A Partial Mea Culpa

Avatar

Shawn Gude

Shawn Gude is a writer, graduate student, activist, and assistant contributor at Jacobin. His intellectual influences include Chantal Mouffe, Michael Harrington, and Ella Baker. Contact him at shawn.gude@gmail.com or on Twitter @shawngude.

Related Post Roulette

113 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    “The left would be wise to sharpen its underlying division with the right, elevating democracy and self-governance to its rightful place in the leftist constellation of principles.”

    But if you let people govern themselves, then some of them might decide to act in a way that isn’t consistent with ensuring the minimization of privilege gradients across all members and classes of society.

    And we just can’t be having with that at all.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    elevating democracy and self-governance to its rightful place in the leftist constellation of principles.

    The left has a tendency to conflate democracy and self-governance, when they’re actually incompatible in practice. Democracy is everybody sticking his nose in everyone else’s business. Libertarianism is self-governance.Report

    • Avatar karl in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to karl
        Ignored
        says:

        Neither do I, but I think he’s on to something all the same.

        The Left really isn’t about democracy or self-governance as far as I can tell. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were all leftists, and they aren’t “democrats” in any sense of the word. Even eliding those extreme examples, the Left is generally the end of the spectrum that wants more government regulation, not less.*

        Even if I tend to disagree with most Leftist goals a lot of the time, I tend to agree that aiming for those goals instead of democracy qua democracy isn’t a problem. That’s what happened in Iraq and Egypt, and both elected rather reactionary Islamic governments. “Self-governance” does not necessarily get you any particular desired outcome. All it means is that what you get is a more-or-less accurate expression of what a majority or plurality of the people want, or at least think they want. That may or may not have anything to do with liberty or civil rights.

        Know why we have a War on Drugs? Because a majority of voters want one. Or, at least, a majority of voters don’t care enough about it to make that a deciding issue in their voting patterns, which amounts to the same thing. As soon as you prioritize process of democracy, you’ve basically surrendered your right to be picky about what the ultimate result looks like. The reason the Democrats aren’t entirely and consistently devoted to self-governance as such is because they care about outcomes. I can’t say that’s a bad thing, even if I don’t want the same outcomes they do.

        *Note that I said “regulation” not “activity”. Both ends of the spectrum want lots of government activity these days, since social programs count. But the Left generally wants regulatory activity, e.g., environmental, labor, and civil rights regulations, while the Right tends just to want transfer payments and subsidies.Report

        • Avatar david in reply to Ryan Davidson
          Ignored
          says:

          But the Left generally wants regulatory activity, e.g., environmental, labor, and civil rights regulations, while the Right tends just to want transfer payments and subsidies ….

          Would it be so different if the left phrased it in terms of transfer payments, subsidies, and tort compensation – this is an atmosphere that I live in, pay me my carbon tax, this is my free association of labour, shut up and take your work-to-rule strike; or even: pay me my guaranteed minimum income, dissolve thine limited-liability, and say no words about thy tax.

          You could easily make capitalism grind to a complete halt by demanding a rigid adherence to property and contract, and in the threat to do so, one could demand anything a latte-sipping Marxist enviro-hippie could think of.

          Idiosyncrasy of history has meant that the right has mostly encoded their desires in terms consistent with a propertarian free-associative outlook, but they are quite willing to dispense with it. See: right-to-work.Report

        • Avatar The Left in reply to Ryan Davidson
          Ignored
          says:

          Once again, I am called upon to denounce Lenin, Stalin and Mao all their evil works.

          However, if we are using Lenin, Stalin and Mao as examples of the Left, who from that period in history can we use as example of the Right?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to The Left
            Ignored
            says:

            Pinochet, (At the risk of Goodwin) Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco spring immediatly to my mind.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to The Left
            Ignored
            says:

            “Once again, I am called upon to denounce Lenin, Stalin and Mao all their evil works.”

            Well, if you can find other examples of the anti-capitalist left that actually had power in a country and didn’t fish it all up, please do. I’ll even give you one – Ho Chi Minh. Though of course Vietnam isn’t run by anti-capitalists anymore.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
              Ignored
              says:

              I’ll give you Dan Ortega too, he seems willing to accept a ‘Your Fired’ from Democracy.Report

            • Avatar The Left in reply to Kolohe
              Ignored
              says:

              Who says that I, The Left, am anti-capitalism?

              That definition would exclude New Deal America, half the nations of Europe, and the British Commonwealth from the ranks of The Left and all of which embrace lustily capitalism and markets.

              For them to be anything other than Leftist is unpossible, because they all have for example, single payer health insurance, and we know for a fact that single payer is Cloward-Piven-Alinskyite Communism incarnate, only one step away from the killing fields.

              So it cannot be disputed that these nations are among the Leftist brethren.
              Or perhaps they have all fished up their countries, and need to be shown the error of their ways?Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kolohe
              Ignored
              says:

              I think you are constructing a rather convenient strawman for your ideological kinks.

              As TheLeft says below, there are plenty of liberals who are not anti-Capitalist but might or might not maintain suspicions about Capitalism in full.

              Some other examples that you seem to be forgetting are: F.D.R. (who was certainly not a socialist but created the American Welfare State and believed strongly in standards of living. See the Second Bill of Rights), Hubert Humphrey and the ADA crowd, Clement Atlee, Anuerin Bevan and other old Labor politicians. Social Democrats like Tommy Douglas in Canada (who created their single payer health system), Social Democrats in every Northern European country, etc.

              So kindly please respond with reality and not ideological blinders.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                As North said, it’s not a strawman. Mr. Gude said explictly he’s throwing in with the anti-capitalistic left and setting himself against both neo-liberalism and classical liberalism.

                Anti-capitalistic leftist movements that have taken power in countries have pretty universally squelched political pluralism and undercut social democracy. Even when they haven’t been able to take over, they (sometimes deliberately, sometimes not) undercut more conventionally political liberal voices on the spectrum, leading reactionary strains to gain power, which again results in diminished political pluralism and social democracy – and this time often with a side helping of anti-secularism.

                (and then there’s the anti-capitalistic leftist movements in power that have evolved in a state corporatist fascism, which, while more benign that what preceded it, is still authoritarian and well, fascist.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe
                Ignored
                says:

                Capitalism is what capitalism does. I defy you to find a successful state without some elements of socialism and a highly-regulated marketplace.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Plus the left has the best Marxists

                Harpo and Groucho. Chico and Zeppo aren’t bad either.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kolohe
              Ignored
              says:

              There is also David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meier, Moshe Dayan, and Yitzhak Rabin.

              The American Right-Wing’s favorite foreign country is rather socialist.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                Well yes but they can’t look too closely at that state; it’d melt their brains. For instance Israel has an entire social population of unabashed welfare queens; problem is they’re hyper-social conservative.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, if you can find other examples of the anti-capitalist left that actually had power in a country and didn’t fish it all up, please do.

              Seems to me the criterion justifying the claim is the “fishing it up” part, not the pro or anti part.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Davidson in reply to karl
        Ignored
        says:

        Also: to the extent that the Occupy movement represents “self-governance,” I think we’ve seen how useful that is a means of political change.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to karl
        Ignored
        says:

        I know exactly what those words mean. My point is that the left’s use of the term “self-government” is positively Orwellian. They don’t mean people governing themselves—that’s what libertarianism is. They mean majority rule, i.e. everyone lording it over everyone else.

