High Hopes

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68 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Why am i bothering? How many strawmen can you pack into a piece. In no sense is there any part of modern liberal thought that says we can control the economy. One of the main points of a social welfare system to provide a safety net to protect people from the farking capitalist economy we can’t control.

    I know i’ve laughed at your folk marxism line many times although it less funny as an actual post. All you have done is given a silly name to the modern conservative notion that any government = marxism/socialism. Redstate.com exist for that level of post.

    “A great deal of the armchair economic analysis from the liberal-Left, including here, fails at exactly this level.One idea is that the economic product of America or society in general is a pie, and society gets to decide how the pie is divided among various people or groups. ” Holy crap… i mean… holy crap. Any tax plan ever invented is a vision of dividing how the pie is divided among groups. You like a flat tax? Well that is one of dividing the pie. You like progressive taxes? That is one way of dividing up the pie. Every tax system is a way of dividing up the pie, yours, mine, the ranting lunatic on the corner, grover norquist. There is nothing left, right or middle about this idea.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to greginak says:

      Nice, Mr. Gregniak:

      “One of the main points of a social welfare system to provide a safety net to protect people from the farking capitalist economy we can’t control.”

      Any tax plan ever invented is a vision of dividing how the pie is divided among groups.

      Evil, Mr. Gregniak. That is indeed marxism, group against group.

      And the benighted and constipated vision that the “pie” is finite, and the portions must be fought over via politics. That vision is genuinely evil. The question is never whether the rich have too much, only that the poor have enough. “Income equality,” or “wealth equality,” are visions put forth on this earth by the devil, not by the angels.

      And if neither the devil or angels exist, by men, very fallen men, who hate inequality more than they love charity.

      In other words, who hate more than they love if you follow me here.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak says:

      ” Holy crap… i mean… holy crap. Any tax plan ever invented is a vision of dividing how the pie is divided among groups.”

      Nope. Let’s be a little more careful here. A tax plan is a means of raising revenue, and requires tradeoffs wrt who we’re trying to raise revenue from. But the mentality of redistribution is expressed on the expenditure side.

      IOW, we could believe that the distribution of wealth is a fact of nature, and public policy reflect that.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak says:

      “How many strawmen can you pack into a piece. In no sense is there any part of modern liberal thought that says we can control the economy. One of the main points of a social welfare system to provide a safety net to protect people from the farking capitalist economy we can’t control.”

      Uhhh, no. In particular, there’s the context of what’s been written here over the last two months or so, by Erik and Freddie, but not just them. Ie, that the distribution of wealth amongst Americans is too top-heavy, and therefore we should have aggressive unions to counterbalance that.

      There is a premise that such distributions are at least partially a matter of our control, which may not be accurate.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Koz says:

        Ah, if only you’d written that, instead of the nonsense you did put into this post. This is still ignorant bullshit, but at least it’s not right-wing fantasy-land ignorant bullshit.
        I suppose it wouldn’t do me any good, as widely off the mark as your conceptions seem to be, to point out a couple things, but I’ll try anyway. First, unions aren’t supposed to redistribute wealth. They’re designed to make sure it gets more fairly distributed in the first place. The history of unions, in this country and many others, is pretty good evidence that they do this fairly well. That is, the data shows quite clearly that unions help to achieve some semblance of a balance between capital and labor. It may be only a semblance, but it’s much better than what came before.
        Second, equality of opportunity is not the same thing as equality of outcome. That many liberals want policies that approximate the former, or that at least work in the direction of it, even if from a great distance, does not imply that they want the latter. And oh yeah, liberals, and Democrats in particular, are pretty much the prototypical pragmatists, so all the nonsense about them only picking the most ideal, though impractical policies, is just that. There is one party in this country that refuses to compromise on its “ideals” (at least to compromise with the other party; compromising with big business is something both parties are always willing to do), and it ain’t the Democrats.
        By the way, the argument for unions isn’t, necessarily, that the distribution of wealth is “too top heavy,” because even if it weren’t too top heavy (it quite clearly is), unions would, under the actual arguments for unions, still be necessary.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to greginak says:

      “I know i’ve laughed at your folk marxism line many times although it less funny as an actual post. All you have done is given a silly name to the modern conservative notion that any government = marxism/socialism.”

