Your Friday evening brain teaser



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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55 Responses

  1. Avatar Bubbaquimby says:

    Growing up in a progressive town and than moving all over I have come to find there is a one big difference to liberals and progressives. They both want to change the system we have to create more safety nets and more equality for people and overall a more fair society for everyone. However they have a much different approach to how to get there.

    Liberals tend to be more pragmatic and realistic of what can be done now. They take a more implementable view of how to get there.

    Progressives want to get those outcomes much more immediately, for instance wanted single payer, immediate withdrawal of Iraq, etc.

    I define Obama as a liberal, both want basically the same outcomes (expanded health care, withdrawal from Iraq) but they have different approaches of how to get there.

    Now to put that in comparison to Europe, they have a much different situation. They are not as much fighting FOR things as defending the status quo. But they too have two factions, reformers and left wingers.

    Basically reformers are the neo-liberals like Tony Blair, while left-wingers are trying to continue expanding the welfare state.

    Americans liberals are trying to get to where Europe already is, while European social democrats are trying to keep what they already have.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      Liberals vs. progressives? Some liberals started re- branding themselves as progressives when the word liberal and the associated ideology went out of fashion.Report

  2. Avatar Steven Donegal says:

    Let’s ask another question: are American conservatives the equivalent of the Labour party? Neither has had a new idea in about 30 years. Discuss.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I have another question: what is the difference between “movement conservative” and “lying sack of shit”?Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    American liberalism sees capitalism as the driving force of the economy but feels it needs regulation to function and government action to smooth out the worst of the inevitable jolts of the system. Liberals believe in safety nets and see government action as needed to remove some of the inequities, especially the gross power imbalances, that occur in capitalist countries. If we viewed captilalist economies as a horse, american liberals think that horse needs to be trained, cared for and used to the benefit of people. Conservatives think we should just hang on and the wild horse will just make everybody rich, or if you fall off, its your own damn fault.

    Dem socialist, as i remember its been while, see capitalism as much more fatally flawed and actually dangerous. They view capitalism as inevitably leading to moneyed oligarchs f’ing over everybody else. The economy needs to be controlled and focused for the good of the people.

    While i am much more in the American lib tradition i used to read a bit of left wing commentary. The recent charges against goldman sachs made me wish we had at least some strong left wing voices in this country. the part that stood out the most, which nobody seemed to be bothered by, was that GS bundled mortgages and also had side bets that they mortgages would fail. Now that is smart business to hedge bets. But it leaves them with absolutely no incentive to give a crap whether the financial system works for all the rest of us. If people are wiped out, they still make millions, oh sure not as many millions as other wise, but they would still be fine. That is the kind of thing that i think Dem Soc, would rail against. A financial system that is completely divorced any morality or goal other then to be a mega-Croesus. Being part of financial system that functions to make a strong prosperous country is just irrelevant it seems nowadays. So i think there is a philosophical difference about whether capitalism is a good thing that just needs to be run right or whether it is inherently faulty.

    Somewhat oddly i’ve had some conservative people agree with some real left wing economics about how faulty capitalism can be and that it needs to be regulated.

    PS oh my lord Jonah G is a moron, he wouldn’t know a fascist or a socialist from a hole in his head. I’m surprised he can use any noun correctly.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think the deep-seated difference is a historical and identity oriented one rather than something philosophical or policy oriented one.

    Whereas Democratic Socialism in the European sense is an outgrowth of radical political movements that sought to replace ancien regimes, American liberalism is founded more on the principle of returning to the origins of the American promise and living up to them.

    Hence why genuinely radical socialist movements like anarcho-socialism never found as much purchase in the US as in Europe. Because leftward movements in the US still generally believed that it was imperfections in implementation rather than the basic blueprint that’s flawed, whereas European strains were generally more about doing away with the structure entirely.

    Simplest example is to compare how the two types of philosophies treat constitutions. American liberals on the whole have their own idiosyncratic take on the value of the Constitution and their worship of it as a sort of secular political religion. Europeans are much more apt to scrap constitutions and start over. God knows we’re already on five french republics.

