The Ultimate Victory, The Final Defeat

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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145 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    On the other hand, everyone says ‘this is the most important election of our lifetime/ever’    Including both sides in 2004.   Yet, we’re still here.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Kolohe says:

      This is a good point. It’s not just the Republicans saying that every election could decide the fate of the country and certainly it’s been that way for the last few elections. I believe the tenor of the times is as darkly apocalyptic as it was in the late 70s. We survived that too.Report

      • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Actually, I don’t think we survived it.   We’re still in it.   The central issues of the end-of-the-age-of-Aquarius political crisis that brought us Reagan is still playing out.    And the central dynamic, I think, is that our political model is profoundly disconnected from our cultural and social model:   the problems the political system proposes to fix are not the ones we’re  most deeply concerned about.Report

  2. MFarmer says:

    There’s no need to bring racial fear and religious end of times fanaticism into it when history shows the decline and fall of empires when centralized governments destroy economies through short-sighted interventions and public theft of wealth.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

      We should rather fear economic destruction from a deregulatory government which has become the rubber stamp for a cadre of oligarchs.   Short sighted intervention and market manipulation has always been the province of those who are more driven by the stock price than a healthy balance sheet.Report

      • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I don’t think that first sentence is off base. It’s more of an anti-regulation mindset than ‘deregulatory;’ to remove protections under law for the sake of lawlessness itself.
        However, everything seems to be poised for an extended period of hyperinflation.
        The excess liquidity in the market will eventually translate to sharply higher interest rates. The devaluation of the currency has yet to materialize in the price of goods; although there is some incidental spike here and there.
        And looming behind it all is the issue of the need to rein in entitlement spending while the massive wave of baby boomers retire.
        I think Mr. Farmer has a fair point.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

          If ever there was any Theft of Wealth on a grand scale in this country, it was not done by the government.   Oh, those thieves might have had government accomplices, to wit, the deregulatory shenanigans of various Free Market types (did we learn nothing from the deregulation of CFTC and the Enron scandal?)  who opened the barn doors so the thieves could drive the tractor out into the moonlit night, but let’s not clutter up the landscape with tales of Public Theft of Wealth.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Ummmm… the land our country is built upon was stolen by several governments.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

              Good point Kazzy.   Trouble is, without any system of land deeds, it becomes an existential problem.   Another case in point, Israel’s settlements.   The Ottomans never issued land deeds: everything was owned by the Pasha or the Bey.   The people lived on the land at sufferance.  So when Israel puts up yet another settlement, they can sit there with a straight face and tell the outraged Palestinians nobody owned the land.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

              Pish, those are brown people. They don’t count.Report

      • Robert Greer in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Blaise, it’s not just deregulatory governments that can become rubber stamps for oligarchs; robust regulatory regimes are often just as kleptocratic.  You’re taking the one-dimensional view that “less regulation = bad” when in fact different kinds of regulations can be expected to have different distributional effects.

        This is the biggest problem with your thinking: You fail to acknowledge that regulations are devised and implemented by a system that, according to the empirics, tends inevitably to capture by special interests.  You rail against the Marxists and the libertarians for being utopian, yet you expect the state to behave as if it were not what it is.  Don’t you think that’s a little ironic?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Greer says:

          I would argue any regime which cannot separate Winners from Losers in the open market is not regulated enough.  Where regimes become kleptocratic, some become More Equal than Others.

          Though an over-regulated market will grind to a standstill on a theoretical basis, in the real world, the special interests have been hard at work deregulating the marketplace we know to their oligarchic and kleptocratic ends.   Our politicians have become well-heeled prostitutes and the Libertarians have become their Useful Idiots, for never did they see a regulatory body of which they approved.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

            “Though an over-regulated market will grind to a standstill on a theoretical basis”

            No it won’t and nobody (except John Galt fantasists) are arguing otherwise.    What it turn into is an extremely sub-optimal quasi-equilibrium that eventually may (Arab Spring) or may not (North Korea) lead to political upheaval.  (which is arguably what was going on during the ’17 Russian Revolution, too).Report

          • Robert Greer in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Blaise, do you think it’s possible that more regulations could make it easier for a captured system to reward Losers and punish Winners?  I don’t understand why the government regulators are always perfect representatives of the Will of the People in your view.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Greer says:

              Now there’s an intelligent question.   The answer is obviously Yes, for regulators can become enforcers for a kleptocratic/oligarchic regime.  F’rinstance, an upstart competitor could be harassed by the IRS at the behest of some Senatorial Type if one of that august Senator’s contributors could arrange it.   Now there’s a real Barrier to Entry, heh heh.

              Here’s a little backgrounder on my views on the role of regulation in the economy.


              • Robert Greer in reply to BlaiseP says:

                …or an upstart competitor could be hamstrung by regulations put in place at the behest of the industry’s established players for precisely that purpose.  That such a scenario happens regularly should make pro-regulation liberals very uncomfortable.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Greer says:

                Given the fact that an unregulated financial industry just blew twenty five trillion dollars into the void, I prefer to address the problem we have, the formation of oligarchy through deregulation.   The market is no guarantor of our freedom.


              • Robert Greer in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You’ll get no argument from me there.  I would go back even further than you, actually, in pointing out the inequities inherent to markets.  I’m left-anarchist, not libertarian.

                Also, just because deregulation was the cause of the current crisis doesn’t mean that re-regulation would be a solution.  Submersing the Bering land bridge didn’t bring the North American megafauna back to life.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Greer says:

                Well, yes, exactly.   I contend the core of all market regulation is to separate Winners from Losers.   You’ve pointed out how regulation can be abused, in fact, I’ll put this out as an axiom:  an effective tyranny is utterly reliant on coopted regulators who will selectively enforce the law to the benefit of their paymasters, both from above and from below.

                For tyrannous regulators will take anyone’s money, bribery becomes a modus vivendi.   It cannot be otherwise:  the regulators and regulated become cynically aware of the lack of justice in such a system.

                Markets can be effectively regulated through open exchanges.   Insofar as a buy must match a sell and margin calls are met and trades are settled and disputes mediated, all will be well in the Land o’ Enterprise.   Let’s just not pretend it’s Free Enterprise.   It’s regulated enterprise.Report

              • But regulators don’t even need to selectively enforce the laws if the laws are systematically biased by design.  Bribery is a problem, sure, but not in the way you seem to think.  The most common, pervasive, and insidious bribery is the technically-legal variety that happens every day on K Street.  The difference between you and me is that I see that kind of bribery as endemic to the system.Report

    • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to MFarmer says:

      There’s no need to bring racial fear and religious end of times fanaticism into it when history shows the decline and fall of empires when centralized governments destroy economies through short-sighted interventions and public theft of wealth.

