Archives for category: Ideological currents

A Conjecture

Maybe because my aesthetic tastes are so resolutely minority (or ultra-minority), I have never been inclined — even before I developed any political opinions to speak of — to seek to prohibit the publication, exhibition or performance of any work of art on “community standards” or even moral grounds. Could it be that those people with more standard, popular tastes, are precisely those most likely to leap to censorship or even boycott pressure to squelch art or ideas they do not like, simply because the commonality of their tastes suggests to them the power of majority opinion, and thus the likelihood of success?

IMG_2025And could we be witnessing the loudest crowing for abridgements of free speech (“hate speech is not free speech!”) from college campuses and media enclaves for reasons of this very principle? Universities and Hollywood and major media are de facto intellectual bubbles, self-selected (as well as pressure-driven by intranigent minorities) to enforce ideological ideologial uniformity . . . and thus the perception of majority taste. Leading, in turn, to the current anti-free speech mania.

Well, it’s a theory. A conjecture.

I advance it, in part, to explain why illiberal ideas take form and grow. Perhaps they crystallize when there is too much cultural homogeneity.

Which, if true, would be the cream of the jest, since the current batch of illiberals are those progressives who yammer the most about “diversity.”

But, as is now widely known, they are not really interested in value diversity. They are interested in racial and sexual (OK: “gender”) diversity only. By sharing a value-dependent moral vision — not a transaction-based principled vision — they have developed a surprisingly strong sense of community, and use their commonality to enforce strong pressure to out-groups to conform to their in-group.

Even while, yes, preaching the doctrine of “inclusion.”

There is nothing about progressivism which does not give cause for sardonic laughter.

In this context, it has been a hoot to watch major media figures fall from grace over the issue of sexual harassment . . . and graver sexual misconduct. Call it Schadenfreude on my part. It is truly rich. Mainly, what we are seeing here is the purging from the Sanctimonious Classes eminent figures who, it turns out (and to only feigned surprise), had no good reason for self-righteousness, or any standing for righteousness at all.

I may be disturbed by the witch-huntery of mass boycott and social censure that sends the Weinsteins and Lauers and the like into the Outer Darkness — without trial or rules of evidence or much nuance about the acts actually mentioned — but to witness the celerity of the “punishment,” and its apparent extremity (no livelihood left for any of these? Really?), directed at people who have been so smugly censorious of others on these very grounds? Priceless.

When Patrick J. Buchanan declared a culture war, decades ago, I confess: I was not impressed. But he was right. (I know: “far right”! Ha ha.) We are now in full-out culture war on largely political grounds, and I have been thrown in with conservatives whose general approach to life (“there is no kill like overkill”) I have some basic difficulties with. But, though the conservative temper may be fear-based about cultural cohesion, and far too prone to the vices of rage and vindictiveness, progressive vices now seem more dangerous. I can live peacefully among conservatives. But would I be given any peace from progressives? I think not. They would love to tax and regulate me and those I know into conformity with their values. They would never cease to hector me for my disagreements with their dogmas. And their vices? Envy alone could destroy civilization, if it be entirely unleashed. Rage leads to warfare; envy to totalitarianism.

But of course, as I’ve said many times before, progressives in politics are the new conservatives in temper. It is they who rage against differences of opinion. It is they who scream at their ideological opponents and refuse to use reason in debate. It is they who join hands and use the social controls of boycott, shunning, shaming, and moralistic opprobrium to marginalize others.

So, how to attack them? Perhaps reason will not cut it — not to begin with, any way. They must learn that their basic values are not universally shared. That their tastes are not universal, and not written into the warp and woof of the universe.

Maybe, chastened, shown not to be as “open” to diversity as they had pretended, they will then listen to reason, and learn that the way to accommodate diversity is with the easy yoke of liberty and not the dead hand of the totalitarian state.

twv

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I try to read the MoveOn emails I receive several times a week. Yes, I try. But they are very trying.

Just this morning I got an email from “Bernie Sanders” . . . which began “Hi Timothy — I just wanted to make sure you saw my message from the other day.”

Must be important.

So what does “Bernie Sanders” say?

Well, he pushes what he (or his copywriter) call “the progressive agenda,” which is dead set against the “corporate giveaway” in the new tax reform bill. Here is how he begins:

Throughout my political career, I have asked us all to imagine what our nation’s future could be: a country with a minimum wage that is a living wage; with students graduating college without crushing debt that stifles their ability to pursue their dreams; where health care is recognized as a right for every man, woman, and child; and where we lead other nations in the fight against climate change.

I have asked us to believe that we could level the playing field and create a vibrant democracy where the billionaire class would no longer be able to buy and sell our candidates and elections.

I will always believe in that vision of America — even as I watch Republicans try to pass a tax scam that is literally the opposite agenda of what you and I have championed over the years.

A tax scam. I wonder: does it increase taxes on the poor and the proverbial “middle class”? I doubt it, but I honestly do not know. The only “fact” about the tax bill given is that it decreases taxes on the wealthy.

I assume by that he means decreases tax rates on the wealthy. There is a difference between rate and revenue. The difference should affect the way we talk about taxes. Somehow, it almost never does.