        To their credit(?), they’re grossly disingenuous about this. They don’t want the masses lording it over gays, or blacks, or Hispanics, because the masses aren’t on the same page as them about those things. They really just want to empower the masses to take whatever they want from the wealthy.Report

  3. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi Shawn, there are two things that really bother me here:

    1. The left and center-left have a history of subordinating democracy to ostensibly more important objectives and principles. Dispensing with democracy is rarely prudent or normatively desirable

    What’s so great about democracy? If the answer is that democracy is good because it, more than any known alternative is the most likely to result in just policies, then why shouldn’t we subordinate democracy to more important objectives and principles? i.e. why should we elevate democracy to a first or even the first principle?

    2 I became convinced that expending too much energy on short-term, trans-ideological coalitions can militate against the longer term, Gramsican goal of uprooting the prevailing neoliberal capitalist ideology.

    This really bothers me. Are you seriously telling me that your biggest ideological enemies are neoliberal capitalists and not the social conservatives and neoconservatives on the right? Seriously the persons whose views are most antithetical to yours is Matthew Yglesias*, Brad Delong, Tyler Cowen et al?

    *Yes Matt Yglesias has often called himself a neoliberalism and famously told Freddie Deboer that neoliberalism is the authentic leftist movement that will genuinely achieve universal emancipationReport

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali
      Ignored
      says:

      he has called himself a neoliberalReport

    • Avatar James K in reply to Murali
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree, what’s so terrible about neoliberalism? Scandinavia seems to work OK.Report

      • Avatar david in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        The left-wing vision of neoliberalism is, as Deboer et al have described it, globalize, deregulate, and redistribute – particularly as the previous Galbraithian triumvirate order (using big business, state, and union to split returns via labour negotiation instead of legislative action) eroded under globalization and deregulation.

        Thereby ‘third way’ liberalism, qua Clinton and Blair. But also neoliberalizing antipodes and Scandinavia and Germany, yes. Even Singapore, South Korea, etc.

        The usual snipe is that the redistributive element has not been sufficient when the government itself is insufficiently left-wing in motivation.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Can you call Scandinavia neo-liberal? I don’t see them as neoliberal by the American standard. Matt Y might praise them but to me Scandinavia is a mixed-market economy with a strong welfare state and lots of regulation.

        Matt Y is often about deregulation and not in smart ways. In my opinion he has all the traditional faults of pundits and pure economists: An attraction to arguments and policies that are too clever by half and often contrarian for the sake of contrariness, a failure to understand how the world really works* and/or a strange vision of utopia**, a refusal to engage critics and naysayers, etc, and a belief in deregulation for the sake of deregulation instead of questioning whether some regulations make sense and are better than others. There is a difference between being an unlicensed manicurist and being an unlicensed dental hygienest or lawyer or doctor where the risks of screwing up are much more dire.

        Wow that was a screed by Matt Y is my bete-noir.

        David brings up good points on the swipe. There has been very little redistribution and neoliberalism just seems like another stooge for big business.

        *I have seen way too many lectures by pure/rational economists who seem sincerely gobsmacked at when people fail their rational experiments. The prime example usually being an economist saying “You can have a dollar today or two dollars a year from now”. They seem absolutely unable to understand that one and two dollars is so low in terms of purchasing power that it is meaningless to wait for that kind of return even if it is huge percentage wise. Even if you upped the numbers to a more significant one say: 1000 vs. 2000 dollars; there could still be plenty of reasons why a person would take 1000 today like needing to pay their rent or parking tickets so said person can drive to work.

        **Matt Y’s version of utopia would seem to have most people living in an upper-middle class urban(ish) environment. The population seems divided between white-collar creative professionals and creative(ish) service workers like yoga instructors. He seems not to understand why this is impossible to achieve. He also likes to talk about the end of retail which would take way many of said service jobs.

        FWIW, I consider myself a liberal. I just don’t think Matt Y helps the cause.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to NewDealer
          Ignored
          says:

          I don’t think of the US as especially neoliberal, while you have a lot of transfer payments they’re principally focused on transferring income from the young to the old, rather than from the rich to the poor.

          The Scandinavian countries on the other hand, well one way to check would be to look at the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. They use 10 metrics to determine economic freedom, 2 of which relate to government spending so if we take those out we should get a better picture of the regulatory intensity for each country. If you build an index like that, you find that Denmark, Sweeden and Finland rank higher on economic freedom than the US, leaving only Norway as less free.

          So if the Heritage Foundation doesn’t think they’re heavily regulated, how heavily regulated can they be?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
          Ignored
          says:

          Actually ND Scandinavia’s business world is much more lightly regulated than the US’s is. The arrangement is essentially very strong safety nets (and the taxes to pay for them) but relatively light interference in business affairs and social regulation. Pretty much the epitome of neoliberal.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer in reply to North
            Ignored
            says:

            I am guessing that Scandinavia still requires a lot of licensing for professionals like lawyers and even dental hygenists. Matt Y likes to argue against these.

            And I would take lighter regulations of business if people on the right would accept a welfare state and the taxes to pay them. Except they just complain about wanting to be John Galt and First Principals and convenient prosperity gospel Calvinism that says it is not the role of government to do this. The Heritage Foundation included.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
              Ignored
              says:

              Per the the common measures of economic freedom like Heritage, Scandinavia ranks in lower on regulation of business than the US does so I don’t think that’s an assumption you can lightly make on licensing.Report

            • Avatar The Fool in reply to NewDealer
              Ignored
              says:

              I’m afraid you’re either misunderstanding or misrepresenting Yglesias’s opinions on licensing. He doesn’t oppose licensing for lawyers or dental hygienists. I don’t recall him ever actually talking about licensing for lawyers, actually, so you might be right.

              On dental hygienists, though, you’re dead wrong. His point about dental hygienists is that dentists have prevented poor people from accessing cheaper basic dental care from dental hygienists by pushing through regulations which force hygienists to work for dentists instead of offering tooth cleaning/non-diagnostic services on their own. His point is about the powerful using the political process to cement their privilege, not that all licensing is horrible and should vanish into the ether.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah I think this touches, for me, upon why I can’t take the far left and Occupy very seriously. I mean sure all us center leftists, neoliberals and decrats are selling out in some way. But for goodness sakes, Occupy can’t even agree on what it stands for. This post is illustrative in itself. There’s a section of personal history, a mea culpa and then an assertion that the left has answers… followed instead by a series of criticisms of neoliberals, libertarians and conservatives.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to North
          Ignored
          says:

          The Occupy movement cannot be summed-up in a few bullet points. Take these Executive Summaries I’m obliged to write from time to time: they’re simplistic to the point of meaninglessness. The same is true for most political rhetoric.

          Occupy is considerably more sophisticated than its many enemies. Their list of grievances is very long. That’s reality. Occupy, like the Tea Parties, is not one thing: it’s the first semblance of liberal politics to emerge in many decades now.

          The devil is in the details. The political parties continue to dish up bumper sticker sized talking points and that’s what we’ve come to expect from them. If Occupy seems disorganised, so is democracy itself.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            In other words, North, it’s too sophisticated for you to understand, and it would take way too much time and effort to explain here, so you will simply have to take the Occupiers’ word that what they envision is like totally awesome, and what they find wrong in society and politics is so extensive, it suffices to say that much work is needed to fix things. It’s going to take so much work, the Occupiers ware resting now so that they have the energy when it’s time to get things done. You don’t need to know what Occupy plans to do about all this, and you wouldn’t understand anyway, so just know that you are wrong and they are right — your way doesn’t work, and their way will, whatever it is, which is not something easily understood.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer
              Ignored
              says:

              Well as a neo/market liberal running dog statist I view them more charitably than you would Mike.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer
              Ignored
              says:

              If there are other words by way of explanation of what I say, I’ll utter them, Farmer. Meanwhile, you are cordially invited to quit putting words in my mouth. But first I think I’ll quote a little Friedrich Engels, which might provide a little insight.