      Oh, that’s what history shows.


    • Katherine in reply to MFarmer says:

      Precedent suggest that it’s primarily war destroys modern empires.  The World Wars for Britain and France, Afghanistan and the ramping-up of the Cold War (among other things) for the Soviet Union.  America’s got a resilient economy and is still hanging on, but if the US gets involved in Iran or any other major war, I’m guessing that’s the end for American power.

      The UK and France weren’t even particularly economically left-wing by the time their empires started collapsing.  And Obama hasn’t even raised taxes, so that argument fails on both fronts.  The US’s fiscal crisis is a result of military overspending and irresponsible tax cuts, not left-wing economics.  There hasn’t been even a mildly economically left-wing government in the US since the 1960s.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Katherine says:

        Britain takes the irrevocable leap into left-statism with the election of Clement Attlee in July 1945, tossing Churchill while Hitler’s ashes will still warm.

        Although Attlee eventually loses in 1951, the structural changes he wrought—and regardless of whether for good or ill, it cannot be unfair to call them “radical”—would recast the size and scope of the British state beyond any return or recovery to the status quo ante.

        As for Obama, the US system didn’t yield him 6 unfettered years to remake the government—or as Justice Kennedy put it last week in the Obamacare hearings, to “change the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way.”

        Obama was stopped by the election of 2010 in what some called “a restraining order” after only 2 years of unfettered control of the government.  Hopefully, we’ll never know what statist mischief he would have achieved with as free a hand for as long a time as Attlee.  Perhaps it would not be “radical,” although the American elected perceived that it was.

        However, as Justice Kennedy observes above, to change the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way certainly is radical by any arm’s length measure.  Add to that the 2700 pages of the bill, which we are still finding out what’s in it—basically that so much has been left to the discretion of the Secretary of Health and Human Services that she could initiate a constitutional crisis all on her own on church and state, as we saw in the recent mandate that the state require a church to pay for contraceptives, in violation of its own teachings and moral code.

        Transformers: The Catholic church learns the true meaning of Obama’s ‘transformative’ presidency.

        That was also radical: again, not “radical” as a pejorative, but “radical” as an unprecedented break from existing custom.  Again, it’s important here to note I’m not using “radical” as a synonym for “bad.”  There have been many radical changes in our polity and customs that are universally agreed to be good: abolition, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement.  Even the FDR “New Deal.”  Some, at least, of LBJ’s Great Society.

        When Barack Obama openly stated his desire to be a “transformative” president, this was not a Burkean incrementalism, it was a refudiation of it.

        And if there are those of us who oppose his radical, transformational direction, well, we get to vote too.  But enough that Barack Obama is not radical.  By his own stated ambition, he is.  The only question is whether that radicalism [like Clement Attlee’s] is implemented or thwarted.  And as we see in the UK–it’s really worth learning the Clement Attlee story—such transformations tend to be a one-way ticket, a leap off the cliff, and there are those of us who would rather not follow Britain’s path of “changing the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way.”Report

        • Katherine in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Although Attlee eventually loses in 1951, the structural changes he wrought—and regardless of whether for good or ill, it cannot be unfair to call them “radical”—would recast the size and scope of the British state beyond any return or recovery to the status quo ante.

          But even if Churchill had won, Britain didn’t have the financial capacity to maintain the Empire, particularly against the will of the colonies – all he would have achieved was making life more difficult for Gandhi.

          Regarding Obama, health care reform wasn’t radical (single-payer, now, that would have been radical) – it was a plan similar to what the Republicans used to support.  If the Republicans didn’t want a mandate, well, neither did Obama – but the GOP decided to block the public option, which was better policy all around.

          Your link doesn’t describe anything radical, it just asserts.  Stimulus spending during a major recession?  Par for the course, done by pretty much every other developed nation, regardless of the ideology of its government.  Dodd-Frank? Actually did very little.  There’s nothing radical or transformative about this precedency; “change” rhetoric or not, the evidence points to Clinton 2.0.


  3. Will H. says:

    Shorter CR:
    “All those rigid ideological right-wingers are on their way out!”

    Yeah, right.

    Shorter EI:
    “All those rigid ideological right-wingers are irrational wild-eyed fanatics!”

    Yeah, right.

    And this is compared to who?Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will H. says:

      The shrinks call it “projection.”Report

    • Katherine in reply to Will H. says:

      And this is compared to who?

      Everyone who’s not a doctrinaire Republican.  Goodness sakes, it’s not as if you can make a reasonable case that the Democrats are doctrinaire ideologues, given that, from Clintonian welfare reform to the Democratic congress’ extension of Bush’s tax cuts to their utter failure to pass any kind of functioning financial-sector reform to Obama’s support of the Patriot Act and acceptance of invading Iran as a policy option, the Democrats have basically discarded whatever liberal principles they once held.  Their ideology at this point is basically “whatever the Republicans believed 5-10 years ago”.

      It takes an awful lot of twisting and contortions to try to paint Obama or any other mainstream Democrat as a radical.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Katherine says:

        Some people are mighty determined to twist and contort as necessary…Report

        • Katherine in reply to Kazzy says:

          Yes, very much so.  It doesn’t change the facts.  Obama’s done nothing radically left-wing, and several things (renewing the Patriot Act, signing an NDAA that effectively nixed habeus corpus, vowing to veto Palestinian UN membership, and threatening yet another aggressive war on a Mideast nation on the mere possibility that Iran could be making progress on nuclear weapons) that are radically right-wing.  A lefty and a socialist he ain’t.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Katherine says:

            Indeed.  The issue is that if we allow the right to successfully paint Obama as a lefty socialist, then the center becomes shifted in a very dangerous way.

            Sometimes I wonder if these people actually know what socialism is…  I wonder if any of them have ever actually been to a socialist country.Report

            • Katherine in reply to Kazzy says:

              I both loathe and am impressed by the right’s success in defining crony capitalism, represented by the bank bailouts, as “socialism” at the one point in recent years where it might have been possible to rally people behind greater economic equality and support for the working class.  It was a magnificent work of propaganda, however unfortunate for the American people.

              An actual socialist would have nationalized the banks.

              And given that there’s only one socialist country left in the world, Cuba, and the US had an embargo on it, I highly doubt any of them have been to a socialist country.Report

              • Chris in reply to Katherine says:

                It’s like Marx said, under the dictatorship of the proletariate, risk will be socialized while profits are privatized.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                Which Marx was that?  Groucho?   I’ve studied the bearded German guy a while, I don’t remember him saying anything of the sort.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I was being silly. That’s pretty much the opposite of what Marx or any socialist, Marxist or not, would say, but it is precisely what the bailouts entailed: private profits, socialized risk.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Katherine says:

                FWIW, I’m not a socialist, and I would have nationalized the banks.  I’d hopefully have taken them private again by now, though.

