Utopophobophilia

by John Holbo on May 13, 2013

This is, in a silly way, a footnote to my previous Kevin Williamson post, but, more seriously, to my contribution to our Erik Olin Wright event. In my post on Wright I remarked that, in a sense, he’s pushing against an open door: he wants Americans, who think ‘socialism’ is a dirty word, to be more open to utopian thinking. The problem, I pointed out, is that thinking ‘socialism’ is a dirty word is positively, not negatively, correlated with utopianism, because conservatives are, typically, very utopian, especially in their rhetoric – more so than socialists these days; certainly more so than liberals. Wright responded that his project “is not mainly directed at ideologically committed Conservatives whose core values support the power and privilege of dominant classes. The core audience is people who are loosely sympathetic to some mix of liberal egalitarian, radical democratic and communitarian ideals.”

But the problem is that conservatives are loosely sympathetic to this stuff – in a weird, cognitively dissonant way. Anyway, it isn’t just conservatives who have this funny problem – utopophobophilia. If you want to talk to people about utopia, you have to deal with a lot of confusing, confused love-hate relationships.

Which brings me to Kevin Williamson. His new book, as I mentioned in my previous post, really is (although some of you doubted it, in comments!) The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure. And yesterday I got an email from National Review, plugging it. Here is Williamson summarizing his position, in a way that perfectly illustrates my argument against Wright. Indeed, Williamson is a kind of Bizarro Wright. (Him want real utopia because utopia am bad. Best way show utopia am impossible is show little ways utopia am actually working.)

Why are our smart phones so smart – getting better and cheaper every year – while our government is so dumb? Is there a way to apply the creative and productive institutions that produced the iPhone to education, public schools, or Medicare?

A few years ago, I was giving a lecture in which I mentioned, as an aside, that libertarians and free-market conservatives often utter the words “the market will take care of it” or “voluntary charity will take care of it” as though those sentences were real answers to meaningful questions. And when they do try to address social concerns in a more substantive fashion, they too often fall into the trap of drawing up blueprints for utopias.

We live in remarkable times, an age of extraordinary wealth, freedom, and creativity. But a few critical areas of life – education, health care, and retirement prominent among them – are dominated by antiquated political systems that cannot respond adequately to the complexity of 21st century life. The problem is not so much left-wing politics or right-wing politics, “good” politics or “bad” politics, but the centrality of politics per se, the inevitable defects associated with centralized, hierarchical decision-making institutions that cannot evolve in response to fast-moving, complex knowledge.

Economists spend a great deal of time talking about efficiency, productivity, GDP, marginal output and the like, but I am more interested in the question T. S. Eliot put to us: “When the Stranger says: ‘What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle close together because you love each other?’ What will you answer? ‘We all dwell together to make money from each other’? or ‘This is a community’?” I live a few blocks from Wall Street – what, indeed, is the meaning of this city? If we do not have a good answer to that question, then all of the efficiency and productivity in the world are not going to do us a great deal of good.

My book has a two-part argument; I call it “short-term pessimism, long-term optimism.” It is not always obvious, but government as we know it is in retreat, a retreat that I expect to be accelerated by economic trends related to public debt and unfunded government liabilities. But once the disorder is behind us, we will discover new and better ways to serve one another. You would not know it to listen to many of the self-appointed defenders of capitalism, but that is what the economy is there for.

I quote this not (just!) to make fun but because I think Williamson’s case, although extreme, is not untypical. He is saying that the only alternative to utopian thinking is revolutionary communism [hold that objection for just a sec]. Indeed, the replacement of the existing capitalist order with a revolutionary communist order is an inevitable (or highly likely) function of the economic contradictions of actually existing capitalism. The state is destined to wither away. (Just look at your iPhone if you don’t believe me!) No other approach makes sense because it’s madness to try to blueprint our way to some sort of perfect world.

The tendentious bit of my summary is labeling Williamson’s ideal ‘communism’. That term has a history. But there is a straightforward logic to its application in this context: like Marx, Williamson evidently dreams of an ideal community in which we live ‘to discover better ways to serve one another.’ (You have a better definition of communism? I’d like to hear it.) Like Marx, I presume, Williamson believes that by making people free, we will bring them together in ideal community, and by bringing them together in ideal community, we will make them free. It’s a virtuous dialetic that will, in some sense, place us post-politics. And it’s possible. Perhaps inevitable. Last but not least: like Marx, Williamson is very impatient with people who waste their time blueprinting Utopia.

This is not to deny rather significant differences of opinion between Williamson and Marx, not just about economics and politics but about what is really valuable in life. Nevertheless, the odd parallels underscore my sense that the thing that makes utopian thinking hard is not so much that people hate utopia, unreasonably, but that people love it, unreasonably, given that, unreasonably, they think they hate it. Utopophobophilia isn’t just for conservatives. Even Marx sometimes got kind of wild-eyed, in this way.

In “Utopophobia” [that’s audio; the material is gone over a bit differently in print here] Dave Estlund (who contributed to our Wright event) suggests that utopophobia – an irrational aversion to theorizing about ideal political order – is chiefly due to a fallacious slip. He quotes Machiavelli to the effect that is and ought are so far apart that thinking about ought will blind you to is. He quotes Rousseau on the importance of ‘taking men as they are, laws as they might be.’ Estlund basically argues, against both, that even if it is true that is and ought tend to be run together, it doesn’t follow that we should, as it were, preemptively conflate them – as if giving oneself a chronic case of the disease counts as vaccination against it. If two things that you are going to need to combine tend to get mixed up, the thing to do is distinguish them.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in Estlund’s aspirational-concessive distinction-drawing – I feel I’ve learned from it, anyway – but it doesn’t explain the common phenomenon of utopophobophilia. Love of hating on utopia by utopians. Where the hell does that come from?

People tend to think that bad utopianism means taking too sunny a view of human nature. As a result, people who are cynical about human nature assume they can’t possibly be engaging in utopian thinking.

The truth is that utopian political thinkers are typically very cynical about human nature – albeit selectively so. From Plato on, utopian political plans typically hinge on clever notions for how to leverage weak humanity into social strength. The foundation of Plato’s Republic is deluded and brazen, even if the apex of the pyramid is wise and golden. Marx thinks that communism is inevitable not because all men are implausibly angelic but because they are mostly selfish and deluded, hence rather predictably self-destructive. Free market utopianism is similar. It assumes ‘base’ motives, and ignorance, but predicts a system can be built that will leverage this base matter into something positive – as mathematically ideal as anything Plato dreamt of.

This isn’t to say all these cynical, let’s-turn-weakness-into-strength social schemes are the same, or equally flawed – or necessarily flawed at all. The point is this: from the fact that a lack of cynicism about human nature would be a recipe for unhealthy utopianism, it doesn’t follow that cynicism about human nature is a recipe for anti-utopianism.

Cynicism about human nature feels like a shield against naive utopianism. But the truth is that thinking everyone around you is basically an angel who can be counted on to do exactly what you want them to do is not a typical, psychological temptation that needs to be warned against. The actually psychologically hazardous root of utopianism is utopophobophilia: you, unlike those utopian idiots, see the score. You can pull off the cunning bankshot – using human weakness against itself in some ingenious, generally beneficial way. You are the cunning social engineer because you are cynical. Cynicism breeds utopianism.

Obviously I’m not saying that all cynics are utopians. Just that what makes utopianism attractive is not that it is some saccharine sweet, obviously artificial, Panglossian notion. Rather, it’s a tasty combination of sweet and bitter. It’s satisfying to get to be a lover of humanity while feeling deep contempt for it at the same time. This is what makes conservatives such suckers for utopia – and they aren’t the only ones.

You might object that it isn’t quite fair to extract this from one email National Review sent me, telling me Williamson has managed to draw the blueprint of the one true, blueprint-free anti-utopian heaven. If it turns out that Williamson has really pulled it off – boy will I look like an idiot. No question. That said, I’m not going to read his book. As the man sang: “Well, we’d all looooove to see the plan.” That doesn’t mean we are all willing to pay to read it, if we’re pretty sure it’s bad.

UPDATE: Welcome, Corner readers! And the post title is auspicious! ‘Productive dialogue’. Let it be so. Comment #13 gets down to it. I suggest you start there, comment-wise.

{ 443 comments }

1

JeffC 05.13.13 at 12:08 pm

You’re pretty sure its bad but at least you gave us the pleasure of reading your entire post so that we know that what you write is most definitely bad … Thanks …

(I’d bet you could get a free copy …. fool …)

2

Aaron T 05.13.13 at 12:31 pm

I have to echo the short and very accurate comment by “JeffC.”

3

Ronan(rf) 05.13.13 at 12:33 pm

This book looks awesome

4

Azathoth 05.13.13 at 12:46 pm

“But there is a straightforward logic to its application in this context: like Marx, Williamson evidently dreams of an ideal community in which we live ‘to discover better ways to serve one another.’ “

‘Evidently’? How strange to so smugly use a word while wallowing in pride at the fact that one has no evidence. Even your quoted piece leads nowhere near this assumption. It is no wonder then that the remainder of your article spins a convoluted web of what, in the end, comes to nothingness as you state, “If it turns out that Williamson has really pulled it off – boy will I look like an idiot. No question. That said, I’m not going to read his book. “

My grandmother used to say, ‘The empty box makes the loudest noise’ to let us know we were acting like fools. What do you think she would make of someone who took that phrase as a compliment?

5

RSA 05.13.13 at 12:53 pm

Why are our smart phones so smart – getting better and cheaper every year – while our government is so dumb? Is there a way to apply the creative and productive institutions that produced the iPhone to education, public schools, or Medicare?

Apple has been involved in education since the late 1970s, the Gates Foundation since the early 1990s. To answer Williamson’s second question: Yes, there is a way, but it’s much harder than he makes it sound…which should not be surprising. Why would we expect the lessons learned from smart phone manufacturing and marketing to generalize to education or medicine? Smart phones are largely designed for discretionary use; their cost depends on inexpensive overseas labor; their functionality would be laughable without huge amounts of invisible infrastructure. Williamson might as well have written about the fall of costs in food production over the decades and asked whether factory farming techniques might be help us improve public schools.

Technolibertarians (though I don’t know if Williamson considers himself one) often argue that the market could have accomplished what was done by government-funded companies and universities, especially in the area of computing–the Internet, the personal computer, and so forth. But they underestimate the difficulty of solving new conceptual problems. It’s not just process, as Williamson suggests. And it makes a difference when people’s lives and futures are at stake.

6

0maha 05.13.13 at 1:30 pm

Having read the book (I pre-ordered on Amazon, received it last week, and finished it the day it arrived), all I can say is…um…read the book.

Really.

I’m not saying you should read the book because it will provoke some sort of “Road to Damascus” moment in you. I’m saying you should read the book because talking about it without having read it makes you look like an idiot.

7

Glen Tomkins 05.13.13 at 1:34 pm

” If it turns out that Williamson has really pulled it off – boy will I look like an idiot.”

Hmm. As you outline it, Williamson’s scheme looks awfully like Plato’s. In both, you got your appeal to cynicism (the noble lie), and your appeal to anti-utopian, blueprint-free solutions (at the very end, the best choice of souls is the one that isn’t a choice).

But don’t fret. The unrefuted life is not worth living.

8

Josh G. 05.13.13 at 1:56 pm

In my post on Wright I remarked that, in a sense, he’s pushing against an open door: he wants Americans, who think ‘socialism’ is a dirty word, to be more open to utopian thinking.

In a few more decades, “socialism” won’t be a dirty word any more. This Pew Research study shows that views of “socialism” are strongly associated with cohort. Currently, a total of 60% of Americans have a negative view of it, compared to 31% with a positive view. But the breakdown by age indicates that these numbers are being skewed by the elderly; of those aged over 65, a whopping 72% view it negatively compared to only 13% positive. In contrast, 49% of the 18-29 group (“millennials”) hold a positive opinion of socialism, with only 43% viewing it negatively. The groups in between lean more towards the elderly view, but not nearly as sharply.

It appears to me that the stigma of “socialism” in the US was based on two things: the long Cold War with the USSR, and the ability of the capitalist system to deliver a decent experience for working-class and middle-class Americans. But the Cold War has been over for 24 years, and American capitalism has far less ability and desire to sustain a middle class than it did in the 1960s and 1970s. So it’s not surprising that younger Americans dislike capitalism and are starting to warm up to socialism. (And it’s possible that the Republican use of “socialism” as a reflex insult is starting to backfire: if even the mildest steps towards a safety net are “socalism”, then the ultimate result will not be to demonize the safety net but to rehabilitate socialism).

9

reason 05.13.13 at 2:04 pm

Call me a technophobe, but what is so great about smart phones.

All it does is package a number of individual functions that already existed, in a portable device that is worse at each of the individual functions, than a specialised device. I don’t particularly WANT to always have the internet available. It dominates my life enough as it is.

10

reason 05.13.13 at 2:17 pm

I read the reviews on Amazon, (all 5 stars) and it seems that it is just as bad as you prognosticated. Here is a quote from one of them (amazingly 5 star – this was good?).

“There will be something of a collapse, and somehow institutions will persist after the collapse. The title suggests that the author will lead the reader from A to B. That does not happen. There is no discussion of the nature of the impending collapse, or a suggestion of the mechanics by which healthier institutions will reemerge.”

and later

“He provocatively claims that government is violence. Government likes to pretend it has a monopoly on violence. It is by nature coercive. The author draws comparisons between mafias and legitimately constituted governments, historical parallels between the rise of market groups, the Taliban, and English kings. The use of force is always the same. The consent of the government is a matter of choosing the lesser of evils.”

Market groups?

“Making his case for voluntary associations, the author makes the point that reputation is important. Many fracking operations operate with environmentally protective measures for an excess of what the law requires. They do this as a matter of professional solidarity with one another and the result is that when a company does accidentally despoil the environment, if they have been conscientious they will get lighter treatment.”

Oh yeah! Sure that’ll work. (And doesn’t relying on reputation destroy the concept of free entry in markets? Not to mention the possibility that someone could take over a company and decide to cash out the goodwill.)

11

Donald A. Coffin 05.13.13 at 2:26 pm

“…the inevitable defects associated with centralized, hierarchical decision-making institutions that cannot evolve in response to fast-moving, complex knowledge…” (Williamsno, not Holbo)

Does he mean, like, corporations? Because a better description of larege corporations would be hard to find.

12

Susan Greenberg 05.13.13 at 2:27 pm

Interesting. And I would say that the analysis stands for conspiracy thinking as well. Lots of people who espouse conspiracies do so precisely because they think they are being smart and cynical – as in, ‘You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.’

13

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 2:34 pm

“…. fool …”

But that’s too approximate. I want to know whether:

1) It is foolish to suppose Williamson is a utopian (because that would be bad, and he’s obviously not bad.)

2) It is foolish to suppose Williamson is an anti-utopian (because utopianism is good, and he’s obviously that.)

3) It is foolish to suppose that Williamson cannot be both utopian and anti-utopian (because that’s obviously a perfectly coherent position.)

Now obviously I am at a disadvantage because I haven’t read the book. But that just means that someone should take advantage of my undefended position and tell me which of 1-3 it is, and why.

And, in case it needs to be said: Williamson is just the occasion, not the real issue here. (My post wasn’t really inspired by an email from NR. I was thinking about this stuff anyway.) The question is: how to think about utopianism and anti-utopianism, in general; and how to think about the fact that they are so often – at least apparently – combined in this way.

14

Alex K. 05.13.13 at 2:36 pm

“It appears to me that the stigma of “socialism” in the US was based on two things: the long Cold War with the USSR, and the ability of the capitalist system to deliver a decent experience for working-class and middle-class Americans.”

There are also small matters like the inability of socialism to manifest itself on a large scale except in the form of terror.

You’re also inferring too much from the reaction of young people to the word “socialism.” The 18-29 cohort apparently has a 49% positive and 43% negative reaction to “socialism,” but it also has a 50% positive and only 28% negative reaction to the “libertarian” label. You’re likely to go terribly wrong if you place too much weight on what you can deduce from such numbers.

15

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 2:43 pm

“‘Evidently’? How strange to so smugly use a word while wallowing in pride at the fact that one has no evidence.”

Very well: what do you think Williamson means when he says that “we will discover new and better ways to serve one another,” and that this is the whole point?

This may help: obviously sometimes communism is taken to mean abolishing private property – to pick a likely suspect. Well, that’s not Williamson, clearly. But, equally obviously, abolishing private property is a means, not an end. What is the end supposed to be? Something sort of like what Williamson aims at, I take it. The point of the economy is to create healthy community. And healthy community involves a kind of other-directedness, rather than an atomized selfishness.

Williamson does not accept communism in the sense of thinking the economic policies proposed by communists in the past sound good. But, in a way, he’s a communist in the sense that he thinks the ends they promoted sound ideal. That’s sort of important to notice.

16

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 2:49 pm

“I’m saying you should read the book because talking about it without having read it makes you look like an idiot.”

Yes, precisely! Will someone PLEASE make me look like an idiot? Obviously, if I am, it must be because of one of 1-3, above (comment #13). I just want to know WHY I’m an idiot, if I am one. (Is that too much to ask? Pointing out that I haven’t read the book is a good start, granted. But it’s only a start.)

17

ajay 05.13.13 at 2:51 pm

Smart phones are largely designed for discretionary use; their cost depends on inexpensive overseas labor

Not much of a smartphone’s cost actually depends on inexpensive overseas labour. See here: http://www.iphonelife.com/blog/11445/breakdown-iphone-components-assembled-china-us650
Most of the cost is the components, which come from countries that don’t really have inexpensive labour: Germany, the USA, Japan, Korea. These components are then snapped together in China for $6.50 per phone – a small fraction of the $178.96 total cost.
Now, Foxconn apparently pays its workers $2.50-3 an hour, so we can say that it costs the rough equivalent of two person-hours to assemble an iPhone. If the assembly was happening in a country with higher assembly line wages, what would that do to costs? $15 an hour in the US, say – that’s going to add another $23 to the cost.

So by using inexpensive labour, Apple makes sure the iPhone costs only $178.96 to make, rather than… $201.96.

18

Harold 05.13.13 at 2:52 pm

Obeying the law should be voluntary because the law enforcement apparatus can be abused?

19

Ronan(rf) 05.13.13 at 2:53 pm

An interesting line of thinking might be to look at the NR cruise itself as an attempt to create a Real Utopia, like a racist version of Cocoon. I seriously think there’s something to this (but above my paygrade to look at in depth)

20

reason 05.13.13 at 2:55 pm

John Holbo @13
I’m not sure if JeffC will return and speak for himself – but I think he is suggesting you are a fool for not asking for a free copy.

21

reason 05.13.13 at 2:58 pm

ajay @17 – but then you have to add transport costs (including damages, pilfering and management).

22

reason 05.13.13 at 3:04 pm

I sort of wonder whether this sentence from Williamson:
“we will discover new and better ways to serve one another,”
doesn’t become more realistic, and less utopian, if you replace one 5 letter verb starting with “s” with another. Why does he think one outcome is more likely than the other?

23

Josh G. 05.13.13 at 3:09 pm

Alex K. @ 14: “There are also small matters like the inability of socialism to manifest itself on a large scale except in the form of terror.

Oh, please. There are plenty of mainstream socialist political parties in Western Europe, and none of them rule by “terror”. You’re confusing socialism with Leninist Communism. Yes, the communists called themselves socialist, but they also liked to stick “democratic republic” in the names of their countries, even though they were nothing of the sort.

Alex K.: “You’re also inferring too much from the reaction of young people to the word “socialism.” The 18-29 cohort apparently has a 49% positive and 43% negative reaction to “socialism,” but it also has a 50% positive and only 28% negative reaction to the “libertarian” label.

Yes, young people find a lot of libertarian ideals appealing. Support for marijuana legalization, in particular, is very strong among this cohort. And a lot of younger Americans would like to see a smaller military and less overseas involvement.

When people in political office use “libertarian” rhetoric, it’s usually just an excuse for pro-corporate ideology and behavior. But among young people, there’s a genuine libertarian streak that goes beyond that, and has the potential to expand in an anti-corporate direction. (After all, limited liability could itself be considered a government handout…)

BTW, there is such a thing as libertarian socialism.

Alex K.: “You’re likely to go terribly wrong if you place too much weight on what you can deduce from such numbers.

I’m not placing too much weight on them. My claim was merely that “socialism” as a dirty word appears to be a cohort effect, and one that is likely to fade before too much longer.

24

Niall McAuley 05.13.13 at 3:09 pm

reason writes: I think he is suggesting you are a fool for not asking for a free copy.

But perhaps John doesn’t need another doorstop.

25

Harold 05.13.13 at 3:10 pm

If men were angels ….

26

Cromulent 05.13.13 at 3:15 pm

The author suffers from Conservativephobophilia.

27

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 3:25 pm

“Conservativephobophilia”

I think ‘conservophobophilia’ trips off the tongue a bit easier. Otherwise: guilty as charged.

28

Alex K. 05.13.13 at 3:41 pm

“There are plenty of mainstream socialist political parties in Western Europe, and none of them rule by “terror”.”

Yes, in fact here is what the “socialist” rhetoric of today looks like (quoting from a WSJ article on a Hollande speach, which is the one I found on Google):

———————
“Our first duty is to stimulate the spirit of business and initiative in our country,” Mr. Hollande said in a speech at the Élysée Palace. “It is business that creates wealth, activity and jobs.”
———————

Some socialism indeed.

29

Dave Maier 05.13.13 at 3:49 pm

re: JeffC, I agree w/ reason @20. But we’ll see (or not).

In any case I second John’s plea for someone to provide a sentence like “John, you’re an idiot because you have failed to see – as you would have if you read the book – that ___________.”

30

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 4:03 pm

Oh, I see now that I probably did misread JeffC’s tone. My apologies.

31

Substance McGravitas 05.13.13 at 4:16 pm

Holbo gets a link at the storied Corner!

John Holbo announces he won’t read Kevin Williamson’s new book because he’s “pretty sure it’s bad.” But that didn’t stop him from spending over 1,000 words critiquing what he takes to be Williamson’s thesis.

32

Ronan(rf) 05.13.13 at 4:28 pm

From the comments – “He’s a Berkeley educated nihilistic philosophy professor teaching in Singapore. “

33

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 4:31 pm

Whoa! Corner link! I hope I get an answer to my 1-3 question!

34

Alex 05.13.13 at 4:35 pm

Why are our smart phones so smart – getting better and cheaper every year

Moore’s law tells you how many transistors you can expect on a given silicon wafer. It does not tell you what you might use them for.

35

RSA 05.13.13 at 4:43 pm

@17: So by using inexpensive labour, Apple makes sure the iPhone costs only $178.96 to make, rather than… $201.96.

Thanks for the link, ajay. I didn’t know about actual numbers. The source you cite puts the labor contribution a bit higher: In fact, if the same iPhone was assembled in the US, given that labour costs are 10 times more than China, the manufacturing costs would have been $65, resulting in a grand total price of $237.46 or a 30% increase in price.

36

Alex K. 05.13.13 at 4:50 pm

“Will someone PLEASE make me look like an idiot? “

I did not read the Kevin Williamson book (or its title) either, but I’ll try to comply with your request in more general terms.

This is not the first time I’ve noticed John Holbo making arguments that fall into this pattern:

“There is no clear dividing line between night and day (there is some light in the night and less that full brightness in the day) therefore the night is the same as the day”

John Holbo’s thoughts about utopian theorizing seem to be an attempt to subvert Burkean arguments about the power of tradition, and he tries to do that by pointing out that most conservative thought contains elements of utopianism. Since no conservative argues for the eternal repetition of the same historical social arrangements, and since idealism often creeps in conservative thought (just like there is some light in the night), we are told that conservatives must suffer from cognitive dissonance and are mired in at least some form of performative contradiction. They should therefore drop the pretense and admit that they are just as utopian as the communitarians that they are criticizing (i.e. they should admit that the night is the day).

Obviously though, this kind of argument only works if you assume that the basis of conservative thought is exact repetition of historical social institutions. The argument falls flat if conservative thought uses tradition only by giving it an important voice in shaping what we believe to be the social institutions that are robust to the challenges of systematic ignorance and human moral frailty.

Since conservative thought does not (or at least should not) believe in the exact reproduction social institutions, it follows obviously that there will be a process of abstraction from history and also a process of insisting on reproducing only those aspects of tradition that are judged to be essential for the kind of robustness mentioned supra.

This process of abstraction might look superficially like the same thing as utopian theorizing. Indeed, they are opposites only as ends of a continuous spectrum (hence the Holbo fallacy that the night is the same as the day), but they are still distinct opposites.

The pure utopian says “to hell with history, we’ll build our society using our principle of equality from reason alone,” while the conservative says “to hell with the inessential aspects of history, we’ll build social institutions using the historically tested institutions of private property and religious morality.”

Only the same type of superficially that equates night and day on the basis that there is no bright line between them will equate the utopian and conservative approaches described supra.

37

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 5:07 pm

Well that’s at least a serious answer, Alex K. Basically, you are saying that idealism, where politics is concerned, is a matter of degree, not kind. And conservatives wisely set their sights a bit lower, whereas leftists foolishly shoot the moon

I guess I think the problem with that is that it seems to me empirically false. (I understand that it’s supposed to work the way you say. That’s the way the advertisement says it’s going to go. I just don’t see it, in practice.) Since it is an empirical question, it’s sort of hard to settle with dueling anecdata. But here’s the point I was making about Williamson, which I made about Bobby Jindal in the linked post above. It’s normal for conservatives to employ a ‘wipe-the-slate-clean’ rhetoric. It’s not normal for liberals or socialists to employ that sort of rhetoric. Yet the desire to wipe the slate clean is supposed to be a liberal vice, and conservatives are supposed to be unwilling to do that sort of thing. (Is it some only Nixon can go to China thing? But then: shouldn’t he sometimes come back from China?)

Liberals don’t write books that sound as utopian and radical as Williamson’s does sound. What do you make of that fact? Do you think it follows that Williamson is not really a conservative, but more of a fellow-traveling radical utopian whose ideas happen to be congruent with actual conservative ideas on some points? You say you haven’t read Williamson, and that’s fair. But what is your reaction to the billing his book is given? Does it sound ‘conservative’ to you? How do you square it with your thesis?

38

Harold 05.13.13 at 5:16 pm

Another comment is that “Liberals love to burn books”.

39

Rich Puchalsky 05.13.13 at 5:22 pm

It was obvious from the first few comments that this one got linked on the rightwingosphere. Too bad I never knew that John was a nihilistic philosopher; I think I would have liked some of his previous posts more.

I’ll approach this one from a different direction. When I was in Occupy, there was someone commenting here — I forget who — who was willing to let the foolish, undisciplined etc etc Occupy people do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t do something really bad, like make an alliance with the Tea Party. I was under no illusions that this was really possible — after all, Tea Partiers were generally some of the ones going on about how we all must have lice and must be hippies — but of course it would have been a good thing if we could have. After all, the Tea Partiers insofar as they weren’t immediately coopted by Koch and the GOP were, in principle, against the prevailing order of oligarchy. They were one of the few groups of other people in America who cared enough to protest against something, however much I disagreed with them.

