Render unto Caesar

by John Quiggin on October 2, 2014

Of the three Jews described by George Steiner as, in Corey’s summary, having formulated a great and demanding ethics/politics, Jesus is to me the most interesting.[^1] That thought struck me while reading Jerry Cohen’s Self-ownership, freedom and equality, a Marxist response to Nozick. As Cohen observes early on, Marxists seem to have a lot more difficulty responding to Nozick than do (US) liberals or social democrats. That’s because the notion of self-ownership central to Nozick’s argument is closely allied to the Marxian idea that capitalism inherently involves exploitation (that is, extraction of surplus value from labor). Nozick’s claim was that the same is true of taxation, or any kind of claim on private property imposed by the state.

I’ll come back to self-ownership in a little while. The more interesting point, to me, is that Nozick’s argument was refuted in advance by Jesus when he was asked by Pharisees (arbiters of the law laid down by Moses) whether it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to the Romans. This was, of course, a trap, since he could be arrested for saying No and discredited for saying Yes. Jesus showed them a coin with the emperor’s head on the obverse and said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. And “when they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

Jesus’ point is just as valid if the coin is replaced by paper currency bearing the picture of a president, or rent from a land title issued by a state, or a dividend coupon from a corporation established under state law. All of these things were initially obtained from states under conditions that (in most cases, explicitly) involved the obligation to pay taxes as determined by the legal processes of those states. Someone who takes Caesar’s coin and then repudiates the associated obligation to pay taxes is, quite simply, a thief (of course, theft implies property, and vice versa).

How does all this relate to self-ownership? In my view, this is nothing more than a linguistic confusion.[^2] Our relationship to our bodies and thoughts, to our friends and family, and even to the objects we use in our daily life, is fundamentally distinct from the property rights we may, or may not, derive from, and have enforced by, states. That’s true even though the same grammatical structures (genitives and clitics) are used for both. This is most obvious from the fact that most (if not all) actually existing property rights in the world today can be traced back to systems which encompassed some form of slavery.

Moreover, systems of property that do recognise self-ownership must necessarily allow some form of slavery. Ownership implies alienability, so that freemen can sell themselves and their families[^3] into slavery, peonage or indentured servitude.

This brings us to the idea, shared by Marx and Calhoun (among many others) that wage employment is inherently a form of slavery. This conclusion, I think, reflects the fact that self-ownership is the wrong starting point for thinking about these issues.

The fact that most employment relationships involve some degree of exploitation of the worker by the employer reflects the fact that employers are mostly richer and more powerful than workers. A change in the formal relationship, doesn’t change the facts and is often associated withintensified exploitation. An example is the conversion of workers into nominally independent contractors, often used in Australia as a method of unionbusting.

To sum up, the whole idea of basing a theory of social justice on self-ownership, or any kind of natural right to property derived from self-ownership, is inherently self-contradictory. State-created and enforced property rights, including the associated taxation systems, are social institutions which may or may not contribute to socially just outcomes, but have no moral standing in themselves.

[^1]: All three have been badly served by (many/most of) their followers, which is, I suppose an inevitable consequence of the difficulty of their teaching. But the fact that the followers of Jesus, the first great preacher of universal love and non-resistance in the Western tradition, should go on to found the first real persecuting religion is a truly tragic irony.

[^2]: As I mention in the linked post, for example, no one has ever complained about the title of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin even though both Tom and the cabin are the property of the slaveowning Shelbys. We perfectly well understand that the sense in which both the cabin and Tom’s body are his bear no relation to the property system.

[^3]: In all actually existing cases of which I’m aware, the male head of the family (who might be the father of a nuclear family, a paterfamilias or a clan chief) owned the entire family. My own ancestry includes the MacLeods many of whom were allegedly kidnapped by their own clan chief, Norman MacLeod, with the aim of selling them into slavery in North America. At some point (not sure when) the US ended slavery for whites but not for blacks. It appears that free blacks could still sell themselves back into slavery, at least in some jurisdictions. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=eedAiD-1RMwC&pg=PA397&lpg=PA397&dq=could+free+blacks+sell+themselves+into+slavery&source=bl&ots=VzyPjSrQRB&sig=JOSj11YYnONxknEdWIsZrmZ9dbo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=W_UsVNCIBYWO8QWs-IKgAw&ved=0CGYQ6AEwCw#v=onepage&q=could%20free%20blacks%20sell%20themselves%20into%20slavery&f=false

But even if a system of this kind established gender equity and notionally gave everyone self-ownership, it would not change the dependence of children on their parents or other adults. So, by the time children reached adulthood, they could be burdened with unrepayable debts, as typically happens in systems of debt peonage.

{ 206 comments }

1

david 10.02.14 at 7:54 am

1. the parable is conveniently flexible enough to have a number of interpretations – my own inclination is that Jesus was pointing out that the Pharisees were quite willing to obey the Romans when it came to fighting the hellenistic Jews but would use anti-Roman sentiment for their own purposes. Strategic ambiguity on the Roman question, and such. Needless to say, right- and left-wing anarchists have also found ambiguity on the property question to be useful…

2. does ownership necessarily imply alienability instead of mere excludability? never mind self-ownership – what about tribal lands, etc.?

2

reason 10.02.14 at 8:21 am

david @1
Re alienability, I think you are correct, ownership is a legal configuration and doesn’t necessarily imply anything (not even excludability – think of rights of way).

3

John Quiggin 10.02.14 at 8:30 am

The relevant term here is “attenuation”. Ownership is a bundle of rights (use, exclusion, alienation) that can be split up in various ways. Unattenuated property rights have the whole bundle

4

Nick 10.02.14 at 9:42 am

I don’t think many libertarians would have a problem with a currency issuer also including some obligations to pay taxes or fees for those who choose to use that currency. The problem is that states generally don’t give you a choice of which currency to use. In fact, it sometimes looks more like the reverse claim is asserted: ‘You will pay taxes, therefore you must use this currency.’

Obviously, self-ownership doesn’t have to include unlimited rights to alienate yourself from your own body, and doesn’t for many libertarians, although Nozick flirted with the idea in some (but not his later) work.

5

reason 10.02.14 at 9:54 am

Nick @4,
so I take it you are quite OK for all contracts in another currency (to those of the local state) being uninforceable. Use Bitcoin at your own risk, eh?

6

John Quiggin 10.02.14 at 10:07 am

@4 There are certainly cases where the state demands money taxes as a way of forcing people into the money economy (hut taxes in Africa for example). Typically, this arises in the case of conquest, which creates injustice, abrogates existing property rights and so on. But of course, every extant system of property rights goes back to a conquest at some time in the past.

Looking at present-day reality, I don’t see a big effort by developed-country states to extract taxes from people (eg survivalists) who choose to live by a combination of subsistence production and barter, avoiding the money economy. In fact, I suspect many such people still manage to collect welfare checks of one kind or another. But this is of no help to your typical libertarian Harvard professor or techno-utopian. They want state money, state land titles, shares in state-chartered corporations and all the rest, but don’t want to pay the bill.

Nozick famously sought to exploit his state-created rights as a tenant under rent-control laws. Although he’s been criticised for this, it was exactly as inconsistent with his general position (no more and no less) as every other economic transaction he undertook, from cashing his salary checks to enjoying the protection of the police.

7

Nick 10.02.14 at 10:32 am

The choice shouldn’t be ‘our currency or no currency’. The state deprives people of a lot of reasonable exit options and alternative forms of governance, so it is not entirely fair to criticise libertarians for personally living within the state institutions and rules as offered. It would be equivalent to saying to immigrants concerned with some aspects of their new home ‘if you don’t like it, go back where you came from!”.

Customary property rights exist in the absence of the state. So its not true to say that the state is the sole and only contributor to the creation and protection of property. States certainly change the character of property, making some property claims much stronger and enforceable, and others much weaker.

8

Nick 10.02.14 at 10:42 am

“Nick @4,
so I take it you are quite OK for all contracts in another currency (to those of the local state) being uninforceable. Use Bitcoin at your own risk, eh?”

Sure. Unless the local state wanted more business; then it could charge a fee in return for adjudicating disputes.

9

Brett Bellmore 10.02.14 at 10:48 am

” It would be equivalent to saying to immigrants concerned with some aspects of their new home ‘if you don’t like it, go back where you came from!”.”

More like, telling them to go back where they came from, and stationing machine gun nests along the border to keep them from leaving. The state both claims the right to tax transactions in it’s currency, AND the right to ban transactions which aren’t in it’s currency.

Anyway, an unstated corollary to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” is that the former isn’t everything.

10

Ebenezer Scrooge 10.02.14 at 11:08 am

I’ll agree with John’s conclusion–“self-ownership” is a form of linguistic confusion. But then again, so is “ownership.” You start looking at “property” too closely, and you can’t come up with any generalizations about the concept. Alienability is only one of the generalizations that doesn’t work out, once you examine it.

True, lawyers have very precise property rules. But these rule only apply to some subset of property: chattels, realty, IP, bank deposits, securities, other intangibles, etc.

“Property” is more of a neurological concept than a logical one. I’m not kidding–dogs are territorial, and feel entitled to individual chattels. It’s not a fit concept for analysis.

11

John Quiggin 10.02.14 at 11:26 am

“Customary property rights exist in the absence of the state.”

As I’ve pointed out, this isn’t true in any relevant sense. State-created property rights can and do contradict customary rights in all sorts of ways. If they just ignore them, then the rights in question can’t be enforced and any attempt to do is a crime, breaching that state monopoly on violence. So, customary rights aren’t property rights in any way that counts, unless there is a rival/shadow state enforcing them. Gang territories for drug distribution provide a good example of this.

More importantly, as regards the Nozick argument, state recognition of property rights and taxation levied on those rights go hand in hand. Tips are legally recognized, and taxed; informal exchanges of favors are neither recognized and enforceable nor subject to taxation. And rival/shadow states must tax the property they create, just like other states

12

Salem 10.02.14 at 11:33 am

I think you’ve missed the point of the parable. If saying “yes” would have discredited Jesus, and he said “yes,” then why wasn’t he discredited?

The answer, of course, is that he never said “yes.” In particular, he never said the coin belonged to Caesar. From a Roman legal point of view, the tax payments belong to Caesar, but from a religious point of view, there is a higher law, that all things belong to God. So he gave a form of words acceptable both to the Romans and to the anti-Romans.

The same goes for your argument about property. Sure, if you think that all property is purely a creation of the state, then you can’t get too upset if the state demands some of it back by the same laws that created it. But if you think that state laws regarding property are (meant to be) just recognising and enforcing a higher law, then of course you can get upset if you think the state isn’t enforcing the higher law properly. Similarly to how freedom of speech is seen by some as a creation of the state and in some ways recognising a higher law. “That can’t be an abrogation of freedom of speech because it doesn’t violate the US First Amendment” is not an argument against people who view freedom of speech as a moral right that would be valid whether or not it was codified in the US constitution.

State-created and enforced property rights, including the associated taxation systems, are social institutions which may or may not contribute to socially just outcomes, but have no moral standing in themselves.

I’m afraid this appears to be not only your conclusion, but also your premise.

13

bob mcmanus 10.02.14 at 12:12 pm

Karen Armstrong on secularism guardian, 9/25

If the “Render Unto Caesar…” was an early attempt at secularism, the division of church and state, according to KA it would have been a millennium and half ahead of its time, and indeed more a marvel to the Pharisees than a simple recommendation that one should pay taxes. I suspect it was marveled at as a amazingly subtle call for resistance/rebellion, or at least the recognition that the Jewish state persisted under occupation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Render_unto_Caesar“>Wikipedia has some good points

“However, the remarkable proposition that using an authority’s money constitutes de facto subjection to that authority has no substance in law or custom historically, and it is unlikely Jesus would have endorsed this concept”

“It is inconceivable to me that Jesus would teach that some spheres of human activity lie outside the authority of God. Are we to heed Caesar when he says to go to war or support war-making when Jesus says in other places that we shall not kill? No!”

.[15]

“Mohandas K. Gandhi shared this perspective. He wrote:

Jesus evaded the direct question put to him because it was a trap. He was in no way bound to answer it. He therefore asked to see the coin for taxes. And then said with withering scorn, “How can you who traffic in Caesar’s coins and thus receive what to you are benefits of Caesar’s rule refuse to pay taxes?” Jesus’ whole preaching and practice point unmistakably to noncooperation, which necessarily includes nonpayment of taxes.”

Certainly under a fully commodified society, everybody and everything is owned, and property and the right-to-command can be dispensed by the social relations created and enforced by the state. I don’t think Marx left much out, for instance the feudal relations of the patriarchal family are a state enforced property rights. Many Modern Marxians have gone explicitly further. The division of the public and private, political and civil, private property and commons, state and family are mostly a bourgeois mechanism of control, of masking capitalist hegemony.

14

Barry 10.02.14 at 12:17 pm

“Yes. Jesus showed them a coin with the emperor’s head on the obverse and said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. And “when they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.””

A friend pointed out that Jesus used a third way here, rather than the two in which he was thought to be trapped. That coin was a graven image of a pagan god, and was therefore forbidden under Jewish law.

15

mdc 10.02.14 at 1:06 pm

If all things are God’s, it does not follow that no things are Caesar’s. “Belonging” is said in many ways.

16

Z 10.02.14 at 1:08 pm

The state both claims the right to tax transactions in it’s currency, AND the right to ban transactions which aren’t in it’s currency.

That’s not true at all of contemporary democratic states. As John correctly pointed out, very few democratic states actually bother to do anything about you if you don’t assert any of the rights they guarantee. Should you start claiming some of these rights (for instance by settling in some space and claiming it’s yours) then things degenerate quickly but as long as you mind your own business, they are usually just fine with it.

Also, John, I completely subscribe to your analysis of self-ownership, property rights etc. etc. but was this just a prompt, or was it meant seriously?

Of the three Jews […], Jesus is to me the most interesting

Really? I have just re-read the Gospels and I can’t believe you are coming to this conclusion. The “universal love” preaching is really vastly overblown: not only is it vanishingly small in size in the actual pronouncements of Jesus, but (more damningly) when it is invoked at all, it is very clearly not universal at all, but rather universal within the very select group of believers whereas the majority will suffer harshly for its incredulity (and that is repeated and repeated and repeated ad nauseam). I really don’t see the intellectual or ethical appeal of the Gospels at all (I don’t deny the plain religious appeal, though).

OK, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is pretty awesome but compared to the role of class in history? Come on.

17

jake the antisoshul soshulist 10.02.14 at 1:33 pm

Where does it place me, if I say, “all property was, at one point, stolen from the commons.” I agree that property and property rights are social conventions. But
to some extent, those social conventions predate homo sapiens, not just homo sapien history.

18

Ze Kraggash 10.02.14 at 2:03 pm

“Jesus’ point is just as valid if the coin is replaced by paper currency bearing the picture of a president, or rent from a land title issued by a state, or a dividend coupon from a corporation established under state law.”

Isn’t it possible that Jesus’ point, as interpreted by his most important follower, was simply that “the powers that be are ordained of God”? In which case his point is seriously outdated.

19

Sandwichman 10.02.14 at 3:26 pm

Marx most definitely didn’t confuse self ownership with property ownership. Posted previously on the Uncle Tom’s Cabin thread. JQ commented that it was uncannily close to his thoughts on the question.

“When the narrow-minded bourgeois says to the communists: by abolishing property, i.e., my existence as a capitalist, as a landed proprietor, as a factory-owner, and your existence as workers, you abolish my individuality and your own; by making it impossible for me to exploit you, the workers, to rake in my profit, interest or rent, you make it impossible for me to exist as an individual. — When, therefore, the bourgeois tells the communists: by abolishing my existence as a bourgeois, you abolish my existence as an individual; when thus he identifies himself as a bourgeois with himself as an individual, one must, at least, recognise his frankness and shamelessness. For the bourgeois it is actually the case, he believes himself to be an individual only insofar as he is a bourgeois.

“But when the theoreticians of the bourgeoisie come forward and give a general expression to this assertion, when they equate the bourgeois’s property with individuality in theory as well and want to give a logical justification for this equation, then this nonsense begins to become solemn and holy.

“Above ‘Stirner’ refuted the communist abolition of private property by first transforming private property into ‘having’ and then declaring the verb ‘to have’ an indispensable word, an eternal truth, because even in communist society it could happen that Stirner will ‘have’ a stomach-ache. In exactly the same way here his arguments regarding the impossibility of abolishing private property depend on his transforming private property into the concept of property, on exploiting the etymological connection between the words Eigentum and eigen and declaring the word eigen an eternal truth, because even under the communist system it could happen that a stomach-ache will be eigen to him. All this theoretical nonsense, which seeks refuge in etymology, would be impossible if the actual private property that the communists want to abolish had not been transformed into the abstract notion of ‘property’. This transformation, on the one hand, saves one the trouble of having to say anything, or even merely to know anything, about actual private property and, on the other hand, makes it easy to discover a contradiction in communism, since after the abolition of (actual) property it is, of course, easy to discover all sorts of things in communism which can be included in the concept ‘property’. In reality, of course, the situation is just the reverse. In reality I possess private property only insofar as I have something vendible, whereas what is peculiar to me [meine Eigenheit] may not be vendible at all. My frock-coat is private property for me only so long as I can barter, pawn or sell it, so long as it is marketable. If it loses that feature, if it becomes tattered, it can still have a number of features which make it valuable for me, it may even become a feature of me and turn me into a tatterdemalion. But no economist would think of classing it as my private property, since it does not enable me to command any, even the smallest, amount of other people’s labour. A lawyer, an ideologist of private property, could perhaps still indulge in such twaddle.”

20

Sandwichman 10.02.14 at 3:38 pm

According to Paul Burkett and myself, at least, Marx regarded labour-power as a “common-pool resource” (to use Elinor Ostrom’s terminology) and not as the “private property” of the individual worker.

21

CaptFamous 10.02.14 at 3:49 pm

The apocalyptic prophet view of Jesus could suggest that he meant “Render it unto Caesar, because the world is ending very soon and it doesn’t matter”.

22

CK MacLeod 10.02.14 at 6:52 pm

Our relationship to our bodies and thoughts, to our friends and family, and even to the objects we use in our daily life, is fundamentally distinct from the property rights we may, or may not, derive from, and have enforced by, states. That’s true even though the same grammatical structures (genitives and clitics) are used for both. This is most obvious from the fact that most (if not all) actually existing property rights in the world today can be traced back to systems which encompassed some form of slavery.