              Political economy came into being as a natural result of the expansion of trade, and with its appearance elementary, unscientific huckstering was replaced by a developed system of licensed fraud, an entire science of enrichment.

              Occupy is the little boy pointing at the naked emperor. It doesn’t matter how rich the emperor might be, he’s naked as God made him.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “If there are other words by way of explanation of what I say, I’ll utter them, Farmer. Meanwhile, you are cordially invited to quit putting words in my mouth. But first I think I’ll quote a little Friedrich Engels, which might provide a little insight.”

                You say a lot of nothing with such authority it reminds me of a Monty Python skit.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                The interesting thing about Occupy isn’t watching the emperor push his fingers into his ears, it’s what he says when he does:

                “La-la-la you’re not saying anything I understand!”Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Engels, really? Couldn’t you find one of those guys who walks around wearing a “The end is nigh!” sandwich board?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James K
                Ignored
                says:

                The end is always nigh, K-man.

                Engels’ notion of Historical Materialism is at once both horribly fascinating and repellent. Lenin tried to make more of it than it was. We can safely reject what Lenin made of it but we cannot so easily dispense with Engels’ predictions for capitalism. We see his prophecies come true in our times: though totalitarian communism had its great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put 20th century capitalism back together again.

                I remain a capitalist. Engels is rather good at describing how capitalism advanced through history and government came along for the ride. He who owned the means of production (and in our times, the patents) would mould government to his liking: the form of government would therefore follow the function defined for it, becoming a tool as surely as a punch press or a welding robot.

                Is this not the message of Occupy in a nutshell? Obviously government is run by and for the powerful. Everyone knows this, independently of political allegiance.

                The Libertarians would tell us we need less government, that if only we could throw off its restrictions we could again be free. But we were never free. The Conservatives preach the same cure. The only difference between them is this: the Libertarian means well and if he seems a bit self-deluded, he really does understand the evil done in the name of the State — but today’s Conservative is a proven and seasoned liar. I should hastily clarify, much of what is currently labelled Conservative is nothing of the sort, especially the GOP’s version thereof in our times, Edmund Burke’s wisdom entirely beyond them.

                When John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was facing monopoly charges, he was out playing golf with his friends who were all moaning about the wicked government breaking up a profitable industry. Rockefeller was supremely unconcerned. “Buy every share of Standard Oil you can” he advised them. After the breakup of Standard Oil, everyone who owned shares made huge profits, for the parts went on to make even larger profits. Breaking up that monopoly was perversely good for business, re-injecting competition into the market.

                When Occupy says the banks ought to be held accountable and broken up for what they’ve done to the world economy, who can reasonably argue against them? Not the Libertarians: they correctly assert the government’s monopoly on power has been corrupted to evil ends. The Conservatives have been completely disgraced, their old deregulatory arguments proven hideous lies: they have nothing to say but still they carry on preaching the virtues of the industrialists and the financiers. And warmongering. And the need for ever more security. And many another statist scheme, treating anyone who dares to oppose tyranny as so many crackpots with sandwich boards. Evil is nigh, folks, regardless of who says it — and more importantly, who denies it.

                It’s left to the Liberals and the wiser industrialists to assert the government still has a role to play in the markets, restraining the stupidity and short-sightedness of a generation of idiot Wall Streeters who played with deregulatory fire and left the taxpayers to put out the blaze they started.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “Occupy is the little boy pointing at the naked emperor. It doesn’t matter how rich the emperor might be, he’s naked as God made him.”

                These snotty nosed week-end warriors with their I-Pads and parents’ credit cards are poor substitutes for the traditional gadflies with Bronowski’s ragamuffin, barefoot, irreverence.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            No doubt BlaiseP. I sympathize. But there must be something that can be at least alluded to briefly if in short. If it’s too complicated to communicate then how in the devil is it supposed to prosper?

            The contrast between the Tea Party and Occupy X is striking. The Tea Party has simplistic (sometimes contradictory or dishonest) goals but they’re stated clearly and it’s a force in modern politics (weakened now, thankfully as the branding varnish is peeling off and the same’ol GOP is showing through from beneath but still a force). Occupy kicked up its heels, enjoyed relevance for a month or so and then exploded in a flurry of drum circles.

            I walked past the Occupy Minneapolis site a while back: a handful of homeless people drinking who knows what; some students panhandling in front of some really incoherent and badly made signs and sleeping bags and junk strewn everywhere. Not impressive and I’m a liberal for Gos(ess?)’s sake. I’m saying this in sorry, not glee.

            Shawn talks about the importance of democracy, I agree but if you’re gonna get anywhere in a democracy you have to be able to persuade people and Occupy and the left wing left just ain’t coming close.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North
              Ignored
              says:

              One explanation would be helpful regarding democracy. Does Occupy believe in democracy as in majority rule, or simply equal representation and voice?

              Inclusive democracy? Or, is what Occupy promotes social democracy – the third way past orthodox socialism and liberalism? If this is true then the class element in Occupy is pretty much a ruse (it’s basically everyone against the uber-rich) and coalitions are necessary to control government and establish the primacy of politics over economics, establishing social rights and transitioning capitalism into a workable socialism with collective bargaining strengthening the power of trade unions. In this scenario, our Constitution must truly be a living document that places supreme importance on common welfare and denies limitations where welfare or regulation are concerned. This also establishes a Keynesian approach which evolves as anti-capitalism in that it recognizes human need, collectively, over any individual economic gain.

              I don’t know if this is it, but surely Occupy can describe something similar for which it fights.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                Occupy really does believe in democracy. Could it possibly be aus der sehr reichen, an anti-democratic movement has emerged? Democracy is based on freedom of assembly, the right and privilege of the people. We wouldn’t need trade unions if capitalism actually worked to the benefit of the worker. They don’t have closed unions in Germany since the workers are represented on the boards of directors.

                No, Farmer, if you question Occupy’s democratic bona fides, you’re questioning democracy itself. There is a political structure where economics trumps politics. It’s called fascism.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Questioning their bona fides? The reason Occupy will not succeed is because people like you won’t clear-throatedly promote what I outlined. You hear me criticizing social democracy, when I’m actually stating their principles. Once the Left is unashamed of its principles ,it will have a better shot at expanding its base. But, but Obama is a moderate — he’s more conservative that the GOP conservatives! Why he’s a warrior — shot bin Laden in the eye and wiped out thousands with drones!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer
                Ignored
                says:

                What have you outlined, precisely? Obtuse questions about what Occupy believes about what’s become of our democracy? You haven’t been paying attention to Occupy’s statements about what came of your precious deregulation. We’ve got welfare all right, welfare for the wealthy bankers. That’s not class warfare, that’s a statement of fact.

                Social democracy my ass. Anyone can call himself a democrat but saying so doesn’t make him one. You see, Farmer, capitalism works, it really does. But it only works when it’s heavily regulated, as in the case of Standard Oil, where regulation produced competition where there was none before.

                As for Obama, don’t ask me to defend his manifest cuddling-up to these Welfare-Worthy Wealthy. He’s got Tim Geithner aboard and Obama’s DoJ has yet to prosecute a single crook for running those unregulated insurance operations called credit default swaps. But then, neither have the several states, who have mandate to regulate the insurance industry. Dodd-Frank is a cruel joke.

                But even if you’re right about Obama, what does Occupy say about the Welfare-Worthy Wealthy? Reserve just a little of your bumptious condemnatory enthusiasm for the folks who’ve reduced our politicians to prostitutes. If you did, you’d read as if you’re looking at this situation with both eyes open.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “Reserve just a little of your bumptious condemnatory enthusiasm for the folks who’ve reduced our politicians to prostitutes. If you did, you’d read as if you’re looking at this situation with both eyes open.”