Bernie, if you could help me on this, please explain. Comments are open below.

Lacking many specifics from this pitch letter (and, after all, that is what most MoveOn emails are, pleas for funds — the only other regular pitch being calls for action, usually to complain to my congressperson), I wander back up to the top. Bernie Sanders imagines an America with “a minimum wage that is a living wage”; with college students not starting their remunerative careers buried in debt; “health care” treated “as a right” for all; and the country leading the world “in the fight against climate change.” Each point is worth thinking about. But I am going to avoid the “climate change” issue entirely, focusing, instead, on the climate-of-opinion change regarding matters nearer at hand.*

The Ass Ceiling

Minimum wage laws were one of the two big issues regarding economic policy that turned me away, forever, from Bernie’s brand of politics. The first time I heard someone assert that minimum wage laws hurt some low-skilled workers while helping competing workers with higher perceived skills, I got really interested in economics. As a science. I wanted to see how this could be the case, if it could at all.

I learned two things right away: one must move beyond slogans and look at what laws are at base, and then what their effects are beyond the policy’s immediate targets.

At base, minimum wage laws proscribe hiring people at a rate lower than set by the “minimum.” A minimum wage regulation does not require businesses to hire anybody at that rate. Such regulations prohibit businesses from hiring anybody below that rate. So, by their very nature, minimum wage laws are employment-limiting laws.

That puts the burden of proof on the proponent of the “minimum wage” to explain how it could increase the ranks of the employed, or, at the very least, not decrease those ranks. If employment decreases — either immediately or in the future — then minimum wage laws are not boons to the poor, lifting poor workers out of poverty. Instead, they would constitute mere redistribution-of-wealth schemes: in effect taking from some poor and giving to others, making them less poor.

The import of this idea has yet to hit at least half of the population.

The working out of the wider and long-term effects of wage-rate floors (as economists tend to characterize the regulation) gets complicated. It comes down to productivity — the marginal product, actually — and interesting scientific study can work out the complexities. There are debates to be had.† But what is interesting about political discussion, particularly from Bernie Sanders and his cadres, is that such discussion is never forthcoming. The usual defenses of minimum wage regulations that I hear point to the bizarre Card and Krueger studies, and not as economic explanations, but as excuses, as authority to dismiss economic reasoning entirely — with no more intellectual integrity than nyah-nyah taunting. “My study is better than your study”!

The popular use of these contrarian studies (and yes, most studies of minimum wage law effects disconfirm the stated utility of the regulations) is not to advance knowledge, much less explore how any particular study is constructed, but because it gives an excuse to hold to a policy endorsed for non-scientific reasons.

imageI know this because I felt their pull. The love of “minimum wage” regulations is part of a belief in the efficacy not merely of government but of activists who propound simple nostrums. It is a very religious commitment, and when I looked into the issue, nearly four decades ago, and studied my own psychology as well as economic theory, I concluded that my motives in promoting the wage floor were not pristine.

As always in such issues, it comes back to the Seen and Not Seen. What we “see” is a minimum wage law, and people employed above the prohibited low rates. We do not — and cannot — see the people that would have been employed had such regulations not existed. The counter-factual world is closed to us. And yet the reality of our experience is entirely encompassed precisely by such counter-factuals, since, when we choose either a job or a policy (or a career or a spouse or a philosophy) we are forecasting two or more possible worlds of effects that would result from a choice one way or the other, and those forecasts are not illusions, but guesses as to possible realities that, after the choice is made and the action (or policy) instantiated, only one of which becomes factual, actual.

By sticking to the Seen effects of minimum wage regulations, the enforced floor’s proponents allow themselves a smug sense of “sticking to the facts” while denying a basic part of reality. Meanwhile, they become acolytes to a particular religious view of life, wherein the State is savior and activism is ritual and prayer.

And, all the while they go about promoting one of their favored nostrums, they ignore the reality: wage floors are worse than the proverbial “glass ceilings” of feminist lore. The floor is raised, hiking the productivity requirements of workers, placing those unable to perform at the set level below the floor, looking up at the . . . feet and asses of those who remain employed. The People Under the Floor have been condemned by the regulation, with no more hope for them other than subsidy.

Oh, sure, they could get more skills, and that is indeed one thing progressives have always insisted upon: that people who want to work go to progressive-run schools where productivity is allegedly taught (it isn’t, for the most part) and the bills are paid from taxpayers. Indeed, unable to work because prohibited from doing so, the likelihood of skill acquisition is diminished for the low-skilled, since actual work is the single most important source for acquiring skills. And, indeed, most of those trapped under the floor are there in no small part because our society’s prescribed basic training ground, the public school, has proved to be ineffective (for a variety of reasons). No wonder, then, that The People Under the Floor turn to black markets and government handouts. That is pretty much all that is left them.

That is what Bernie Sanders and his kind have left them.

I shudder when I think about the People Under the Floor. And I try (often not successfully) not to be angered at the progressives most intent on policies that keep them there.

The takeaway that is so rarely taken, is this: the wage floor is an ass ceiling for the forcibly unemployed.

But Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

The interesting thing about progressivism is its relentless moralism. The subject line of Bernie’s email is “Stop this immoral disaster.” Calling something “immoral” often excuses one from thinking about it in any practical way. Bernie was talking about the tax issue, but his lack of any specifics is just indicative of this sort of mindset.

When I call something “immoral” or “evil,” that means that I have stopped careful consideration of it, too. Them’s fighting words, words of action.

One just hopes that there is some thought upon which that judgment of immorality can be based.

In his earnest (if under-thought) wishes for a debt-free beginning to careers (Bernie himself was a slacker, and then entered Congress in a great binge of living off the system) and for automatic, care-free medical assistance for all, Bernie seems driven by a utopian vision, an Edenic myth, backed only by

  1. activism and
  2. subsidy from the rich

IMG_4679Indeed, this email sums up his whole approach. It is an appeal to activists to support more activism that would (the scheme runs) lead to government action that would take from the rich and give to the not-rich. So no wonder, in all this, it is important to mention the awful spectacle of billionaires “buying and selling” — no talk of renting, interestingly enough — “our candidates and elections.” The big money game in politics is there, of course, because big money is what it is all about. Bernie S. and his fellow B.S.ers demand that “the rich” subsidize them more. Which is about money. Lots of it. The mere presence of the B.S. agenda ensures that those whom B.S.ers wish to plunder will lobby government to keep a bit more of what they have.

This is simply the nature of politics. When it is not about offense, it is about defense. And the more hits in offense a group takes, the more the group will spend in defense.

And by complaining about the rich defending themselves, the B.S.ers are trying to stack the game in their favor. Not only do they think it would be “nice” if other people paid for their college educations and their health care, they think it would be especially nice if those people who pay do not have a say in the “deal.”

How convenient.

Yet they are the ones always talking about “greed”!

This whole approach that they push seems a huge grab from a few to give to the many.

Quite a scheme they got, there.

None of This Is New

Nothing I have written here should strike anyone as in any way novel — except perhaps for a few quips and phrasings. After all, this is a very old debate. As soon as “socialism” became a word on the lips of reformers and revolutionaries, these debates became ubiquitous.

When I was young, the people who pushed the B.S. line were often called “liberals,” but with the rise of Reaganite conservatism, the l-word because a term of opprobrium. The word “progressive” became more popular. When I was younger, I read The Progressive magazine. I have been following this sort of thing all my adult life. But not close enough, apparently, for that magazine still exists. I have not seen it in years.

IMG_4680Indeed, I dropped the rag about the time I helped found Liberty magazine, which was published from Port Townsend until the death of its publisher in 2005. The third issue of Liberty appeared about 30 years ago exactly; the first had hit the mails in July (I think it was) of 1987. Liberty was a libertarian zine, and I had considered myself some sort of a libertarian for less than a decade at the time of its founding. But I had read a great deal of literature in both the individualist and collectivist movements. I had made an informed choice.

Perhaps I was destined to become a libertarian, for my individualism was built into the warp and woof of my psyche. Thinking in terms of groups seemed nuts to me. Indeed, I had interpreted my anti-racism and anti-sexism so big in the decades of my youth as anti-groupthink ethical philosophies. The error of sexism was to judge a person primarily in sex role terms, “by his or her sex” not his or her personhood. What an affront to civility, it seemed to me. And racism? Even less justifiable, for while the differences between men and women, boys and girls, were quite obvious and pronounced on the biological level, and even in psychological terms, the differences among the races were not that large, and from one person to another in any racial category could easily stretch the whole of human diversity.

And yet now the B.S. folks talk relentlessly of groups, of group identity, of one’s personal identity in terms of groups, and of victim groups and groups to be victimized (I mean, “oppressor” groups to be brought down and made “to pay”). Collectivism is alive and well. I have no sympathy for it any more. The whole “thinking in group terms” groupthink strikes me as pure madness.

And why “madness”? Why not use a nicer term? Well, madness is a word we usually use to describe the passionate people who are in some important way unhinged from reality.

The reality I see is that, right now, there are two federal governments: the constitutional government funded by income taxes, corporate taxes, other taxes, tariffs and “fees”; and the extra-constitutional government (consisting of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, mainly) funded by FICA and SECA and similar taxes. Interestingly, the unconstitutional government (which I designate as unconstitutional simply because, uh, none of its functions are listed in the Constitution) is basically run on a rough parity, mimic-insurance-contracts “public utility” basis, and what one gets out of the system does indeed depend on what one puts into it. The constitutional part is paid for mostly by the wealthy.

The nature of this tax situation is indeed quite amazing. The B.S.ers often yammer about “making the rich pay their fair share,” but the constitutional government is paid for almost entirely by the rich. This video explains this pretty well:

So when Bernie writes me to warn that current moves by the Republicans are designed to benefit the rich at the expense of “working families,” I am a bit skeptical:

And I’m going on the road again because we have to defeat this bill, too — a tax bill that will slash taxes for the rich, raise taxes on working families, and lay the groundwork for a massive attack on the most vulnerable people in our country.

