion/exclusion idea was not what the older variants of the Left obsessed about, at least not explicitly. When I was young, there were still communists who believed that a total state and “democratic control of the means of production” would lead to a material and spiritual utopia, to wealth and happiness untold. Almost no one believes that now. History shows what happens when it is attempted, economics explains why it cannot work. So, what to do? Give up.

Yes, leftists have mostly given up on the superiority of complete State control of production and distribution — at least, they rarely lead with such concerns, and they try not to think about all that very much. It is so embarrassing for them, and they would have to actually learn some economics and deal with really smart people who look at issues more dispassionately than they are able to. Actual social scientists. Instead of retreading ground that is stained with the blood of millions — hundreds of millions of the victims of Historical Socialism — modern leftists have embraced the hidden entelechy that always undergirded the Left of the spectrum, and brought it to the surface, applying it to classes of people figured according to racial, cultural and sexual criteria, not economic.

If we take the approach of Dr. Jordan Peterson and philosopher Stephen Hicks and many others, we would interpret this development as a sort of logical outcome of the failure of Marxism and the persistence of Marxists. Specifically, the development via Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, and Critical Theory of a new approach to class.

Karl Marx had taken the class analysis of liberal industrielisme, which tracked class exploitation in the form of State redistribution of resources (the diversion of resources away from those who served consumer preferences and towards “rent seeking” special interests), and applied it bizarrely (and incoherently) to the market itself, without extraneous criminal or statist expropriation. The idea was actually older than Marx — Proudhon argued it in Systems of Economical Contradictions — but Marx put his stamp upon it. “Capitalists” hired “workers” to produce commodities for consumers, but they took a cut, and somehow this cut was robbery — as if capital itself (previously saved wealth) should have no return when invested. The class exploitation was of the workers (proletarians) by the capitalists (owners of capital and entrepreneurs and managers).

Well, this makes sense if you are not very bright or do not think very hard. But it is a ridiculous theory, a strained misuse of exploitation theory. And it depended upon a now-proven incorrect theory of value, the Labor Theory of Value. Well, by the 1890s, just as socialists were gaining power in governments, the LTV and the exploitation theory had been thoroughly destroyed by Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (Karl Marx and the Close of His System and Capital and Interest are the classic works) and all the Marxists and Social Democrats had left was utopianism and class solidarity/class hatred. Then came the Soviet Union and Mao’s China and millions of corpses and dire poverty and tyranny and mass suspicion and cultural degradation and . . . what was a Marxist to do?

They invented Cultural Marxism. While Marx had formalized the idea that class-based ideas serve only their respective classes – ideologies were “superstructures” that served their class foundations — the later theorists ran with the idea that the classes that matter were based on race, culture, and sexuality, not productivity. It was the very idea of “identity” that matters! A never-ending supply of victim-groups to justify revolution and tyranny and all those old socialist “solutions”!

And here we are, in the postmodern age.

But we must add something to the critique of postmodernism. Marx had formalized the idea that class-based ideas served only their respective classes, sure. But there is an added element. Because “capitalist ideology” serve ONLY capitalists, and “proletarian ideology” serves ONLY proletarians, ideas are thus dismissible on class rather than truth grounds.

This is momentous. And pernicious. It basically justifies the argumentum ad hominem, the logical fallacy/debate technique that attacks the idea referencing the badness of a holder of an idea and not the ideas themselves. It is a recipe for hatred and social division and discord.

Modern cultural Marxists are definitely carrying on that tradition. They just swap classes from economic to racial, sexual and the like. And periodically invent new ones.

C.S. Lewis called this gambit “Bulverism.” Oddly, Wikipedia relates the procedure not to the ad hominem but to “Antony Flew’s ‘subject/motive shift,’” the appeal to motive, circular reasoning, and the genetic fallacy. But what I see most obviously is the ad hominem, though now applied broadly.