      If that’s the case, then I think you should read a little closer. A government with social welfare programs is not necessarily folk Marxism.

      Among other things, folk Marxism is a mentality not a form of government.Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    Since What Is to Be Done, which got its title from a famous Russian novel, by the way, is a call to action, What Can Be Done wouldn’t have worked very well as either a title or a companion piece. The rhetorical point, as a result, completely misses the mark.

    I point this out not to be pedantic, but because it is the only thing in this post that admits of correction, much less counterargument. The rest of the piece is filled with so many gross misconceptions, or based on such misconceptions, as to make correction or counter pointless.

    The last two guest posts by conservatives, this one and the previous one on labor unions, have me genuinely worried that the misconceptions of conservative thought on the “left” might be as bad as the misconceptions of liberal thought on the “right.” If so, it’s no wonder we’re always talking past each other. We haven’t the slightest idea how the other side sees things.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

      Yes, Chris, you people have really, really mucked up language, symbols, and concepts. I wish ‘talkin’ past each other’ was our only problem.Report

  3. Avatar Dan says:

    When I was a debater back in high school, truth is I was pretty much horrible.

    Hmmm. Let me guess. Did you rely heavily on unsupported assertions and broad caricatures of your own creation?

    The implication that liberals lack lives, families and communities with which we wish to be associated is especially droll.Report

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    Kos, great job. You have lowered, greatly, the overall level of guest authors contributions.

    How did this retched tripe get published?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Bob says:

      I can’t speak for the League personally but I do appreciate that they give people a chance to speak even if it constitutes giving them enough rope to hang themselves with.Report

      • Avatar Bob in reply to North says:

        True, but was that the intent of publishing? No matter, Kos is twisting.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Bob says:

          The intent in publishing was probably to publish an earnestly offered submission. Frankly I would think that a right wing partisan would probably not want to publish.
          Koz is Koz; if he didn’t exist the left would probably have to invent him.*

          *Assuming, of course, that he isn’t invented already.Report

          • Avatar Bob in reply to North says:

            I’m responding, for the most part, because it gives me a third try to get the name right.

            Koz, no doubt, is in earnest. I’m a man of goodwill, really, so I do not question the motive. In fact, motive was never a consideration on my part. I’m familiar with Koz, I know his position.

            I found the thing ill reasoned and lacking specifics. I found it not worthy of the front page. But, obviously, earnestness alone may suffice for front page placement.Report

  5. Avatar Ryan Davidson says:

    Wow. Tough crowd.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

      I actually agree. I have refrained from guest posting mainly because I was pretty sure i would receive a reaction with perhaps a couple comments as harsh as most of these. But also because I am never able to sort out my conflicting thoughts enough to create coherent pieces outside of reacting when someone has already done that for me. I happen to agree with a lot of the reaction here, but because of the reality of the forgoing sentence, I also appreciate whenever one of us in the readership does take the time to identify a thought and put it forward independantly for reaction here. That’s what keeps the site fresh and interesting in my view. As a rule, I think we should try to go a little easier on guests, and certainly remain respectful of the person’s interest and effort even if we don;t have much respect for the result. It’s not easy for someone who doesn;t consider himself a vocational or even avocational writer to develop a thought to the point of being willing to publish it, and it takes even more courage to then go ahead and do it. We should respect that effort, which is made here always out of honest commitment to the exploration of ideas (no one’s getting paid), every time someone makes it. It is far more involved than merely commenting. If you doubt that, just try it.