So far this sounds like a Church of the Subgenius cartoon about how, when you go far enough to the left or the right, they become indistinguishable from each other. But really, just about everyone who is seriously dissatisfied with the prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy (not sure what the right-wingers call it instead of neoliberal), and who isn’t actually a full-on authoritarian or racist, is going to end up sounding weirdly similar to other people with wildly different politics in some basic ways. There aren’t any other models for how to do things that haven’t been discredited. So people who actually want something else very often tend to drop into this “let’s build a community, have people make meaningful decisions about their lives, and see what happens” mode.

It doesn’t mean that they’re all revolutionary communists. That’s just one of John’s things; he likes to bait people in a sort of well-meaning way. It does mean that there’s an absence of competing blueprints, which people have to turn into a virtue whether they really think that way or not.

40

Alex K. 05.13.13 at 5:42 pm

“I guess I think the problem with that is that it seems to me empirically false. […] It’s normal for conservatives to employ a ‘wipe-the-slate-clean’ rhetoric.”

What is a conservative supposed to do if by some miracle the North Korean leader decides that he’ll abdicate and use that conservative’s advice in reshaping the country’s institutions? (Please no insinuations that by using this example I’m equating the welfare state with North Korea. It’s an extreme example only to make the point obvious.)

From a superficial perspective, the conservative advice will be extremely radical relative to the NK social institutions — virtually all economic and political life will be drastically changed. Yet from the perspective of a conservative who has identified the principles of private property and religious morality as historically tested over the long term and robust to human folly, the recommended actions are not really radical when viewed in the long term. North Korea for him is just another illustration of the folly of departing too much from conservative principles.

You may want to disagree with the conservative’s claim that he identified correctly what makes social institutions robust, but that’s an entirely different line of argument than the one that you are making here.

Of course, if it turns out that some utopian project works well for a few centuries then this type of conservative argument will be in trouble — but we’re not there yet.

41

Mike F. 05.13.13 at 6:21 pm

Since Alex K. already has Holbo’s head mounted on the wall of his den, I’ll limit myself to observing that the type of “tu quoque” that Holbo is engaged in is both a favored trope of the more ambitious leftists, who set out to prove that classical liberalism is not merely wrong, but internally incoherent and therefore impossible (e.g., Elizabeth Warren’s “debt-to-society” babble), and a pretty shabby mode of discourse. Rather than engaging with your opponents and debating either empirical evidence/predictions or values, you play with categories and labels in order to try to take away your opponents ability to even make his argument.

42

Harold 05.13.13 at 8:18 pm

Social institutions which have persisted for millennia — like the family and religion — are likely to persist in the future, no matter what “utopian” political changes are made — I haven’t noticed they are absent in, say, France, or even Russia. The inertia of cultural continuity is virtually built in to most existing cultural systems.

43

John Quiggin 05.13.13 at 8:49 pm

“After all, the Tea Partiers insofar as they weren’t immediately coopted by Koch and the GOP were, in principle, against the prevailing order of oligarchy. “

They claimed this, but the timing is all wrong. The first Tea Party protests weren’t in 2008, against the Bush-Paulsen bailout, but in Feb 2009 against the suggestion that the bailout might be extended to include some mortgage relief. They didn’t need to be co-opted, they were Repub/finance sector hacks from the start.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Santelli

44

politicalfootball 05.13.13 at 9:56 pm

new and better ways to serve one another

Holbo’s critics are right to call him a fool. Anyone familiar with the relevant literature would know that Williamson has written a cookbook.

45

politicalfootball 05.13.13 at 10:05 pm

Well that’s at least a serious answer

In my defense, I wrote 43 before John specified that he was looking for serious answers.

46

John Holbo 05.13.13 at 11:24 pm

“if by some miracle the North Korean leader decides that he’ll abdicate and use that conservative’s advice in reshaping the country’s institutions?”

I guess the question is more what happens if you get elected to Congress or President. My point is that Williamson’s impulse is pretty much to wipe the slate clean and start again, from first principles, on the ground that it will be awesome. (Now you might say: well, we’ve pretty much gone the way of North Korea in the US … But you told me not to go there, so we won’t.) My point is not that this is necessarily bad but that it’s necessarily utopian. If thinking you can wipe the political slate clean and start over from more or less timeless first principle scratch and produce something awesome isn’t utopianism, then there is no utopianism. But it’s also anti-utopianism, supposedly. My point is that it looks like one or the other has to give.

47

Tony Lynch 05.13.13 at 11:53 pm

“The foundation of Plato’s Republic is deluded and brazen”

How so?

48

phosphorious 05.13.13 at 11:54 pm

What is “watering the tree of liberty from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” if not a utopian desire to reboot things and start fresh.

But I suppose that conservatives don’t see a problem here. Given that they believe that the second amendment gives them the right to destroy the government and start over. . . or put differently, that the Constitution gives them the right to overthrow the Constitution. . . they seem to believe that violent utopianism is a normal part of the process of running a government.

The crazy bastards. . .

49

John Holbo 05.14.13 at 12:43 am

“The foundation of Plato’s Republic is deluded and brazen”

How so?”

The social foundation of Plato’s Republic, in terms of ‘the myth of the metals’ is bronze. Most people living in the Republic – the workers – are ‘bronze’ types. Or rather – this gets a bit more complicated – they believe they are bronze. They have been taught a ‘noble lie’ to this effect.

50

John Holbo 05.14.13 at 12:47 am

“The inertia of cultural continuity is virtually built in to most existing cultural systems.”

But doesn’t it follow that saying “The End Is Near And It’s Going To Be Awesome” is probably unwise – either because the end probably isn’t near or because, if it is, it probably isn’t going to be awesome because healthy culture is a more steady-as-she-goes process?

51

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 3:36 am

“They claimed this, but the timing is all wrong. The first Tea Party protests weren’t in 2008, against the Bush-Paulsen bailout, but in Feb 2009 against the suggestion that the bailout might be extended to include some mortgage relief. They didn’t need to be co-opted, they were Repub/finance sector hacks from the start.”

I wonder what else happened just before Feb 2009? Oh, right, Obama took office on Jan 20. Whatever the ostensible reason for their protest, the real reason was racism, or, if you want to give them slightly more benefit of the doubt, partisanship. I used to feel a lot more indignant at the latter before left-liberal protests at all the things that Bush did mysteriously went away once Obama was doing them.

But whatever you think of this, saying that they didn’t protest in 2008 is just a gotcha move, and has no real force. The system is what it is, and it does pretty much the same horrible things all the time, for whatever your definition of what horrible is. Protests can’t happen continuously, so they erupt for reasons unconnected with significant events.

At any rate, time for my classic meta-Holbo-criticism, which everyone is thoroughly bored with. There was a time, probably around “Dead Right”, when I thought that Holbo really had set forth an important idea, important because it was simple — that if someone was making “irritable mental gestures”, as I think he put it, there was no point in carefully polishing up their gestures into a theoretical system just so you could critique it. I then waited for him to write a different kind of blog post. But, sadly, it turned out that everyone on the conservative side was pretty much doing the same thing. And the pressures of production took hold. He evidently didn’t want to just stop writing about right-wing politics, so he was unable to follow his own advice.

Since then every blog post about this could have been stamped out of a cookie cutter. A) conservative publishes _How We Can Be Happy In A Mad Max World_ (or whatever), B) “In order for this to make any sense, the writer must have thought a,b, and c. I’m not even going to bother reading these any more!”, C) the discovery of Utopophobophilia, or some other strung together set of three words, D) “But, dude — utopophobophilia — you just made that up!”, E) “Well, actually you’re right.” The search for nails to use that hammer on goes to some strange places, but always ends up the same way.

It’s time for the next level. *Why* do people so consistently refuse to make sense? There was actually a better recent post on this, I thought, the one with Zizek posing in front of a burning car. I’ll see if I can find it again.

52

John Holbo 05.14.13 at 3:44 am

“There was actually a better recent post on this, I thought, the one with Zizek posing in front of a burning car. I’ll see if I can find it again.”

That’s my Wright post. It’s linked in this one, actually. Just go to the top of the post.

53

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 4:24 am

OK, thanks. Yes, that post divides basic approaches into the Marx option and the Zizek option:

“On the one hand, the Marx option: we can rationally theorize our way to utopia in a strong sense. The problem with this option is: who believes it, these 21st Century days?”

That’s not the problem, though — it’s not a problem that people don’t believe it. The problem is that what Marx did is actually very difficult to do. He didn’t rationally theorize utopia in a strong sense. He wrote vastly influential works of political economy that convinced people that the utopia he suggested was possible because he was so brilliant. People who actually strongly theorize utopia are ignored not because we don’t believe in that any more, but because there’s no particular reason to listen to them as individuals.

Going back to Zizek: the second one shouldn’t be called the Zizek option, because Zizek has not actually brought about change. If you want to follow his line, it should probably be called the Lenin option. That’s who he says people should emulate, after all. Zizek on Lenin basically seems to come down to: follow some kind of theory that doesn’t really cover the practical decisions that you have to make, go ahead forcefully anyways and make them on faith.

Too tired to write more now, but the shape of a general theory of not making sense should be somewhere on the horizon.

54

Palindrome 05.14.13 at 5:08 am

@politicalfootball: I can’t believe it took 44 comments to get to a Twilight Zone reference. Honestly, it was the first thing that came to mind. ‘To Serve Man‘ indeed!

55

DBake 05.14.13 at 5:49 am

“What is a conservative supposed to do if by some miracle the North Korean leader decides that he’ll abdicate and use that conservative’s advice in reshaping the country’s institutions? (Please no insinuations that by using this example I’m equating the welfare state with North Korea. It’s an extreme example only to make the point obvious.)”

Tread carefully, I would think.

“From a superficial perspective, the conservative advice will be extremely radical relative to the NK social institutions — virtually all economic and political life will be drastically changed.”

And you don’t see any problem with this? Post Russian privatization, you see absolutely no worries with this?

Point Holbo.

56

Niall McAuley 05.14.13 at 7:59 am

On North Korea, didn’t this happen in Iraq after the US invasion? Didn’t a crew of young utopian flat-tax think-tankers head over there to establish a Perfect State?

57

Phil 05.14.13 at 8:27 am

From a superficial perspective, the conservative advice will be extremely radical relative to the NK social institutions — virtually all economic and political life will be drastically changed. Yet from the perspective of a conservative who has identified the principles of private property and religious morality as historically tested over the long term and robust to human folly, the recommended actions are not really radical when viewed in the long term. North Korea for him is just another illustration of the folly of departing too much from conservative principles.

Sorry, Alex, but you really couldn’t imagine a better exposition of the utopian mindset. “My principles are historically tested over the long term and robust to human folly, therefore we shall implement them in this country. These drastic changes are appropriate – they’re not even “really radical”, despite the fact that this country has never been governed according to my principles before – because my principles are correct (see above).”

What seems to be going on is a false dichotomy between ‘conservatives’ who want to wipe the slate clean and implement ideals that are historically tested and correct, and ‘utopians’ who want to wipe the slate clean and implement some kind of crazy shit that they dreamed up when they were high one time. I think that distinction’s awfully hard to sustain in practice – at least, it’s hard to sustain in any way that make the ‘conservatives’ look good. (We were talking about Guatemala on that other thread. Chile seems relevant, too.)

58

Anonymous 05.14.13 at 8:37 am

I do not doubt that there are more sympathizers of socialism in the 18-29 range than in the older set, but I very much doubt that it means there will be a much more sympathetic environment for socialism a few decades hence. It was ever thus–as Churchill, I’ve been told, put it: “If you aren’t a socialist before you’re 40, you have no heart. If you are after 40, you have no brain.”

59

Eric B 05.14.13 at 8:47 am

A problem for conservatism is how it can be a positive political program. If all is the impulse to slow down social change generally, then the claim this would be a good thing is implausible; its just too general. To the extent that it becomes plausible, it depends some concrete stands to be be taken: on a notion of what it would be good to preserve and what it would be good to allow to be taken over by change (a theory [or whatever] of progress.

If its the idea that there is some point in the past that we should go back to, socially, through the change of our institutions, then it seems rather radical. But I suppose you can be a radical conservative. But then, of course, you have to pick a point in time, in your society, as your reference point. As you pick one that is closer you are picking one with inherent and inbuilt progressive tendencies. If you pick one like the time of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, you have a hard, hard argument to make, because life in America then was bad for a lot of people (nor particularly virtuous were they either). So, maybe you say, that the regulatory and market conditions that prevailed then would be good now, because so much has changed. But it changed because of social, regulatory, and technological progress.
So conservativism in any plausible form is parasitic on some notion of progress.

60

PatrickinIowa 05.14.13 at 9:24 am

Churchill didn’t say it. See Corey Robin’s post earlier: http://crookedtimber.org/2013/05/06/the-wrongly-attributed-statement-was-our-democratic-poetry/#comments.

It’s not true. For example, Boomers haven’t come to love segregation over time. Millenials are unlikely to become gay bashing anti-feminists who ruefully acknowledge that their crushing education debt is their own damn fault. There’s ample evidence that the effects of aging on political affiliation are real, complex, and not easily summed up in a pithy quote.

61

GiT 05.14.13 at 10:16 am

@39 “(not sure what the right-wingers call it instead of neoliberal)”

I think they call it socialist.

@42 “Social institutions which have persisted for millennia — like the family and religion”

The content of those institutions can change pretty drastically.

62

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 11:23 am

DBake: “And you don’t see any problem with this? Post Russian privatization, you see absolutely no worries with this?”

Niall: “On North Korea, didn’t this happen in Iraq after the US invasion? Didn’t a crew of young utopian flat-tax think-tankers head over there to establish a Perfect State?”

Phil: “Sorry, Alex, but you really couldn’t imagine a better exposition of the utopian mindset. ‘My principles are historically tested over the long term and robust to human folly, therefore we shall implement them in this country.'”

Note that the right wing in the U.S. does have something called paleoconservatism that has been making these exact criticisms from essentially since the time of Reagan.

63

Niall McAuley 05.14.13 at 1:20 pm

64

Niall McAuley 05.14.13 at 1:23 pm

The next step: Find some country to liberate us and replace our terrible tax code with a 15 percent flat tax.

65

Glen Tomkins 05.14.13 at 1:25 pm

@16

If you were going full Socrates on us, you wouldn’t expect us to make you look like an idiot, you would do that yourself, in great and irrefutable detail. But no one has the will to irony anymore. Too much literacy for too long, that’s the problem.

66

Alex K. 05.14.13 at 2:00 pm

The North Korea example illustrated perfectly fine the idea that conservative thought is about preserving or modifying social institutions using principles that actually passed the test of time – it’s not about preserving institutions as they are simply because they happen to exist.

But you don’t like the North Korea example so let’s talk about the US health care system instead. Here the problem with actually existing conservative discourse is precisely the opposite from the one you diagnosed: we have the fake conservative impulse of preserving a system simply because it exists, instead of using conservative principles (consumer choice) to modify a system that clearly failed and is failing on the financial side (the cost of health care increased more than the GDP over a significant period of time) .

Sure, today’s conservatives make some noises about relying on consumer choice, but that choice is usually restricted to choosing between different types of insurance instead of being extended to choosing actual health care (This is not to say that you should be stupid about implementing this idea and ignore the peculiarities of the health care market – but those peculiarities do not determine what a working health care system looks like to the extent that some on the left like to claim.)

The point relevant to our discussion is that conservative thought is not about preserving failed institutions simply because they exist and it is perfectly consistent with wanting to change such existing failed social institutions as long as they are modified using principles that passed the test of time.

You either didn’t digest or you didn’t buy this argument, but if you didn’t buy it you didn’t offer any argument for your rejection and you’re simply circling back to the claim that conservatives are supposed to support something merely because it exists.

(I don’t know why you insist on discussing someone neither of us read, someone you labeled yourself as the occasion and not the subject of conversation.)

67

Alex K. 05.14.13 at 2:13 pm

DBake on the North Korean example:

“Tread carefully, I would think.

“From a superficial perspective, the conservative advice will be extremely radical relative to the NK social institutions — virtually all economic and political life will be drastically changed.”

And you don’t see any problem with this? Post Russian privatization, you see absolutely no worries with this?”

Actually, I was born in one of those Eastern European Communist countries and I am afraid that you can’t bullshit your way into claiming that change according to conservative principles was not necessary there.

The transition process was severely botched and there was indeed a strong need for sensitivity to the ignorance of the population about how to function in a market economy, that is, sensitivity to the actual existing cultural forms. (I was actually going to write about this in my answer to Holbo, but the post was too long as it was)

But this does not change anything substantial about the consistency of conservative thought (at least in its considerate incarnations). I might even concede that we don’t seem to have many politicians that apply conservative principles even to the transition to the more time tested systems, but I don’t think that this changes anything substantial about my points.

68

Josh G. 05.14.13 at 2:21 pm

Alex K. @ 67: “Actually, I was born in one of those Eastern European Communist countries…”

Such a claim is very easy to make on the Internet to grab a little extra street cred, and hard to prove or disprove. I’m skeptical.

69

MPAVictoria 05.14.13 at 2:53 pm

“But this does not change anything substantial about the consistency of conservative thought (at least in its considerate incarnations). I might even concede that we don’t seem to have many politicians that apply conservative principles even to the transition to the more time tested systems, but I don’t think that this changes anything substantial about my points.”
Ah yes. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed.

70

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 3:23 pm

Once again: just because Alex K is confused about this doesn’t mean that all conservatives are. There are some of them who are perfectly able to articulate the problems involved in suddenly replacing North Korea’s regime with “time-tested” “universal” solutions that the North Koreans have never heard of. But their conclusion is that the U.S. should not be going out and conquering other countries and imposing solutions on them, and conservatism as a whole is much more controlled currently in the U.S. by the people who want to do that.

But saying that conservatives really are utopians is an exercise in making bad categories, I think. Perhaps it would be better to say that they really are authoritarians. So naturally some of them look like left authoritarians. “Society should really conform to my particular beliefs, which I know are the best beliefs for everyone because (rationalization). So I really how everything should be, and what came before doesn’t matter.” Yes, conservatives do this quite often. Is that utopianism?

Or look back at the paleocons. Are they really less authoritarian because they aren’t utopian in the sense above? They think that America really is a tradition based on being white, English, Christian, heterosexual, and so on, and if you’re not part of that, you shouldn’t be here. They don’t have a utopian plan for you, they just want to drive you out.

Or back to Occupy. “Let’s create an alternate society in the public square. Who knows what it will be, but we’ll give everyone an interminable amount of time to help create it!” Is that less utopian because there’s no plan involved as such? Or are these utopians who, as most of the left would have it, just critically failed to theorize?

71

Phil 05.14.13 at 3:30 pm

“Society should really conform to my particular beliefs, which I know are the best beliefs for everyone because (rationalization). So I really how everything should be, and what came before doesn’t matter.” Yes, conservatives do this quite often. Is that utopianism?

Um, yes. Was that a trick question?

How would you define ‘utopian’ – or would you just not use the term?

72

Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 3:31 pm

Michael Wharton (Peter Simple), pining for a return to feudalism, was the last true conservative. Even Buchanan and the paleocons just romanticise the highly contingent 50s

73

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 3:46 pm

“Um, yes. Was that a trick question?”

If you can’t distinguish the tirades of a dictator from utopian thought, then yes, I think that there’s something wrong with your definition of utopian. Then the only thing that distinguishes utopias from dystopias is whether you like them or not. Note that when Wright was talking about possible utopias, I think that a strong element of democracy or other forms of wide public participation and control were part of all of them. In principle, at least, people could reject the solution that was being handed down by (tradition / Marx / the market / whoever) for their own good.

I also note that there’s a whole Jubilee tradition of utopianism that doesn’t have much to do with theorizing, and which theorists tend to define out of existence.

74

Alex K. 05.14.13 at 3:50 pm

Josh G.:
“Such a claim is very easy to make on the Internet to grab a little extra street cred, and hard to prove or disprove. I’m skeptical.”

That’s a claim perfectly in line with the quality of your other arguments.

Rich Puchalsky :
“Once again: just because Alex K is confused about this doesn’t mean that all conservatives are. There are some of them who are perfectly able to articulate the problems involved in suddenly replacing North Korea’s regime with “time-tested” “universal” solutions that the North Koreans have never heard of. But their conclusion is that the U.S. should not be going out and conquering other countries and imposing solutions on them”

Believing that something works in organizing society and going around imposing it on other countries are entirely orthogonal issues — it’s not clear to what you’re objecting in what I wrote.

MPAVictoria:
“Ah yes. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed.”

The issue of the transition from one political system to another is a complex issue and I’m not sure that serious thinkers have good solutions to them, let alone politicians. That is what I meant, and not that conservatism is irrefutable.

Although, I do think that John Holbo’s argument here does not lead to a refutation of conservatism.

75

Jerry Vinokurov 05.14.13 at 4:32 pm

I’m surprised that in light of Corey Robin being part of the CT crew, we’re still having this debate. I’m more than convinced by his arguments that conservative “thought” isn’t about any specific type of program; it’s about domination. When viewed in that light, all this nonsense about tradition and “what works” and so on become completely irrelevant. They’re just post hoc justifications for preserving certain powers and privileges. Whether that’s “utopian” or not seems also beside the point (I’m skeptical about “utopian” as a useful analytical category anyway, but that’s neither here nor there).

As I understand what JH is doing (and I hope he’ll correct me if I’m wrong), he’s not actually laying out some kind of argument intended to hoist Williamson by his own petard. Doing that would involve believing that Williamson is the kind of person who would care about intellectual consistency, or that Williamson’s program is something other than authoritarian domination justified by whatever means. I’m reading the OP as a kind of ironic exercise intended to demonstrate the intellectual confusion that passes for “conservative thought.”

76

Uncle Kvetch 05.14.13 at 4:40 pm

@42 “Social institutions which have persisted for millennia — like the family and religion”

The content of those institutions can change pretty drastically.

The understatement of the century.

77

Uncle Kvetch 05.14.13 at 4:40 pm

Oops, second line was also a quote (GiT @ 61) and should have been in italics.

78

Rich Puchalsky 05.14.13 at 5:25 pm

“I’m more than convinced by his arguments that conservative “thought” isn’t about any specific type of program; it’s about domination. “

Yes. But a good bit of left thought is all about domination too. Why one particularly totalitarian element in both got labeled “utopianism” is a bit of a question.

” I’m reading the OP as a kind of ironic exercise intended to demonstrate the intellectual confusion that passes for “conservative thought.””

I really do think that my description up at #51 is a better description of what the post is doing. It’s true that whenever John is challenged he’ll fall back on “I was only being ironic as always”. But something like this:

Cynicism about human nature feels like a shield against naive utopianism. But the truth is that thinking everyone around you is basically an angel who can be counted on to do exactly what you want them to do is not a typical, psychological temptation that needs to be warned against. The actually psychologically hazardous root of utopianism is utopophobophilia: you, unlike those utopian idiots, see the score. You can pull off the cunning bankshot – using human weakness against itself in some ingenious, generally beneficial way. You are the cunning social engineer because you are cynical. Cynicism breeds utopianism.

is not actually ironical. It’s an insight. But it’s an insight based on a conservative that John has created inside his head in order to have one whose thoughts make sense, rather than a conservative that actually exists.

79

Asher 05.15.13 at 1:12 am

Reliance on markets is going to be a secondary feature of cultural diversity. The term “community” and the term “common” share the same genesis, and it makes no sense to speak of “community” where you lack a large array of commonalities. I know that when I leave my house every morning the majority of people with whom I interact have very little, to nothing, in common with me and that our only interactions will either through government or markets. The problem with interacting via government is that it’s going to be nothing more than one party telling the other what to do or vice versa.

80

Asher 05.15.13 at 1:18 am

Believing that something works in organizing society and going around imposing it on other countries are entirely orthogonal issues — it’s not clear to what you’re objecting in what I wrote.

Um, no. All state action is predicated on violence and the distinction between applying violence inside a particular set of borders is purely arbitrary. The difference between forcing white employers to hire black employees and invading North Korea is a difference in quantity, not in quality, both employ the application of force by Leviathan. Now, I don’t object to the first, whereas I would to the second but they are both, at bottom, applications of force.

81

Peter T 05.15.13 at 1:27 am

Asher’s days are very peculiar: s/he only either buys things or gets ordered around. Funny – doesn’t happen to me.

82

Asher 05.15.13 at 1:33 am

@ Peter T

Nice job at avoiding the salient qualifier I gave which was social diversity. Yeah, when I interact with my close friends and family then there are different aspects from interacting with complete strangers.

I enjoy that most drivers with whom I share the roads are generally well-behaved and follow the same rules as I. That said, this orderly behavior is predicated on that they will be punished by the state for violating the rules. I am grateful that the state uses the threat of force to provide me with an orderly transportation system, but anyone who claims that such order is not predicated on violence is lying.

Yes, barring one’s personal relationships all interaction is either driven by the power of government, markets or some combination of the two. That you are blind to that reality does not change that reality.

83

Ogden Wernstrom 05.15.13 at 2:49 am

Niall McAuley 05.14.13 at 7:59 am:

On North Korea, didn’t this happen in Iraq after the US invasion? Didn’t a crew of young utopian flat-tax think-tankers head over there to establish a Perfect State?

According to the National Review Ministry of Truth Wiki, those must have been libruls – maybe even hippies. After all, look how Iraq turned out. Same with Chile under the rule of that beatnik Allende. (So there, Phil@27.)

Jerry Vinokurov (hey, that name sounds as if you could have been born in a former Eastern Bloc country) nails it with:

I’m reading the OP as a kind of ironic exercise intended to demonstrate the intellectual confusion that passes for “conservative thought.”

…and I perceive that confusion when the right will brush off an argument becaue it is “utopian” – yet espouse immediate radical right-wing reforms as the true path to a brighter future for all….

As a fictional example, a right-winger might say, “Checking for mental-health history would not have reduced the Adam Lanza body count. We should arm the teachers and make all students more secure.”

Side note: Anyone who doubts that those Eastern Bloc countries have now embraced capitalism (or, at least, rent extraction) is invited to visit a former-Eastern-Bloc country while (a) many police are patrolling the streets, and (b) your bladder and colon both demand relief, and (c) you have no currency. Good luck!

Come to think of it, the National Review Corner commenters never really address the issue of their embrace (or not) of utopianism and anti-utopianism. They seem caught up in Holbo’s “book review”. Are they afraid to address the topic of Holbo’s post, or did they fail to read his words before criticizing him for not swooning over Williamson’s book blurb?

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Ogden Wernstrom 05.15.13 at 3:04 am

Peter T 05.15.13 at 1:27 am:

Asher’s days are very peculiar: s/he only either buys things or gets ordered around. Funny – doesn’t happen to me.

You, apparently, find that you have something – maybe just more-than-nothing – in common with the people with whom you interact each day. Asher has apparently been forced (because what social being would freely chose such a daily existence?) by government (I fear, because a market would allow him to freely choose without fear of violence) to spend his days interacting with people who do not understand him.

My first guess is he’s in prison.

But he might work for WalMart.

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Tony Lynch 05.15.13 at 3:59 am

Re the “deluded and brazen” foundations of the Republic.

Well, Plato is clear that the majority of people fall into the ‘bronze’ class, and it is equally clear that for most people this is the class into which they would want to fall, for such people may:

Own estates, build beautiful mansions and stock them with suitable furniture, perform their own religious rites, entertain, and… own… gold and silver, and everything else without which happiness is, on the usual view, impossible…[they can] take a trip for personal reasons out of town if they want to, or give presents to mistresses, or spend money on anything else they might want to…(419a-420a).