This assertion hardly seems self-evidently true. Going back to the classical origins of political science, and not in my view successfully overturned in the roughly 2,500 years since that time, the political-administrative state in whatever form (including the governments and laws of modern mass societies) can or must be viewed as an emanation of “friends and family.” The Savior’s distinction would refer to an authentically more fundamental distinction, proposing a human concept prior to and beyond any “Caesar’s” or any particular state’s phenomenal forms, but with implications for them.

23

MPAVictoria 10.02.14 at 6:59 pm

24

MPAVictoria 10.02.14 at 6:59 pm

Sorry wrong thread.

25

Will 10.02.14 at 7:17 pm

For me (and many others) Jesus is not being very helpful here, but it may be that the the story is intended less as guidance re payment of taxes (and participation in a given set of state-sanction/required economic arrangements) and more as commentary on the goals of the questioners.

As #13 points out: “Jesus evaded the direct question put to him because it was a trap. He was in no way bound to answer it.”

And further to Barry in #14: …and the fact that they had said coin on them incriminated them. This point may seem obvious, but in my experience it is not obvious to most people.

Not that the bad intentions of the questioners lets me or anyone else off the hook; we should in fact think hard about what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. For better or worse, the (other) goal of this story is probably to raise questions, not answer them.

26

Plume 10.02.14 at 7:24 pm

I don’t see the contradiction.

Taxation is an exchange, one in which the taxpayer receives far more (in goods and services) than he or she gives, and it’s not close. The formal relations of capitalism, the employer/employee dynamic, is theft, because a worker produces far more than he or she is paid (they are cheated out of fair trade and exchange), and the fruits of his or her labor are taken from the worker, who has no say so in the matter. Nozick and others of his ilk would say the worker can go elsewhere. But he or she would again be presented with the same dynamic, so there is no “choice” there.

@21,

I think that is essentially the case. At least if the folks at the Jesus Seminar are correct. And I think they have a lot going for them on that count.

27

Plume 10.02.14 at 7:33 pm

Of course, the whole idea of taxation is rather weird, if you really think about it. The state prints or coins the currency. Controls it, at least initially. Sets its value internationally, through trade and currency agreements, etc. etc. But instead of using it as it sees fit from the getgo, it sends it out into the wild through private banks, and then it asks for some of that to come back home. Some of it. It would make far more sense of it just held onto it and produced what the people needed and dealt directly with them — cutting out the (profit taking) middlemen.

As in: You already have all the resources you need to build a house. But the system says you have to send out all of your tangible (monetary) assets first, let them wind their way through the system, and eventually you’ll get some of those assets back. Percentages. Over time. You can’t build that house until you have accumulated enough of those percentages, over time, to finally reach the point where you were at the beginning.

Why go through all of that and delay or nullify would could and should be highly beneficial goods and services for all citizens?

28

Robespierre 10.02.14 at 8:45 pm

Self-ownership implies one has no duties to others, but most people would not subscribe to this. If someone passes by a drowning man, has he not a duty to throw a rope? If he passes a car accideny, has he not a duty to assist? Not merely in the sense that he’d be a nicer person, but that we would feel he had abdicated his basic respinsibilities towards fellow human beings if he didn’t? If we take the rights of man seriously, one’s rights are everybody else’s duties. If you want to call the fulfillment of these duties slavery, I won’t lose my sleep over it. We do have a personal duty to school every child, cure every sick person and keep the basic structures of industrial civilised society running. Be glad we don’t need to lend our own work personally but can pay someone else with taxes instead.

29

CaptFamous 10.02.14 at 10:21 pm

@27 – Taxation makes sense if you think of currency as a vessel for value, instead of value itself.

Say you grow potatoes, and you want to trade them for tomatoes from the tomato guy. He doesn’t really care for potatoes, so he’ll trade at 4-1. However, you know that he really likes radishes, and the radish guy likes potatoes, so you can trade the potatoes for radishes, and then radishes for potatoes and get a better deal. But he knows that the eggplant guy loves tomatoes, and the radish guy likes eggplant more than he likes tomatoes, so if he pulls the eggplant guy in, he’ll get a better deal.

This continues on, as they are rational barterers, and in the end, there will be no solution superior to a negotiation that includes every single food grower in the society (some may be just as good, in the event that there is a subset of products that everyone else agrees are worse than the rest, but it won’t be better. This is a mathematical fact).

What currency is, is a service/commodity that provides an assured vessel for value. The nation assures it’s value (within parameters; inflation, etc.) in exchange for a service fee (taxation).

Importantly, especially for your question, in order for the currency to have value, it has to be circulated. Currency represents value relative to it’s utility, i.e. the volume of ways it can be used. If it is too rare, it’s value becomes too high relative to the things it might be used on (it lacks liquidity), so in order for it to be useful, it needs to be in high circulation.

So in short, the government gives out a thing of value, because it is only a thing of value if it is given out.

30

Brett Bellmore 10.02.14 at 11:21 pm

According to Wikipedia, the tax rate in the Roman Empire ranged from 2-5%. Granted, in a pre-industrial civilization even a few percent could tip you over the edge given the poor productivity, but this suggests that “what was Caesar’s” was very little indeed.

31

Plume 10.03.14 at 12:05 am

@29,

But the government could just as easily skip over that cumulative process and save a few centuries in the bargain. It could just set the “price” for something and match it up with its own coinage.

One car equals 100 doubloons. There. Done. The entire thing is arbitrary anyway, and a fiction, so why not just control the fiction? All that’s really going on, even in your scenario with the potatoes and tomatoes, is “agreement.” Eventual, generally slow and laborious agreement on fictions. Or, rather, representation of values according to agreed upon fictions. We’ve just grown so used to the whole thing, we think it’s something real, natural even, an unchangeable structure and relationship.

But even these fictions change, as do values over time. The government could easily take the tiger by the tale and go direct. Save postage, etc.

32

Aaron 10.03.14 at 12:33 am

I wonder what co-blogger Chris has to say about this, given the position he takes in “Property in the Moral Life of Human Beings.”

33

Nick 10.03.14 at 1:05 am

@28 Self-ownership only implies that you don’t come into this world with positive duties to help others. Which I think makes sense, as you hardly have any natural capabilities either. In context and in practice, you may have an awful lot of positive duties, some of which are legally enforceable.

34

Brett 10.03.14 at 5:02 am

@31 Plume

One car equals 100 doubloons. There. Done. The entire thing is arbitrary anyway, and a fiction, so why not just control the fiction?

If there were no incentives and exchange aside from what the state creates, then that might be the case. As is, there are always incentives and exchange outside of what the state creates, hence the existence of black markets even in the most heavily socialistic countries (Soviet Union, North Korea). You can try and set an official price and even try and enforce it, but the incentives of the people in question can easily make a joke of your efforts (see Venezuela and its attempts to set the prices of goods and exchange rate of its currency).

The benefit of capitalism is that it aligns better than any other economic system with the good incentives and exchanges (especially if you create institutions like property rights and legally protected markets), while still allowing you to do your best to crack down on the bad ones that are simply unacceptable (like human slavery). Socialist efforts to simply set fiat prices and exchange tend to be much less flexible and aligned with what people actually want to do.

35

Plume 10.03.14 at 5:48 am

Brett,

There have never been any “socialistic” nations in the modern world. North Korea and the Soviet Union have and had state capitalism, not socialism. I’ve posted it before, but Chomsky spells this out very well. Will link to it rather than have it appear across the screen. Chomsky on the misuse of the word, socialism

If either country had instituted the real deal, which means actual democracy, including the economy, including each and every workplace, and the people actually own the means of production, rather than a political party or dictator . . . then black markets are unnecessary. And that would be “socialism.”

As for capitalism. Its incentives are the worst of the worst, because they work primarily to concentrate money at the very top, stealing it from workers, consumers and extracting it from the earth without regard for the future, sustainability, pollution or waste. The incentives are to make as much money right now as possible, for ownership, for the people at the very top, which means they must pay the workforce the lowest amount they can get away with . . . . and it means they make more the more they cut costs, so they have every incentive in the world to screw over consumers, the workforce and the earth.

Profits and high executives salaries also add needless costs to society, and amount to far bigger “taxes” on each and every citizen than the government could even dream of.

Throw in executive golden parachutes, shareholder dividends, unsold merchandise costs, ads, marketing, tax avoidance staffing, and you get this huge bureaucracy which adds zero value to the good or service for the consumer . . . while stealing wages from employees.

Sorry, but capitalism is theft and exploitation, built on theft and exploitation, and all of its incentives point in that direction.

36

Plume 10.03.14 at 7:03 am

It’s really frustrating to constantly hear conservatives go to the Soviet Union well, or the North Korean well, when the subject turns to capitalism and its alternatives. They want so badly for those autocratic, dictatorial systems to be taken for actual socialism, that they completely miss the gargantuan differences. There are few things further apart in this world than socialist theory and the reality that was the Soviet Union, or China now, or NK now, or Cuba now, etc. etc. Why conservatives think that the socialist alternative would necessary have to be just like those state capitalist systems is bizarre . . . . especially when the context and times are so different.

Take any system and implement it under different conditions and you’ll get different results. The bigger the difference in conditions, the bigger the difference in results.

It’s 2014. Attempt real socialism here, in America, and it won’t be on the same planet as 1917 Russia, or any of the years that followed. And, America, unlike Russia in 1917, won’t be subject to an international embargo, widespread sabotage and the stoking of civil war fires by Western powers. Marx said don’t start socialist revolution in a poor, backward nation. Start it in a nation in the mature capitalist phase. He also said don’t do it in isolation. Do it together with many countries, in solidarity. This would prevent an effective backlash.

America has generally been the nation which crushes leftist populist revolts around the world. If it is the initiator of that kind of revolution, it won’t face what weaker nations faced. America won’t have to fear American sabotage, suppression, etc.

37

Brett 10.03.14 at 7:14 am

@Plume

There have never been any “socialistic” nations in the modern world. North Korea and the Soviet Union have and had state capitalism, not socialism.

If we’re going to play the No True Scotsman game with Socialism, then I could just as easily say there’s never been a true version of Capitalism in the world. It’s always been mixed economies with a combination of legacy feudalism, capitalism, various arrangements of regulatory bodies and public ownership, and so forth.

I don’t see how socialism is intrinsically tied to democracy – the early communists in the late 19th century/early 20th century certainly didn’t seem to think so, hence the whole “bourgeois freedoms” insult.

If either country had instituted the real deal, which means actual democracy, including the economy, including each and every workplace, and the people actually own the means of production, rather than a political party or dictator . . . then black markets are unnecessary. And that would be “socialism.”

I don’t buy that. Suppose you have a local council that makes the decision on what to produce and who gets to consume, democratically elected or even run direct democracy style. What they choose to vote for as a majority may and probably will not align with what all the individuals in that group may necessarily want to produce or consume either then or later on, so you’ll get side markets and specialization on any group larger than a few dozen people (where it’s small enough that social pressure and the constant gossipy closeness can keep people more in line).

As for capitalism. Its incentives are the worst of the worst, because they work primarily to concentrate money at the very top, stealing it from workers, consumers and extracting it from the earth without regard for the future, sustainability, pollution or waste.

Capitalism and markets operate off what they can price. If there’s no price on dumping waste into the river, then waste might get dumped in the river unless you have other constraints (like rules with punishment) that impose an implicit price for doing so.

The incentives are to make as much money right now as possible, for ownership, for the people at the very top, which means they must pay the workforce the lowest amount they can get away with . . . . and it means they make more the more they cut costs, so they have every incentive in the world to screw over consumers, the workforce and the earth.

If they thought everyone was going to die tomorrow, then you might be correct. However, we live in a world in a world where people can actually see your behavior and respond accordingly by avoiding you in most markets if you consistently screw over your employees and customers. That pushes at least some companies into more ethical behavior, although admittedly the rise of more short-term investments is harming that (but that’s just a particular arrangement of what we permit in terms of finance, not any broad indictment of capitalism). Hell, even in shadow economies where there is literally no way to hold anyone accountable if they decide to cheat you other than avoiding patronizing their businesses, we see some reliable firms and marketplaces emerge.

Profits and high executives salaries also add needless costs to society, and amount to far bigger “taxes” on each and every citizen than the government could even dream of.

There’s nothing needless about profits. They’re the signal saying this is something that will pay you more than what you put into the enterprise if you do this activity right now, and in company terms they’re the other side of the exchange as compared to wages (in firms where employees are being paid wages for work). No profits, and the exchange doesn’t happen – and the output that workers are supposedly not being paid in full for doesn’t exist at all.

As for executive salaries, it’s whatever the combination of taxation, power within the firm, and the minimum amount that your executives have to be paid otherwise they jump ship and go do something else. Same as other workers.

38

Brett 10.03.14 at 7:21 am

@Plume

Why conservatives think that the socialist alternative would necessary have to be just like those state capitalist systems is bizarre . . . . especially when the context and times are so different.

Why do you keep expecting the situation with capitalist economies to be the same everywhere then? Capitalism in 2014 is not capitalism in 1980, is not capitalism in 1960 and not capitalism in 1880.

That said, the Soviet, Warsaw Pact, and North Korean regimes get the attention because they’re the only real case examples of country-size economies that actually did try out some of the precepts of socialism at the time across the entire economy: they did try to erase private property, they did try to liquidate rentiers and eliminate all the aspects of the capitalist system (such as firms), at least at first.

Whereas most of the socialistic experiments we’ve seen in democratic countries all happened in otherwise capitalistic systems. Even the nationalizations in the 1940s and 1950s in western European countries didn’t change that. If you could point to an economy that’s actually doing well under full socialism and democracy (and especially any country that isn’t some tiny 1000-person crowd), be my guest.

39

John Quiggin 10.03.14 at 7:45 am

Brett @30 Low or high tax rates make no difference to Nozick. On his argument, 2 or 5 per cent taxation is still slavery, as he notes explicitly.

40

John Quiggin 10.03.14 at 8:02 am

Responding to (what I take to be) Chris’ argument, I’m not asserting that property (in the linguistic sense of anything to which I can prefix the word “my”) is inherently state-derived. Just that all actually existing property rights subject to taxation are derived from and enforced by states (normally the same states that levy the taxes).

41

Brett Bellmore 10.03.14 at 9:48 am

“It’s really frustrating to constantly hear conservatives go to the Soviet Union well, or the North Korean well, when the subject turns to capitalism and its alternatives. They want so badly for those autocratic, dictatorial systems to be taken for actual socialism, “

It’s somewhat frustrating to constantly hear liberals run from the Soviet Union well, or the North Korean well, when the subject turns to capitalism and its alternatives. They so want socialism to not have produced autocratic, dictatorial systems everywhere it’s been tried.

Or at least for people to forget that until they’ve created the latest autocratic, dictatorial system, and they can execute the people who suddenly remember.

42

Ze Kraggash 10.03.14 at 1:45 pm

Empirically, though, those who experienced both the Soviet Union and its actually-existing liberal-democratic-capitalist alternative in Russia and Central Asia, overwhelmingly prefer the Soviet Union. 10-15 years ago I’ve seen amazing numbers, like 75%. Now it’s more like 60%, but by now a lot them only know post-Soviet life.

43

Ronan(rf) 10.03.14 at 1:49 pm

“It’s somewhat frustrating to constantly hear liberals run from the Soviet Union well, or the North Korean well, when the subject turns to capitalism and its alternatives. They so want socialism to not have produced autocratic, dictatorial systems”

Not being smart, but do you know what a LIBERAL is ?

44

Aaron 10.03.14 at 1:58 pm

“In each case the argument can be met by showing that the relevant condition can be satisfied to a sufficient degree in the absense of the state. This is not to deny that states might be very useful or desirable ways of satisfying these conditions, but it is to deny that they are necessary for this.” – (Betram, 2013)

He then goes on to make such a sufficiency argument in ways that apply to actually existing property rights, which I will not quote at length here. So, I’m not sure that you answer Chris’ argument, I take his argument to be applicable to actually existing property rights.

However, couldn’t Nozick just say that actually existing property rights are bad, in so much as they are derived from and enforced by the state. If you can’t establish the necessity of property rights as always derived from and enforced by the state, you can’t really do anything to Nozick’s argument.

A reductio I think is in order here.
All actually existing rights to life and liberty are derived from and enforced by the state
These states also regularly kill and imprison people
Therefore, all state killing and imprisonment is necessarily justified.

I’m very hopeful that you reject this conclusion and am curious how you do so while preserving the argument regarding taxes and property.

45

Brett Bellmore 10.03.14 at 2:05 pm

“Not being smart, but do you know what a LIBERAL is ?”

Sure, the intellectual decendents of Fabian socialists who noticed that “liberal” was popular, so they nicked the name off the actual liberals, who we must now refer to as “classical liberals” to avoid confusing them with people who largely disdain liberty.

Something like what Jack Balkin is trying to pull off with “originalist” right now.

46

jben 10.03.14 at 2:34 pm

Yeah, sure. Everyone on the left hates freedom and wants to herd the populace into gulags.

You know what, Bellmore? Fuck you. I am in no mood to take lectures on freedom from someone who just yesterday called for the execution of women who have late term abortions. Your definition of “freedom” is something I want nothing to do with. It is so twisted as to beggar belief.

47

ZM 10.03.14 at 3:02 pm

Brett Bellmore,

“Sure, the intellectual decendents of Fabian socialists who noticed that “liberal” was popular, so they nicked the name off the actual liberals, who we must now refer to as “classical liberals” to avoid confusing them with people who largely disdain liberty.”

This odd course of changing the meanng of the word liberal you outline is mostly specific to the US – in Australia we have 2 main parties Liberal versus Labor – so we kept the former use here *

In terms of China and Russia having very top down rulling methods after the revolutions rather than participatory governance – I think there were still large proportions of peasants in both countries and I don’t think education and literacy was widespread til sometime afterwards. Hu Shi who wrote ‘enough talk about isms – more talk about problems’ was one of the proponents of a vernacular modern chinese – because old Chinese was very difficult and formal. When England had such a high proportion of peasants – when the peasants were very upset and angry with their treatment they wanted to move the parliament back to Winchester from Westminster and go back to king Alfred’s laws instead of the Normans – I don’t think widespread wishing for voting rights in parliament was a big concern in England until the peasants had all their common land enclosed by the parliament and then they had to work in miserable conditions in cities or in mines etc So then there was more of an endeavour to be educated and get to vote in parliamentary elections so as to try to get the parliament and factory and mine companies to stop treating them so cruely. But the culture and course of events was different in Russia snd China .

