Thursday, January 25, 2007

Both the Right and Left Have Gone Quite Mad!

I got a little carried away with this one... forgive its length. I do type fast.

There’s been discussion of a fascinating article in The Observer (January/07) by a prominent columnist, Nick Cohen, describing how he was brought up is a typical, fiercely leftist British home and had always thought himself a ‘man of the left’... but that dogma-drift had gradually changed the political landscape so much that - he now concludes - the “left” doesn’t even know what it stands for, anymore. For example, he finds it discomforting that the one defining reflex is opposition to American policy, even if that often means reflexively excusing or ignoring horrific fascist or fundamentalist tyrants.

--“at none of the demonstrations in hundreds of cities did you see banners or hear speeches denouncing Saddam Hussein. If this was 'the left' on the march, it was the new left of the 21st century, which had abandoned old notions of camaraderie and internationalism in favour of opposition to the capricious American hegemony. They didn't support fascism, but they didn't oppose it either, and their silence boded ill for the future.”
He describes a few deep thinkers, who have lately called for pause and reflection. But then adds --

“Most people, myself included, are not like Ariel Dorfman. In moments of political passion, we are single-mindedly and simple-mindedly sure of our righteousness. From the day of the marches on, liberal leftish politicians and intellectuals kept up a vehement and slightly panicky insistence that they were right and their goodness was beyond question.”


(Of course, this is deeply related to my own riffs about how self-righteous indignation may be a veritable addiction, a bona fide, scientifically-verifiable, self-induced “drug high.” http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html)

whatsleftI’d like to comment on the piece in the Observer. Nick Cohen is a capable thinker who appears openminded enough to notice discomforting discrepancies that are inherent in a left-right so called “political axis” that was already deeply misleading way back when it was first invented, as a lobotomizing curse, by the French during their maladroit and bloody revolution of 1789. He rightly points out that dogmatic members of both the “left” and the “right” no longer even try to define their movements, other than to wave vaguely at some hated Other and shout “I’m against THEM!”

This reflex has resulted in the appalling situation that we now see, in which the left-liberal alliance rightfully despises the insane, deceitful and monstrous behavior of the current Bush Administration, but allows no subtlety or nuance into this opposition. Obeying what can only be called a spasmodic reflex, the European left, especially, has adopted a party line policy of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.” Hence, as Cohen cogently describes, the euroleft takes sides with - or at least shrugs off - modern fascist and theocratic bullies like Saddam, the Iranian mullahs and Al Quaeda, along with anyone else who shares the simple qualification of being anti-American.


The euroleft is certainly not alone in this kind of “dogmatic drift.” Indeed, the crazed American neoconservative movement is far worse, having failed to even blink or blush over a myriad hypocritical reversals. For example, switching:

- from opposing “wasteful and poorly-planned utopian adventures in so-called nation building”... over to squandering a nation’s prestige, budget, readiness, alliances and countless lives, trying to “plant democracy” in the rockiest soil imaginable,

- from demanding balanced budgets... to excusing fiscal hemorrhage,

- from preaching for less government... to vastly augmenting its intrusive power,

- from demanding accountability... to prodigiously expanding secrecy and excusing any questionable or illegal action as a pure presidential prerogative...

...and so on, through an astounding array of rationalized absolutions, exonerating foul offenses against decent governance, the smallest of which would have sent them screaming, if it had been perpetrated by Bill Clinton.


The real lesson from all of this is not that some “other side” indulges in loony self justification and contorted logic. It is actually far more general than that.

What we appear to be seeing is an upsurge in delusional behavior all across the benighted and ill-defined “political spectrum.” Moreover, as a rare adult, Nick Cohen is perfectly right to focus on this phenomenon where it comes closest to home, where it presumably hurts most, displayed by the friends and colleagues he knows best, in the European left. Especially, he questions the automatic reflex by which all world phenomena are judged, according to whether something or somebody stands up to oppose the demonic influence of Pax Americana in the world.

This reflex does not have to be a controlling, or a litmus test for 21st Century liberalism. Take the European territories that most recently experienced genuine tyranny, in the former Warsaw Block and in the Balkans, where gratitude toward NATO propels a little more subtlety of thinking, including a mature willingness to separate (mentally) one U.S. administration from another.

Indeed, the euro-left could have skewered the horrific cabal of George W. Bush - which a majority of Americans has already repudiated - far more effectively by pointing to the ways that it has aided and abetted fascist regimes, in complete violation of the better traditions of America.

Take the Great Betrayal of 1991, in which Bush’s father, supported by Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, called upon the Shiite majority of Iraq to rise up against their fascist tyrant, Saddam Hussein, amid the fighting to oust him from Kuwait. “We’re on our way!” promised Bush Senior’s infamous radio broadcasts, that provoked insurrections across the entire southern half of that unhappy land, among people who confidently expected U.S. forces to liberate them soon, as those forces were doing for the oil sheiks.

Bush’s outrageously vile and cynical reneging on that promise, recalling the troops just hours short of Basra and thereafter doing everything to prop Saddam back in power, was one of the most foul and pungent stains ever to disgrace American honor, at a time when the southern Shiites would have greeted U.S. forces with “kisses and flowers.” Subsequent bitterness over that betrayal is a seldom-mentioned but fundamental driver of today’s bilious hatred expressed by Iraqi Shiites toward American occupation forces, yea, even among those who were glad to be rid of Saddam’s yoke, at last.

How easy it might have been for the left to take up this betrayal as a banner issue, both accepting the fall of a fascist monster as a good thing and denouncing the entire Bush family-trust as a pack of immoral, cynical, short-sighted and hypocritical morons, unqualified to lead either a great nation or western civilization. Certainly unqualified to preach to anyone about Saddam Hussein.

(Lest there be any doubt of a clear pattern, take a look at the chief beneficiaries of Bush Administration policies. The true winners of this “utopian exercise in democratic nation building” have been the Saudi Royal House and the mullahs of Iran -- the latter of whom no longer fear any democratic uprising by the nation’s pro-western youth. Those youth having been driven into the mullahs’ arms by relentless Condoleezan saber-rattling.)

There are so many ways that the european left (and its more tepid fellow travelers in North America) could have distinguished between a monstrous administration and America in general, thus finding a way to oppose BOTH fascist dictators AND a malignant imperium. But it is the nature of dogmatists that they cannot observe subtle distinctions. Cohen is courageous to risk many friendships by pointing out this deep flaw.

Alas, it is also where Cohen really needs to go back to school and do more serious re-thinking. For the defects that vex him go far beyond politics of the moment, or even the French Curse -- that maniacally bonkers metaphor, the “left-right axis”

What it is actually all about is something much deeper, a set of flaws in human nature that make “zero-sum” minds incapable of recognizing the complexity of a modern world that was built - despite every impediment - largely by “positive sum” workers who embrace the gifts - the emergent properties - of the Enlightenment with eager arms.