This bill is an immoral disaster. If it passes, 13 million fewer Americans will be insured, and health care premiums will surge for tens of millions more. Further, the Republican budget cuts Medicaid by $1 trillion over 10 years and Medicare by over $400 billion. In order to give huge tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, the Republican budget also makes enormous cuts to education, nutrition, affordable housing, and transportation — and will crush college students and college graduates struggling with debt.

In short: This budget will do incalculable harm to tens of millions of working families, women, kids, the sick, the elderly, and the poor. We have to fight this budget and stop it. That’s why I’m hitting the road with MoveOn, and why I’m asking you to support the work that we’re doing.

Then he asks for $3.

Thanks, but no thanks. I will spend $3 on a Coke. Or two. Or three.

Bernie makes no mention of how “rickety” is the current unconstitutional government sector, the Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid division. That is where most of his complaints about cuts are. But if it be unstable, financially unsound, we (if there is a “we” at all here . . . I know I have no power of choice in the matter) have basically two things to do: cut services and/or raise revenues. A normal person would probably suggest doing both, though one could see problems associated with doing either. The consequences of doing nothing? Almost unthinkable, for most people.

The fact that Bernie makes no mention of the problem, just focuses, instead, on the problem he sees with one solution, strikes me as irresponsible. If you want to know why there is such a strong divide, these day, look not merely the rhetoric on both sides, but on what they do not say. Bernie is mum about the secular disorder of the federal government, in which he serves as a prominent leader.

And his solution — make the rich pay more, not less — is even less responsible. He wishes to bail out the unconstitutional system that he himself helped strain (by voting for more benefits in the past) from the constitutional half of government, which already is paid for mainly by the very people he wants to soak further in his bailout.

I just shake my head.

I realize, this rambling blog entry is of little value. I am not really writing to convince anyone of any particular thing. Do I have any hope of convincing the progressives? No. They live in their reality, and its irreality they hope to impose on the rest of us. Meanwhile, we watch the Republicans speak only in half truths, and attempt only half-responsible reforms. I am just venting between jobs. (I have a video project to get to.)

I have never been less hopeful about the political future of the United States than I am right now. And I ascribe most of this to the unwillingness of partisans to deal with reality. Two sides and the middle are caught in a game where not seeing the whole is the most obvious feature.

It looks like the worst sort of game: not win-win; not win-lose; but lose-lose.

twv

 



* The willingness of people to become convinced of governments’ ability to manage the planetary climate while our federal government cannot even balance a budget is so astounding to me that I am, right now, at a loss for words. On that goofy subject.

† One of my readers made an astounding caveat to an earlier expression of mine about the marginal productivity theory of wages, which depended upon what seemed to me like a bizarre misreading of equilibrium theory, and a complete elision of knowledge problems —  but I confess, many of these are beyond my ken.)

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a question asked on Quora; my answer:

The level of incredulity about political and bureaucratic governance would almost certainly be astoundingly high. Mockery of those in government, and their major supporters, would make Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Samantha Bee blanch — and these denunciation “comedians” would act in earnest as what they truly are, conservatives in temper if not institutional preference.

Also, before a majority were reached, a tax revolt would likely usher in a crisis on a constitutional level. The federal government would be apt to undergo spasms of an amazing nature, something like we have not witnessed in our lifetimes.

And yet, the power of a squeaky wheel, an intransigent minority, is worth remembering.

If the libertarian majority remains culturally laid back and tolerant of the boorishness and rudeness and sheer crazed monomania of the statist minority, that seemingly likely revolt might not happen.

Right now, for example, less than a quarter of the population is progressive, and yet progressive institutions dominate. Indeed, they are seemingly impregnable. Even political conservatives, who ostensibly oppose progressives, contemplate thoroughgoing attacks upon progressive institutions only in the realm of wish and fantasy: they accomplish next to nothing. This makes their limited-government values mere velleities. Indeed, it seems clear to me: all conservatives really want is conscientious and responsible maintenance of society’s basic institutions, which just happen to be FDR/LBJ progressive in nature. Note that conservatives cannot now manage to muster the energy and intelligence to repeal the recently enacted Obama/Pelosi medical regulatory/subsidy institutions.

And yet the left freaks out over this — progressives have even called the Tea Party “anarchists.” The egregious Elizabeth Warren is the ninny, here, and a more absurd judgment could hardly be imagined. Leftists are so far out on whatever limb they have crawled onto that they see responsible maintenance of basic institutions as a threat to those institutions. It’s quite astounding.

But even more importantly, our conversation is still being driven by the cultural left, obsessed with issues regarding racism, sexism, and the like. Indeed, much of the current angst is the result of the popular revolt against “political correctness,” which most Americans think has gone way too far down the road to groupthink bullying.

So, who knows what would happen? It depends upon what form the ideas and proclivities a libertarian majority would take, and how they would relate to other habits of thought and action. If libertarians remain as quelled and squeamish as conservatives have been, and allow themselves to be serially betrayed by their spokespeople and representatives, as social conservatives have, then, well, progressives will continue to dominate.

There is no automatic unfolding of policy and constitutional order from an ideology. There is always that niggly matter of the difference between fantasy and reality.