                There is no way I would have given billions of dollars without controlling interest.  You don’t do that.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sure you do, anything else is socialist central planning.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Related:  Did the gov’t takeover of General Motors lead to pushing the Exploding Obamamobile?  You know, the Chevy Volt?  Do we really spend a quarter-million dollars to produce every eco-Edsel that we manage to pawn off on some enviro-twit with so much extra money that he apologetically squanders $40K on a green presidential wet dream?

                Hey, this Republican family owns a Prius, and we think it beats the hell out of any other automotive product since our 1991Honda CRX, which cost only 10 grand, looked cool, and got 45 mpg.

                They were the products of free enterprise.  Just sayin’.



              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Impossible to say, Tom, but it’s certainly a plausible hypothesis.  On the other hand, General Motors has poured a ton of money into how many car brands in the last twenty years, and delivered a product worth buying?

                GM’s problem is that GM is GM.Report

              • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yeah, Obama is so crafty, that he got GM to start designing the Volt three years before he became president.


              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Thx for the reply, PatC.  “Exploding Obamamobile” made me laugh, and “Eco-Edsel” was my own contribution.  Since I’m not a polemicist @ heart , I’m not really up on the details of this Chevy Volt thing.  It simply occurred to me the other day, looking at the parking lot of my office building, that putting up “recharging stations” at every parking space like the speakers at a drive-in [that’s a “drive-in theater” for all those under 60 years old] is a green wet dream, not only the absurdity of who pays to install them [Ed Begley?] but who pays for the juice.

                I believe the term back in the day was “industrial policy.”  It was the public-private miscegenation of “central planning.”  IIRC, Japan threw billions at becoming the world leader in microprocessors, etc.

                “Industrial Policy” is a four-letter word.  Or was, but here we go again.


              • Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                What do you think that Eisenhower’s highway program was?   Industrial policy.

                How about the moon shot?     Or the commercialization of the internet?

                Or is it only industrial policy when you don’t like it?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I said “push,” Mr. McSnark.  Barack Obama didn’t create the Chevy Volt.  I hope you’ll take my word for it that I followed GM’s Chevy Volt process from the first, as it promulgated the next goal before it had reached the one it was working on, and the one before that.

                The Volt has been “achieved,” as was the Edsel.  It works.  Sort of.  So did this:


              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. McSnark, you misuse “industrial policy” as a term, because you typed before reading the link.  You had your shot at engaging, and I gave you one, despite my embarrassment at even responding to a pseudonym that promises nothing but hostility and insincerity.

                Like the old parable, I knew what you were when I gave you a ride on my back.  My own fault, not yours.


              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I dunno, we keep hearing the US needs to be “more like China” and treat workers like shit, take away safety standards and all that…but then there’s also the whole developmental economics aspect of the Chinese economy…

                And the South Korean one…

                And the Taiwanese one…

                The Japanese one…

                Hell, Toyota was a recipient of substantial government largess in order to continue its export oriented growth in the 80s and 90s, and the Prius never would’ve seen the light of day if not for some generous tax breaks, particularly from the US government and state governments to spur on its adoption.

                Market incentives happen all the time. Are you going to next propose removing all tax breaks, making reporting regulations uniform across the board, removing capital gains as an actual category of income, etc? Those are also manipulations of the economy.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Akimoto, if yours is a response to me, I’m afraid my poor puddin’ head isn’t following your cornucopia of salient objections.  You seem to be disagreeing about something.

                Have you bought an Exploding Obamamobile?  How do you like it so far?  [We assume it has not exploded with you in it, or you wouldn’t be writing us.]


              • Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom –

                I am using terminology quite precisely–and each of the policies I enumerated were designed and intended to promote specific industries and technologies beyond what the “market” would have provided, which is precisely what industrial policy is designed to accomplish.

                As for my pseudonym, you’ve brought it up a number of times as a way of imputing bad faith, and it’s getting a little tiresome.    After all, you comment here with the relatively harmless name of “Tom”  and respond to everyone as a douche–so I wouldn’t place undue weight on names.

                BTW:  Toyota lost a great deal of money on each unit of their first-generation Prius.    They were pioneering a relatively new industrial technology, just as GM is.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Katherine says:

        “It takes an awful lot of twisting and contortions to try to paint Obama or any other mainstream Democrat as a radical.”

        There’s no need to — plain old statist interventionism has been bad enough. It’s base and unexciting and simply steadily corrosive. To be clear — both parties are guilty of incremental central planning and social engineering that have finally created stagnation — decline and collapse if we don’t make fundamental systemic changes. It’s no longer a matter of red and blue, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal — it’s statist or limited government/free market, and it has to do with economic reality, not politics. I think more and more honest liberals are realizing this — and if it wasn’t for the rhetoric of conservatives being falsely associated with limits and economic freedom, these liberals would be more energetic in their rejection of economy killing interventions, regulations which hurt small businesses and favor crony corporations.Report

        • Katherine in reply to MFarmer says:

          Give me an actual example of “central planning”.  Central planning, for reference, is when the government sets production quotas and prices for a given output (agricultural or manufactured) which is produced by state-owned industries, with no involvement by the private sector.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Katherine says:

            Nixon’s wage and price controls.  Damned near killed this country. Almost took down the entire world economy. The Libertarians are still shrieking about it all these years later. It could and should have been done differently.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Katherine says:

            The main central planning that goes on now is through the central bank which is hardly independent, but also through agricultural planning, planned energy production, healthcare, practically all regulations which are designed to guide an industry in one direction or another — this is economic planning. The government has departments designed for centralized planning — even our educational efforts are more and more centrally planned . Fannie and Freddie intervened through a centralized government effort to increase home-ownership, and this government intervention misdiretced capital and gave Big Banks the comfort of knowing that they’d be bailed out, so extraordinary risks were taken.Report

            • Katherine in reply to MFarmer says:

              Regulation isn’t “central planning”.  You said “central planning”.  That’s government control of industry, with set production quotas and prices.  I asked you to point to an example, and you couldn’t.