To which we might add—increasing the desirability—that the people alone are free to have a domestic and intimate life, and, within the usual conventional limits, to arrange it as they see fit (465c).

So are they really deluded? And is the ‘Noble Lie’ (which isn’t really a lie in that Plato sees it as the mythical presentation of a truth) brazen?

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 5:17 am

hey, that name sounds as if you could have been born in a former Eastern Bloc country

The Easternest Blocest of them all.

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John Holbo 05.15.13 at 5:31 am

“So are they really deluded? And is the ‘Noble Lie’ (which isn’t really a lie in that Plato sees it as the mythical presentation of a truth) brazen?”

Yes and no. You get people to believe something like the truth, for bad reasons, because they would never believe the truth, for sufficient reasons. (That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.) Plato wants to give them what they take to be goods – given that they could never appreciate the actual Good. This is both benevolent but highly cynical. He’s giving swine food to swine because he knows better than to cast actual pearls before swine.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 5:37 am

@ Ogden Wernstrom

Consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine that the federal government passed legislation making the income tax truly voluntary, so there would be no punishment for anyone declining to pay. Well, the first year most would still probably pay, let’s say 80 percent. However, the next year a good number of that 80 percent would see the people not paying an decide to get in on the free ride. Within a few short years no one would be paying and the government of that particular nation-state would no longer exist and some entity, or entities, willing to exercise the force required to have a functioning government would take its place.

See, we share a body politic with 300 million other people and, for the most of us, most of our interactions are with other individuals with whom we have no sustained interaction. Just this past few months I have shared the roads with tens of thousands of other drivers, virtually none of whom I have a personal relationship. And, yet, the transportation system functions well enough that it meets my transportations needs.

Why? Because of rules. And what backs up those rules? Violence, or the threat thereof. Not only are the rules predicated on violence but the taxes collected to fund the transportation system are also predicated on violence.

See, everyone participating in this thread advocates violence, whether they admit to it or not. We may disagree about the particulars but large-scale human societies are as predicated on violence as are the conflicts between small tribal units. The difference between myself and those to deny their support of violence is that I am intellectually honest about it and they are not.

That you walk around and do not see all the things in your life that are predicated on force just means that you are intellectually blind.

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DBake 05.15.13 at 5:53 am

@Alex:

“Actually, I was born in one of those Eastern European Communist countries and I am afraid that you can’t bullshit your way into claiming that change according to conservative principles was not necessary there.”

Who’s bullshitting? You are the one who is making an appeal to authority– based on your status as an Eastern European (cause having been born somewhere makes you an expert in the best economic and social policies for that place)– in order to change the topic away from the particular Eastern European country that I named, where the reforms worked poorly.

So the reforms had different results in different countries. And none of those countries much resembles North Korea. But these are particularities a conservative doesn’t need to take into account, I guess, and pointing them out is just so much bullshit.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 5:54 am

@ Ogden Wernstrom

The reasoning goes something like the following:

A) Anything good cannot be predicated on violence
B) X is good
C) Therefore, X is not predicated on violence

Of course, no good reason is given for proposition A besides mere assertion. In fact, the proposition is obviously false.

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b9n10nt 05.15.13 at 6:02 am

But Asher, it seems by your own reckoning that without violence-backed rules, antisocial driving would increase, which would inexorably lead to casualties, in which case you are advocating TEH VIOLENZ.

Likewise, without taxes you cannot fund municipal water treatment facilities, which dooms humans to parasites, sickness, and death. So, no taxes = TEH VIOLENZ.

If the alternative to coercive government is seen to be increased suffering, then it hardly makes sense to condemn the act of governing as merely predicated on violence. Unless, we allow that actions predicated on violence can also be predicated on FREEDOM.

Having discreet limits (however subjective or contingent) to the meaning of a word is not necessarily being blind to social/political reality.

The reason I won’t call taxation “theft” or call “state action” “violent” is primarily because I reserve the term “violence” for acts that do immediate harm and can clearly be renounced without causing an equal or worse harm.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 6:30 am

@ b9n10nt

But Asher, it seems by your own reckoning that without violence-backed rules, antisocial driving would increase

Violence is as inherent in human life as is breathing. Without those rules there would be violence and with those rules there is also violence. We don’t have any choice besides which arrangements of violence with which we’d rather deal.

If the alternative to coercive government is seen to be increased suffering, then it hardly makes sense to condemn the act of governing as merely predicated on violence.

Of course it makes sense. We are simply choosing between different arrangements of violence and selecting which best suits our tastes. The difference between you and I is that I am intellectually honest about it and you are not.

The reason I won’t call taxation “theft” or call “state action” “violent”

This is not some libertarian attempt to backdoor the notion of “theft” into the violence on which taxation is predicated. Taxation is not theft. Taxation *is* violence. They are not the same thing. When a lion catches a gazelle it is not murder but it is violence. The entire system of rules that supports complex societies is predicated on violence and anyone claiming differently is a liar.

I reserve the term “violence” for acts that do immediate harm

If I shoot someone who I confront in my house and is holding a gun that is violence. If I surprise them at gunpoint, not knowing whether or not they are armed, and hold them at gunpoint until the police arrive that is also violence. The immediacy of what occurs is categorically irrelevant. The fact that they remain at gunpoint is predicated on the prospects of getting shot. Same for taxation.

The issue is not one of immediacy but of primary predicate. Just as the burglar with held at gunpoint by threat of violence so do we pay our taxes by threat of violence. Again, the immediacy of any particular event is irrelevant, the relevant issue is the primary predicate of a category of actions.

Again, everyone advocates violence, everyone. We simply disagree on the particulars.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 8:21 am

TEH VIOLENZ

Juvenile, effeminate snark does not make your metaphysical handwaving any more impressive it just makes you sound like a 12 year old girl.

Unless, we allow that actions predicated on violence can also be predicated on FREEDOM

The freedom/violence dichotomy is an illusory one and is much more concisely framed as less desirable/more desirable arrangements of violence. The coercion of government is preferred not because it is predicated on freedom but because it is predicated on preferences regarding the arrangements of violence. The freedom/violence dichotomy is simply a throwback to old-school metaphysical handwaving.

I support violence. You support violence. Everyone supports violence. We simply sometimes disagree on the particulars. True, the opposition to “socialism” is termed in metaphysical language but metaphysical thinking is clearly a hardwired evolutionary adaptation and I long ago gave up on the shotgun approach to opposing metaphysics. In fact, what the OP is identifying is the metaphysical tendency in human thinking and not any real utopianism.

In my experience, when faced with the real-world consequences of actually abandoning metaphysics even the most philosophical minds shrink from the task.

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reason 05.15.13 at 8:35 am

Asher,
having read your comments, I tend to think you are on the right track. But I think it is important to distinguish between “violence” and “the (ultimate) threat of violence” – and I think you use them interchangeably. As has often been pointed out, the threat of violence for non-compliance with rules need rarely actually be carried out, and we label people requiring such coersion criminals. There is an important difference between a society ruled by widespread and random violence (otherwise called anarchy), and one rules by common rules backed by a (mostly latent) threat of violence.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 8:38 am

Let’s go back in time, say a half million years ago. Was there violence? Certainly. Was there freedom? The question doesn’t even make sense. This is because we can compare what life was back then to what it is now and we see massive differences in how life is experienced. However, what we do is attribute a metaphysical nature to those differences and describe those differences in metaphysical terms: freedom and violence, good and evil. This is how we manage to have very smart people manage to come up with the synthesis of opposites, to how freedom can emerge from necessity.

What such people do is take observances of things found today and label them “freedom” They then track back and point out that such things were not found in prehistory and declare that freedom must have emerged from necessity, that something evolved from its opposite. What such people are doing is trying to sell you something, snake oil salesmen.

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reason 05.15.13 at 8:42 am

“Yes, barring one’s personal relationships all interaction is either driven by the power of government, markets or some combination of the two. “

I don’t think the distinction between the power of government and markets is real either. Markets depend on clear on enforcable property rights – which are in the modern world – a function of government.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 8:51 am

@ reason

I think it is important to distinguish between “violence” and “the (ultimate) threat of violence”

Why? Certainly the immediate, particular experiences have some outcome differences but the category of the experience is the same. Difference in quantity, no in quality.

the threat of violence for non-compliance with rules need rarely actually be carried out

If it needs to be carried out even once to ensure the integrity of the system then it is predicated on violence. We are simply talking about differences of degree not of kind.

There is an important difference between a society ruled by widespread and random violence (otherwise called anarchy), and one rules by common rules backed by a (mostly latent) threat of violence

Yes, and that difference is best described as less/more desirable, as violence is inherent in every possible arrangement of human experience. Look, I used to argue with lots of libertarians over their “non aggression principle” and the bottom line is that they prefer it … because they find it preferable to alternatives. Fine, but even then they need access to some source of power that enshrines such a maxim and that source will be predicated on violence.

Yes, I understand that there are also anarcho-capitalists who understand that the enshrinement of the “non aggression principle” requires a primary act of aggression but then their attitude seems to amount to crossing their fingers and squeezing their buttcheeks and hoping that Presto! Blammo! out pops anarcho-capitalism one day.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 8:55 am

@ reason

the distinction between the power of government and markets is real either. Markets depend on clear on enforcable property rights

Yep, markets, as we experience them today, are clearly a function of enforceable property rights created by government. That said, the function of the profit-seeking motive is clearly an evolutionary adaptation and governments just make it function more efficiently.

Barring close, interpersonal relationships people are going to do things for you because you pay them or because you have a gun to their head, and I think that’s what most people mean when they distinguish between the government and the market.

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reason 05.15.13 at 8:59 am

Asher,
I guess we can agree to disagree, in that I think that differences in kind, rarely are. Differences in degree matter, a lot!

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reason 05.15.13 at 9:09 am

Rick Pucholsky
“I used to feel a lot more indignant at the latter before left-liberal protests at all the things that Bush did mysteriously went away once Obama was doing them.”

That is just not true. Don’t you ever read Glen Greenwald? The difference is that most left-liberal commentators don’t like them, most Bush supporters did. But we only get a binary vote in an election, and we care about lots of things.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:20 am

@ reason

Agreed. Differences in various arrangements in systems of violence are very real and matter a lot. My objection is when someone takes their preferred arrangement of violence and exclaims Aha! Freedom! at a metaphysical level. I am arguing against a universal notion of freedom by which different arrangements of violence can be compared.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:33 am

@ reason

The idea that any government can be of, by and for the people with this chaotic agglomeration of the multitude of societies we call “the US” is absurd. What we have is an empire and to get to representative government would require breaking the US up into at least 15 different countries and probably closer to 30.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.15.13 at 10:56 am

” The difference is that most left-liberal commentators don’t like them, most Bush supporters did.”

My comment was in response to John Quiggin pointing out that conservatives didn’t protest the 2008 Bush-Paulson bailout. I have no reason to think that conservatives who were not actually part of the oligarchy actually liked this bailout — they simply didn’t protest it. They also have people telling them that they only have a binary vote in an election.

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b9n10nt 05.15.13 at 12:45 pm

Asher:

I’m not yet sure if i understand what point you’re making. Let me try again:

I define violence as coercive action that, if taken, would result in equal or greater suffering than if the action had not been taken.

Thus: taxation = not violence because the absence of taxation would create harms ranging from criminal violence to diminished public health. Assaulting a neighbor over an argument about loud music = violence because the suffering posed by th attack is greater than that imposed by the loud music.

This is, I believe, how the term violence is conventionally used. What point are you making by removing the qualifier would result in greater or equal suffering than if the action had not been taken ?

And yes, I am juvenile. I contain multitudes. And why is effeminate an insult? The use of TEH VIOLENZ insinuates that you are fixated on the concept that you are uniquely honest about an important social reality (everyone promotes violence!) .

Look, can’t I play this game? Everyone supports a society based on empathy. Bush wanted war with Iraq in order to bring glory to his political associates. He empathized with their need to be accepted by others, which is why they sought fame and glory. Due to the preponderance of empathy in our culture, Bush even had to appeal to TEH EMPATHY of the public: free Iraqis from an oppressive dictator. Yes, all state and market behavior is an expression caring for others, the best we know how. And this caring, this empathy, pervades all consideration of public policy. I am special, i acknowledge this, you all are LIARZ [sorry, can’t help myself]. So delicate and profound are your feelings for your fellow man, you dare not risk emotional damage by exposing these feelings and so put on a mask of crude uncaring.

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reason 05.15.13 at 1:43 pm

b9n10nt @104
I must say I find your definition of violence somewhat idiosynchratic. Do you have any evidence that anybody else uses this definition? It also seems at the margin very difficult to use – what values are used to evaluate harms and when are they evaluated?

A punch is clearly violence, but used to stop a madman with a gun, it does good.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 2:47 pm

That said, the function of the profit-seeking motive is clearly an evolutionary adaptation and governments just make it function more efficiently.

I’m not sure it’s “clearly” any such thing.

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b9n10nt 05.15.13 at 2:48 pm

reason @ 105:

Okay, if violence merely means any use of physical force, then sure my definition is idiosyncratic. But, Merriam-Webster says: “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in warfare effecting illegal entry into a house)”. So the definition includes intent, and intent conjures up ethics. M-W’s “so as to” = my “can clearly be renounced without causing an equal or worse harm”.

As soon as we are using “violence” to describe certain social relations, codified by laws and/or enacted by institutions, then I think my definition is commonplace. The U.S. bombing of Iraqi water treatment plants was violent, even if no one was harmed in the immediate bombing. The passengers of Flight 93 were not violent, even though they were attempting coercive, physical force to stop the hijackers. The dude punching the madman was not violent unless he regularly brawls for no good reason.

My question remains: what follows from using the term “violence” to include the I.R.S. if we are not condemning the existence of the I.R.S. or suggesting that such an institution is unethical? What is the point that Asher is making?

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Ronan(rf) 05.15.13 at 2:54 pm

Talk of democracy promotion in North Korea reminds me of that scene in one of the books (cant remember which one) that came out on the Iraq war, of a US official delivering a power point presentation to a room full of elites somewhere in Iraq, and opening with the line ‘welcome to your new democracy.. I’ve met you all before. Ive met you in Russia, and Nigeria. Ive met you in Cambodia..”

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Harold 05.15.13 at 3:15 pm

“That said, the function of the profit-seeking motive is clearly an evolutionary adaptation and governments just make it function more efficiently.” [???]

Profit seekers are more evolved and therefore superior??

And the mechanism of this “evolution” = Providence, whom it is governments’ mission to assist in functioning “more efficiently” ? Shades of Herbert Spencer.

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js. 05.15.13 at 4:18 pm

b9n10nt:

I see where you’e coming from re: “violence”, and you might even get the etymology to do some work for you, but that said, I think it’s far more standard to take violence to be more or less equivalent to the use of physical force. On the other hand, all of this is unnecessary to defeat Asher’s (bizarro) point—all you need is a distinction between a coercive measure and an act of violence. It’s actually pretty strange to think that these are one and the same.

(This is of course leaving entirely aside Asher’s implicit contention that the solution to basically any coordination problem requires coercive measures, a contention for which I’d like to see a bit more support. Then again, I might be a liar!)

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b9n10nt 05.15.13 at 4:39 pm

“any coordination problem requires coercive measures”

Ahh, that’s what he’s likely saying. Got it. Thanks.

Well, there’s ostracism. It neither (necessarily) requires physical force nor involves unnecessary suffering (if the collective action protected by ostracisms is welfare-enhancing): Didn’t pay your taxes? You no longer are afforded any rights provided and protected by the collective. Have a nice day!

Hey, I think we may be talking about utopias again!

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robotslave 05.15.13 at 5:29 pm

principles of private property and religious morality as historically tested over the long term

It’s interesting that both of these “principles” are very much reflections of a given society at some point in history, rather than things that can be meaningfully specified.

Showing “religious morality” to be a reflection of society rather than a pillar of it is trivial; the LDS doesn’t keep coloureds out of the temple anymore, and the Protestant Revolution did in fact happen.

And it’s interesting that it was an occasion for feudal princes to seize church lands. You can no longer own a human being, and unlike the feudal lord, the modern owner of real estate can’t cede land to a foreign power. The questions of what constitutes “property” and what “rights” one has to it are in constant flux; the contemporary conservative does not hew to any platonic ideal of “property rights” (however fond he may be of the phrase as a rhetorical device) but rather seeks to push that flux in a particular direction.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 6:34 pm

@ b9n10nt

taxation = not violence because the absence of taxation would create harms ranging from criminal violence to diminished public health.

Pure metaphysical handwaving. No, taxation IS violence, however, we justify it based on the world being better off without taxation. What you are doing is saying that since violence of taxation is justified by other ends that violence … is not really. No violence is violence and we justify violence based on an arrangement of ends. You do this. I do this. Everyone does this. It’s just that some are honest about it an some are not.

The use of TEH VIOLENZ insinuates that you are fixated on the concept that you are uniquely honest about an important social reality

The saving grace of what passes for conservative thinkers is that every conservative I have asked readily admits that they support taxation, although they’d like to see it lower, and that taxation is predicated on violence. I sometimes listen to the talk show host Dennis Prager and told him that I had numerous conversations with leftists who reject that all government action is based on coercion. At first he didn’t believe me, so I sent him a list of links to numerous online discussions with leftists, many of them obviously smart and educated, claiming that government action was not predicated on coercion.

I am not some special person who sees reality – I’m betting that every single voter who voted for Romney last election would say “well, duh” if you asked them if government action was predicated on coercion.

Which brings us back to the concept of utopianism, which is positing a future where there are no trade-offs, no consequences to any choice. Eric Voeglin, IIRC, noted that the Marxist is no more concerned about the distribution of resources under communism than the Christian is concerned about it in heaven. The difference is that the Christian’s utopia is something that exists in the next life and is created by God, while the Marxist’s utopia is something that mankind will create on this earth.

We don’t prefer the existence of significant government intrusion into life because it brings “freedom” but because it is the arrangement of violence we prefer over the alternatives. Still, it is a tradeoff and there are things we lose with the rise of the state, so there are tradeoffs.

The nature of government IS violence, that is what it is.

Bush even had to appeal to TEH EMPATHY of the public

A good rule of thumb is that anyone advocating policies based on empathy is advocating bad policies, everywhere and always. Empathy is personal, immediate and has no place in politics, either on the right or the left.

you dare not risk emotional damage by exposing these feelings and so put on a mask of crude uncaring.

Anyone who claims to have a general faculty of caring for all “fellow man” is a snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a rotten bill of goods. Caring is immediate and personal. That said, I am a very generally pleasant person because that is just who I am but don’t mistake it for a real sense of caring for that specific individual. Anyone who claims they have a general sense of caring for humanity is either deluded or a liar.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 6:39 pm

@ b9n10nt

My question remains: what follows from using the term “violence” to include the I.R.S. if we are not condemning the existence of the I.R.S. or suggesting that such an institution is unethical? What is the point that Asher is making?

The point is that violence is not inherently unethical. Taking the reins of power and implementing policy involves forcing others to do what you think they should do. Sometimes violence may even be an ethical obligation.

I think the hang-up comes from a misunderstanding of the term “ethical”, which comes from the Greek “ethos” meaning “shared understanding”. The problem is that most people in the world do not have shared understanding and that is why ethics is particular and local, not universal. What is ethical in one time and place and to a particular community is not to another, and there is no higher mediating set of ideals by which to compare the competing, even warring, ethical notions.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 6:44 pm

all you need is a distinction between a coercive measure and an act of violence. It’s actually pretty strange to think that these are one and the same.

He who wills the ends will the means. If something is predicated on violence then anyone advocating that thing is advocating violence; it’s pretty damn simple.

basically any coordination problem requires coercive measures,

The willingness, even of highly intelligent people, to ignore specific, detail argument is amazing and I have encountered it in every single different political perspective I have encountered. To live in mass society means that throughout our lives we interact with tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals, most of whom we have zero personal relationship. To get such people to do what we want we either pay them or hold a gun to their head, i.e markets or government.

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js. 05.15.13 at 6:58 pm

specific, detail [sic] argument

I don’t think you know what this means. Anyway, what’s the going rate for telling a stranger the time in your part of the world?

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Asher 05.15.13 at 7:13 pm

@ js

I don’t think you know what this means.

I explicitly stated more than once that we do coordinate ourselves without markets or government via direct personal relationship. The caveat was ignored at least twice.

Anyway, what’s the going rate for telling a stranger the time in your part of the world?

Wouldn’t know. The ubiquity of cell phones has rendered asking strangers for the time almost nonexistent.

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chris 05.15.13 at 7:33 pm

Asher #114: To live in mass society means that throughout our lives we interact with tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals, most of whom we have zero personal relationship. To get such people to do what we want we either pay them or hold a gun to their head, i.e markets or government.

Those are two methods; they aren’t the only two methods.

Government is unique in being able to make offers you can’t refuse and retain its legitimacy, if it does so according to accepted procedure (i.e. law). But government is also capable of making people offers they *can* refuse, and often does — e.g. all of its employees. Furthermore, as has already been pointed out upthread, markets can only exist under the sheltering hand of government, coercing people to buy rather than shoplift. (This is done by threats of violence, as you correctly point out.)

When government both makes the existence of markets possible, and also sometimes enters them to do business, “markets or government” doesn’t look like much of a classification system. Those categories aren’t even disjoint, let alone exhaustive.

Asher #112: Anyone who claims to have a general faculty of caring for all “fellow man” is a snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a rotten bill of goods.

Seems awfully sweeping to me. While I do think that public institutions shouldn’t be designed so that they can only function when everyone has such a sense of caring, I wouldn’t go so far as to deny that *anyone* has it. Heck, I wouldn’t even deny that I have it (although I could be fooling myself).

I suppose you could try to analyze, say, js’s example of telling a stranger the time in terms of some kind of enlightened self-interest — you never know but that you’ll meet that stranger again in some situation where their goodwill will be valuable to you, so you might as well invest in it if you can do so cheaply. That may even be correct for some or most people. But if people are willing to do that sort of thing even when the prospect of such a return is remote, how different is that really from an actual concern for fellow humans? Only that you can’t rely on it when the cost is higher?

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MPAVictoria 05.15.13 at 8:00 pm

” Anyone who claims they have a general sense of caring for humanity is either deluded or a liar.”
What a sad, sad person you are.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 8:05 pm

@MPAVictoria

People who claim to have such a universalist, general feeling of “caring” for humanity are simply preening, seeking to elevate themselves above the unwashed masses. It’s no different from have to have the latest fashions or discovering the hot new indie band before anyone else does.

In fact, in my experience, the people who claim to have that higher “caring” tend to be rather crappy at it on the personal level, which is where caring really functions.

Strangers who claim to care for you probably just want to rule you.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 8:09 pm

Anyone who claims to have a general faculty of caring for all “fellow man” is a snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a rotten bill of goods. Caring is immediate and personal. That said, I am a very generally pleasant person because that is just who I am but don’t mistake it for a real sense of caring for that specific individual. Anyone who claims they have a general sense of caring for humanity is either deluded or a liar.

Do tell the secret to your mind-reading powers.

I don’t get what this point about violence is supposed to prove. Yay, you discovered that enforcement of norms requires the power to coerce. Now what? Your problem is that you’re diluting the term “violence” beyond all meaning, so that it loses any capacity for expressing meaningful distinctions. When you make points like this:

He who wills the ends will the means. If something is predicated on violence then anyone advocating that thing is advocating violence; it’s pretty damn simple.

it becomes quite obvious that you’ve rendered violence completely useless as an analytical tool. Even if I were to accept your conclusion that anyone advocating e.g. a certain kind of tax scheme was logically also advocating violence (and I don’t, because it’s faulty and stupid), nothing at all would follow. So I’m advocating violence. And? By this standard literally everyone is always advocating some kind of violence anyway.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.15.13 at 8:17 pm

Asher is doing a standard, stupid U.S.-libertarian routine, which he’s modified the end of to try to act tuff-n-stuff instead of shocked. The classic U.S.-libertarian thing is about MEN WITH GUNS. If you don’t pay your taxes, MEN WITH GUNS come make you pay them. In fact, any law or regulation, no matter how trifling, ends up getting enforced by MEN WITH GUNS if floated enough, therefore, all government is based on violence.

This goes along with Asher’s other bit: “To get such people to do what we want we either pay them or hold a gun to their head, i.e markets or government.” But, of course, markets are just as much based on MEN WITH GUNS as government is. Break a contract — and yes, if you keep refusing to pay, MEN WITH GUNS will make you. Nor are contracts voluntary in some way that governments aren’t. Do you need food and water to live? Well, you’re gonna be making implicit contracts with somebody. Do you need land to walk on and people to interact with? Then you’re gonna be signing up with some government. It’s not their problem that the only voluntary part is which one you choose.

So Asher think he’s tuff-n’-stuff because unlike U.S.-libertarians he’s willing to admit that it’s all based on violence, and he’s good with that. But he’s emptied it out into a completely meaningless category. If everything outside of family and friends is “violence”, then the concept of violence becomes more or less useless.

And of course this tired bit retains another part of its U.S.-libertarian heritage, which is that these people don’t believe in society. To most people it seems pretty obvious that most people are socialized into implicit societal rules, and only rarely need the threat of violence or actual violence in order to reinforce those rules. But under the U.S.-libertarian account, primitive humans don’t exist in tribes, and humans are not basically social, and the whole concept of society basically doesn’t scan.

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js. 05.15.13 at 8:18 pm

we do coordinate ourselves without markets or government via direct personal relationship

This is not the sort of thing “coordination problem” generally refers to.

Anyway, look, to say that “x is a coercive measure” generally means that there is _some_ penalty associated with not complying with x. This penalty need not involve violence in any generally understood sense. Sure, yes, you can insist that _at the limit_, the use of physical force remains a necessary enforcement mechanism, but the limit is generally pretty remote, making facile equivalences like any penalty = violence! essentially meaningless. Maybe you believe that you’ve been punched in the gut every time you get a $20 parking ticket, but most people would take a different view.

(To put the point another way: I could use the form of reasoning you’re using to show that all food consumption = slaughtering an animal with my bare hands. And obviously, it doesn’t.)

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Rich Puchalsky 05.15.13 at 8:19 pm

Oops, I posted while Jerry V. above was writing.

“So I’m advocating violence. And? By this standard literally everyone is always advocating some kind of violence anyway.”

Yes, exactly.

125

MPAVictoria 05.15.13 at 8:29 pm

“Strangers who claim to care for you probably just want to rule you.”

Really?

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:21 pm

@ everyone

Yes, exactly.

Yes, exactly. Everyone *does* advocate violence, and anyone claiming that they have a handle on *true* justice and that all existing justice is illusory is just after power and prestige. There is no one true justice – there are simply different systems of justice appropriate for facilitating different types of life and anyone claiming differently is merely engaging in metaphysical handwaving. Life creates morality and it necessarily follows that differences in morality implies differences in life-types, thus, the notion of a universal human brotherhood is simply a particular moral claim no fundamentally superior to any other set of moral claims.

Violence is no more an analytical tool than is an arm or a chair. We evaluate different arrangements of violence based on the ends they aim. A *good* result does not make violence into non-violence, it merely justifies that violence.

@ Rich Pulchasky

Asher is doing a standard, stupid U.S.-libertarian routine, which he’s modified the end of to try to act tuff-n-stuff instead of shocked. The classic U.S.-libertarian thing is about MEN WITH GUNS. If you don’t pay your taxes, MEN WITH GUNS come make you pay them.

