Exam Question for Bonus Marks

by Henry on January 29, 2004

“Hell on Earth would be a World Government run by Crooked Timber”:http://www.catallarchy.net/blog/cgi-bin/archives/000885.html

Do you agree with this proposition? Do you disagree? Discuss, with reference to the “assigned readings”:https://www.crookedtimber.org.

{ 38 comments }

1

Chris Bertram 01.29.04 at 4:54 pm

There are 13 of us (unlucky for some). The question is, who gets which portfolio?

2

Brian Weatherson 01.29.04 at 5:08 pm

Hehe – my first thought before seeing Chris’s post was to ask which portfolio I was getting. If it’s a world government you’d have to think Defence would be a pretty easy job, so maybe I’d like that.

3

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 5:17 pm

Hi Chris,

Following the history of all fully socialist countries it won’t matter which of any group of socialists gets which state portfolio, once the dream of a proper socialist World Government is finally realised, probably quite literally over my dead body.

For the most ruthless of the collective, however composed, will ensure the others end up, shall we say, ‘politically ineffective’, within less than a decade.

Well, that’s how long it normally takes. Though of course, it took a bit longer for Uncle Joe to make Trotsky ‘politically ineffective’, which was rather lax.

There’s a good visual description of this process, here:

=> http://www.mises.org/TRTS.htm

4

Matthew 01.29.04 at 5:39 pm

I wouldn’t like to see your tuition fees policy…

5

Kevin Brennan 01.29.04 at 5:40 pm

All socialist countries? Funny, I must have missed the Great Swedish Purge…

6

Matt 01.29.04 at 5:45 pm

Hell on earth? Well, maybe Purgatory on earth. Suffering now, but with a promise of getting into Paradise, someday.

7

Barry 01.29.04 at 5:50 pm

Kevin:

“All socialist countries? Funny, I must have missed the Great Swedish Purge…”

That’s because it was done so quickly , quietly and ruthlessly thoroughly that only a few even know about it.

8

dmm 01.29.04 at 5:54 pm

No, a World Government run by Crooked Timber would be heck on earth. At the very least, Daniel’s and Ted’s heckling from the back of the room would keep the Star Chamber meetings interesting enough to watch on the telly.

Hell on earth would be a world government run by The Corner.

9

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 6:53 pm

Kevin Brennan writes:

All socialist countries? Funny, I must have missed the Great Swedish Purge…

Well, even Sweden has never been fully socialist, still has a King, and there’s still plenty of anti-socialist political activity still tolerated, though I would imagine through barely clenched nanny-statist teeth. Unlike all the other fully socialist bedfellows, of course, with no such toleration, in the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, China, Cambodia, unserweiter, unserweiter.

Yes, you’re sick of all these examples being trotted out, I know. Shame there’s so many of them though, isn’t it, compared to all the Swedens you’ve got up your sleeves.

But, Ok, I’ll give you Sweden.

But is that what you people want, a worldwide Sweden? Oh joy. Something to die for.

Except of course for the 40,000 Swedes living in London, England, who’ve escaped the crushing collectivist taxation of their motherland, such as Gabriel Stein, who runs the Adam Smith Institute’s Tax Freedom Day site. What a star! ;-)

In a Swedish-style socialist World Government, there will be no escape for Mr Stein, which may please you. Those 40,000 London emigrees will have nowhere left to escape to, as the whole world will be Swedish.

And the same goes for the rest of us. What a nightmare. Nowhere outside the cage to dream about escaping to, except perhaps the Moon or Mars. It truly would be a hell on Earth of pushy interfering nanny-statists controlling our lives down to the last Bagel we’re allowed to eat on a daily basis, and that’s the best we can expect. It’s much more likely to tip straight into the Gulag, as it usually does.

Though maybe, in the long run, it could be a good thing. Because people like me would try to escape to Mars, if you let us live that long, and get humanity off the Earth before the next wipe-out comet hits.

Would we cry on Mars, in our barely-freezing tents, as the paradise of World Socialism got wiped out by this comet? I wonder.

There’s actually a really good chapter called ‘Good Socialism’, in P.J.O’Rourke’s wonderful book, Eat the Rich where he examines the conundrum of Sweden, the one country usually trotted out to defend the other socialist horrors of Cambodia, et al.