Perhaps you might be right – it might be counterproductive to have some sort of ideal state of capitalism or ideal state of communism as a focus of discussion . We have very complicated laws and practices now – so maybe it is better if we just concentrate on specific laws and practices and what reforms need to be made for the good and to have a nice sustainable way of living for everyone to pass down through the generations to come.

So then someone might say to you, since you are always displeased with laws – how can we have some laws and practices to take care of poor or ill people, and to care for nature, for without protection things can get very bad indeed? And you might say very grudgingly – we could have some sort of laws like this perhaps ——-, but we must be careful not to have great corruption by government and law makers and the military etc etc You must remember we also need to have some laws and practices to prevent all this awful corruption and cruelty by people holding authoritative positions in our social institutions.

Then you could work out some reforms for laws and practices in a timely sort of manner without getting sidetracked by discussions of what ideal capitalism or ideal communism are/would be.

*sometimes we say “small l liberals” to mean the sort of person called liberal in the US.

48

CaptFamous 10.03.14 at 3:22 pm

All the way back @31,

1. What do you mean, “fictions”? Is perceived value fictitious because you can’t touch it with your hand?

2. How does the government make these determinations? Isn’t that a bit tyrannical to arbitrarily tell everyone the value of things?

3. I agree that currency as a utility has been badly exploited. Like many commodities (e.g. diamonds), it’s been hoarded to manipulate it’s value. Unlike diamonds, instead of driving up price, hoarding has driven inflation, which devalues the currency of those not capable of storing an excess that they can use to invest to allow their assets to keep pace with growth, while the hoarders simultaneously can invest in excess to grow their portfolio above total growth.

My view is that taxation (in addition to being a “service fee” for guaranteeing the value of the currency) should serve to counteract the benefits of hoarding currency. And as crazy as they may have looked on paper, the historical tax rates in the US from the mid century (top bracket: 70-90%) were apparently a good representation of that advantage, given how the wealth gap has exploded since their abolition.

49

Plume 10.03.14 at 3:41 pm

Brett @41,

I’ve corrected you before on this. I’m not a liberal. I’m far, far to the left of liberal. Contrary to the usual American ideas that politics runs the gamut only from A to B, there is a great deal of political geography to the left of liberal (center-left). I’m what would better be described as “far left,” and a strident anti-capitalist, as you can see from my writings.

Liberals are not anti-capitalists, or they wouldn’t be liberals. They are not egalitarians, or they wouldn’t be liberals. They also aren’t socialists, or they would be socialists, not liberals. I get into almost as many arguments with liberals on economic matters as I do with conservatives. And I remember the discussions from the other direction as well, because I used to be a liberal, but moved leftward over time.

There is a huge distinction between liberal and Marxist as well. Basically, I draw heavily from Marxism, Ecosocialism, some aspects of left-Anarchism, wrapped up in radical, egalitarian democracy. I’m a socialist, with those other aspects included. Liberals are well to my right. You are even further to my right.

Oh, and the folks who have “nicked” the term, “liberal,” are you and your ilk. It was “liberal” for a very brief moment in time to expand access and deregulate markets, back in the 18th century, because they were controlled primarily by the aristocracy and very small groups of selected “merchants.” But in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is business owners and business interests which are the aristocracy now, so when they “liberalize” the markets, they’re stomping on workers, consumer and the earth even more and piling up more and more riches for themselves. It’s not “liberal” to do that. It’s despicable.

Conservatives are forever belated. You always take the wrong side in any power dynamic and can be counted on that. As in, you always take the side of the powerful against the powerless, to boil things down. That’s not “liberal,” much less like those of us much further to the left than liberal.

50

Plume 10.03.14 at 3:55 pm

To boil things down further, one marker of the left/right spectrum is this. The degree to which inequality and social injustice is acceptable, or the amount of it, or the support of it. The degree to which it is unacceptable, the percentage accepted, the fight to rid the world of it.

The further left you go, the less willing you are to put up with inequality or social injustice. The far left being basically egalitarian and anti-capitalist. The center left being basically concerned with the middle class, pro-capitalist, but desirous of mitigating some of its worst effects. The center-left also seeks to help the poor, but without attempting to get rid of class divisions. The far left wants to rid us of those divisions entirely and make social justice and equality the norm, the default.

The right side of the aisle is fine about inequality. In general, it sees this as “natural.” And it’s most concerned that any attempt to reduce inequality would take away their stuff. Mine mine mine!!! is the battle cry of the right — and it’s almost exclusively from the point of view of the haves, not the have nots. The right fears any push to share resources, even a little bit (liberalism), and is positively hysterically in fear of sharing things a lot (the far left).

51

Ronan(rf) 10.03.14 at 4:26 pm

Brett @45 – you’re a weird dude. Weird but wonderful. A vast repository of right wing talking points and insane horses**t.

52

Ronan(rf) 10.03.14 at 4:27 pm

I’ll put in a ; ) , as I’m joking really

53

Robespierre 10.03.14 at 5:31 pm

To be fair, I think John Quiggin is committing a sort of sleight of hand here, which reminds me of Hobbes’. Just because a government might be necessary to avoid society descending into chaos and to guarantee rights – in this case, property – it doesn’t follow that one must accept any imposition from the government, including arbitrarily high taxes. (I do not agree with such a position, but it is more straightforward than Jesus-based word tricks).

54

John Quiggin 10.03.14 at 7:13 pm

@Robespierre I think you are one committing the sleight of hand. I never said anything about arbitrarily high taxes, let alone “any imposition from government”. The fact that self-ownership is a nonsense means that our rights to personal freedom aren’t property rights, and exist independently from state-created systems of property.

It’s Nozick who asserts that taxation in any form, and at any rate, is equivalent to slavery, which has the corollary that if you accept one, you have no business objecting to the other.

55

Plume 10.03.14 at 7:21 pm

Again, taxation is just payment for goods and services already rendered, and for future goods and services to come. And the math works out, due to the generational (and spatial) nature of taxation, to work in the public’s favor. Overwhelmingly.

Just one mile of roadway, for example, costs in the neighborhood of one million dollars, give or take, depending upon obstacles, etc. Yet we citizens typically travel tens of thousands of miles, at least, per decade, and likely more than 100,000. And in our entire lives as taxpayers, the vast majority of us are likely to cover the costs of less than half a mile. Add to this schools, libraries, museums, national parks, hospitals, airports, inspections, police, firefighters, EMT, courts, etc. etc.. the Internet itself . . . . and there isn’t any contest.

We pay far far less in taxes as individuals than we receive in public goods and services. And it’s not close. Yes, it could be a lot better still, if we spent tax dollars with more care and wisdom, but even with all the boneheaded decisions in play, it’s still a remarkable deal.

Slavery? Well, that would be Nozick’s beloved capitalism, not taxation.

56

Barry 10.03.14 at 7:33 pm

jben 10.03.14 at 2:34 pm

“You know what, Bellmore? Fuck you. I am in no mood to take lectures on freedom from someone who just yesterday called for the execution of women who have late term abortions. Your definition of “freedom” is something I want nothing to do with. It is so twisted as to beggar belief.”

Seconding this. If Brett had enough honesty to like a match, it’d be different, but he doesn’t.

57

Ze Kraggash 10.03.14 at 8:25 pm

“We pay far far less in taxes as individuals than we receive in public goods and services.”

It depends. You also pay for things you may not want at all: thousands of nuclear warheads, for example. Wars. And it’s not just the money, they can even use you for cannon fodder, any time they want. All things considered, it’s not obvious that the highway is worth it. Even if you do feel it’s a great deal, it certainly wouldn’t be irrational to have the opposite opinion. Depends on one’s priorities and circumstances.

58

Brett 10.03.14 at 10:28 pm

I tend to think of myself as a mostly modern liberal, but perhaps my beliefs on inequality make me a conservative. I just tend to see it as inevitable in groups of people above a few hundred in number. It becomes impossible to govern effectively through direct democracy, so you end up with representatives who have greater relative power versus the people who elect them, and so forth. Even worse is that it doesn’t scale linearly – the bigger your society gets, the more and more specialists and managers of various sorts you need just to manage the complexity.

59

Plume 10.03.14 at 11:40 pm

Ze @57,

Yes. We pay for a lot of rotten shit, too. No question. Wars at the drop of a hat, the surveillance state, our reactionary drug policy, our incarceration system (highest percentage in the world per capita), coups against leftists in the developing world, the propping up of right-wing dictators, endless bailouts of capitalism, decade after decade after decade. Trillions wasted, often for truly despicable things. I wish none of that had ever happened. I don’t want to pay a penny toward any of it.

But even with that, we still receive more in social good than we pay for. Take away the trillions wasted on the rotten shit, and the deal becomes so much greater. The potential is there for an amazing exchange, primarily because of the collective model, the generational payment model, the spatial payment model and the shared results. We’ve never fully taken advantage of this. But it’s there for the taking.

60

Ned Netterville 10.04.14 at 1:22 am

Wow! Lots of fuzzy thinking here, but let’s start with Mr. Quiggin’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ words during the render-unto-Caesar incident, which is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (Ch. 20), Mark (Ch. 12) and Luke (Ch. 20). The three Evangelists’ reports are similar, differing only in a few minor details. Only Luke explains the design of the “trap” set for Jesus by asking him whether or not is was lawful (according to God’s law) to pay Caesar’s tax. Mark adds to the question, making it even more volatile, “Should we pay or should we not?” The purpose of the question, according to Luke, was “To trap him in his words so as to hand him over to the power and authority of the governor (Pilate).” There was no intent to discredit Jesus if he said yes, because his enemies knew Jesus the man very well and knew he would never endorse Caesar’s tax or tell others to pay it.

Jesus’ brilliant response was so clear as to defy misinterpretation. Only someone who deifies the state would think Jesus’ response meant, “yes, pay Caesar tax.” Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar means give Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Period! End of misinterpreting. Jesus said what he meant and meant what he said. His statement is the absolute truth regarding how one is to treat the property of others. Give their property back to them! His statement had nothing to do with the coin, which belonged to whoever produced it from his purse–not Caesar. And his statement clearly didn’t mean pay Caesar’s tax. On the contrary, it was a brilliant call to resist Caesar’s tax. “If you have nothing belonging to Caesar, give him nothing.” His retort also made the point that nothing belongs to Caesar, because everything Caesar possessed was acquired in violation of God’s law by force or violence through plunder, slavery and taxation, and thus was not legally his.

Calling for his enemies to produce the coin was also brilliant, for it caused them to commit blasphemy–in the Temple precincts no less–by producing the coin with its graven image of Tiberius and the caption, “son of the divine Augustus.” Even though his response effectively said exactly what his enemies hoped he would say. they couldn’t use his words to against him before Pilate because Pilate would probably think his words were an endorsement of Caesar’s tax, just as Mr. Quiggin and so many other misinterpreters of Jesus have mistakenly thought.

For all you sociopaths, er, socialists, who think taxes are payment for some benefits earlier provided by the divine state, I hope you pay your taxes to Jesus for all of the benefits you have received as a result of his (not Christianity’s) principles, which he freely bequeathed to you and upon which some of your benevolent ancestor built Western civilization.

Taxes are extortion. They depend on force or coercion. Nothing good ever comes of them. They rob the taxpayer and they utterly emasculate the honesty and integrity of those who collect and consume them. I refer to the proceeds as OPM–sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for Other People’s Money–forcibly extorted.

61

John Quiggin 10.04.14 at 3:04 am

@60 Wow! That clever Jesus, fooling not only Pilate but all the early Christians from Paul onwards, only to have his true meaning discerned by the followers of Ayn Rand. I guess, having had his name invoked in so many Holy Wars, he must be used to this kind of thing by now, or would be if he were still around.

62

Plume 10.04.14 at 3:48 am

Mr. Quiggin,

He’s called Supply Side Jesus. That’s the right’s version of him. The far more likely scenario is that he was a communist before the word was coined. Shared everything. Despised money and wealth. Despised the rich. Went from town to town with nothing more than the robe on his back, repeatedly told his would-be followers that no one could join him unless they gave away all of their earthly possessions, and on more than a few occasions, he denounced even the idea of a family.

Jesus (and the old Jewish patriarchs) repeatedly condemned the rich, and said they could never get into heaven. That they had no chance. But, the religious right conveniently ignores all of that, concentrating instead on bigotry toward gay people and contraception — two things Jesus never, ever mentions. As an atheist, secular humanist, egalitarian socialist, I’m far closer to his vision, philosophically and ethically, than any right-wing “Christian” could ever hope to be. And it’s not close.

He was a DFH in today’s vernacular, the kind of person that Ayn Rand lovers would spit on and mock.

63

John Quiggin 10.04.14 at 5:00 am

@Plume I’d never heard of Supply Side Jesus before! Thanks to you, and to Ned N for showing that he really is an object of belief. CT is such fun.

64

allen govind 10.04.14 at 5:15 am

Good argument, perhaps academically. It is mostly history, over time a system has evolved for human to live like human does. Money is important it makes the world go round. There is no exploitation but a race. There is the employer, he tells you that he is providing a living for the workers in doing he has a responsibility to fulfill. He can also tell you that he is a worker too. There are the unemployed, they are looking for work and they will approach the employer for work. According to circumstances They will do anything for an honest living. The worker themselves, either they are satisfied of there situation or they want more. There are three things that freedom allows them to do: Leave and perished, ask for more, which we always want. We get it or we do not and the third thing is to becoming the employer themselves and so it revolves.
Work and working for money is perhaps the most fundamental pillar in the making of human. If one steels, he still has to work for it, though ones income is viewed as illegal. If one has money and makes the money work for him, the difference.’as simple as that.

65

Plume 10.04.14 at 5:52 am

I’m not sure about the original original, but I bumped into the term from ol’ Al Franken, before he became a senator.

The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus

66

Ze Kraggash 10.04.14 at 9:51 am

Plume “But even with that, we still receive more in social good than we pay for. “

It’s a judgement call, I hope you realize. Not a universal law, applicable to every society from the Roman empire to American.

67

MPAVictoria 10.04.14 at 3:47 pm

Ze Kraggash the contrarian strikes again…..

/Yawn.

68

Plume 10.04.14 at 4:00 pm

Ze,

Well, I was talking about America, not ancient Rome. Wasn’t trying to make any claims for earlier societies.

Of course, Europe gives an even better deal than we do. Actually, a much, much better deal. Germany just announced, for instance, no more college tuition charges, and most of the European Union is on that same page. And that’s one great place to spend tax dollars. Rather than our government spending trillions on surveillance, drug wars, wars in general, private contractors for the jail system, etc. . . . we should make public university and trade schools free for everyone.

69

Brett Bellmore 10.04.14 at 4:35 pm

““We pay far far less in taxes as individuals than we receive in public goods and services.””

I’m not at all certain how a claim like this can even make sense, let alone be true, in as much as “we” includes people who receive vastly different amounts of public goods and services, and people who pay hugely different amounts in taxes.

Seriously, “we” includes people who get a lot in public goods and services, and pay next to no taxes, and people who pay hundreds of thousands of times more taxes than the average individual, but still only use one road at a time when they drive.

No, I’d have to rate this claim as utter BS if meant as a general proposition, rather than just being true of some individuals.

70

CaptFamous 10.04.14 at 4:48 pm

@60 – Ned, the similarity of the accounts in the three gospels would be quite a strong point of evidence for their veracity, if not for the fact that there’s a very good reason for it.

71

MPAVictoria 10.04.14 at 4:49 pm

“No, I’d have to rate this claim as utter BS if meant as a general proposition, rather than just being true of some individuals.”

Public health measures alone are worth every cent and that is forgetting roads, power, government funded research and so on.

Count me on Plume’s side. For what we get in return taxes are a steal.

72

Plume 10.04.14 at 5:17 pm

Brett @69,

The richer you are, the more you take in public goods and services. The system is set up to protect your property first, and if you’re a business owner, you get first dibs on police, fire, EMT, courts, military protection, trade and currency supports, plus R and D. Our government has spent literally trillions of taxpayer dollars bailing out businesses and the capitalist system for well over a century, and has spent ginormous sums of taxpayer dollars promoting, propping up, protecting, defending and expanding businesses (and the capitalist system) all over the world.

Business is the business of the American government, and always has been. Wealthcare is one of its top priorities, at all times, if not the top priority.

Read the seminal and essential The Making of Global Capitalism, by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, for the history on that.

Also, really rich people have all kinds of ways to cut their taxes. Romney, for instance, in the one tax return he let us see, paid just 14% on 14 million in “earnings.” It’s logical that he withheld all those other (requested) years because he paid far less or nothing at all.

Oh, and the rich live longer than the rest of us, so they have more time to take advantage of public works, goods and services. Sorry, but virtually every single American pays substantially less than they receive in public works, goods and services, and the rich get the best deal of all.

73

Plume 10.04.14 at 5:19 pm

Mr. Quiggin,

I tried twice to post a response to Brett’s comment, with both going instantly into mod. First time I could see I had messed up on the link to a book, but the second time I left that out. Would appreciate an explanation regarding your criteria for comments. Thanks in advance.

74

Ze Kraggash 10.04.14 at 5:21 pm

Plume, in the places where taxation is obviously beneficial to a vast majority of the population, I’m sure it generates little or no controversy, which also makes it unnecessary to spend ink convincing people that taxation is natural and good for them.

75

Plume 10.04.14 at 5:47 pm

Ze @75,

But that’s the point. It is highly beneficial on balance for the vast majority in America, but one of the organizing principles of the conservative movement is to completely dismiss that self-evident fact and foment “controversy” whenever possible. The idea of cutting or eliminating taxes is the life-blood of that movement, despite the obvious benefits of the public sector model.

(Again, we should make major changes in where and how we allocate tax dollars. No question. That seems self-evident, too. But the model itself is magical.)

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Brett Bellmore 10.04.14 at 6:00 pm

I think the point is that government spending is subject to diminishing returns. The first little increment can be fabulously worth while, the next increment obviously beneficial, the next on the whole worth it, then you get into a large plateau where it’s pretty much a wash, producing no more benefit than the cost.

Eventually you get into the downward slope, where the benefit is less than the cost, and then into expenditures where the ‘benefit’ is actually negative, and you’d be better off if the money had been buried instead of spent.

The problem with ‘progressive’ taxation is that it, (By design!) makes expenditures which are a net loss to society politically feasible, by concentrating the costs on a minority of the population. You could levy a billion dollar tax, spend half of it digging and refilling holes, and if you took the billion dollars from a half dozen people, and paid 10,000 people a nice wage for doing the digging, it would be a clear political winner, even though it was an utter and total waste of resources. A lot of government spending is like that: It does produce winners, because somebody gets paid, but the net cost to society is greater than the benefit. We all get poorer for it, but progressive taxation conceals this in the immediate instance.