I just hope, whatever libertarian ideas come to dominate, and whatever mores the new libertarian majority possesses, those future libertarians will not allow themselves to become as delusional as social conservatives and intersectional progressives have become.

twv

Social Justice Lunatics

If ever we wondered how on earth a wide, once-learned culture could ever go whole hog for repression, tyranny, rage, murder, etc., we no longer need to. Just look at the faces of the young “activists” on college campuses. Cultism incarnate.

Smug self-righteousness in mob form.

These youngsters are worse than the traditionalists who scorned the hippies. The people who made me a “radical” when I was young. As if Hegel’s dialectic really were a thing, left has become right and right left; the cultural “radicals” (I hate to imply we take the same noösphere space) now exhibit the censorious traits of the cultural trads.

Yes, the new cultic leftism is really a form of conservatism (defending the institutionalized policies of the left, and then pushing for tyrannical advance of every last marginal gain through social controls like bullying, threats, mass boycott, shaming, and all the rest) combined with a self-image of radical chic “coolness.”

This is the age of the steely-eyed radical . . . with power.

One good thing about the Trump phenomenon is that these dangerous totalitarians have been dealt a firm kick in the pants.

They deserve many more.

twv

Nope Trump

 

 

Reading today’s press and watching the news and news talk shows is very much like “going to church”: there is never any doubt about how to feel about anything said, for what we hear is never just the facts, the stories. Always there is a moral or attitude attached. The preachers take special pains always to communicate this clearly, for otherwise the flock shall stray.

img_5132What I’m saying is, the press’s function is almost identical to the Church’s in days of yore, and it is inhabited largely by the same kind of people, though surely not identical in substantive moral content.

Today’s Church worships the American State as understood by the two major denominations: the Center-Left — which has been compromised by having fallen under full sway of the ambitious and cultic Progressive Left — and the rebellious Protestant sects — I mean, the Center-Right — with Fox being the still-dominant force.

To understand this era’s politico-culture war think in terms of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, a bloody and inglorious affair, despite so much earnestness all around.

fingerpointingIt makes me yearn for the wall of separation between news and state. Though we do not have an Established News, we do very much have Establishment News, with newspeople circulating to and from the State in regular four-year cycles.

And that Establishment really, really hates the rising Dissenting Sects, who have taken Fox’s lukewarm Protestantism to Anabaptist extremes.

Historically, the Reformation led to the Enlightenment and modernity as we know it. One would hope that something of that nature is building up again, and that out of the current crisis of legitimacy and sectarian strife a new order will emerge.

twv
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A. Sean Hannity is almost impossible for me to watch. His form of ideological “entertainment” is not only not my cup of tea, I often find it despicable. He seems to be iffy on principles — inconstant, anyway — and his support for Donald Trump was hard to take.

B. Media Matters lied and completely mischaracterized Hannity’s handling of the Roy Moore allegations. And pressured a coffee maker company to pull its ads from his show.

C. Media Matters — why would you want me to sympathize with Sean Hannity?

D. How is Media Matters not worse than what they say about Hannity?

E. If you approved of Media Matters’ action regarding Hannity and still do after you learn (you could listen to the interview, yourself, if you cared) that Media Matters was engaging in outrageous deception, how are you not worthy of boycott, too?

F. Do you see where this partisan bubble enforcement is a bad idea? Now? Or do you think complete culture war is a great thing, and should be embrace?

G. Just how far would you be willing to go?

H. A lot of Sean Hannity’s fans and defenders (I’m now the latter if still not the former) own guns.

I. You. It comes down to your standards. What will it be?

So, comedian Louis C.K. has been caught in the commotion, this . . . warlock hunt. He has admitted to making inappropriate sexual . . . displays.

“These stories are true,” C.K. says in a statement sent by his rep Lewis Kay. “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d–k without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your d–k isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

My take?

Woman flashes tits at a man: cheers all around; jubilation.

Man whips out his dick: the sky falls down; night terrors.

Lesson?

IMG_2027There is no equality between men and women. We cannot even have a rough parity. The double standard still exists and it always will — at least until we have morphed away from sex, after we have deeply embraced some cyborgian future. (Mere “gender” non-conformity will not do.)

Yes. Feminism is dead, even as feminists whoop up shouts of triumph.

That being said, I am amazed that an apparently intelligent man would think springing out the pud early on in a relationship, or in a carelessly prepared context, is a good thing, or a sexy thing.

“Men are such dicks.”

Well, I guess so.

But to what extent have men like Louis C.K. been misled by feminism itself? We are told that “everybody’s equal.” And so men not unreasonably extrapolate from their fantasies to their behavior: “Hey, it would be great if Tig Natarro flashed her tits at me! So, why not show her my dick?”

IMG_2031The Golden Rule in action? Do as would be done by.

But the Golden Rule is hardly a rule at all, as I have argued before. The Silver Rule is a bit better: Don’t do as you would dislike being done to.

And here we have to remember the inequality. For people are not equal. And it is not Tig (or some other nominally attractive woman or better) who should serve as your paradigm case: better would be some woman you find disgusting, some fat, ugly, unpleasant person. Or your mother (on the other end of the spectrum, I hope). Someone you don’t want to fuck.