Libertarians get this correct. That said, I am not a libertarian and libertarians draw the illogical conclusions because they aren’t usually aware of some of the premises under which they are operating. Libertarianism, like any flawed ideology, has bases in reality and libertarians get this correct. We pay taxes because if we don’t men with guns come and put us in prison, shooting us if we resist. This does not mean that taxation is some fundamental wrong, since the vast majority of people readily agree that some sort of taxation is required for the sorts of societies in which we wish to live.

Taxation is violence, it’s just that the results of taxation justify that violence.

markets are just as much based on MEN WITH GUNS as government is

This is simply incorrect. Trading is a natural human activity and has been around since before the dawn of time. Yes, current markets as we experience their function are a product of government but that is built on innate human functions. As one who is not a libertarian I don’t have any bias between paying someone to do something or holding a gun to their head to get them to do it; they are appropriate in different situations.

Do you need land to walk on and people to interact with? Then you’re gonna be signing up with some government. It’s not their problem that the only voluntary part is which one you choose.

I figured out a very long time ago that nothing we do is strictly voluntary; in other words, I grew up. In the strict sense, voluntary is illusory. “Free”, in the strict sense, resides in the realm of spirit and is, thus, immune to rational inquiry.

concept of violence becomes more or less useless.

That’s because violence is only a means. We are interested in the ends at which violence is aimed.

which is that these people don’t believe in society

I very much do believe in society. Unfortunately, the Cathedral has decided that Western societies don’t deserve to exist and, as witnessed by the revelations about the British Labour Party in the past few years, have undergone a sustained effort to destroy society. If maximizing personal autonomy is the primary source for all human goods then anything, including society, which is not voluntary must be destroyed.

@ js

the limit is generally pretty remote

Doesn’t matter. If it exists, at all, then it is not strictly voluntary. Libertarians get this correct, they understand this, but they draw incorrect inferences from it.

@ MPAVictoria

Really?

Yep, really.

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.15.13 at 9:22 pm

“Eric Voeglin, IIRC, noted that the Marxist is no more concerned about the distribution of resources under communism than the Christian is concerned about it in heaven.”

There is an assumption here that resources always need to be divided. But perhaps they can be shared. Public transit, for example. Public libraries. Public parks.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:24 pm

Look, the alternative to liberal autonomy theory is political self-determination, allowing groups with similar notions of life and the good to form political units. Society is real. But America isn’t a society but an empire comprised of many different societies, ruled by a ruling class motivated by one of the prime human instincts: the need for prestige.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:25 pm

@ Mao Cheng Ji

The disposition and allocation of public resources is still a distribution of goods.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:29 pm

I would point out that the criticism of libertarians on their notion that there is no such thing as a society does not make the case for broad-based socialism, to put it loosely. In fact, society is more intact and *real* the smaller and more unitary/homogeneous the group.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:31 pm

@ js

(To put the point another way: I could use the form of reasoning you’re using to show that all food consumption = slaughtering an animal with my bare hands

Um, no. You are conflating a specific, particular action with a general category of activity.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:33 pm

@ chris

When government both makes the existence of markets possible, and also sometimes enters them to do business, “markets or government” doesn’t look like much of a classification system.

Except the money required by the government to enter into those contracts is collected by coercive taxation.

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Harold 05.15.13 at 9:43 pm

“Except the money required by the government to enter into those contracts is collected by coercive taxation.”

So what?

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Harold 05.15.13 at 9:47 pm

Several philosophers have said there there is also a Social Contract, implied or explicit, under which citizens agree to pay taxes in order to have the contracts they enter into enforced by the government.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 9:59 pm

@ Harold

What it means is that anyone claiming to have the *true* standard of freedom or justice is just taking their own particular notions of it and proclaiming it as the universal, one, true standard.

I just read a study where the female ovulatory cycle was tied into voting patterns. However, there was a strong correlation between whether or not the woman was in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Women who were in one identified more strongly as conservative than normal and women who weren’t identified as more liberal. The obvious implication that the institutions that promote and facilitate one versus the other are far different.

Different types of life create different types of morality.

The lesson is that every arrangement of any sort of social institutions will be derived from one particular set of life-types that work together and will be biased against other ones, none inherently superior or inferior to one another.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 10:07 pm

@ Harold

I am, generally, favorably disposed to social contract notions. That said, every social contract that exists only does so by dancing on the graves of previous social contracts that no longer had any use. The bodies of those contracts being broken by violence. Amusingly, I have encountered a few Brits that claim the American states are still legal possessions of the British Crown.

Leftists have this irritating habit of dancing around screaming “social contract, social contract” where, clearly, none exists or where the same political space is cluttered with multiple social contracts, which is the situation in the US, today.

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Harold 05.15.13 at 10:08 pm

Well, so what?

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Substance McGravitas 05.15.13 at 10:11 pm

The bodies of those contracts being broken by violence.

Mercy. All of them?

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Asher 05.15.13 at 10:15 pm

@ Harold

Well, what is the ultimate arbiter of competing social contracts?

@ Substance McGravitas

Yep. All of them.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 10:17 pm

clearly

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

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Asher 05.15.13 at 10:29 pm

@ Jerry

Well, you’re welcome to argue against anything I’ve said. Can you think of any political entity that has existed since before recorded time unchanged with zero political conflict?

See, the proper object of the social contract is the real, lived lives of a shared community with a common body of traditions, heritage, language,etc., in other words, an ethos.

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Harold 05.15.13 at 10:32 pm

Well, there are societies based on love and societies based on law. Most people would prefer to live in a society based on law.

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Harold 05.15.13 at 10:33 pm

Laws about unencumbered exits and smoke-free fire escapes in garment factories, for example.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 10:38 pm

I’m not arguing because I haven’t actually figured out what your point is supposed to be. Ok, violence. Now what? You’ve used the word “clearly” a few different times throughout your posts, but none of the things you are using it to are “clear” at all. In fact, they’re highly tendentious and I don’t really get why you think it’s just so obvious.

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Substance McGravitas 05.15.13 at 10:44 pm

Yep. All of them.

Hmm. What’s the least-violent change of social contract you can think of?

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Asher 05.15.13 at 10:47 pm

@ Harold

Well, there are societies based on love and societies based on law. Most people would prefer to live in a society based on law.

Um, the guy who wrote The Social Contract based his notion on an emotion related to love, namely, pity.

See, leftists have this irritating habit of saying something like the following:

See, here, we got this nice little thingy call The Social Contract. And, now that we’re in the social contract, we are gonna tell what’s what based on our particular conception of good, freedom, etc., and if you reject our particular notions that makes you a breaker of the social contract, see.

What you’re going to see over time is people simply dropping out and doing as little as possible to survive while contributing as little as possible to the existing social contract. At some point, that social contract will simply be untenable, and what can’t go on, won’t. Either the existing social control will be imposed by nothing more than brute force or it will dissolved and be replaced by a successor(s) that wil squabble over its carcass.

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GiT 05.16.13 at 12:15 am

Yes, violence.

But not all force or violence is legitimated in the same fashion.

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Nabakov 05.16.13 at 1:20 am

Asher, a question.

You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?

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Collin Street 05.16.13 at 1:28 am

“See, the proper object of the social contract is the real, lived lives of a shared community with a common body of traditions, heritage, language,etc., in other words, an ethos.”

I think that last word’s missing an n, mind.

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Harold 05.16.13 at 1:34 am

Rousseau would have probably agreed with Asher, since he thought that the social contract could only work in a small city-state.

Our social contract, though, is based on Locke (and St. Thomas Aquinas).

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Asher 05.16.13 at 2:12 am

@ Nabakov

Your question betrays a fundamental ignorance of human behavior, emotion and cognition. If you can explain how it sheds light on human behavior in mass society I might be tempted to answer it.

@ collin Street

Yeah, there’s going to be significant correlation between ethnos and ethos. So what?

A long time ago I ran across a definition of “white supremacism” as “anywhere norms are governed by European traditions”. And that really seems to be how the phrase is bandied about these days. Hell, by that definition I am a white supremacist. I just don’t see the problem, as I don’t see anyone interested in excluding specific individuals simply because they appear different. I don’t see much left-liberal activism agitating for places like China or Japan to begin making them less homogeous.

You know that this universalist left-liberalism is almost exclusively adhered to by white people and that as various other ethnicities come into Western countries they develop their own parallel societies and solely vote with the Cathedral out of convenience, not conviction. The Cathedral is destined to fall, as it does not reproduce itself and subsists solely by coopting the generational produce of others.

When Western Europeans do it, it’s “OMG! Nazis, nazis, nazis!”, but when anyone else does it, it’s *shrug* “meh”. So, I have routinely gotten to ridiculing anyone who uses the r-word.

@ Harold

Originally, sure. I recall the philosopher Pierre Manent offering something to the effect that Rousseau offers succor (to the left) where Marx fails to inspire. My general impression of post-modern left-liberals is that they look significantly Rousseauean in how they argue, while ignoring Rousseau’s self-aware limitations.

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Nabakov 05.16.13 at 2:14 am

Oh Asher, you really have no idea just how funny and unwittingly apposite your answer is.

Now describe in single words, only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.

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Asher 05.16.13 at 2:21 am

@ Nabakov

Oh Asher, you really have no idea just how funny and unwittingly apposite your answer is.

Ah, yes, the tittering, secret clubhouse reply. No need to explain anything, just titter and giggle like a 12 year old girl. How juvenile. How effeminate. Did I stumble onto Jezebel without realizing? Any human being is a specific individual with a specific history and disposition, and it would not even occur to me to flip the turtle over on its back.

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Nabakov 05.16.13 at 2:38 am

Hmm, probably a Nexus 5 at best.

And why do you think “effeminate” is an insult?

155

UserGoogol 05.16.13 at 2:39 am

It is a reference to the film Blade Runner, where an emotional test is given to test whether people are human or robot by describing situations and seeing how they react. So yes, it was a somewhat frivolous comment, but the reply you’re giving is… a bit overly vitriolic.

156

Asteele 05.16.13 at 2:42 am

Way to ruin the fun user.

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Ogden Wernstrom 05.16.13 at 2:45 am

A couple of observations I have made in my life (so far) that may be relevant here:
-As long as there are sociopaths, we ultimately need some form of violence to back up the rules – whether those are rules of government, religion, or whatever.
-People commonly make the mistake of believing that everyone else (or most everyone else) has the same sinister thoughts as oneself.
-Asher sat on a wall. Asher had a great fall. When someone introduces semantic arguments to defend what has already been said, the field of battle may as well be a playground – it’s time to turn French and taunt the intruder.

And a question for those still toying with Asher following this thread:
Can someone other than Asher, by reading Asher’s posts here, tell me the location of Asher’s goalposts? Please answer in the form of a multi-part chronology.

158

Collin Street 05.16.13 at 2:54 am

@Asher: Here’s the thing. You think you’re a credible voice, because everything you’re saying makes sense to you.

Well, it would, wouldn’t it? You’re running error-checking on the same hardware that made the original mistakes, if any: you won’t see your own errors.

[It’s a pretty common problem, it’s why people disappear up their own arseholes if they spend too much time hashing stuff out in their own heads and not enough time checking what other people think. You need the external input or your [inescapable, but fixable] mistakes will not be fixed and will thus compound.]

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js. 05.16.13 at 3:00 am

Can someone other than Asher, by reading Asher’s posts here, tell me the location of Asher’s goalposts?

Oh, the view is obvious enough I think, once you take away the weird rhetorical tics and unnecessary digressions: it’s just an ultra-crude ultra-Hobbesian position, whereby the *only* reason anyone *ever* complies with a rule is fear of bodily harm (or death) if one doesn’t. (I hasten to add that this is not Hobbes’ actual position—in a well-functioning commonwealth, agents will tend to have all sorts of other motivations to comply; at least there’s no reason why they couldn’t.)

Asher does seem to add to this a strange twist, whereby given a baseline practice P (or institution I), and given that n iterations of a behavior type with respect to P or I—for any value of n—result in a specific type of consequence C, then P = C. This is anyway the best I can do with his various “X is violence” claims.

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js. 05.16.13 at 3:09 am

Nabakov, you’re almost making me feel bad for the guy. (Not that it wasn’t brilliant.)

161

Asher 05.16.13 at 3:24 am

@ Collin Street

Notice that you’re not actually arguing against anything I’ve said. All you’re doing is insinuating without argumentation; secret clubhouse stuff. You do understand, do you not, that your foundations of sand are being slowly eroded without anything you can do about it, right? I have run this stuff on the internet in thousands of comments and by at least a dozen people in person. Lots of people don’t like what I’m saying, many do, but I have yet to actually encounter anyone making much of an argument against it.

The Cathedral can only titter and shake its head for so long. Your time is coming.

@ js

whereby the *only* reason anyone *ever* complies with a rule is fear of bodily harm (or death) if one doesn’t.

Which is clearly not my position. Leftists often hold their position out of the desire for glory to be esteemed about those around them, per Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. Environmentalism, for example, is often just a version of conspicuous consumption.

in a well-functioning commonwealth, agents will tend to have all sorts of other motivations to comply

Of course. But the power of the state is always present.

Nabakov, you’re almost making me feel bad for the guy.

Cathedral, cathedral, your tittering can only go on so long …

162

js. 05.16.13 at 3:43 am

The Cathedral can only titter and shake its head for so long. Your time is coming.

Dude, what the fuck are you talking about?

163

William Timberman 05.16.13 at 3:44 am

All these moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain….

164

Asher 05.16.13 at 3:56 am

http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html

The Cathedral is the vast monolith of post-modern left-liberal thought. It pretends to be *the* true and final Logos of man in his ascension to collective Godhood. It’s sort of a snide reference to the Matrix. You are all just cogs in the Cathedral; remember it, you’ll start hearing it a lot in the coming years.

165

John Holbo 05.16.13 at 4:05 am

The Cathedral can only titter
And shake its head for so long.
The jackboot is thrown into the melting pot
The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song.

Poetry, man.

166

js. 05.16.13 at 4:09 am

I hereby apologize for attempting to introduce a modicum of sense where clearly none existed!

167

Jerry Vinokurov 05.16.13 at 4:16 am

I can’t tell whether this has gotten more amusing or less.

168

Asher 05.16.13 at 4:16 am

@ John Holbo
Call like things alike – Nietzsche

You can only go around so long calling anyone with whom you disagree slurs like “fascist” or “racist” before they lose any currency. Don’t care. At all. And before you know it enough people will also regard those terms as worthless that it will be a big problem for you.

169

Asher 05.16.13 at 4:20 am

John, let me ask you a question. Why is it that when men get married and have their own biological children living with them that they skew so heavily right? Why is it that when women have children and require the state for large amounts of support that they skew so heavily left?

Here’s a thought experiment:

Two societies. in the first all children are raised by their own biological parents. In the second all children are raised only by one of their parents with no contact with the other. Do you think those two different societies would have similar outcomes?

170

Substance McGravitas 05.16.13 at 4:20 am

It was the One’s purpose for our hologramatic universe to serve as a teaching instrument by which a variety of new lives advanced until ultimately they would be isomorphic with the One. However, the decaying condition of hyperuniverse II introduced malfactors which damaged our hologramatic universe. This is the origin of entropy, undeserved suffering, chaos and death, as well as the Empire, the Black Iron Prison; in essence, the aborting of the proper health and growth of the life forms within the hologramatic universe, Also, the teaching function was grossly impaired, since only the signal from the hyperuniverse I was information-rich; that from II had become noise.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.16.13 at 4:35 am

Unparodyable.

172

GiT 05.16.13 at 4:37 am

What exactly is the point here? Imperialism and national self government are the same because violence; morality is a function of life form is a function of power/force/violence (all very Nietzsche, I guess); therefore find your ethnos/ethos and figure out whose brains you’re going to blow out. Is that about right? Can’t say it’s very coherent but, well there you go.

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John Holbo 05.16.13 at 4:51 am

Asher writes: “You can only go around so long calling anyone with whom you disagree slurs like “fascist” or “racist” before they lose any currency.”

I was making a reference to Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. I was not calling you a fascist … or an octopus, for that matter.

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js. 05.16.13 at 5:04 am

I can’t tell whether this has gotten more amusing or less.

I’d say more. The linked piece in 164 is priceless—though perhaps in the sense that it’s worth shit.

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Nabakov 05.16.13 at 5:08 am

Actually, if it was the whispering gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral , you could probably keep the titters going round for a very long time indeed.

Also Substance, that kinda Manichean heresy could get your memory cores wiped.

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jb 05.16.13 at 6:05 am

“I’d say more. The linked piece in 164 is priceless—though perhaps in the sense that it’s worth shit.”

Yup.

And the comments are, if possible, even crazier than the post.

Particularly “interesting” is the guy at the end who seems to think that the whole modern world is the result of a nefarious Jewish conspiracy, and explicitly argues against the very concepts of tolerance and equality. Indeed, he seems to take it for granted that others are inferior to him.

A lot of them also seem to hate Christianity, interestingly enough.

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jb 05.16.13 at 6:09 am

“I was making a reference to Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. I was not calling you a fascist … or an octopus, for that matter.”

You’d think he would know that.

To be frank, at least some of the ideas expressed at that site are very similar to fascism.

In particular, some of the commenters seem to be actual white supremacicists.

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Ogden Wernstrom 05.16.13 at 7:04 am

js:

Oh, the view is obvious enough I think, once you take away the weird rhetorical tics and unnecessary digressions…

Thank you, js, for summarizing the bulk of Ashole’s posts, which I did not bother to read. I thought I saw where this was going in her first couple of posts, and the bits I read beyond that appeared to be distraction/redirection tactics and misuse/overuse of the word “clearly”.

I started to feel sorry for her, since she has to put up with a world that accomodates us in ways that do not put her clearly correct ideals above all else, but then I realized that any sympathy for her would also be contrary to her beliefs. If we start to agree with her, I’m afraid that may shatter her world view.

179

reason 05.16.13 at 8:56 am

Asher @132
“Except the money required by the government to enter into those contracts is collected by coercive taxation.”

This is not always true. Read up on the concepts of MMT. You need to carefully distinguish between the concept of “money” and the concept of “control of resources”, which are related, but are not the same thing (most clearly the difference is apparent in a liquidity trap where creating new money mostly doesn’t reduce the resources available to others with old money.)

180

Slocum 05.16.13 at 9:16 am

It seems that Asher won’t have much more time for this discussion because his 2-week grounding by his mom from EVE online for that Jell-o incident is going to be over soon.

181

reason 05.16.13 at 9:18 am

Asher @126
“markets are just as much based on MEN WITH GUNS as government is

This is simply incorrect. Trading is a natural human activity and has been around since before the dawn of time. “

I think you are wrong here. You must remember the arguments about gift culture – that suggest that this is in general just not true. And government and taxes are also natural human activities that have been around since before the dawn of time (in some form of another as a contribute to group security and survival). You are drawing distinctions of type that I don’t think apply.

And trading is also backed ultimately by violence because of the danger of cheating. Traders, in more anarchic times, tended to carry weapons with them.

182

reason 05.16.13 at 9:26 am

Oops
“in some form of another as a contribute to group security and survival”

… in some form OR another as a CONTRIBUTION to group security and survival …

183

Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 11:52 am

reason at #181: ” And government and taxes are also natural human activities that have been around since before the dawn of time (in some form of another as a contribute to group security and survival). […] And trading is also backed ultimately by violence because of the danger of cheating.”

Yes. This is the only valuable part of Asher’s long reanactment of this taken-from-libertarianism bit — it illustrates so clearly that to a conservative, tradition and its variant, “natural human activities”, just mean whatever aspects of society that they like. The earliest civilizations that we have any knowledge of have taxes. But as soon as you get to something vaguely like the market, Asher imagines it to be “a natural human activity and has been around since before the dawn of time” and it’s not backed by violence at all. But of course you can’t have any trading without the threat of violence against people who would rather just steal than trade.

184

chris 05.16.13 at 1:31 pm

But of course you can’t have any trading without the threat of violence against people who would rather just steal than trade.

To be fair, you could argue that originally this threat wasn’t institutional — each person carried out their own threats of violence against anyone who stole from them, and people who lacked the power to make those threats credible were in fact routinely robbed of anything valuable they didn’t manage to hide. (Sometimes enslaved and raped, too. Ah, the glorious state of nature.) And this kind of society could still support a limited kind of market, as long as everyone came well enough armed to make others think that the risk of robbing them was likely to exceed the gain.

I believe most people would describe that situation as a dystopia, but as someone may have already observed on this thread, the idea that one man’s utopia is another’s dystopia and vice versa is almost as old as those two concepts themselves.

When the state threatens to punish robbers *even when it is not the one being robbed* you could argue that is a legitimate change from the prior state of affairs. And expands access to the market to people who can’t defend themselves.

Or maybe alpha gorillas do the same thing, I dunno.

Why is it that when men get married and have their own biological children living with them that they skew so heavily right?

How do you propose to establish the direction of causation? People with more convention-oriented personalities are more likely to live conventional lifestyles.

Why is it that when women have children and require the state for large amounts of support that they skew so heavily left?

My first guess is that they’re hostile to people whose political agendas are likely to result in the starvation of their children. I don’t think that requires a hell of a lot of explanation, really.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 2:07 pm

“To be fair, you could argue that originally this threat wasn’t institutional — each person carried out their own threats of violence against anyone who stole from them, and people who lacked the power to make those threats credible were in fact routinely robbed of anything valuable they didn’t manage to hide.”

But here we’re getting into Graeber / _Debt_ territory. I don’t think that we can say what the “original” trading situation was, as if there was only one for all people everywhere. If you look at society without any appreciation of actual society, you can say that trading is in some abstract sense backed up by threats of violence just as much as everything else is. But let’s not make demolishing a foolish argument lead us into thinking that there’s an original trading situation.

The question of whether there’s any difference between institutional enforcement and non-instritutional may be a good one, but it’s the start of the path that makes the whole bit about MEN WITH GUNS so silly. OK, if violence is everywhere, then violence is everywhere, but what are the particular institutions through which a society’s final sanction of violence is expressed? Because of course the family and friends sphere that Asher treats as separate from the sphere of impersonal relationships backed up in the end by violence is not separate. Family and friends is not some cultural universal that expresses itself everywhere and that society has no place in creating the forms in which it is expressed — and in which intra-familial violence is also quite commonly the final way to enforce social norms if all else fails.

186

Nabakov 05.16.13 at 2:13 pm

“Why is it that when women have children and require the state for large amounts of support that they skew so heavily left?

“My first guess is that they’re hostile to people whose political agendas are likely to result in the starvation of their children. I don’t think that requires a hell of a lot of explanation, really.”

Yes, caring unselfishly about others is a peg (round or square) for which the head or Asher contains no holes.

Beats me why Asher and his ilk think they’d actually move up the food chain if their preferred ideology was ever actually enacted.

On a lighter note, what do you get if you cross a libertarian with a Mormon?
Someone who knocks on your door just to tell you they can.

187

Nabakov 05.16.13 at 2:14 pm

“head or Asher”

“head of Asher.”

For “sausage”, read “hostage” throughout.

188

Harold 05.16.13 at 2:26 pm

Patriarchy was enforced through violence. The Roman patriarch could exercise the death penalty on his wives, concubines, infants, children, and slaves. The vendetta was also used in outside the family.
I have heard there is a theory that universalizing religions (such as Buddhism) are associated with the rise of trade, though I don’t know what evidence if any there is for this theory.

189

MPAVictoria 05.16.13 at 2:31 pm

*Reads additions to the thread since last night.

Well…. That escalated quickly.

190

reason 05.16.13 at 2:34 pm

Nabakov @186
Just for info, Asher is not a libertarian, but I’m not entirely sure whether he is something worse or better. My guess is that he maybe does care unselfishly about some others, but is very choosy about who they are. He certainly is not in favour of abstractly caring about others.

191

Harold 05.16.13 at 2:40 pm

I think he favors patriarchy — which Locke disagreed should be a model for government.

192

Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 2:50 pm

“Patriarchy was enforced through violence. The Roman patriarch […]”

Yes, but that runs the risk of making familial violence exotic or distant in time. In the contemporary U.S. there are still plenty of families in which children get beaten in various ways for doing something wrong. And that’s socially accepted violence, and not what society thinks of as child abuse.

You can only have this idealized view of the family as free from impersonally dictated social violence if the state takes it over for you. There are some societies in which, if children do something wrong, parents have to punish them because no one else will, unless they want to start an inter-family conflict which is generally much more dangerous. In contemporary industrialized societies, the state has been taking on more of its so-called monopoly of violence away from the family, and conservatives complain about this, but it also allows them to idealize the family sphere.

193

Mao Cheng Ji 05.16.13 at 3:23 pm

So, what’s so special about all this? Of course governments use violence, to prevent private violence (a greater evil, presumably). That’s just trivial. Of course that’s not all that governments do, but it’s a big part.

194

reason 05.16.13 at 3:44 pm

Mao Cheng Ji @193
I should intervene a bit here to escuse my own careless thought patterns from earlier. We need to be VERY careful about using the word “government”. A “government” doesn’t perform violence – it (through agents) authorises individuals, in special circumstances, to use violence. Government is not a single actor, it is something quite complex, and all the different parts of it don’t act with a single purpose or even a single controlling unit.

One of the great disservices of the libertarian noise machine, is how they allow us to forget this. They like to treat an amorphous process as though it was an invading alien being. We shouldn’t fall into this trap.

195

Ronan(rf) 05.16.13 at 4:05 pm

196

Mao Cheng Ji 05.16.13 at 4:23 pm

Libertarianism combines anti-statism with property fetishism. Property fetish is the main part, anti-statism follows. One can easily be an anti-statist without being a libertarian.

It’s like Terkel said, at the peak of the cold war: “Suppose communists come out against cancer. Must we come out for cancer?” I’m not comparing the government with cancer, but it’s the same idea.

197

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 4:37 pm

Asher #80: “All state action is predicated on violence” #82: “I enjoy that most drivers with whom I share the roads are generally well-behaved and follow the same rules as I. That said, this orderly behavior is predicated on that they will be punished by the state for violating the rules.” #98: “Barring close, interpersonal relationships people are going to do things for you because you pay them or because you have a gun to their head” #113: “taxation is predicated on violence.”

No this is false predication. State action and market action– both in a democracy — are both predicated on Agreement, not violence. They are predicated on the fact that by following rules we avoid harm to others and ourselves. (This is also true of direct personal relationships.)

The punishment, the violence, is because we don’t like the people who don’t get with the total program: the total program is, if you don’t want stop signs, or the welfare state, or paying for private purchases, or paying taxes, or being my friend, then you have a right to try to change the system. This right is already previously specified — very important: it is previously specified. If you have a right to try to change it, violence is not a “predication”. If fact it is logically secondary or tertiary.

You appear to be confusing violence with constraints. You seem to have latched onto a vague intimation of the fact that the universe MUST have constraints — for example, that all sentences end in a period (.) so that we are able to collect our thoughts in between them — but this is not violence. It is simply because of any aggregation, whatsoever:

“What Every Schoolboy Knows, #5: The division of the perceived universe into parts and wholes is convenient and may even be necessary*, but no necessity determines how it shall be done.

“(*Footnote: The question of formal necessity raised here might have an answer as follows. Evidently, the universe is characterized by an uneven distribution of causal and other types of linkage between its parts; that is, there are regions of dense linkage separated from each other by reasons of less dense linkage. It may be that there are necessarily and inevitably processes which are responsive to the density of interconnection so that density is increased or sparsity is made more sparse. In such a case, the universe would necessarily present the appearance in which wholes would be bounded by the sparseness of their interconnections.)”