The latter group can recognize the many faults of modernity, but they think differently about how to solve them. Often, the positive-sum approach involves attempting to deal with issues one at a time, sometimes in sincere negotiation with rivals, trying to find common purpose, a way to bridge chasms in order to get important changes made. This approach seems so alien to the zero sum mind set that they can only perceive it in terms of traits like “tepidness” or wishy-washy compromise, instead of the pragmatic progressivism that has actually wrought every decent improvement in the world.

Indeed, these two personality types think so differently that, I suggest, it is almost as if two different species occupy this world.

The discomfort that Cohen feels is one that I can sympathize with. He is a positive-sum thinker embedded in a zero-sum community. Like so many decent American conservatives who now blink in confused dismay at the bilious unreasonableness of those who have taken over their movement, he stares at a similar plague of mindless rage on the left, feeling torn between revulsion and lingering, nostalgic loyalty to a dream that once had some basic beauty and appeal.

I have wished that some of the best of the conservative intelligencia would do as Nick Cohen has done, stand up and recognize that the “sides” in this critical century are not left-right, but forward vs backward, whether to concentrat on problem-solving or slide into dogmatism, anti-modernism, indignation-addiction and hate.

Alas, I see very few conservatives with even a shred of the brains or integrity of - say - Barry Goldwater, who engaged in precisely this kind of re-evaluation, before he died. The left is a little better, though not enough. The best that can be said for that movement is that it currently has no power... and that many “liberals” are able to see the madness on their side.

Cohen should come over to join us neo-modernists, because it is futile -- and it will always be futile -- to try explaining to non-zero types that their indignantly addictive purity and passion are anything less than perfect, sacred. And right.

35 comments:

Don Quijote said...

Take the Great Betrayal of 1991, in which Bush’s father, supported by Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, called upon the Shiite majority of Iraq to rise up against their fascist tyrant, Saddam Hussein, amid the fighting to oust him from Kuwait.

One of many...

frontline: the survival of saddam: the kurds: a chronology<

1972 Saddam Hussein visits Moscow and signs a "Friendship and Cooperation" treaty with the USSR the following year.

1973 Richard Nixon makes a secret agreement with Shah of Iran to begin covert action against Saddam's government. The U.S. and Iran then begin funding the Kurds in their battle against the Iraqi regime for an autonomous Kurdistan. (See interview with James Akins.)

1973-1975 Working with Iran and Israel, the U.S. funds the Kurdish peshmerga (guerrilla army - rough translation: "those who do not fear death") and encourages them to fight Saddam's government. CIA and Israeli agents operate in Kurdistan. (See interviews with Akins, Othman, Talabani, and Abdul-Rahman)

Kurdish officials visit Washington to meet secretly with CIA officials (Read interview with Othman, who made the visit. Also, Talabani discussing general relations with the U.S. at the time)

1975 Saddam Hussein makes surprise peace deal with the Shah of Iran at a meeting in Algiers. Within days, all U.S. support for the Kurds is stopped and Saddam begins to counterattack their forces. (See interviews with Akins, Abdul-Rahman, Talabani. )


ROTFLMAO...

Pax Americana isn't about ethics, solidarity, human rights or any of that good stuff, it's always about REAL-POLITIKS.

I am actually amazed that anti-americanism is as uncommon & harmless as it is.

reason said...

David,
as a 'leftish' (but I hope open minded and reasonable) outsider living in Europe, I think you misunderstand the European left. As I posted on another topic, their opposition to the war in Iraq comes not from anti-Americanism or compassion for dictators but from a heartfelt pacifism. This tends to translate in practice to anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism because they are seen as betraying Western values, not because they are seen as worse as Islamic fundamentalists or Tyrants. The true face of the European Left can be seen in Joshka Fischer. Think about the wild-eyed idealism of his youth and then the pragmatism he showed when in power.

Patricia Mathews said...

You said " Often, the positive-sum approach involves attempting to deal with issues one at a time, sometimes in sincere negotiation with rivals, trying to find common purpose, a way to bridge chasms in order to get important changes made. This approach seems so alien to the zero sum mind set that they can only perceive it in terms of traits like “tepidness” or wishy-washy compromise, instead of the pragmatic progressivism that has actually wrought every decent improvement in the world.

Indeed, these two personality types think so differently that, I suggest, it is almost as if two different species occupy this world."

As a matter of fact, yes. I think that's the case. I am in my 60s and have thought "They've both gone totally mad" for the past 40 years when looking at the fanatics -once the wild-eyed youth and now, in many cases, grey-bearded prophets. The same wild-eyed youths grown old.

I, who once thought myself quite the liberal, have ended up as a dribbling old Compromiser. But if you're looking for hope, check out the rising stars on the various local scenes, hard-headed, pragmatic, get-things-done types all. I hate to bring up my own City Councilcritter because one point does not a data curve make, but really, the tide is beginning to turn at the grass roots level, and it's turning rather strongly.

Anonymous said...

Alas you may have found the article a little misleading without context. In reality "the left" consists of a large number of people with differing views. The ideas that Nick Cohen ascribes to "the left" are in reality only subscribed to by a tiny fringe of nutters. It is as if an American journalist were to claim massive support for Lyndon LaRouche throughout the US - any American could see this was odd, but someone outside would not necessarily recognise this. Nick Cohen makes analogous assertions about "the left" in the UK, but they seem to come out of his head. You will note the lack of actual examples in his article. In truth you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the UK who thinks of themselves as left-wing who would recognise the picture Nick Cohen paints. The vast majority have no problems with Americans (just with American foreign policy) and think that religion of any stripe does more harm than good.

OdinsEye2k said...

With Bush's approval rating at 30%, I've kind of developed a rule that 10-30% of the population will uncritically and happily consume garbage. Adding in the data point about evolution and beliefs about the Earth's age, that goes up to like 30-50%.

Now, how that population is laid out on the political landscape - can't really say.

One piece of anecdotal evidence, though. I watched the SoTU response by Sen. Webb with a couple of Greens. I thought the core Dem message was delivered beautiful - economy working for the wrong people, horribly executed war (that many predicted the course) and so on.

One of the Greens called it "weak" because Webb did not explicitly mention the poor, just the middle class. Somehow did not extrapolate from the whole condemnation of economy working for the wrong people and so forth to needed to help the poor.

Somehow, I got the feeling that anything short of instant revolution would not have been enough.

David Brin said...

I believe that it is vital that the word "liberal" be reclaimed in its true definition, which only somewhat shares overlap with "the left".

Right now, liberals and leftists share both a historical alliance (against bigotry and for the environment) and a common enemy (loony neocons) that mask an underlying tension. One that leftists want to disguise. They do NOT want liberals to recall that their movement was in part all about freeing up human potential so that it can better engage in joyful market COMPETITION.

Adam Smith, the first liberal, would be a democrat today because he would recognize the true enemies of market creativity are monopolies, cheaters, inside traders and cronies of the king. He would approve of liberation of women and minorities, of course, since that frees up more human talent and more knowing players for the market. There are clear signs he would also be an environmentalist, willingly allocating taxed market weighting so that common resources appear in the actual prices of goods.