Of course, whenever somebody points this out, the automatic response is to bring up something in the first or second category, and totally blow off the idea of diminishing returns.

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Plume 10.04.14 at 6:08 pm

Brett,

Again, my response is in mod. Don’t know why.

Boiled down: The people who receive the most for their tax dollars in America? The rich. And it’s not at all close.

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Brett Bellmore 10.04.14 at 6:09 pm

I should add that government spending isn’t the only thing subject to diminishing returns. Virtually everything is. It’s just that most things aren’t deliberately organized to hide this.

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Brett Bellmore 10.04.14 at 6:10 pm

“The people who receive the most for their tax dollars in America? The rich. And it’s not at all close.”

Well, that’s true, if you make a tautology of it. Not really otherwise.

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MPAVictoria 10.04.14 at 6:34 pm

“Well, that’s true, if you make a tautology of it. Not really otherwise.”

The rich only exist embedded in the society they are a part of. Money is after all just paper.

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Plume 10.04.14 at 6:35 pm

It’s true. Read The Making of Global Capitalism. We’ve spent trillions of tax dollars to promote, protect, defend, bail out and expand business/capital here and across the world. That alone tips the scales a billion times over. Not to mention R and D, the courts, virtual and physical infrastructure, trade and currency deals, loans, guarantees, subsidies, etc. etc.

Wealthcare is the primary business of the American state. The rich receive far, far more in public goods and services than the rest of us combined.

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Sandwichman 10.04.14 at 6:43 pm

@60: Oh thank you, thank you, Ned Netterville for giving me the opportunity to post one of the great atheist rants of all time by James Thomson:

“Try to fancy poor Jesus, for example, coming to life again (actually, not doctrinally), and learning that he was the founder, the teacher, the exemplar, the very God of Christendom; fancy him searching for some trait of his own life and ruling principles in the lives and ruling principles of the millions who call themselves Christians; fancy him in spiritual communion with the Pope, the cardinals, the bishops (though their lackeys would never admit him to the presence of any of these), the most prominent ministers of the various Christian sects. He would find himself an outcast in his nominal kingdom, denounced and reviled as a madman, an idiot, an impostor; the moral and intellectual life of Christendom would be as alien and bewildering to him as its steamboats and railways and telegraphs. Paul and the other early apostles, the ancient heathenisms of Greece and Rome, of the East and the West, old philosophies and older superstitions, national characteristics, physical and other circumstances, the growth of science, the ever-varying conditions of life and modes of thought; everything, in brief, affecting the character of the converts, has affected the religion By the time a doctrine gets embodied in a Church or other institution, its original spirit has nearly vanished. Its progress may be well compared to the course of a great river, rivers being remarkably convenient things for all such analogies. Some remotest mountain – rill or rocky well – spring has the honour of being termed its source; and the name of this tiny trickling is borne triumphant down a thousand broadening leagues to the sea. The rill is soon joined by others, each very like itself. As it flows onward, ever descending (for this is the universal law), it is joined by streamlets and rivers more and more unlike itself, they having flowed through unlike soils and regions; and more than one may be greater than itself, as the Missouri is greater than the Mississippi; and its own original waters are more and more modified by the new and various districts they traverse. As it proceeds, growing deeper and wider, villages and towns arise on its banks, and it receives copious tribute not merely of natural streams, but likewise of sewage and the pestilent refuse abominations of manifold factories and wharves. When it is become a mighty river, crowded with ships and bordered by some wealthy and populous capital, it may be a mere open cloaca maxima; and at any rate it must be as dissimilar in the quality of its waters as in their quantity and surroundings from the pure rill of the mountain solitudes, from the pure brook of the woodland shadows and pastoral peace. The waters actually from the fountain-head are but an insignificant drop in the vast and composite volumes of the thick bronze or yellow flood which finally disembogues through fat flat lowlands, in several devious channels with broad stretches of marsh and lagoon, into the immense purifying laboratory of the untainted salt sea. The remote rill-source is Christ or Mohammed, the mighty river is the Christian or Mohammedan Church; the sea in all cases is the encompassing ocean of death and oblivion, which makes life possible by preserving the earth from putrefaction.”

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Plume 10.04.14 at 6:46 pm

America has spent trillions fighting wars overseas to protect capitalists here. We have a long history of our corporations telling the government that you must topple X leftist leader (newly and democratically elected), because he or she threatens said corporation’s bottom line. This is often extended to entire industries (Mossadegh in Iran, for example) and then onto business interests more generally (Vietnam, etc). America is also in the habit of crushing populist uprisings which threaten capitalism, with much of that happening in Central and South America.

To me, the book mentioned, The Making of Global Capitalism, is a must read. Seminal. Essential. But it downplays the military aspect of things in favor of the Treasury and other financial/economic organs through the decades. Regardless, the rich have always called the shots and have always gotten far more for their time and money than they put in.

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Brett Bellmore 10.04.14 at 7:24 pm

Yeah, a tautology. If the government does something that benefits the wealthy, you say it does it to benefit them, no matter how many other people benefited, or what reason for doing it was put forth. Essentially you’re making the entire federal budget being for the benefit of the wealthy your starting premise, not your conclusion.

So all the government’s expenditures on the military? Just for the benefit of the wealthy. The highway system? Just for them. Everything just for them, even though most of the use is by somebody else.

It’s not a conclusion, it’s an article of faith.

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Plume 10.04.14 at 7:41 pm

I never said it was just for the wealthy. I said the wealthy receive the most from the government. And they do. They always have. Why do you think they spend billions lobbying the government or electing their guys? Do you think the rich are in the habit of giving their money away with the expectation that they will lose in the bargain? They never would have accrued their wealth if that had been their way. They spend money to make more money, to increase their power, so they can make even more. They spend money to make sure they get a great ROI.

As for the military. America has fought the vast majority of its wars overseas, and with rare exceptions, against foes who were no threat to the American public. From the beginning of this nation, we probably had all of two instances when we went to war to protect America itself — the War of 1812 and WWII. In between those two wars, and afterward, the American public gained little to nothing for any of those ventures, and the vast majority of the casualties came from well outside the ruling class or the rich in general. Average Americans died or were maimed. The rich largely avoid those wars and reaped the benefits of new markets, the defense of existing markets, new resource locales, cheap labor, etc.

Wealthcare is what our government does. And it’s very, very good at it.

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Barry 10.04.14 at 7:54 pm

Brett: “The problem with ‘progressive’ taxation is that it, (By design!) makes expenditures which are a net loss to society politically feasible, by concentrating the costs on a minority of the population. “

Brett, there’s a huge body of work on this, and your conclusions are wrong. The wealthy have a massive voice in government.

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stevenjohnson 10.04.14 at 8:54 pm

There is no ascertainable meaning to “Render unto Caesar” without saying what’s Caesar, and the Bible will not say. This is not an accident. This is a classic example of how cliches about moral guidance from scripture betray a reactionary disposition I think.

I’m not quite sure how the thread derailed to state capitalism and what I guess must be called the average ROI on democracy and its taxes.

For the first, you’re going to get elements of state capitalism in any socialist state’s dealings with the capitalist world market. You’re also going to get elements of state capitalism in any socialist state where there’s an extensive landholding peasantry interacting with the government via a market. And you can have a socialist government permitting private production for profit but restricting capital formation. I think the history shows that state capitalism is transitional, either towards a more socialist economy or towards a more capitalist one.

But no social formation is chemically pure. Nationalized firms and welfare state spending are socialist elements in bourgeois states. You really need to look at the fundamental economic structure and the direction of change. The Soviet Union did not have capital markets allocating ever larger amounts of investment. I think it is indisputable that the USSR was basically socialist. Denying this seems very like claiming the US isn’t a democracy.

This does not mean that there wasn’t a need for progress in political forms to match the developing socialist economy, unless you’re just not interested in making socialism work better. Even those moldy oldies convinced capitalism is the cat’s pajamas don’t forget that maybe the workings of democracy in this country might be improved. Personally I’d rather be a dissident in Cuba than Colombia, even if some would label being put in jail in the first an atrocity while shrugging off being disappeared in the second as business as usual.

As for the assumption that socialism was an economic failure, a quick comparison of India and China alone should call that into question. The capitalist world includes such garden spots as Somalia, Ethiopia, Bangla Desh, Nepal, Bahrain, Paraguay, and oh, yes, such glorious successes as the new Latvia (last one out turn off the lights!) Fairy tales about the superiority of capitalism over socialism only hold water if you select the right evidence to compare.

As to the notion that maybe US socialism would be automatically superior, I’m not altogether certain what might happen to this country without its empire. The dollar is ultimately based on blood, but not even threatening the world can keep the dollar from losing some value. As the US economy is stressed, the mortgage interest deduction is very likely to be sacrificed. Certainly the knives are out. I think this might be a foretaste of what defeat of US imperialism might feel like.

Second, as to the value received for our taxes? In decadent empires coasting long until the massive stores of wealth and reserves of power were finally depleted enough that the vicissitudes of history brought final ruin, we see the basic pattern. The wealthy pay few taxes and receive many benefits. The mass of people pay few taxes per capita but receive few benefits. However the living standards of the lower classes may be perceived, they are not quite high enough to permit the replacement of the population as the working generation can’t quite manage the care of the young and elderly. Politics is an elite game, remorselessly pursued by ephemeral cliques standing for nothing. Hoi polloi can only take part in an official religiosity that promises no material benefits on this earth while enjoining obedience. Foreign wars are essentially fought by mercenaries playing divide and conquer since the feeble society can no longer raise a committed citizen army.

It can take a long time for the fat of the land to waste away, but until it does, there can be the peace of conquest. Are your taxes worth it? I guess that’s up to you.

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Ze Kraggash 10.04.14 at 10:44 pm

Plume:
“But that’s the point. It is highly beneficial on balance for the vast majority in America, but one of the organizing principles of the conservative movement is to completely dismiss that self-evident fact and foment “controversy” whenever possible. The idea of cutting or eliminating taxes is the life-blood of that movement, despite the obvious benefits of the public sector model.”

Sounds awfully patronizing. People don’t live in a model, they live in the real world. Here’s another controversy for you: a hedge fund manager makes a billion dollars/year and pays (at most) 15% federal income tax. Someone earning 0.01% of that pays a higher portion of their income. You tell them it’s a great deal for them. Are you employed by the hedge fund manages?

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Plume 10.04.14 at 11:00 pm

Ze,

As an anticapitalist, and an egalitarian small “d” democrat and socialist, I don’t want capitalism in the world, period. I don’t want there to be anything like a hedge fund, or managers there of. Or societies where some can make a billion while others starve, or make $7.25 an hour, or where the median income is 28K, while some make a billion, etc. I oppose all of that. So I’m not getting your point, at all.

And there’s nothing patronizing in saying that one of the principal goals of the conservative movement is to cut taxes, or that conservatives typically dismiss the effectiveness and value of public works, goods and services.

Again, I don’t get your point(s) at all.

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Ned Netterville 10.05.14 at 1:45 am

@61 Better re-read you Bible.. Pilate wasn’t fooled. He had the chief priests there to interpret what Jesus said, and they interpreted his words for Pilate exactly as I did for you. You can find their accusation against Jesus to Pilate in Luke 23:2-5. “This man has been perverting the nation, telling us not to pay taxes to Caesar…He has been causing riots from Galilee all the way here.” And just so you know Pilate wasn’t fooled, you may have heard and I can confirm he crucified Jesus.

I’m afraid you will now have to dine on roast snark. Yuk, yuk.

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Ned Netterville 10.05.14 at 1:59 am

@61 My dear Mr. Quiggan, you really should have done some research before putting your foot in your mouth again. Others who correctly understood Jesus who preceded both me and that misled objectivist, Ayn Rand, were Tolstoy, Gandhi, and…well, I won’t do the research for you beyond those two.

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Ned Netterville 10.05.14 at 2:50 am

@62, Plume, you too need study your Bible before inserting your foot.

@ “Shared everything.”–Plume

“Don’t I have a right to do as I please with what is mine?”–Jesus of Nazareth

Rhetorical question asked by Jesus’ generous Vineyard owner in his parable of the greedy workers who were jealous because he paid the worker who only worked a short time the same as those who worked the whole day. (This would probably piss off a socialist who, like Marx, believed in the thoroughly discredited labor theory of value.)

@ “Despised money and wealth.” Prove it! Not a shred of evidence in the gospels that Jesus despised money. Nor did he object to wealth per se, but to the manner by which wealth was acquired. Learn your history. During the early first century CE, virtually the only way to become wealthy was through the use of imperial force (viz., plunder, slavery and taxation), or, as in the case of the Temple hierarchy who had made terms with the imperial power, by selling religious artifacts of atonement.

@ “Despised the rich.” Prove it! Again, not a shred of evidence that he despised the rich. He certainly didn’t approve of those who did not share their good fortune with others, but there is no evidence in the gospels that he despised anyone. Why, hell’s fire young man, he even brought salvation to the rich, chief tax collector, Zacchaeus. My dear Plume, do you get your knowledge of the gospels from Fox News?

@ “repeatedly told his would-be followers that no one could join him unless they gave away all of their earthly possessions…” No he didn’t. He told one fellow to sell all that he had give it to the poor and then, come follow him. That fellow, in the gospels of Mark and Matthew is described as a “Rich Young Ruler.” As a ruler, his riches would have been acquired by force and violence in violation of Jesus’ Father’s Commandments, and so, of course, Jesus would insist he return his wealth to those from who he had stolen it. Plume, does your copy of the Bible have Micky Mouse on the cover?

My dear Plume, you have the temerity to compare yourself favorably to Jesus, but your dishonesty just in your post #62 refutes that contention. You say, “I’m far closer to his (viz., Jesus’) vision, philosophically and ethically, than any right-wing “Christian” could ever hope to be. And it’s not close. ” As one who has had many contentious debates with those poor folks who call themselves “right-wing Christians,” I can assure you that they beat you in the ethics category hands down. In general, they don’t intentionally misrepresent Jesus’ words and deeds as you have, although they too, like you and Mr. McQuiggin, have failed to understand him for being blinded by cognitive dissonance.

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Ned Netterville 10.05.14 at 3:17 am

@ 79 Yes. Mark may have been the basis to some for Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, but Luke himself, who most scholars believe is the only Evangelist who actually wrote the gospel with his name on it, says in his introduction that he had researched the “all” the sources who were familiar with the subject (Jesus) from the beginnning. Some modern scholars (esp. J. D. Crossan) think the Gospel of Peter, which derived from the no-longer-existent but decipherable “Cross” gospel, was prior to all three synoptics. And of course the render-unto-Caesar incident is also recorded in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas (Doubting Thomas), and is found in the fragmentary Edgerton gospel, which many scholars believe was composed circa 50 CE, before Mark.

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Ned Netterville 10.05.14 at 3:32 am

@ 82 And thank you Sandwichman, for that quote of James Thomson, which I had not previously seen. As a disciple of Jesus, I must say I agree with almost every word therein. I often point out to Christians that Jesus by explicit words and dramatic examples (washing feet) warned his Apostles, especially at that Last Supper, that they were to renounce hierarchy. But shortly after Pentecost the Apostles found it beneath themselves to serve food and wash dishes so they appointed others while they tended to the more important task of preaching the word. Thomson’s description of the Christian religion today rings true with me.

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MPAVictoria 10.05.14 at 4:32 am

Looks like we really do have a supply side Jesus here….

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Plume 10.05.14 at 5:17 am

Jesus in the New Testament, regarding wealth and the rich :

Sell all and give to the poor to have treasure in heaven (Luke 18:18-23)
It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to have eternal life (Luke 18:24-27)
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).
What is exalted by men (wealth), is an abomination before God (Luke 16:14-15)
Cares of the world, delight in riches and desire for things, choke the word (Mark 4:19, Luke 8:14)
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit His life? (Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25)

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Compare: Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30

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Plume 10.05.14 at 5:23 am

And a bit more:

James 5:1-6 ESV

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV /

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

James 1:11 ESV /

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Luke 6:24 ESV /

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Luke 6:20 ESV /

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15 ESV /

For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

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Plume 10.05.14 at 5:26 am

Ned,

If you google the subject, you will find hundreds of similar passages. And I didn’t even try to bring in the Old Testament prophets, who said many of the same things about the rich.

And, yes, I know the bible well, how it was put together, its background, its history. I’ve studied comparative religion and myth since I was nine. That means nearly 50 years.

Try again.

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Jerry Vinokurov 10.05.14 at 5:39 am

Glad to see JQ taking on the obvious absurdity of self-ownership as a starting point for, well, anything. A linguistic sleight-of-hand rooted in Cartesian dualism; of course you do now “own” your body, you simply are your body. Ownership is a public relation to others, whether codified in law or not.

As for Jesus… man, am I disappointed that http://www.jesus-on-taxes.com doesn’t actually lead anywhere. Or is that the joke, that Jesus had nothing to say about taxes at all and hence we are shown a blank page? Ha ha. You got me good, Ned.

Seriously though, and this point is brought home quite nicely by Sandwichman @82, not only are the pronouncements of Jesus insufficient foundation for pretty much any political system at all, they’re actually not even sufficient foundation for the religious system his followers have set up in his name. I don’t recall ever seeing the structures of the Catholic Church outlined in any Gospel that I know of.

Not that, you know, we should give a damn one way or the other about what some long-dead Jewish mystic might have thought about our taxation regime or whatever, but it’s incredible to observe the contortions that people go through to “win” Jesus over to their side. It turns out that if you squint hard enough in this direction consistent with your ideological priors, you’ll find that miraculously Jesus said just the thing you wanted him to say all along! What an unproductive conversation to have.

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Plume 10.05.14 at 7:00 am

Jerry,

Yes. Jesus contradicts himself frequently in the bible. Yahweh does as well. The bible is filled with contradictions, absurdities, bad prophecies, etc. etc. And the anthology of myths and legends we have now is quite different from the various texts read in the time of Jesus. Endlessly miscopied, mistranslated, poorly edited, redacted, books kicked out, books brought back in, etc. etc. . . . The winning factions got to write the history, and often wrote the losers out. And were sometimes written out themselves in turn.

That said, whenever I engage in arguments of this kind, I try to do so with what’s good for the goose and gander idea. And if they ever assert that Jesus never says X, I can refute this pretty fast by showing it happened numerous times — knowing all the while that there may never have been a Jesus, and that the things attributed to him may have come from a common stock of wisdom sayings instead.