This is what what you are calling “violence”. It is not. It may, for example, also be “agreement”. We figured this out in our regular group bullshit sessions during recess, out on the 3rd grade elementary school playground. We are very sorry you weren’t there that day because Mrs. Smith made you stay behind to clean up your spilt milk and cookies.

Asher #113: “Anyone who claims to have a general faculty of caring for all “fellow man” is a snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a rotten bill of goods.” #120: “People who claim to have such a universalist, general feeling of “caring” for humanity are simply preening, seeking to elevate themselves above the unwashed masses.

I personally think this sort of opinion is rooted in ignorance of the mystical path to higher consciousness, but insofar as that ignorance is rather widespread even among people who don’t hold this opinion, such as in this comments thread no doubt, perhaps on a lower level we can “leave it to the sober inquiry of competent psychologists.” (Mencken)

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Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 4:37 pm

Ronan(rf) @108, please try to remember the name of that book!

199

Mao Cheng Ji 05.16.13 at 4:37 pm

…as for the taxes, by some estimates about 50% of the federal budget ($1.4 trillion) is spent on military/war-related matters. Some of it can’t be reduced (like the veterans programs), but if you could get rid of the rest, there is probably enough taxes already collected every year to balance the budget and finance most of the liberal programs. At this point, instead of being anti-anti-taxation it would probably make more sense to be anti-military.

200

Ronan(rf) 05.16.13 at 4:47 pm

Lee A Arnold – I actually remembered it from Timothy Mitchells Carbon Democracy, he quotes it from p280 of Rory Stewart’s Occupational Hazards(which I havent actually read)

201

Harold 05.16.13 at 4:47 pm

@192 “U.S. there are still plenty of families in which children get beaten in various ways for doing something wrong. And that’s socially accepted violence, and not what society thinks of as child abuse.”

A quibble, this is true, beat them yes, but it is no longer acceptable for a father to kill his children as it was in fairly recent historical times, and still is in among certain “honor” societies. A small change, perhaps, but not a trivial one.

202

Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 4:51 pm

There’s one more amusing thing about this later part of the thread —

“Leftists have this irritating habit of dancing around screaming “social contract, social contract” where, clearly, none exists or where the same political space is cluttered with multiple social contracts, which is the situation in the US, today.”

All of this stuff about violence, violence everywhere, and how the state’s use of violence is necessary to regulate it, and the thought experiment of the social contract, is straight from Calvin and Hobbes. I mean, straight from Thomas Hobbes. In a sense U.S.-libertarians are still being shocked at Hobbes, and Asher has become a Hobbesian. But Hobbes does not map easily to current left-right distinctions, because his thought has been adopted to all sorts of foundational positions across the spectrum.

So the “leftists love the social contract” talk… well. I think that someone who actually understood Hobbes would be very surprised to hear that the current U.S. is littered with multiple social contracts, presumably because we don’t have an absolute dictator. But mostly this is just like what happened with Machiavelli. After _The Prince_ was published, everyone had a good time accusing everyone else of being a Machiavellian.

203

Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 4:57 pm

Harold: “A quibble, this is true, beat them yes, but it is no longer acceptable for a father to kill his children as it was in fairly recent historical times, and still is in among certain “honor” societies.”

But that quibble lets people dismiss the problem. It becomes “Oh, sanctioned familial violence is just something that primitive people once did, or that those weird ‘honor’ societies do, and it’s obviously not something that we have to think about here and now.” But we do. Asher is implicitly using an argument from personal experience: “No one needs to use violence when I’m with family and friends — unlike my interactions with people I don’t know, which I’ve discovered are formally regulated by violence.” But it’s not true even within contemporary industrialized-country culture.

204

chris 05.16.13 at 5:39 pm

It may, for example, also be “agreement”. We figured this out in our regular group bullshit sessions during recess, out on the 3rd grade elementary school playground.

Agreements commonly include a term to the effect that whoever breaks the agreement shall be punished by violence from the other parties. Including agreements made on elementary school playgrounds.

Indeed, you could view society as agreeing not to murder each other, and also agreeing to punish anyone who does. (Modern societies take it even further, e.g. punishing people who interfere with official attempts to find and punish murderers.) Is this more usefully understood as an agreement or as a threat? Well, it’s both, isn’t it?

205

Harold 05.16.13 at 5:42 pm

Violence or “time out” or a fine.

206

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:04 pm

@ reason

Since you appear the only one, here, actually capable (interested?) in intellectual discussion I will address some of the things you’ve said.

First, several months ago I had a very interesting discussion with a standard, and very smart, Misean/Rothbardian libertarian on the nature of money. My position is that money, of the type we experience, is a function of power, and his was … still not quite sure. Anyway, we were discussing the issue of inflation and my position was that inflation is primarily a political phenomenon, rather than a monetary one, and arises from a loss in confidence in government in multiple areas.

You need to carefully distinguish between the concept of “money” and the concept of “control of resources”, which are related, but are not the same thing (most clearly the difference is apparent in a liquidity trap where creating new money mostly doesn’t reduce the resources available to others with old money.)

Which is why what is considered money changes over time. See, money is simply a tool for engaging in various economic and productive activities and arises as a response to those activities. One aspect of what’s probably going on in a liquidity trap is that of social psychology and what is going on in a liquidity trap is that people are simply not sure of the relation of what is called money to future economic activity, which relates to the legitimacy of what we call government.

Anyway, the point is that coercive function of government is extant in money even in things like the liquidity trap, because government money is foundationally a function of government power, it’s very existence is a function of political power. If you disagree then lobby politicians to pass laws removing any punishment for not paying taxes and see what happens.

You must remember the arguments about gift culture – that suggest that this is in general just not true. And government and taxes are also natural human activities that have been around since before the dawn of time

Agreed, and I have argued this issue with many libertarians. Both socialists and libertarians have their latent, but different, noble savages hidden in almost everything they say. The fact is that something resembling both markets and government, in various forms, are natural to human beings.

And trading is also backed ultimately by violence because of the danger of cheating.

Yeah, sure, I don’t disagree with this. The problem with the socialists is that they don’t understand that in every generation there is going to be a significant minority of people who simply aren’t of any value to other people and to society, as a whole, and that lack of value is due to their nature, *not* a function of oppression. In the past, such individuals were culled, killed, enslaved, drank themselves to death, whatever.

The endevour of human life is *both* naturally cooperative and competitive and the socialists seem to think that they can cooperate their way out of competition. Not. Ever. Gonna. Happen. And when there is competition there are going to be relative winners and relative losers.

Traders, in more anarchic times, tended to carry weapons with them.

There is a functional difference between using weapons to facilitate economic activity and using it to hinder economic activity. That said, both are natural parts of human life and the notion that we can use ideas to transcend either is ludicrous. One thing that’s interesting is that in ancient times many ruling governmental elites were raiders that settled down and instead of pillaging an area and moving on began to regularize pillaging, what we call taxation, in return for protection and even, sometimes, the production of public goods.

in some form OR another as a CONTRIBUTION to group security and survival

Don’t have a problem with this, as long as you keep in mind that “group” implies insiders and outsiders and that there is going to be inevitable competition between groups. One primary aspects of in-group cooperation is to better foster competition with outside groups.

My main beef with those who call themselves “socialists” is that they studiously ignore the natural trade-off between diversity and unity. The more you have of one the less you have of the other. Both are important and maintaining a balance between the two is one of the most important tasks of any group. Any time you expand one you reduce the other.

207

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:07 pm

@ Rich Pulchasky

The earliest civilizations that we have any knowledge of have taxes. But as soon as you get to something vaguely like the market, Asher imagines it to be “a natural human activity and has been around since before the dawn of time” and it’s not backed by violence at all.

You really don’t pay attention, do you? Yes, taxation and government are natural. They are also predicated on violence because humans, like all evolutionary creatures, are competitive and, thus, violent.

208

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:10 pm

@ Rich

it’s the start of the path that makes the whole bit about MEN WITH GUNS so silly. OK, if violence is everywhere, then violence is everywhere, but what are the particular institutions through which a society’s final sanction of violence is expressed?

You’re confused. I am not a voluntarist. And there is no truly “final” sanctioning entity. No social contract is truly final. Every social contract rises and every single one of them fall and their particular “justice” is but a moment in time.

209

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:17 pm

My first guess is that they’re hostile to people whose political agendas are likely to result in the starvation of their children.

There’s actually another very significant reason for this. That reason is that women who have children single do so with an average different breed of men than the men in committed relationships. Further, current redistributionist policies are centered around nation-states, the borders of which are merely contingent facts. If you take Rawls veil of ignorance as a starting point then national affiliation is no more arbitrary than social class. Why not tax me to redistribute to someone living in Bangladesh?

See, any answer you can make to that is going to cut back in the other direction. Since current political boundaries are a function of power then future political boundaries are also just a function of political power, as well, and there is no moral reason to prefer one over the other.

At some point, one segment of a population is going to be so useless to such another large segment of a population that the latter is going to have enough political power to simply ignore the existing social contract, form a new one and exclude the former group.

210

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 6:22 pm

Chris #204 — The question is not the existence of punishment for infractions by members of an institution, it is whether the institution is predicated on violence. “Predicated” means “based upon.” If you can exit the institution or you can legislate to change the institution, then it is not predicated on violence.

211

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:32 pm

@ Lee Arnold

If you can exit the institution or you can legislate to change the institution, then it is not predicated on violence.

Every single government that has existed has fallen and those that exist will almost certainly fall – so, people escape them. By that logic, government has nothing to do with violence, at all.

You need to go tell your elected official to disarm all government agents, since they can do their jobs just as well without the threat of force. Why are we wasting all that money?

212

Asher 05.16.13 at 6:37 pm

@ Lee Arnold

By that standard home invasion burglary is also not predicated on violence, as long as the inhabitants leave the house.

Further, lots of people escaped Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, so they must not have been predicated on violence, either.

213

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 6:39 pm

@ Asher — You might want to start at my refutation of your position at #197, since you are one for the intellectual discussion.

214

js. 05.16.13 at 6:39 pm

Violence or “time out” or a fine.

This bears repeating. And repeating. If you start with some mundane violation of contract—non-repayment of loan, parking without a permit*, etc.—there’s no really easy or obvious way to trigger a violent response (within the bounds of the law, obv.). You’d have to keep refusing to accept or comply with the penalty—over and over and over and over again…, and again. And _even_ after all that, we don’t for example debtor’s prisons anymore. So, either you’re going to have use “violence” in so loose a fashion that it’s basically meaningless, or else it’s simply not true of the vast majority of contracts that they are “backed by violence” in any obvios sense.

215

js. 05.16.13 at 6:44 pm

Meant to add: I realize that parking without a permit isn’t strictly speaking a violation of contract, but obviously, that doesn’t hurt my point at all.

216

Rich Puchalsky 05.16.13 at 6:56 pm

“You’re confused. I am not a voluntarist. And there is no truly “final” sanctioning entity.”

No, I’m not really confused. I don’t have any interest in what you particularly are, so long as you’re adopting this easily identifiable U.S.-libertarian script. It’s the script that people are going to encounter in other contexts, and thus it’s the script that has any potential broader interest.

And by final I didn’t mean that there’s a final sanctioning entity, I meant that violence is society’s final sanction. The whole “everything is backed by violence!” thing falls down, as js writes above, if you observe that most punitive interactions are not in fact backed by violence. If you don’t pay your traffic tickets, or even your taxes, then in most countries you have to go through a whole lots of cycles of escalating punishment before violence will be used on you, and even then you have to make yourself pretty determinedly obnoxious in order for that to happen.

217

Bruce Baugh 05.16.13 at 7:06 pm

Anyone as obsessed with “violence” as Asher should be pushing to find a way to let humans photosynthesize.

218

GiT 05.16.13 at 7:20 pm

“At some point, one segment of a population is going to be so useless to such another large segment of a population that the latter is going to have enough political power to simply ignore the existing social contract, form a new one and exclude the former group.”

So ‘find your ethos/ethnos and figure out whose brains you’re going to blow out’ was about right.

219

Asher 05.16.13 at 7:21 pm

@ Lee Arnold

The thing is that I can never get a straight answer from leftists on the function of rules. Half the time they seem to think that rules are agreements that benefit everyone and the other half they seem to think that rules are tools of “oppression”.

@ Rich

I’m not a libertarian, fr about the fifth time, and I’m quite done with your frothing at the mouth of insisting that I am. The libertarian observation about “men with guns” is simply reality but the inferences libertarians draw from that is faulty.

220

Asher 05.16.13 at 7:24 pm

@ GiT

So ‘find your ethos/ethnos and figure out whose brains you’re going to blow out’ was about right.

My personal preference is peaceful separation. I think the current US is too unwieldy to be governed effectively and it would be best broken up into somewhere around thirty different countries with a period of time for everyone to sort themselves out by the sort of government and citizenry they prefer.

I mean if “oppressed” peoples are so “oppressed” isn’t the obvious solution to allow them to form their own body-politic?

221

b9n10nt 05.16.13 at 7:34 pm

“The thing is that I can never get a straight answer from leftists on the function of rules. Half the time they seem to think that rules are agreements that benefit everyone and the other half they seem to think that rules are tools of “oppression”.”

You mean leftists think that rules can be evaluated differently based on their content?

Or that leftists may or may not be anarchists?

What exactly are you critiquing, in either event?

222

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 7:35 pm

Asher #220: “I think the current US is too unwieldy to be governed effectively and it would be best broken up into somewhere around thirty different countries”

Your other complicating confusion is this question of the size of aggregates, See also:

Asher #79: “it makes no sense to speak of “community” where you lack a large array of commonalities.” #102: “to get to representative government would require breaking the US up into at least 15 different countries and probably closer to 30.” #114: “most people in the world do not have shared understanding and that is why ethics is particular and local, not universal… there is no higher mediating set of ideals by which to compare the competing, even warring, ethical notions.” #126: “There is no one true justice – there are simply different systems of justice appropriate for facilitating different types of life…differences in morality implies differences in life-types, thus, the notion of a universal human brotherhood is simply a particular moral claim no fundamentally superior to any other set of moral claims” #130: “society is more intact and *real* the smaller and more unitary/homogeneous the group.” #135: “every arrangement of any sort of social institutions will be derived from one particular set of life-types that work together and will be biased against other ones, none inherently superior or inferior to one another.” #136: “the same political space is cluttered with multiple social contracts” #141: “the proper object of the social contract is the real, lived lives of a shared community with a common body of traditions, heritage, language, etc., in other words, an ethos.” #146: “What you’re going to see over time is people simply dropping out and doing as little as possible to survive while contributing as little as possible to the existing social contract. At some point, that social contract will simply be untenable, and what can’t go on, won’t.”

Actually, I think that what you are going to see over time will be quite the reverse, on that last one…

Let’s put aside the assertions which are not really in evidence. It is interesting to me that there is no acknowledgement of the possibility of a society of multiple polycentric institutions, covering different kinds of transactions and transformations, and over different scales of time and space. Choosing your friends in life and choosing your vegetables at the market (I do not mean to imply that these objects are similar) are most efficient under small scale, personal standards, while the welfare state safety-net is most efficient at a huge scale with the largest possible riskpool to make everybody’s pay-in as small as possible. It seems to me that Montesquieu’s notion of the separation of powers is a similar polycentric idea — perhaps one of the first conceptual expressions of it, in a social institutional sense.

I don’t quite see Asher’s reasoning why it cannot work. It appears to be mixed-in with the notion that your aggregation, your group, needs a simplified ethos, or else you cannot act as an individual within it. This strikes me as not well thought-out.

And I do not see why there cannot be a set of global morals, when the basic definition of “moral” is “the realm where people interact”, and the realm where people interact is subject to change by Agreement. “Agreement” is the necessary ingredient, and it can be developed in the future. I’ll just bet we can get almost everybody to agree on the most basic moral, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Most people are probably already there.

If you don’t, if you are violent to the Golden Rule, again we will respond in kind. That is not a predication of violence, unless it’s because the perp started it. I do not see why this must be false.

223

Asher 05.16.13 at 7:37 pm

@ b9n10nt

There is no foundational standpoint from which to judge between different systems of rules and leftists act like there is some such standpoint.

224

jb 05.16.13 at 7:48 pm

“There is no foundational standpoint from which to judge between different systems of rules and leftists act like there is some such standpoint.”

This is clearly wrong.

225

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 7:51 pm

Asher #212 — No, burglary is not an institution, it is an infraction upon an institution (several of them, actually). There may be an institution among fellow burglars; no doubt at convocations they argue whether there is any honor among them.

Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were institutions, but without voice (legislative redress) nor exit (though I think before the war the Nazis encouraged flight of Jews though without their property). But how would that make all governments or other institutions to be predicated upon violence?

226

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.13 at 7:57 pm

“There is no foundational standpoint from which to judge between different systems of rules and leftists act like there is some such standpoint.”

Nonsense. I’m pretty sure “leftists” wherever they lurk are on board for:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
Golden Rule, prehistoric.

227

Jason Weidner 05.16.13 at 8:12 pm

“women who have children single do so with an average different breed of men than the men in committed relationships.”

Wow. Ok, folks, stop feeding the troll.

228

Asteele 05.16.13 at 9:21 pm

197. Did black people agree to have thier lives ruined by racism, isn’t this violence against them. (Yes)

229

GiT 05.16.13 at 10:33 pm

“My personal preference is peaceful separation. I think the current US is too unwieldy to be governed effectively and it would be best broken up into somewhere around thirty different countries with a period of time for everyone to sort themselves out by the sort of government and citizenry they prefer.”

Ok, subsidiarity, anti-federalism, whatever. Fine.

“I mean if “oppressed” peoples are so “oppressed” isn’t the obvious solution to allow them to form their own body-politic?”

Not if the “oppression” occurs through something analogous to hoarding. In that case political separation might only exacerbate the problem.

“There is no foundational standpoint from which to judge between different systems of rules and leftists act like there is some such standpoint.”

And when one acts as if there isn’t, one is usually also acting as if there is. In any case doesn’t Rortyan ironism enter the picture here? And certainly plenty of ‘leftists’ are non-foundationalists, and the role of foundationalism in left-liberal justificatory projects, like discursive democracy, is a matter of debate – at least it seems to be to me.

230

js. 05.16.13 at 11:02 pm

And certainly plenty of ‘leftists’ are non-foundationalists, and the role of foundationalism in left-liberal justificatory projects, like discursive democracy, is a matter of debate

I’d thought of saying something like this, but The Asher is utterly impervious to argument. Dude’ll probably go back to spouting some extraordinarily mangled version of Sandel.

231

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:02 am

I’m just too busy to respond. But I will ask two questions:

A) In a civil war between married fathers and unmarried mothers who is most likely to win?

B) Is there any difference between an initial act of legitimation of a particular social contract and all subsequent acts of legitimation?

The answer t o A is obvious. The answer to B is nearly as obvious but for the clueless the answer is no. In fact, any particular social contract is legitimate until, and only until, a significant portion of a population no longer considers it legitimate. There is no particular foundational criterion or criteria and is solely based on sentiment.

I will leave with the following observation. Almost everyone I’ve ever met on the “right”, and many on the “left” have agreed with me that every single particular act in which government engages, every rule it sets, is an act of an imposition by coercion. I have had dozens of discussions with the cathedral’s clerisy, that’s you all, journalists, academia, and such, and discussions such as these are just more ammunition for the project of bringing down the cathedral.

Thanks for playing.

232

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:04 am

Put more succinctly, sentiment is the sole long term criterion for the legitimacy of a particular social contract and when that sentiment turns in significant numbers in the population that social contract is null and void and will be replace by another/others.

233

GiT 05.17.13 at 5:50 am

Wow, changes in opinion occasion changes in institutions. What a revelation.

234

Tony Lynch 05.17.13 at 8:34 am

JH #87: About Plato (did all THAT happen in between?): why is philosophy – where reason is in driving seat – the only real pearl producer? I mean, Plato wants the “bronze” to have real pearls, not pearls of wisdom. Wisdom means poverty, publicity, and surviving 50 years of intensive intellectual and moral education (and the latter isn’t indoctrination – all there is to that, is the – in my view, pretty harmless – metals story – but practical moral tests which weed out the selfish from those with broader concerns). So might we not have sorted – fairly, meritocratically – between different kinds of pearls and pearl fanciers?

235

Nabakov 05.17.13 at 2:01 pm

“A) In a civil war between married fathers and unmarried mothers who is most likely to win?”

I dunno. Is it a basic hand to hand melee on the village green, a proto-industrial thing mobilised by ideology al la the US or Spanish Civil Wars or more of a Retiarius vs Secutor joint? And how do the wives of the married men feel about them going off to face down a legion of scarlet women?

“Thanks for playing.”
As the scratching post said to the cat.

236

Lee A. Arnold 05.17.13 at 2:39 pm

“Legitimation” and “sentiment” are predications of agreement, not violence.

237

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:08 pm

@ Lee arnold

Differences over legitimation and sentiment predict violence. Look, it’s absolutely freaking hilarious that you guys don’t understand that government is about telling people what to do. I don’t have a problem with telling people what to do, but what is amusing is the intellectual dishonesty of people who want to tell people what to do and then claim that’s not what they’re doing.

effing hilarious, you lot.

238

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:15 pm

Everyone understands this. It’s just that no one expected this thread to turn into baby’s first theory of government.

239

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:25 pm

@ Jerry

No, the people, here, clearly DON’T understand this.

240

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:30 pm

I’ve been reading CT for years, and while I won’t presume to speak for its bloggers and commenters, I feel confident asserting that they do in fact understand this point. It’s just that no one is particularly impressed by it, or by your insistence that this is some kind of revelation.

241

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:36 pm

Here’s the deal: every thought that has ever passed through anyone’s mind is a reflection of some aspect or aspects of reality. My younger brother has schizophrenia and even his most schizophrenic thoughts are reflections of some aspect of reality. Every single political ideology ever devised incorporates some aspects of reality, even down to Nazism and Communism. I am not a libertarian, but the libertarian point that government is “men with guns” is reality. If you say otherwise then you’re a delusional twit.

242

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:40 pm

No, Jerry, they don’t. There’s an old saying that the government that can give you anything you want can take everything you have, and not understanding the implications of a premise mean you don’t understand your own damn premise.

243

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:44 pm

Ok, again: the problem isn’t even that what you’re saying is false, the problem is you’re taking completely banal observations and either rendering them so broad as to make them basically meaningless or blowing up their significance well beyond what they merit. That’s why I pointed out that your definition of violence is pretty useless as an analytical category: it fails to distinguish between any interesting cases because it’s overbroad. Or to put it another way, a theory that “proves” everything proves nothing. Talking about how political ideologies “incorporate some aspects of reality” doesn’t even mean anything; there’s nothing anyone can do with that information that will tell them anything at all useful about those ideologies.

My sense is that you’re not actually interested in making a point. You’re much more invested in telling people how blind they are to… whatever it is. Even though they aren’t, actually. You’re playing boring elliptical games about Cathedrals and god knows what else, and no one wants to play those games with you.

244

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:48 pm

Here’s the deal, Jerry, most people who call themselves socialists want a significant increase in the intrusion of politics into life. The effect of this is to make politics into a much more important feature of people’s lives and will make politics into a much more winner-take-all affair. I say fine, let’s make the political much more important and see how the lefties like it. At the end of the day the people who count, the men who actually use the guns on which government is predicated, are going to be significantly different from the type of people who comment on blogs like this.

You’re going to get more politics … and you’re really, REALLY not gonna like it. You lot deserve to get what you want, good and hard.

245

Ronan(rf) 05.17.13 at 3:54 pm

“There’s an old saying that the government that can give you anything you want can take everything you have”

It aint that old, I think it goes back to Gerald Ford

246

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:54 pm

With apologies to John Dewey, politics is not preparation for life; politics is life itself.

You’ve got some rage issues against lefties, I guess. Is there any reason beyond taunting that you feel compelled to take them out on this comment thread?

247

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:54 pm

Also, your understanding of what “socialists want” is about as impressive to me as your ability to relate to other human beings.

248

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:54 pm

@ Jerry

to put it another way, a theory that “proves” everything proves nothing

What I find amusing is that when I note that even Nazism and Communism had some basis in reality very smart, educated people sniff that this observation is trivial. It doesn’t seem to occur to them to ask me *what* is true about Nazism and Communism. The hoi-polloi are much more likely to ask it, though.

249

Uncle Kvetch 05.17.13 at 3:55 pm

I’ve never seen a troll indulged by so many for so long. I feel like a weird kind of congratulations are due to Asher for that, if nothing else.

250

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 3:57 pm

My… code is compiling. Yes, that’s it.

251

Asher 05.17.13 at 3:58 pm

I live in Seattle, spending my life around socialists. What they want is heaven on earth, as socialism is a religion. Socialism isn’t a politics of this-world, but a politics of the next-world. I think Nietzsche said something akin to socialists out-christianing the christians.

252

MPAVictoria 05.17.13 at 3:59 pm

“I’ve never seen a troll indulged by so many for so long. I feel like a weird kind of congratulations are due to Asher for that, if nothing else.”

It is almost like performance art.

253

Asher 05.17.13 at 4:09 pm

The troll charge is highly amusing and it’s the usual tactic in a private clubhouse where the members have an inbred view of the world, merely derived from agreeing with everyone who thinks like they. It happens on rightwing sites, too, although to a lesser extent than on leftwing ones.

I suspect that for a great many commenters, here, this site meets a personal psychological need.

254

Substance McGravitas 05.17.13 at 4:12 pm

What a wonderful diagnosis.

255

Jerry Vinokurov 05.17.13 at 4:13 pm

I’m very disappointed in the predictability of this part of the program. It’s always the same kind of story: conjectures about the psychology of the participants, allegations of belonging to a “clubhouse,” and so forth. I guess it’s easier to lash out indiscriminately than it is to actually make some kind of sensible point, though; that second one requires thoughts beyond “surely I am of the hyperboreans.”

256

Nabakov 05.18.13 at 12:42 am

Actually, I quite like CT being described as a clubhouse inside the cathedral. Sounds a bit Dan Brown-ish. Is it time yet to initiate Asher into the First Circle?

257

Lee A. Arnold 05.18.13 at 1:14 am

@ Asher 237 — That is not the definition of predication. If you agree to use the English language, which functions like an institution (as all languages do), then you have the right to attempt to legislate changes in a definition, and if the rest of us prefer to stick with the dictionary, then you have the right to exit the conversation. Which I suggest you do.

258

Lee A. Arnold 05.18.13 at 3:29 am

In fact, if you look up the dictionary definition of violence, taxation is not violence, either.

259

b9n10nt 05.18.13 at 8:48 am

Unkle Kvetch @237: “I’ve never seen a troll indulged by so many for so long. I feel like a weird kind of congratulations are due to Asher for that, if nothing else.”

that’s on the level withe Jerry V. @ 167 “I can’t tell whether this has gotten better or worse”

Just when I was aching for a “so what” I discovered that our 52nd state would be poor latino-and-black single mothers.