    In a way it’s essentially: Americans are happy with the core of their values and simply wish to debate who best has the images of implementing them. Continental strains of left and right I think generally are more prone to try to toss away the core and start fresh in the name of preserving the labels.Report

  6. Avatar Will says:

    Democratic socialists and social democrats are not the same. It’s not really a matter of degrees either. The NDP are social democrats. The German Left are democratic socialists.
    Were the American Left more of social democrats, I would like them much better.
    The Third Way DNCers are probably the closest thing to democratic socialist that we have in the US. I know of no such organization for social democrats (though I would like to hear about it if you can think of one).
    I don’t see the progressives as particularly progressive in the historical sense. What we call “Progressive” these days is really more-or-less an institutionalization of the fragmented identity politics that grew out from the various protest movements in the 60’s. 1960’s: grassroots protests; 1970’s gradual institutionalization; 1980’s: marked radicalization.
    I see Obama as being more in line with the old guard Democratic Party; minorities and blue-collar workers. Most of his positions aren’t all that different from that. As leader of the party, he has to make some allowances to the other major factions within the party.
    Liberals, like conservatives, come in several different stripes, and I’m finding it difficult to generalize about them as a whole. For the most part, I see them as having much the same principles as conservatives, although they like to factor personal responsibility out of the equation, and value things such as pluralism for its own sake in a completely uncontrolled, haphazard, random fashion rather than as an expression of a higher good. Other than centralization, that’s about the main difference.
    I suppose if you were to take a conservative, strip their values of any meaning, destroy the consequences of their actions, chastise them for their capabilities, and make them believe that they should never make a decision for themselves, you would end up with a liberal.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @Will, And I just realized right after I posted that comment that the difference can be seen clearly with the issue of equality. What does it entail?
      Socialists tend to focus on equality of outcomes, whereas liberals tend to focus on equality of opportunity.
      While this might sound nice, it really doesn’t make any sense as a foundation for political institutions.
      Colts vs. Dolphins, we all know pretty much who’s going to win. For the socialist, the score has to be a tie at the end of the game. For the liberal, the teams should exchange players before the game to make them more evenly matched.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @Will, equality of opportunity….eh no. What we don’t want is an economic system where some are doomed to fail and some will be rich regardless of effort and skill. Not equality of opportunity but everybody gets a shot at success. The rules should not be solely written by those who benefit the most, just to keep themselves rich. Everybody should have a say in writing the rules of the game.

        So to use your football analogy, in the Am Lib theory, both the colts and the fish get to make the rules which are aimed at making the entire league successful. If the entire league works well that is best for each team. The con position would seem to be that the Colts should get to run the league since they are a better team, and if they write the rules to their benefit, then that is their privilege as the rich and powerful.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          In the football analogy, there could be an organized draft of amateur players,instead of letting the more successful teams sign all the best ones. Perhaps revenue could even be shared. That would allow the small-market teams to compete with the larger-market ones, and result in a more balanced league and more competitive games. (Naahhh, that’s communism.)Report

        • Avatar Will says:

          @greginak, That’s it in a nutshell, really; the idea that society is inherently oppressive. While it may be easy to believe such a thing in the abstract, on the personal level it just doesn’t seem to be happening nearly so much.
          Everyone does have a shot. My own personal life is a testament to that. I don’t want to go into that here, but let’s say that ‘mobility’ precludes stasis; where no degree of stratification exists, there can be no climb to the top.

          The distinction I was trying to make was one of distributive justice (equality of opportunity, liberal) and redistributive justice (equality of outcome, socialist).
          I believe you will find Rawls a wealth of information on distributive justice.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            @Will, I believe you don’t really understand either what i’m saying or a liberal view. i didn’t say anything about society being oppressive. Every society has rules, formal and informal. In some societies the rules are written by the powerful for the benefit of the powerful. That is what a liberal view stands against. I appreciate social mobility and my life has had some. However American society does not have as much social mobility as people like to think ( it has been studied). One thing this is not, is a silly false dichotomy between stasis and mobility. the question is how do the rules of the society affect each of them since both are integral parts of a society.Report

            • Avatar Will says:

              @greginak, Didn’t mean to put words in your mouth; I was paraphrasing someone else, actually.
              I can agree to what you’re saying about liberalism in a wider sense, such as ours is a liberal form of government; but I don’t think that identifies American liberals very well.
              The dichotomy isn’t between stasis and mobility; it’s between stratification and evenness. In order for things to remain even, neutral, equal, some stasis must necessarily be present.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          So it is equality of outcome you want Comrade?Report

  7. Avatar Graham J. says:

    I think, for a change, a real parallel can be drawn with the Liberal Democrats and Labour in Britain. Labour’s roots are as an actual (real-life!) socialist party that primarily garnered support from trade unions (hence the name). The Liberal Democrats are the product of a merger between the Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party in 1988.

    But curiously, Labour probably adheres more to a social democracy than the Lib Dems. And that’s where I think American liberals come in as being closer to Lib Dems than to Labour. The latter has a history of strong state intervention and top-down solutions (not always a bad thing), while Lib Dems are much more decentralized and almost federalist with their approach to problems – something I think American liberals have come around to.

    But then to actually answer your question, I think probably the major difference between American liberals and European social democrats is the role of the state. Not over whether or not it can be a force for good (both start there), but as to how far it should go in bettering the lives of a citizenry. But I think American liberals are more likely to see government as setting a ‘baseline’, a standard of living and of decency that should be expected of a country as powerful as the United States. Obviously that standard will change over time, but not as rapidly as is usually asserted. Social democrats, on the other hands, seem to be in the constant pursuit of more (“we can do better and we must do better,” etc). By way of explanation; as bubbaquimby said above, liberals in America are just trying to get to where Europe is already.Report

    • Avatar Jivatman says:

      @Graham J.,

      Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems are civil libertarian parties. It remains to be seen the true extent of this, and it may be that relatively they’re pretty moderate, but simply responding to the Labour party’s fairly radical and tremendous increase in all powers of the surveillance state, with databases of individuals, national-ID, planned routine UAV policing, ect. Assuming these are not reversed, these will be the must enduring part of Labour’s legacy.

      Both also support the free market to a pretty strong extent – In the Orange Book (of which Clegg contributed). They actually recommend a number of changes to the NHS to make it more market-based.

      The only real difference I see between them is their stance on the E.U. and issue which both are playing to their base and either would likely simply leave to the status quo.

      In the U.S. there is literally no difference between the two parties when it comes to civil liberties or war, so it makes sense Obama basically looks like a Labour politician here.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @Graham J., I think that’s a fairly good analysis of the British parties, for the most part.
      I believe historically Labour was more democratic socialist, then changed at some point to adopt more of a Third Way position, which is more of the strain of corporate centrism.
      The Lib Dems are more of social democrats IMHO, but their positions remind me an awful lot of the progressives of the early 20th century; eg, direct election of the upper house, proportional representation.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Farmer says:

    “liberals in America are just trying to get to where Europe is already.”

    And, that’s the problem.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      The real problem is conservatives trying to get to where Europe was 69 years ago.Report

      • Avatar Jivatman says:

        @Mike Schilling,

        I disagree. The neoconservatives, both Republican and Democrat, at least seem quite progressive, in that they have a futurist vision similar to that of the sci-fi book 1984.

        As for other conservatives, it’s hard to say, as I don’t see any in power.Report

  9. Avatar Brett says:

    What, if anything, is the difference between a democratic socialist and an American liberal?

    When I think of “Democratic Socialism”, I tend to think of Great Britain after World War 2 (and before Margaret Thatcher), where you had the British government nationalizing the “Commanding Heights” of the economy (including rail, telecommunications, mining, and so forth). A Democratic Socialist would be in favor of such behavior, and of extensive state ownership in the economy.