The reason I think it’s important to counter the right’s Supply Side Jesus is because it’s the basis for so much of their political cohesion and the support of their base. If that base really knew the contents of the bible, especially the sayings attributed to Jesus, they’d have a much tougher time worshiping wealth and capitalism, or attacking gay people and abortion, given Jesus’ disdain for the rich and the total absence of the last two topics in any of his speeches.

Etc.

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Plume 10.05.14 at 7:01 am

Sorry for the poor coding. Here’s the link:

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/index.htm

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Jerry Vinokurov 10.05.14 at 7:17 am

Plume,

Believe me, I understand the necessity of countering Supply-Side Jesus. But I don’t see much point in countering him by picking other quotes out of the Gospels or whatever. As you can see, people like Ned will endlessly contort themselves into a hermeneutics which allows Supply-Side Jesus to exist; arguing on that level is just conceding the frame, so to speak.

Yeshua ben Yoseph was a messianic cult leader who said a great deal of things, some of which we today find congenial and some that we recoil from. Trying to make sense of it, to ascertain what Jesus “really” meant, is a fool’s errand, even if you’re well-intentioned. There’s no way to derive democracy or socialism or capitalism or literally anything else from it. As I said, you can’t even derive Christianity from it in any straightforward way! We had trouble enough deriving political programs from people who actually pretty directly advocated political programs; I don’t see why we’d waste the time going down theological rabbit holes if we don’t need to.

The proper response to someone making Supply-Side Jesus arguments isn’t “here are the things Jesus actually meant,” it’s “good thing Jesus doesn’t make law in the United States.”

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John Quiggin 10.05.14 at 8:03 am

“. Trying to make sense of it, to ascertain what Jesus “really” meant, is a fool’s errand, even if you’re well-intentioned. “

I mostly agree. Please read the OP as “Nozick’s position is easily refuted and (regardless of what Jesus actually meant by it) this interpretation of his response to the Pharisees provides the refuation”

Still, I’m confident in the belief that Jesus would have abhorred both the US Republican Party and wars with Christian chaplains on both sides. To that degree, at least, his message was clear.

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Plume 10.05.14 at 3:42 pm

Jerry,

Understood. But, notice I didn’t say “Jesus really meant this or that.” I just quoted what he did say, at least according to the books of the New Testament. I generally do that and leave it up to the reader to decide from there. The cumulative weight, however, of so many sayings indicating disdain for the rich should get the reader to shift, if they had previously believed in Supply Side Jesus. There is just too much critical mass against it.

Key for me? Jesus never, never, not once, “blesses” the rich. But he (and the OT prophets) constantly says things to the effect of “blessed are the poor.” IOW, there is deafening silence when it comes to a single positive note about rich people, but a recurrent theme of saying awesome things about the poor. They are elevated, constantly. The rich are blasted, constantly. The contrast is unmistakable.

That said, there are probably a few things that neither side of the aisle would particularly agree with. I don’t side with the Jesus of the New Testament here, for example, if he did say this, or existed, etc. etc.

Luke 14:26New International Version (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

I kinda like my familia.

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Chip 10.05.14 at 5:51 pm

One of many errors with Supply Side Jesus is that self-ownership is in direct contradiction to the most fundamental ethos of the Old and New Testament. Both are in firm agreement that the individual is a part of the whole community, and the obligations towards the community- family, clan, tribe, nation- come ahead of self realization. Or self realization can only occur within the performance of duty, if you prefer.
As for the examples quoted by Ned, there are plenty of places to disagree, but just to take one- the parable of the vineyard owner was NOT that he was free to dispense his capital as he saw fit. Or I should say, it goes much further than that!
When put alongside the parable of the prodigal son, the message is that the patriarch- i.e., God, is free to dispense blessings as he sees fit.
If we left it at that, the parables would be unremarkable, where God behaves exactly as a pagan god, in a manner capricious and arbitrary.
However, as told by Jesus, these demonstrate that God is not fair…He doesn’t give anyone what they earn, or deserve. Instead He gives blessings to the lazy and industrious alike, to those who work and those who don’t. The point being, no one should ever wish for God to give us what we deserve- because if He did, we would truly be damned.

Maybe a modern parable would be the hard working industrious capitalist who sees the prodigal welfare cheat buying T-bone steaks, and grumbles to God about how unfair it is. Then God telling him that if the capitalist were to receive only what he had truly earned, he would be starving.

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Sandwichman 10.05.14 at 11:02 pm

What Jesus really, really meant…

Ned @94, Glad you liked it.

The sense I take from Thomson’s river analogy (“rivers being remarkably convenient things for all such analogies”) is that the waters from the pure mountain spring become irretrievably mixed with the flotsam, jetsam and festering effluvia of its tributaries. At that point, we may want to imagine the “true” Jesus (or Marx or Keynes) but it is futile to try to ascertain a given interpretation.

Even if we could document particular attributes, there remains the difficulty of their arrangement. Another image from Thomson illustrates the latter dilemma, with regard to Thomas Macaulay’s assessment of Jonathan Swift:

All the materials are here, as you see for yourselves, gentlemen, each duly numbered and authenticated ; and we expect to behold a likeness, though a glaring and composite one. But at the last moment he puts them in the kaleidoscope (or kakeidoscope) of his idiosyncrasy, gives some rapid twirls and flourishes, and no mortal can guess what strange shape they shall have taken when finally settled for exhibition.

107

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 1:39 am

@ 105 “…but it is futile to try to ascertain a given interpretation.” Perhaps, but it is very easy to refute a manifestly wrong interpretation. Thus, “render-unto-Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” was first misinterpreted to mean pay Caesar’s tax by Justin Martyr’s in his FIRST APOLOGY, a fawning letter to the Emperor and successor to the man who murdered his Savior soliciting the Emperor’s favor for Christians as folks who dutifully paid their taxes. Subsequently, after the Church became enthralled by the Empire during the reign of Constantine and began sharing in the benefits of its tax revenues, Christian-Church exegetes like Jerome began eagerly propagating the lie that Jesus would have his followers pay taxes. To support that thesis all sorts of inane economic “theories” (I refer to them as theorytales) were concocted to “prove” Jesus meant pay your taxes, such as the theory that at the time all Roman money belong to Caesar and thus paying taxes (giving Caesar what was already his) was really only giving him what was already his own. Furthermore, it has been argued by some NT scholars that while the Church controlled the early NT manuscripts, changes were made to the Bible by Church scribes including the insertion of Paul’s “theology of the state: (viz., Romans 13:1-7) into his epistle. Mr. McQuiggin was obviously influenced by the Christian exegetes when he wrote the article on which we have been commenting.

108

Bernard Yomtov 10.06.14 at 1:39 am

Z @16

Mark Twain does the job, I think:

The first time the Deity came down to earth, he brought life and death; when he came the second time, he brought hell.

Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain, a dream that was a nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies, exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs, perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats, humiliations, and despairs — the heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity; but death was sweet, death was gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart, and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man’s best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.

In time, the Deity perceived that death was a mistake; a mistake, in that it was insufficient; insufficient, for the reason that while it was an admirable agent for the inflicting of misery upon the survivor, it allowed the dead person himself to escape from all further persecution in the blessed refuge of the grave. This was not satisfactory. A way must be conceived to pursue the dead beyond the tomb.

The Deity pondered this matter during four thousand years unsuccessfully, but as soon as he came down to earth and became a Christian his mind cleared and he knew what to do. He invented hell, and proclaimed it.

Now here is a curious thing. It is believed by everybody that while he was in heaven he was stern, hard, resentful, jealous, and cruel; but that when he came down to earth and assumed the name Jesus Christ, he became the opposite of what he was before: that is to say, he became sweet, and gentle, merciful, forgiving, and all harshness disappeared from his nature and a deep and yearning love for his poor human children took its place. Whereas it was as Jesus Christ that he devised hell and proclaimed it!

Which is to say, that as the meek and gentle Savior he was a thousand billion times crueler than ever he was in the Old Testament — oh, incomparably more atrocious than ever he was when he was at the very worst in those old days!

109

Bernard Yomtov 10.06.14 at 1:40 am

Sorry, the whole thing, after the colon, is from Twain.

110

Sandwichman 10.06.14 at 1:55 am

Ned @107 “Perhaps, but it is very easy to refute a manifestly wrong interpretation.”

Fair enough. But not so easy to persuade others of the success of the refutation… A widely held misinterpretation is very hard to displace.

111

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 4:33 am

@96, @97, @98

Plume @ 62, You said Jesus “Despised the rich.” I said, “Prove it.” You haven’t. Jesus didn’t even despise Satan. This is commentary on “despise” from my Apple dictionary: “It’s one thing to dislike someone; it’s quite another to despise or detest the person. Both are strong words, used to describe extreme dislike or hatred. Detest is probably the purest expression of hatred (: she detested the woman who had raised her, and longed to find her own mother), while despise suggests looking down with great contempt and regarding the person as mean, petty, weak, or worthless (: he despised men whose only concern was their own safety).” Jesus did not despise nor detest, but rather loved sinners rich or poor. None of the quotes of Jesus, Paul, and James you cite prove Jesus detested the rich. Keep looking. Maybe try another search engine since Google failed you.

Plume, In #62 you erected a strawman, “supply-side Jesus,” which you, McQuiggan, and now Jerry Vinokurov and Chip have had lots of fun whipping. I’m a bit of an economist, and to me supply-side economics is a theorytale much like Jerome’s (Doctor of the Church) monetary theorytales. If you can find anything of supply-side economics in anything I’ve said here, or in my portrayal of Jesus in my original post (# 60), please point it out and elaborate. You have also tried to make me out a right-wing conservative and, oh dear God I forgive you, a Republican! and eve an evangelical Christian. I am opposed to taxation and the state, which is dependent on taxes for its existence. I know of no Republican, no supply sider, nor a single right-wing Christian who would agree with me to get rid of the state. Both progressives and neo-cons are statist cut from the same cloth in my book. I am opposed to taxation because taxation is a violation of God’s commandment not to steal, which includes extortion which is what taxation is. All in all, I suspect, I am rather to the left of you in most regards. I am a stronger critic of the American government than you are in #84. I am a voluntaryist, which I might also describe as a nonviolent anarchist. It is because taxes depend on force and violence for there collection that I am sure I am right when I argue Jesus of the gospels would never tell anyone to pay taxes to Tiberius, a notorious pedophile, among other failings. Jesus didn’t despise Tiberius, but he wouldn’t have him supported by taxes collected from his fellow peasant Jews, who, according to several NT scholars in recent years, were being impoverished by heavy Roman taxes.

Plume, you also failed to prove Jesus despised money. None of your quotations of Jesus even mentions money. No sane person I know of despises money. One might as well despise a rock in the road.

Plume, you say you are an atheist, but I must demur. From what you have said here regarding taxes it is obvious to me that you are a statist and your religion is Statolatry,
to use a beautifully descriptive word coined by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Mises is the same guy who proved by assiduous scientific analysis that socialism, if ever put into practice, would result in social regression and economic impoverishment of those living thereunder. That was in 1922, and socialist economists have been diligently trying ever since to refute Mises’ analysis without success.

Plume, where we part company fast and far is economics. My economic persuasion is laissez faire, which some say is the same as capitalism. But what most people mean when they speak of capitalism is a system such as exists in the United States, which should rightly be called corporatism of fascism-lite. In any case, it has no resemblance to what I think of as laissez-faire. To those who disagree I ask, what’s wrong with being free? Free markets encourage people to use persuasion and cooperation instead of force and violence. The basic problem with socialism is that it is dependent on force and violence. And the big, big problem with violence is that it begets more violence, ad infinitum.

On wealth: I am personally poor by almost any American’s definition, for, among other reasons, I have long been without any taxable income because I won’t have the fruits of my labor stolen to support violent government. I quit paying the income tax in 1971. How much in taxes have you paid to the federal government in the past, which money supports those wars you rightly criticize as egregiously misguided? If “put your money where your mouth is” means anything, it means people who say they want peace but pay taxes that support wars are seriously deluded.

112

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 4:44 am

@ 99 Jerry Vinokurov, if you will be patient, the website should be active within a month or two. I made the site inactive back in 2012, prior to which it published a book-length essay on the subject. If you would like to read it, you can find it by visiting the website, Archives.org, and use the site’s”Wayback Machine” to find my website as it appeared between 2003 and 2012. When it is back on line, the same essay altered and improved will be available for downloading, free of charge. Originally titled, JESUS OF NAZARETH, ILLEGAL TAX PROTESTER, its new name will be simply JESUS ON TAXES.

113

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 5:08 am

@ 110 Sandwichman, “Fair enough. But not so easy to persuade others of the success of the refutation… A widely held misinterpretation is very hard to displace.”

True. I’ve been at displacing for quite sometime and am only lately beginning to notice some progress. I suppose I’ll really know I’m doing well when the IRS knocks on my door. In 2003, there was only one other commentary on the topic that I could find on the Internet that concurred with my assessment, that being JESUS IS AN ANARCHIST by James Redford at Anti-state.com. (http://www.anti-state.com/redford/redford4.html) Today if you google “Jesus” and “taxes” and/or “render unto Caesar,” you will find quite a few people who don’t think Jesus endorsed taxes. It really should not be that hard to persuade people that Jesus’s words mean exactly what he said.

114

Sandwichman 10.06.14 at 5:24 am

Ned @111 “socialist economists have been diligently trying ever since to refute Mises’ analysis without success.”

Not sure about socialist economists but it seems to me that T. W. Hutchison did a credible performance refuting Mises’s “analysis” in 1938 in an appendix to his The Significance and Basic Postulates of Economic Theory. The basic idea is that Mises “analysis” is tautological. It is “true” by definition, if you accept Mises’s apriori assumptions, but it has no empirical standing.

115

Plume 10.06.14 at 5:26 am

Ned,

I have no desire to continue our discussion on Jesus. Been there, done that, for decades. But, I will briefly mention that there is no way on earth that you’re to my left. Anyone who champions laissez faire is well to my right, and if you’re also a fan of Von Mises and the crackpot Austrian school, that just seals the deal. And, sorry, but Von Mises was dead wrong about socialism, and never understood it. He was pretty good at making shit up about it. But he never understood it. Even some of his supporters like Hayek said he exaggerated a great deal when he spoke of its likely effects. He was far too right-wing to be objective about it, and the future John Bircher simply hated populist movements or leftist thought in general. OTOH, he admired fascism, as the following shows:

It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.

I find his worldview despicable and contemptible, and that of his followers. And laissez faire? It’s just another poorly cloaked attempt by the rich to extend their wealth and power and screw over the masses and the planet. It is easily the worst possible form for an economy when it comes to the environment. It is unsustainable, reckless and irresponsible — to be all too generous.

116

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 5:32 am

@105 Chip, you said, “As for the examples quoted by Ned, there are plenty of places to disagree, but just to take one- the parable of the vineyard owner was NOT that he was free to dispense his capital as he saw fit.”

Chip, what if I said, “As for the examples quoted by Chip there are plenty of places to disagree….etc.” I think you would be as dumbfounded as I am by your comment. I doubt very much that you can find “plenty” of examples to disagree, and the one single example you cite is surely one where your own interpretation is open to disagreement. But the point is, there really aren’t “plenty” of examples you’ve posited for me to disagree with, and there are not “plenty” of examples where you can disagree with me, since I didn’t provide “plenty” of examples to be disagreed with. However, if you have found plenty of things I’ve said with which you disagree, name ’em. Don’t be afraid. I won’t bite.

Regarding your interpretation of the parable of the greedy workers, when paired with Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan, my understanding that in this instance as well as the render unto Caesar’s incident, Jesus words in the mouth of the vineyard owner meant exactly what he said. “Am I not allowed to do as I please with what is mine?” Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable about the poor stranger the Samaritan found beaten, robbed and left to die along the road to Jericho extends the Vineyard-owner parable by showing why the owner of wealth has a right to do with it as he pleases. The Good Samaritan tended to the man’s wounds with provisions from HIS OWN kit. He placed the man on HIS OWN donkey. He took him to an inn where he paid for the man’s room and board with HIS OWN money. When it looked like the man’s recovery would require more funds than he had on hand, he told the innkeeper to continue the man’s care until his return with more of HIS OWN MONEY when he would pay whatever the added expense was. Note that he didn’t look to the state to care for the stranger, and if he had had his own wealth taxed away he wouldn’t have been able to do be so good to the stranger. And as Jesus concluded, “God and do likewise.”

117

The Temporary Name 10.06.14 at 5:56 am

I like Ned. He’s wonderfully insane.

118

Ogden Wernstrom 10.06.14 at 1:22 pm

I am inclined to think that definitions of Poe’s Law may need to be updated with links to comments by that nattering nabob of Randtivity, McNutterville.

119

mattski 10.06.14 at 2:35 pm

Ned,

To those who disagree I ask, what’s wrong with being free? Free markets encourage people to use persuasion and cooperation instead of force and violence.

There isn’t any such thing as a free market. Without a police force, without a criminal justice system, there isn’t free commerce, but rather free piracy.

The basic problem with socialism is that it is dependent on force and violence.

The basic problem with the jungle is force and violence. And yet, there it is.

120

mattski 10.06.14 at 2:37 pm

Addendum: Or if you prefer, see @ 117.

121

MPAVictoria 10.06.14 at 2:46 pm

“I quit paying the income tax in 1971.”

You don’t say?

122

Plume 10.06.14 at 3:46 pm

Mattski,

This is true. The dirty little secret for propertarians is that their preferred economic forms require a great deal of government force — and cooperation between governments with force.

They couldn’t be the economic predators they wish to be if “everyone” were free to be economic predators. Yes, perhaps they’re of the “civilized” kind because they tend to wear suits and all — civilized by their own definitions, of course. But those less worried about appearances would happily take their shit and prevent their transactions and blow up the whole shabang. It is government that prevents this on their behalf — on the behalf of the minarchists and the folks purportedly against “the state,” ironically.

It’s also true that the capitalist system itself, being as complex and expansive as it is, by nature requires more government and more inter-governmental action/intervention/power than previous economic forms. When economic forms were tied to land, localities, small producers and limited trade, there was far, far less need for expansive governments to support and defend them . . . and past systems like Feudalism rarely if ever were bailed out by “the state” and never, not once, by a coordinated effort of many states together. OTOH, with capitalism, bail outs are frequent, massive and involve recipients (and donors) far and wide.