              Now you’re trying to redefine things as anything the government does being central planning.  Sorry, that’s not what the term means.  Having an education system is not “central planning”.  Neither is the existence of a central bank.  Know what words mean before you use them.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Katherine says:

            The artificially low interest rates at a time of extraordinary excess liquidity.Report

          • Koz in reply to Katherine says:

            “Give me an actual example of “central planning”. “

            Solyndra, among other things. Your understanding of central planning quite a bit out of date btw.Report

            • Katherine in reply to Koz says:

              No, I’m describing central planning as what it is.  You may be thinking of industrial policy.  I personally don’t see a difference between subsidies for investment in green energy and subsidies for corn farmers, except for the former might actually produce some useful innovation.  Sure a better idea than subsidies to the oil companies.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Katherine says:

                True dat, Katherine.  But I’ll go with oil company subsidies over Solyndra OR corn>ethanol subsidies in an Oklahoma minute.Report

              • Koz in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And let’s also note that if Katherine doesn’t like ethanol, she can certainly try to get rid of it. It’s not the Republicans standing in the way of expenditure cuts. It’s the libs who want to get bribed with tax increases to do spending cuts that should be even if we were swimming in money.Report

              • Derp in reply to Koz says:

                No. The Norquist lackeys demand offsetting tax cuts for any cuts to subsidies. Cutting spending does nothing if you’re just going to slash revenue at the same time. It’s a wash. I know Republicans think that deficits don’t matter, but this is basic accounting.Report

              • Koz in reply to Katherine says:

                Actually no, Solyndra is sorta like industrial planning but not really. Industrial planning is like Japan giving free health care, infrastructure and a bunch of breaks to Mitsubishi so it can be competitive (or superior) to Ford.

                Solyndra is part of an attempt to relationship between energy and the rest of the productive economy. And in fact that’s a significant part of why it failed. Or to be more precise, a significant part of why the government committed 9-digit loan guarantees which they eventually had to make good on. If it was just a matter of making Solyndra competitive with XYZ Panels, it could have been done a lot different.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Koz says:

                For clarity’s sake, Katherine’s quite right: “industrial policy” is a specific technical term, gov’t trying to pick winners & losers via subsidy.


                Solyndra and the Obama green initiative is classic “industrial policy.”  Tesla Motors.  Fisker.

                Clean energy loan recipient lays off staff

                By BYRON TAU | 2/6/12

                In another setback for President Obama’s clean energy loan programs, the recipient of more than a half-billion dollars in federal loans is laying off workers at their Delaware and California operations.

                Delaware’s News Journal reports that Fisker Automotive, a California-based electric car start-up company, is laying off an undisclosed number of staff to try to reserve enough capital in order to qualify for more federal help from the Department of Energy, according to a Delaware state development official.


              • Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                With all respect, I believe there’s more to it than that in this case.
                These subsidies are the result of a policy of targeted output; iirc, it’s 20% of total generation from wind by God-knows-when.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will H. says:

                With all respect, I believe there’s more to it than that in this case.
                These subsidies are the result of a policy of targeted output; iirc, it’s 20% of total generation from wind by God-knows-when.

                Interesting objection, WillH.  The Commies set goals first, then tried to figger out how to meet them.


                “Central Planning” here is more a rhetorical and pejorative football, but I don’t see how you’re wrong here.



              • Koz in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Katherine’s quite right: “industrial policy” is a specific technical term, gov’t trying to pick winners & losers via subsidy.”

                “Industrial policy refers to government programs tailored for a specific industry instead of actions whose effects are felt across an economy, like monetary policy or tax rates.”

                But that’s not quite what’s going on here. The Administration is hoping to pick winners, and it does affect cars more than other industries (though Solyndra has nothing to do with cars), but mainly it hopes to reengineer the relationship between energy and the rest of the economy. Ie, that would should be using algae or solar or whatever in lieu of coal, oil, nuclear, or gas. That’s an attempt for a particular economy-wide outcome that fails for the reasons central planning usually fails: bad information created by overcontrol of its resources which are still nonetheless insufficient to create the desired outcome.

                Btw, this is substantially different from GM and Chrysler, which can be thought of as industrial policy and more topically was justified as industrial policy.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Koz says:

                Just a point of order for clarity’s sake, Mr. Koz, that Katherine laid out “industrial policy” correctly.  You may now return to slugging it out, now in the same language.  “Industrial policy” need not be “crony capitalism,” that is, favoring firm X over its competitor Y:  It can be quite even-handed in dispensing the goodies to microprocessor firms, ethanolists, solar panelists, green DeLoreans, any ol’ thing where gov’t seeks to give private enterprise in a given industrial sector a competitive leg up via public monies.

                BTUs-for-the-buck speakingwise, I’m rather content with my original contention that I’ll go with oil company subsidies over Solyndra OR corn>ethanol subsidies in an Oklahoma minute.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Koz says:

                I see it a lot in energy, and I favor cap-and-trade as the best solution; even though the idea isn’t so popular with the Right (I owe them no allegiance), and more often than not, it’s referred to by them as a “carbon tax,” which is really something quite different.
                The energy market is really to localized for sweeping across-the-board policies enacted broadly.
                I think cap-and-trade would address everyone’s concerns to some extent.
                But the was I see it, it’s really a matter of either rewarding companies that are well-managed or rewarding companies that are well-connected.
                Although there may well be a case that positioning a company as well-connected is a viable management strategy, I would prefer the bureaucrats stay out of shareholder votes as much as possible.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                “I see it a lot in energy, and I favor cap-and-trade as the best solution; “

                I don’t, and I don’t favor carbon tax either. I don’t think any kind of global warming agenda can get off the ground until its proponents can offer a credible explanation for what problems it’s supposed to solve.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Koz says:

                As with health care, I don’t see “solving the problem” as feasible, at least on the outset.
                Mitigating the damage is fully sufficient. We can work from there.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                Ok, but I don’t see how that necessarily changes things. What do we think the damage is and how will cap-and-trade or a carbon tax mitigate it?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Koz says:

                The damage is environmental; good old-fashioned pollution.
                Climate change is really an ancillary issue. If carbon emissions contribute, we need to act; and if not, we still need to act.
                I don’t think anyone is taking the position that carbon emissions are actually good for the environment.
                Bringing climate change into it just clouds the issue.
                We have the capacity to reduce the aggregate pollution in our environment, and so we should. Simple as that.

                Power plants are built with a 50-year lifespan. That’s a standard engineering spec. You might get more out of it; like speakers are rated for a certain range, but can go a bit higher.
                Our infrastructure is decaying, and it’s going to cost money to replace the existing capacity, mush less to address the issue of expanding consumption.
                Cap-and-trade basically gives a power plant another commodity that it can sell on the open market. It gives the local power company flexibility. Those companies that plan ahead and build new plants will be rewarded.
                A carbon tax is a bad idea because it relies on a certain set of assumptions that are less an less applicable to the facts on the ground. It makes no distinction between a gasification system and the dirtiest of plants out there. It penalizes the adoption of new technologies.
                We have more advanced technologies at hand than our current production would indicate. We need to get those technologies online.
                Retrofits only go so far. The boiler technology is a lot different than it was 60 years ago. We have higher grades of steel these days, which is one of the things that make the large-scale super-critical units possible.
                I think cap-and-trade addresses everybody’s concerns to the greatest extent all the way around.
                The other axis is time.
                But I think that coming off of public monies in one way or another is the only real alternative to cap-and-trade. And I don’t trust the people holding the purse strings too much.Report

            • greginak in reply to Koz says:


        • Koz in reply to MFarmer says:

          “There’s no need to — plain old statist interventionism has been bad enough. It’s base and unexciting and simply steadily corrosive.”