      All that being said, I do agree that some potentially good ideas/admonitions here are unfortunately marred by the presence of needless focus on labels and ideological teams. Surely it is good advice to everyone to focus on what is presently possible, even if you have more remote goals, and surely that applies as much to the “left-Liberal” project as it does to “right-Libertarian” (or left-Libertarian) or (center-Anarchist) or whichever other. I also think that E.D. has been quite clearly focused on eminently possible, entirely possible, near-term next steps in much of the corpus tht represents his recent turn, so I think that critique is just pretty much not reality-based. And as far as the constant identification of the current barely-Leftist Left with the thought of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, that just seems boilerplate and not even worth reacting to anymore. It’s absurd to associate Kain’s recent thinking with any of these figures’; as far as DeBoer goes, I think potentially a discussion can be had about the relationship between his thought and Marx’s, but that discussion probably ought to included Freddie.

      But, agin, we should encourage people to offer their thoughts as guest posts here by respecting them for it when they do so. Otherwise we’ll have fewer and fewer contributors about whose writings we can stifle our jeers and instead write respectful dissents to, thanking them for their contribution.

      P.S. I don’t consider any of this to apply to the established writers and editors of the site, on whom I presume it to always be open season. That’s just what what you’re choosing to get yourself into when you choose to become a publisher. ;DReport

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “…eminently possible, entirely *plausible* next steps,” that was supposed to read.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Michael Drew says:

          “I actually agree. I have refrained from guest posting mainly because I was pretty sure i would receive a reaction with perhaps a couple comments as harsh as most of these.”

          Yeah no shit. Hostility isn’t so bad but content-less bile is really tough to deal with. It kills bandwidth, ie either by accident or design it chokes off our ability to communicate with each other.Report

  6. Avatar Barry says:

    “The same with the liberal-Leftist today. Certain possibilities for political economy and social affairs enter his imagination. He thinks for a while. This one is aesthetically or ethically superior to that one, and that one over there is the best of them all, therefore that’s the one we’re going with. The possibility that there is no way to get from here to there is irrelevant or even worse, a distraction. The more improbable the scenario, the harder the liberal must concentrate on it, otherwise the dream will surely vanish.”

    Words written we the economic elites have seriously trashed the economies of the US, UK and Europe, and have gotten away with it.

    At this point, I can safely classify the League with whackjob glibertarians.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The more improbable the scenario, the harder the liberal must concentrate on it, otherwise the dream will surely vanish.

    The rest of the world operates a little differently. We have lives, families, communities that we intend to be associated with, for better or worse.

    Why doesn’t this result in people with lives, families, and communities arguing for, among other things, the candidate who promises the most free stuff for their lives, families, and communities (perhaps at the expense of “the rich” or some other amorphous group)?Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

      Why doesn’t this result in people with lives, families, and communities arguing for, among other things, the candidate who promises the most free stuff for their lives, families, and communities (perhaps at the expense of “the rich” or some other amorphous group)?

      Dude, where have you been living?Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Why doesn’t this result in people with lives, families, and communities arguing for, among other things, the candidate who promises the most free stuff for their lives, families, and communities (perhaps at the expense of “the rich” or some other amorphous group)?”

      It does, in most or all of the rest of the industrial world. I’ve written about this before, including responses to you IIRC, so please forgive me for not repeating them in the original post.

      In any case, folk Marxism dominates the political discourse of the major Euro industrial democracies. In America, the we have substantial traditions of folk Marxism and anti-folk Marxism. IMO, the anti-folk Marxism side, ie, my team, is demographically a little stronger but not by much.

      And we can see the consequences for the European democracies in the current economic crisis. But because the initiative for redistribution comes largely from the people itself, there’s less hope.Report

  8. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    “This one is aesthetically or ethically superior to that one, and that one over there is the best of them all, therefore that’s the one we’re going with. The possibility that there is no way to get from here to there is irrelevant or even worse, a distraction. The more improbable the scenario, the harder the liberal must concentrate on it, otherwise the dream will surely vanish.”