The irony of ironies? If those propertarians and minarchists really wanted “smaller government,” they would do their best to replace the existing economic system with something a good deal less complex or dynamic, and certainly less portable (globally).

123

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 3:55 pm

@115 Plume, you are about as dishonest as a person can be. You have perpetrated a detestable calumny by ripping a paragraph from Mises’ book Liberalism, written in 1927 when Soviet socialist dictator Stalin was starving millions of eastern Europeans with his experiments of socialist “cooperative” farms (nothing cooperative about them since they depended utterly on brute force). Mises book contains a chapter warning against the dangers of fascism (Ch 10, pp. 47-51). It was and is–yes, still in print from several publishers–one of, if not the most, resounding defense of liberalism ever published. It is freely available on the Internet (http://mises.org/books/liberalism.pdf), and I encourage everyone here to read Chapter 10 to see just how desperately dishonest this fellow Plume is willing to become when he is losing an intellectual debate. Mises warned against fascism when most Americans admired it. But to prove what a disreputable fellow this guy Plume is, here is a Mises quote from Chapter 10, which more accurately reflects Mises’ take on fascism:

“The fundamental idea of these movements—which, from the name of the most grandiose and tightly disciplined among them, the Italian, may, in general, be designated as Fascist—consists in the proposal to make use of the same unscrupulous methods in the struggle against the Third International as the latter employs against its opponents. The Third International seeks to exterminate its adversaries and their ideas in the same way that the hygienist strives to exterminate a pestilential bacillus; it considers itself in no way bound by the terms of any compact that it may conclude with opponents, and it deems any crime, any lie, and any calumny permissible in carrying on its struggle.” (Remember, this was written in 1927–before Hitler came to power in Germany. The quote Plume ripped out of context from Chapter 10 may be found at the bottom of page 51.)

The Third International being socialism, which, in the nations where it was violently imposed, murdered exponentially more citizens of those nations’ (viz., Lenin’s and Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s socialist China, Pol Pot’s socialist Cambodia, etc., etc., etc.) than did Italy’s fascism or Germany’s Nazism, which was Hitler’s version of national socialism, but socialism none the less.

Plume, go away, Don’t bother me again until you are willing to dispense with your acute dishonesty, which isn’t cute at all.

124

Plume 10.06.14 at 4:11 pm

Ned,

Sorry, but you’re wrong, and an obvious nutcase. Von Mises was a supporter of fascism, and later became one of the first John Birchers. It’s not a “calumny” to say that. It’s the truth. He was a disgusting human being with disgusting ideas.

And, sorry, but there has never been a socialist country in the modern world. And I’m tired of having to explain this to every brain-dead wingnut who comes along. Of course, I shouldn’t bother to add the adjective “brain-dead” in front of wingnut, since the latter implies the former. I’m also sick and tired of them bringing up the Soviet system every time someone on the left advocates for real socialism, as if we support — we don’t — those non-socialist (state capitalist) systems. As if we wanted a repeat of them — we don’t. Far, far from it.

Noam Chomsky, in a very concise manner, shreds even the idea that the Soviet Union was ever even remotely “socialist.” Watch and learn something:

Chomsky on the misuse of the word, Socialism

125

Brett Bellmore 10.06.14 at 4:18 pm

“And, sorry, but there has never been a socialist country in the modern world. And I’m tired of having to explain this to every brain-dead wingnut who comes along.”

And we’re pretty darned tired of you explaining away the tens of millions of genocide victims, too. Socialists have been claiming that “socialism has never been tried” for so long it’s a running gag, but you have to claim that, to explain why the blood isn’t on your hands from all the genocides who claimed to be trying it.

126

Brett Bellmore 10.06.14 at 4:19 pm

Though I will say, nobody will every create a genuinely socialist state, for the same reason nobody is going to create a genuine perpetual motion machine.

Socialism is impossible.

That’s why it crashes so hard everytime somebody tries it.

127

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 4:22 pm

@ 117, 118, 119, 120. The Temporary Name, Ogden Wernstrom, and Mattski.

Ah ha, I see that Plume has rounded up some of his socialist comrades to assist him in his defense of violent socialism, vainly hoping that numbers and nonsense will prevail. Since the best this group is able to muster is a bevy of ad hominem attacks (Temp says I’m insane, Oggie calls me McNutterville, and poor Mattski can only ditto Temp’s insanity plea), which they may or may not know are logical fallacies generally adopted as a last resort when losing an intellectual discussion, I will studiously ignore Plume’s minions.

128

Plume 10.06.14 at 4:28 pm

Brett, if something has never been tried, then it makes zero sense to keep condemning that something that has never been tried. Call it something else. It’s not socialism. I support socialism, not the systems which have been tried to date, including the capitalist system.

It also makes zero sense to condemn people for supposedly defending something which they don’t defend. You might want to focus your attention on people who defend actually existing systems of violence and coercion, like capitalism.

129

mattski 10.06.14 at 4:30 pm

Though I will say, nobody will every create a genuinely socialist state, for the same reason nobody is going to create a genuine perpetual motion machine.

Right. But your average “taxes are theft” Free Market evangelist rivals any Socialist whack-a-doodle for incoherence…

(Plume, I hope you don’t take that too personally. I agree with a lot of what you say, except when you go off into “true socialism” land. Peace.)

130

Plume 10.06.14 at 4:31 pm

Think, lasagna:

Lasagna has several ingredients, with the three in the main being cheese, pasta and tomato sauce.

The main ingredients of socialism are:

1. Actual democracy, including the economy and the workplace
2. The people — not political parties or dictators — own the means of production.

Okay. So. You invite your friends over for dinner and promise them vegetarian lasagna. They like vegetarian lasagna. But you end up serving them Sirloin steak, Basmati rice and King crab legs. No pasta, cheese or tomatoes in sight. You don’t even have any of that in your house.

Your guests start to complain. They don’t like the dinner. So, is it fair or accurate for them to criticize your “vegetarian lasagna,” or your Sirloin steak, Basmati rice or crab legs? Would it be fair or accurate for them to say that if you serve “vegetarian lasagna” in the future it is doomed to fail, given the absolute failure of the “vegetarian lasagna” this time?

131

mattski 10.06.14 at 4:32 pm

Ned,

…logical fallacies generally adopted as a last resort…

Run away, run away!

132

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 4:34 pm

@121 MPAVictoria quoting me: “I quit paying the income tax in 1971.”
You don’t say?

Oh, but I did and I do. Try it you’ll like it. While states have many other ways of extorting your money (viz., excise taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc., etc. ad infinitum) to support their wars and other forms of violence, the income tax is the biggie for Uncle Sam. Withdrawing at least some of one’s support of Sam’s detestable wars and violence is a wonderfully liberating feeling. It won’t make you rich and you may have to spend some time in Sammy’s gulag, but you will have your integrity intact. You won’t be one like that dishonest socialist Plume, who says he deplores the U.S. government with his words but supports it with the fruits of his labor. In other words, puts his money where his mouth isn’t.

133

mattski 10.06.14 at 4:38 pm

Ned,

In other words, puts his money where his mouth isn’t.

Have you looked at your money lately? Aren’t you a hypocrite for not burning every last dollar?

134

Plume 10.06.14 at 4:42 pm

Ned,

All you’re doing by not paying taxes is forcing others to pay more. In an indirect way, you’re ripping off your fellow citizens. And, if I understand your own preferences, given your bizarre love for Von Mises, you are in favor of the capitalist system. That system requires ginormous amounts of public funds to keep it afloat. Always has. Always will. It, in fact, requires the most of any economic system to date. No previous system has ever required as much state apparatus (which means taxes) to keep it going.

And if we actually implemented your beloved laissez faire, the American government and governments around the world would be so busy bailing out the system, they’d quickly run out of money . . . and because of the likely absence of any social safety net (the usual preference for laissez fairers), we’d likely have revolution and worldwide collapse.

Propertarians have already gotten us part of the way there, especially from the neoliberal ascension on. But if people like you ever get your way in full, the system will collapse; we will have revolutions all across the globe; and then heaven only knows what will replace it all. My guess is fascism, tragically. So it will be a devastating, deadly tragedy followed by another.

Apparently, that’s what you and your ilk want.

135

Harold 10.06.14 at 4:52 pm

Free loader.

136

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 4:52 pm

Plume, go away. I’ve dismissed you until you make a serious effort to become honesty.

Mattski, ad hominem is running away. Eventually it will wear you out.

To all those who have responded to me, I sincerely thank you, whatever our differences, for I’ve enjoyed the repartee (excluding Plume’s distortion of Mises’ words). Perhaps we shall meet again. If you want to lure me out of my den, try as McQuiggin did, to argue that Jesus of Nazareth supported Caesar’s tax and told his listeners to pay it when he said “give Caesar what belongs to him.” I’ve got my google alert set to discover any propagators of such distortions of the truth, and I will generally seek them out to correct their misunderstanding. God bless you all, even Plume. Tata.

137

MPAVictoria 10.06.14 at 5:15 pm

Christ, what an Asshole.

138

Plume 10.06.14 at 5:17 pm

Ned,

It’s a “distortion” to quote someone in full and let him hang himself? All one has to do to show the idiocy of the Austrian school and people like Von Mises is quote them in full. Straight from the horse’s mouth, and all of that.

Let the light shine in. That’s all that’s needed.

139

mattski 10.06.14 at 6:11 pm

Mattski, ad hominem is running away.

Ned, in case you decide to un-run-away. I didn’t go ad hominem on you. I made a substantive argument that “free markets” don’t actually exist. I also pointed out the foolishness of your claim that socialism relies on violence. Because–need I say it?–any social order that must contend with human misbehavior is going to rely on violence, either as a first resort (fascism?) or a last resort (democracy?). Also, I reminded you that dollars are artifacts of the US government. I made reference to The Temporary Name’s playful (and gentle!) jab at your ‘idiosyncratic’ views, but that was an afterthought.

Have you ever reflected on the cunning of the human mind? The way we can tell stories to ourselves about our selfish instincts (get your hands off my money!) and, wa-lah, they end up the most noble sentiments the world has ever known.

140

mattski 10.06.14 at 6:16 pm

Another addendum:

Plume, go away.

Ned, for a fella who claims to love freedom, that’s an unfortunate thing to say. It being a free internet and all.

141

Plume 10.06.14 at 6:23 pm

Mattski,

The more I read your posts, the more I like ’em. Methinks I misjudged you early on.

142

mattski 10.06.14 at 6:25 pm

Plume,

:^)

143

The Temporary Name 10.06.14 at 6:26 pm

Jesus of Nazareth supported Caesar’s tax.

144

Jerry Vinokurov 10.06.14 at 6:32 pm

The last 40 posts in this thread have provided me with more entertainment than I thought possible.

Ned, I don’t think you’re crazy; I just think you’re wrong. As you might expect, I don’t care much for your tax-protestor Jesus or your von Mises. I guess I do have to commend you for your consistency in, apparently, not ever making enough to pay taxes. Personally I find that tradeoff a bad deal, but hey, you do you.

145

Barry 10.06.14 at 7:10 pm

I think that he’s crazy. Perhaps not certifiably, but the man is quite delusional, and very obsessive.

146

Jerry Vinokurov 10.06.14 at 7:16 pm

I personally prefer to construe “crank” is its own category in order to avoid imputing mental illness to people who might just be misguided or stupid.

147

mattski 10.06.14 at 7:38 pm

I think that’s a good call, Jerry. And most of us are obsessive in our own particular, lesser-known ways.

148

Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 7:46 pm

Mattski, Ad hominem as an afterthought is nonetheless ad hominem. Nevertheless, I forgive you and will address your substantive remarks.

“There isn’t any such thing as a free market. Without a police force, without a criminal justice system, there isn’t free commerce, but rather free piracy.”

It is true that there has never been a free market, just as there may never have been “pure” socialism. Even Mises disavowed anarchy and would have the state limited to protecting the free market from those who would use force instead of fitting themselves into a regimen of freedom. I think on this one point Mises was plainly wrong. I do so relying on the wisdom of Jesus. Mises’ mistake was in believing, contrary to Jesus, that a bad tree (viz., the state through its INITIATION of force and violence0), can produce good fruit (viz., securing the free market). Relying on both logic and much historical evidence, I see the pirate and bandit as much less formidable enemies of freedom, people and the free market than the state. Are you familiar with R.J. Rummel’s statistical compilation of what he calls “democide?” (Rummel defines democide this way:, “Genocide: among other things, the killing of people by a government because of their indelible group membership [race, ethnicity, religion, language] .Politicide: the murder of any person or people by a government because of their politics or for political purposes. Mass Murder: the indiscriminate killing of any person or people by a government. Democide: The murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.”–see, http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DBG.CHAP2.HTM)?

Rummel’s statistic show that governments through their overwhelming force have slaughtered their own citizens and others in numbers that exponentially exceed all the murders by individuals and organized gangs, who lack the power to tax and amass the revenues necessary to purchase or produce the most destructive weapons and draft or enlist large numbers of agents willing to do the state’s dirty work. I hope you will read Rummel’s book, DEATH BY GOVERNMENT, if you harbor any fiction that governments generally serve to secure the rights of citizens or democracy. Mythical “unicorn” governments perhaps, but not real ones.

@ 139 Mattski: ” I also pointed out the foolishness of your claim that socialism relies on violence. Because–need I say it?–any social order that must contend with human misbehavior is going to rely on violence, either as a first resort (fascism?) or a last resort (democracy?).”

I should have said that socialism relies on the INITIATION of violence, even in its purest, theoretical form. Although I am a pacifist who has personally renounced the use of force even in self defense, it is only the initiation of force that I abhor, and I should have made that clear. Laissez faire, on the other hand, theoretically need not initiate force for its effectuation. It is the way most people conduct themselves in the absence of force and violence. As Mises has brilliantly described its admittedly theoretical workings, the free market depends on persuasion and cooperation between and among participants and produces social harmony, whereas the initiation of force and violence surely generates social chaos and perpetuates violence eternally, or at least until someone “turns the other cheek.”

Mattski, do you really believe democracy only resorts to violence as a last resort? (I duly note your insertion of a question mark telling me you are dubious.) No doubt you have read the history of the United States as it pertains to the slaughter of entire Indian tribes (genocide) during the “winning the West (and the East, too?” Have you studied America’s war on the inhabitants of the Philippines? This page at Wikipedia refutes the fable that this democratic nation has resorted to violence only as a last resort . More often than not, the purpose of the United States government initiating military operations has been hegemony and dominance rather than defense of its people.

Now you may have the last word, for I’ll try hard not to respond.

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Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 7:50 pm

Mattski, I omitted a link to the Wiki page I mentioned. Here ’tis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations

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Glen Tomkins 10.06.14 at 7:54 pm

Actual chronic paranoid schizophrenia and the paranoid style of politics do have a lot in common, so much so that the mental disease probably is the misfunctioning of the latter, much as the depressive disorders are a misfunctioning of the grief reaction. That of course begs the question of what function the paranoid style of politics has, how such a thing is not simply counter-survival. Perhaps it actually served a purpose back when we were divided into small tribes all in a state of constant war with one another, to keep people on their toes against all those strangers who actually were all plotting against them.

One difference between the two is that actual paranoid schizophrenics have a pretty strong tendency to private, exclusive delusions. The TV, or the neighbor’s dog, speaks to them alone, and certainly not to a mass movement. Their delusional systems are too subtle and abstruse for anyone else to understand and agree with them. Such agreement is viewed with suspicion, and the fact that other people are on the same wavelength tends to discredit that wavelength as a source of true insight.

I only get worried that I’m dealing with an actual sick person in these exchanges, when their thinking and its expression is so disorganized that it wobbles out of the usual ruts of the standard paranoid content that’s current at the moment. Ned strikes me as quite healthy in that respect.

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mattski 10.06.14 at 7:54 pm

Now you may have the last word, for I’ll try hard not to respond.

Hmm. Why try not to respond? If there is an interesting and civil debate to be had you wouldn’t pursue it? Opinions differ, but if you ask me people who frequent lefty blogs (of which this is one!) tend to be a kinder, gentler sort. Yeah, I know, there are exceptions. But as I said–and it’s true–even The Temporary Name’s remark was good natured. You don’t agree?

Anyway, thank you for responding, Ned. I promise a reply but it might be several hours til I get to it.

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Plume 10.06.14 at 8:10 pm

A desire for a “free market” is a desire for tyranny of the few over the many. It’s just Orwellian nonsense code for the desire of the rich to have completely free rein to be as predatory as they can be. They already have this to a degree far too damaging for workers, consumers and the planet. If it ever moved to the point of truly free rein, the result would be catastrophic to the point of no possible recovery. The “free market” would sink itself and it would never get back up. The partially free market has already done that (sunk itself) dozens of times, only to be bailed out by governments all over the world, especially America’s.

Also. On whose behalf do government’s commit violence? Who do they initiate force against and for whom? They generally initiate violence against threats to their backers, their donors, their puppet masters and the system that makes them rich and powerful.

One of the major problems with the right is that they stop at government in their critiques. They see government as the be all and end all of possible “tyranny.” They don’t try to lift the curtain, the veil, to see who’s pulling government’s strings. Either through ignorance or fear, they refuse to take the next logical step. Find out why the government does what it does, and for whom.

The left typically critiques the puppet masters and the puppets. Both. Both/and. The right is too busy slobbering all over capitalists to see who’s really behind the curtain. Their paychecks depend upon them doing so.

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Plume 10.06.14 at 8:23 pm

I should have said that socialism relies on the INITIATION of violence, even in its purest, theoretical form

No. In it’s purest, theoretical form, socialism evolves organically out of a society which chooses, voluntarily, to drop capitalism, because it realizes its (capitalism’s) internal logic leads inevitably to economic apartheid, and it decides to end apartheid, voluntarily, democratically.

This is what I advocate for. The voluntary replacement of our system of economic apartheid by a system which does away with all forms of apartheid, and has social justice baked in from the start.

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Plume 10.06.14 at 8:24 pm

Sorry. Should be “in its purest, theoretical form,”

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The Temporary Name 10.06.14 at 8:24 pm

But as I said–and it’s true–even The Temporary Name’s remark was good natured.

I am no clinician, neither have I been wholly free of the need for clinicians who investigate the workings of brains.

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Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 9:37 pm

@114 Sandwich man. This is a comment I missed that is certainly deserving of a reply.