But he would be wary of the paternalistic, domineering and socialistic leanings of so many leftists, even long after Marx and Communism were proved to be nuts. These folks are intensely drawn toward a patronizing elitist view, that a new hierarchy of "right thinking folks" can allocate resources for the common good, police peoples' utterances to enforce niceness and impose a utopian way of life on the world by ignoring or repressing our competitive drives.

These drives can be TAMED! That is the purpose of the Enlightenment and its arenas - science, democracy, markets and courts - and yes, socialism makes some sense when it comes to ensuring that all kids arrive at adulthood ready to compete on a somewhat even playing field.

But the left goes much farther and actually disparages competition itself. THIS is the true dividing line between liberalism and its lefty allies and we need to remember that it is there.

Let there be no mistake. That pushing, yammering yowling political correctness of lefty bullies HAS helped the neocons, for many years. The neocons' counter-revolution against the Enlightenment is stoked by "liberal-hatred" - in a tragic conflation of liberalism with leftism that I would love to see corrected.

The right is not right to hate anybody, of course. Their bilious need for revenge for Watergate is insane and they proved it by hounding Clinton over misdeeds that this administration matches during any given MINUTE of its existence.

Still, the political-correctness police helped to bring us here. I may be allied with them now, but I look them in the eye and I know that they would destroy the Enlightenment themselves, if and when they ever had the chance.

TheRadicalModerate said...

David--

I think there’s a much more prosaic explanation for the insanity of both the left and right. It requires three simple axioms:

1) Gaining power makes people crazy.
2) Losing power makes people crazy.
3) Sharing power forces people who’d like to be crazy to be sane.

Consider the three periods in the last half century where the US has had 4 years or more of non-divided government:

1961-1968 saw more social upheaval than any other post-war period, and Vietnam to boot. 1977-1980 was a period of unprecedented national self-loathing where the US frittered away global power almost as badly as it’s doing now, albeit for a completely different reason. And of course 2001-2006 speaks for itself. (Note that I’m fudging a bit on 2001-2002 but the Republicans had virtual control of Congress.)

Not only does the party gaining control get sloppy, excessive, and abusive, the party losing control becomes bitter, obstructive, and, apparently, paranoid. Even worse, power gained or lost causes both sides to become incredibly dogmatic. I think this “circle the wagons” mentality is especially corrosive in that it stifles internal dissent and promotes extremism.

I’m not denying your basic premise that the left/right taxonomy is unhelpful. However, for good or ill, two-party politics in the US is incredibly stable and unlikely to change very much. (Note that the last time parties even re-aligned substantially was 1860, and things were a tad unpleasant after that…) So you’re gonna have to live with a 1-dimensional projection of the n-dimensional political manifold, at least for actual elections.

It’s too bad, ‘cause I sure would like to be able to ask somebody, “How well correlated are your eigenpolitics with mine?”

TwinBeam said...

David:
I don't know if he fits your definition of "conservative intellectual", but do you visit Jerry Pournelle's site ?

He classifies himself as a conservative, despises Neo-cons for abandoning and betraying traditional conservativism, was against the war in Iraq from the beginning and predicted how badly it would turn out.

His alternative to a never-ending global war on terror is to achieve energy independence - eliminating the motivation to mess around in the middle-east by eliminating any potential for power over us.

He favors returning the US to being the republic it was designed to be, and on many traditionally liberal vs conservative issues, expresses willingness to return to leaving such matters to states and cities.

He fears that the US is well on the way to becoming an empire. But if we can't avoid becoming an empire, he prefers that we at least not be incompetent at it, since the stage after empire is collapse into a true Dark Age.
-----------
(Health Warning! Liberals with high blood pressure and knee-jerk-outrage disease should stop reading here. Please note that I am merely presenting my understanding of someone else's views.)
-----------
He criticizes liberalism (hardly surprising) as "a philosophy of consolation as the West commits suicide" - he and his readers trade anecdotes that lend some credence to that view - mostly focused on modern liberal willingness to prefer or accept appearances over substance.

He is critical of "no child left behind" ("No Child allowed ahead"), and of US failure to secure its borders and control immigration.

Another common theme is the growth of "anarcho-tyranny" - essentially having too many laws to enforce consistently, allowing those in power to choose when, how and against whom they will enforce the law - often just to make an example of someone, often someone they have motive to persecute.


Agree or disagee, I think Dr. Pounelle is a good example of a Conservative that refuses to follow the herd.

Shrubageddon said...

I believe it vital that no word be used to categorize, pigeon-hole, and otherwise disclaim and marginalize an individual's, or group's postion on any particular policy issue or movement.

Each policy or movement according to it merits exclusive fo the stifling categorizing.

Cas said...

David, both you and Nick Cohen are arguing against a straw man version of the left that simply doesn't exist. Aside from an infinitesimal sectarian left fringe, every liberal or left antiwar protester I know or have ever met is not operating from a position of anti-Americanism. Their position is an historically informed anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism, frequently complemented by a degree of ideological pacifism.

It's not that the antiwar left doesn't oppose authoritarian regimes--"fascism" is another specific word that you and Cohen are misusing--it's that the tactics of unilateral militarism are counterproductive means of achieving the overthrow of fascist or authoritarian regimes. In the case of Iraq, the predictable result was civil war, possibly followed by partition along ethnic lines, and the death of hundreds of thousands. It is quite likely that whatever government(s) eventually assert themselves in Iraq will be just as authoritarian, if not more so, than Saddam Hussein.

The cure to authoritarianism involves democratic institutions that develop organically, not ideological daydreams imposed from abroad. In the case of the defeat of European fascism, there were institutions to build upon.

The best thing the US could have done in Iraq would have been to continue isolating the Baathist regime while promising redevelopment aid to the Iraqi people if the regime were willing to abide by international standards on human rights and chemical and nuclear weapons.

You're also conflating two different groups of liberals--18th and 19th century economic liberals and 20th century liberalism. While there are some common roots to the two, they're not the same, and there's as much chance of 20th century liberalism transforming itself into the old liberalism as there is of a house cat becoming a mountain lion. The older liberalism has a lot more in common with what's now called Libertarianism (originally, "libertarian" was pretty much a synonym for anarchism.) The newer liberalism is less ideological and more pragmatic. It's rooted in historical reform, and its primary goal is to moderate the worst aspects of unbridled capitalism by introducing reforms that spread wealth and political power to as many people as possible. Without this liberalism, there is no middle class.

The current liberalism is allied with leftism because leftism is one of its necessary ingredients. Liberal reforms require some regulations and constraints on capital, because unbridled capitalism is at odds with human progress. Liberal reforms also require capitalism, because market mechanisms are needed to maintain efficiency and produce capital that can lead to innovation and progress. Liberalism is the centrist bridge between libertarian and socialist idealism, that protects the successful aspects of existing institutions while creating new institutions when necessary. You talk about forward vs. backwards. Liberalism is the way forward. Pure ideology in the face of pragmatic reality, whether rooted in "right" or "left," is backwards.