          This is worth repeating because I think libs as well as conservatives have been distracted by the emotional negativity associated with President Obama and his critics. We don’t have to go there if we don’t want. It’s sufficient to say President Obama is straight up lib Demo and that’s bad enough.Report

          • Derp in reply to Koz says:

            It’s clearly not sifficient because that’s not what’s being said. Not on any of the conservative news stations and not by any of the conservative talking heads. Seriously, if it’s so sufficient to say he’s a liberal Democrat, why is no one saying it?Report

  4. James Hanley says:

    Good analysis, Elias.  The general tone of the staunch right seems not to be one of confidence in impending victory but terror of looming defeat.Report

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    1,000 years of darkness

    Shouldn’t that be 30,000 years, or is Limbaugh their Hari Seldon?Report

  6. Tod Kelly says:

    Great post, Elias.  However, I might quibble somewhat and suggest that both you and Corey are each correct in regards to the piñata vs. Armageddon viewpoints.  My experience here over the past year here at the League suggests that many of those that are most disdainful of the left hold both your and Corey’s truths simultaneously.

    The belief that the end is nigh is obviously one I hear all the time here, though probably more in the comment sections of posts by Erik, Mark and Jason than my own.  But from those that most worry that we are on the precipice (and here I’m thinking of quality contributors and smart guys like Farmer, Ward or Koz, not hackish drive bys) the tangential message I have heard is that there is a vast silent majority that, now in this 11th hour, will overwhelmingly reclaim the country at the ballot box and transform it into a more originalist society once the 2012 election is held – and that those that run on “small government” will actually cede that power once they win it.

    For my part I have found their worries overly pessimistic and their hopes overly optimistic, but I could well be proven wrong – we shall see come November.  However, the existence of both beliefs – that we as a country and a society are badly broken, and that the people are just about to rise and fix what ails us, do not seem to me to be mutually exclusive.Report

    • the tangential message I have heard is that there is a vast silent majority that, now in this 11th hour, will overwhelmingly reclaim the country at the ballot box and transform it into a more originalist society once the 2012 election is held – and that those that run on “small government” will actually cede that power once they win it.

      Very true. I wish I had worked this into the post more explicitly. Whenever I come across this sentiment it’s such a clear reminder: in many ways, we’re still living in Nixonland.Report

    • Koz in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      “…I have heard is that there is a vast silent majority that, now in this 11th hour, will overwhelmingly reclaim the country at the ballot box and transform it into a more originalist society…”

      I don’t know about Ward or Farmer but I wouldn’t put it this way. Speaking for myself, the short and/or intermediate term precipice is the comprehensive collapse of public finance and the severe economic disruptions that would follow. The hope for the 2012 election is that with the restoration of competence to American economic policy we can move away from this precipice.

      Check this out. Fwiw, a few months ago I tried to get North to follow along with the above link (and related discussions with Tyler Cowen). I thought it might be helpful especially as how between Smith and Cowen, Smith is the lib.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Koz says:

        Maybe I’m a bit more pessimistic on this, but the same economic fundamentals are at play regardless of any management turnover that may be in the works. I really don’ t think either party is prepared to deal with the matter very well. One better than the other, maybe; but neither well at all.Report

        • Koz in reply to Will H. says:

          Yeah but the fundamentals aren’t that bad. What’s bad is our inability to adapt to them appropriately, in particular the unwillingness of the Demos to make significant expenditure cuts which the GOP has demonstrated.

          In particular that’s a good part of my frustration with people like Pat and Jaybird, “How can we know for sure what the GOP is going to do when or if they get back in power?” We can’t, but we don’t have to. We can take what’s on the table right now.Report

  7. Robert Greer says:

    I’m interested to see how the Southern Republican base reacts when Romney makes his inevitable mad dash to the center.  By Election Day, the first-past-the-post system will have once again ensured that the opposing presidential candidates have nearly identical platforms: Romney will have jettisoned nearly all his electorally-fatal social conservatism, and on economic issues he’ll have raced Obama to a technocratic (read: regulatory) center.

    Most Republicans wouldn’t have much of a problem rallying the Republicans around a centrist platform, but Romney is almost as much a cultural Other as Obama, and once he’s no longer even pretending to be a True Conservative, the Southern base will find themselves with neither a political nor a cultural representative in the two likeliest candidates.  I think the 1860 analogy is actually quite apt: the winner of the 2012 election will have a deep legitimacy problem with the rural parts of the country, perhaps to the point of constitutional crisis.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Robert Greer says:

      As a conservative, I view Romney as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter all rolled into one.  I’m not sure liberals would disagree.


      • Katherine in reply to George Turner says:

        I disagree heartily.  Romeny, who warmongers against Iran every chance he gets and says Russia is “our #1 geopolitical foe”, equivalent to America’s peace president and the last moral man to hold the office?  Romney, who has no problem with inequality or poverty and thinks the fact that he got massively rich from practices that provided little if any value to the country or its people, equivalent to the president who inaugurated the Great Society and the War on Poverty?  Carter tried to move towards lifting the embargo on Cuba while the Cold War was still ongoing; Romney’s hard-lining on Cuba over 20 years after the Cold War ended.  Romney, the political chameleon, equivalent to Carter, a man who is defined by – and loved or reviled for, depending on your place in the political spectrum – his principles, and arguably lost office because of them?


        • Robert Greer in reply to Katherine says:

          I think we’ve really uncovered the core pathos of Romney here: His willingness to say whatever’s politically expedient is intended to get everyone to like him, but instead it’s made it possible for anyone find some reason to oppose him.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Greer says:

            Mitt Romney isn’t a patch on his father’s britches.  His dad was a mensch.Report

            • Robert Greer in reply to BlaiseP says:

              There are definitely times when I really despise Romney for his apparent lack of a core, but at some level I really feel for the guy.  His dad was a mensch and was driven out of his political career by the exact same forces that Mitt is so desperately trying to win over.  I don’t think it’s entirely implausible that Romney’s heart is in the perfectly right place, and he just feels like he has to continually misrepresent himself to get The Right Policies implemented.  Romney have been a psychopathic megalomaniac to begin with, but he also might just be the starkest example yet of the inevitable Faustian tragedy of politics.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Katherine says:

          I think you mistake the comparison.  Romney on Iran is like Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam, but he’d probably conduct the effort like Richard Nixon and then leave the region abandoned like Gerald Ford, followed by Jimmy Carter’s gas lines.