    See, this is an interesting picture you paint of the Faustian world/soul in man, and it’s certainly one that corresponds with a certain aspect of human nature. I have basically two disagreements here: 1. On Iraq & Afghanistan- I’m still told by conservatives that I’m too pessimistic and those dreams cannot yet be discounted, 2. What you’re describing is a bit too close to the spirit I was always taught “made America great”, the thing that put us on the moon and so forth. We’re a nation of dreamers and all of that. And not just Americans. To some extent, improbable scenarios are why we’re not still living in caves. So, how do we unbind Prometheus just enough without angering the gods? Should we all just set out sights very low and keep our heads down?Report

    • Avatar Dan in reply to Rufus F. says:

      This reminds me of a great Eddie Izzard bit, wherein he describes the British space program, set in Swindon, the goals of which are to put a Brit on the roof.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Right. That’s why I emphasized the forensic structure of the argument, and probably would make that even more explicit if I were rewriting it.

      This is especially pertinent wrt the second point. I don’t mean to disparage hope, in fact I think it’s crucially important. It is precisely because we on the Right can name that tune when push comes to shove that we have real hope to offer the American people and the other team doesn’t.

      A lot of us on the Right make fun of the Right make fun of the President as Hopenchange or whatever, which bugs me a little bit. It’s hiding the reality that the President’s sonorous baritone (and the fact that so many liberals are in love with it) are destroying hope. We might recover from that, but it’s going to be a tough slog.

      Destruction of human capital is the essence of liberalism in America. Let’s escape it, for our own sake and our fellow Americans’.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Koz says:

        Koz, I once heard a story about a college graduation in which the student valedictorian began her speech to her fellow graduates with the line, “We are the special ones, the sensitive ones”. The next speaker joked, “At my college, we’d be throwing manure at you for that special and sensitive stuff!”

        Sometimes, when I read your comments about how the right offers the only hope for real change, I think, “We are the special ones, the sensitive ones.”Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Yeah, I sympathize. On the other hand, I think you (maybe more than some others here) can appreciate the possibility that that does describe the objective reality of things.

          That’s why I try to spell it out as concretely as I can.

          In terms of cognitive complexity, it’s between tic-tac-toe and reading Pushkin in the original. Therefore, the key resource is bandwidth, the ability to be heard as we intended to speak. It’s a big job, and maybe a little naive, but I actually think it can be done. (It has been done in our lifetimes.)Report

  9. Avatar NoPublic says:

    The strawmen in the actual post can easily be tossed on the spring bonfires. Personally, I’m just wondering at the psychological underpinnings of what made two different people call Koz “Kos”.Report

  10. Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

    C’mon guys. It’s a little late for April Fools capers!Report

  11. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    I welcome dissent in the comments and guest posts. I have my own response up to this piece.Report

  12. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Ants don’t have to move rubber tree plants. Back in the day, Michelin thought it could turn Indochina into one big rubber tree plantation. The French had more than a few problems, what with those ants, and the USA did too, when it tried to pick up the cudgels they left behind. Some ideas, it seems, don’t agree with the ants.

    Lenin’s attempt to move the working class as a whole did not succeed, even within his own lifetime. Look at the last section of What is to be Done and see how Iskra couldn’t unite with the workers’ organizations of the Western nations. Lenin’s suggestions were not particularly bold: he saw the world changing and observed theory wasn’t enough. This chunk is especially applicable in our day:

    “Freedom” is a grand word, but under the banner of freedom for industry the most predatory wars were waged, under the banner of freedom of labour, the working people were robbed. The modern use of the term “freedom of criticism” contains the same inherent falsehood. Those who are really convinced that they have made progress in science would not demand freedom for the new views to continue side by side with the old, but the substitution of the new views for the old. The cry heard today, “Long live freedom of criticism”, is too strongly reminiscent of the fable of the empty barrel. [BP: where the empty barrel makes the most noise]

    The intellectual divide between Lenin and the Menshevikii in 1901 was over the Big Picture, a picture larger than piecemeal squabbles over wages and benefits. Stalin was still in a Georgian Orthodox seminary. The sun never set on Queen Victoria’s Empire. Marx had been dead since 1883 but he had changed the debate forever, for he took the debate into the human heart, where every spoiled child learns that Things Don’t Make Us Happy. Marx had not intended to change the world: he was a student of Ricardo, more a weatherman than architect, summing up the winds of change industrialization had brought onshore.