Lewis introduced the concept in his usual charming way:

It is a disastrous discovery, as Emerson says somewhere, that we exist. I mean, it is disastrous when instead of merely attending to a rose we are forced to think of ourselves looking at the rose, with a certain type of mind and a certain type of eyes. It is disastrous because, if you are not very careful, the color of the rose gets attributed to our optic nerves and its scent to our noses, and in the end there is no rose left. The professional philosophers have been bothered about this universal black-out for over two hundred years, and the world has not much listened to them. But the same disaster is now occurring on a level we can all understand.

We have recently “discovered that we exist” in two new senses. The Freudians have discovered that we exist as bundles of complexes. The Marxians have discovered that we exist as members of some economic class. In the old days it was supposed that if a thing seemed obviously true to a hundred men, then it was probably true in fact. Nowadays the Freudian will tell you to go and analyze the hundred: you will find that they all think Elizabeth a great queen because they all have a mother-complex. Their thoughts are psychologically tainted at the source. And the Marxist will tell you to go and examine the economic interests of the hundred; you will find that they all think freedom a good thing because they are all members of the bourgeoisie whose prosperity is increased by a policy of laissez-faire. Their thoughts are “ideologically tainted” at the source.

Lewis goes on, though, trying to make the distinction between logical validity and empirical facticity, on the one hand, and the wrongness of a person because of their conceived identity . . . and explains his coinage:

You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly.

In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

And Wikipedia addresses the real problem at base:

The special threat of this fallacy lies in that it applies equally to the person who errs as to that person’s opponent. Taken to its logical consequence, it implies that all arguments are unreliable and hence undermines all rational thought. Lewis says, “Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs. Each side snatches it early as a weapon against the other; but between the two reason itself is discredited.”

And with reason out of the way, and people attacking each other because their ideas stand and fall based on their identity or group affiliation, hatred naturally flows. Because, if you are told you are wrong because “you are a fucking white male!” what defense do you have? I mean, if you are a white male, you cannot prove yourself right by saying you are not a white male. And the charge itself looks a lot like the simple hatred of white males.

Turnabout being fair play, why would not the white males hate their accusers merely because they are not white and not male?

Hence the present ideological moment. And possible civilizational crisis.

All this does not mean one must never criticize people because of their characteristic errors. It only means one must not assume the error and then relentlessly treat all logic as subservient to an assumed group interest.

Where This All Comes From

Marxism formalized the idea that class-based ideas serve only their serviced class and are thus dismissible on class rather than truth grounds.

Modern cultural Marxists carry on that tradition. They just swap classes, invent new ones.

Mises called this gambit polylogism. C.S. Lewis called it “Bulverism.”

Intersectionality is the fasces with which postmoderns attack everybody else. They think of themselves as anti-fascists because of their Marxist heritage, but though they try to force us to use “their pronouns,” they are losing the ability to bludgeon us into submission even to use their nouns and adjectives.

So there may be hope. The lunacy of leftist style and method has reached its peak, and may now be so hysterical in part because the left finally sees double-pronged push-back: intellectual and popular. The revolt against Progressivism has begun.

twv

N.B. This essay was written a year or two ago, but never quite finished, lingering in my drafts folder. In the spirit of house-cleaning, I publish it now. The Venn Diagram atop was made about the same time, but was not tailor-made to illustrate this specific argument — not wholly irrelevant, it adorns this essay for whimsy’s sake. [August 15, 2020]

The 20th episode of the LocoFoco Netcast is up:

LocoFoco #20, August 6, 2020.

The podcast is accessible via LocoFoco.net, and using podcatchers such as Apple’s and Google’s, Pocket Cast and Spotify. It is also available as a video on BitChute, Brighteon, and YouTube:

LocoFoco #20, August 6, 2020.

“The big lie about capitalism is that everyone can be rich but capitalism works only if the majority are kept poor enough to never quit working and accept distasteful jobs society cannot function without. If everyone were a millionaire, who would empty the trash or repair the sewers?”
Do you agree or disagree? Why?