                I have condemned the political prostitutes and rent-seekers over and over and over and over and over, so I have no fucking idea what your claiming.
                Again, you say a lot, but nothing of substance, and nothing pertinent to what I posted. You seem to misunderstand a lot.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                what you’re claimingReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                So, let’s get this straight. You’re now saying capitalism, with its attendant crooks and rent-seekers, just might need some regulation? Well, this is a welcome change from all this horseshit about how the Occupy Folks are just anti-capitalists and Keynesians. If Occupy cares about human need, is that such a terrible thing on its face? Considering the tender mercies visited upon us by unregulated capitalism, decrying its excesses is a fine position for anyone to take. Even you, it seems.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “If Occupy cares about human need, is that such a terrible thing on its face? Considering the tender mercies visited upon us by unregulated capitalism, decrying its excesses is a fine position for anyone to take. Even you, it seems”

                What is wrong with your ability to comprehend? I told you I was not criticizing the principles/goals, per se, just stating them as I understand them. What I’m saying is that the left needs to embrace their own principles/means, so we can have a true debate how to actually meet human need rather than play these games that many on the Left and in the Democrat Party are playing, pretending that they are moderate and that they don’t really believe in Keynesianism and the primacy of politics over economics and that they aren’t adherents of social democracy — pretending to be liberals when they aren’t liberal. I’m tired of so many on the Left trying to have their cake and eat it too. Own your principles and proudly fight for them. The goals of ending corparate welfare and promoting human flourishing and protecting the environment are the same goals many of us have — we should be discussing means to reach the goals, not playing games of Obama the Terrorist Killer, so that Obama can be re-elected under the guise of a capitalist moderate free market fighter against taxes and regulation who killed bin laden by the way.
                Obama and the Left believe in Keynesian stimulus and higher taxes to fund government interventions that control capitalism and prevent what they see as capitalism’s unfair nature when left alone. They want to control capitalism through political means that ensure social rights which will give dignity to all people, even the poorest. I disagree with the means.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                As a matter of fact, I believe the means are counter-productive and prevent the meeting of human need and promotion of human flourishing. When we start confusing terms and speak of social capital 0r social liberalism as if this makes a person some kind of adherent of capitalism, it’s a cynical ploy to control capitalism, which automatically renders capitalism something other than what we understand as capitalism. You might be able to claim capitalism on a technical basis, but when the spirit of a free market is removed, the genius of capitalism is destroyed, replaced by a plodding, incomepetent government management of the economy that eventually causes what we have now — a stalled economy, uncertain of the future, finally seized up not knowing what comes next and what it will cost. A stalled economy helps no one. There are ways to end corporate welfare without controlling capitalism and preventing a free market.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Murali
      Ignored
      says:

      As a liberal (not a neo-liberal), Matt Yglesias is not my biggest enemy. The social and neoconservatives are. However, Matt Y does help very much and I find it easy to disagree with him when he talks about the end of retail and other economic issues.

      Or rather, I don’t want to live in this world. This could be a part of my liberalism that is quite conservative. A part of liberalism that believes in the importance of local communities with local character including retailers and shop-owners who can cater to the needs of the community.

      Matt Y does not consider this at all when he writes about economics and society. There is a certain strain of pundit and blogger who finds it very hard to think about things in a non-economic way. There is more to life than basing it around clever economics and business. I am not a full on medium chill person, I consider myself to be economically ambitious but there is more to life than this and policy should be designed around philosophy, ethics, morality, discussion of what kind of communities we want to create. Matt Y seems to find this all to squishy and inconvenient.

      Matt Y is the perfect ASPEN/TED talk liberal. Very smart but more concerned about being invited to the right parties and conferences one day. Ones usually filled with very rich people who think their being rich makes them experts in all the problems of the world. They like to hear about ideas but probably not ones that would hurt their established order like hearing Timothy Noah lecture on income inequality or Andy Stein on the need for unions.

      Matt Y also has the same problem of many tech-utopians in that he is not realizing that automation is not leading to a world of leisure and post-scarcity. He never bothers to talk about how the business right uses Calvinism to justify automation and not giving a rat’s ass for displaced workers.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        ND as far as I can see Yglesias’s position is that if you sort the economics out then people will be free to set up their communities however they’d like. I mean heck, liberals talk a great game about local communities with local retailers and show owners but if those local retailers are going out of business due to competition from low cost convenient online retailers then doesn’t that imply that either there’re a lot of liberals who’re talking out both sides of their mouths on this or that the liberals talking about these local community retailers are actually a yuppie minority?

        I love the passion of my leftward brethren but they all seem to think that if they scold and hand wave at new technologies and developing nations enough they’ll just go away. They also seem to share an astonishing affinity with conservatives in hankering for past glories that never happened (their hankerings are just economic rather than social).Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to North
          Ignored
          says:

          I am very suspicious of letting the power of large companies use their leverage to decide these issues. This is not so much competition as it is being bulldozed. And I think we see how big box stores hurt wages in a community. It seems like nothing more but a race to the bottom except in a few urban and their first-ring suburbs across the nation. This is not right. This is not Ghandi’s no economy without morality.

          Perhaps my view of the world is romantic over rational but I don’t believe in the alleged superior rationality of economists. Keep in mind that I am not a full-on Occupy supporter either. My views on them are probably roughly equal to yours. Sympathetic to their goals but critical of their means and what they have become. My financial politics are somewhere to the left of Matt Y neo-liberalism and to the right of AdBusters.

          I am not completely against on-line purchasing. I do a decent amount of it. Usually through gilt.com or for things like plane tickets, concert tickets, movie tickets, etc. Sometimes I will pre-order a book on Amazon.com but I also do a lot of real world shopping. I might be strange in that I find shopping enjoyable though. I like being able to browse through stacks or racks and see if anything catches my eye. Chuck this up to an arts-heavy education. There are also a lot of big-ticket items that I would not want to purchase on-line like cars, washing machines, stereos.

          I’m still enough of an old-soul to trust the professional critic more than crowd-sourced reviews on sites like yelp and other places. This makes me dreadfully out of date according to the tech-utopians I know.

          As to your question, probably both. There are plenty of liberals talking out both side of their mouths but local retail has probably become only really feasible for a yuppie minority. Or people who live in cities. Not necessarily always at a New York or San Francisco level but at a wealthy suburb level (Marin County) or College Town level (Ann Arbor, Amherst or smaller cities like Portland, Seattle, and even Cedar Rapids and Charlotte.

          Perhaps that kind of romanticism is a flaw but I think it serves as a necessary counter balance to the tech-utopians who have their own delusions about utopias that will never come. Mainly a post-scarcity world with singularity and/or a fully automated world where no one has to work or work very much. The best tech-utopians I know admit to having a few generations be very unpleasant before these things get sorted out like the Industrial Revolution. Most just act like ostriches.

          There are towns and urban neighborhoods that do exist as you described but they are sadly locked in upper-middle class or above neighborhoods. I am not sure if this is completely to the choice of people who do not live in those areas.Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to NewDealer
            Ignored
            says:

            Perhaps my view of the world is romantic over rational but I don’t believe in the alleged superior rationality of economists.

            Any particular reason you don’t think listening to the experts in the field doesn’t appeal to you, is it like creationists who reject the evidence for evolution because they don’t like it?Report

            • Avatar Rod in reply to James K
              Ignored
              says:

              I wouldn’t presume to speak for North, of course, but here’s my take on economists and why I would agree with North’s sentiment as expressed.

              Generally I trust experts. I figure that if I don’t know something the best person to ask is someone who has spent her entire life studying that very thing I don’t know much about. And I’m also firmly in the camp that holds the scientific method to be the best means of ascertaining the nature of the world around us. Finally there’s the epistemological rule-of-thumb that the consensus view of experts in a given field is usually correct. Not always, of course; the greatest strides of progress are made by those that challenge the consensus and establish new paradigms. But those times are rare and precious and 99 times out a hundred the challenger is simply wrong.