Asher, if you’re out there, that’s a sad little pill you’re dropping, but you’re really smart and you made me think (beautiful timing, what with the Nietzsche of late). Thanks,

signed,

universalist completely delocalized idealized compassion

260

Bruce Baugh 05.18.13 at 2:57 pm

The idea that Seattle is full of socialists is pretty intensely amusing. I like living in Seattle, and I’m glad for the liberal influence it ha, but it’s a thoroughly corporatist culture where people’s culture has much effect on governance. It’s just a kind of corporatism that’s less overtly cackling about making sure some people live in misery and that everything is ugly.

But then I think about Mom’s pleasure at going to the local park and seeing all the kids at play, and realize that to Asher, the existence of the park and of H1B visa holders’ kids playing alongside the grandkids of loggers can only mean impending race war, Stalinist purges, and general unpleasantness.

261

Asher 05.18.13 at 4:52 pm

I have been too busy to even look at these comments but I will offer one final observation.

Sometimes I run across various types of rightwingers who express worry at “socialism”. I chuckle and then ask them to describe the type of person who bears arms, of which would be required to impose this “socialism”. They pause, and I note that such men are very disproportionately like … me. See, if somehow that “socialism” ever was, and I balk at even using this term because it is a category error, instituted the men required to enfore it would turn those guns on the types of people who we identify as the political class, academics, journalists, etc. There is a reason that cannon used to be inscribed with <iUltima Ratio Regis

What libertarianism and socialism share is that they are both ideal systems, starting out with a view of how reality should function and seeking to impose that ideal on reality. But politics is about accepting reality and attempting to deal with it, so both libertarianism and socialism are not about politics, at all, but about transcending politics, altogether. What people, here, don’t seem to get that breaking an existing social contract and instituting new ones is every bit a political act as sustaining and maintaining s current one.

Also, your SIXHIRB can only last so long.

What’s SIXHIRB you ask? It’s sexismislamophobiaxenophobiahomophobiaintoleranceracismbigoted” and when said with an exasperated sigh and a roll of the eyes in under two seconds produces a hilarioous look of shock in leftists. My cell phone ring tone is a mash of sound clips of shrieking leftists wailing those words in that order, it’s hilarious.

Libertarianism is dead and it’s being replaced by guys like myself. Welcome to the new right, guys.

262

Ronan(rf) 05.18.13 at 5:02 pm

I’m surprised, b9n10nt, that you have found Asher to be ‘really smart’

263

Asher 05.18.13 at 5:18 pm

@ Ronan

Heh. Comments like yours simply confirm the foundations of sand on which all ideal systems are based. I did catch the guy above me who asserted that Seattle isn’t full of socialists but of corporate types. Guess what? Corporate types are the actual reality of what socialist ideals produce.

I don’t oppose “socialism”. Why not? Because there is no such *thing* as socialism and there never will be, same for libertarianism. Both are ideal systems that start from a premise that the world ought to be such and such.

BTW, what do you mean by smart? Is there some quantifiable measure of it, or is it just whomever happens to agree with you? We all know what the Cathedral tries to do to the former and the latter is just silly. If “smart” is anything but quantifiable then isn’t it meaningless to label people with it?

264

b9n10nt 05.18.13 at 5:19 pm

Yeah, in the larger context of contemporary society: smart.

I would also say out of his/her league here (as I suspect myself to be, often enough), but not for lack of intelligence. What Asher’s posts allowed me to contemplate once more is the discipline and humility it requires to think productively in a way that has meaning and use to others.

265

Harold 05.18.13 at 5:21 pm

“I now leave my cetological system standing unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book [Moby Dick] is but a draught–nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!” — Herman Melville

266

Asher 05.18.13 at 6:08 pm

@ b9n10nt

There are two main ways to use the word smarts:

a) What he did was not smart
b) He is smart

My brother’s best childhood friend aced this way through school without much effort … and then got hooked on heroine. We say that he *is* smart but that getting hooked on heroine is *not* smart. We say the latter because of real consequences to quality of life, on his terms.

But if we are talking about discussing ideas either “smart” is quantifiable or it is meaningless.

America is not one society, but many. The society to which I happen to cohere considers what I have been saying, here, to be very smart and that cohort is in the tens of millions. America is not a society but unitary body-politic comprised of many different societies.

267

Asher 05.18.13 at 6:10 pm

If you’re talking about ideas then “smart” either is measurable and abstract or it just means “I agree with it”.

268

Asher 05.18.13 at 6:42 pm

http://www.heartiste.wordpress.com

That’s a website mostly about getting chicks into bed. It’s US alexa ranking is around 17,000. I am guessing almost all of the guys there do not vote … and that they have roughly similar worldviews to mine and regard the current political structures as illegitimate. Note that I am not saying they regard it as “unjust” or “unfair” but as illegitimate to govern them. Now, as the legitimacy of the current social contract erodes whose side to you think they’ll choose? Mine or yours?

btw, you may not understand this but that site is actually *more* political than thins one, as crooked timber is a website about moving beyond politics.

269

Lee A. Arnold 05.18.13 at 6:52 pm

Too busy to even look at the comments but enough time to disgorge 3x as much verbiage? Not even remotely credible.

270

Walt 05.18.13 at 6:57 pm

Asher, no one will ever side with you on anything, because you are a big weirdo. Sorry to break it to you.

271

Asher 05.18.13 at 7:02 pm

Lee Arnold

I spent several years in the Cathedral, as a denizen not an adherent. Once you get a good grasp on its interworkings one Cathedral comment section is unrecognizable from the next. You may not be aware of this but you can get banned for some of the same stuff at Free Republic as you can here, at least I’d bet a grand on it.

The reason I comment on websites is for practice. I trot out positions in order to see what the objections are so that I can be prepared for them in real life. It’s getting tougher by the year to see objections that I haven’t encountered dozens of times before.

272

Asher 05.18.13 at 7:08 pm

@ Walt

Lulz. “Weirdo” meaning you dont’ like what I say. Look, most people who comment on the internet invest a significant amount of emotional energy and make themselves emotionally vulnerable – this happens on websites of all varieties of politics. What you regard as “weird” is ultimate personal frame control and a complete emotional distancing from my theories. In a sense, that is “weird” but it is an excellent tool for developing impregnable positions.

I have spent dozens of hours of arguing topics that a thousand random university professors haven’t even considered once. I know the logic of the various positions and arguments and where they lead, and that is what comes across to you as “weird”.

I assure you that roughly 25 percent of the internet does not even remotely consider me weird, and no one in real life does.

273

Lee A. Arnold 05.18.13 at 7:46 pm

Asher #271: “It’s getting tougher by the year to see objections that I haven’t encountered dozens of times before.”

Such as the objection that, according to the dictionary definition of violence, taxation is not violence?

Nobody ever looked in a dictionary?

274

Asher 05.18.13 at 8:14 pm

@ Lee Arnold

Not sure you live but even most left-of-center people I encounter agree that violence is inherent in all taxation – we just disagree about the structure of application.

Also, dictionaries are to word usage what training wheels are to bicycles. Dictionaries do not establish meaning. It always blows my mind how many people actually think that a dictionary establishes meaning, sort of like how the Bible establishes itself as the Word of God.

Also, you guys are just blowing by so much interesting stuff. Don’t you find it odd that I claimed a website dedicated to getting men laid is *more* political than this one, which is ostensibly about philosophy and politics? A long time ago I came up with a hilarious quip about political legitimacy: The legitimacy of any political entity lies in getting young men laid. But it makes total sense if you think about it. I mean just about the most salient aspect of a guy before the age of, say, 35 is in getting laid. Well, that is the same demographic that governments call upon to repel a foreign invader or suppress a secession and if the system isn’t involved in getting them laid then there is little reason for them to regard it as legitimate.

The fact is that taxation is predicated on the very existence of the state, itself, which is predicated on violence. The War between the States is an excellent example of that (btw, I’m not someone who bothers to lament that war).

275

Asher 05.18.13 at 8:19 pm

@ Lee Arnold

Let’s say somehow an Amendment passed that allowed contiguous regions containing at least one million people in the US one year to decide to peacefully secede. Do you think you’d have any takers?

276

Ronan(rf) 05.18.13 at 8:20 pm

@268

why do you assume those lonely hearts would agree with your politics?

277

Ronan(rf) 05.18.13 at 8:23 pm

The first paragraph in the top post from your link @268

“If a man is presented with a choice between a butterface (ugly face, hot body, everything “but her face”) and a myspace angle (cute face, ugly body), his decision will depend in part on whether he’s down for a short-term fling or if he’s seeking a long-term lover….”

These are your intellectual allies?

278

Asher 05.18.13 at 8:40 pm

@ Ronan

There is more practical value in that observation than in the vast majority of what passes for political philosophy today. 99.9 percent of people encountering Rawl’s veil of ignorance wouldn’t understand its implications, even if they claimed otherwise.

Anyways, the site’s main value to me is its anti-feminist postings – feminists make young earth creationists look like paragons of reason and sanity. Also, I’m married and the guy who turned me onto the site does quite well with the ladies, mean really eff’ing well. One of the themes on that site is that the only thing more disillusioning about women than lack of success with them is success with them. My friend is totally callous and dismissive of women and he regularly scores ungodly hot tail.

Political philosophy is usually unrelated to the practical concerns of people in daily life.

279

JanieM 05.18.13 at 8:41 pm

I have been too busy to even look at these comments but I will offer one final observation.

If only.

280

Lee A. Arnold 05.18.13 at 8:45 pm

Asher @274 — So what “most” people (even “left-of-center”) agree on, establishes fact? Except when “many” people “actually think that a dictionary establishes meaning”? In other words, this conversation is about your own definitions, whether other people agree with you or not? So “The fact is that taxation is predicated on the very existence of the state, itself, which is predicated on violence,” is true, because in this case, you agree with the other people who say so?

281

William Berry 05.18.13 at 8:46 pm

This fellow Asher had exposed himself for the creep that he is well before he linked to “heartiste”. The people there, he says, are like him. If you want to cover yourself in slime, check it out. P.Z. Myers has done good work exposing it as one of the most vile, misogynistic cesspools on the internet.

I, too, btw, got hooked on a “heroine”. Still am. Love her to death.

282

Ronan(rf) 05.18.13 at 8:48 pm

@278

I have to disagree. A political philosophy built on ones inability to get laid is extremely tedious

283

Asher 05.18.13 at 8:55 pm

P.Z. Myers

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA. If PZ Myers is your champion then your foundations are even shakier than *I* thought. Pharyngula is probably the single most intellectually inbred places on the internet. I mean you can’t disagree with *anything*.

You do understand, do you not, that in the long-run you just can’t avoid reality.

BTW, I don’t disagree that the place *is* a cesspool but it’s also more intellectually honest and willing to face up to the brute facts of reality than is Pharyngula. I’ll take cesspool over intellectual dishonesty any day.

284

William Berry 05.18.13 at 8:58 pm

Check out that 278! I.Q. is not at issue here, folks. Granted, this guy might score a solid 115-120, thereabouts. But in terms of E.Q., the relevant measure, he is dipping dangerously into the socio-pathic region of the spectrum.

Asher is so typical of what passes for libertarianism these days (and protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, that is exactly what he is). Emotional development of a twelve-year-old Heinlein junkie. A little Nietzsche, some Ayn Rand, heard someone mention Mises, Hayek, and he’s got it all figured out.

285

Ronan(rf) 05.18.13 at 9:02 pm

“willing to face up to the brute facts of reality ..”

Seattle seems to be a lot more hardcore than Fraiser portrayed it?

286

William Berry 05.18.13 at 9:05 pm

“I’ll take cesspool . . . “

There you go. sums it up neatly. Case closed.

287

Asher 05.18.13 at 9:11 pm

Assorted observations

A) EQ is a narrative, sort of like the Myers-Briggs types. It’s not real knowledge, unlike the Big 5 personality scales.
B) I’ve never read a word of Heinlein
C) I managed to get about 10 pages into The Fountainhead before asking “why?”
D) Libertarianism is dead. Yeah, we are its successor and libertarianism offered some valuable insights that my type incorporate
E) Yeah, I’ve read quite a bit of Nietzsche but the philospher’s I’ve spent the most time considering are Putnam and Quine.
F) The only Mises I’ve read is quite passages from libertarian dogmatists with whom I’ve argued.
G) Yep, read quite a bit of Hayek about fifteen years ago.
H) Most of my challenges, thought experiments and questions go completely unanswered by socialists, it usually boils down to SIXHIRB or “you’re stupid/weird”.

See, the thing is that I acknowledge that a great deal of what people say who call themselves socialists is based in reality. The converse is rarely, if ever, offered.

288

Asher 05.18.13 at 9:13 pm

A political philosophy built on ones inability to get laid is extremely tedious

In a pure state of nature, pussy is scarce. Thankfully, we do not live in a pure state of nature.

289

MPAVictoria 05.18.13 at 10:38 pm

Okay, I have figured you out Asher. You were lonely growing up right? Didn’t have much luck with women even though you were a ” nice guy”. You feel unappreciated at home and under stimulated at work. Let me know if I am hitting the mark friend.

Anyway, just because you are lonely and unhappy that does not mean that there are millions of restless young men waiting to join your revolution. The vast majority in the West accept the legitimacy of their governments and seek to change things through the democratic system.

290

MPAVictoria 05.18.13 at 10:44 pm

From Asher’s website:
“A feminist utopia is a million beta males under the heel of an alpha male state, toiling for the pleasure of fat women.”

Classy man. I actually feel sorry for you if you consider these guys to be “your people”. Seek counselling.

291

CBrinton 05.18.13 at 10:53 pm

Asher: “The fact is that taxation is predicated on the very existence of the state, itself, which is predicated on violence. The War between the States is an excellent example of that (btw, I’m not someone who bothers to lament that war).”

Of course you’re not.

You just choose to introduce the subject for no apparent reason, and to use a term for it which (a) is inaccurate as the states did not fight each other individually but as parts of two opposing confederations and (b) is strongly associated with people who _do_ “bother to lament” the conflict in question.

Should people “bother to lament” the armed conflict that occurred in North America from 1861-65? Why or why not?

292

john c. halasz 05.18.13 at 11:31 pm

Umm…don’t you people realize that “Asher” is “Mencius Moldbug”? Why have you wasted so much time arguing with him? What part of sleeping under bridges and eating live children don’t you understand?

293

Asher 05.19.13 at 12:16 am

@ john c. halasz

Wow, talk about a deficiency in the ability to infer.

No, the reason to bring up The Civil War, War Between the States, whatever the hell you want to call it I don’t give a rat’s ass, is as evidence for my point that the very existence of a unitary political entity requires armed force to prevent secession and to ensure sovereignty. At some point of social diversity within a unitary sovereign the only common good is prevention of civil war and you are looking at a multi-societal body-politic, which is what we call “empire”. Unlike leftists, I don’t use the term “empire” pejoratively, it’s just a description.

Once empire has formed its aftermath can be particularly nasty, as the fall of Rome demonstrates.

What’s amusing is that I have argued vigorously for years that Lincoln was almost certainly justified in forcing the states to remain in the Union because, at some point, there would have been significant conflict between the North and South in the westward expansion. What’s amusing is that I never hear such cogent arguments from Leftists regarding Lincoln’s decision – usually “Slavery!” seems sufficiently rational, or as I like to put it “sexismislamophobiaxenophobiahomophobiaintoleranceracismbigotry” (SIXHIRB).

As for the Moldbug part, Mencius has a very VERY distinctive writing style and I’ve seen him comment elsewhere as himself. What’s amusing is that over the last several years I have probably been accused of being dozens of moderately prominent internet personalities. Too funny.

294

Harold 05.19.13 at 12:19 am

If ten people call you a horse ….

295

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 12:22 am

“What’s amusing is that I have argued vigorously for years that Lincoln was almost certainly justified in forcing the states to remain in the Union because, at some point, there would have been significant conflict between the North and South in the westward expansion.”

That’s not amusing

296

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 12:25 am

“at some point, there would have been significant conflict between the North and South in the westward expansion.” “

At some point? As in, at that point?

297

Asher 05.19.13 at 12:26 am

@ Harold

Uh, yeah. If Crooked Timber commenters were a representative sample of the general population you might have a point. They’re not, not even close.

298

Asher 05.19.13 at 12:31 am

@ Ronan

You have serious problems both with the ability to decipher language and to infer obvious points. It’s amusing because I can vigorously and in great detail argue on one site that Lincoln’s action were entirely reasonable and, even justified, and only another site I get accused of being a “the south shall rise again” sort of guy. Yeah, that’s freakin’ hilarious.

To simultaneously be identified as “x” and “non x” probably means that both parties levelling the accusations are raving partisans with little intellectual seriousness.

299

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 12:40 am

Look bro, adopt whatever political position you want, I gaurantee you that no one here really cares.. just please can you stop selling these endless inane, basic arguments as groundbreaking analysis..we all do it (I know I do) but it really is tiresome

300

john c. halasz 05.19.13 at 1:21 am

@293:

I didn’t bother with this thread. I just observed that you were ceaselessly all over it and that you’d linked to “Mencius”, who I hadn’t seen around for quite a while. But whether it’s “guilt by association” or “birds of a feather”, there’s nothing wrong with my inferential capacities.

301

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 1:23 am

Asher we all know your thesis: Socialists don’t see that their future is not a utopia, because they do not realize that coercion is necessary to enforce laws.

Actually that is wrong. Not only is there the dismal and horrifying track record of Soviet Socialism, there is actually a big literature on problems of democratic socialist administration, direction, enforcement of law, etc. One of the greatest economists of the 20th century, a conservative, mind you, devoted the last half of his last book to it in detail, and is less than half optimistic: Joseph Schumpeter. But the first half of the book gives the exact reasons why capitalism will turn into socialism, anyway. Go read Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.

302

Asher 05.19.13 at 1:36 am

@ Lee Arnold

There isn’t any such thing as either “socialism” or “capitalism”. I neither support nor oppose either as they are both meaningless abstractions.

303

Asher 05.19.13 at 1:38 am

Schumpeter was writing about 80 years ago and I would no more cite him than I would cite Gould as an authority on biology and evolution.

304

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 1:45 am

Asher, no, you just can’t lose an argument.

305

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 1:46 am

MPA Victoria @ 289 you are faster than me. I particularly liked, “Yeah, we are its successor and libertarianism offered some valuable insights that my type incorporate” as an example almost of psychopathology, until its calculated pastiche dawned on me… The dashing and debonair egotisms, the silly barstoolcute provocations!… “read quite a bit of Hayek about fifteen years ago” –An emblem worthy of a wall of Banksy! Well you have to wonder what sort of a new emergence it is: “There isn’t any such thing as either ‘socialism’ or ‘capitalism’ “? An unexpected efflorescence of The New Fatuity in a degeneration of tropes? Note for hairsplitters: a rhetorical system that mistakes its own logic as a foundation, while refusing to engage in a discussion of definitions, while arguing elsewhere that there really are no foundations. All + Why? Because yes, there really are no final foundations, and the foundation here is something else. Thus language is to be bent amorphously.

306

Asher 05.19.13 at 2:50 am

@ Lee Arnold

Yes, the successor to libertarianism calls itself the “alt right”, some even still call themselves libertarians. But libertarianism was already dying as a cohesive movement by the time Jeffrey Friedman penned the rather famous, on the right, essay “What’s Wrong with Libertarianism”. That essay is merely its tombstone.

What’s interesting is that mainstream Right sites like RedState have been experiencing declines over the past few years, while the hodge-podge that is the Alt Right have experienced very significant increases. Such sites are rarely interested in abstractions like “socialism”, “capitalism” or “libertarianism” and are mainly focused on research and hard knowledge. For example:

http://monogamygame.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/unattractive-women-cause-erectile-dysfunction-the-elephant-in-the-room/

Men with a happy sex life make for a better society. When women get fat men are less happy, therefore, when women get fat it makes for a worse society. Now, under what abstraction would you label that knowledge? It is a “capitalist” observation? A “socialist” one? A “libertarian” one? It certainly is anti-feminist but that isn’t really a label except to identify those who oppose the inane ravings of feminism.

“read quite a bit of Hayek about fifteen years ago” –An emblem worthy of a wall of Banksy!

You might have a point were it not a direct response to speculations of what I had read. For all intents and purposes, I have never read Mises, Rand or Heinlein and probably haven’t touched Hayek in around 15 years. I have a habit of making lists so I made a list of some of my intellectual influences. I have read far more schopenhauer and Kant than all libertarian writing combined, barring Hayek.

“There isn’t any such thing as either ‘socialism’ or ‘capitalism’ “?

This is not just me. I mean, this is pretty much standard stuff in what calls itself the Alt Right, and that you are not familiar with it just demonstrates how intellectually inbred you are. Trust me, standard conservative sites are well aware of the alt right and vigorously ban Alt Right views.

307

Asher 05.19.13 at 2:52 am

fYI, if you try and go onto Free Republic and defend Jason Richwine’s dissertation on immigration you are almost certain to be banned. It just shows the power of the Cathedral.

308

MPAVictoria 05.19.13 at 2:53 am

Lee this guy is obviously some pathetic loner who is still bitter about being turned down for the prom. It is sad really.

309

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 3:00 am

“I mean, this is pretty much standard stuff in what calls itself the Alt Right..”

What exactly is the alt right? It appears to be just politics 101 with extreme misogyny and cultural apocalypticism

310

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 3:05 am

..we have to work within the system while purging it off non whites and women?

311

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 3:11 am

Asher: “When women get fat men are less happy, therefore, when women get fat it makes for a worse society. Now, under what abstraction would you label that knowledge?”

It would be labeled under the abstraction “masturbatory”. It is not scientific knowledge, it is a consumerist-advertising auto suggestion that has rooted in your brain. If all girls were fat and the ones on the billboards were fat, you’d still be a slobbering maniac. THAT is knowledge.

312

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 3:31 am

Ah okay, I googled it..I know what the alt right are now..: )

313

GiT 05.19.13 at 4:17 am

I don’t really think it’s worth psychopathologizing or ascribing some particular mold onto the person. The analytical points are trivial and nothing in particular follows from them. What actually does the work is a bunch of substantive claims that one could classify as a sort of identity politics, I guess. But there’s no real logical connection between the two. I guess the evident delusion that there is occasions the ad hominem.

314

MPAVictoria 05.19.13 at 4:20 am

Well GiT did you read his comment about “pussy”as he so charmingly put it? They guy is obviously a little sad.

315

Bruce Baugh 05.19.13 at 4:54 am

Racism, envy, and misogyny may not fuel good political ranting but they sure can fuel a lot of it. And quantity has a quality all its own, as the widely misattributed saying has it.

316

GiT 05.19.13 at 5:29 am

No doubt, but pushing the PC police buttons on these sorts isn’t going to produce much of interest.

317

William Berry 05.19.13 at 12:46 pm

Thanks, Asher (or Mencius Bedbug, whatever). You have really helped to save me from a weekend of ennui all alone here in my cold blue quant lab at good old Noranda Al (someone has to do it; America needs aluminum!).

This has been absolutely hilarious.

But now it’s time for me to do some actual work and time for you to crawl back under your rock– or take the kiddies to Sunday School.

318

William Berry 05.19.13 at 1:01 pm

OT, but I just noticed the time stamp on that last comment was 12:46pm. It was 7:46am here (CDST). Reykjavik, Iceland? WTF?

319

Mandos 05.19.13 at 4:05 pm

There’s absolutely nothing new or “alt” about the “alt right”. It’s no “second generation” of the reactionary right and no heir or successor to libertarianism or conservatism. It’s simply a distillation of certain old tropes: that there must be some kind of underlying reality to black underachievement and that stereotypes about women must be true. Combine that with whining about the PC cops, and you have the alt right: dudes who think that the admissions office spiked their applications for underqualified/low-IQ black women and that they’re resentment about this is somehow suppressed in our communist society.

What’s “alt” about that? Almost all of their bloggy output was already posted by trolls on alt.feminism in 1993, about four times over. Just as eloquently, too. There is no groundswell of resentful young men demanding the restoration of an old status quo…or rather, there is, but it has always been with us. It’s called patriarchy.

320

Mandos 05.19.13 at 4:08 pm

s/they’re/their/ ;

*typo facepalm*

But you get the point.

321

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 4:17 pm

I have spent dozens of hours of arguing topics that a thousand random university professors haven’t even considered once.

He is also aware of all internet traditions.

322

Asher 05.19.13 at 4:24 pm

It is not scientific knowledge … If all girls were fat and the ones on the billboards were fat, you’d still be a slobbering maniac

Yeah, see this is why the term “utopian” is a much more apt description of those who call themselves socialists than those who call themselves libertarians. Socialists much more thoroughly deny reality than do libertarians. No, male sexual preferences is the product of evolution.

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=5uVUwCE3Vm4C&lpg=PA113&ots=4GAZixbBsr&dq=gynoid%20fat%20gynoid%20fat%20gynoid%20fat&pg=PA116#v=onepage&q&f=false

Socialists deny blatant reality, in fact, that denial is so part and parcel of being a socialist that they don’t usually have to say it, it’s implied in everything they say. It’s amusing that so man socialists int he West are atheists and, yet, they deny that every human behavior is rooted in evolution, explaining everything away as “social causes”, whatever the hell that gibberish means.

There’s a label you’lll start hearing a lot more of: Liberal Creationists.

Racism, envy, and misogyny

Save your break and say SIXHIRB – sexismislamophobiahomophobiaintoleranceracismbigotry. Before the end of my life all of those terms will be completely bereft of what propaganda value they now have. Those words no long *mean* anything besides “non leftist”. One very useful thing I’ve found on the internet is the ability to test out various lines of argument and develop a template for dealing with various positions and objections. One project I’m working on is developing an argument template so that anytime someone is confronted with the charge of “racism”, “sexism”, well, SIXHIRB they have a ready-made template to demonstrate that each of those charges is nothing more than pure leftist propaganda and that the words, themselves, are meaningless.

Cathedral, cathedral, you’re time is coming …

323

Asher 05.19.13 at 4:27 pm

Almost all motivators of human behavior involve two things: sex and money. A society that fixates on regulating sex is a masculist society, Saudi Arabia, for example, and a society that fixates on regulating money is a feminist society, the US. A healthy society balances regulating both sex and money.

324

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 4:29 pm

But yeah, Mandos is pretty much spot on. This isn’t anything new, except in how it gets delievered.

We’re talking Dark Heart of the Internet type folks here. The kind of dude who believes all that bullshit about “betas” and “alphas” and thinks that only about 10% of the male population get laid with any regularity because all the women go for them due to “hypergamy”. They’re the hard-headed serious types who tell you the deep truths about society with science, and by “science” they mean “a 10,000 word blog post about what bitches those bitches are. Bitches.” There’ll be at least one reference to the Matrix or the Red Pill, because that sounds kind of cool. “Racism” is spelt with about 20 a’s and in all caps, because racism doesn’t actually exist, or if it does it’s nowhere near as important as the hurt feelings of young, affluent white guys.

So it goes.

325

Mandos 05.19.13 at 4:39 pm

The search he used to bring up that book is so great: “gynoid fat gynoid fat gynoid fat”. No matter that he may be using it to direct the search result, a regular Trey Matt ParkerStone is what we have here.

326

Mandos 05.19.13 at 4:39 pm

Also, Michael Moore is gynoid.

327

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 4:45 pm

Is it just me or does the soundbit @323 make no sense?

328

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 4:45 pm

“they deny that every human behavior is rooted in evolution”

Sigh.

No, no-one does that. The argument is whether human behaviour can be traced back fundamentally to some evolutionary benefit (“rooted in evolution”), or whether there is a potentially broad spectrum of potential human behaviour, the expression of which is determined to a great extent by culture and environment, and not all of which has developed purely for the evolutionary benefit of the species or the individual.