    The charge that Liberalism has presented options which ought to be sorted out on an aesthetic basis is a simple lie. Liberals see the world as it is and suppose it might be improved. The Conservative is a Dogmatist, declaring the world degenerate from the halcyon days of yore. It is the Conservative, not the Liberal, who wants to change the world. The Liberal admits the world is changing. The Conservative wants to undo those changes, turning back the calendar to a past that never was, based not on economics or the facts on the table, but on Aesthetic Principles: see Harold Bloom and the rest of those rotten old liars.

    When it comes to Liberals and Pies, here’s how it works in the real world: there is plenty of pie for everyone, provided the pie maker has enough raw materials and enough demand to justify the making thereof. There’s no need to divide pies. That’s what Conservatives do. Liberals make the pies.

    There is no excuse for poverty anywhere in the world. Point at a poor man and I’ll show you the kinks in the system that keep him poor: bad government, bad roads, no cell phone service whereby someone in town can call him up and tell him to bring more produce to town, loan sharks, hereditary debt, religious oppression, lack of education. These are problems well within the possibility of removal and every Conservative knows it. The simple truth is this: were the world’s resources and capital allowed to flow around effectively, the poor would move out of poverty and the rich would grow even more astronomically rich and we shall all have plenty of goddamn pies. Capitalism does work, folks, and yes, some shall become richer than others by virtue of having the capital to invest.

    Lenin knew what he was talking about, though his enemies didn’t. He cursed the theorists, and so do I. The growing disparities in the world will lead us all to a very bad end unless the kinks I describe are undone, and they will not be fixed by a bunch of Armchair Theorists. They will be fixed by professionals, people who understand the kinks and yes, even those much-maligned Capitalists who might be moved to make money by investing in those fixes.

    Our worst sin with regard to organisation consists in the fact that by our primitiveness we have lowered the prestige of revolutionaries in Russia. A person who is flabby and shaky on questions of theory, who has a narrow outlook, who pleads the spontaneity of the masses as an excuse for his own sluggishness, who resembles a trade union secretary more than a spokesman of the people, who is unable to conceive of a broad and bold plan that would command the respect even of opponents, and who is inexperienced and clumsy in his own professional art — the art of combating the political police — such a man is not a revolutionary, but a wretched amateur!

    Let no active worker take offence at these frank remarks, for as far as insufficient training is concerned, I apply them first and foremost to myself. I used to work in a study circle that set itself very broad, all-embracing tasks; and all of us, members of that circle, suffered painfully and acutely from the realisation that we were acting as amateurs at a moment in history when we might have been able to say, varying a well-known statement: “Give us an organisation of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia” The more I recall the burning sense of shame I then experienced, the bitterer become my feelings towards those pseudo-Social-Democrats whose preachings “bring disgrace on the calling of a revolutionary”, who fail to understand that our task is not to champion the degrading of the revolutionary to the level of an amateur, but to raise the amateurs to the level of revolutionaries.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

      “The charge that Liberalism has presented options which ought to be sorted out on an aesthetic basis is a simple lie. Liberals see the world as it is and suppose it might be improved. The Conservative is a Dogmatist, declaring the world degenerate from the halcyon days of yore. It is the Conservative, not the Liberal, who wants to change the world. The Liberal admits the world is changing. The Conservative wants to undo those changes, turning back the calendar to a past that never was, based not on economics or the facts on the table, but on Aesthetic Principles: see Harold Bloom and the rest of those rotten old liars. “

      I’m not following you here.

      “When it comes to Liberals and Pies, here’s how it works in the real world: there is plenty of pie for everyone, provided the pie maker has enough raw materials and enough demand to justify the making thereof. There’s no need to divide pies. That’s what Conservatives do. Liberals make the pies.”