          Pick each of those four Presidents’ most inept actions, and you have my opinion of Romney.  He wants to be all things to all people, yet I think he’ll largely do nothing for anyone.  To lead a herd you have to move to an edge.  Romney will just stand around basking in his own election, content to stand in the middle of a herd that’s going nowhere.



          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to George Turner says:

            This was my complaint about Bush41, but this sort of public-service Toryism is getting new respect in all quarters.

            And as an alternative to the current occupant’s ambition of a “transformative” prresidency, I’m all for it.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to George Turner says:


        I once thought this about Romney, but now I think he will be like a Supreme Court justice who fools people once on the court. I think Romney has enough business experience, and he has learned enough from Ron Paul, that he will reject his past pragmatism and rely more on free market principles. Many businesspeople when they become governors, say, especially if they don’t have the philosophical foundation to understand basic limited government principles, will use their skills of getting things done while in office, and then the career ststists take advantage of the pragmatism, and before you know it you have fix-it solutions like RomneyCare. I think many Americans have been shaken by the financial crisis, and grown up Americans will make an effort to turn things around. I think Romney will rise to the challenge to rollback damaging interventions and create mopre economic liberty. I just hope Ron Paul’s non-interventionism rubs off on Romney.Report

        • Murali in reply to MFarmer says:

          Dude, what have you been snorting. Romney will not really be that substantially different than Obama. He might tilt rightward on social issues a bit more.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Murali says:

            Well, Sir, I’ll tell you something: I believe that Mr. Romney is going to bring us something that this country has been missing for a long time, and that something, Sir, is hope. Yes Sir, he’s going to bring America hope. But, not just hope; no Sir, he’s also going to bring us change. Hope and change. But, not just change; no Sir, he’s going to bring us change that we can believe in. Unlike that other fellow, with his vague and empty promises, Mr. Romney’s vague promises are ones you can bank on!Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    Another thing to note is that “Republicans” and “Conservatives” (& “Democrats” and “Liberals”) are not quite interchangeable terms.  Furthermore, ‘Liberals’ and ‘Conservatives’ don’t win elections, ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans’ do.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Kolohe says:

      This is half-true.  Certainly, not all Democrats are liberals; but essentially all Republicans with any political power are members in decent standing of the modern conservative movement (I phrase it this way to avoid any debates about what’s a “true conservative”, which strike me as beside the point when we’re talking about politicians).  The asymmetric polarization of political leadership can’t be stressed enough.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Dan, there are also a lot of us independents who will support whichever candidates support economic liberty and an end to stagnating interventions, and the bogged-down wars. I think there are a lot of us out there, and if we all vote, this could be a big surprise in 2012. I don’t think there are any polls counting those in America who think like I do — we are more private sector based than politically based — you won’t find us in DC –but we’ll enter the political sphere when so much is at stake.Report

  9. Shane Taylor says:

    Though the point is not central to your post, I would say that an “antipathy to central planning,” as well as the importance of tacit knowledge, can be given its due without making utopian claims for “free markets.” This counter was made, among others, by both John Gray and Peter Dorman.Report

    • James K in reply to Shane Taylor says:

      This is a very important and often-overlooked point.  In my experience, most people treat markets like they were magic, the ideological divide is just about they are to be thought of as light magic or dark magic.  This can be seen in how politicians react to markets.

      No matter the ideology, economist approach things from a different perspective.  We all know that markets work under some conditions, and don’t in others.  Half my education in economics was about market failure: the different types, the symptoms of them and possible fixes.  The disagreements all focus around how frequent and serious market failures tend to be.

      Hayek never meant The Road to Serfdom to be an argument against all regulation or welfare.  He was arguing against Central Planning, an idea that was capturing the intelligentsia of his day.  His argument was not based around the idea that market mechanisms were perfect, though the study of those imperfections has advanced hugely since then, but that the specific interventions being proposed did more good than harm.  Markets are imperfect, but it only makes sense to supplant them if you can actually do better in the real world.Report

      • Koz in reply to James K says:

        “This is a very important and often-overlooked point. In my experience, most people treat markets like they were magic, the ideological divide is just about they are to be thought of as light magic or dark magic. This can be seen in how politicians react to markets.”

        Good point. And the reason for this is a matter of control. A substantial part of the population wants to assert control over very many things where it seems by default or by law that “markets” have control over. Therefore, a great deal of energy and alchemy goes into making markets produce preferred outcomes. Markets can be regulated poorly, well, or not at all but before we worry about that we should worry about exactly what it is that we’re trying to assert control over and whether that can or should be collectively controlled. If we have clarity on that point we might be able to handle the markets angle better.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Shane Taylor says:

      I’m not reading and utopianism regarding “free markets”, only that economic liberty is much more preferable than central planning and social engineering. There might be a few utopians making wild claims, but I don’t read this — I read level-headed thinkers like Meltzer and Woods who keep it real and aren’t superficially making wild claims.Report

  10. Mike says:

    I think “end is nigh” among conservatives is primarily due to our fiscal situation.  I was shocked at the initial price tag for TARP, but in the fall of 08, I hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet.  Seeing the Europeans getting the bill for their decades of welfare statism should be a wake up call, but among liberals I’ve spoken with, either the idea that we are approaching a major fiscal crisis is ridiculous (we can deficit spend forever), racist (you wouldn’t care about spending if a white President was doing it), or can just be put off (yes we should cut the defense department, and and maybe a few unspecified things – later).


    • greginak in reply to Mike says:

      TARP is not going to cost us that much. The recent estamites are that it will cost 30-50 billion, not the huge amounts that were talked about in the beginning. The intial price tag is simply not what it will cost us.