From what I’ve read about epigenetics (genes can be effected by the environment) and neuroplasticity (the brain is a remarkably fluid and subtle instrument that can change its’ structure and functioning quite considerably), the latter sounds much, much more plausible; the former often degenerating into evo-psych just-so stories justifying a stereotype (“back on the veldt, this must have happened (although there’s no real evidence for it), and that is whywomen like pink“)

Sorry, pal. Genetics moved on.

329

Asher 05.19.13 at 4:52 pm

What socialists want

http://translate.google.com.au/translate?sl=sv&tl=en&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&eotf=1&u=http://www.vk.se/865193/dags-infora-jamstalldhetskatt

Men and women play different roles in life due to evolution. Must use the power of the state to eliminate those differences.

More what socialists want

“Gay marriage is a lie. . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there. . . . It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.” – Masha Gessen, to a crowd that applauds her statement

Socialism is about erasing all existing social institutions and erecting only those that grant radical individual autonomy. The Germans, around the time of Kant, began to understand that the project of subjecting human beings to the scrutiny of hard knowledge understood that this would have the effect of turning man into just another animal. One consequence of that is that all human behavior is *caused* and, thus, the only distinction between someone who does “good” versus one who does “bad” is their respective places in the overall mosaic of causality. I mean if someone’s every behavior is caused then does it make any sense to say *they* are bad – this intellectual heritage shows up in excusing crime as caused by poverty or lack of opportunity.

The solution was to ground “human good” in the concept of autonomy, and to separate out what was autonomous versus what was heteronomous and to eliminate as much of the latter as possible. This, btw, is the function of Rawls’ veil of ignorance.

330

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:02 pm

@ Freshly squeezed cynic

No, no-one does that.

Look, very closely at what I said, which is “human behavior. The distinction is between homo sapiens as humans and homo sapiens as animals. Behavior that is a reflection of evolution is human, not animal, behavior and leftism is a project of rejecting all behavior that is not rooted in evolution.

Of course, we know that much behavior in our species *is* caused by evolution but leftists posit that as undesirable and the goal is to eliminate any influence of evolution on homo sapien, so rising above our animal natures is the only thing that makes us human. Over the last several years I have noticed a very odd phrase that keeps popping up from leftists: a truly human future. I mean, huh? Aren’t all futures truly human futures simply as a function of us being human? No, because human is something that is solely the product of that which is other than our animal nature and is a project in the making.

But if it is the future is that which is potentially “truly human” what does that say about that the past? Ready for it? The past is not *truly* human but merely a mirage of human-ness and, really, in human.

Sorry, pal. Genetics moved on.

You don’t need to establish a confirmed set of genes to establish that a behavior is genetically influenced. Human culture is real but it is always a reaction to genetic heritage. Men and women are different, and all sorts of things get associated in distinctions between the sexes. That one color was going to be associated with men and another with women was an inevitable result of sex differences – that one happened to be blue and another pink is just an accident of history.

331

Mandos 05.19.13 at 5:07 pm

So when the actual behaviour is not traceable to any knowable biological reality, we can infer the existence of an abstract, hypothetical tendency, disconnected from any real-world consequence or causal contingency which must, by deduction from *mumble*, be rooted in something evolutionary, even if we can’t actually point out what it is.

332

Mandos 05.19.13 at 5:11 pm

The world would be *wrong* if it were not so, you see. I mean, if it were the case that gender-based inequalities were the result of oppressive activities by a ruling class, and that these behaviours are mutable over socially-relevant time scales, then, then…

…all Asher’s psychic sufferings, his alienation and resentment, was for nothing.

Therefore, by deduction, evolution.

333

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 5:14 pm

“Over the last several years I have noticed a very odd phrase that keeps popping up from leftists: a truly human future.”

Google search returns a mere 40,900 results. The top results appear to be about transhumanism and the ethics of biotechnology. Try again.

334

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:18 pm

@ Mandos

There are two possible sources of human behavior:

A) Radical autonomy, aka free will
B) Evolution

In a mosaic of causality every single cause is, in turn an effect of other causes, so any time someone says “x caused y” the appropriate response is “what caused x”. What the “social causes” crowd wants to do is have it both ways; they want to say “x caused y” without having to ask “what caused x”. BTW, libertarians tend to do this, too, so it’s not just leftists.

So, yes, the entire mosaic of human behavior is entirely caused by evolution, as a whole. The only out from that is “free will” which lies outside the realm of rational analysis. If you say “x is an example” you are placing “x” outside of the realm of rational analysis by rhetorical fiat. Now, by the very definition of placing something outside the realm of rational analysis you are offering me a take-it-or-leave-it decision, but I cannot rationally argue something that you have placed beyond rational analysis.

When two different parties have opposing views on a question that has been placed beyond rational analysis there are two options:

A) Peaceful political separation
B) War – one party imposes their views on the other

335

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:20 pm

von Clauswitz wrote that “War is the extension of politics by other means”, but the converse is also true and “politics is the extension of war by other means”.

336

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:22 pm

@ Mandos

Therefore, by deduction, evolution.

The other option being autonomy, aka free will. Fine, but if even one specific action is the product of free will then what will end up happening is that we’re simply going to pick and choose which is which based on our particular preferences.

337

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 5:25 pm

“That one color was going to be associated with men and another with women was an inevitable result of sex differences”

You’re basically saying here that these sorts of things are purely cultural, in that they don’t come out of any innate biological or evolutionary preference, but get “associated” as particular cultural markers of sex differences (beyond “different sexual organs”, I’m very interested in what Asher thinks are the fundamental, evolutionary-derived differences between men and women. I really, really hope it’s something a lot more interesting than “we hunted the mammoths!”) That pretty much makes a mockery of your argument that our behaviour is totally “rooted” in terms of evolutionary success; because those sorts of things pretty clearly are, as you said, culturally derived.

338

Mandos 05.19.13 at 5:27 pm

A) Radical autonomy, aka free will
B) Evolution

This is one of those things for which the expression “not even wrong” was invented. Also see “fallacy of the excluded middle”, “false dichotomy”, and “failure of imagination”.

339

Mandos 05.19.13 at 5:28 pm

Convenient failure of imagination,” he said in his usual esprit de l’escalier.

340

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:29 pm

@ Mandos

Consider the two propositions:

A) Jamal turned to crime because of poverty
B) Jonny turned to racism because of ….

Well, the leftist is like to finish with “… because of racism”. In other words, “racism” is simply a tautology meaning ” that with which I disagree”. See, the problem with “social causes” is that you’re going to variously assign autonomy and heteronomy based on your desired outcome, and that is definitely not dispassionate rational analysis.

341

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 5:30 pm

“A) Radical autonomy, aka free will
B) Evolution”

C) Multivariate causes at individual and group level, complex relations between different actors, feedback loops and emergent properties of social interaction; it’s turtles all the way down. That may not be satisfying to someone looking for a first, primary cause, but sadly, life is messy and there really aren’t any.

342

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:31 pm

@ Mandos

see “fallacy of the excluded middle”

And this is where you’re supposed to identify the content of that excluded middle.

343

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:32 pm

@ Mandos

I often argue against reasoning incorporating fallacies of the excluded middle, but when I do so I specify the content of what is being excluded.

344

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.13 at 5:34 pm

B) Jonny turned to racism because of ….

Poverty? Anger at lost privileges? Insecurity in a changing world? A sense of wanting to belong to a particular group? All four and more besides?

345

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:36 pm

Multivariate causes at individual and group level, complex relations between different actors, feedback loops and emergent properties of social interaction; it’s turtles all the way down. That may not be satisfying to someone looking for a first, primary cause, but sadly, life is messy and there really aren’t any.

All of which track back to evolution, as a whole. Human beings evolved as a group and then as groups, not as individuals. The successor to evolutionary psychology is human bio-diversity; there is not one human nature but a vast kaleidoscope of them.

Nature creates nurture, and when most people say “nurture” what they really mean is “free will”.

346

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:39 pm

@ Freshly squeeezed cynic

Poverty? Anger at lost privileges? Insecurity in a changing world? A sense of wanting to belong to a particular group? All four and more besides?

And what caused those? You do see where this is going, right? Any time you posit a particular “social cause” I’m just simply going to respond with “what caused that?”.

347

David 05.19.13 at 5:40 pm

What is your occupation, Asher?

348

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:42 pm

Self-employed contractor

349

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:46 pm

Let me tell you about myself:

Homeschooled, lived in a poor neighborhood in the city limits – most homeschoolers are suburban or exurban. Six siblings, real artistic family. At sixteen my mom bought be a calc textbook and I ended up starting my freshman year in third quarter calc. You need to be able to explain how that happens. Contrast that to my experiences working at a private (non corporate) tutoring service where we spent very large amounts of time and energy trying to get kids to eke their way through intermediate algebra.

I could come up with a thousand different factoids like that, which, on their own, demonstrate little, but when taken together paint the picture that we are very much constrained by our biology.

350

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 5:51 pm

“I could come up with a thousand different factoids like that, which, on their own, demonstrate little..”

at last we agree!

351

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 5:56 pm

I’m missing something from your bio..you were born into a poor artisitic family on the wrong side of the tracks where you were homeschooled and sent to university expert in calc, which led to a career tutoring highschoolers in calc..and now you’re a selfemployed contractor? As in building contractor? How did that happen?

352

Asher 05.19.13 at 5:59 pm

Look, if leftists just responded to everything with “we have no idea why” then that would be honest, but the whole “social causes” thingy, as it exists today, is blatant intellectual dishonesty.

I’d like to go back to Mandos observation of my using deductive reasoning to infer that all human behavior and any variations have soem basis in evolution. Here’s the premise for my reasoning:

Every *thing* that exists is caused by some *thing* else

Any time a “social cause” is posited I’m simply going to ask “what caused that?” until we get back ten million years (or whatever time frame) and, at that point, the notion of a “social cause” is patently silly. My main objection to almost all “social causes” talk isn’t that there isn’t the potential for very real social causes but that they are used for political advantage and not for rational analysis.

353

David 05.19.13 at 6:02 pm

Ultimately I see little reason to care what is biologically rooted or not. I see the long term challenge of the human race (if we can be said to have one) as that of transcending the debris of our evolutionary heritage.

I feel nothing but a sort of cold contempt for people who attempt to justify, well, anything by recourse to biology.

From my (embarrassingly) extensive tour of the Alt Right I came to the conclusion that it is more or less a den of Christian fundamentalism, internet tough-guyism, and [i]ressentiment[/i].

354

Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 6:03 pm

I look away for one day and someone solves the is-ought problem in the comments section of CT.

355

Asher 05.19.13 at 6:15 pm

@ David

I see the long term challenge of the human race (if we can be said to have one) as that of transcending the debris of our evolutionary heritage.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner This is the entire objection to leftism summed up by a leftist in one neat sentence. “we” don’t have a collective human future. What there is are a vast kaleidoscope of future for lots of different “we’s”. That reality doesn’t matter is why you get called utopian.

I came to the conclusion that it is more or less a den of Christian fundamentalism, internet tough-guyism, and [i]ressentiment[/i].

What is good for the poor is bad for the middle-class and what is good for the middle-class is bad for the poor. Objecting to the cathedral claiming that the poor and the middle have identical interests is not ressentiment.

@ Jerry

I never understood why that distinction is so problematic, unless you viewed “ought” as universal, timeless and transcendent. (see my response to David’s comment).

356

David 05.19.13 at 6:22 pm

What is good for the poor is bad for the middle-class and what is good for the middle-class is bad for the poor. Objecting to the cathedral claiming that the poor and the middle have identical interests is not ressentiment.

I don’t even know what you are getting at here. When I said ressentiment, I meant the clear right-wing dislike/loathing/fear of modern cultural and financial elites, who are all, apparently, Cultural Marxists (cough Jews cough) who hate the average white guy.

“we” don’t have a collective human future. What there is are a vast kaleidoscope of future for lots of different “we’s”.

Doubt it. Unless global neo-liberalism collapses, we are all in the same boat.

357

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 6:26 pm

Asher @322: How can you be so consistently wrong? The waist to hips ratio also fits Botticelli’s Venus, and even plumper gals are exemplars of beauty in the history of painting. The book you link to also writes, “though exceptions exist,” (golly, it is science, not you absolutism of categories without definitions!) and so the book goes on to discuss other cultural populations. Skinny Victoria’s Secret is not an evolution since that time; there hasn’t been that much evolutionary time. But worse than this, your implication is that evolution is meaningful in your larger context, i.e. that evolution has resulted in a biological condition, and so therefore it rules politics: “when women get fat it makes for a worse society.” That “fact” is not entered into evidence. You and some other young males may be unhappy and silly; that is a different thing.

358

David 05.19.13 at 6:30 pm

You and some other young males may be unhappy and silly; that is a different thing.

That is the other thing that constantly bothers me about the whole Alt-Right/PUA scene. It seems made up of pissy, entitled white kids who I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes with, yet they seem to feel that they can make pronouncements that identify what is best for the white male, which, you know, I happen to be.

359

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 6:33 pm

Yeah if only I had a penny for every time I’ve had to sit through a friends ‘general theory of everything’..

360

Asher 05.19.13 at 6:38 pm

@ David

I meant the clear right-wing dislike/loathing/fear of modern cultural and financial elites

So, the Occupy movement was right wing? I did not know that.

apparently, Cultural Marxists (cough Jews cough)

Jews have been disproportionately represented in all sorts of destructive and dissoluting movements in the past couple of centuries, and the issue of whether that’s incidental to contingent facts of history or something inherently Jewish is sometimes debated on the Alt Right. My side, that it is not something inherently Jewish, is definitely well into the ascendency. FWIW, Episcopalians are more disproportionately in the financial elite than are Jews.

Since the financial elites have behaved so abominably over the past few years, if not decades, I’m not sure how objecting to their behavior constitutes ressentiment.

Unless global neo-liberalism collapses

See, the problem with being in the same boat is that sometimes some parties in the boat want to throw others out. I don’t claim to have the solution for that, hell, I don’t think there is a solution for that, and if there is no solution then it isn’t a problem, as it makes no sense to say that something is a problem where there is no solution.

361

David 05.19.13 at 6:44 pm

So, the Occupy movement was right wing? I did not know that.

I wouldn’t make the claim that the Occupy movement WASN’T full of ressentiment, clearly it was. It is pretty clear that, rather than some ubermenschian movement, the AltRight is nothing but the aggrieved complaining of another socioeconomic grouping.

In essence, right and left are both advocacy groups. I have no problem with that as long as they are upfront and honest about it, which neither side is, particularly.

Since the financial elites have behaved so abominably over the past few years, if not decades, I’m not sure how objecting to their behavior constitutes ressentiment.

Because their existence is the purpose for which the Earth exists. We are all grist for the mill of their collective greatness.

See, the problem with being in the same boat is that sometimes some parties in the boat want to throw others out.

Probably the best solution we have come up with is what exists today – hegemonic social control by a government that is invested in preventing internal conflict.

362

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 6:46 pm

@David 358 — Imagine them using the pickup line: “Anyone who claims to have a general faculty of caring for all ‘fellow man’ is a snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a rotten bill of goods.” (from #113). I’ll bet that really turns the girls on.

363

Asher 05.19.13 at 7:00 pm

@ David

I’m pretty sure that I don’t know of anyone who takes the notion of ubermenschen seriously, I certainly don’t.

Probably the best solution we have come up with is what exists today – hegemonic social control by a government that is invested in preventing internal conflict.

Any long-term viability of such an entity is going to necessarily involve constraining of personal behavior, as conflict is the necessary by-product of difference. Diversity + proximity = war. This is why Aristotle considered moral education to be the primary function of the political community. A hegemon preventing internal conflict is only viable so long as part of it project involves inducing conformity among disparate elements.

@ Lee Arnold

I’m married, so it’s not really relevant.

364

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 7:11 pm

@ Asher # 363 — As I pointed out in #357, the general question is about your misunderstanding of the relative importance of evolutionary theory to political questions, not about unnecessary reminders of the obvious existence of other constraints in the universe.

365

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 7:13 pm

Though it is curious that someone with a hint of education would still suppose that “conflict is the necessary by-product of difference. Diversity + proximity = war.” Obviously that is not necessarily true.

366

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 7:15 pm

But then of course we get back to the notion that people follow traffic laws due to coercion. That is evidently false. Most people follow traffic laws because they want to. Some go lower than the speed limit, they don’t even know what the speed limit is. The signers of the Declaration signed it of their own free will, the Constitution was ratified by statehouses by their own free will, so the U.S. Democracy is by definition predicated on Agreement. In a democracy, coercion is secondary, even tertiary.

367

Asher 05.19.13 at 7:34 pm

@ Lee Arnold

. The signers of the Declaration signed it of their own free will, the Constitution was ratified by statehouses by their own free will

The doctrine of The Founding Will, which elevates some initial act of “free” willing to God-like status. Now, you are the one violating the is-ought distinction, that the historical fact of a particular act of willing Absolutely obligates subsequent acts of willing. In fact, if we are obligated, in absolute terms, by a previous foundational act of willing then all subsequent acts of willing are unfree.

This is the reason for my observation that the distinction between a founding act of will and a maintaining act of will are merely useful (i.e. not absolutely binding). Categorically speaking, there is no difference between establishing a government or social contract and maintaining its existence, to claim otherwise is to elevate one particular act of will into God-like status above subsequent acts of will.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 7:36 pm

The initial act of sovereignty was wrenched from the British Crown by force of arms. Therefore, all subsequent acts of sovereignty (just a fancy way of saying “what governments do”) is predicated on that initial act of force.

If a re-constitution of the social contract was legitimate once then it is potentially legitimate at any and all times.

369

Mandos 05.19.13 at 7:38 pm

And this is where you’re supposed to identify the content of that excluded middle.

(I ain’t here to do your homework and privilege-knapsack-unpacking activities for you, you know, but in the interest of all the lurkers who are supporting me in email…)

Oh, I don’t know. A muon hit a neuron in Uncle Charlie’s brain, causing him to turn left at the intersection and run right into the posse of klansmen, who beat him to death, leaving cousin Willy without his main source of income, which causes him to steal to support his mother, and Johnny is an impressionable little kid who learns to steal but is not talented enough not to get caught, which causes him to go to juvie at a young age, which… *insert script from Crash-type movie here*

Not to mention all the “third factor” type phenomena, the limits of computation on a physical substrate, physical limits on the shape biological forms can even take, etc etc.

I could go on.

You know, when you say this:

All of which track back to evolution, as a whole. Human beings evolved as a group and then as groups, not as individuals. The successor to evolutionary psychology is human bio-diversity; there is not one human nature but a vast kaleidoscope of them.

…you reveal how little you actually know about the subject. There is a reason why race/IQ causalists have to result to very elaborate modeling exercises to try and tease out the nature/nurture puzzles. There is a reason why part of the vocabulary of regression analysis mentions “interaction terms”, “random slopes”, and the like. It is because it very, very difficult to place most things to do with human beings—or animals for that matter—clearly in your buckets “A” and “B”. There are interactions that do not tidily fit and require very complicated statistical modelling to even begin making the case.

So in answer to your rather childish proposal to keep asking, heedless of the context, “what causes that?” like a 5 year old asking “Why? Why? Why?” to annoy her parent, one responds, correctly, “becuz.”

And the completion of “Johnny turned to racism because…” is through a long series of socially contingent incidents that involve some combination of biological mental capacity (see, I am happy to admit it exists) , the (involuntary) perception of the exterior environment, intractably complex interactions thereof, and so on and so forth.

But, like I said, I’m educating you on this as a public service, because what has happened is that you have constructed in your mind an Enemy on which you can probably blame some exterior incident(s), and you read everything we tell you through the lens of this Adversary. And you do so in confirmation of a position that is self-contradictory, ignorant, and contemptible.

And, yes, I am using this shaming language in order to delegitimize your viewpoint culturally and politically. Deal with it.

370

Asher 05.19.13 at 7:56 pm

privilege-knapsack-unpacking

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! The privilege knapsack. Hilarious.

Look, “privilege” simply means differences in opportunities. However, there is no unitary scale that measures difference in opportunities. Men have different privileges from women, and vice versa. Blacks have different privileges from white and vice versa. What the left does is take the notion of privilege, a very real thing and elevates it to something metaphysical, to a distinction between privileged and nonprivileged.

No, EVERYONE has their own distinctive set of privileges that pertains to their particular circumstances. I’m quite aware that I as a white male have a certain set of privileges, just as a black female has her own particular set of privileges.

See, being leftist has its own set of privileges to which others are not privvy.

Everybody has their own set of privileges, EVERYBODY. The only way to eliminate privilege is to raze all human connections and start from scratch. All human history confers privilege, all of it.

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Mandos 05.19.13 at 7:59 pm

Not a very good troll you are, to not know trolling when you see trolling.

372

MPAVictoria 05.19.13 at 7:59 pm

“Jews have been disproportionately represented in all sorts of destructive and dissoluting movements in the past couple of centuries”

Wow…. Okay so we have spent the last 3 days arguing with an anti-Semite. Good to know.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 7:59 pm

The proper response to you claiming that I am privileged is “so eff’ing what?”. Yeah, so are you. So is everyone who’s been born.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 8:00 pm

Privilege exists. Privilege always has existed. Privilege will always exist. Get over it already.

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Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:00 pm

I mean, seriously, do you also think that there are lurkers who are supporting me in email? You haven’t been around long. Born yesterday, clearly.

376

Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:01 pm

A classic:

http://barb.velvet.com/humor/lurkers.html

Also, a good musical accompaniment to this whole discussion is “Zombie” by the Cranberries.

377

Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:03 pm

Wow…. Okay so we have spent the last 3 days arguing with an anti-Semite. Good to know.

This almost always outs even when the focus is ostensibly on black people. There’s a reason why the Jewish population of the USA is a reliably liberal constituency—like many other minority groups, they know a racist trope when they see one.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 8:09 pm

Ah, yes, SIXHIRB. At some point, enough people will not care about it that its propaganda value will be zero.

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Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:10 pm

You know, from now on we will call you “Six Herb”, or “Six Herbie” more affectionately.

380

ambzone 05.19.13 at 8:14 pm

Moldbuggers are weaponized carcinogens for comments thread everywhere. You sustain this node at the peril of the whole body. Just saying.

381

Jacob McM 05.19.13 at 8:18 pm

No one has commented on the Social Darwinism implicit in comment 206?

The problem with the socialists is that they don’t understand that in every generation there is going to be a significant minority of people who simply aren’t of any value to other people and to society, as a whole, and that lack of value is due to their nature, *not* a function of oppression. In the past, such individuals were culled, killed, enslaved, drank themselves to death, whatever.

Social Darwinism. Jews acting as a pernicious influence on culture and politics. Talk about intractable differences between races/ethnicities rooted in genetics. Struggle as the primary fact of life bundled with indifference/contempt for the weak. Lurid fascination with violence. Hatred for both feminism and the “feminization” of society and the assertion of “masculine” (i.e. ruthless and competitive) values in their place. Is there any doubt where this is heading? I’m not even exaggerating anything here. Every single one of these things appears above.

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Jacob McM 05.19.13 at 8:20 pm

I have to admit, for a supposedly self-made man with a wife and a high IQ, our pal Asher sure has a chip on his shoulder about something.

383

Walt 05.19.13 at 8:21 pm

Do you smoke sixherb, or do you use it to season your food?

384

Asher 05.19.13 at 8:22 pm

@ MPAVictoria

Wow…. Okay so we have spent the last 3 days arguing with an anti-Semite. Good to know.

They have. Deal with it. What else will you object to? My observation that that the KKK was disproportionately white gentiles?

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Asher 05.19.13 at 8:24 pm

@ MPAVictoria

Wow…. Okay so we have spent the last 3 days arguing with an anti-Semite. Good to know.

They have. Deal with it. What else will you object to? My observation that that the KKK was disproportionately white gentiles? That the Boxer Rebellion was predominantly Chinese?

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Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:24 pm

That shouldn’t surprise. It’s the logical conclusion of the whole Steve Sailerish line of thinking.

387

Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:26 pm

(Was referring to Jacob McM’s Social Darwinism comment.)

388

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 8:31 pm

Asher #367: “Categorically speaking, there is no difference between establishing a government or social contract and maintaining its existence”

There is no functional difference in the day to day sense, but there is huge categorical difference. However, let’s forget that and suppose that “maintaining its existence” is all that there is in the world, and then ask: does it prove coercion?

Well no. Theoretically, all “absolute foundations” were already denied by the interlocutor, so coercion cannot be an absolute foundation of the state. If you cannot “elevate some initial act of “free” willing to God-like status”, well then, coercion in daily enforcement cannot be elevated either.

But much more importantly than theory, it fails the experiential test. For example, lots of people follow lots of laws because they want to. Not everyone is an infractor. So the government “maintains its existence” partly because people WANT it to.

Of course nobody likes paying taxes — the subtraction of money from the pocket can be a coercive ordeal. It is one of several rules like this. But so what, really?

the tax were under an unredressable state of rule, with an intentionally punitive rate of tax, then THAT would meet the definition of “violent”.

So far, so inapplicable. We have a free speech democracy instead, and taxes are clearly not at punitive rates. So where does this torment come from?

Well in this discourse, it looks like 2 things: 1. Because the economy is slow it “must” be due to taxes; the equation of taxes to slow economic growth.

–But this is just bad standard economics, taxation is the LEAST of out problems. (For another econ 101 mistake see #206, “my position was that inflation is primarily a political phenomenon, rather than a monetary one, and arises from a loss in confidence in government in multiple areas”. –No, no “initial act of God-like status”. The last big inflation came out of oil price hikes increasing the price of most products, causing in turn a hike in wage demands, see here:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZBqv14CGcQ&list=PLT-vY3f9uw3ADgyYqUVo2R8kxM4Agc3aw&index=11

So what remains, to produce the whole “torment of violence” thing? Well, there is 2) the animosity to socialism (though a current interlocutor denies it).

But if we look around, centralized socialism is no where on the horizon.

The only socialist programs are: a)–taxation; b)–the welfare state which is U.S. Social Security and Medicare; c)–now adding: universal medicine; d)–dole-outs to private capitalism, which has been able to socialize some of its losses to increase private profits; e)–and of course finance capitalism, whose losses have been entirely socialized; they didn’t even really pay back the TARP. (There ought to be ressentiment.)

But what else is there? Nothing else is happening; there’s no where else for socialists to stick their greedy little paws. Oh, environmental laws. And (really in a separate category) “climate change tipping points”, new disasters which will occasion MASSIVE GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION, even fascism. Watch it happen, zombie!

But otherwise, you are already living with these programs. Nobody likes taxation, so therefore, paying it + throwing crooks in jail = coercion? Well duh. If this is the premise of the whole theory, it fails. Many other laws are followed, not by coercion. The idea that “people follow traffic laws due to coercion” is inobservant.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 8:38 pm

There’s really nothing new or interesting here. It’s just your basic ring-wing rhetoric reconfigured around a misunderstanding of evolution and biology. I was hoping that we might see some truly innovative lunacy at some point, but I guess it’s just another case of “everything old is new again.”

390

David 05.19.13 at 8:46 pm

Ah, yes, SIXHIRB. At some point, enough people will not care about it that its propaganda value will be zero.

Wishful thinking from the Right. No matter how hard they try, and how manifestly they want it, they are not going to ironically undercut racism and whatnot.