              The problem with economics is that there is no consensus. It’s more than just a cliche that if you put ten economists in a room you end up with at least eleven opinions. It’s not just that they differ in regards to certain particulars or at the edges of knowledge; that’s common in every field. It’s that there is no unifying paradigm that the field is built around. So you have the Chicago School, and the Austrian School, and the Keynesians (and the New Keynesians, and Neo Keynesians), and the Behavioralists. And that’s not to even mention the Georgists and the Marxists and the Neo-Marxists and the Distributists and the Modern Monetary Theorists and… and I haven’t even scratched the surface. For God’s sake they can’t even agree on what money is, much less how it works.

              So when you say “economic expert” you have to immediately qualify that. Bigtime. Which expert? Which school of thought?

              The problem is that economics is and has always been inextricably bound up with politics in a way that few other disciplines are. That’s because what economists say–the prescriptions they make–can change the fortunes of individuals. And economists, being human, are susceptible to the rule that a man can easily not understand something if they are being paid to not understand that thing.

              Bottom line is I trust experts, but I make an exception for economists.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                I think that Rod is hitting an important dynamic.

                There are certain classes of belief which are both highly politicized and extremely complex and difficult to conclusively prove. In these disciplines or subjects, the dynamics strongly reward an expert to rationalize a conclusion that caters to the faction desiring the conclusion. In other words, a constituency develops which will strongly reward an expert to fill the desired rationalization. It is like bringing in a hired gun.

                An example is creationism. This is the flat earth version of evolutionary biology. Yet there is a huge demand for Creationist evolutionary theory or Darwinian Denial. The greater the gap between supply and demand, the greater the rewards for someone stepping in and filling this gap. Eventually someone with credentials gains status and influence by stepping in with a rationalization. Someone (Behe?) could get unlimited research funding and status within certain circles by stepping in to fill this gap. And none of this even assumes dishonesty on the part of the expert. The system pulls and promotes contradictory experts out of the population.

                Economics and climate science are similarly distorted topics. It is hard to separate the objective science from funding distortions, demand for rationalization distortions and subjective biases of the individual experts.

                That said, two partial defenses of economics. First, my defense above actually used some principles from economics and cultural evolution. In other words I used concepts from these fields to criticize them.

                Second. There is the IGM panel of economics experts. They tend to reach a rough weighted consensus on most topics. I check this site regularly.

                http://www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panelReport

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Roger
                Ignored
                says:

                “An example is creationism. This is the flat earth version of evolutionary biology. Yet there is a huge demand for Creationist evolutionary theory or Darwinian Denial. The greater the gap between supply and demand, the greater the rewards for someone stepping in and filling this gap. Eventually someone with credentials gains status and influence by stepping in with a rationalization. Someone (Behe?) could get unlimited research funding and status within certain circles by stepping in to fill this gap. And none of this even assumes dishonesty on the part of the expert. The system pulls and promotes contradictory experts out of the population.”

                This! Now if only we could sub in AGM skeptics for creationists….Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                I think you all would be surprised by how much agreement there is among economists. But what everyone wants from them is medicine for the economy, and that happens to be an area where the discipline doesn’t have lots of consensus, so people end up with the impression that economists don’t agree on anything and that the discipline doesn’t have any certainty. But as I like to point out, few economists have written more eloquently and supportively about free trade than that infamous supporter of political liberals, Paul Krugman.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                As James says, economists agree about a lot more than most people think they do. The disagreements, where they exist, come where economics intersects with domestic politics. The difficulty is not that economics lacks a mainstream paradigm that can offer a consensus, but that its not credible with the public as a whole. This is a vicious cycle because non-mainstream views are constantly offered by the media as authoritative precisely because the mainstream is not seen by the public as credible, which just makes it less credible.

                Most of what Matt Yglesias says would be uncontroversial to the economic mainstream, which, incidentally is New Keynesian and so by the metrics of current US politics broadly center-left-liberal-ish. Examples of topics where you probably don’t realize there is a broad consensus: trade barriers (bad), occupational licensing (bad), public safety net (good), progressive taxation (good), indirect taxation (also good, admittedly paradoxically), inflationary monetary policy (at present, good), regulation (generally, bad).

                Why is the generally broad consensus among economists not generally understood a credible by the public? That’s hard to understand, honestly. I suspect part of it is that there are such solid constituencies opposed to many of these conclusions and the private benefits of them are so weak.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Simon K
                Ignored
                says:

                Why is the generally broad consensus among economists not generally understood a[s] credible by the public?

                This is largely a product of discourse failure. Work by Fernando Teson and Guido Pincione suggest that this is a predictable result of public choice theory. In general, a belief/argument/theory is more likely to be accepted the larger the individual net expected payoff. When it comes to stuff relating to politics, since a person’s vote is negligible, the expected payoff from voting correctly is close to zero. On the other hand, the expected cost of trying to comprehend and accept a counter-intuitive proposition is by comparison, much larger. This is because we will have to work against our tendency to prefer familiar and personal causes with designated villains to impersonal systemic explanations. In general we prefer things which are vivid to us and we are capable of imagining. We have difficulty imagining how things work out in large timescales. We find it really difficult to comprehend complex and non-linear phenomena. We have especial difficulty dealing with things that are unfamiliar to us on a personal basis. All this difficulty means that it requirs extra effort i.e. mental resources to comprehend and accept which involve such elements. That’s why the general public will always have trouble with the theory of evolution, with climate science and economics.

                Also contributing to the problem is the psychological cost of giving up beliefs which are tied to one’s own moral, social and political identity. It is an unfortunate fact that people prefer to associate with people who tend to think and believe like themselves. What results is the use of beliefs or disbeliefs in certain propositions as markers of identity. Identity has a mooring effect in navigation of a complex social world. By having an identity, one is able to know one’s place in the world. Identity thus gives the social choices that face us meaning and significance. For example, the question of whether a particular coffee is fair-trade or not is only meaningful if it matters to us whether we consume fairtrade coffee. But this latter depends on our identity political identity. If people we feel an affinity to think that fair trade matters, then we are more likely to think so. This is related to the way opprobrium is levelled against those who think otherwise. When people whose opinions you value condemn your values you are likely to feel that your own value system is defective. This is part of the process by which the surroundings tend to influence our beliefs.

                All this means is that there are significant factors that contribute to whether or not we will accept a proposition which have nothing to do with whether or not said proposition is true. The only way in which people will be able to get to the truth is if they do so despite these factors. i.e. they must allocate significant time and energy to the topic: time and energy which they do not have.

                Very predictably, people will also come up with questionable and inconsistent epistemologies which allow them to justify to themselves and other like minded people their se of beliefs. That is why people who think we should defer to experts generally often say that a particular field is different. So, more left wing types are likely to defer to experts on climate change, but think that economics is different. Similarly right wing types may be more likely to defer to economists, but think that climate scientists are different and not genuine experts. People will especially feel favourable towards contrarians in these fields who espouse beliefs that accord with their prior beliefs and want to accord them more weight than is actually warranted.

                This is not to mention that the media can play a negative role in this as well. Because controversies sell, the media has an interest in manufacturing controversies where none exist. This is akin to the way there is a “controversy” about evolution. While scientists have disagreement about a number of details, there is still significant and strong consensus on the broad picture. Yet fringe theorists are often placed on the same footing as mainstream ones.

                The end result is that the more public deliberation we have, the more that vivid and intuitive theories will win out over counter-intuitive ones.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James K
              Ignored
              says:

              James K,

              Rod hits on very important points.