      Or here. Maybe you could follow up on this one.Report

  13. There is a modern corollary: Rules for Radicals.

    But then — I wonder if the ideology of the left can handle such a concept given that the movement is so dependent upon historicism.Report

  14. Avatar Koz says:

    “Lenin knew what he was talking about, though his enemies didn’t. He cursed the theorists, and so do I. The growing disparities in the world will lead us all to a very bad end unless the kinks I describe are undone, and they will not be fixed by a bunch of Armchair Theorists.”

    Right, which simply serves to illustrate that you and Lenin are both blameworthy for the exact same reasons.

    Anyone with a ounce of historical awareness knows that Lenin failed at his comprehensive aspirations (as distinct from his political ones). Therefore, instead of further radicalization, we should consider that the problem which incline us to radicalization might not be soluble.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

      Speak for yourself about that ounce of historical awareness. Lenin did get his way in this wicked world. His doctrines only took root in feudal regimes and in time would lead to both the Ba’ath Party and the Neoconservatives. In a world where any cook could run a country, the apotheoses of that cookery were Saddam Hussein and George W Bush.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

        “Lenin did get his way in this wicked world.”

        Right. And the consequences of that were demonstrably bad, even allowing for the fact that he was taking over from the czars.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

          Did I imply otherwise? Now you can go back and read what I actually wrote. I don’t think you’ve actually read either Lenin or Marx, or come to terms with either the times or the men.

          I tried to give your trite bludgeoning of what Lenin actually said some depth, pointing out Lenin could never come to term with what was happening in the West, where the trade unions and pragmatic reforms of Bismarck and Caprivi right through to Chlodwig would stop the rise of Communism and revolution.

          But nothing doing, I must now be a clue to the clueless, trying to teach the apparently unteachable. Now you get busy and read the history of the Second Reich, I’d start with Friedrich Darmstaedter if I was you, that the light may dawn upon certain darkened corners in your education. Communism was stopped in the West: the Germans did read Marx and applied his doctrines to stop that spectre.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

            “I tried to give your trite bludgeoning of what Lenin actually said some depth, pointing out Lenin could never come to term with what was happening in the West, where the trade unions and pragmatic reforms of Bismarck and Caprivi right through to Chlodwig would stop the rise of Communism and revolution. “

            Great, then along with Lenin we can also reject the political totalism of Leninism. In its stead, we can start from what we think we can do instead of what we want to do.

            I think this might be where you’re trying to go with Bismarck but maybe not.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

              Yes, exactly. As with Christ and Christianity, Marx and Marxism, Lenin and Leninism, it’s always best to pay attention to the former and view the latter as doctrinaire bullshittery.Report

  15. Where do we start?

    Liberals see the world as it is and suppose it might be improved. The Conservative is a Dogmatist, declaring the world degenerate from the halcyon days of yore.

    John Gray (“Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia”) made it quite historically, philosophically, and theologically clear that the liberal movement is as eschatological as the Christian religious system which it purports to supplant. It views humanity as progressing toward a wonderful end. It remains naive to this day.

    It is the Conservative, not the Liberal, who wants to change the world.

    Even today’s “conservative” is a part of the movement of human progress toward successful self government. Such a statement sounds almost Beckian.*

    The Liberal admits the world is changing. The Conservative wants to undo those changes, turning back the calendar to a past that never was**, based not on economics or the facts on the table, but on Aesthetic Principles: see Harold Bloom and the rest of those rotten old liars.

    The modern conservative, with his feet planted in *an alternative* social consciousness (not of a different time, but of another world view) seeks a return, not it time, but to a differing target. Examples of this are found in the Christian influence of the social conservative and the various Constitutional constructionist perspectives of the political conservative.
    It is the modern liberal who, through historicism applied to language, denies the existence of meaningful language and distorts or ignores words to reach utilitarian ends. The result is that there is a practical failure to grasp the meaning of “is” or any other term longer than a single letter.

    *Consistent with Glenn Beck’s knowledge base — not knowing or forgetting half of history for the convenience of the argument. (Though he may be “conservative” like myself, his incomplete grasp of history and philosophy bothers me greatly. He speaks like so many “sovereignty” Mormons that I have known for decades.)