David Brin said...

Radical Moderate, you take too strong an implied lesson from divided government. It stymied any decent legislation during 94-2000, except for welfare reform, the one time Gingrich cooperated with Clinton. in Contrast, the Congress+President comity of 1933 and 1965 were two eras when the nation needed to do a lot and did so, because a unified government saw its plate full and had no excuses not to act on urgent business. Yes, 2001-2007 was a vast wasteland of laziness, rationalization, hate and stupidity... as well as outright treason. But that reflects on the party, not the fact that there was a governing consensus in Washington.

Also, a two party system while regretable (see my gerrymandering rant) is not mapped trivially on left-right. Indeed, I think it is towering stupidity for the dems to accept "left" as a label under any circumstance. Any circumstance at all. (a) it has no useful definition at all, and I mean at all. (b) it only feeds culture war and gives decent people an excuse to rationalize staying with their insane (right wing) "team.

We need to make it about future vs past.

And yes TwinBeam, Jerry Pournelle has always been an unconventional conservative. Much that you describe makes sense. I am glad he is capable of recognizing that his "side" has been taken over by monsters and that true American conservatives need to stand up, right now, when their country needs them, as never before.

Alas, he feels a need to caricature "liberals" at a time when that side has a near monopoly on sanity in this culture. Recall that I can and do excise loopy, politically correct lefty freakazoids, who, fortunately, do not control the Democratic Party. When one party is controlled by its monsters and the other is controlled by its modernist-pragmatists, there is a no-brainer decision that should be simple for any decent person. A decision that I doubt Pournelle is ready to make. Hence, he will exaggerate the degree to which lefties have power among the dems. It is human nature to do so. But clutching to familiar biases and nostrums is something we cannot afford right now.

case in point:
"He is critical of "no child left behind" ("No Child allowed ahead"), and of US failure to secure its borders and control immigration."

Amen! But will Pournelle recognize that he has far more in common with the Clintons on these issues, than with anybody on the right wing? Or with them regarding the judicious use of imperial power, only in spot-interventions that apply overwhelming might, and only in concert with allies and with an eye to world opinion? Or with them regarding a need for fiscal prudence and openness and accountability in government? Small chance of that.

"He criticizes liberalism (hardly surprising) as "a philosophy of consolation as the West commits suicide" - he and his readers trade anecdotes that lend some credence to that view - mostly focused on modern liberal willingness to prefer or accept appearances over substance."

Pure rationalization! When one party reduces secrecy and the other exponentiates it... when one party pushes science and technology and sustainable energy and the other torpedoes all of these... when one balances budgets and the other robs our kids... when one augments our power to lead the world with rising popularity and consensus (even among muslims) and the other deliberately pisses in the face of all our allies and turns Pax Americana into w world curse word... when one party augments protection of our borders and the other flings them wide open WHILE spreading a culture of xenophobic hatred...

Oh, I could go on, but it is futile. They will counter with some mealy-mouth absurd lefty remarks by some San Francisco twerps, ignoring that Nancy Pelosi comes from there, and is an essential pragmatist they could work with, if they gave her a chance.

No, while I am glad to see Jerry Pournelle generally rising up and standing up for his country against the neocon monsters, I will not hold my breath waiting for him to say that it is time for a fresh alliance. And that the better, American branch of liberalism is now the group - the only one - that can be helped to save us.

Anonymous said...

Not related to the politics, but probably of scientific interest: a third contender for quantum gravity, besides loop QG and string theory.

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-th/pdf/0509/0509010.pdf (warning: PDF)

There's a brief blurb about it in the current issue of Scientific American as well, but the pdf is freely accessible and goes into more detail to boot.

Anonymous said...

This has got to be one of the best things David brin has written about Anglo-American politics in the last several years.

There certainly has been a bizarre upsurge in delusional thinking on both right and left over the last decade or so. Brin doesn't go into much detail here, but examples abound:

The "Satanic panic" of the 1980s, mainly among the right;
www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/5202/SatanicPanic.htm

The anti-nuclear frenzy of the 80s, mainly among the left;
history.enotes.com/1980-lifestyles-social-trends-american-decades/antinuclear-movement

The current crazed "anti-frankenfoods" hallucinations among the left;
(for the delusion see
www.frankenfoods.org/ and for
a thorough debuinking read
www.amazon.com/Frankenfood-Myth-Politics-Threaten-Revolution/dp/0275978796 )

The current near-psychotic delusions of imminent victory of democracy and liberalism not only in Iraq, but throughout the mideast, primarily among the left. In this regard note the "Jacksonian plan" put forward on Glenn Reynolds' instapundit site. It boils down to nuking the Saudis and Syria, invading Iran and Jordan, and establishing a puppet Islamic council to run the mideast as a set of liberal democracies (presumably among the radioactive slag) under U.S. control;
www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_12/010337.php

The current psychotic break experienced by Rapture believers, primarily on the right. They now have an official "Rapture index" that's being reported on Fox news!
www.raptureready.com/rap2.html
(Touted as a "Dow Jones Index of end times activity." Marvellous!)

The borderline psychosis experienced on the left against the DLC and Washington pundits, in which anyone who wasn't gung-ho for Dean in 2004 is an evil theocratic 5th-columnist;
(just read www.dailykos.com to get a bellyfull of that stuff.)

The crazed behaviour of American police, who now routinely taser to death elementary school children;
www.infowars.com/articles/ps/taser_6yrold.htm

The equally crazed behaviour of border militia lunatics;
www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/jan-june05/minuteman_4-06.html

Signs of severe mental illness among prominent law professors, including John Yoo, and erstwhile scholars, such as Dinesh D'Souza, who appears to hate liberals more than Osama bin Laden;
www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/01/05_johnyoo.shtml
www.nytimes.com/2007/01/21/books/review/Wolfe.t.html?ref=books

Outright dementia among high-ranking members of America's armed forces involving end times, rapture fantasies, and militant fundamentalist Christianity (Dr. Brin was onto this earler than anyone else and is still far in advance of the new agencies reporting on this ever-widening scandal);
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/08/AR2005060802175.html

When even orthodox Christian ministers protest, you know it's gone beyond the realm of sanity:
www.orthodoxnews.netfirms.com/180/Religious.htm

Psychotic denial of documented facts by anti-evolution crazies;
http://digg.com/general_sciences/The_Devil_made_that_rock_look_that_old_to_turn_you_away_from_God

One of my all-time favorite crazy quotes: "The Devil made that rock look that old to turn you away from God." (!!!)