              I am not against expert knowledge and trust experts more than I don’t. A glib example would be trusting a doctor about vaccines over Jenny McCarthy and lots of other stuff.

              But experts are also human and not always right, so it should not be blind acceptance. I don’t consider Matt Y to be an expert on economics and monetary policy like I consider Paul Krugman to be one. Matt Y is to economics as David Brooks is to sociology and Tom Freidman is to foreign policy.

              Rod’s points on economics are important. It is linked to politics very much. What school are we talking about? Austrian? Chicago? Kaynes? Neo-Kaynes? Etc.

              There are economists (or powerful people who misuse economists who think we should abolish the fed, other central banks, and return to the gold standard) I can easily find many just as credentialed economists who support the Fed, stronger regulations, and think returning to the Gold Standard would be a variant of mental illness.

              A sincere person could not argue that Milton Freedman, Hayek, Kaynes, and Krugman were not equally credentialed and important. All except Kaynes have won the Nobel prize in Economics. All four have been profoundly influential. All four probably have severe disagreements on economic policy.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                “Matt Y is to economics as David Brooks is to sociology and Tom Freidman is to foreign policy. ”

                Ouch.
                If someone said that about me I would issue a challenge for pistols at dawn.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Liberty60
                Ignored
                says:

                I can’t think of a worse combination — this mongrel would need to locked up for the sake of the republic.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to NewDealer
                Ignored
                says:

                There are economists (or powerful people who misuse economists who think we should abolish the fed, other central banks, and return to the gold standard) I can easily find many just as credentialed economists who support the Fed, stronger regulations, and think returning to the Gold Standard would be a variant of mental illness.

                More I should think, the pro-Fed position is the expert consensus.

                A sincere person could not argue that Milton Freedman, Hayek, Kaynes, and Krugman were not equally credentialed and important. All except Kaynes have won the Nobel prize in Economics. All four have been profoundly influential. All four probably have severe disagreements on economic policy.

                Some, but less than you might think. Especially if you take Keynes and Hayek out, they were theorising before the Calculation debate worked itself out over the 20th Century. The consensus tightened up a lot after the stagflation of the 1970s (which Friedman predicted) and the fall of the Soviet Union.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to NewDealer
            Ignored
            says:

            Well sure, but just as the big box stores walloped the small stores now we see online retailing absolutely laying into big box stores. My own take is that it’s the big box stores that are at the greatest risk of going extinct while smaller community stores have at least the potential to survive in niche markets with their customer service and community connections. I’m 100% on board that some products really require you to be able to look the product over, take it for a test ride etc… so online stores are going to have to reckon with that since at the moment they’re essentially free riding on brick and mortar retailers for that aspect. Still I find it enormously perplexing that my left wing brothers would be angry at the extermination of a retail phenomena that they have always hated.

            I mean yeah the tech-utopians go overboard, who doesn’t? I’ve seen the walkable upper class neighborhoods with their local stores myself and my experience echoes yours but we gotta be honest here. Your lower income neighborhoods residents don’t have the time to enjoy a leisurely browse in their local store and they sure as hell don’t want to pay the markups that such local businesses require to operate. In general price is their primary and overriding concern.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        “Matt Y is the perfect ASPEN/TED talk liberal. Very smart but more concerned about being invited to the right parties and conferences one day.”

        while i dig the first part completely – it’s pithy and slightly mean, but in the right way – the second sentiment (whenever it’s directed at anyone) has always confused me. why is it people think “well, said pundit doesn’t agree with me, it’s clearly cocktail parties at work!”? it’s kinda dumb.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to dhex
          Ignored
          says:

          Dhex,

          I meant the second part to go along with the first. Plus I am a firm believer in the Freudian unconscious

          Aspen and Ted are very expensive events. A recent New Yorker article on TED stated that it costs thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars to attend the main events. Aspen is probably similarly expensive.

          There are some truly interesting TED talks and stuff coming out of Aspen. Usually in non-political areas like art and science. For example, there was a neuroscientist who talked about her own stroke and used a human brain as her guide on stage. This is very interesting and valuable.

          However, when it comes to politics especially dealing with economics, these conferences are not so brave and often just pat the audiences on the head for being very rich but very concerned people with liberal(ish) views. So I am kind of cynical about TED Talks and Aspen because they do not really try to rock the boat or upset the attendees when it comes to economic policies and such. The attendees are usually people who have succeeded in the global economy very well while others have suffered. Timothy Noah is not going to be invited to talk about income inequality and explain to the liberal well-to-do about why they need to pay more taxes and wage incomes need to go up.

          Hanna Rossin will be invited to talk about “the End of Men” because she completely ignores the socio-economic angle. There might be a crisis in manhood but it is not an even crisis. Hannah Rossin is a well-educated journalist. Her husband is a well-educated journalist. They have two sons and a daughter. I doubt they are concerned about their sons not getting into college. Yet it is not catchy enough to talk about the end of SOME men or the end of “blue-collar men” because of the death of unions, automation, and globalization. So we talk about the End of Men like it is a problem that is free of socio-economics and that there are an equal number of boys from upper-middle class professional families who are not going on to university.

          Basically, I think there is a lot of confirmation bias going on at places like Ted and Aspen and Matt Y is part of that confirmation bias. People who go against said bias are not being invited like Timothy Noah.

          The right cocktail parties is merely short-hand for saying is concerned about who pays the bills and might pay bigger bills without reaching the truth. He knows what they want to here. For TED criticism:

          http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/against-ted/

          http://www.salon.com/2012/05/21/dont_mention_income_inequality_please_were_entrepreneurs/

          http://scobleizer.com/2010/02/14/the-elephants-in-the-room-at-ted/Report

          • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer
            Ignored
            says:

            “The right cocktail parties is merely short-hand for saying is concerned about who pays the bills and might pay bigger bills without reaching the truth.”

            yeah, i know that, but basically it’s a criticism that can be leveraged at anyone who attains any real prominence. false consciousness for pundits and bloggeurs, if you’re being kindly, or the usual kochtopus/liberal media rules everything around me routine if you’re not.

            i’m not sure timothy noah’s a great example of rocking the boat; it’s not like tnr and npr are underground scenes, or not also well-funded. maybe he’s doing it just to be invited to his version of the right cocktail parties? 🙂Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to dhex
              Ignored
              says:

              I don’t think one needs to be a radical like Alexander Cockburn to speak truth to power or make arguments that need to be made.

              I am not arguing for Robspierre and the Citizens Council. Far from it, essentially I am still a capitalist and want to be a member of the upper-middle class. I like Westchester and Marin.

              Timothy Noah is a good example of this. Yes he writes and broadcasts on mainstream and well-funded media but he is also willing to acknowledge and make arguments that do somewhat go against the economic preferences of the 1 or near 1 percent. He is right to say that he is more concerned about the bottom 50 or 60 percent instead of the 99 percent. He is not being invited to Aspen or TED to talk about this.

              Matt Y creates fantasy worlds that have nothing to do with reality just like David Brooks and Tom Freidman. He is representative of the pundit class developing a kink or one-cure for all the world’s ills and milking it into a lucrative career. Matt Y imagines a world of high income global types and then everyone else in creative-ish service jobs like yoga instructor or chef at hip restaurant or maker of nine dollar bottle of jam. He is just as bad as Richard Florida and his creative class myths. Timothy Noah at least acknowledges that wages have been stagnant for a large sector of the American economy and this is bad.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to NewDealer
            Ignored
            says:

            Thanks or the links New Deal,

            “So I am kind of cynical about TED Talks and Aspen because they do not really try to rock the boat or upset the attendees when it comes to economic policies and such. The attendees are usually people who have succeeded in the global economy very well while others have suffered. Timothy Noah is not going to be invited to talk about income inequality and explain to the liberal well-to-do about why they need to pay more taxes and wage incomes need to go up.”