    ** The persistence of the time/calendar criticism is an intriguing one. Within is the assumption that the past is not meaningful for today. This is, I think, properly identified as a practical application of historicism to daily argumentation. The counter to this is to ask whether the past of progressivism has any meaning. If the answer is Yes, if it has any meaning, then the principles of an alternative world view are likewise due equal consideration. IOW, calendars are not the source of truth. (C. S. Lewis)Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Collin Brendemuehl says:

      Poor old John Gray, that feckless idiot. Do not attempt to paint me with his tar brush. I have run an export/import business and believe in Free Trade. It may well be a great many soi-disant Liberals believe otherwise, but not the ones I know. We believe the peasants of the world are simply begging to be exploited, on their own terms. This we call Free Enterprise.

      My quarrel with Conservative philosophers these days, viz. that pinhead Withywindle, is what constitutes Virtue and Propriety. These bozos seem far too much akin to the Taliban for my tastes: both long for a Golden Age which never existed and their ideas of government have no place for dissent.

      Words strain,
      Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
      Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
      Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
      Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
      Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
      Always assail them.

      I have no quarrel with Conservatism in principle, for it is just another –ism, an ideal which might guide men to save what remains true and good in the world. But it is only an ideal, never a fundamental guide to life, no target.

      I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant-
      Among other things – or one way of putting the same thing:
      That the future is a faded song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
      Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,
      Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.
      And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.
      You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,
      That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.

      Historicism is a curious and effete charge and I am not sure you are up to a successful prosecution on the evidence. Barbara Tuchman, a fine historian once observed only the bad historian tries to see the past through the lenses of the present. Those who attempting to dissect Marx and Lenin away from the context of their times, attempting to charge them with the crimes committed in their names are far guiltier of that vile crime of Conclusionism, wherein all the figures of history may be judged by outcomes they could never have foreseen, applying equally feckless solutions with no more understanding of outcomes than those they accuse of Historicism.Report

      • Poor old John Gray, that feckless idiot.

        I wouldn’t go that far, and my review of the book (on Amazon) is likewise critical of his use of certain history for his own convenience. I picked up the book because it was being pushed so hard over that DailyKos. Then again, perhaps the academic lacks are reflected likewise.

        One nuance that many modern libs and conservs just do not seem to get is that what we call “conservative” is just another thread of the whole liberal movement, like another branch on the same tree. We are all, in very generic terms, “liberal democrats” since we accept the principle of individual sovereignty and self government. The difference is in how it works out.

        Oh, and when it comes to the charge of historicism and liberalism, I’m not too worried about being able to defend the position and prosecute the charge. Where we may differ is how surgically precise one might need to be in the process of doing so. After all, not all historicism is the same and not all practice it to the same degree. Likewise it has become one of those ideas that is ubiquitous, just “in the air,” and easily glossed over or dismissed by those unaware of the flow of history.Report

  16. There have also been a number of discussions at the League centering around wage rates… In general, you can’t raise the price of labor by political fiat because you can’t make buyers habitually pay substantially more for something than they perceive it to be worth.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can, and we have, and when we have, businesses have shown a remarkable amount of ingenuity in finding ways to make the workers productive enough to be worth the wage. Of course, it generally meant investing in equipment, and today’s capitalists seem to be more interested in relocating than in investing.Report

  17. Avatar Matthew Gerring says:

    Depends on whose radicalism you’re talking about. North American left-Anarchists, who freely acknowledge that they’re demanding the impossible from society, usually work in exactly the way you describe- small, specific, concrete actions.

    Some of these are obnoxious, like damaging property, but others are a net benefit whether you believe in their goals or not, like providing free health care in disaster areas, salvaging and sharing free food and clothing or organizing free bicycle repair shops.

    So even though these folks are generally very committed to walking the walk, certainly more so than most armchair partisans out there, they are still taken less seriously than just about any other political group, radical or not. Interesting how that works.Report