I can’t remember the details, but I recall it comes down to lots of borrowing, and a long slow economic decline, from a long period of economic freedom pre-1970s, which just hangs on to barely working because you have a very homogenised genetically close group of people with very similar interests and aspirations, with a harsh winter climate binding them together into a close group of mutual survivalists.

And thousands, of course, escaping every year to other countries, thereby literally draining out any successful organised resistance to the Nanny State.

Buy the book, and check it out. One of P.J.’s best!

:-)

Or even better, try to get all the world’s socialists to move to Sweden, to make it even better, to make the rest of us even more jealous of Sweden’s wonderfulness.

Matthew writes:

I wouldn’t like to see your tuition fees policy…

I wouldn’t have one Matthew. I wouldn’t have a grants policy either. Or a research policy. Or a Universities policy. Or a students policy. In fact I’d have no policies whatsoever. On anything.

People want educated? They find someone willing to educate them (either for a fee, or for charity), and they get educated.

As one who gets paid well for teaching people, I’ve got no problem finding a market for my teaching services. I also love educating people. But what I love most of all is that no other schlepper has been forced to pay me, against their will, to educate a third party who has a politcal hold over them.

Everyone who comes to me does so willingly, and pays with their own money. And (hopefully), the return they get on their investment paying me to teach them, rewards them massively, or at least more than the cost of paying for my computer games. They certainly seem to keep coming back, anyway.

How many UK University academics would make a living, if all their students paid them directly from their own pockets, destroying the mechanisms of producer interest? I would suspect a lot less than there currently are. Although that may be unkind.

Under such circumstances such academics would probably work much harder to give their students value for money. And we’d all be better off, as a result.

That’s what I love about Tony Blair, though. He’s wrecked socialism within the Labour Party so much, he’s actually moving (albeit at glacial speed) in a direction I like, where UK academics are finally going to have to earn a real living, and work to consumer interest, rather than producer interest.

Matt writes:

Hell on earth? Well, maybe Purgatory on earth. Suffering now, but with a promise of getting into Paradise, someday.

Didn’t Leon Trotsky say something like this once, before Uncle Joe stuck a pick-axe in his head? Let’s do a google on it:

=> http://www.revolutionary-history.co.uk/supplem/ktintro.htm

Best I can find at short notice, I’m afraid. But I think it covers the general point that all socialist plans for Utopian paradise always end in total disaster, except of course in Sweden, where it ended up in total creche care, from which tens of thousands keep escaping, every year.

How could these legions of Swedish emigrees be so stupid to abandon such perfection?

10

Carlos 01.29.04 at 7:03 pm

Let us all hail Supreme Leader Daniel Davies.

11

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.29.04 at 7:23 pm

Hmm, are we assuming that they magically get wished into power? I doubt it would be hell. Medical and technological advancement rate would drop sharply but other than that I doubt it would be hell at first, they are smart enough not to seriously tinker too much with the market for strict necessities like food and water (I think). Though I’ll admit that I can’t understand how you can come to the realization that the government isn’t competent at allocating resources to produce food, while you simultaneously believe it would be great at more complex matters like drug production–whoops I’m drifting swiftly off topic.

Are we assuming that no evil people will band together and try to take over later? If not, I fear for Timberland. I think Timberland isn’t well suited to deal with religious fanatics like bin Laden.

12

Walt Pohl 01.29.04 at 7:27 pm

Andy: Are you really that humor impaired, or do you just simulate it for our benefit?

13

Another Damned Medievalist 01.29.04 at 8:01 pm

Better Timberland than a world run by the scientific racists — oh wait, human biodiversity believers at Gene Expression.

14

Matthew 01.29.04 at 8:07 pm

Andy,

My comments were directed at the Crooked Timber lot, not you, but thanks for replying anyway. I’ve printed it out and will refer to it for reassurance whenever I’m worried I might have written something stupid.

Matthew

15

libertarian ct fan 01.29.04 at 8:28 pm

A government run by Crooked Timber would OBVIOUSLY be hell on earth.

People who think that they’re smarter than everyone else (and with some reason!) are my idea of lousy leaders.

Genuine humility and circumspectness (sp?) in action are required for good leadership, e.g., the type under which freedom might survive.

The people at Crooked Timber are too audacious, bold, confident to be any good as leaders.

They make excellent bloggers, though. (And this despite being wrong all the time.)

16

Jeremy Osner 01.29.04 at 8:36 pm

I prefer to have my world run by The Poor Man, thanks just the same. And Roy Edroso shall be his deputy.