            I agree that TED is fascinating. It is a very interesting and quick way to get exposed to lots of ideas, sprinkled with candy topic. However, as you state it isn’t unbiased or the end all of knowledge dispersal. It may not be as focused on some topics as we would like, and it may stress topics we are uncomfortable with more than we like. I suggest this is as much of a feature as a bug.

            On a tangent, your above quote seems to imply both a zero sum worldview and a top down centralized solution mind set. Correct me if I am wrong One of the things I have admired about some of the TED talks is that they stressed how limited both of these views are. I can’t remember which ones off hand though.Report

  4. Avatar The Left
    Ignored
    says:

    Part of the problem with the way we discuss politics is the fixation on economic systems as a proxy for governance.

    As I pointed out the other day, it is interesting that the Constitution has very little to say about how our economy is organized, and the writings of the Founders are scattered on the subject.

    Yet we use Regulation or Taxation as the first principle articles of faith in our political dialogue.

    Instead of viewing the governance of the economy as a management exercvise, which would suggest that we apply different answers to different problems in different times, instead there is this endless search for a perfect system, whereby tax rates never go up or down, and the economy grows endlessly.

    Its a very Marxist way of thinking.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to The Left
      Ignored
      says:

      Left,

      I am not sure if I am agreeing or disagreeing, but my take on the Founders absence of delineation on economics was that they never viewed this as a subject that was to be managed.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I thought they did have vehement arguments over the structure of the economy, banking, and so forth.
        Yet the Constitution doesn’t establish a central bank nor prohibit one. It doesn’t forbid governments from taking land, it doesn’t forbid government from offering services (in fact it directly orders the government to control the mails).

        The clear implication to me is that they were agnostic and disunited on how economies were to run.

        Almost every political opinion in the 20th century was in reaction to Marxism. Every battle and struggle worldwide was touched in some way by being either a struggle to advance or oppose the concept of state ownership of the factors of production.
        Yet it wasn’t always this way.

        In the same way that aristocracy and republicanism or Protestantism vs Catholicism were the subtext of nearly every European struggle in the 16-18th centuries, we assume that Marxism and Capitalism are natural opposing forces, always and everywhere.

        Yet these doctrinaire positions would seem silly to historical figures. In almost every historical society, the line between public and private property was fluid and set only according to what was seen as the best way to achieve some goal.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Liberty60
          Ignored
          says:

          I agree in many ways. They were agnostic and or in disagreement on how and how much they should be run.

          I would also add that the lines between private and public property are not just set based upon what was seen as the best way to achieve some goal, but as the best way to achieve myriad competing and often contrasting goals.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Liberty60
          Ignored
          says:

          They weren’t entirely agnostic on the matter of economics. They purposely denied states the power to set tariffs or restrict the movement of goods. They understood that the beggar-thy-neighbor economic policies of the states were bad for everyone.

          Oddly, though, they lacked the imagination–even in a world where they surely had at least some passing familiarity with Adam Smith–to transfer that understanding to a higher level of organization. While Hamilton, et. al., knew it was bad when Virginia did those things, he/they somehow thought it would be good if the states collectively did those things.Report

          • Avatar Rod in reply to James Hanley
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s called development economics and it’s always been successful when properly implemented. In the 1950’s the principle exports of South Korea were fish and human hair for wigs. Now look at them; that didn’t just happen by accident. Neither did the rapid development of the U.S. under the Hamilton plan which was just a rewrite of the Tudor plan that industrialized Britain.Report

            • Avatar Johanna in reply to Rod
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes, Rod, I’ve heard the term. I even know something about it. Are you aware of any of the critiques against protectionism, even for developing economies?Report

              • Avatar Rod in reply to Johanna
                Ignored
                says:

                I haven’t seen a convincing one, no. Shoot me a link to what you consider the best and I’ll read it. Did you read what I linked? It’s not long.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                Rod,

                Well, the critiques against protectionism are pretty much strung throughout the economic literature. But I’d recommend picking up a used copy of Paul Krugman’s Pop Internationalism

                And I’m sorry to be brusque, but I’m not wasting my time on anything in the Real World Economics Review. I’ve run across it before and it’s not a serious economics journal; more a journal of wishful thinking.

                But in regards to Korea, and the other Asian tigers, what we see there is the same as what we saw in the USSR once upon a time, sheer mobilization of labor. Indeed if you shift people out of agriculture and into industry you’ll produce a lot more and your GDP will reflect that. But all the attendant stuff that people think was the real cause of growth, like favoring particular businesses, limiting imports, focusing on exports, is mostly pointless. And some of this stuff can really hurt in the long run by focusing on industries that are politically favored rather than truly productive, denying people inexpensive consumer goods, and setting the stage for Japanese style stagnation (where banks were forced to make loans they knew wouldn’t get paid back, and the businesses they were given to weren’t allowed to fail, until the whole system jammed up due to a lack of available financing).

                Krugman’s book has a whole chapter on “The Myth of the Asian Miracle.” Well worth reading.

                Keep in mind, the whole approach depends on political officials making wise economic decisions–the theories tend to treat that as an assumption, not really digging into the likelihood of that actually happening (it took public choice theory to really do that).Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Rod
                Ignored
                says:

                In addition to everything James Hanley said, there’s also the fact that development economics based tariffs are trivially easy to sabotage. All another country has to do is copy your tariff structure and any benefit you would get from implementing them evaporates.

                Trade economics was one of my primary specialities at university and I can tell you that while restrictive trade practices can in theory produce economic gains, in the real world it doesn’t work.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    “This beautiful upsurge radicalized me and opened my eyes to alternatives: both of ways to order society and to think about the problems of liberalism—this time from a leftist, anti-capitalist perspective. It also prompted me to take the long view of the struggle for freedom, equality, and self-determination.”

    Can you be a lot more specific here? I probably know what you’re getting at about ordering society, but what is the leftist, anti-capitalist way to think about the problems of liberalism? The best I can think of is the old Phil Ochs song ‘Love Me I’m a Liberal,’ which pretty much makes fun of them for being so weak willed. Also, wouldn’t the long view make you more likely to form short-term coalitions because you’d be less likely to see time and energy as finite?Report

  6. Avatar Lyle
    Ignored
    says:

    ” defending privilege elite rule and hierarchy” That of course was the platform of the federalists, who felt that you needed property to vote. John Adams felt that universal manhood suffrage would be the downfall of the republic for example. So as stated the rights position is at least a long held one. Hamilton was in favor of corporatism, after all he founded what is today the Bank of New York Mellon. On the other side were at least Patrick Henry and some of the anti-federalists. Jefferson voice what would be left wing views but did not follow them in governing.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m very skeptical that the left truly values self-governance. It’s a nice symbol, but the left is too outcome focused–so it seems to me–to be satisfied with a process that may not produce their favored outcomes. To the extent they believe in self-governance I think it’s because they believe it will produce their favored outcomes, and there’s a tendency to drop it quickly when it impedes the achievement of their preferred social organization. I’m comfortable with many critiques of democracy, but favor alternatives that don’t simply limit democracy, but limit governmental control over the individual, so self-governance can occur down at lower levels. I’ve known too many on the left, though, whose dislike for democracy leads them to prefer a stricter form of social control, less actual self-governance and more top-down governance, for me to truly believe the left–the “real” left, beyond standard American liberals–has self-governance as their goal, rather than a preferred, but disposable, means.