      All the things you are suggesting liberals say consist of strawmen. Maybe someone said them, but that doesn’t make them smart or indicative of what liberals believe.Report

      • Will H. in reply to greginak says:

        Well, TARP as a Bush program that was enacted as a rough patch to keep everything from going down the tubes before he got out of office. It really wasn’t so much out of character for Bush43, but counter to prevailing Republican rhetoric.
        I, for one, lost a lot of money holding shares of Fannie & Freddie. Those sort of costs are typically not included.
        To say that it only cost 30-50 billion exposes an error of unacceptable magnitude. The methodology of arriving at such large figures is always in question; but to say “40 billion, give or take 25%” is unacceptable. That’s just too wide a discrepancy. If I wasn’t certain within a 10% range (and I consider that rather dubious), I wouldn’t put my money on it. It’s doable only because it’s the public purse at issue.Report

        • greginak in reply to Will H. says:

          Will, i wasn’t giving an exact estimate. I was remembering the numbers i’ve heard relatively recently. I don’t know the exact estimate. The point was that the original cost was 700 billion or so but has ended up being a lot less. And yes you are correct that TARP started under Bush but Obama has been doing a lot of time traveling in the last few years. He has “done” all sorts of things before he was elected.Report

  11. Tom Van Dyke says:

    “[T]hose who described themselves as “very liberal” were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer.”

    Conservatives may not like liberals, but they seem to understand them. In contrast, many liberals find conservative voters not just wrong but also bewildering.

    One academic study asked 2,000 Americans to fill out questionnaires about moral questions. In some cases, they were asked to fill them out as they thought a “typical liberal” or a “typical conservative” would respond.

    Moderates and conservatives were adept at guessing how liberals would answer questions. Liberals, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal,” were least able to put themselves in the minds of their adversaries and guess how conservatives would answer.

    Kristof on Haidt.  See also


    • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      It’s quite true.  I would never have imagined the extent to which conservatives would demonize a dead child to score partisan points, or guess that someone who is, apparently, respected as a conservative commentator would say anything as psychotic as “he’s a racist hatemonger”.Report

    • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      You should read the study.Report

    • These kinds of studies are so dependent on the choice of questions asked as to not be very useful — I guarantee if I were given a big enough pool of subjects, I could devise some questions for which conservatives would have difficulty predicting liberals’ answers.   I think the best takeaway from Haidt’s research is to say that liberals and conservatives have nonoverlapping concerns and that both sides should be loath to call the other stupid or autistic for disagreeing.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Robert Greer says:

        Mr. Greer, I’d like to see Haidt’s work examined more fully before being discarded &/or shouted down.  Haidt, after all, by most accounts is still a leftish-leaning person.  It’s possible that he is lighting on to actual truth and that “truth” is not always a lazy line drawn down the middle.

        Now, I certainly acknowledge your routine and valid caution that poll questions can be worded contentiously and can beg the question that the researcher purports to be asking.  I’d just like to see it play out a bit.

        I admit this is selfish, since every other week shows some leftist twit claiming that their research shows that conservatives have the reasoning power of goldfish.  [Who pays for these “studies”?]

        No, I don’t distrust science; I distrust scientists.  Your objection is sustained in principle, Mr. Greer, but with your permission, I’d like to give Jonathan Haidt a little leeway here for the moment:  that the left might have some psychological tics rather than being the definition of the baseline of “normal.”  Dr. Haidt is a bit of a rebel, subversive of the conventional wisdom.  It’s amusing, actually, that the only way these days to be radical is to question the “progressive” and “enlightened.”

        Amusing to me, anyway.Report

        • Although I hadn’t read this study until you’d linked to it, I’ve been familiar with Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory for a while.  It’s a useful way of categorizing differences between conservatives and liberals, but I doubt even Haidt would say it’s complete, or that it carves the nature of the disagreements at the joints.

          That said, I think it’s a fair point (and not surprising) that liberals tend to misunderstand conservatives’ political motivations in ways that are not neatly parallel to conservatives’ misunderstandings of liberals’.  I just think any discrepancy between the two can be explained by a lot of things that aren’t “conservatives have a more attuned sense of morality,” which is what you seem to be urging.  For one, liberals may simply be justified in thinking the “extra” moral concerns of conservatives are superfluous.  For another, liberals may have more accurate beliefs about objective questions that could affect a moral calculus.  And there’s always the question of whether Moral Foundations Theory is up to the task Haidt has assigned to it.Report

          • Chris in reply to Robert Greer says:

            Tom is misrepresenting the study (no surprise there). In the study, liberals and conservatives were both inaccurate: they both exaggerated (underestimated or overestimated, depending on the dimension) the “moral concerns” of their own groups and the other groups. Liberals were more inaccurate about both other liberals and conservatives, but they were both inaccurate. The exaggerations by both liberals and conservatives essentially served to make the two groups seem more different than they are on those dimensions.

            Anyway, you can’t trust Tom on social science: if he can twist it to make it agree with his preconceived notions, he loves it. If he can’t, the research is the product of ideological bias, and we should dismiss it. This is a game Tom’s played for a long time.

            Now what Tom will say, “I was just quoting the article.” We should have a TvD drinking game for this shit.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Robert Greer says:

            Mr. Greer, the libertarians @ LoOG spend most of their time defending themselves from the distortions from the left.  Look at the abuse I meself have to endure in this very thread—somethings going on here and it has to do with the psychology of the left and nothing else.  Because when there’s no libertarian or conservative to fuck with, they turn on each other.

            I do thank you for your attempts at being fair & principled.

            “conservatives have a more attuned sense of morality,” which is what you seem to be urging.

            Yes & no.  I don’t for a moment argue conservatives are more moral persons.  There are very many atheists I’d rather take my chances with than with theistic moralists.

            It’s not a question of morality as much as an attempt at moral reasoning, an acknowledgement of certain foundational presuppositions that we carry forward as “moral reasoning” as the issue becomes more and more complex.  I have seen, when push comes to shove, “moral reasoning” revealed as an ad hoc collection of feelings and sentiments.  In fact, what Haidt’s after, rather like Hume, is that we use our brains to justify our passions and prejudices, and that “moral reasoning” is a fiction for most men.

            Admitting that much is but the first step if we are ever to able to move toward moral reasonign as anything more than a chimera, a fiction.Report

            • Murali in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

               that “moral reasoning” is a fiction for most men.

              The key word here is most men. I’m not most people. So, if I say something…Report

              • Chris in reply to Murali says:

                There’s actually some research on whether philospohers reason about morality differently than non-philosophers.

                There’s also plenty of research on people who think their brains work differently.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                There’s actually some research on whether philospohers reason about morality differently than non-philosophers.

                I wouldn’t find this surprising at all. An old perfessor of mine used to refer to the absence of the philosopher gene as accounting for why some people just don’t get the force of philosophical arguments. In my experience, I’ve found that to be the case. I mean, even simple things like thought experiments strike most people as useless. And trying to explain why they’re not is often an exercise in futility.Report

              • Murali in reply to Chris says:

                Who said anything about philosophers? *grin*Report

            • I immediately regretted using the term moral reasoning, because I knew it’d be taken to mean what you did here.  Mea culpa.  My thinking is actually very much of a piece with Hume’s — actually more radical, because instead of reason being the slave of the passions, I deny that a coherent distinction can be drawn between them at all.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Robert Greer says:

                I deny that a coherent distinction can be drawn between them at all.