...And a drift downward of denial of documented facts by a whole horde of American prosecutors, who persist in maintaining the guilt of convicted prison inmates proven innocent by DNA evidence. My personal favorite is the prisoner proved innocent who remains locked up because the D.A. who prosecuted the case claimed that this merely shows that "there was an unidicted co-ejaculator involved in the rape."
www.robertrivera1.com/innocents.htm

The similarities to the behavior of the Salem witch trial judges prove startling. As you'll recall, during the Salem witch trials, men whose wives were accused as witches testified that their wives slept close by at night and must therefore be innocent. To which the Salem judges replied that Satan was infinitely more subtle than the husbands, and therefore sent imps to fool the husbands.
www.malleusmaleficarum.org/

This kind of casual denial of documented facts and disregard for basic logic has always been with us, but it seems to have spiked almost exponentially during the last 25 years.

Why? I don't know. I did notice that the upsurge in dementia and self-delusion throughotu America seems to have accelerated with the election of Bonzo the chimp's co-star. As everyone knows, Bonzo's co-star wandered around in a senial haze throughout the 8 years of his presidency, and the sheer length of the record his bizarre contrafactual statements remains shocking even today. Whoppers like "Forest fires have caused more pollution than all the smokestacks in America," and "Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" (1981) to the classic judgment on educational policy ""We think there is a parallel between federal involvement in education
and the decline in profit over recent years" (1983) to the magnificent statement on foreign policy "We have never interfered in the internal government of a country and have no intention of doing so, never have had any thought of that kind" (1982) to the all-time masterstroke "Facts are stupid things." (1988) Yes, Bonzo's co-star drifted through life in a fog of outright dementia...and the American people clapped their hands raw whenever he spouted his gibberish. They cheered themselves hoarse when he vomited out lunacy, and scheduled his press conferences according to the dictates of astrologer Joan Quigley armed with a stopwatch, the better to tell Reagan's appointees when to start speaking:
www.angelfire.com/co/COMMONSENSE/reagan.html

More of Reagan's deluded claims and crazy statements here. The sheer mass of madness and hallucinatory wackiness slaps you in the face like a two by four when you read the record of the crazy horseshit that actually came out of this guy's mouth during his presidency:
http://home.att.net/~howingtons/gop/rr/rr.htm

It's almost as though Reagan's senile dementia became infectious and destroyed the frontal lobes of the rest of the American population after Bonzo's co-star died. I don't have any rational explanation for why so many Americans on both the right _and_ the left have abandoned not just common sense, but the evidence of their own senses and the most elementary use of basic logic over the last 25 years. It's baffling.

America used to be the beacon of rationality and good sense. When Europeans went mad for fascism and communism, Americans remained rock-solid pragmantists. Now, we're known as the Creationism capital of the world...the epicenter of Rapture dementia...the home of anti-frankenfoods frenzy. We're now the all-time champions of anti-nuclear activism and gay-bashing hysteria among the developed world, while former dictatorships like South Korea forge far ahead of us in science and technology.

Is _this_ what our fathers fought and died for face down in the mud in WW II? To make America safe for Rapture fantasies, ufology, and "rank-and-yank" Enron-style social darwinist delusions?
http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm

Social darwinism of the kind practiced in Enron and popularized by charlatans like McKinsey has been debunked for well over a hundred years. Indeed, the Yale social scientist William Graham Sumner left behind a permanently blackened reputation courtesy of his pseudoscientific misuse and abuse of Darwin's wholly valid theory in the service of wholly invalid non-biological realms.
http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/lectures/lecture06.html

Yet, 100 years after being thoroughly debunked, social darwinism resurrects itself and now seems more powerful than ever, as the McKinsey debacle and the Long Term Capital Management fiasco so fulsomely prove. 80 years after going down in flames, creationism rises from its moldering grave like a vampire and bestrides America like a colossus. It's hellish. It's monstrous. It's insane beyond description.

The mind boggles. America once prided itself on common sense -- "I'm from Missouri," the saying goes, "I have to be shown." And now look at us. Cowering from imaginary satanic cults and gibbering about delusional 9/11 conpiracies in phoney made-up videos on the internet.

Word fail before such a degraded spectacle. It's like watching the Athenians gather around Socrates to learn the wonders of orgone energy, astral projection, and psychic surgery...

Anonymous said...

David,

What makes you think that the left did/does not oppose Hussein and other fascists? You only mention the absence of evidence of opposition at protest rallies. As a rare participant in such rallies, let me explain why I never carried such a sign.

The anti-war rallies were held to influence AMERICA's course of action. They were covered (to some small extent) by American and European media, and thus may have had some small influence on shaping Western opinion.

By contrast, carrying a sign protesting Hussein's actions is a lot like protesting the actions of the malaria parasite. Hussein and Plasmodium are both unredeemed evils that have caused unmeasurable and unnecessary death, pain and suffering. And neither's actions are going to be affected *at all* by Western protestors carrying cardboard signs.

Surely someone with your intellect should know better than to construe absence of evidence as evidence of absence!

PS Thanks for crossposting at DailyKos a few weeks ago. I'd like to strongly encourage you to do so more frequently. I think your remarks will reach a wider audience that way, that DailyKos members will benefit from your perspectives (CITOKAE, of course), and that you may realize from the feedback that many posters on this archetypical "crazy-left" site (to use the right-wing frame) have views surprisingly close to your own.

jallabo said...

Sorry, but i find this discussion pretty pointless. While it may be fashionable to accuse various nutty far leftist groups of their vile thoughtcrimes, the true question is how many people have been killed recently by the extreme western left in pursuit of their ideas? Opinion is cheap and in most cases utterly meaningless. Let them proclaim their love for Saddam, or their disdain for Blacks, Jews, Women or French as much as they like: As long as nobody acts on these beliefs nobody gives a damn.
The deed is that what counts and it is that would is ultimately countable: Among what we can count are the a war of aggression against another country by the American government and its military (the very same sin against international law that started GW I btw., to say nothing of point 1. and 2. of the prosecution at the Nuremberg main war crimes trial) and its direct and indirect responsibility for the past and ongoing slaughter of hundreds of thousand of people. Furthermore the past and ongoing support of this very same government and its military by the American people through the acts of elections, paying of taxes and voluntary military enlistment.
These are all very real deeds and not some meaningless public or private statements from people of whatever political coloration.
To make matters short, while in my ears
the rantings of any American about the meanies of the European left and their anti-Americans sound rather lame and pathetic, in the end it does not matter a damn thing, in the same vein as our own opinions about the merits or vices of Saddam Husseins government.
But what matters indeed is his continuing material support of his own government and its actions.

Nate said...

I really don't understand how this canard about "The Left supports authoritarians!" keeps popping up in places with people that should know better. Especially since the evidence of this "The Left" is always strawmen and anecdotes or inflating some no-name person to somehow represent everybody. In this case, the talk about no signs against Saddam at the anti-war marches. Okay, and? The marches weren't about Saddam. The marches were about Bush lying and condemning thousands of soldiers and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens to death in his crazy war. Things aren't some simple dichotomy, where you were either for invasion, or you were for Saddam. No matter how many right-wing pundits tried to spin it that way. It's perfectly possible to realize that Saddam was a monster, but think the invasion would make worse results. Or even in the most optimistic scenarios, not enough better to make the invasion justified.