True reciprocity is not always easy to figure, and one’s first conjecture about a relationship may deeply misconstrue the actual nature of the relationship.

Which is one reason that sticking close to traditional habits of decorum continues to be such a good idea: you do not know how to calculate all the features of human interaction; you lack the specific knowledge of context-from-another’s point of view, or of their desires and standards. (It is also the reason that act-utilitarianism makes so much less sense than rule-utilitarianism.)

But we do not live in a traditional context. So that confuses us. Men have been told for such a long time that “we should treat men and women as the same” that no wonder they galumph into one predicament after another.

Now, Louis C.K. admits that “asking permission” to engage in sexual display puts women into a “predicament.” True. But the whole modern project of sexual equality puts men into a predicament. Many men eagerly take up the explicit terms of the movement, not realizing that it was never about those explicit terms. “Equality” is a term of art at best. The art? Advancing the status of women in society. Men are not being advanced much at all. Men are supposed to “just adapt.” Make way.

IMG_2080Hardly fair. But fairness has little to do with all this, either.

But look, some of this modern predicament is merely comeuppance. Much of feminism is male fantasy. And men are discovering that they have not gained what they thought feminism would provide them: women who behave more like men. Which is something so many men want. They yearn for women to behave in ways they understand. They want the sexual interplay to be done The Male Way. They want fun. They want freedom. They want . . . minimal responsibility.

You cannot have it, men. You will always be held responsible. Which is why when feminists talk equality, you must knowingly nod your head, but, privately, or in the company of other men, remind yourselves: there is no real equality; women are not men, or even very much like them in some important ways; feminists are speaking fiction and lies; everything has costs; the feminist pretense is not utopian but dystopian.

It is up to us. For it is quite obvious that ambitious women have been so misled by feminism that they, too, haven’t a clue. One moment they demand to be treated as equals, the next? Shrieking, shrinking damsels in distress.

And now there is the mob, vindictive.

Well, it is not me being attacked, so, well, sparse sympathy from me. Men: grow up. Do what you have been telling the rest of us to do. But think. Do not follow. Lead.

And feminism? It is poison, best taken in very small doses.

twv

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N.B. Mariah Carey’s problems may seem to be a reverse of the usual order. And perhaps they are. But I confess: I find the lawsuit to be ridiculous, and have little sympathy for the bodyguard suing her. Perhaps more discussion is needed. Though frankly, as an employee you have to define what you will not do, or put up with. The proper response is probably, “You realize that you have broken the rules here, right, ma’am? More of this and I walk out the door — and you realize that breach of contract negotiations will be made public.”

Also note: children are not equal to adult men (or women), either. Which is why there are laws such as “statutory rape” and legal principles to protect the young. The case of Anthony Edwards shows how molestation can occur for years — and here again (and we are getting a lot of these, eh, Kevin Spacey?) the attitude must be to protect the vulnerable. Which is why relationships that might be, on a stretch, acceptable or dismissible for adult men perhaps even in hierarchical relations is not so when children or youths are involved with older people, adults.

Cabell, The High Place illustration, Pape

The literature of contracts with the Devil — “selling one’s soul”; making a “Faustian bargain” — is vast. The Wikipedia article on the subject does not mention, however, a seed element to this literature: dealings with Faërie. The fey folk also made dangerous dealings with common folk, old legends relate, and their stories are many if not varied.

This came to mind last night as I watched one of the later episodes of the first season of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, a terrific fantasy series to be found on Netflix. Mr. Strange inadvertently makes a deal — is tricked into a binding contract — with a powerful fairy, the Gentleman, played magnificently by Marc Warren. And he loses his wife in the bargain.

In many of these stories, one is often bound to a contract in terms very much like duress or with minimal knowledge, often of the transaction itself.

It strikes me that this oeuvre presents a major theme in not only literature but also anthropology and history. The theme resonates because of the fear of contract itself, the fear of contractual relations as distinct from familiar and tribal relations.

Now, the power of contract is in its stickiness. We are bound to the contracts we make not merely by convention, but by our very own performances. Because we consent, we have little standing to object to the enforcement of a contract’s term, no matter how opprobrious it may come to seem.

And long-term contracts — terms with a time element, in which events can go very wrong and thus be very risky — are especially dangerous. So it is no wonder that the literature of dealings with dread powers has flourished.

But isn’t it more than that? This is my bleg: Is there literary or other criticism that treats these stories as expressions of a general fear of market order, of the open society itself?

I am not aware of this kind of analysis.

Yet it makes sense. Traditional society is not dominated by exchange contracts. Or insurance contracts. Family, clan, tribe, and village all depend on looser arrangements of gift exchange, straightforward coöperation, and command hierarchies . . . with honor codes as a means of social control. These come naturally to our species. As Herbert Spencer and F. A. Hayek both argued, our primeval evolution best adapted us to these older forms of social coördination.

But we seem to be alone in the animal kingdom in making bargains of a more cognitively complicated sort, trades of differing items and services. Sure, monkeys groom one another — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But our reciprocal services can get elaborate and conceptually more difficult the more we opt for explicit trades — I scratch your back, you give me firewood.