    American Liberals, on the other hand, tend not to emphasize state ownership so much as state regulation. Traditionally, we’ve been more corporatist, favoring collaboration between firms and unions, with heavy regulation by the federal government. There are some exceptions (single-payer in the American Liberal context would basically mean a socialization of much of health insurance), but ownership usually isn’t the goal intended by American Liberals.Report

  10. Avatar brendan says:

    My gosh, i don’t understand how Goldberg has achieved any prominence–especially as a supposed “thinker,” or intellectual of the right. His brain is sluggish, works hard, but arrives still at conclusions that, to put it as mildly as i can, do not scintillate.
    and he certainly does not have the humor of Beck, the acid of Levin, or anything else that seems interesting.
    whence his prominence???
    Frum is at least a person who thinks, who can put his thinking out on display for us to follow–which we can–and make it interesting. Mostly because he has an actual idea or two, his sentences actually have content.
    what is Golberg’s claim that gets him an engagement with a person like this? oy, he has cotton wool in that skull–and a bunch of talking points.
    nobody home there.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer says:


      This is an interesting assessment of the conversation — I thought Goldberg was a little too careful, but then Frum was trying his best to trap him and confirm his views toward rightwing, talk radio-type conservatives. Frum is so caught up in tactics and perceptions and this self-image as a conservative elite trying to save conservatives from barbarians, he has no free-thinking depth, thus he can’t understand the deeper association with socialism. Yes, Obama has been influenced by Marxism, as have all Democrats who basically have an anti-capitalist mindset. Goldberg should have led the conversation deeper on this point.

      Frum either understands this association and influence and he’s dishonest, or Frum doesn’t understand the extent to which people like Obama have been influenced by leftist ideas, in which case he’s certainly no elite thinker — an elite strategist, perhaps, but not a thinker.Report

      • Avatar Aaron says:

        @Mike Farmer, Yes, Obama has been influenced by Marxism, as have all Democrats who basically have an anti-capitalist mindset.

        I’ve heard this claim before from right-of-center people, and I simply don’t understand it. Do you mean that Democrats are anti-capitalist and influenced by the tenets of Marxism to any appreciable degree? Because, as a Democrat, I certainly wouldn’t consider myself anti-capitalist or influenced by Marxism. I mean, if by “Marxism” you mean “not at all Marxist,” I guess that makes sense. Let’s look at a definition of Marxism:

        “The system of economic and political thought developed by Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, esp. the doctrine that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class, that class struggle has been the main agency of historical change, and that the capitalist system, containing from the first the seeds of its own decay, will inevitably, after the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, be superseded by a socialist order and a classless society.”

        Does that look, in any way, like an accurate description of the Democratic Party? The party that just passed a health care bill that (as of 1994!) was a Republican idea? A party that stands co-culpable in the deregulation of industries leading (in part) to the Gulf oil spill, the housing bubble and the economic crisis?

        So, I think we have three choices: one, you don’t understand what the word “Marxist” means, which I don’t believe. Two, that you are using “Marxist” as a meaningless slur, devoid of any sort of context. Or, three, that you are using it in a highly idiosyncratic way unique to the conservative world-view, as a dogwhistle that can only be heard by rightwingers. In other words, dishonestly.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          Maybe you don’t, but there are plenty of liberals that want redistribution of wealth via “social justice” until we are all “equal.” Just ask Uncle Al Sharpton about his latest rant.Report

          • Avatar Aaron says:

            @Scott, There’s a lot of sunlight between a progressive tax system and social justice and Marxism. Also, did I miss the message when Al Sharpton was issuing the marching orders for the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration?

            This idea that liberals all want people to be equal in the “Harrison Bergeron” mold is an absurd strawman. My point is that it does not represent what mainstream progressives and liberals in the United States actually do, say or think. And as that characterization is so absurd, as anyone who looks at the actual acts and behavior of the Democratic Party could see, it’s either disingenuous or ignorant to claim that it’s what they’re “secretly” wanting to see happen. If we can’t agree about the words and the actions that we use, we’re talking past each other at best, and lying at worst.Report

            • Avatar Ed Marshall says:


              Exactly how much Marx do you have to denounce anyway? Do you have to toss away the entire dialectic model or to be well and clear out of it, everyone has to jump back a couple years and believe in Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History”.Report

        • Avatar Mike Farmer says:


          Being a marxist and being influenced by marxism are two different things. Frum asked the question — Is Obama a Marxist — and Goldberg correctly replied — No.

          Goldberg avoided making the claim of marxist influence by stating that Obama is influenced by European-style socialism — which has been influenced by Marx’s ideas of capitalist oppression of workers.