391

Mandos 05.19.13 at 8:48 pm

There’s really nothing new or interesting here. It’s just your basic ring-wing rhetoric reconfigured around a misunderstanding of evolution and biology. I was hoping that we might see some truly innovative lunacy at some point, but I guess it’s just another case of “everything old is new again.”

Yes, basically. Six Herb is just recapitulating the same line that Charles Murray went over, and it all stems from the same underlying desire/resentment.

392

David 05.19.13 at 8:57 pm

That desire being to win rhetorical wars against Liberals (both conservative liberals and otherwise). That racist ideas are taboo annoys them because it makes their entire program a non-starter, and if they don’t get what they want it must mean that they (and only they, mind you, not silly blacks or gays) are oppressed.

393

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:04 pm

@ Mandos

, I am using this shaming language in order to delegitimize your viewpoint culturally and politically. Deal with it.

At some point of abuse, the term r*cism will come to be viewed as the equivalent of the term n***r and will be regarded that way by enough people as it will be ground for open warfare. Then, you will have to deal with that. See, in your pursuit of defending leftist, Cathedral, privilege what you do is seek to marginalize all dissenting views.

Now, I am quite certain that were I to go onto some website frequented by Tea Party types I would be banned, and, in fact, I was banned years ago from Free Republic for making a very sober comment implying the mere possibility that evolution created disparities in ability – only time I ever commented there. Anyways the point is that as the left has to scream “r*cism” ever louder to maintain its hegemony it’s going to create ever greater polarization amongst every increasing numbers of the population. It can’t go on forever.

And your use of shaming language is simply a function of power, the exercise of which creates an everr-increasing array of enemies. You are welcome to exercise this power … until you can’t, and then that power will be used against you because there is no overarching metaphysical standard for the exercise of power. Enjoy it while you got it.

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David 05.19.13 at 9:06 pm

When did the Nazis get a hold of postmodernism?

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Mandos 05.19.13 at 9:13 pm

I am indeed exerting power through shaming language over you, Six Herbie dearest. Do you not feel my power? FEEL MY POWER!

(It’s amazing how quickly they unravel when you enter the correct keywords.)

396

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:22 pm

@ Jacob McM

s there any doubt where this is heading?

Pray tell, where is this heading Jacob? I have long advocated peacefully breaking up the US into around 30 countries with a time period for people to sort themselves out. See the very notion of politics inherently contains a large element of competition and the idea that it’s all about agreement is just silly. What that ends up being is claiming the situation is all about agreeing while you’re forcing your views on someone else. That can’t last.

I am upfront, fascism is the proper antidote to socialism. This does not mean that I advocate some ossified ideology that is “fascism”, but that there’s a tension between unity and diversity, competition and cooperation. At the end of the day, all abstractions (socialism, fascism, racism, sexism, libertarianism, social darwinism, capitalism,, etc) are only relevant to specific times, places and peoples. To an ever-increasing array of people terms like fascism, sexism, racism and social darwinism will simply mean “disagrees with a leftist”.

And an ever-increasing array of people aren’t gonna care. At all.

I have to admit, for a supposedly self-made man with a wife and a high IQ, our pal Asher sure has a chip on his shoulder about something.

Intellectual dishonesty. I absolutely loathe intellectual dishonesty. Being able to throw around terms with impunity is leftist privilege, and I don’t resent, at all. What I do object to is denying that a privilege is a privilege.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 9:22 pm

Jerry @388 — I’ll be you and I agree on just about everything.

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David 05.19.13 at 9:25 pm

I have long advocated peacefully breaking up the US into around 30 countries with a time period for people to sort themselves out.

In my travels through the Alt-Right I have seen this before. There is a large section of angry far righters who want to essentially “take their ball and go home” so that they aren’t forced to pay for welfare for black people. They want to form something like the Confederacy, I guess, but webbed throughout the country.

399

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:29 pm

@ Lee Arnold

For example, lots of people follow lots of laws because they want to

And they do so because it is enforced for those who do not follow it. Thought experiment:

If federal taxation were entirely voluntary next year most people would keep paying taxes. However, over the course of time each instance of free-riding creates more free riding and eventually the entire system collapses.

If you cannot “elevate some initial act of “free” willing to God-like status”, well then, coercion in daily enforcement cannot be elevated either.

Wow, you’re confused. If the initially act of willing is categorically different from subsequent acts of will that IS elevating the initial act to God-like status. I don’t elevate any acts of coercion over any others in a categorical fashion. If you categorically separate initial acts of willing as a foundational basis for subsequent acts of willing then you ARE elevating the initial acts of willing to God-like status, that IS what you are doing.

400

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:31 pm

@ David

No matter how hard they try, and how manifestly they want it, they are not going to ironically undercut racism and whatnot.

That’s correct because you’re going to do it for us by the fact that you’re going to have to cast an ever-increasing net in order to maintain hegemony.

When did the Nazis get a hold of postmodernism?

Not a leftist? OMFG! Nazi, Nazi, Nazi!

401

David 05.19.13 at 9:35 pm

Not a leftist? OMFG! Nazi, Nazi, Nazi!

No, you’ve sounded pretty Nazi-ish up to this point. This isn’t like calling Bush a Nazi here.

That’s correct because you’re going to do it for us by the fact that you’re going to have to cast an ever-increasing net in order to maintain hegemony.

I doubt it. I think racism will actually be lessened over generations just as homophobia was, by the dominance of the media. All you are doing is fantasizing.

402

js. 05.19.13 at 9:41 pm

One project I’m working on is developing an argument

A noble goal, my dear Asher, a noble goal indeed. The road ahead of you is long and hard, but keep on workin’ on!

403

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:46 pm

@ Lee Arnold

There is no categorical difference between Washington fighting the British at the Battle of Valley Forge and Obama signing the Healthcare Affordability Act. Both are part and parcel of the establishment of sovereignty and cannot be separated from the whole. Acts instituting an establishment of sovereignty and maintaining that establishment are categorically identical.

If you disagree then what you are doing is elevating the initial establishing act to God-like status above subsequent maintaining acts. That IS what you are doing.

404

Asher 05.19.13 at 9:54 pm

@ David

I live in Seattle and quite like it. I would be fine with a country consisting of Washington and Oregon with its current population. Wouldnt have been any Iraq War had the US been broken up into more governable sovereign entities.

Also, I’m not quite sure where you get the idea that I am “angry”. I certainly don’t *feel* angry.

racism will actually be lessened

Sort of begging the question of what you mean by “racism”. Of the variety in Nazi Germany? Certainly. Of the “not a leftist” variety? No, that’s going to increase. Look, the vast, vast majority of the globe is not “anti-racist”, nor is it “racist”. Most people are concerned with how well their lives and communities are functioning and metaphysical, ideological “anti-racism” does nothing to facilitate this, probably hinders it.

You don’t seriously think that the society that is china is ever going to adopt anti-racist ideology do you?

405

john c. halasz 05.19.13 at 9:56 pm

What’s the opposite/complement of trolling? Bear-baiting?

406

David 05.19.13 at 10:01 pm

I live in Seattle and quite like it. I would be fine with a country consisting of Washington and Oregon with its current population. Wouldnt have been any Iraq War had the US been broken up into more governable sovereign entities.

It will never happen in a million years, and I would rather it didn’t anyway. I live in the Midwest and I am NOT in favor of letting regional oligarchs have their way with my culture. Liberal elitism forever.

Also, I’m not quite sure where you get the idea that I am “angry”. I certainly don’t *feel* angry.

Your ideas are outside of the Overton Window, which usually suggests a radical mental break with society as it is currently constituted. The most successful, attractive, what have you, people almost always buy into some ideology that falls within the political mainstream.

You don’t seriously think that the society that is china is ever going to adopt anti-racist ideology do you?

Probably not, but it will never become a huge issue for them, unless they really embrace neoliberalism with gusto. They will become exactly as non-racist as they need to in order to make money.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 10:08 pm

It’s fun to imagine this conversation taking place circa 1500 C.E. and imagining what then-Asher’s prognostications would have looked like. If history has taught us anything, it’s that it has a way of defeating armchair observations.

408

Asher 05.19.13 at 10:10 pm

@ David

Do you consider Singapore neo-liberal? Unlike the US, their immigration policy exists solely to advance the common interest of their citizenry. Do you think that makes it more or less neo-liberal than the US? Would you like to see Singapore’s immigration policy become more like the US or vice versa? Why?

Do you think the goal of immigration policy is best when it is crafted to meet the interests of current citizens or are there other considerations?

409

Asher 05.19.13 at 10:14 pm

@ Jerry

his conversation taking place circa 1500 C.E. and imagining what then-Asher’s prognostications would have looked like.

Ah, yes, the doctrine of the soul rears its intellectually dishonest head.

410

JW Mason 05.19.13 at 10:15 pm

Does anyone else remember Floyd Alvis Cooper, from the Age of Warblogging in the mid-2000s? Now there was a real troll; we shall not see his like again. Still, you have to give Asher credit for effort.

411

Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 10:17 pm

The whatrine of the who?!

412

Asher 05.19.13 at 10:22 pm

The doctrine of the soul. It’s the idea that we can hypothesize about the *soul* of Asher, or whomever, and what it would do in the context of some other era or place. There is no “other” Asher, as my consciousness is tied to my specific time and space within the mosaic of causality, and to speak of some “other” is metaphysical gibberish. It’s the notion that there is some realm of mind or consciousness that is not tied to particular existence.

It’s the same sort of thing as when some leftists says about some prominent, mainstream conservative that if they’d been around in 1861 that the conservative would have fought to continue slavery. There is no “they” there, so, no, “they” wouldn’t.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 10:23 pm

Anytime anyone hypothesizes from the doctrine of the soul they’re engaging in nothing more than metaphysical gibberish.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 10:26 pm

Also, Mr. F. A. Cooper was before my time, but googling his name reveals some truly choice gems scattered about the internet. I wonder if Asher’s skeletal structure is composed of a shiny ceramic material (not F.A.C.’s work, so far as I know, but something I found looking for it).

415

Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 10:28 pm

I love how your bizarre hermeneutics generates the least comprehensible interpretation of what I said possible. There’s a concept in English called the counterfactual. Some clever people have written whole books about them, even.

416

David 05.19.13 at 10:29 pm

Unlike the US, their immigration policy exists solely to advance the common interest of their citizenry.

So does ours. Cheap labor.

Do you think that makes it more or less neo-liberal than the US?

Not sure. I assume that Singapore lets in people with technical skills needed for the economy? The answer would be “exactly as” then.

Would you like to see Singapore’s immigration policy become more like the US or vice versa?

I don’t really care, but I am not exactly moved by racialist “Dey took er jerbs!” right-wing populism.

Do you think the goal of immigration policy is best when it is crafted to meet the interests of current citizens or are there other considerations?

I think it is useless to even ask that question, because I don’t think an immigration policy would survive that would not meet the needs and desires of the elite.

417

Asher 05.19.13 at 10:44 pm

One thing that I do is craft every comment I make with the assumption that all assertions require justification. Consider my claim that there is no distinction between initiating and maintaining sovereignty, which argues that an initial act of “free” will binds all subsequent acts, which has the effect of elevating the initial act of willing to God-like status.

That’s called arguing for a position.

What few comments of Cooper’s were just flat-out assertions without any attempt to argue for their validity. I mean I see a sort of point to his claim that the #1 job of a soldier is to stay alive. However, obviously, if every soldier was merely concerned with staying alive then the cohesiveness of the army would quickly disappear and, consequently, no army, no soldiers.

His premise collapses of its own consequences.

Look, the objections to my contention that all state action requires a background foundation of coercion are all metaphysical. My response has always been “well if you took all the guns out of the hands of government agents what would happen” and that almost never gets answered.

Compare a car to a government. Let’s say you take the wheels and axles off a car. Do you still have a car? The entire functional basis of the car, as a whole, requires wheels and axles. Like the functioning of wheels and axles in a car the overall function of a car in every aspect relies on wheels and axles. Technically, you could say you still have a car but you dont really have one in any function sense. You can run things like the AC radio and headlights without the wheels. You can use a wheel-less car as a storage unit, but, functionally, it is not a car.

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jb 05.19.13 at 10:47 pm

Asher.

From what you’ve posted here, I agree with JacobMcM that your beliefs can be summarized as follows:

“Social Darwinism. Jews acting as a pernicious influence on culture and politics. Talk about intractable differences between races/ethnicities rooted in genetics. Struggle as the primary fact of life bundled with indifference/contempt for the weak. Lurid fascination with violence. Hatred for both feminism and the “feminization” of society and the assertion of “masculine” (i.e. ruthless and competitive) values in their place.”

All of these beliefs are ones traditionally held by Fascists, and others on the “far right”. If you aren’t a Nazi or Fascist, than can you please show me where their beliefs differ from yours, rather than acting as if calling you one is illegitimate?

I agree that there are instances where people on the left have overused the terms “Nazi” or “Fascist” and applied them where they don’t belong. This does not seem to be one of them.

419

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 10:49 pm

“Compare a car to a government. “

Are you fucking kidding me? 400 comments in and this is it? FFS can we please have a competent, interesting far right

420

Substance McGravitas 05.19.13 at 10:51 pm

One thing that I do is craft every comment I make with the assumption that all assertions require justification.

Can you go back to #79 and rewrite?

421

Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 10:52 pm

Compare a government to my head

422

Asher 05.19.13 at 11:04 pm

@ David

I don’t really care, but I am not exactly moved by racialist “Dey took er jerbs!” right-wing populism.

First of all, “they took our jobs” isn’t necessarily racialist, and the primary argument isn’t that “they took our jobs” but how well an immigrant and their descendents fit in with society, as a whole. Presumably, an immigrant from South Korea is going to be a better fit than an immigrant from sub-Saharan Africa. Are you making a moral claim about the basis for immigration, or a factual claim about how it is just going to be based on political power structures? So, basically, you dodged the question, but, hey, you got to throw in the term “racialist” along with a South Park reference.

I think it is useless to even ask that question, because I don’t think an immigration policy would survive that would not meet the needs and desires of the elite.

Mmmm, if immigration policy is such a slam-dunk for elites then why is it necessary for them to resort to slurs involving “racialism”, “nativism”, etc? You’re going back and forth between “is” and “ought” (yeah, anytime someone uses “racialist” in an argument it is an “ought” argument). I mean, if elite-oriented immigration policy is so inevitable and necessary then throwing out “racialist” shouldn’t be necessary.

It’s going to become more difficult to disguise the blatant intellectual dishonesty of that two-pronged approach, either make factually-based arguments or morally-based ones but to weave back and forth between the two is disingenuous.

423

Jerry Vinokurov 05.19.13 at 11:05 pm

A government is like a writing-desk…

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Lee A. Arnold 05.19.13 at 11:09 pm

Asher @398: “Wow, you’re confused. If the initially act of willing is categorically different from subsequent acts of will that IS elevating the initial act to God-like status.”

Take it from the top. You asserted that government is predicated on coercion. I asserted that the initial act of free will was Agreement, the opposite of Coercion: agreement to the Constitution. You then ruled that argument out, saying that it “elevates some initial act of ‘free’ willing to God-like status”. I rather doubt this, but anyway it does not matter — the important result is that, if so, then you have ruled yourself out. Because by your own objection, the subsequent existence of some coercive laws (like taxation) are not a god-like proof that democracy is continued by coercion, instead of by agreement. So then you need scientific evidence, and proof that all or most occurrences of “following the law” are primarily from coercion, coercion appearing at the top of the list of intentions. So you write, “they do so because it is enforced for those who do not follow it”. But that is NOT always the top intention, and there are many counterexamples. There are cases of following laws primarily from intentions of safety and self-protection, not from coercion. People follow traffic laws because they hope this is the way to be in the least amount of traffic accidents. Gov’t coercion in this case is sort of tertiary: 1) they agreed 2) to make laws to help drivers understand each other, and avoid mishaps 3) with punishments for infractions. You are holding onto this silly insistence about the sequence of intentionality involved in following traffic laws, because otherwise your argument is demolished.

Furthermore your argument is weirdly linked to a theory that uniformity/diversity issues are at the basis of discord. And even further, this is combined with a systems-theoretic mistake that these issues can be lessened by breaking-up into smaller aggregates. You are of course free to petition your state legislature to leave the Union. Be advised that it is a knuckleheaded idea however. The move towards smaller groups is ignorant of A) the savings in transaction-costs that can allow quicker comparative advantages to trade, and ignorant of B) the easier treatment of systems-wide problems due to bigger risk pools of the bigger group. These things free-up space and time, thus bigger systems may also REDUCE coercion.

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David 05.19.13 at 11:12 pm

(yeah, anytime someone uses “racialist” in an argument it is an “ought” argument).

That is just factually wrong. Some things, peoples, and ideas can be described as “racialist”, objectively and without recourse to moral judgement. What makes most far righters uncomfortable is that they know that 99 percent of people view the idea of “racism” as inherently bad.

So, basically, you dodged the question, but, hey, you got to throw in the term “racialist” along with a South Park reference.

I didn’t dodge the question, I said I don’t care, and then added that I feel nothing but contempt for usual right-wing complaining about lack of economic opportunity due to immigration.

Mmmm, if immigration policy is such a slam-dunk for elites then why is it necessary for them to resort to slurs involving “racialism”, “nativism”, etc?

Don’t understand what you are getting at.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 11:29 pm

@ jb

Social Darwinism.

Social darwinism is largely an old-wives tale. The original social darwinists were socialists who understood that agreeableness and sociability were traits that were at least partially heritable and that the new socialist man would have to be created by conscious collective action for the creation of the new socialist order. Social darwinism isn’t rightwing but leftwing.

No, what I am talking about is just darwinism, purely and simply, and to claim otherwise is tantamount to claiming that all human evolution of behavioral traits ended around 100k years ago.

Jews acting as a pernicious influence on culture and politics.

If your positions were so impregnable then it shouldn’t be necessary to resort to intellectual dishonesty to argue for them. Your use of “Jews”, here, implies the entire Jewish people as an indivisible whole. Jews, as a whole, have been beneficial to the US. However, that individual Jews are disproportionately represented in dissoluting movements is undeniable and this accounts for the minority in the Alt Right who claim that there’s a Jewish Problem.

All lies have a basis in reality, including communism and nazism, and you have to account for the reality behind every wayward ideology that attracts a large number of adherents – I do.

Talk about intractable differences between races/ethnicities rooted in genetics.

More intellectual dishonesty. First off, there are no rigidly distinct races – humanity is made up of partially in-bred overlapping evolutionary clusters and the idea that there is some “essence” to distinct races is idiotic. Secondly, differences are not intractable, they could disappear within several dozen generations, however, that is of little consequence for social policy.

Lurid fascination with violence

Lurid
Adjective
Very vivid in color, esp. so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect: “lurid food colorings”.
(of a description) Presented in vividly shocking or sensational terms, esp. giving explicit details of crimes or sexual matters.

The references I’ve made to violence are coldly clinical (although next comment I sort of expect you to find fault with me on that, too). Um, while I reject the notion of using a dictionary to establish meaning in language, if you are still in the “training wheels” stage of reading then, by all means, use a dictionary.

Hatred for both feminism and the “feminization” of society and the assertion of “masculine” (i.e. ruthless and competitive) values in their place.

A desirable society understands that the masculine and the feminine is highly functionally different, as a product of evolution, and seeks a balance between the two. I am looking for a balance between the two, not the replacement of the feminine with the masculine. The feminine brings warmth and togetherness and the masculine brings order and stability; both are invaluable.

All of these beliefs are ones traditionally held by Fascists, and others on the “far right”

Every belief system, no matter how wayward, incorporates very real human concerns into its ideology, fascism no less than socialism. Fascists probably usually brushed their teeth but brushing one’s teeth does not make one a fascist.

Yeah, some of the ideas I advocate are shared with fascists because, guess what, some of the ideas and concerns of the fascists were grounded in reality, same for every other ideology.

than can you please show me where their beliefs differ from yours,

No conception of “racial essence” or “purity of blood”. No interest in ethnic cleansing. No interest in anti-miscegination laws, as no government is competent to establish some absolute standard for ethnicity or race Never been to stormfront, but what I hear they get in frequent fights over nonsense involving who is and is not “properly” white. It’s as silly as the leftist notion that average outcome differences between identifiable evolutionary clusters isn’t the product of evolutionary divergence and that all human evolution ended 100k years ago except a few minor things involving the digestive and immune systems.

I am against moronic ideas of which much of what passes for thought on “mainstream” leftist sites, like this, is the mirror image of stormfront. I have the same disregard for the Cathedral as I do for neo-Nazi skinhead types.

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Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 11:33 pm

“humanity is made up of partially in-bred overlapping evolutionary clusters “

This should be your party slogan

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Asher 05.19.13 at 11:34 pm

@ jb

Jews are disproportionately represented in prominent positions of society, both positive and negative. That’s because the average Ashkenazi Jewish IQ is between 110 and 115, and I suspect they are more conscientious and open to new ideas than average. Gregory Chocrane, professor genetics at U of Utah (i think), has written about selective pressure on Jewish European populations that have probably occurred over the past few centuries and his writing has been endorsed by Steven Pinker (a jew).

My observation about Jews is solely about explaining why a minority in the Alt Right think that there’s a “jewish question”.

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Asher 05.19.13 at 11:43 pm

@ Lee Arnold

The initial act was based on a breaking of a prior sovereignty, that of the British Crown. It required coercion. Yes, it also required agreement to come together but even that was heavily predicated on outside threats. Just because a body requires a heart doesn’t mean it also does not require lungs.

The initial act of sovereignty, in breaking away from Britain, involved coercion.

then you need scientific evidence, and proof that all or most occurrences of “following the law” are primarily from coercion

Taken as a whole all of them are, although, individually, many of them are not. I keep on pointing out that if all taxation were made voluntary and that no tax collection were backed by coercion that over the course of time tax paying would entirely cease. For the center to exist the margins have to be kept in line or the margins keep eroding and, soon, you have no center.

Here’s an abstract way of thinking about it:

If x doesn’t happen then y wouldn’t exist

This doesn’t imply that every instance of y involves x but the overall existence of y is predicated on x. Without the mechanism of coercion operating on the margins of taxation tax payment would cease over time. This doesn’t mean that taxation is theft but that we are justifying the use of coercion in the process of taxation based on other considerations. I accept this, hell, endorse it, but I don’t lie about what it is.

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Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 11:54 pm

The initial act of settling America required coercion..the initial act of solidifying the Spanish Crown required coercion..how far back are you willing to go here and what’s your point?

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Ronan(rf) 05.19.13 at 11:56 pm

..bearing in mind I missed all your initial posts and am pretty sure Charles Tilly has covered this..

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Asher 05.19.13 at 11:57 pm

@ David

That is just factually wrong. Some things, peoples, and ideas can be described as “racialist”, objectively

I understand that from a strict technical point this is correct. However, what percentage of the population comprehends the difference between “racist” and “racialist”, not to mention the outmoded notion that there are distinct “races”? Probably one or two percent, three, tops. In terms of practical politics, the term “racialist” is going to be used in a normative context. Always.

What makes most far righters uncomfortable is that they know that 99 percent of people view the idea of “racism” as inherently bad.

If only one-percent of people hold an objectionable view then that view is not a meaningful problem. Clearly, that would include huge majorities of most rightwingers, making “racism” a complete non-issue. Yet, we hear shrieks of “racism” from hysterical leftists who see a Klan member in any social situation without sufficient “diversity”.

contempt for usual right-wing complaining about lack of economic opportunity due to immigration.

The issue isn’t one of lack of economic prospects but of how additional immigrants affect overall society.

Don’t understand what you are getting at.

Whether or not you intend it, outside a very select group of people, charges of “racialism” and “racism” are indistinguishable. An argument or position that has to swing back and forth between normative and consequentialist claims is a suspect argument. I know the strategy very well, as it has been frequently employed in the past by libertarians. The intellectual flaws in that approach are very complicated but if you’re interested there’s an essay on the subject by Jeffrey Friedman titled “What’s Wrong with Libertarianism”. It’s aimed at what he calls the “libertarian straddle” where libertarians swing back and forth between consequentialist and normative claims (is and ought), arguing one where the other is weak and vice versa.

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David 05.20.13 at 12:04 am

In terms of practical politics, the term “racialist” is going to be used in a normative context. Always.

No it isn’t. I mean, this is not ambiguous. You are simply betraying your own weird obsession (shared by others on the Far Right) with deconstructing the notion of racism for political gain.

An argument or position that has to swing back and forth between normative and consequentialist claims is a suspect argument.

Good thing I wasn’t doing that then.

The issue isn’t one of lack of economic prospects but of how additional immigrants affect overall society.

Oh, so it is purely one or the other? I didn’t realize that all rightwingers were so culturally conscientious and idealist.

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David 05.20.13 at 12:06 am

I am familiar with how Randists and their ilk switch to normative claims to protect their crypto-moralist viewpoints regarding property and theft, et al. That is not what I was or am doing.

You are simply misreading me through the lense of your own personal hobbyhorse.

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Asher 05.20.13 at 12:09 am

@ David

<Oh, so it is purely one or the other? I didn’t realize that all rightwingers were so culturally conscientious and idealist.

Culture involves conformity. A leftist talking about being culturally contientious is rich.

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David 05.20.13 at 12:12 am

All right, then. Wow. I’m out.

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Asher 05.20.13 at 12:13 am

Also, you are conflating being culturally conscientious with idealism. A culture is a specific and particular identity. The very notion of an identity excludes that which is not an identity and that is not a function of idealism but of a real, lived, shared identity.

Idealism’s got nothing to do with it.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.20.13 at 12:42 am

A democracy is be founded by an agreeing to a Constitution, and that might come after many other historical avenues besides warring with a colonial sovereign. As I pointed out in #197, it is a trivial fact that all the organization in the universe involves constraints. It does not put coercion at the top of the reasons for all governments, and it certainly does not mean that increased size will increase coercion. Increased size may also increase freedom. These cannot be an absolute measuring-stick on that.

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Asher 05.20.13 at 1:10 am

@ Lee Arnold

A democracy is be founded by an agreeing to a Constitution,

No. Most democracies are founded by overthrowing a previous government, sometimes democratic. Further, what democracies that do form out of lawlessness are not likely to be founded on unanimous agreement.

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Asher 05.20.13 at 1:26 am

@ Lee Arnold

Let’s say that some contiguous land mass is ruled by a monarch and that monarch is overthrown by 51 percent of the extant population. Further, let’s say that the other 49 percent prefers monarchy and does not participate in the creation of the originating documents and is vehemently opposed to them. However, they don’t want a civil war, because war is the hell of it, and simply let that 51 percent go about creating the original documents. Would you consider that scenario “agreement”?

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John Holbo 05.20.13 at 1:47 am

OK, I’m shutting this thread down. I think it’s pretty clear what Asher thinks (and really the original post did not ask: what, o what, does Asher think?)

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Asher 05.20.13 at 1:49 am

@ David

All right, then. Wow. I’m out.

I’m guessing you’re pissy about my observation that culture involves conformity. Why? That is what it is. Ever heard the phrase “cultural norms”, meaning “what is considered normal and acceptable at any given time and place”? Hell, you clearly want conformity on the issue of divergent human evolution so that conforming cultural norm is, apparently, fine with you.

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John Holbo 05.20.13 at 1:52 am

Last call. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.

Anyone want their final say? One last comment for everyone and we’re done?

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