“Not sure about socialist economists but it seems to me that T. W. Hutchison did a credible performance refuting Mises’s “analysis” in 1938 in an appendix to his The Significance and Basic Postulates of Economic Theory. The basic idea is that Mises “analysis” is tautological. It is “true” by definition, if you accept Mises’s apriori assumptions, but it has no empirical standing.”

The epistemology of economics is a bit arcane for a blog like this. Mises in his books, HUMAN ACTION and ECONOMIC SCIENCE AND THE AUSTRIAN METHOD (https://mises.org/books/esam.pdf) defends the a priori method as the only proper economic methodology as against empiricism, as does Hans Hermann Hoppe in ECONOMIC SCIENCE AND THE AUSTRIAN METHOD (https://mises.org/books/esam.pdf) There must be hundreds of papers on the Mises.org website discussing this controversy. Essentially and to try to simplify, the empirical method is useless for a social science such as economics wherein the subject matter is human action. The reason is you cannot subject human behavior to empirical (experimental) testing and analysis because people aren’t suited to laboratory experiments and do not fit very well into test tubes. Empirical methods may work for physics, biology and astronomy, but are quite useless for economics, geometry and logic . Even where brutal dictators exercise unrestrained control of a population, their social experiments with people fail to render any useful economic information. Mao’s Great Leap Forward was screwed up by obstinate humanoids refusing to cooperate by not climbing into his test tubes as directed. Instead, they rebelled by dying.. (“Not all deaths during the Great Leap were from starvation. Frank Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death and 1 to 3 million committed suicide.[104] He provides some illustrative examples. In Xinyang, where over a million died in 1960, 6-7 percent (around 67,000) of these were beaten to death by the militias. In Daoxian county, 10 percent of those who died had been “buried alive, clubbed to death or otherwise killed by party members and their militia.” In Shimen county, around 13,500 died in 1960, of these 12 per cent were “beaten or driven to their deaths.”–see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward Stalin ran into the same problem

As for Mises “analysis” being tautological, you’d be surprised at how much you can and have learned form tautologies. Criticism’s like Hutchison’s refutation of Mises’ analysis of Socialism is just one of those by economists with a socialist bent who tried but failed to refute Mises analysis. Mises economics and praxeological methodology remains at the pinnacle of economic thought, and Austrian Economics has been enjoying an unprecedented surge in popularity, recognition and confirmation of its methods, Picketty’s silly book of unreliable statistics to the contrary notwithstanding. (Although he certainly is the darling of socialists and misguided economists who remain enthralled by not enlightened by empirical economics. For a relatively concise dissertation on this subject, I would suggest an article by Danny Sanchez: http://mises.org/daily/5158/Mises-on-Mind-and-Method

The vile and unscrupulous attacks upon Mises by socialists of the likes of Plume are considered absolutely prerequisite to imposing socialism anywhere, because Mises arguments in his book SOCIALISM remain the most lopgical and pragmatic reason for rejecting socialism. For a period of time socialists steered away from confronting Mises head on because his withering analysis left no openings in his intellectual armor, but with the late resurgence of Austrian Economics it has become incumbent upon socialist to attack Ludwig von Mises by any vile means possible. Thus you see such distortions of the truth as perpetrated by Plume.

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Ned Netterville 10.06.14 at 9:45 pm

@ 151 Mattski: “Hmm. Why try not to respond?”

Sorry, I wish I could, but I have run out of time to do so. As you can see, I’ve contributed many words to this blog and now I must tend to getting a sufficient supply of wood cut and split in anticipation of another cold winter. (Where is that global warming when you need it?) (Note: at this late date I am cutting only long-dead trees whose wood will require little “seasoning.”)

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The Temporary Name 10.06.14 at 9:47 pm

Awesome.

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Collin Street 10.06.14 at 10:19 pm

One difference between the two is that actual paranoid schizophrenics have a pretty strong tendency to private, exclusive delusions.

What if this is merely because we’re less willing to call the public delusions “schizophrenia”?

[I think it’s reasonably clear that Ned would be completely dysfunctional in meatspace and Brett not much better. Remember, what someone says about their politics gives you a pretty good idea of how well they can mute their opinions in other areas; someone who says whatever is on their mind is going to have a lot of difficulty in life, because whatever-is-on-your-mind is rarely what-it-would-benefit-you-to-say.]

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mattski 10.07.14 at 12:44 am

Ned,

Look at all the things we have in common. Like you, I heat my home & workshop with wood. Although I have reached the age and–dare I say it?–level of financial capacity where I am able to pay someone else to cut, split & deliver. Phew! Like you, I have few illusions about the use of military force in US history. Why, I even think Dwight Eisenhower was prophetic to warn us about the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex. And he was a Republican! Indeed, wasn’t it Martin Luther King who described our country in 1967 as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world”? I rather agree with MLK, and unfortunately it seems still true almost 50 years later.

OK. So, you say socialism relies on the initiation of violence. As far as I can tell you provided no evidence for this claim. That’s one thing. Next, it seems to me that any argument you might offer in support of this claim could similarly be applied to any sort of social organization you could imagine. That includes democracy and it includes ‘free markets.’ As I said previously, markets cannot function without enforcement of rules. Do you dispute this claim?

From my perspective you are putting your faith in a “theory” of free markets. That is very different than actually existing markets. My friend Plume puts his faith in a theory of Socialism. I have a problem with that. But I think you have the same problem.

Would you mind if I butchered Winston Churchill? Democracy is the worst system imaginable, except for all the others.

But the answer to the failings of democracy in the real world is not to retreat into some comforting fairy tale of free market or socialist utopia. The answer is to make democracy work better by getting involved in the process. In that connection I’d add: thank Bog for the internet.

Peace to you, brother.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 1:02 am

Department of Further Addendums:

Relying on both logic and much historical evidence, I see the pirate and bandit as much less formidable enemies of freedom, people and the free market than the state.

Why do you suppose governments evolved? If what you say is true wouldn’t it imply that humans were totally stoooopid to institute governing institutions? And if humans are that stooopid then why do you have so much faith in letting them run wild?

(Yak-a-doodle!)

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Plume 10.07.14 at 2:30 am

Ned,

I’m guessing, from both the tone of your comments and the content, you’re having fun here, playing a character, and you don’t mean half of what you say. Perhaps much less than that. The high dudgeon act is pretty much a dead giveaway for that. And the “tata.”

That said, if you’re actually serious, which I doubt, let me clue you in on something. Socialists and Marxists, especially, never feared (or fear) Von Mises. They mostly didn’t pay any attention to him, and still don’t. Why? Because he was a crank, a quack, and the Austrian school was long a laughing stock among serious leftist economists. In short, he’s seen as a joke, and so is that school. It’s only been with the rise of American propertarians that the Austrian school has been given a second wind, not that any credible scholars of history and economics think it merits any attention. Ron Paul gave it a lift, and others like him, pulling it out of the dung heap of history, because it gives selfishness and predatory economics faux-intellectual cover. And because Koch brothers billions — among other billionaire cranks and quacks — given it financial support. Just as they do for another arch crank and quack, Ayn Rand.

I could safely ignore people like Von Mises, his supporters and the institute named after him (funded by the Kochs) if not for the growing power of right-libertarianism in America. There is nothing of any value to be gleaned from Von Mises or the Austrian school. It’s pure bunk and easily refuted. The only reason to pay attention is because people with actual power in society believe in its pseudo-intellectual teachings . . . again, because it gives cover for rapacious and predatory capitalism.

I hope I’m right that you’re just having people on with your rants here. If you honestly believe what you’re saying, or truly support cranks like Von Mises, I pity you.

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Ned Netterville 10.07.14 at 2:47 am

Mattski, You were so gracious in your last two comments I couldn’t resist, but I’ve unsubscribe now so henceforth I shan’t be tempted.

Socialism, and all other theoretical social system yet concocted by man, at least of those I am aware, depend on government in one form or another, with the exception of anarchy and laissez faire. Government as we know it must initiate violence against innocent people to collect the taxes on which its existence depends. If the people under socialism are going to own the productive resources, you and I and everyone with half a brain knows that a violent state will be necessary to acquire and own those resources–in the people’s name, er, like in Stalin’s and Mao’s socialism. Of course if anyone comes up with a government as we’ve never known it, which is completely voluntary, I can live with that.

There is no need to initiate violence to bring anarchy into existence. All that is necessary is that a sufficient number of progressive-minded people withdraw their support and obedience to the state. Government, for lack of resources, will go away. And of course laissez faire (free markets) is what people do and how they operate to best advance their honorable objectives through persuasion, cooperation and mutual exchange. The resulting harmonious relations with one and all and love of one’s fellows might just be enough to overwhelm the relatively insegnificant violence some sociopaths (socialists?) might otherwise precipitate.

Mattski: “But the answer to the failings of democracy in the real world is not to retreat into some comforting fairy tale of free market or socialist utopia. The answer is to make democracy work better by getting involved in the process. In that connection I’d add: thank Bog for the internet.”

I can’t take your advice because it involves getting involved with the violent state, which wouldn’t be good for my mental or spiritual health. The comforting fairy tale of free markets would be realized by adhering to Jesus’ prescription for conducting human relations as he urged in his Sermon on the Mount These include such “utopian” schemes as loving one’s enemies, praying for one’s persecutors, not meeting violence with violence (“turn the other cheek”), forgiving to obtain forgiveness, doing to others only what you would have others do to you. I happen to think Jesus wasn’t a utopian. Heknew better than anyone before or since whereof he spoke. I am confident his principles were not prescribed in order to lead his followers into death or destruction. In my own faltering attempts to put his principles to work, I’ve realized peace and security from all harm beyond anything I expected.

@161 Mattski: “Why do you suppose governments evolved?” My own knowledge of very ancient history tells me governments evolved to promote and extend domination and hegemony. It was invented by tribal rulers either in order to conquer and plunder their neighbors, or it came about as a result of success in conquering and plundering one’s neighbors in order to maintain dominance over the vanquished. Rather than kill the losers in combat and lose the fruits of their labor, the victors turned to slavery and taxation to reap greater and even perpetual sources of booty. In almost every case, government was imposed upon people by the rulers of successful conquerors. However, if we can believe the story in 1 Samuel of how the people of Israel choose a king (Saul), who Samuel warned would plunder their resources and even their children with taxes and involuntary servitude, and the people choose to go that route, I would have to say that at least some humans are indeed stooooopid enough to choose their own poison. Indeed, really, really stooopid, for the Israelites purpose in wanting a king to rule over them was for him to lead them in war! Me thinks after all of their previous and mostly successful skirmishes they had become hopelessly addicted to war.

Yak-a-doodle too. Thanks again for engaging. Slainte!

Addendum: According the account in the First Book of Samuel, God viewed their choosing of a king as a rejection of Him as their only ruler and lawmaker. I’d be willing to return to as system where God was the only lawmaker, which I think would be particularly lenient for atheists since they don’t believe in God, wouldn’t have to listen to Him, and I presume wouldn’t be bothered by Him since He is spiritual and lacking the enforcement powers and apparatus of states.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:11 am

How you get to the absence of the state is key. The left wants to get there via true democracy, equality of rights, human rights, civil rights and equal access to the fruits of society — in harmony with the planet. And it wants to get there with social justice for all. It wants the absence of the state to be the fruit of egalitarian commitments.

Right-anarchists, OTOH, want to get there because they don’t want anyone or anything to stand in the way of the few controlling the many, amassing the greatest amount of wealth and power possible. They don’t like democracy, or equality, and see inequality as somehow “natural.” So their dream of the absence of the state is in the service of the steepest kind of hierarchy the world has ever seen, and will be the final nail in the coffin for this planet.

Two visions of the absence of the state. The left’s vision means equality, social justice, democracy internalized to the point where we can do without the state apparatus. The right’s vision means the apotheosis of Social Darwinism, the rule of the strongest, richest, most powerful. No democracy. No equality. Warlords, monopolies, cartels. As in, slavery and tyranny of the few over the many. And the right’s vision would bring on environmental armageddon as well.

Both visions are unlikely to ever happen. Highly unlikely. But one, the left’s, is actually worth striving for. The other, the right’s, is worth preventing at all costs.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 3:12 am

Ned,

The resulting harmonious relations with one and all and love of one’s fellows might just be enough to overwhelm the relatively insegnificant violence some sociopaths (socialists?) might otherwise precipitate.

Egad, you sound an awful lot like Plume!

Well, I’m ready to let this debate go as well, but I would like to recommend to you one of my favorite books of all time, because it speaks directly to the origins of democratic forms of government. I.F. Stone’s, The Trial of Socrates, is absolutely, strictly brilliant.

I’ll add that while I can appreciate Jesus as a great spiritual teacher I can’t give him any extra-human status. I’m a Buddhist and get my teachings from people. Peace.

166

godoggo 10.07.14 at 3:16 am

Halloween seems to start just a little bit earlier every year.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:22 am

mattski,

Come on, now.

Ned seems to believe that a system based on competition, autocracy and the concentration of wealth and power at the top (capitalism) would encourage harmony and voluntarism, and that a system based on cooperative, democratic and communal relations (socialism) would encourage violence and disharmony.

That is bizarre beyond words. We don’t sound remotely like one another.

168

mattski 10.07.14 at 3:23 am

Probably My Last Addendum:

Ned, I wonder how you would feel about the state if you lived in Sweden, for example. Not every advanced nation is as dependent as the US on military spending. And many nations do a much better job of caring for their people than we do.

169

mattski 10.07.14 at 3:24 am

Plume,

No disrespect, but both you and Ned have a vision of everyone basically behaving themselves. That’s the similarity, and I think it’s significant.

170

mattski 10.07.14 at 3:26 am

**godoggo is exhibit A for mischievous rascals…

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:47 am

Mattski,

No. My vision doesn’t assume good behavior by anyone, especially not by a ruling classes. It assumes that people are adaptable and that they adapt to their environments. It’s also based on our history of having ruling classes, followed by other ruling classes, with the masses being suppressed, checked or going along to get along — sometimes all the above. It’s a recognition of the patterns in history which show hierarchies to be the constant, and that the masses suffer under those hierarchies. And that we’ve never had true democracy and actual power sharing. Ever.

The key variable is the power of the few over the many.

Logically, take away that variable, institute true democracy and actual power sharing and people will adapt to the different, more egalitarian structures . . . . by cooperating more and getting along with one another better because the system itself encourages that. Not because we’re in tra la la land. But because a system based upon shared power and cooperative and communal structures encourages sharing and cooperation.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:56 am

Seriously. It’s just logic.

For the first time, an egalitarian, democratic, cooperative system would be in place. What is the logical adaptation under those circumstances? Not because people are necessarily filled with goodness and light and want to sing kumbaya around the campfire all day long. But because most people aren’t sociopaths and don’t want to conquer the world. A small percentage does. But most people don’t.

Most people want to get along to get along, at least. And they adapt. Sheesh, slaves adapted as best they could to slavery, for goddess sake. They did their best to survive. And for thousands of years, we’ve had these systems of top down dominance and oppression by the few over the many. What is the likely, logical outcome if we evolve enough to end that? What is the likely, logical, rational outcome if we finally set up a system based on egalitarian principles, real democracy, real social justice?

A communal, cooperative system logically encourages cooperation and attempted harmonies, at least. A true system of shared power, shared resources, shared responsibilities logically results in a lot of sharing and cooperation.

It’s not rocket science.

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Sandwichman 10.07.14 at 4:33 am

Ned @156,

I’ve read enough Mises to assess the character of his — ahem — economic analysis. I’ve read the socialist calculation debates and have written a critique of one of the key sources that Hayek and Mises rely on, Enrico Barone’s “The Ministry of Production in the Collectivist State.” I won’t recap my critique here. Shorter Mises:

– the fundamental axioms and premises of economics are absolutely true
– the theorems and conclusions deduced by the laws of logic from these postulates are therefore absolutely true
– there is consequently no need for empirical testing either of the premises or the conclusions.
– the deduced theorems could not be tested even if it were desirable.

THE first fundamental “absolutely true” axiom as expressed by Nassau Senior is “That every man is desirous to obtain, with as little sacrifice as possible, as much as possible of the articles of wealth.” I discussed that supposedly absolutely true axiom and its consequences in “On Deducing Faith and Redemption from Usury with the Help of Automata.”

Now if I were to postulate myself as the Messiah and proclaim that axiom to be “absolutely true” I, too, could deduce, by the laws of logic, absolutely true theorems and conclusions from it. On the other hand, if all gostaks are doshes; and if all doshes are galloons; then it is absolutely true that all gostaks are galloons.

True but utter nonsense.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 10:55 am

Plume,

Something you evidently don’t see is the similarity between some of your utterances and (how convenient!) Sandwichman’s synopsis of Mises, as it relates to Ned.

Plume: “It’s just logic.”
Mises: No need for empirical testing.

You also repeat certain phrases like, “it’s not rocket science,” quite a bit. If it is all so simple then why do you also say that, “we’ve never had true democracy and actual power sharing. Ever.”

This doesn’t give you pause? It gives me pause.

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Ogden Wernstrom 10.07.14 at 3:11 pm

@127, McNutterville 10.06.14 at 4:22 pm:

Ah ha, I see that Plume has rounded up some of his socialist comrades to assist him in his defense of violent socialism, vainly hoping that numbers and nonsense will prevail.

Prevail over violent capitalism? Does godoggo count as one of those socialist comrades? Would calling us “socialist comrades” qualify as ad-hominem?

Since the best this group is able to muster is a bevy of ad hominem attacks (Temp says I’m insane, Oggie calls me McNutterville, and poor Mattski can only ditto Temp’s insanity plea)…

So you can dish out the pet names, but can’t take them?

I thought my Poe’s Law reference was not an insult but gave some credit. The name was a an adaptation of your own practice.

which they may or may not know are logical fallacies generally adopted as a last resort when losing an intellectual discussion…

While “Plume, go away” is not a logical fallacy, but a command.

I will studiously ignore Plume’s minions.

If only you were a man of your word.

But I have my doubts that you are even a man. I think that the person who programmed you did a very good job, and has provided much entertainment. I particularly like that the name is a clue – I’m guessing a bit of Ned Ludd to warn of a reactionary nature, plus a play on “Nutter” to clue us in on the peanut-butter-sandwich-cookie logic to come.

I just hope that your code is kept away from SkyNet.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:25 pm

Mattski,

I’m all for testing the theories. Go for it. See if the ingredients for socialism have ever been present in the modern world in one place at one time. Think about my lasagna analogy. Test the theory that it’s never happened. Search for an example. I think you’ll be searching for a long, long time.