And given the variety of people I saw at both of anti-war marches I went to before the war, plus the variety of people I expect to show up at the anti-"surge" march today, a pretty wide swathe of the American people would have to be part of this broad-brush "Left".

TwinBeam said...

"TB writing about JP: "He criticizes liberalism (hardly surprising) as "a philosophy of consolation as the West commits suicide" - he and his readers trade anecdotes that lend some credence to that view - mostly focused on modern liberal willingness to prefer or accept appearances over substance."

DB response: "Pure rationalization! When one party reduces secrecy and the other exponentiates it... when one party pushes science and technology and sustainable energy and the other torpedoes all of these... when[...] "

David - you've created a false association here. I described JP's criticism of "liberalism" as he sees it, and you responded with an assumption that he was attacking the Democrats. I think Pournelle and you both know that they only overlap, and are not the same.

A lot of the "consolation for Western suicide" comments are directed at people who claim to be implementing some virtue, but in the process destroy social value. E.g. zero tolerance for drugs and guns being applied to expel students who give another an aspirin or point a finger and say "bang"; opposition to child abuse being applied to a teacher that hugs an injured child; tolerance of religion being applied to allow aggressive muslims to ignore the laws of a nation in favor of obeying only Sharia.

Those aren't Democratic party things - I personally wouldn't even call them truly Liberal - more mock-Liberal, implemented by people who want to *appear* liberal but have no understanding of the essence.

TheRadicalModerate said...

David--

A couple of responses:

"[divided government] stymied any decent legislation during 94-2000, except for welfare reform..."

I view this as an extremely beneficial feature, not a bug. Democracies are almost completely reactive. During periods where problems/threats are absent or (more likely) unobvious, doing very little is entirely appropriate. When democracies try to be proactive, we're usually treated to a review of the properties of fecal matter in turbulent flow over a low-aspect ratio airfoil.

"a two party system...is not mapped trivially on left-right."

Sure it is--at least it's mapped one dimensionally, by definition. If you'd like to use a different set of binary tags, feel free. There's still going to be a single winner and a single loser. NB: this only applies to elections, but they are the sine qua non of government.

If what you're really saying is that we're choosing the wrong line on which to perform the mapping, then we're in violent agreement. Furthermore, I'm somewhat hopeful that that line might be slewing around a bit. The Republican coalition of libertarians, social conservatives, neocons, and religious conservatives is starting to fall apart. Similarly, the pacifist, socialist, and egalitarian factions of the Democratic party are showing some strain as well. The trick, of course, is to come up with a two-party realignment that is both stable and properly reflective of the issues confronting us.

I'm tepid on a past vs. future division. I'd prefer one that was more along something like "pragmatic vs. ideological". Anything where the leadership and policy wonks understand that the law of unintended consequences is the rule rather than the exception will work just fine. The Republicans completely forgot this in their recent stint in power. But the Democrats have an equally bad track record when they have undivided power.

David Brin said...

Anonymous your lengthy posting was quite amazing... and really worthy of name attribution. Unless you have reasons to stay anonymous?

Naturally, I agree with much of what you say, in detail and in general. And yet, in a spirit of citokate, I must demur in a few areas.

First, I will posit that Ronald Reagan is vastly over-rated by the far-right, giving him all the credit for rushing the end game of a grand plan laid down by George Marshall and Dean Acheson... a haste that could just as easily triggered spasmodic war as a relatively graceful Gorbachevean surrender. The unseemly idolatry that he receives from the right -- creating a cult of personality that departs from American tradition to a degree that is as embarrassing as it is baseless -- can be shrugged aside. The left, after all, has saints that were far more flawed in real life than their iconic images -- JFK and ML King and so on. Let it go.

Of course, what cannot be brushed aside is the fork in the road taken by the right under Reagan. One that was not yet the full-fledged assault upon reason and science and wisdom and decency that we see today, but which, nevertheless, featured all of these things in early forms. Above all else, this was the dawn of a profound taste for vengeance against “liberals” for their past obscene crime of having been right a helluva lot more often than conservatism ever was.

(I could offer many examples of conservative complaints that had some validity - including some that were corrected in the Clinton-Gingrich Welfare Reform Act... which should have shown us how to get along. But kvetches are not meaningful progress. Even when right, they deserve less credit than actual ideas and change and accomplishment do.)

THAT is the thing that drives neocon wrath and rage, more than anything else. If you were to name the top fifty American accomplishments of the last 100 years - especially since T Roosevelt left office - and went on tallying from the spread of self-determination republics after WWI, through standing up to fascism and Japanese military hedgmonism, through modernizing economics and establishing the Cold War policy of calm containment, through creation of the flattest social and economic social order in human history, with the most dynamic and joyfully competitive/productive market system and social mobility ever seen...

...through moon landings, environmentalism, civil rights womens’ rights, miner safety, freedom of information and so on... go ahead and make your own list... you soon find something that must really stick in conservative craws.

Except for the Interstate Highway System and NASA, not one of those great accomplishments has any roots, whatsoever, in the Republican Party or in conservatism of any kind. In fact, the GOP fought and kicked and resisted every single one of these things... and was proved wrong, wrong wrong, every single time...

...along with being wrong about BAD things like Vietnam (shared blame there) and Richard Nixon (entirely their bad)...

Under those circumstances, any psychologist will tell you what human beings do. They do NOT re-assess and re-evaluate. That is, only the best do. Barry Goldwater and Billy Graham and a few others (like Bob Dole) did openly admit past errors, like real men, and avowed that conservatism needed fresh ideas.

But no, what most human beings do, shen shamed by having been proved wrong again and again, is instead to rationalize upping the ante in pure hatred. What you see -- in Hannity, and O’Reilly and Limbaugh - is a fundamentalist approach to hate-all-things-liberal, fixating on picayune excuses that niggle at the edges of the movement. A squirming and writhing and shrieking need to point at caricatures and a few San Francisco loonies, never ever distinguishing between a marginalized “left” that yatters “consolation” nonsense (without actually controlling the Democratic Party) and a mainstream “liberalism” that helped to make America great.

Why else choose something as arbitrary and fundamentally unprovable as defining human life as utterly and sacredly beginning with a fertilized egg? The explanation is simple. It lets you dismiss all the myriad ways that liberalism holds higher moral ground, simply by saying that “nothing is more important than protecting babies from being murdered.” Can nobody see how convenient and perfect this was, and how much it explains?

Call it the “Jesus Effect”. He might have worn sandals and a beard and preached socialism and many other pinko things. But “our side fights baby killers,” so he will have to side with us anyway!

Feh.

And yet...

...and yet Ronald Reagan was a charming fellow and I believe a genuine patriot. I think that lefties who screeched at him over the “evil empire” remark were way off base. That phrase perfectly described the Soviet Union and those flakes who screeched over that EXACTLY typify the kind of dopiness that I talked about, above, shows how no side has a monopoly on stupidity and madness.