And these sorts of trades can quickly take on a life of their own. They unsettle normal patterned social behavior. They seem “anti-social” from the perspective of straightforward coöperation, where we all pull together to achieve a common goal. In exchange, we work separately-but-discretely-together to obtain distinct, even divergent goals.

It is no wonder that trading, like thieving and combat, was mostly reserved for dealing with others, outside of the in-group. Trades along a time dimension — especially loans with interest — are often prohibited for in-groups: Jews, Christians and Muslims have all had to deal with these ancient prohibitions. And, on the North American continent prior to the arrival of European settlers and conquistadors, trade was mainly a lively inter-tribal affair, one of four characteristic inter-tribal dealings, the others being combat, exogamy, and gambling. Indeed, when you realize how closely associated these activities are associated, in our minds, with each other and with activities to folks one often has reasons to distrust, the common catallactophobia makes perfect sense.

Making the dealings with Darker Powers an elegant way to express and handle such fears.

As well as warn a person to Be Careful when making deals.

If you have any knowledge of the critical literature on these kinds of stories as they relate to the fear of a society of contract, please advise.

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N.B. The illustration at top is by Frank C. Papé, for James Branch Cabell’s classic tale of dangerous dealings, The High Place (1923; subtitled A Comedy of Disenchantment and published in 1928 in the definitive Storisende edition).

An 1837 lithograph published in New York by H.R. Robinson.

The self-destruction of the Democratic Party establishment is now even more risible than the Republicans’ second 40-year stint in the wilderness. Which must be manna from heaven for conservatives, who have surely grown weary of all the old jokes at their expense. But, salvation! Just as they are losing control over the party they’ve been associated with for years — lost to a nationalist opportunist with erratic tendencies — the centrists and faux-liberals in the Democratic Party have lost control of their old stronghold — which provided such a great stranglehold on our Land of Milk and Honey.

What do I mean? Ask Donna Brazille.

Or ask Ben Shapiro . . . about Donna Brazille:

It appears, as Ben Shapiro ably relates, that the Bernie-ites are taking over the Democracy. “Bernie Sanders lost the battle but won the war,” he says. Obama and Clinton have destroyed the old, corrupt insider base of the Democratic Party, leaving the party’s establishment open for a half-hostile takeover by the socialists manqué.

elephant-and-ass-upsidedownThis is good for the conservatives in one sense: to have your opposition confess openly to socialism is not exactly a winning strategy in America, even among the under-educated Millennials.

Socialism is a huge Kick Me sign that the Democracy has placed on its ass, er, mascot.

Of course, with nationalism resurgent on “the right,” things could go haywire pretty fast.

America: bipartisan lunacy for a bitter tomorrow!

Which brings me to the Mencken quote of the day:

Mirth is necessary to wisdom, to comfort, above all to happiness. Well, here is the land of mirth, as Germany is the land of metaphysics and France is the land of fornication. Here the buffoonery never stops. What could be more delightful than the endless struggle of the Puritan to make the joy of the minority unlawful and impossible? The effort is itself a greater joy to one standing on the side-lines than any or all of the carnal joys it combats. Always, when I contemplate an uplifter at his hopeless business, I recall a scene in an old-time burlesque show, witnessed for hire in my days as a dramatic critic. A chorus girl executed a fall upon the stage, and Rudolph Krausemeyer, the Swiss comedian, rushed to her aid. As he stooped painfully to succor her, Irving Rabinovitz, the Zionist comedian, fetched him a fearful clout across the cofferdam with a slap-stick. So the uplifter, the soul-saver, the Americanizer, striving to make the Republic fit for Y.M.C.A. secretaries. He is the eternal American, ever moved by the best of intentions, ever running à la Krausemeyer to the rescue of virtue, and ever getting his pantaloons fanned by the Devil. I am naturally sinful, and such spectacles caress me. If the slap-stick were a sash-weight, the show would be cruel, and I’d probably complain to the Polizei. As it is, I know that the uplifter is not really hurt, but simply shocked. The blow, in fact, does him good, for it helps get him into Heaven, as exegetes prove from Matthew v, 11: Hereux serez-vous, lorsqu’on vous outragera, qu’on vous persecutera, and so on. As for me, it makes me a more contented man, and hence a better citizen. One man prefers the Republic because it pays better wages than Bulgaria. Another because it has laws to keep him sober and his daughter chaste. Another because the Woolworth Building is higher than the cathedral at Chartres. Another because, living here, he can read the New York Evening Journal. Another because there is a warrant out for him somewhere else. Me, I like it because it amuses me to my taste. I never get tired of the show. It is worth every cent it costs.

The uplifters of our day? The “Social Justice Warriors” of the far left. And their h-l-mencken-e1446612394858latest loopy obsession — indeed, the obsession of much of the center-left as well as further into the outer limits near the sinister pole — is the “Russians hacked our democracy!” inanity. Only a very few in their upper ranks have given any honest thought to the idea that Hillary Clinton was a horrible candidate and that Americans basically voted against her rather than for Trump. Until now, that is, with Brazille giving up Hillary after investing every last bit of her integrity to get the harridan elected.