Test the theory that a system based on cooperative, democratic, communal and egalitarian structures would lead to more cooperation and harmony, etc. Test that against the one with a top down, autocratic, hierarchical structure. Which one really leads to more violence and coercion?

I’m all open to testing of any of my statements. The more the merrier.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 3:36 pm

Going back to the name in the OP. Caesar. I think people haven’t caught up with the changes yet. As in, in the modern world, would-be Caesars aren’t likely to go for public sector power anymore. They’re far more likely to go after private, capitalist, corporate power. Want to prevent more Caesars from doing their thing? Think about the virtually unlimited powers that can be attained via the capitalist system, even in the so-called “liberal democracies.”

I’m all for dispersal and decentralization of power. And if we can’t have an all public, non-profit society, one in which the people own the means of production, then the next best thing would be serious limits on the private sector.

For instance: We don’t have a cap on the money one person can make. This has led to ginormous fortunes approaching 100 billion dollars for some — with fluctuations here and there depending on stocks. What if we capped the amount a person could make per year? Say, 250K, and tax away those large fortunes?

There is no cap on the size of a business. What if we capped it to say, 50 million?

There is no cap on the ratio between ownership pay and rank and file. Back in the 1950s, it was roughly 20 to 1. The average for a Fortune 100 company today is 1000 to 1. Let’s cap it at 4 to 1. Or, if that’s too tight, Orwell’s idea of 10 to 1.

The focus for the reduction in power, for decentralization of power, has been almost exclusively on the public sector. This is needed too. Definitely. But we must match that with restrictions on the wealth and power of private individuals and corporations, if we are to prevent present and future Caesars.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 3:58 pm

Test the theory that a system based on cooperative, democratic, communal and egalitarian structures would lead to more cooperation and harmony, etc. Test that against the one with a top down, autocratic, hierarchical structure. Which one really leads to more violence and coercion?

You and Ned are mirror images.

Ned says–plausibly–that markets encourage people to cooperate and behave responsibly, AND they disperse power because they have a fairly robust ability to function on their own. (This doesn’t contradict the ‘no such thing as a free market’ critique which I previously offered, and which Ned conceded.)

Your claims also have a certain plausibility, because most of us have had the experience of successfully cooperating with others without the desire to ‘get an edge’ on the folks we’re working with. But BOTH of you are relying on best case scenarios to get your vision to work.

You’re all for testing theories? I can think of a pretty robust test of yours & Ned’s theories. It’s called “history.” You both fail this test–you by your own admission–with flying colors.

One last remark. You’re fond of this phrase, the people own the means of production. I’ll never convince you, but this idea is utterly incoherent. Absolutely and utterly. Anyone who pays attention to how things get done, in reality not in fantasy, knows that too many masters will doom almost any undertaking. Try sailing a ship that way… you will die.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 4:12 pm

Mattski,

I’ve written about how it could work here and in other locales — as have others. In another locale, it was actually well received.

My idea would be rotating councils. People would sit on the councils for a certain period of time, and then go back to what they were doing as part of the rank and file. It would be like the Peace Corps in a sense. Do your four years and then go back home. My idea would be — and this could be tweaked — six months locally, six months regionally, then one year nationally. No permanent leadership structure. But there would be leaders.

There is also the example of Mondragon to consider, and Richard D. Wolff’s WSDEs.

Also, examples from history have a certain purpose. If no example of X can be found in history, it means it is inaccurate and foolish to blame X for past results of some other system (not X). However, it doesn’t mean X can’t be formed in the future. Obviously, capitalism didn’t exist until it existed. In the time of Feudalism, one might conclude that capitalism could never happen because it has not happened yet. That would be a false conclusion.

Do you see the difference?

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Luke 10.07.14 at 4:20 pm

“Anyone who pays attention to how things get done, in reality not in fantasy, knows that too many masters will doom almost any undertaking. Try sailing a ship that way… you will die.”

Pirate ships were democracies. They often functioned rather well (until the Royal Navy got them).

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Plume 10.07.14 at 4:23 pm

Mattski,

And I’ll try this one last time. You say Ned and I are two sides to the same coin. No. We’re not in the same universe.

Again, Ned is saying that a system built on a top down, hierarchical, autocratic model (capitalism) is, if left unchecked, likely to spur harmony and kumbaya . . . . while a system built on democratic, egalitarian, cooperative and communal principles (socialism) is likely to spur violence and coercion. I can’t see how any objective person would agree with that.

Remember those tests in which you look for the thing that is “not like the rest”? The results claimed by Ned for the capitalist system fit that bill. The results for socialism? Like and like.

Btw, we’ve long known how important the role of nurture, culture, socialization is in human development. Science is also showing us how “natural” it is for humans to share and want equal outcomes. This articles shows kids, long before they’ve been taught to be selfish and avaricious . . . demanding that toys and such be handed out equally . . . to the point where they prefer that the remainder be thrown out if it doesn’t work out exactly.

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Harold 10.07.14 at 4:27 pm

The Athenian army elected its generals by democratic vote. They beat the Persians. Some people even have speculated that Greek democracy resulted from its military practices. On the other hand, a leader, once elected, was deferred to.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 4:36 pm

It’s football season so I’ll try an analogy of like and like there.

You have two teams with two different philosophies.

On team X, the QB favors his star receiver more than any other team. He targets his Number One 20 times a game, his Number Two 3 times a game. The coaches also spend most of their time with the star and the other receivers are afterthoughts, at best. On and off the field.

On team Z, the QB likes to spread around the love. He targets the receivers almost equally. Very close. To the point where they don’t really have a Number One guy. The coaches spend equal amounts of time with each receiver, on and off the field.

Which team is likely to produce greater “harmony and cooperation” among the players? Which team is likely to create disharmony, jealousies, anger, resentment?

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mattski 10.07.14 at 5:45 pm

Luke, Pirate ships were democracies. They often functioned rather well (until the Royal Navy got them).

Give us a cite, wouldja? In a critical situation it is rather helpful to have an authority who can shut off debate in an instant. If a ship captain comes under suspicion of incompetence by his crew the crew can oust him. But they will elect someone to take his place.

Which goes to Harold’s point, which is kind of THE point. The one thing we can profitably do on a mass participatory level is elect leaders. But we can’t direct a battle the same way and expect not to get slaughtered. We would get slaughtered.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 5:53 pm

Mattski,

Why should we elect leaders? Why not just have them chosen by lottery? Rotate all of us, again, as a kind of civil draft. A Peace Corp assignment for a time. That way, we don’t lock in power and let it build, concentrate in a few hands, and without elections, we take money out of it. At least that part of the deal.

No elections. Lotteries instead. And everyone would know, going in, that they won’t stay very long and others will replace them. Everyone would get a chance to do their part, make their mark.

Right now, in our system, a tiny, tiny portion of the population runs for office, and money makes it prohibitive for that tiny portion to expand. Congress, for instance, is pretty much solely made up of millionaires and more. It is very rare for someone with less money than that to make it. We’re talking the 1% and above, and study after study shows that our elected leaders really don’t pay attention to the bottom 90% of us.

The masses elect leaders who ignore the masses. Is that at all logical, rational or even sane?

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Ogden Wernstrom 10.07.14 at 5:53 pm

McNutterville @156:

The epistemology of economics is a bit arcane for a blog like this.

You must be new here.

Ibid. @163:

If the people under socialism are going to own the productive resources, you and I and everyone with half a brain knows that a violent state will be necessary to acquire and own those resources…

In school, I learned about how we in these United States came to own the productive resources. Have we been socialists all this time without admitting it?

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Plume 10.07.14 at 5:57 pm

Ogden,

Good points.

Not only with the overthrow of the Brits, but via our military helping private interests steal Native American land and resources. And then the same thing repeated in overseas colonies. And, really, on balance, America is the least “socialist” nation in the West. It has a history of crushing the emergence of leftist movements, or overthrowing democratically elected leftists. etc.

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Luke 10.07.14 at 6:50 pm

@184
Not every sphere of life is an armed camp that demands military discipline (yet). The Athenians elected generals and other people who needed specific technical expertise, who would then be deferred to on campaign, while other offices were filled by lot. Laws were voted on by citizens in the assembly. So, ‘democracy’ can mean a lot of things even within a single polity.

Regarding pirates, captains were often elected and could be deposed. That doesn’t mean having a meeting in the middle of battle, obviously. I can’t for the life of me recall the title of my source, and it’s driving me insane, but it’s a commonplace in histories of piracy around the 18th C., IIRC.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 7:06 pm

Not every sphere of life is an armed camp that demands military discipline

Yes, and it’s mostly from feeling pinched for time that I go to that example because it makes the point more starkly. But, the point is broadly applicable, with diminishing force depending on the situation.

In real life there are good and bad justifications for authority. Usually, knowledge is a good justification (Socrates was big on that.) Oftentimes wealth is a justification, sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good. But you know, if I’m building a house for a wealthy person I might disagree about some details of the plan–and let them know how I feel about, and my expertise in construction might give me reason to believe I know what I’m talking about much more so than the client–but in the end I’m going to do it the way they want it. Maybe I can sway them with my opinions, maybe not. They are signing the checks. All in all, it’s not an awful way to do things.

And, re pirates, sounds like we’re on the same page anyway.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 7:12 pm

Plume,

Why should we elect leaders? Why not just have them chosen by lottery?

Because I wouldn’t want lawmakers chosen by lottery. Because in choosing we can look for desirable characteristics. Because people aren’t all equal in sagacity, in social skill, in experience. Etc.

Sports analogies? How does a team captain get chosen? It’s a combination of skill as a player and the ability to inspire confidence among teammates. Do you think many sports teams choose their leaders by lot?

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Luke 10.07.14 at 7:32 pm

Well, the anti-Socratic example, given (and here, my memory fails me again) in a Socratic dialogue and possibly also in Aristotle, is the analogy of a play. You don’t ask the author whether their play is good; you ask the audience. And the audience will, as a corporate body, inevitably understand the play better than any expert could, even if as individuals they might not all be expert critics. Since watching a play is a skill that most people can and do possess, the defence of ‘expert knowledge’ fails here. What is needed is debate in a properly functioning public sphere — something the technocratic, Platonic authoritarian mentality has been admirably successful at extirpating.

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Harold 10.07.14 at 7:35 pm

How does the captain of a passenger jet or ship get chosen? Not by lots. Jury members get chosen by lot.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 7:44 pm

Mattski,

But, again, our leaders aren’t chosen for those special traits. It’s rather obvious that very few of them have them. They’re selected for other reasons, and we have no control over our choices, just incredibly narrow options among those already selected by the 1% and above.

And why are they selected? Primarily for their ability to deliver for their donors. With a few exceptions. I think it’s even more starry-eyed to think of our elected leaders as especially gifted in positive leadership qualities as it is to believe we all want to sing kumbaya by the campfire. At least there is strong evidence, as the link I provided shows, that we start out wanting to share, cooperate, etc. etc. But by the time it comes to elections, it’s kinda too late. The system has long since taken over and our chances have been radically limited.

Lottery would radically expand the pool of leaders to include, well, all of us. The system at present radically limits that pool to the very wealthy and/or those who will give the wealthy what they want.

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Luke 10.07.14 at 7:49 pm

I should add that your defence of ‘merit’ raises the problem of defining value. How does one define ‘sagacity’? Do we apoint an expert panel of sagaciticians? Surely, the public, not being sagacious, cannot be allowed to decide what constitutes sagacity? Perhaps if we train an elite cadre of sagaciticians, they can make such decisions? But there will need to be a curriculum — so, we must find the most sagacious persons, and let them create it. Only, how will we know who is sagacious enought to define sagacity?

Each of these absurdities is a throne made for a tyrant (or a clique of tyrants), who must step in sooner or later. The definition of merit is… The authority to define merit.

This is not just a reductio ad absurdum — the purpose of Plato’s pursuit of virtue is to attack the (peaceful, stable and functional, by the standards of its time) democracy in which he lives. What, actually, constitutes ‘expertise’ in lawmaking? Well, for Plato, it means being an educated, eloquent aristocrat. In fact, Athens functioned quite well by allowing all of its citizens to be lawmakers, and law arbiters, with opinions from experts on technical matters. We, on the other hand, have been so well conditioned to accept authority that thinking for ourselves is unthinkable.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 7:50 pm

There is a difference between civic duty and specialization of occupations. I’m not advocating for lotteries when it comes to heart surgeons, etc. For that, I’d go with free education for everyone, and students passing through rigorous training to become surgeons, etc. etc. Lotteries would be for leadership positions in the civil servant realm. For the equivalent of town councils, mayors, House members, senators, etc. etc. Community, regional and national. Occupations requiring advanced degrees, rigorous and thorough training, etc. etc. would be still utilize that route . . . . though, unlike in our present system, no one would be excluded for inability to pay for said schooling and training. All would be welcomed to try. No one would be turned away because of money.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 8:04 pm

Also, at the workplace level. Operations. A CEO. It is incredibly rare that day to day operations of your average businesses involve advanced, esoteric, extremely elevated levels of knowledge. Decisions by CEOs rarely, rarely require that. So workplaces could do just fine being fully democratized, with leadership councils rotating in and out. Occupations within that structure that do require sophisticated specialization? That wouldn’t change. In the capitalist system there is a difference between the decisions of “managers” and the skills of surgeons and their equivalents. That wouldn’t change in the alternative.

Common sense would guide where lotteries would come in to play and where esoteric, advanced knowledge and skill would apply — where it would be absurd to choose X, Y or Z based on lotteries.

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stevenjohnson 10.07.14 at 8:38 pm

On the credibility of Ludwig von Mises: Ken MacLeod, honored at this blog along with his good buddy Francis Spufford, boasts that he’s incorporated Mises’ economic calculation proof into his version of “socialism.” Since MacLeod’s version is similar to Plume’s, I hope that gives Plume cause to rethink.

On the embarrassments of really existing socialism: The notion that everybody will get socialist ideas and the world will be great was always ignorant moralizing with a progressive veneer. Democracy works fine with woman suffrage but look how long it took to live up to that. Socialism is no more refuted by Josef Stalin than democracy is refuted by Francisco Solano Lopez; King Leopold II of Belgium; Oliver Cromwell; Kemal Ataturk; Paul Kagame; Gen. Suharto; etc. ad nauseam. Making Stalin hate a cardinal principle functions much like standing up against Lincoln’s tyranny and brutal warfare aimed against civilians.

Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and even Turkmenistan are even yet still in a better place than decolonized Muslim countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, even Iran. You can fight the anti-Communist crusade all you want, but that doesn’t change anything. Socialism is the way forward. Or should I say, the way out?

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Plume 10.07.14 at 8:49 pm

Stevenjohnson,

Here’s an interesting article that ties back to a past CT discussion (Red Plenty):

http://louisproyect.org/2012/06/27/crooked-timbers-neo-austrians/

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Plume 10.07.14 at 8:56 pm

Ned found it a calumny to quote Von Mises being highly complimentary about Fascism. The article above does as well, and reminds us that Von Mises was the economic adviser to Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrian Fascist dictator. IOW, it wasn’t just a Sunday lark for Von Mises to support Fascism. And he would be among the first John Birchers, a Fascistic organization as well.

Again, he was a despicable human being, with despicable ideas.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 9:02 pm

Luke,

I’m in agreement with most everything you’re saying there. I’m certainly no fan of Plato! On the contrary, as I said above, I regard I.F. Stone’s, The Trial of Socrates, as a bible of sorts. For that book does more than anyone ever has to knock Socrates off his pedestal.

The point of an election is you, me and everyone else gets to decide what sagacity is.

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jake the antisoshul soshulist 10.07.14 at 9:13 pm

Dear Mr. Netterville,
You seem to have forgotten the rich young man who was asked to sell all his goods and give the proceeds to the poor. “Easier to pass through the eye of a needle.”
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth”
Yeshua very clearly felt that wealth was a impediment to salvation.

As an apostate Campbellite, those lessons have stuck with me, much more than Saul of Tarsus’ self-loathing and misogyny. Even Saul thought “love of money is the root of all evil.”

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Plume 10.07.14 at 9:13 pm

mattski,

But, again, in our system, we don’t get to choose who runs. We have to select from a very limited pool that others create, primarily for their benefit. It’s very similar to the idea of “choice” in a store. It’s an illusion.

Remember the scene in “The Hurt Locker,” where the main character comes back from Iraq and goes food shopping?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PgbNQU3cYo

I immediately thought he must be thinking, “I risked my life for this?”

The illusion of choice. It’s what’s for breakfast.

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Luke 10.07.14 at 9:21 pm

@200
Fair enough. I guess I wanted to extent the point a little further, though, in that ‘democracy’ can (should) extend beyond elections in some situations. I also think it’s worth distinguishing between ‘deputies’ and ‘representatives’, but this is a tangent of a tangent of a tangent.

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mattski 10.07.14 at 9:25 pm

But, again, our leaders aren’t chosen for those special traits. It’s rather obvious that very few of them have them.

I think you’re plainly wrong. I’m not even coming close to endorsing our government as a whole, which I clearly don’t. Our government is in a sorry state of affairs, imo. Nevertheless, a lot of talented people with good motivation do in fact get elected to national office in the USA.

Sure, it helps to come from money. FDR & JFK would probably never have been president had they come from modest backgrounds. But both were, imo, extraordinary presidents. (In recent years I’ve become convinced that JFK was murdered precisely because of his best instincts. For anyone interested, see here, here, here. ) I think Jimmy Carter was a very good president, same for Bill Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama were/are victims of bad circumstance, i.e. the rise of partisan dysfunction. Al Gore would have been a good president had he not been tripped up by our beltway/media elite who were–no surprise–acting on behalf of the plutocracy whether they were aware of it or not.

Part of what I think you gloss over is that nothing is a panacea for the human condition. Democracy is a pretty good idea, compared to the alternatives, but the fact is very bad leaders also get elected. There are no guarantees in this world.

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Plume 10.07.14 at 9:39 pm

Mattski,

Trust me. I don’t believe in panaceas. I believe in “better, the same or worse.” I think it’s a matter of degrees. But sometimes, the degrees of difference are huge.

(I’m extremely nearsighted. Those eye exams? They do that better, the same or worse stuff, too)

So real socialism, to me, would be much, much better than the existing system. I’ve never said, nor do I believe, that it would solve all our problems. Not even close. Just that it would be much better than the current system.

Liked FDR and JFK, and I think RFK would have been better than either of them. IMO, he was the last best hope, as far as major party candidates.

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Ogden Wernstrom 10.08.14 at 3:25 pm

Somehow, I’m in the mood to watch The Parallax View again.

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