17

Sigivald 01.29.04 at 8:42 pm

I imagine we could do a lot worse than CT running the world.

I also imagine, of course, that we could do a lot better, but I’m a nasty ol’ libertarian/old-liberal/conservative type who has an allergic reaction to “social democracy”.

I can answer more clearly once CT-as-a-collective enunciates any collective policy statements for world government. (Heh.)

18

robin green 01.29.04 at 8:44 pm

Walt: I’ve noticed for sometime a curious correlation between libertarianism and being an uptight prig. Do you think I could get a grant to study it?

19

DJW 01.29.04 at 8:48 pm

If there’s a competition afoot for the hardest working, most naive, most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, most painfully sincere libertarian in the blogosphere, I’d say Andy Duncan pretty much my vote sewn up. I’m unaware of any such competition, so one has to wonder why he’s wasting his time.

20

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 9:00 pm

Walt Pohl writes:

Are you really that humor impaired, or do you just simulate it for our benefit?

:-)

Just taking the temperature, Walt.

Matthew writes:

I’ve printed it out and will refer to it for reassurance whenever I’m worried I might have written something stupid.

Come on Matthew, I’m in the lions’ den here.

It’s going to be no fun at all, if you’re only going to chuck understatements at me.

Can I see some teeth? What would your tuitions fees policy be?

21

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 9:20 pm

djw writes:

I’m unaware of any such competition, so one has to wonder why he’s wasting his time.

Hey, it’s kinda fun. It can get a bit dull preaching to the converted, and you can get a bit out of touch of what it is you’re fighting against.

I’ve also been told that Crooked Timber is the best socialist web site in the world, so I thought I’d take a look at the whites of the enemy’s eyes.

And they’ve been good sports, so far.

As a former socialist myself, I also like to keep my hand in, to remind myself of my former horrible collectivist views, and the reasons why they were just so badly mistaken.

Also, if they’re going to quote me from another blog, and turn that quote into an article title, I feel it’s my Kantian duty to respond! :-)

It’s the old socialist in me.

And so, back to work. Au revoir.

22

Walt Pohl 01.29.04 at 9:35 pm

Crooked Timber is a socialist website?

23

Kieran Healy 01.29.04 at 9:36 pm

1. I’ve also been told that Crooked Timber is the best socialist web site in the world, so I thought I’d take a look at the whites of the enemy’s eyes.

2. As a former socialist myself

It seems to me that if the state of knowledge implied by (1) is true then (2) must be false, and vice versa.

24

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 9:38 pm

Robin Green writes:

Walt: I’ve noticed for sometime a curious correlation between libertarianism and being an uptight prig.

Sorry, had to come back to just this last one.

I really will go back to work, in a minute. Promise.

To your point above, Robin, when I was a Sheffield Wednesday regular, we always used to call Sheffield United fans ‘pigs’. Remarkably, they always used to call us ‘pigs’, too. Which I always used to find really surprising, because obviously they were pigs, whereas we were angels of infinite majesty and toleration.

I’m sure that all opposing groups, with rival mindsets, appear uptight, humourless, stiff-assed etc, to the other, because the things they find hilariously laughable, are serious core views you hold dear to your heart.

So therefore you’re never going to understand their sense of humour, because to do so would be to undermine your own important sense of your self.

On our part, we find socialists INCREDIBLY humourless, po-faced, uptight, bitter, and twisted, in fact, the very definition of these characteristics. The very word socialist, itself, suggests a straight-mouthed Gulag guard, or prissy do-gooder ranting on about how cigarettes should be banned.

I’m sure you find us the same, and the word ‘libertarian’ may conjure up for you the picture of some short-haired stuffed shirt brandishing a machine-gun and demanding you step off their property (or whatever image it happens to be).

Having been on both sides, with most of my adult life spent as a committed socialist, I have a slight advantage on most, but fortunately (from my personal perspective), the old socialist who inhabits a cage in the centre of my mind is becoming less powerful, by the month, so I’m less and less able to see the world from your point of view, hence I will appear more and more humourless to you, and will care less and less what you think of me.

In the same way, I’m sure, that you have little regard as to my opinion of you.

However, you calling me an ‘uptight prig’ is a BIT MORE LIKE IT!!! :-)

These are the kinds of insults I can respect, and hold dear, pinning them into my insult collection.

And…

Do you think I could get a grant to study it?