          Obama’s ideas are heavily influenced by this notion of capitalist oppression, but in an American political environment there’s no way to allow open expression of that influence in terms of marxist language, so it comes out in other ways, such as statements about fat-cats and policies that favor workers and punish executives, and policies which control businesses so they can’t “oppress”.

          We’re talking about the individual Obama, not Obama the politician or President. The individual Obama has associated himself with marxist-influenced thinkers all his life, and his ideas regarding redistribution and worker-empowerment influence his actions. If he could do what he wants to do, he would establish a much more socialist America, along the lines of European socialism — he’s laid out some of these ideas before, like single payer, nationalized healthcare and cap and trade. Pure Marxism is not evident anywhere, but Marx’s influence is still wide-spread. If you were drinking a beer with Obama and the conversation was intimate, not to be revealed, and if he trusted that intimacy, it’s likely that his stated ideal society would be a classless society — I have no way of proving that, and his realism would cause him to say it’s impractical, but the influence is definitely there, just as it is with those Democrats who hold anti-capitalist sentiments — Maxine Waters (remember her slip of tongue?), Barney Frank, Waxman, etc.

          In reality they are power-mongers, but their ideas, compartmentalized in an old, Ideal-box in their heads, are influenced by MarxReport

          • Avatar Ed Marshall says:

            @Mike Farmer,

            God forbid anyone want a world without a class system. “If you have your lower animals to contend with,” he said, “we have our lower classes!” Obviously a totalitarian idea. *cough*Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Ed Marshall, From what I understand, if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s going on in Somalia.Report

            • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

              @Ed Marshall,

              Ed, Wild Turkey and lemon are good for that cough. I didn’t say we SHOULDN’T have a classless society. It’s the idea of liberals who’ve been influenced by Marx who are forced to take an unfortunate realist approach and say — well, since it’s impossible, dangit, to have a classless society, we’ll have to settle for a strong, interventionist State that pretends to institute equality. Power has such unfortunate responsibility. The radical right says — well, since everyone won’t obey the baby Jesus, we’ll have to use State power to force them to behave like good patirotic Christians should. The God of the State, or the God of the Bible, pick your Master.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Farmer says:

    One more point — Freddie, who posts here, bravely admits a Marxist influence, and I’m sure that most of the Democrats who lean to the left would consider Freddie a very smart fella. Those same Democrats would consider me a rightwing hate-monger, and apologist for the rich and powerful and a closet racist.Report

    • Avatar Ed Marshall says:

      @Mike Farmer,

      I’ll say this much, if you have any left bones in you owe them to Marx. Trying to read him out of the canon is either deceptive or naive.

      Trying to tie a line from the American Democratic Party to Communism no matter what it’s provenance is the intellectual equivalent of strapping a jet engine on the back of your theory and trying to jump that motorcycle across Snake Canyon.Report

      • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

        @Ed Marshall,

        That’s silly. The context is Frum trying to make conservatives look stupid by the conservative suggestion Obama is influenced toward anti-capitalism — the hyperbole about Marx is based in a reality. Getting technical about Marx is missing the point — most conservatives, Frum or Goldberg don’t give a shit about Marx-proper. The whole point is that Obama is influenced by leftist ideas which conservatives believe is dangerous to the economic viability of our country and our individual liberty. That’s the bottom line — getting entangled in Marxist theory is a diversion — asking if Obama really is a true, full-blooded, died in the wool Marxist is avoiding the problem with progressive policies, and it proves nothing about the danger of conservative rhetoric — hyperbole is used by everyone, Democrats included — intelligent people can look past the hyperbole and get to the fundamental problems.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          @Mike Farmer, right Mike , got it. Marxism has nothing to do with Dems, its all hyperbole and paying attention to it is silly. but Dems are marxist. That seems to be your point.