…as answered on Quora….

Many distasteful jobs are well paid. Do you want to be a proctologist? I do not. And yet people who probe around in others’ anuses for medical purposes are not kept artificially poor.

Many, many high-paying jobs are jobs our society cannot function without. And not a few are distasteful to many, if not most. One reason many smart people do not go into politics, despite this profession’s long history of high spoils rates, is because it is disgusting work. Tedious. Morally ugly. Dehumanizing. And most people say politics is absolutely essential to modern society.

I would rather drive a garbage truck or sling cowshit in a dairy farm than serve in the Oval Office.

Or probe around in the above-mentioned orifices.

And let us say, arguendo, that more and more people found garbage collection and sewerage repair just too disgusting to hire themselves out for. If these jobs’ products remain demanded by people, the customers would indeed pay higher prices — and with a tight supply and higher demand, we can expect wages to rise in those fields.

It is worth noting that many dirty jobs actually pay pretty well. See Mike Rowe’s once-popular show, Dirty Jobs. Consider “the trades.”

To answer the original question in the affirmative is to take a conspiratorial view of wages. Those who believe such things should study economics, learn about “marginal productivity,” and put away silly hunches and prejudices.

But let us return to the first phrase: “The big lie of capitalism is that everyone can be rich. . . .” If by this one means “equally rich” (which probably is what is meant) I have to say: I’ve never heard anyone assert that this is what a market economy offers us. Equality of wealth is not possible — unless you flip that around: equality of dire poverty is possible.

And in societies geared to be extremely anti-capitalist — that is, in socialist societies — caste divisions and great disparities of wealth become quite large. Just think of Venezuela’s richest woman, the former president’s daughter, and contrast her with the masses of that beleaguered-yet-resource-rich country. Now starving, they no longer line up for food, they line up at the border, trying to exit the country.

Equality is not a function of nature. No society but the simplest and poorest sports material equality. Even in hunter-gatherer tribes there tends to be some startling inequalities. Markets reward performance on merit through that amazing filter, supply and demand. It is not equality that markets produce, but quality in general. And, as others have stated, we are a lot wealthier now than we used to be. There has been awesome material progress.

It is a pity that a progress in wisdom has not been nearly as marked. But, to some extent this is to be expected: education has been monopolized in public schooling as well as in limited-accreditation higher ed, to an amazing degree for well over a century — monopolized in the non-capitalist sector of society.

twv

Let’s all take a moment to mourn the passing of Climate Change Catastrophism. 

For years polls have shown that the bulk of mankind rates this issue very low as a priority.

Now, when other issues emerge to better signal uprightness — like “wear the mask!” and “black lives matter!” — the lip service people gave to climate alarmism, without (of course) really understanding the ramifications of the prophets of doom, the repeated failures of their prophecies, and the infancy of “climate science,” no longer beckons much cultish behavior.

That behavior is reserved for pandemics and racism panics.

While it is just as true that the “science” behind official pandemic responses and patterns of policing are just as shoddy and deceptive as that behind “manmade global warming,” the new ones are new, and more closely and immediately affecting everyday life, so they have extra oomph.

Will Climate Change Catastrophism come back?

Well, it might, but not, I think, bigger and better and stronger. It will be weaker, flaccid. All the people who have become skeptical about the lockdowns and mask orders, and about how real crime stats in America apply to protest demands and riots and statue iconoclasm, will take their newfound skepticism and apply it against the garbage heap that is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

But I predict a new, better form of Climate Catastrophism could emerge, and should: the one that recognizes that the real global threat to civilization, humanity, and life on this planet is extra-terrestrial hits by asteroids, comets, and mass coronal mass ejections (from the Sun).

Maybe after people realize that hair-shirt-wearing religious posturing that serves to replace the doctrine of Original Sin with some secular analogue is an embarrassment to all mankind — or at least that small fraction of intelligent terrestrial life — we can deal with real threats in a rational way.

OK. Stop laughing.

twv