That, is priceless! :-)

Nice one :)

25

kevin 01.29.04 at 9:40 pm

You know, the fact that anyone could say with a straight face that Crooked Timber is a socialist (partriculalrly after listing a group of communist countries as socialist …) website says quite a bit more about their politics than the Timberites’

26

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.29.04 at 9:51 pm

No you couldn’t say that Timberites are socialist, but I think you could say that they exhibit a trust for non-Bush big government solutions to perceived problems.

27

Kieran Healy 01.29.04 at 9:58 pm

I think you could say that they exhibit a trust for non-Bush big government solutions to perceived problems.

I prefer to use the phrase “perceived problem-related program activities.”

28

Scott Martens 01.29.04 at 9:58 pm

they are smart enough not to seriously tinker too much with the market for strict necessities like food and water (I think).

Sebastian, I’m strongly tempted to make you list three countries the import less than 80% of their food where agriculture is left to the free market, or any place with indoor running water not provided by a state sanctioned monopoly. I can’t think of any…

29

Carlos 01.29.04 at 10:06 pm

I take it this isn’t the excellent short story writer Andy Duncan? But some other, boring, interloper. With a crap sense of humor, too.

Ah well.

C.

30

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 10:06 pm

Sorry, had to do just one more:

Kieran Healy writes:

It seems to me that if the state of knowledge implied by (1) is true then (2) must be false, and vice versa.

Maybe my definition of the word former is different from yours?

It does happen, you know. I know it may be heretical to even think it, but sometimes, occasionally, people realise their dearly held adolescent views are not quite as solid as they ought to be. They investigate why, and pow, they find themselves having to resign from socialist central.

The most famous of our happy band is F.A.Hayek, the author of ‘The Road to Serfdom’.

You may even want to try my personal Cure for Socialism, just to see how it can be possible.

But be careful though. The books it contains are HIGHLY dangerous.

Now, I really MUST be going.

Ciao, it’s been real.

31

Andy Duncan 01.29.04 at 10:53 pm

Carlos writes:

But some other, boring, interloper. With a crap sense of humor, too.

Come on, Carlos. I’m trying real hard here. If you’re going to gratuitiously insult me, could you at least try to use a little more eloquence and style?

‘boring’ and ‘crap’?

Is this all I truly deserve, when I’ve been slaving my guts out all day trying to give you people an increased sense of community, in providing you with such an easy non-moving target?

It’s an outrage. I’d write to my MP, if I thought involving myself with the political process would make an ounce of difference to anything at all.

By the way, just to save another incredibly witty poster the trouble:

Andy Duncan writes:

Is this all I truly deserve

Yes.

32

Unlearned Hand 01.30.04 at 12:04 am

Geez, where did you find this guy?

33

Jeremy Osner 01.30.04 at 3:37 am

Hand — it’s simple, they just use the FreakMagnet.

34

dsquared 01.30.04 at 8:33 am

We go up to Yorkshire and shake the trees and they fall out.

On a small factual point, I have in fact read loads of Hayek and von Mises, so Andy’s cure doesn’t work all the time.

35

harry 01.30.04 at 3:01 pm

Ditto Daniel’s second sentence. And I read Milton Friedman even more.

36

Stewart Kelly 01.30.04 at 4:38 pm

I’m currently about one third of the way down the first page of Road to Serfdom. No ill-effects yet…

37

DJW 01.30.04 at 9:52 pm

Wow, he’s working hard to prove me right.

I’ll give Andy this–lefties should read Hayek and Smith–hell, everyone should. Hayek, especially, is great–his central texts are filled with auxilliary discussions that are quite thought-provoking, and in general he gives a much more compelling case for his position than, say, Nozick. While we’re at it, we should all read Marx, too. And Carl Schmitt. And in if we’re doing all this properly, we shouldn’t turn into raving ideological zealots when we’re finished.

Time to get back to grading–oops, I mean sucking the life out of the body politic.

38

robin green 01.30.04 at 10:51 pm

Andy – I’m not sure you understood Kieran Healy’s post, so I’ll spell it out for you.

He believes that if you think Crooked Timber is “socialist”, then you must not know what “socialist” means, and therefore cannot have been a socialist. (When put like that, it’s obviously fallacious – you could have been socialist while still not knowing what the word that described you meant – but his first point could still be valid, in any case.)

Personally, I can’t decide whether to agree or not. The word socialist admits of a number of different incompatible definitions.

Comments on this entry are closed.