          Regulation is the same as socialism, even though its different, its the same. OF course just about everybody believes in some regulation, so everybody is a marxist.Report

  12. Avatar brendan says:

    Almost all economists and social historians use SOME of Marx’s work. His was one of the earliest explications of class as an economic grouping and historical factor, not an accident of birth (although that, too). There had been little close linking of economics to historical trends until his and Engels’ work. Hegel’s promulgation of the dialectic as an analytical tool got its most vigorous (and Marxists would believe, most rigorous) use in Marxist thought.
    and so on.
    There are many who can learn from this, use these lessons in their own work, advance our understanding, but never become a “Marxist” at all.
    This is because to be a Marxist has always meant to embrace the activist side of his thinking–to actively welcome the end of capitalism, to work hard to hasten its arrival.
    If you mean Marxist in that sense, as i do, then it is nonsense to think you find this view in the Democratic Party–even its pale, ‘left’ wing. The liberal wings of today’s parties are viewed by most leftists as disappointingly and wholly wed to capitalism. In fact, they are viewed as capitalism’s greatest apologists. Liberals seem to believe that smoothing out some of roughest inequalities–economic or other–can be done by the most ‘normal’ political methods. if they turn out to be right, folks further to their left will have trouble winning adherents (or even arguments).
    for this reason, some ‘hard’ leftists as i might call them, do not much hope for success of the various programs put forward by liberal thinkers or politicians. they even hope for failure, as they can see their legitimacy threatened if capitalism can ‘heal thyself.’
    i find this cynical and cruel, and although i call myself left. i could never hope for failure in various efforts to fix what we’ve got.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to believe that liberals’ efforts to right injustices– economic or other–are equivalent to ‘levelling’–the urge to make all the same. this would be a mad program, and if conservatives believe this is the liberals’ program, their analysis is equally mad. To understand the world filled with humans you really have to develop at least a little capacity for seeing and figuring out nuance.
    One can oppose injustice with huge and fierce energy without ever believing that income or other privileges should be identical for all. you can want a truly progressive tax structure without wanting every Goldman Sachs exec to be in rags (ok, bad example, probably everybody would get a kick out of seeing this). You can want all families to have adequate health care but still not believe all doctors should work for the government.
    and so on, and so on.
    Is there really anyone who cannot see such basic distinctions? has conservatism as it has developed in this country just eroded all capacity for critical thinking? i used to think this was a problem for the left, in the days of rampant fear of being polticaly ‘incorrect.’
    but now i see it much more often on the right–thinking in lockstep, substitution of cliches and catch phrases for actual thought, and so on.
    I always thought Buckley was a bigot and a blowhard, but i certainly could see that he did some real thinking. I respected a good deal of Goldwater’s stuff because he really worked at trying to figure stuff out, following his principles to their logical conclusion, etc. I think this kind of conservative thinking, this intellectual rigor and even courage started to fade with Nixon’s loyalty mostly to his own amibtion, and really took a terrible tumble into incoherence with the two Bushes.
    Just one person’s view, of course, but i don’t find much scintillating ‘thought’ on the right, when even its self-proclaimed thought leaders like AEI, Heritage, or the National Review are more concerned with party dominance –lust for power, in other words–than with getting things right.
    Goldberg is just lame, but he follows these leaders. Frum is pretty interesting, and i have been looking for his stuff and reading it when i find it. I cant remember when last i thought of a conservative as worth keeping an eye out for.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

      Modern anti-capitalism/socialism comes in the form of controlling market forces through regulations — it’s effective control, not literal ownership of the means of production. Old socialist and communist ideas have been thoroughly discredited. The entanglement of corporations and the State has nothing to do with capitalism, except it’s anti-capitalist — you mistake doing business and corporatism for capitalism — people could learn a lot by studying capitalism.Report

      • Avatar Aaron says:

        @Mike Farmer, I think we have radically different ideas of what the word “socialism” means, but I’m curious, if you think that regulating industries constitutes “anti-capitalism/socialism,” are there any legitimate curbs on capitalism?

        Oh, and I have to say, stating that Obama has a “Marxist” influence because he is influenced by some people who are influenced by Marxism is pretty weak sauce.Report

        • Avatar Mike Farmer says:


          I pretty much go by Mises definition of socialism — he wrote a big book on it called……Socialism. It makes more sense than anything I’ve seen written, and it still applies in 2010.