I’ll leave to others the ins and outs, jots and tittles, of the Russia story. Most of us outside the Beltway just sit back in awe of the strangeness. Suffice it to say, the Facebook-Russia story is such a goofy, over-inflated outrage balloon that, had I any hope for Congress, the Twittersphere, or the commentariat I would be despairing right now.

But I’ve never placed much hope in Congress, the Twittersphere, or the commentariat. So I am just chortling.

twv


Illustration at top, taken from Wikisource: an 1837 lithograph published in New York by H.R. Robinson.

This post first appeared on Wirkman Netizen, September 16, 2008:

The cure for statism is not more statism. And yet that seems to be the general approach of mainstream government policy.

What drives current government economic policy? Fear. Fear that letting a big institution fail would spiral everything out of control, leading, ineluctably, to chaos.

The problem with this fear-based policy is that it seems to so insulate the market-directed institutions from their normal feedback loops that such policy actually exacerbates the situation, only in a longer cycle. To prevent a near-term disaster, government bolsters up a particular company. Then, perceiving that responsibility has been undermined in the feedback system, market actors behave less responsibly, leading, down the road, to a bigger crisis than would otherwise have occurred.

I am thinking about the automobile industry and the mortgage industry, right now. Other industries provide evidence for this general perspective.

But always you have politicians intervening in the feedback systems, weakening those systems and making matters, in the long run, worse. The Rx in each case seems like only a slightly bigger dose than has gone on before, but its repercussions spread wider with each administration of the “cure.” The system becomes parasitic itself, dependent upon such cures being given at increasing doses and with increasing frequency.

It is not wise medicine. It is fear-based medicine. If people could just get over the fact that companies die just as individuals do, we would not have such nonsense. Indeed, the ruling fear of the day is fear of business death. The funny thing about this fear is that it is so amazingly inegalitarian. Some companies (big companies) are more important than others. Tens of thousands of small businesses die per year. But have one large company go, and politicians of both parties vie to save it, prop it up.

The belief that some companies are more important than others is a classic “pro-business” economic policy model. It is similar to the belief that some taxpayers are more important than others. (Democrats appear to appear to believe the broad wash of consumers are most important for “the economy”; Republicans believe that richer consumers, who invest, are more important.) What is interesting about the theory of company size importance is how bipartisan this theory is.

You can see the reasons for believing the theory. A big company goes down, and a whole bunch of people become unemployed. But you raise the minimum wage, and unemployment goes “unexpectedly” up. You raise taxes on businesses, and unemployment goes up. You increase regulation, and unemployment can go up, too. In all these other cases, though, the employers and employments are more widespread than when one single large business goes down. So, it is a matter of parallax. If you only notice the one kind of bad effect, but not the more common and widespread others, you consistently skew the system.

This sort of policy also increases the advantages that big companies have over small ones. In a freer market, smaller companies often outcompete big companies. But when you start subsidizing big companies when they fail, you basically foster a plutocratic system, since it is often the case that it is the big, wealthier companies who can afford to rent politicians at a rate that crowds out the input of smaller companies. You end up (not surprisingly) with higher concentrations of wealth.

This is rather like what Karl Marx predicted, only not free-market insolvencies in the business cycle spurring the wealth gap, but government doing so.

It is, of course, great for those people who ensconce themselves within the ranks of the big companies. Thus it is and was that Ivy Leaguers and the like keep their positions in society. The Old Boys keep their network, and keep their nodes operating, while, in the freer part of the market, the unsubsidized part, nodes pop in and out of prominence daily.

The policy of preferring big companies over small ones — of giving special treatment to the large in effect at the expense of the small — is an ancient way of conducting the state. It is not new. It is not sophisticated. It is based on systematic illusion and it is at one with how ancient empires were run, how mercantilist kingdoms were run.

It was common practice when leechcraft and bloodletting were all the rage.

It is laissez-faire that is new and sophisticated.

It is time for the advocates of laissez-faire to chuckle and rib the simpletons and their vain policies of favoritism. There is no reason for advocates of dirigisme  to get away with any sort of intellectual high ground, or any cultural pre-eminence. They should be ridiculed in a similar manner that they have ridiculed laissez-faire, for over a century. And for every jibe, offer a bit of reason to show why the high ground is where it is, in freedom’s quarter.

Statecraft is leechcraft not merely for its game of draining the blood of the market order. Statecraft is leechcraft in that it is based on out-moded notions of what makes society healthy. Freedom makes it healthy. Statism cripples it, the better to feed the insatiable demands of partisans of the state.

twv

http://wirkman.net/wordpress/?p=415

Orang malu

N.B. A few alterations of the above post have been made in this re-posting, to fix typos and remove some infelicities of style. No new thoughts have been introduced.

This is just another hastily-made rehash of my basic views of government and society, something I still do on a fairly regular basis; I repost it here mostly because I like the title. And that one of the themes, of long-cycle instability, just does not get enough play in policy discussion. (Though now that Western civilization approaches crisis, this sort of thing is increasing, no?)