(Indeed, in Europe, that kind of attitude DOES control their version of “liberalism” much of the time.)

I have other good things I can say about RR... maybe another time... but the top one is one that I think will raise amens all around. He wasn’t George W. Bush. He read a book, now and then. Only half of his appointees were blatant-horrid shills for kleptocratic raiders... instead of 100% under the present set of monsters. And he left the professional Officer Corps mostly alone, instead of engaging in inquisitional persecution of those brave and brilliant men and women. Among the present monsters’ worst crimes.

I have gone on too long. Tired. Also, today I toured the USS Pelelieu, watched the Tarawa sortie, picked up my daughter after she spent a night on the Midway... and we all watched the USS Ronald Reagan set to sea....

A day for the US Navy, God bless it. The last of the services left untouched by the fetid, poxy, evil hands now running this great nation. And when the Army and Marines are stripped to the bone - our readiness torched down to pre Pearl Harbor levels - it is the one bulwark we will have left.

It was a stirring sight and put me in a mood to demand that liberals do what conservatives have been too cowardly to do, so far.

Admit that you’ve made mistakes, too. Admit that this is a time for more decency and compromise and less name calling. To admit that PATRIOTISM is one of the reasons for fighting these monsters... one of the best ones.

Time to widen the tent and welcome allies. There is a nation and a civilization at stake. Labels matter less than actions. And if Jerry Pournelle is willing to stand up to help fight monsters, then I say welcome brother. I am at your side.

Rob Perkins said...

Call it the “Jesus Effect”. He might have worn sandals and a beard and preached socialism and many other pinko things.

Minor citokate.

I've been thinking this over. I can't think of *any* passage of words directly attributed to Jesus of Nazareth which deals directly with politics. The one which do come to mind carry instructions on how to behave in order to shame an oppressor by obeying so perfectly and over the top that their own sense of honor and shame are activated.

Beyond that, it's pay your taxes and don't worry about the workings of the world.

Where, from there, do we get the idea that Jesus preached socialism?

OdinsEye2k said...

I don't know if the time for compromise is here just yet. I believe the Adopt an Ostrich is a good thing for the large part of the American electorate that is sane, and has already withdrawn its support for Bush and his cronies.

At the current level of impasse, though, it is not incumbent upon the Dems to compromise. It is incumbent upon them to *expose* and *destroy* the monsters of the right. The 100 Hours plan was a part of this - start with measures so obvious and so embraced by the electorate (we'll quibble over how far the ethics reform stuff really went) that no Republican should dare to oppose it. Most shared by frightened not to co-sponsor it.

However, we have the minimum wage, the one thing that seems to really stick in kleptocratic craws, and low and behold, we have the first Republican filibuster (and likely Bush's second veto to follow). A wage increase is true to our progressive roots, and supported by a large majority at the moment.

This is the kind of thing to rather grind Republican noses on. Make them oppose what is right and popular and good, and show them doing so every day. This kind of thing in my mind should be akin to Gingrich's shutting down of the US Government, which served not to weaken Clinton but as an early example of Republican pettiness (the impeachment trial the prime example of course).

If the Dems manage to push through a clean minimum wage bill, and make the Repubs look bad in the process, this should hopefully serve as a spine transplant. The Dems will be the recipients, and hopefully the Repubs should be the donors.

So, in tactical terms, if you can win a couple of big and important victories at first, compromise becomes a much more attractive option afterwards. Because the momentum will cause the compromise on terms you prefer.

Rob Perkins said...

Another minor citokate...

The Marines are part of the Navy, I'm prettydangsure...

David Brin said...

Rob, Jesus recommended that people give the poor the shirt off their back. He said to pay your taxes, but his disdain for commerce and wealth was clear. Moreover, among his followers, one said: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Odin, see my recommendations at:
http://www.davidbrin.com/suggestions.html
I believe we need to BOTH unleash Conyers/Waxman to wage political war, by finding hundreds of criminals to indict...

...AND at the same time pursue policies that draw forth allies from the decent wing of conservatism. Vastly better behavior... while enduring the utter hypocrisy of GOP whining, that the fair treatment improvements don't go far enough. (Every time this happens, there should be someone like Waxman charged with standing up and describing how HE thinks the goppers OUGHT to be treated. Good contrast and lots of fun.)

Rob Perkins said...

In larger-scoped societal issues, Jesus appears to not have had an opinion about which *form* of governance was best, merely to submit to it. That is, no politics. Thus, not socialism.

As to the beard and sandals, the equivalent today would be blue jeans and a T-shirt. It's specious to suppose that his choice of clothing made him a left-leaning hippie type, aligned or opposed to *any* modern political approach.

He might have had kind things to say about certain Enlightenment frames of mind, but that could also be my context muddiing the issue.

TwinBeam said...

Some of the 100 hour agenda makes sense, at least in spirit (I'll believe they've cut off lobbyists when I see it - some of that bill seemed more aimed at killing off real grass-roots groups through over-regulation, while protecting lobbying by unions and other Democratic supporters).

But I just can't accept that the party that wants to help the poor, keeps increasing the minimum wage.

Sure it *sounds* good to anyone who doesn't have any economic education. And obviously it plays well with their union supporters, since it will reduce wage competition from the low end, and so drive union wages a bit higher. And who wouldn't like it if everyone, no matter how unskilled or uneducated, could support him or her self decently?

Democrats know raising wages will cut jobs for marginal workers - else they'd simply boost it right on up to $12 an hour, so that everyone could enjoy an income about at the current median.

So why do they do it, over and over? Is it really just paying off the unions? Or taking advantage of the ignorance of the working poor - some of whom will get higher paid jobs and credit the Democrats, while those who spend more time out of work, won't know to blame the Democrats?

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

Twinbeam: Given that a significant number of economists claim that raising the minimum wage (to a certain degree) does not cause job loss, and that there are studies showing that (and studies showing the opposite - then again, there's economic studies showing just about anything you want) ... I'm going to take issue with your claim that there's something wrong with it.

I cite the wisdom of Henry Ford here - the more money the poorest people have, the more money everyone has, because they spend what they get.

OdinsEye2k said...

TwinBeam,

There is a healthy amount of evidence coming in that min wage helps the poorest workers and those just above them, without major increases in employment.

There is evidence for this in the experience of Oregon. The border between Washington state and Idaho is an excellent demonstration. You would think that low-wage business in Washington would dry up in competition with over-the-border Idaho. But rather, the opposite has happened.

Check this out. Since three bucks an hour between the two states is a lot of cash, the reliable, friendly workers commuted across the border. This left behind the dregs that drastically reduced the level of service (and possibly boosted the level of theft) and started hurting the Idaho businesses until they tried to level the wage playing field.

So, wage is a complex thing. Yet, at its current level, I would say that anyone who argues against a wage increase is a neo-feudalist class enemy of yours.

In the very livid words of Ted Kennedy,

"What is it about working-class Americans that angers you Republicans so much!"