          You will notice that I made the case of influence based on more than Obama’s associations. His words are a good clue.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            @Mike Farmer, Whatever Mike. It seems you are using a definition of socialism that is not shared by the people you are pinning it on. Moreover that definition seems to extremely broad and divorced from the general definition of the word. And the your definition implies ideas to people which i don’t think any of us particularity hold.Report

          • Avatar Aaron says:

            @Mike Farmer, well, regardless of how you choose to define “socialism” (and I agree with greginak, you’re using your own personal definition of the word), you still haven’t answered the question: if socialism extends to government regulation of industry (not government ownership), as you imply when you say “it’s effective control, not literal ownership of the means of production”, is there any legitimate government curb on capitalism? Or is any regulation socialism, and there for, really, Marxism? Since socialism has been influenced by Marxism, of course.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer says:


      The rest of what you’ve written has nothing to do with what I’ve written — it’s addressed to some conservative bogey-man. I can go on all day about equality and justice from a libertarian perspective, but I doubt you really care.Report

      • Avatar brendan says:

        @Mike Farmer, Well, you certainly have a point! most of what i wrote had NOTHING to do with you. Did you think that you personally are why people write in here? oy.
        anyway, i sure would be interested in libertarion ideas about equality and justice, as i come from a libertarian socialist tradition (a lot can be learned by studying socialism, too). It was years ago, but this is where my serious politics began–somewhere out near the Wobblies–and it still exerts influence on me today. for this reason i find some of the only (only, only) interesting thought on the right to come from Paul and others who come out of a libertarian framework–as long as its not Ayn Rand’s grubby greedy-ism masquerading as political philosophy.
        anyway, i wasn’t addressing you particularly, so don’t take it so personally. it was a general set of comments addressed into the anonymous, uncaring ether, as so much of what goes on in these blogs.Report

        • Avatar Mike Farmer says:


          I wasn’t offended — I thought it was in response to what I’d written, and that you mistook my position as conservative. I don’t take anything personally except insults about my mother.Report

  13. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    Marx was operating off of the assumption that class warfare was an inherent evil of capitalism; all we needed to do was change the system and the problem would go away. No more classes, no more problem.

    Most “thinking” modern liberals would say that class warfare is an inherent evil of human social organizations, and it is impossible to make the problem entirely go away. Mitigation inside the system is the goal, not outright resolution.

    Thus, I’d say that modern liberalism is completely at odds with Marx; it’s only related to Marxism at all in that they both have a similar observation about it kinda being the suck to be the broke guy in a long line of broke guys. Saying that modern liberalism owes its entire existence to Marx ignores all of the “it sucks to be poor” intellectual tradition prior to Marx.

    Of course, the farther Left you go, the more authority you’re willing to cede to the government over the economy in order to help mitigate this problem. So at the far Left end of the spectrum, the observational difference between a hard Leftie and a Marxist is hard to discern empirically.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Pat Cahalan, “Don’t shoot!” I’m Che!” I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”

      The worst part is the deep suspicion that even the most Marxist are secret capitalists using Marxism as a short term tactic to gain long term power.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

      @Pat Cahalan,

      “Saying that modern liberalism owes its entire existence to Marx”

      Who said this? Who? Let me at ’em! That hyperbolic nattering nabob of nonsensical nitwittery! Where’s this fool? Release the dogs!Report

  14. Avatar Pendulum says:

    To attempt to match terms like ‘socialist’ to particular policies is ultimately impossible. People can’t possibly agree on their associations.

    Ultimately, people define the terms by their emotional likes and dislikes. I, for example, call myself a ‘capitalist’ because I generally seek capitalist ends, and find the capitalist vision emotionally inspiring. And yet, I’m not purely ‘capitalist’ – I can foresee some government restrictions on free markets that I would probably support.

    If I were to suggest a definition of socialism, I would phrase it in emotional terms, not specific policies: A socialist consistently emotionally gravitates to the perceived economic needs of the community, and supports them over the economic freedom of the individual. All the actual policies are just window dressing – the team-cheering is where the action really happens.

    As far as specific policies, every developed country is a mixed market economy, with minor regional nuances between them. None of them are what a capitalist would call capitalist, none of them are what a socialist would call socialist.Report