                You say that with such dispassionate cool reasoning that I almost don’t believe you. 🙂Report

              • I love coherence because it’s capacious enough that the pomos don’t roll their eyes, but it’s not yet a dirty word among the more conservative elements in epistemology.Report

              • Mr. Greer, I’m tickled pink these fine distinctions can be made and respected here.  It gives me hope.

                As recently as say 5 years ago, when I began my later-in-life auto-didactic studies, I had quite an enthusiasm for a “democratization” or universalization of philosophy.  It’s what Alexandre Kojeve, the philosophical godfather of the European Union was after.  very egalitarian, and it’s what his student Francis Fukuyama was after with The End of History: Not just the material and political well-being of bourgeois democracy—peace and prosperity—but also every man with the leisure to philosophize.

                Surely with the proper time and guidance, every man a philosopher, contra Plato’s myth of The Cave, where only the occasional philosopher goes out and sees the truth of the light of day, and the rest of the benighted human race try to make some sense of the shadows and flickers they see on the cave walls.

                But I must admit—in no small part due to my experiences on the internet—that I’ve begun to favor Hume, that these things are not studies in philosophy or moral reasoning, merely mob psychology.

                Still, it may be possible that Plato was right, that at least some people are capable of moral reasoning. It is those people who influence the “gentlemen,” the gentlemen who are the politicians and rulers, and so on down the line.

                So forget philosophy for now.  We’re way back on even the possibility of philosophy.  Which is OK.  It’s always best to start at the beginning.Report

              • Well, I think it’s mistake to distinguish philosophy from work in the first place.  When philosophy is characterized as a leisure activity, it’s implied that only people with leisure time can do real philosophy, and this has the effect of delegitimizing the thoughts of people lacking that privilege.  I think the only way to truly universalize philosophy is to stop trying to define it — and insofar as philosophy is the rigorous application of definitions, perhaps its ultimate aim should be self-extinguishment.  I guess it’s only fitting that philosophy should earn a nirvana of its own.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Robert Greer says:

                I’m not quite following you here, Mr. Greer, but you have the floor.  [That “leisure” is required for philosophizing is only a practical matter, I believe, that you need to have a pause from the existential death struggle to reflect on what might be right or wrong, good, better or best.  In survival mode, by lifeboat rules, well, animals are not bound by the rules of morality.  “Morality” is a uniquely human thing.  “Right and wrong” is a human thing.]Report

        • Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          I would say that I distrust science as a matter of acquired skepticism.
          I have seen science revise itself in broad swaths again and again.
          I accept it more as a matter of “best information on hand” rather than as a veritable certainty.
          I have every confidence that much of what we now “know” will be thought of as quite foolish by later generations.Report

          • Chris in reply to Will H. says:

            This is how science is supposed to work, of course. I see nothing wrong with being skeptical of current scientific conclusions. They are always subject to change, and while I may accept them as current, I am fully aware that they could change, and I am not surprised when they are. Pretty much every scientist I know thinks like this. What is suspect in my book, and should be in anyone who respects the scientific method, is being skeptical of particular findings because they don’t fit with your ideological biases. That’s the opposite of a scientific mindset.

            Some people are skeptical of scientists because they are convinced that scientists think the same way they do.Report

  12. dhex says:

    most of the dem/repub sports bar loves pontificating and fantasizing about how victimized they are and how powerful their opponents are. and how evil and stupid their opponents are. maybe it’s a jesus thing, but at some point being a victim (real or imagined) became a point of pride.Report

  13. Damon says:

    Interesting article.  TL/DR most of the comments. 

    So, my 2 cents.  There is little difference between the Dems and Repubs.  They both want to control everyone.  It only matters in the manner.  They both embrace the use of the state to (take your pick) take my property, prevent me from buying something, control my food, my behavior, monitor me, search my property without a warrant, or kill me.  Why anyone supports either party astounds me. 

    Both sides endorsed the bailouts and the generation of trillions of excess dollars.  Both parties endorse and support social programs and military spending driving our debt to excess.  Both get rich directing pork/favors/etc. to their friends.  Both sell out their country for money.  Both lie, cheat, steal and are power hungry self serving SOBs.

    All empires fall.  This one will too.  How will this come about, what method, and when?  Not sure, but we’re on the right side of the curve.  It’s just a matter of how far along we are.  Things can’t change due to wedded special interests.  We’re doomed…..doomed I tells ya!Report

    • James K in reply to Damon says:

      There is little difference between the Dems and Repubs.  They both want to control everyone.  It only matters in the manner.  They both embrace the use of the state to (take your pick) take my property, prevent me from buying something, control my food, my behavior, monitor me, search my property without a warrant, or kill me.  Why anyone supports either party astounds me.

      Because that’s the kind of government the people want.  For all the lionisation of liberty in the US, people don’t want other to have the freedom to do things they disapprove of.  That would be anarchy!  People like you and I, who actually want a government that doesn’t try to micromanage its citizenry are rare.  Libertarians don’t have much political power because we are few in number.

      There is a reason I share some of Murali’s scepticism of democracy.  All libertarians should really.Report

      • greginak in reply to James K says:

        Oh please…So if i think we need the gov to provide uni health care somehow i want to control everybody. Really that is news to me. If i think we need enviro protections i want to control everybody. meh. I get the rant and all but it does pretty much ignore any sort of public good, externalities, etc in favour of insults.Report

        • James K in reply to greginak says:

          Actually, when I think about the left and control I think of stuff restrictions on smoking an gun ownership.  While I think the ACA is gravely misguided, I don’t think it was driven by a desire by the left to control people’s day to day lives.

          I also have no objection to government measures against externalities either.  Apologies if my off-hand comment came across as broader than I intended.Report

  14. Citizen says:

    The “final defeat” is contracting 450 million rounds of ammo for Homeland Security over the next 5 years.Report

    • Annelid Gustator in reply to Citizen says:

      Actually it seems that ICE just let an id/iq contract, meaning that the vendor guarantees up to 450M rounds over the next 5 years. So ICE has purchased the right to buy at specified prices up to that many rounds over time. That’s still a ton of rounds and I don’t get it, myself.Report

  15. Annelid Gustator says:

    I’m aware of the size of those agencies and I looked at the numbers a bit myself and only estimated a few hundred thousand needed at the maximum.

     So, no, I don’t know what they’re putting the ceiling there for, but 450M is a ceiling, not a floor, nor even their intended purchase. We can’t know with the information thus far presented.Report