And yes, David, I agree with you. Let our centrist people do their things, while letting out the stronger partisans with hammer and tongs to embarass the opposition with their horrid behavior at every turn.

TwinBeam said...

Michael and Odin:

Granted the wage issue is complex enough that there are more economic consequences than just reducing jobs - but I can't think of any consequences that will be beneficial in the net for the working poor.

- Fewer jobs, and/or slower job growth. (A good economy could hide the harm of minimum wage increase. Perhaps in 1996? Unlikely in 2007, I think.)

- Price increases alowed when some businesses go under and competition is reduced - but fewer businesses charging higher prices would not yield a net increase of income to the low-income group.

- Flatten wages nearer to the minimum - i.e. better workers can't get better wages as easily, making advancement harder.

- Reduce minor perks (e.g. low cost meals for food service workers, flexible schedules, etc).

- Cut back on higher pay for less attractive shifts.

- Hire only more experienced workers, to avoid training costs - creating a barrier to new workers.

- Cheat - e.g. demand unpaid overtime as a condition of retaining a job.


In short - while the pain may be spread over a variety of methods, they pretty much all will end up hurting those you're trying to help, and probably concentrating the pain on those *least* able to get a job in the first place.

I guess if you just wanted to accelerate the economy a bit (rev'ing up tax revenues via a faster moving dollar) on the backs of the working poor, a minimum wage increase might do that.

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

Your argument would seem to indicate that Henry Ford's business model didn't work.

This leads me to believe you're missing something major.

TwinBeam said...

Surely you don't believe that Henry Ford could make a profit just by paying more to his workers so they could buy cars! That just doesn't work!

No, based on the reaction of other industrialists in that time, I'm convinced that there was collusion amongst the major industrialists not to compete for labor by offering higher wages - i.e. wages were deliberately suppressed below their 'natural' competitive level.

Likely the industrialists justified this on the basis that it allowed industries to expand more rapidly, and thereby absorb the huge influx of immigrant labor that had been pouring in the previous few decades. Good for the industrialists too, of course...

Henry Ford probably realized that his company, as maker of a luxury item, would do better if all industrialists were forced to compete for labor and thereby pay higher wages. So he "defected" from the cartel, and eventually it broke down and wages rose.

But that situation does NOT apply to low end wages today. Except for the limitation of minimum wage on the low end, wages are set through a complex but competitive market for labor.

(Well, there is the suppression of wages due to illegal immigration - curious that neither party seems very interested in controlling it better, even with the added threat that terrorists might slip into the country unnoticed in the middle of the human flood.)

But in any case, it's pretty certain that forcing employers to pay higher wages will not, on average, stimulate the economy or end up making the employers more money.

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

How can the wage market really be competitive, when people have little choice where to work?

The low-wage workers can, in many states, be fired for no reason whatsoever ("at will" employment), and companies never seem to have trouble finding more to replace them.

After all ... people can't choose not to work they way they can choose not to sell something other than their labor for less than it's worth. You have to work ... or not eat. This is a "choice" that nobody thinks twice about.


The only people who have any power to negotiate wages with their employers are either those who are unionized (and tend to get quite a lot more than minimum wage, hmm), or those with special skills.

And of course I don't believe that Henry Ford's workers alone could have made him a profit - that does, as you said, obviously fail to work. So yes, by raising his wages, he forced everyone else to raise wages ...

... just like an increased minimum wage would do!

It is not at all obvious that giving more money to the people who have the least margin will result in them doing anything other than spending it - which is precisely what stimulating the economy IS!

Bush's first tax cuts - the ones that included something for the middle class - really did stimulate the economy! The subsequent ones, which did not give more money to the middle class ... didn't. Care to provide an explanation why?

TwinBeam said...

Oh, no question that raising the minimum wage will boost wages a bit - pleasing unions - but low-wage workers *will* lose out in other ways as a result. MW isn't Magic Wand...

It's absurd to say the labor market isn't competitive - else we'd have a huge number of people earning nothing but the minimum wage. Very few jobs actually start at the old minimum wage, and if you don't screw up, most businesses quickly give you raises to keep you around. My teenager got to $8/hr in an entry-level position, just by sticking with it for a year.

Minimum wage increases are more a matter of pleasing the unions and political showmanship to impress the ignorant - "Look what a nice politician I am - Vote For Me!"

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

Twinbeam: I'm not sure where you live, but that's not true everywhere.

I've worked at several places that "forget" to increase your wages - or even do the review they're supposed to do in order to determine if you get a wage increase. (fast food places, specifically).


But then, these are the same places that can fire you for not attending work on a day that were not scheduled to work ... until the day after, when it was written on the schedule with pencil.


And I didn't say minimum wages were a magic wand. I am proposing a method by which a minimum wage increase can result in primarily (not exclusively, but primarily) beneficial effects. I don't see you arguing that this works, only that "you don't get something for nothing" ... which is often untrue, and is indicative of zero-sum thinking.



Further, I would argue (but haven't yet) that some minimum wage is beneficial, and that the value of this "good minimum wage" will increase with inflation.

Doris said...

Anybody remember when a woman told President Bush that she was working three jobs and he told her that this was uniquely American? He derailed her complaint by praising her.

Why should she have to work three jobs? Because she can't support her family on only one or two minimum wage jobs.

ColonelZen said...


TheRadicalModerate said...

I am an Ostritch....


You need to realize that in this environment, you've just lost the war. The meme which successfully defines terminology is the one shaping its environment. In the environment of memes, terminology and the associated relations, not only shape the local environment, in many ways that terminology and related set of associations ARE the environment. Naturally memes, through their hosts, tend to shape the environment to their favor. Successful memes are ones which are best capable of shaping their environment.

THE OSTRICH’S MANIFESTO

Now with this, you've hardened your meme carapace but you've lost mobility. The opposing meme can now work around and past your meme, testing your defenses at leisure. By admitting that among hosts of your meme there is growing disenchantment with other manifestations of it, you show that your meme is losing coherence. Loss of coherence foretells the death of your meme, at least as you carry it. The meme, undoubtedly will go on, in other hosts but you are now and here becoming a weak host.


The meme thang, like all abstractions, is a metaphor, but it does have a certain power aside from its obvious charm. The trick lies in identifying and mapping their behaviors to better known and more concretely manipulated abstractions. The survival of the meme meme over the last twenty years suggests that it does have value above other metaphors for evaluating the flow of discourse.

What that means in regard to your ostrich/conservative meme is that I suggest you look at your cards again – if the meme metaphor has any value, the above means you are no longer a strong host for your “meme”. 2) You need to find “memes” with which you identify more strongly in discussions. You are certainly a capable and eloquent disputant, but you’ve already admitted to weaknesses in your association with the conservative “meme”; your thought and commentary might be better directed toward more specific ideals and actions than “conservatism” generally.

(No offense intended, I am simply trying to find the aforementioned “mapping” of meme behaviors to better understood abstractions).

-- TWZ