    Libertarianism, by contrast, treats self-governance as the primary goal, with much less emphasis on what social structure results (e.g., a socialist society can’t be comfortable with a libertarian enclave, whereas a libertarian society would have no problem with a socialist enclave).Report

    • Avatar The Left in reply to James Hanley
      Ignored
      says:

      Treating self-governance as a goal seems odd to me- is there no higher outcome for a society? Even if “self governance” produced all sorts of horrible outcomes, would we still insist it be preserved?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to The Left
        Ignored
        says:

        No, if in fact it produced all sorts of horrible outcomes, I wouldn’t insist it be preserved. But the value of it is that it doesn’t set up an a priorir desired outcome and then force everything to bend toward that goal–a fine basis for authoritarianism. What it does is set up a system where people can pursue their own goals, and voluntarily organize with others to pursue common goals. Standard structures to prevent theft, fraud, etc., apply, and concerns about the commons are legitimate and have to be dealt with–nobody’s talking about a libertine wild wild west free for all. But the general assumption is that if you let people pursue their own goals, instead of trying to force them to pursue a limited set of grand social goals, you’re actually far less likely to get horrible outcomes.

        I think there’s pretty good historical evidence for the idea that systems that leave people alone, to the extent possible in a social structure where we’re all bumping into each other all the time, has far fewer horrible outcomes than those systems where leaders have grand social goals.Report

  8. Avatar Simon K
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m mystified by this on several levels.

    1. Occupy may be an “enlivened, confident left”, but what it certainly is not doing is accomplishing anything. If you think its had some success in making some kind of broader anti-capitalist point to the general public, you’re mistaken. The kind of direct action they’re engaging in doesn’t convince anyone outside of it of anything, even indirectly.

    2. Uprooting ideologies is a very grand goal, especially compared with coalition building, which is grubby and compromising. One of the advantages of focussing on grand goals is its much easier to do a great deal while not getting involved in anything like hard work. The fact you’re not accomplishing anything is easy to miss.

    3. Its tautological that the right defends existing privilege. That’s part of what it means to be right wing – the right defends the status quo, or the perceived status quo of the recent past, and with that obviously proposes to maintain the privileges that were part of it. Liberalism and libertarianism both counter this with the idea that people have fundamental rights that have been violated under the arrangement the conservative seeks to uphold. In the US – because the underlying society is liberal in conception so there isn’t any alternative language to resort to – conservatives talk about rights a lot, but if you listen carefully in most cases its clear what they actually seek is a not universal, fundamental rights, but a right to carry on behaving as they have in the past. This is the dynamic of 90% of political debate in all democracies.

    3. In place of fundamental rights, you want to counter conservatism with “democracy and self government”. What exactly does that mean in concrete terms? What happens when people disagree about how to proceed? What happens when I want something different for lunch, for that matter?

    4. Libertarianism is not right wing. Some libertarians are, and some people who are conservatives call themselves libertarians, and there’s understandable confusion in the US because conservatives use liberal terminology even when they have illiberal aims. But the core of libertarianism is just voluntarism. Arrangement that meet traditionally left-wing goals are perfectly compatible with libertarianism as long as they are voluntary.Report

  9. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
    Ignored
    says:

    The Occupy movement demands more state power even as state power deploys the pepper spray against it. With friends like these, you will neither last very long nor achieve very much.

    I can’t boast a whole lot of successes for my tribe either, mind you, but I’ll just say that at least we’d been complaining about police abuses long, long before it was hip to do so. If that matters.Report

    • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      Though much of the attention is on the state-socialist or even merely Lefter-than-Dem types within Occupy, there’s a significant faction that questions state power, even to the point of existence of the state at all.Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to b-psycho
        Ignored
        says:

        Sure, but Occupy is just the same old coalition of stalinists, anarchists, social democrats and vaguely leftish liberals that constituted the backbone of every protest movement since Seattle and probably much earlier. The trouble is that while the anarchists are there, the stalinists do most of the planning (they are good at it, after all), and the liberals do most of the work and the talking.Report

    • Avatar Rod in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      My principle complaint about your tribe is your intellectual and political complicity with the right over the last 40 years. If you ever tired of CATO and the Koch brothers you could easily hop over to Heritage and work for some other industrialist sugar-daddies. Oh, there’s some things you couldn’t write about, but as long as you confined yourself to topics such as the evils of regulation you’d be fine.

      It’s not for nothing that every prominent libertarian who wants to dip their toes in the political waters and actually get elected to office has an -R behind their name. It’s only when they’ve given up on holding office and decide instead to take the route of messaging on the occasional C-span show that they run as actual Libertarians.

      When I briefly flirted with libertarianism back in the ’90s I was attracted to it for the stance on civil liberties. I was particularly attracted because the Libertarians (as an electoral party) were the only ones speaking the truth about the drug war. Having spent a night in jail for smoking an unapproved plant, that really appealed to me. There was always also a lot of talk about how the D’s and R’s were just opposite sides of the same coin; one no better than the other, which always struck me as a bit facile because there were actual differences in policy, but hey, whatever.

      But then every time an electoral cycle would roll around a debate would fire up about whether it was better to vote Libertarian–and thus “waste” a vote on a candidate sure to lose–or hold your nose and vote Republican. Given why I’d shown up in the first place, which was much more about the civil liberty angle than the economics which I found rather harsh and didn’t completely buy into anyway, I found this frustrating and confounding. All of a sudden the major parties weren’t really one as bad as the other, even though the whole authoritarian drug war thing was a decidedly right-wing Republican endeavor under the Reagan administration of the ’80s.

      It became glaringly apparent that opposing social welfare under the guise of economic freedom was more of a priority for the libertarians than opposing the absolute evil of the encroaching police state mentality of the drug war. Somehow paying taxes was at least as bad as being thrown in a cage. I’ve done both and I can attest that the latter is far, far, worse.

      To the extent that you (the general you of the libertarian movement; not necessarily you personally) have aligned yourselves with the right over the left for reasons of economic liberties, you also need to own the whole military/police/prison-industrial complex enchilada that’s developed over the last three decades. We on the left could have really used your help back in the ’80s when this was all building up steam and there were still Dems fighting back. You weren’t there; instead you were too worried about having to pay an extra couple of bucks in taxes to support a school lunch program or fretting that someone might dare regulate a corporation. You were too pure to side with the Dems but not too pure to side with the Repubs. Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rod
        Ignored
        says:

        If you ever tired of CATO and the Koch brothers you could easily hop over to Heritage and work for some other industrialist sugar-daddies. Oh, there’s some things you couldn’t write about, but as long as you confined yourself to topics such as the evils of regulation you’d be fine.

        No, I couldn’t. I see a big part of my mission — and Cato’s — as pointing out that economic freedom goes best with civil liberties, a peaceful foreign policy, and the rest. I couldn’t lop off part of that without a severe compromise of my beliefs.

        It’s not for nothing that every prominent libertarian who wants to dip their toes in the political waters and actually get elected to office has an -R behind their name. It’s only when they’ve given up on holding office and decide instead to take the route of messaging on the occasional C-span show that they run as actual Libertarians.

        This is an artifact of the right-libertarian fusionism that began in the Cold War and (I would say) died under George W. Bush. Inertia like that is hard to overcome, but the younger libertarian activists I know are much less enamored of the Republican Party than the older ones. Time may tell.

        To the extent that you (the general you of the libertarian movement; not necessarily you personally) have aligned yourselves with the right over the left for reasons of economic liberties, you also need to own the whole military/police/prison-industrial complex enchilada that’s developed over the last three decades.

        Last I looked, Cato scholars recommended cutting the Pentagon’s budget by 50%. No one else comes close to that much. Is that good enough? If not, why not?

        We on the left could have really used your help back in the ’80s when this was all building up steam and there were still Dems fighting back.

        No, you couldn’t. Cato was saying entirely the same things about the military-industrial complex back then, and about the rising police/surveillance state, and the left was too afraid of tax cuts to listen.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *