Archives for category: Ideological currents

There must be no bloodshed, no violence unless it is defensive, no coercion! We must do it our way and our way alone! To do otherwise is to betray centuries of hardship and struggle.

Above all else Kyfho. Forget Kyfho in your pursuit of victory over the enemy, and you will become the enemy . . . worse than the enemy because he doesn’t know he is capable of anything better.

― F. Paul Wilson, An Enemy of the State


There is absolutely no link between religion X and violence. But, if you attempt to make such a claim, you’ll make innumerable otherwise peaceful adherents of X very violent. So say that X is peaceful or else face the violent (I mean peaceful) consequences.

—Professor Gad Saad, Facebook, December 11, 2017


But this can’t be happening! [Swedish economist] Johan Norberg pooh-poohed the situation last year. We were silly for believing the stories of no-go zones, increased violence and rape.

But now it’s bombings.

Hint to economists: We worry about terrorism not because it is always statistically a danger, but because the supply of terrorists and terrorist violence is elastic, and the demand isn’t in our direct control.

It’s about scale. Terrorism can scale upwards. Bathtub deaths tend not to so scale. And even opiate deaths do not threaten the legal infrastructure. Terrorism is designed to destabilize. (It often does the opposite of course; ask anarchists, if they have any reflective capacity at all.)

TWV, Facebook, November 4, 2017


Violence and Irrationality in Politics: Paretian Sociology

Alberto Mingardi EXCERPT: [Vilfredo Pareto] considered World War I a consequence of demagogic plutocracy, with profiteers benefiting from military spending and part of the working class cheering entry into the war, hoping for a better life afterward.

The very triumph of demagogic plutocracy foreshadowed a crisis of this kind of regime. Plutocracy feeding demagogy entails a dangerous equilibrium: it means feeding ever-bigger demands for new benefits and special privileges. For Pareto, when a ruling class weakens, it becomes at the same time less efficacious in defending its own power but also more greedy: “on the one hand its yoke gets heavier, on the other hand it has less strength to keep [the yoke on society].”

Giandomenica Becchio EXCERPT: [A] non-logical theory based on irrational feelings and emotions can be very persuasive and useful to generate forms of social integration which seem to work in the short run, yet they are dangerous in the long run because they decrease economic development and erode individual liberty. Both socialism and fascism are good examples of this mechanism which combines rationality and irrationality: in fact, Pareto interpreted political theories as ex-post ways of rationalization and camouflage. . . .

Pareto, who rejected the theory of class struggle, adopted the theory of spoliation to explain the emergence of any governing group that seizes power either in legal or illegal ways. His theory of elites is the broader application of this mechanism to politics. Elites can vary in their compositions, but they are all oligarchic.

Richard E. Wagner EXCERPT: Political environments are different from market environments. People do not bear the value consequences of their political choices. Choosing between candidates is nothing like choosing between products or inputs. One might express a preference for one candidate over the other, but that expression does not yield the product or the input that might have been associated with that candidate. This situation does not mean that action is irrational. It means only that the rationality of action manifests differently in political environments. There can still be reasons for selecting one candidate over the other, only it has nothing to do with products or inputs. It has to do with images and the penumbra of associations those images carry in their wake.

In this respect, [Vilfredo] Pareto, and also his compatriot Gaetano Mosca, treated political competition as a process by which candidates sought to articulate ideological images that resonated more strongly with voters than the images set forth by other candidates. The result of this competitive process was the possibility of inferior outcomes dominating superior outcomes. Along these lines, Jürgen Backhaus (1978) explained how importing some implications of Pareto’s thought into public choice theory could lead to a sharper understanding of how acceptable political programs would have been rejected under market arrangements, with Patrick and Wagner (2015) amplifying Pareto’s scheme of analysis.

via Williamson M. Evers on Facebook, November 13, 2018


Fox news-opinion anchor Tucker Carlson, regarding a recent incident involving his children at a restaurant:

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A few days ago, Kat Timpf, a quick-witted, quirky and extremely attractive 30-year-old woman who provides a libertarian perspective on the Fox News Network, reported on Twitter that she had been run out of an establishment in New York by a screaming drunk woman.

At some point speech becomes abuse, because it is not just speech. It becomes assault.

I am not sure where that line is, but since I hold to a Stand Your Ground view of self-defense when it comes to deadly weaponry, I am not sure I can condemn Tucker’s son in throwing a drink at the man abusing his sister, calling her the most vile of names. Normally, I would say that owners and managers of eateries and taverns and lounges and the like should try to maintain control at their establishments, preventing some patrons from verbally abusing others, and committing a variety of minatory “speech acts.” If they do not, they implicitly side with the abusers. And, of course, many of the recent instances of harassment of Trump Administration figures have been organized by the establishments’ owners. And at least one has suffered consequences in drop-off in patronage.

A full-blown culture war, with Americans choosing sides and reviling each other in public, and engaging in aggressive speech and action, and in mutual ugliness, is still on the rise. One would have hoped that Democrats taking back the House of Reprentatives last week would have assuaged their mad powerlust that spurs much of this violence. They believe they are entitled to rule, and just cannot countenance those whom they disagree with from having power, even if by democratic processes, within a constitutional framework.

Every political ideology is about force and violence, for every ideology is about directing state power (or limiting it) in defense and offense for social outcomes. So, it is no wonder that those who demand more extensive state action would tend to be more violent. They want more violence.

But of course they want more violence by the State. Their frustration leads them to take action themselves, though.

Conservatives and those “on the right” also can be violent, and have been. But because they want to limit state action in principle — to at least some degree (libertarianism being one of several popular fantasies in conservatives circles) — and because they are, by nature, more conscientious than those “on the left,” they tend to be a bit less violent.

Of course, the besetting sin of the right is rage, and one of their characteristic crimes is going overboard in retaliation against perceived threats. “There is no kill like overkill” could be a slogan of the right in general.

I do not recall seeing mobs of right-wingers rioting after Barack Obama’s election and re-election. But after Trump’s election two years ago, we have witnessed a constant stream of low-level rioting and public abuse, almost to the point of insurrection, from the left. But this is in no way new. The left loves protest marches, which have often instigated rioting on the margins — and sometimes from the center — of the protest ranks. While the Tea Party protests were almost uniformly peaceful, the later left-wing variant of this sort of protest, the “Occupy” protests and sieges, were filled with violence. And the general difference between left and right protest marches is that the right-wing ones almost always have permits, and the left-wing ones rarely do. And yet the police tend to give more leeway to the leftists bent on violence than they do the right-wingers, who tend to engage in violence only in self-defense — when “antifa” and BAMN and other terrorists engage in counter-protests, complete with thrown bottles and swung bike-locks in socks.

The post-Kavanaugh protests at the Supreme Court building, with mobs beating on the doors, and the recent mob at Tucker Carlson’s doorstep, where the beating on the doors actually harmed the doors (I guess the Carlsons did not invest in a castle-apt door), is all the more indication of the inherent violence of the left.

And yet they pretend to be the peaceful ones.

It is part of the left’s strategy, has been since the dawn of socialist agitation, perhaps since the French Revolution: lead with a fantasy of peace, but demand maximum government action, which is inherently terroristic. And the means dreamt of in their mad philosophies being violent, become the means they use in their agitation.

It has always been thus. Which is why I hate the left with a bit more passion than the right. The right leaves social room for individuals and groups as countervailing powers to the State. The left puts everything in the State. And, as part of their agitation, everything in their groups: class struggle; marginalized group rebellion; mob action.

I also support violence: I believe in self-defense. And if a mob is heading towards me, and I cannot easily escape, I reserve the right to go to total war upon the aggressors.

Things do not look pretty. Especially if the economy takes a nose-dive and the ideological character of progress becomes murkier on the right and clearer on the left.

Meanwhile, I sympathize with Tucker Carlson. Even if his politics, these days, veers off into the irrational.


Hey, socialists, if you don’t want me to think of you as violent, maybe you should ditch your ceremonial stance of fist raised in the air.

It looks as threatening as tiki torches, to me. The latter are goofy and convivial as well as threatening in some contexts. But a fist in the air has always been a sign of defiance, at least in our time.

So, yeah: I think of you as wannaBmurderous thugs. Stop throwing rocks and bottles and firecrackers at people you disagree with, and stop chanting with those raised fists, and get back to me.

—TWV, August 4, 2018


re Democrats’ objection to the president’s language regarding illegal-alien gang members:

Most people, of all colors and even parties, are smart enough to know that denigrating cruel, tribalistic murderers is not a sign of denying the human “the spark of divinity,” as doddering Nancy Pelosi put it. It is merely an acknowledgement that people, in their actions, can forsake that moral fiction of “the spark of divinity” for an equally realistic “spark of deviltry.” And yes, “animality” is an adequate figure of speech to cover this. Calling cruel, violent murderers “animals” is one way to raise a “hue and cry” against precisely the people the term “hue and cry” was coined: horrific criminals.

—TWV, May 23, 2018


A Revision on the Bill of Rights, Part III

The main problem with the notion of self-defense is it imposes on justice, for everyone has the right for a fair trial. Therefore, using a firearm to defend oneself is not legal because if the attacker is killed, he or she is devoid of his or her rights.

I just skimmed this, since I try to make a point of not reading any more HuffPo nonsense, but I can still ask — is there a reader on the planet who does not see the idiocy here? The author argues that the problem with lethal self-defense is that it robs criminals of a fair trial! Can anyone not recognize that the purpose of the fair trial is to constrain RETALIATION and not DEFENSE?

There is a difference between the two. At the moment of a crime, social questions of innocence or guilt or possible feuding retaliation (with its ratcheting-up of violence) are not in play.

Elementary concepts elude HuffPo writers.

—TWV, Facebook, June 20, 2017


A point I make that is often lost even on my libertarian friends: the classical liberal theory of the State “monopolized” the use of force not evenly in practice but in the limited sense of setting the terms of all violence, of taking to itself a position in conflict similar to a central bank does in relationship to a nation’s banking system, becoming a “lender of last resort” — the State, in liberal theory, is the Defender of Last Resort.

This means that, according to most classical liberal theorists, such as founders of the United States of America, one does not give up the right of self-defense by living under the umbrella of state power, one merely gives up the right of retaliation and forced redress.

That is the theory, anyway.

twv

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It is possible that progressives are now beginning to understand themselves. At least, they are beginning to see how others see them.

Everybody has heard progressives’ opposition to “hate” — and increasingly know progressives mainly for their expressions of hatred.

Everybody’s listened to progressives’ theories of oppression — and increasingly recognize progressives as inveterate oppressors.

Everybody’s witnessed their incessant promotion of inclusion — yet the easiest way to identify progressivse is by their exclusions.

It now dawns on progressives that they are not the rebels they thought they were. They catch themselves repeatedly defending the major institutions of our society, and watch themselves astride Leviathan, holding the reins of cultural power. For decades, the general tenor of their favored mode of politics has been one of cultural domination, of conservation of power.

But that has not been their self-image, has it?

Well, if you are always screaming for the next sliver of advantage, you can pretend to be a screamer and not a silencer.

Really, hasn’t their habitual stance of opposition been merely a pose?

Sure, their oppositional stance made sense during the Vietnam War. They opposed the war. And to the extent they are against capitalism, well, we do live in a capitalist society. But as everybody knows, it’s awkward complaining about capitalism on an iPhone, and railing against big business while your favorite devices are made by the richest corporation in the country.

But mainly, progressives long ago obtained most of the institutions they have demanded. And it was shown during the Obama administration that the bulk of progressives do not give a rat’s whisker for peace, having enthusiastically protested war during the Bush years only to allow their anti-war protests to peter out upon the accession of Barack Hussein Obama, who then proceeded to do all of the killing Bush did, and more. They opposed not war but Republicans. This is so obvious and so tired an observation one almost hates to bring it up.

Less obvious, with their guy in power, progressives’ attitude of entitlement to power progressed rapidly. And thoroughly. Obama admitted to having a knack for killing people overseas; progressives demonstrated their knack for cherishing power and excusing power — when in their hands.

Then came the opposition to progressivism, which perhaps for the first time was directed against them in ways that they could understand: on the slogan, wit and mockery level, combined with unconcealed contempt. Jon Stewart had primed the pump of progressive hubris during the Bush years, with contempt always an undercurrent. Stewart converted nearly every last nice progressive into a snorting elitist without a lick of respect for those whom they disagreed with. Then, when the candidate selected for them by their own mavens and political vicars lost to the person they had mocked the most, they simply and thoroughly “lost their shit.” And when Obama constitutionally relinquished the reins of power to Trump, their immediate reaction was to revert to protest . . . and demand the suppression of speech they did not like.

On grounds of “hate,” of course, because those who opposed them were “oppressing” special victim classes. Oh, and because those baddies were into “exclusion,” and so therefore must be excluded from any institutional access to platforms that they themselves dominated — the universities, namely, and social media platforms.

There is a dialectic here: self-image as rebels on the outs; success in capturing the commanding heights of the culture; increasing domination of the Democratic Party; a series of massively successful revolutions in manners; partisan success at the federal level along with the promotion of one major reform; and then . . . reversion to rebellion and protest as soon as they lose the presidency, coupled with pressure both public and private to suppress freedom of speech.

Oh, but note that “public and private”: the use of public institutions to suppress dissent from their views was done behind close doors (select Democratic senators threatening social media platforms) while the use of mob action was out in the open. The public was private and the private was public.

The reason for the current hysteria and clumsy graspings at power? Panic is the result of a sudden loss of “privilege.” But what has really got to induce hysteria is the difficult thought that they themselves are not what they have pretended to be.

Now, in this progressives are not alone. My line for years, now, has been that progressives misunderstand conservatism and conservatives misunderstand themselves. But the reverse has also been true. Why? Not merely because political ideology requires a great deal of fiction to keep it going. Man cannot live by realism alone, so Realpolitik must always be leavened with myth. Sure. But what is bigger is that the traditional myths that keep the right and the left going have had so little to do with reality. Socialism is the left’s baseline paradise; strict constructionist constitutionalism (in America) and traditional forms of elitism (generally) the right’s. But neither appears to be workable on its own terms, so each side engages in a lot of pretense.

The funny thing about the standard pretenses? Progressives pretend they do not have most of what they really want, while conservatives pretend that they want what they do not have. We live in a society dominated by progressive institutions. Conservatives, by and large, do not want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and handouts to the poor. Oh, sure, they tell themselves they want to change things, but once in power they move almost no tick down the road to republicanism. Meanwhile, Progressives do not have all that much more to achieve, which is why they bring in pathetic stories about “gender” and push preposterous notions like biological sex not mattering. Once you have achieved most of what you want, it becomes all-important to make the most of the last few crumbs. (This is Spencer’s Law.)

A whole lot of evasion has gone on. So it has been amusing to watch reality slip into the shouting matches and riots and Twitterstorms. The right is still a confused mess of anti-leftists, but the left? It is increasingly truer and truer to its own entelechy, its own cultic self.

And thus all the more amazing and impossible not to watch. In meltdown.

Ah, progress!

twv

U.S. and NATO, before 1991: Communism must be fought!
U.S. and NATO, after 1991: Just kidding, it was always about Russia!

American leftists, before 1991: Hey, communism isn’t so bad . . .
American leftists, after 1991*: Yeah, it’s the Russians! That’s the ticket.

Rightwingers, before 1991: Those commies are so godless!
Rightwingers, after 1991: Muh military-industrial complex!

 

twv

 

* Especially after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss.

wiseman

A timeline of me changing my attitude on iconoclasm:

  1. When Russians pulled down Lenin statues, at the end of the Soviet era, I cheered.
  2. When folks in Seattle’s Fremont District put up a Lenin statue, I snickered.
  3. When American forces, during the Conquest of Iraq, hit some major sites of ancient Mesopotamian civilization I was deeply irked.
  4. When ISIS began dismantling, destroying and selling off ancient statues from Assyria as “idols,” I was aghast that any modern would wish to treat as objects for either current reverence or irreverence millennia-old statuary.
  5. When SJWs turned against the statuary of the Civil War dead, I was somewhat disturbed that anyone would treat centuries-old and even decades-old memorials as objects for current reverence or irreverance — other than a reverance for history.

My attitude about recent iconoclasm is not unlike my attitude regarding speech: just as the proper response to speech one does not like is more speech, the proper response to statuary one doesn’t like is not iconoclasm but more statuary. It is easy to destroy, not so easy to put up new monuments — they cost money, at the very least. Destroying statuary amounts to destroying history. And destruction, even the destruction of ugly history, seems more like childishness than maturity. Adults should be able to look at a statue and not get sucked into its implied ideology.

And, surely, the postmoderns are right: any given artifact possesses more than one meaning. We Hyperboreans are authorized to pick and choose the meanings we prefer, surely.

I prefer knowledge to ignorance, truth over myth, and seeing even the most vile of monuments as examples of history.

Yes, I am one of those people fascinated by ancient monuments. I have been since very young. You know: the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, Göbekli Tepe, all that.  My interest has engendered quite a bit of reverence for these monuments’ historicity, not allegiance to their original functionality. I am quite certain I would not support the bulk of the policies of the ancient monument-builders were someone foolish enough to attempt to revive those policies.

I made peace with Lenin being in Seattle. Still . . . perhaps I should fear the statue’s influence on Seattle politics. Could it have given succor to socialism on the current Seattle City Council?

Which brings up an important point: republican governments should probably forgo the making of monuments. They are inherently propagandistic, and though celebrating the heroes of the republic seems a fine thing, it is worth doing this privately, with private funds on private land. If republics have any legitimacy, it is in defending individual rights. Adding propagandistic and eulogizing monuments to the mix of political duties is part of the ancien régime where much effort had to be made to pretend that leaders were gods, or,  at the very least, God’s servants upon the Midgard.

All this notwithstanding, were it up to me, a motto emblazoned upon every legislative house with the words Mundus vult decipi would be more apt than any other maxim, like E pluribus unum or Novus ordo seclorum.

But in politics, truth is not what you lead with.

twv

 

 

The Democratic Party, in America, is in disarray. And is astoundingly weak.

But why?

Because Democrats lost their way, embracing oppositionalism, racism-baiting, and vulgar stupidity in place of the kind of power negotiations that made Tip O’Neill tops in the 1980s.IMG_1239

At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the Democrats had a chance at establishing a lock on the American polity. It is obvious that there are enough progressives to ride herd over the rest of America. But the progressives have one major problem: they are intellectually flaccid, morally depraved and clueless about how the world works.

The Democrats could have succeeded by doing one thing in 2009: embrace the Tea Party. But they couldn’t do that. Not because the Tea Party was saying anything inherently Democratic, but because Progressives need white, Flyover Country rubes to hate. And because they support ever-more government not because it is better for people, but because that trend-line conforms to their religious bigotries, their statism.

So the left waited a year or two and started their own, made-in-hell protest movement:  Occupy X. And that quickly became so repellent (messy, hysterical, raping mobs “protesting” what they were not quite sure) that they lost face with normal people.

Concurrently with this, the Democrats pushed through an unpopular Jerry-rigged health care reform package — which in turn made life really hard for working folks. (Though it was a boon to non-working folks, and, perhaps, the very sick. It basically ruined my finances for two or three years. So I was not a happy camper.) Indeed, Obama backed it all the way, thereby pissing away much of his political capital.

Add to that fiasco Obama’s racial stance, with the Trayvon Martin case and others, where Obama exacerbated tense racial relations. He basically doubled down on the left’s moral preening about racism. To say that middle-class white Americans were not impressed would be to understate it.

What’s worse, Obama’s foreign policy appeared incoherent: the Libya fiasco, the proposed Syria coup, the rise of ISIS, and a continuing Afghanistan war sat on top of Obama’s ramping up of the drone strike policy — all followed by the Russia uranium deal (which people did not understand) and the Iran deal (which people understood even less). There was nothing really good on the foreign policy front. Obama got his Nobel Peace Prize upon election, and apparently decided that this undeserved honor gave him the green light to mess up the rest of his term in office.

Finally, the Democrats offered up for American consideration a self-satirizing socialist and a corrupt insider harpy . . . to take Obama’s place. And insiders in the corrupt party used chicanery to squelch the socialist. They all rallied around A Woman, and the left’s besetting reverse discrimination play became obvious for all to see. Nothing was kept close to the chest. The cards were on the table. The Queen of Spades was up to ride into the presidency and rule America — a second dynasty in our time was set to change everything by changing nothing.

Obama may very well have been elected “because he was black,” but enough Americans got squeamish about voting in a woman for no better reason than her “gender.”

And that was the final straw. Republicans, adrift since the Tea Party fizzled, flitted from one candidate to another, finally selecting the Mule, the weirdest candidate in American history, Donald Trump.

Because Democrats had so disgraced themselves, and because they went hysterical at the very idea of Trump, enough Americans voted for the outsider to send him to Washington, D.C.

Though going in I knew the election would be closer than Democrats were saying, I was nevertheless surprised that The Donald took the Electoral College.

I was pleased, of course, to see an obvious slimeball booted off stage. But I confess, Trump made me a bit nervous.

But there has been little time to worry, for the Democrats could not help themselves: they doubled down. The Resistance went into full protest mode. And the left disgraced Progressivism again. The left’s invective against the new president just wouldn’t let up. And seemed so unhinged.

And as if to prove every point I have ever made against partisanship, leftists accused the new president of nearly everything their side exhibited better:

  • Ignorance
  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Vulgarity
  • Corruption and self-dealing

The list could go on and on. Only with the petty “orange hair” crap could I see something that might not apply better to the Democrats themselves — though pussy-hats mimicked Trump’s hairdo’s color and risible nature. (This must have something to do with one’s head and the collective unconscious.)

Democrats could have played nice with Trump and got him to do all sorts of things they wanted. After all, the man had been a self-described Democrat for much of his adult life, a hobnobber with the Clintons and (I am told, if not necessarily reliably) a guest on the Epstein Rape Plane. But instead of cultivating Trump, their anti-Trump hysteria turned off even many #NeverTrumpers. Huge mistake, that. In the game of coup-stick insult and grudge-holding, Trump is the master. He knows how to use others’ vices for his benefit.

Now Trump has made some sort of deal with North Korea. This is obviously good from a Democratic point of view — accept that it was not a Democrat who did it. So Trump is riding high and the Democrats look like losers.

Still, after all this, the Trump win remains a bit strange, no matter how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton was. Perhaps the election was fixed — not by Russians or Julian Assange, but by time travelers from the future. The devastation of a Hillary Clinton presidency was just so much that they broke protocols and “fixed” history.

Anything being better than Hillary. Even post-human Americans can understand that.

We live in interesting times.

twv

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The day neoliberals embraced neoconservatism.

Sibelius MONUMENT

Early adopters of a meme — which could be a folkway, a technology, an idea or whole ideology — are different from late adopters; indeed, early adopters are psychologically distinct from late adopters across time, even regarding the same idea.

This means that the early adopters of “progressive” statism in the 19th century and early 20th centuries do not look like current proponents of the same ideology. That is, because today’s progressives are late adopters — indeed, holdouts . . . as their ideology, once dominant, begins to receive significant cultural challenge — they are essentially conservative or reactionary in temper.

This explains current ideological conflict, and the outrageous censoriousness of the left. The people who think they are radicals are conservative, and the people who think themselves conservatives may, in psychological fact if not on some historical ideological maps, be the radicals.


From Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2008):

In 1984, the great American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up-to-date Summer Courses for New Music, in Darmstadt, Germany. ‘The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives,’ Feldman said on that occasion. ‘The people who you think are conservative might really be radical.’ And he began to hum the Sibelius Fifth.

Sometimes it seems as though people no longer know what freedom of speech is. The Stanley Fish argumentation in his infamous essay against the very coherence of free speech has not increased clarity or general understanding — though I take it that was indeed what Fish was trying to provide. So I have, in a number of venues, tried to explain free speech.

Recently on Quora I have answered two questions that sketch out what I believe to be the correct formulation of the idea:

I provided the gist of my understanding in the first essay:

Remember, freedom of speech is a term of art. It does not mean “all speech is free,” or that all symbolic acts are legally justifiable. Freedom of speech is merely speech broadly construed (semiosis) that does not aggress against the rights of others to be free. It is a way of defending freedom in the realm of speaking, listening, reading, writing, etc.

We cannot (rightly) possess a right to use speech to conspire against the rights of others.

The most important point to take away is this: a right to free speech does not mean that all speech is free.

Free speech “absolutists” get this wrong all the time, for they are constantly moved by their desire for consistency and absolutism to construe all speech as free. One reason for this is that they wish to use the First Amendment in a lawyerly way, with specific words carrying the most weight. They most strongly wish to avoid philosophy, and instead use the Constitution as a magic document, and the words in it as incantations that solve all problems.

We can see how well that has turned out.

And perhaps my free speech absolutist friends are afraid of Fishian (piscine?) error, of saying that if some speech is free and other speech is not, then the demarcating line must be arbitrary.

This is just simply not the case.

So, what is the line of demarcation between speech that is protected as free and speech that is not?

Freedom itself, in the wider context.

Most importantly, free speech really only makes sense in societies that regard general freedom (liberty) as in some sense primary. Indeed, it also only makes sense — and this can be seen best when paired up with freedom of religion and especially the press and association in the First Amendment listing — in a private property rights regime.

You have the right to speak freely on your property. You have the right to speak freely on property you have hired for the occasion.

It necessarily becomes murky regarding public places. This is especially murky regarding the freedom of the press when the press is a government outfit, like Britain BBC. What is “freedom of the press” regarding a government-run medium? All speech is finite, and its purveying is done under conditions of scarcity. Everyone must ration their resources. Including newspapers and blogs as well as radio and TV networks. So when the BBC makes an editorial decision, “free speech” is problematic: which words and ideas to broadcast is a constant decision-making process, with some telling others what to say and what listeners and viewers may hear. “Freedom of speech” is perilously close to meaningless. (But is not.) Which is why minimizing government is a necessity: it obviates basic principles and places government bodies in the position of serving some people and not others.

And government is, in theory, supposed to serve all people.

Oh, why did I bring up “freedom of the press”? That is not free speech, I can hear someone protest.

But it is. “The press” is just a technological way of distributing speech beyond our local realms, outside of our properties. It is free speech with extended borderlines. But the extension must always conform — as speech alone must conform — to individual rights in society.

It might be useful to remind today’s confused connoisseurs to see these concepts in a continuum:

freedom: of thought — of speech — of press

with the most basic being on the left and going from private to public as we read right.

And the context of property rights integrates everything. Without property rights there is no freedom of any kind. For freedom depends on exit rights and exclusion rights. Which, together, make up free association, which is implied by free speech and press freedom.

And, as I noted on Quora: No one has a right to contract a hitman to murder another. You cannot absolve yourself on “free speech” grounds for that sort of criminal speech. Similarly, you may not command someone you have reason to believe will follow your orders to commit a crime, either. The common law has long held that incitement to riot and similar acts do not constitute protected speech because free.

The idea is simple: freedom as both a fact and a right requires reciprocity. Your speech cannot be defended as free speech if your speech precludes others from their free speech.

It is an old idea, reciprocity. But people still get this wrong.

Maybe it would help to compare freedom of speech and press with freedom of religion. In the United States, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from messing about in religious matters, or favoring one religion over another, ceteris paribus.

But that does not mean everything declared “religious” is protected. It may be the case that you desire to sacrifice infants and virgins to your god Ashtaroth, but let us be realistic: sacrifice of this kind abridges the rights of infants and virgins. “Religion” is no excuse for crime.

This is not so nuanced an idea that it cannot be readily understood. No? But maybe it is difficult. After all, I cannot recall anyone else make this exact formulation.

So this is what I insist upon: all these British-American concepts are terms of art, and the art should not seem to us British and American citizens at all recondite. The art is liberty. As soon as you erode liberty either by erecting a Leviathan state (of any variety) or by engaging in piecemeal criminal activity, these freedoms become incoherent.

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For a long time, my skepticism about catastrophic climate change did not take the form of “it could not happen,” or “human civilization has nothing to do with changes in climate.”

My skepticism was prompted, repeatedly, by activists and scientists who kept expressing certainty where certainty could not be had; were given to ignoring and even conspiring to ignore alternative explanations of the effects witnessed; were seemingly uninterested in the reliability of climate data or in questions concerning the relevance of the data they fixed upon rather than other possible data sets.

In all this, I never doubted that terrestrial climate was changing — though I have been dubious, off an on, about the exact shape of the trend lines and whether the climate was indeed ineluctably warming.

Indeed, when activists and scientists were calling climate trends “global warming” I was calling it “climate change”; when they switched I got suspicious.

But my chief problem has been that those most concerned about climate change refused to engage in anything like a stance of curiosity in public, always eschewing the rhetoric of inquiry for the rhetoric of conclusions, especially when confronting long-term trends. The reason I have always believed that climate is changing is that I know history and have read a lot of the science of prehistory, and climate goes in cycles. What climate change scientists have been caught doing is trying to erase the Medieval Warming Period from the record and certainly from the public conversation, and have treated the Little Ice Age as if it were best not to linger over — for fear, apparently, that people might recognize it for what it was, a LITTLE ICE AGE, a very cold period from which we have been emerging for the last 200 or so years.

I used to make a big deal about those two facts: medieval warming and early modern-period cooling. But now what it impresses me most? The facts relating to the end of the last Ice Age — 11,000 years ago or so — which were catastrophic to the American megafauna and to sea levels and climate patterns worldwide. If someone is concerned about current climate change, I would expect to see a lot more interested in past climate change. The fact that I do not suggests to me that they are not really interested in climate change as a subject, but only in current trends — and even that not much. For only a rather stupid person would try to consider current phenomena without reference to past phenomena.

Every climate change activist I’ve met, and most of the scientists I have watched online and on TV, strike me as specialized and not very wise — at best. Most strike me as fools. Or knaves.

And yet, climate change may very well be an important issue. And there might be some out-of-the-box things we could do to reduce human contributions to great, worldwide alterations longterm weather events and patterns.

But as long as activists and scientists try to prove too much while restricting their focus, they will lose their battle.

This is worse than “crying wolf” when there is one. This is like “crying wolf” when it is a swarm of locusts attacking you, and standing around doing nothing but crying.

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I have friends who are entirely dependent upon the State for their livelihood — and I am not just referring to elderly retirees. Most of these aid recipients have received disability retirement pensions from the Social Security system. These folks are not in any way anomalous in American life. You might be surprised to learn how many disability recipients there are.

More interesting, however, is this fact: no small number of these folks — indeed, most of my friends on state aid — are not die-hard Democrats demanding vast increases in the size and scope of the welfare state.

Not a few are conservatives — one of my closest friends is an authoritarian conservative of the Bill O’Reilly sort — and they rail against lazy people and welfare queens and all the rest.

Yes, they think and vote this way even though they are mostly or entirely dependent upon the taxpayers.

What is going on here? This strikes many people as paradoxical. Many are the Democrats who think that “being a Democrat” is precisely what these state aid recipients should be: grateful, die-hard supporters of the welfare state, devoted to its expansion.

After all, the Democratic Party is the party most enthusiastic about state aid programs like this. And Democrats expect fealty.

What is the matter with Kansas? asked one prominent leftist scrivener. So many Kansans would be so much better off if they voted Democratic and siphoned more special favors off the state — ultimately, off of producing Americans — and “as a matter of right.”

Vladimir Gimpelson and Daniel Treisman, writing in the Washington Post a few years ago, expressed their wonder as to why the very poorest of the poor in our country are so lax in their demands for more redistribution — for programs and handouts that (our querists think) would be “in their interest.” The two professors’ think piece (a summary of an allegedly scholarly study) is entitled “Why don’t democracies take from the rich and give to the poor?” and it presses the question, seeking answers:

Since the time of ancient Greece, political theorists and observers have feared that inequality leads to instability. The greater the income gap, the more the poor have to gain by taking from the rich. In democracies, the thinking goes, inequality should predispose voters to demand government redistribution. In dictatorships, the rich, fearing Robin Hood policies, should resist democratization. And the poor, locked out of power and wealth, should be more tempted by revolution.

Though these arguments have been around since Aristotle, it’s hard to find evidence for them in the real world.

And they cite some recent scholarship on this. Democracies do not turn revolutionary.

Why? Scholars have suggested a variety of things that might derail political unrest. Belief that the economic system is fair, or the hope of being rich someday, or even organized religion might reconcile people to the gap between rich and poor. Or it could be that, with their assets hidden in Swiss bank accounts, the rich these days have just become too hard to expropriate.

But there’s a simpler possibility: Maybe inequality fails to trigger the expected political consequences because most people just don’t know how large the gap is between the wealthy and the rest of us.

“If people don’t know how much they stand to gain and at what cost,“ they conjecture, “why would they take political action?”

Amusingly, that “if” premise is only half-interrogated:

We looked at eight cross-national surveys to see what people believe about inequality. Time and again, large numbers of respondents had no clue what the income distribution looked like in their country, how it had been changing recently, and where in that distribution they personally fit.

The authors conclude that while “Americans still seem relatively relaxed about income inequality,” that may very well “be changing.”

Right. But though the subject of the (in)elasticity of demand for redistribution is interesting for several reasons, my concern is different. Indeed, I wish to begin by interrogating the part of the premise the professors take for granted: do the poor really have anything to gain by increased redistribution of wealth?

As present, after all, the fifth and lowest quintile of market income earners in America do not pay federal income taxes. They are, in fact, net tax consumers. Maybe the poor do not demand more because they have an inkling about how much they get now.

Actually, I suspect that the poorest grossly underestimate the levels of their subsidy. Indeed, I suspect that Professors Gimpelson and Treisman — economist and political scientist, respectively — would underestimate the current levels of subsidy. You see, our professors at the Post are only interested in “income inequality” and how it is perceived, and how these two things stack up against the demand for further redistribution that they have somehow measured. (Maybe I will carefully read their paper, but I haven’t yet, and nothing they write suggests to me that they are onto something very important.)

So, what is the level of subsidy in America? Well, after-tax, after-subsidy incomes show that the lowest income quintile in these United States have an effective (net) negative tax rate of over 200 percent:

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That is, they do not pay taxes, net of the full panoply of state benefits (SNAP, SSI, Section 8 housing, etc.). They get subsidized to the tune of 213 percent.

This is a huge amount of handouts. Sure, too many businesses receive subsidies in America — far too many — and some rich folk make a lot of money off the government, but, evened out, it is the poor who right now do get the lions’ (or pigs’) share of redistributed wealth.

And it is rather astounding that our two professors of egalitarian studies (for that seems to be their real profession, here) nowhere indicate that the poor right now are living off of the rich. Our professors just assume that “the poor” should demand even more.

Now, I could spend many paragraphs explaining the complexities of income statistics, the slippery nature of the “increasing inequality” meme. Because it tracks statisticians’ artifacts — a five-fold division of society by incomes — and the amount of wealth that changes in these quintiles, and not the majority of individuals who do indeed move from one quintile to another and then back again as they navigate the arcs of their lives, all this inequality talk is mostly confusion and error. But I am going to let others handle those niceties. I am going back, doggedly, to that basic query: why don’t the poor demand more?

Yesterday, on the YouTube show Right Angle, Steve Green, Scott Ott, and Bill Whittle offered some possible answers — responding to the Post piece:

  1. “There aren’t enough poor people” in our country to actually vote themselves more — America is richer than you think, says Steve Green. While the professors think the poor overestimate their wealth levels, Green in effect says that the professors overestimate the number of the poor — and in a democracy, numbers count.
  2. And Green offers another reason for lack of egalitarian envy: “even our poor people are kick-ass Americans.”
  3. Bill Whittle suggests that our poor Americans have more than a hunch that, by world standards, they are rich — and yes, our poor are richer than many another country’s poor. It would be ungrateful to demand more. And perhaps (Whittle moves on quickly) our poor have a broader perspective — and more “moral fiber” — than our professors.
  4. Whittle also wanders into the point hinted at above: this talk of income quintiles obscures the truths of income mobility. The American system of merit “allows people to move up and allows people to move down.” Given this reality, it would be stupid for the poor to scuttle their best way out.
  5. Scott Ott notes that, as a general rule, the folks most exercised by income inequality are people far above the gutter. The suggestion here is that maybe talk of income inequality does not really serve the poor. Maybe it serves a class or classes of the better-off. Alas, Ott does not explore this latent idea in his answer, but goes on to speculate that America’s low-income earners just do not buy into the solution as a workable feature to rise out of their ruts.

To explore the notion that Ott skips over too quickly, you might best turn to netizen-philosopher Stefan Molyneux, who talks about “languasites.” In a world of Makers and Takers, these “language parasites” find tricky ways to assuage the fears (and other anxieties and insecurities) of the Makers and thus leech off of them. A grand example can be found in Lucian of Samosata’s Hermotimus, or The Rival Philosophies, in which we encounter an earnest student of Stoicism milked of his wealth and diverted from his youth in the vain pursuit of . . . enlightenment . . . which is translated as “Happiness” in the edition I own, Marcus Aurelius and His Times: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity (1945), Irwin Edman (introduction), p. 172.

This idea of the linguasite (“tongue parasite,” with some loose construction — but surely better than “languasite”) is awfully pregnant, and it might be useful to prod Molyneux further on just who does and does not fall into that category. But the idea is fairly clear. And in the context of the income inequality obsession, what we have here are the second-hand dealers in ideas who F. A. Hayek wrote about. More importantly, we have a class idea, here. Many members of the cognitive elite somehow find themselves ensconced in key positions in the welfare state. Might not they develop a natural class interest in promoting the idea no matter its effects on the poor themselves? College professors, for instance, are consulted by bureaucracies and legislators, and teach many future government functionaries, lobbyists, lawyers and journalists who make their livings transforming society away from the ugliness of consumer-determined merit and into “rationally-determined” social justice.

And here we come to the interesting aspect of the welfare state: the establishment of classes based on state redistribution.

Now, we have to forget Marxian analysis, for his simple oppression/exploitation theory of class was based on a misconstrued of the nature of trade and productivity in a market economy. And we can glide right over the classical liberal class theory (very interesting, and not entirely irrelevant) that Marx pilfered to concoct his grand farrago. We should turn to Joseph Schumpeter, instead.

imageClasses form around perceptions of success, wrote the great economist in an under-appreciated study. “What makes a subgroup of society,” I wrote in the Laissez Faire Books edition a few years ago, “‘organically’ related enough to qualify as special, as constituting a class?” The answer can be found in “social factors like honor, which was, after all, the basis of the first major governance system of civilization. And honor depends on — is, indeed, obsessive about — success. It is not failure but success that ‘exerts a continuing effect’” that forms a class. But let us turn to Schumpeter for a fuller picture:

[S]uccess brings in its wake important functional positions and other powers over material resources. The position of the physical individual becomes entrenched, and with it that of the family. This opens up further opportunities to the family, often to an even greater degree than to the successful individual himself, though these positive factors are to some extent offset by the deadening effect on the original impetus of exalted position and security, by the diversion and complication of interests, and perhaps also by the sheer exhaustion of energies which everyday experience shows to be not uncommon. Coordinate families then merge into a social class, welded together by a bond, the substance and effect of which we now understand. This relationship assumes a life of its own and is then able to grant protection and confer prestige.

I speculate that one of the great triumphs of the modern welfare state has been to reroute the mechanisms of class away from natural groupings like family and clan and into the artificial, state-bounded and -funded institutions like the Academy.

And maybe one reason professors promote redistribution, in their writings and lectures, more enthusiastically than the poor do, with their votes, is that the subsidized poor serve as trophies of the cognitive elites. Perhaps increasing state redistribution is not advocated by the elites because it really helps the poor, but because it is emblematic of class success, and thus class cohesion and prestige. The poor do not gain prestige by sucking up more taxpayer-funded resources. But boy, members of the cognitive elite do!

But is that all there is to it? Class interest?

I think not. I suspect, anyway, a bit of economic rationality going on here. I suspect that not a few normal people look at the demographics of redistribution and become alarmed. My wards-of-the-state friends are dependent upon continued support. Increasing the ranks of the recipients, or even the amounts generally redistributed, does not make the system they depend upon more secure.

Do you see the incentive here? No small number of state aid recipients oppose expansion of the programs that support them. And while socialist ideologues might think that these clients of the State are somehow naturally beholden to a robust welfare state ideology, and that by voting Republican (or worse, Libertarian) they are “voting against their interests,” this is simply not the case. People “on welfare” have a very compelling interest to not support the increase in the size and scope of the programs that supports them.

Let me restate why: increasing the number of recipients of such aid programs could very well jeopardize the financial stability of those very programs, endangering the livelihood of current recipients.

This is a very basic point. To not notice this point is to miss something about the nature of economic redistribution: that it depends on a larger population of contributors putting wealth into the system than taking out of it. The more recipients of taxed funds we add puts a strain on those taxed, especially if the ratio gets out of hand. On pure economic grounds, it makes sense to be a member of a small group gaining at the expense of the majority than a large group gaining at the expense of a minority.

We cannot all live at the non-reciprocal expense of others.

One might call this perspective common sense. But it is not “folk economics” — it is theoretically sound; the rationale works out in extended analysis. Indeed, one of the problems with the sustainability of Social Security in the United States — and of similar programs throughout the West — is that the ratio of contributors to recipients is getting smaller. The trend line is foreboding. It is the reason we are at last taking Social Security off the proverbial “third rail” and contemplating reforms such as raising the retirement age and raising the income ceiling for FICA contributions, er, taxes.*

What is astounding to me is that this elementary fact of redistribution — that it cannot be complete, that socialism itself is a fantasy never capable of delivering on its promises, for we cannot all be Takers. There must be Makers. And there should be a reasonable ratio between them to make the programs sustainable.

That this notion of redistribution has seemingly evaporated from the public conversation strikes me as odd. I do not even hear libertarians, the strongest critics of government redistribution of wealth, bring it up very often, and cannot now think of an instance where it became part of a general theory of redistribution. But the more I think about this, the more basic it seems.

Indeed, it applies to criminology, too: the more theft going on in society — and remember, theft is merely the illegal redistribution of wealth — the more crime would drag society down. It is in the interest even of criminals to discourage crime generally. Perhaps for this reason (if not this reason alone) criminals rarely oppose laws against theft and murder and the like. They realize social systems cannot be stable where everyone plays criminal. They simply make an exception for themselves. They try to bet against the house, hoping to squeak through the cracks of the system and gain “rents” that would evaporate if too many criminals tried to game the system. It is instructive to recognize the fact that criminals themselves rarely even try to take up the pretense that theft and murder are good ideas to spread around. It is as exceptions to the rule that criminals’ livelihoods make any sense at all.

That is perhaps one reason why, when crime becomes “organized,” territory and limitation of criminal acts according to “honor” and other codes, become common. It is also one reason why police often are deferential to organized crime: a monopoly of a service limits the supply of the service, and criminal monopoly is better than no such monopoly, which would mean more crime. And thus greater the threat of unsustainability. Yes, crime can serve as an excellent example of “market failure” — that is, for situations where the criminals, acting in their separate self-interests, yield themselves a net detriment, not benefit.

All of this reiterates one basic thesis: leftism is parasitic upon the system it despises. Nearly all leftists I have ever met abhor the idea of “profit.” They consider business activity necessarily “dirty.” They are distrustful of markets, and see in markets only internecine competition and, in fact, predation and parasitism.

This view of social life I regard as obviously and completely at odds with reality, the inverse of the truth. Redistribution is parasitism. Leftism is the philosophy that parasitism via State redistribution is good in and of itself — perhaps better than production in the market. And socialism is the bizarre notion that “we can all be parasites” — though of course socialists do not state their doctrine in such a bald, unvarnished way. Instead, socialists cook up shaky theories purporting to show that market distribution is not productive, that the rich who gain so much by trade are in fact “exploiters” of the poor, and that the poor would be better off without the rich . . . or at least better off were the rich sucked dry.

It used to be understood among old-fashioned Progressives and FDR/LBJ-style “liberals” that one could go too far in redistributing wealth. But by earnestly grinding through their rationales for taking from some to give to others, modern progressives have lost sight of the basic realities inherent in the system they propose. And so they cannot see — or at least countenance talking about at any length — any point in emphasizing those limits.

This can be clearly seen in the cultural divide between The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. The Occupiers characteristically demanded more redistribution and more regulation and generally derided the evils of big business. The Tea Party, on the other hand, was concerned with curbing government spending and aiming to balance budgets. Democrats mocked those “tea baggers” who seemed to misunderstand basic realities, such as when signs were held aloft saying “Keep the Government Out of My Medicare.” And that sort of thing is indeed hilarious. But the idea still remains that adding people onto Medicare rolls and under-funding the system does not help people who have come to rely upon Medicare.

So the signs really meant “Keep Progressives Out of My Medicare.”

But Democrats — who now seem almost uniformly “progressive” — have missed the point. They cannot see sustainability as a legitimate issue. Politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have gone so far as to call the conscientious Tea Party activists “anarchists.” It is hard to imagine a more absurd charge. But, when you hold to the crazy idea that more government is always better government, you will tend to say absurd things.

So we exist now at this strange point in history when the Democratic Party has lost its grip on power even though it is the party of special interest promises and Potlatch “generosity.” The last moment of possible turnaround for the Democrats was, I think, when they turned on the Tea Party. Had they embraced the Tea Party, and made a public effort to rein in spending, they would now be dominant and their hold on power unassailble. But that was not to be. They had become so blind to the realities of redistribution and its parasitism upon productive capitalism that they lost savvy people even amongst the recipient cohorts. Sure, leftism has always been parasitic on the system it hankers to destroy. But parasitism only works on a principle of hormesis. It is the hygiene theory of immunity as applied to the body politic. The hookworm is the parasitic drain. Too many, and the host dies.

The idea that progressives now regard contemplation and discussion of this principle utterly verboten says a lot about their divorce from reality. Their fantasy now runs their policy prescriptions. And it may very well be a function of class prestige that is one of the drivers for this. Sure, there are other factors — like the socialist soteriology, or the entelechy at the heart of the left’s other-obsession memeplex — but we should not overestimate the wisdom of the elites or the folly of the poorest among us.

twv

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N.B.  There is, of course, another very basic reason for state aid recipients not to support increasing the register of aid recipients: they may want to think of themselves as deserving recipients, and fear that others placed on the rolls for laxer standards might be seen as unworthy, or as being dangerously discouraged from finding alternate means of support. And the more folks going onto the rolls for comparatively trivial reasons might poison the well politically, and tar all recipients as unworthy of help. To what extent this fear is a rational, moral or merely a petty rationalization, I will consider at another time.

spoiler alert!

In the movie Black Panther, we are introduced to a superheroic country hidden in the snowy mountains of Africa — this is very much an H. Rider Haggard/Edgar Rice Burroughs sort of utopia. The country, called Wakanda, is technologically advanced and has been for eons, but has kept out of world affairs on the grounds that its treasure, a philosopher’s lode of a supermetal, if transported out of the region, would destabilize the world and ruin the country. So it is isolationist. Yet technocratic.

Now, much has been made of the movie’s racial politics, and it has been lauded — and prodded into the limelight — for its social justice-y elements. But what struck me about the movie was that the baseline mythos could best be described as “Wakandan exceptionalism” of an almost Trumpian sort. The antagonist of the film is a bitter, resentful African-American criminal bent on world revolution (with a special attention paid on killing “oppressors”). In fact, he talks like a “Black Panther” of days of yore (racial solidarity, revolution) and it is he who must be destroyed so the country can grow into its new role as world benefactor. So the moral arc of the story is from isolationist exceptionalism to globalist benefactor — essentially moving from Trumpism back to standard-brand 20th century American globalism, where foreign aid is parlayed as the prime diplomatic value, above revolution, militarism and trade — the latter not even getting any mention. The real-world “Black Panther” type must be put down so the mythic “Black Panther” may triumph.

There is nothing radical here. It is essentially a JFK “liberal” movie.

It also contains a quite a bit of tribalistic mysticism, and rituals of a primitive, ooga-booga type. Rather embarrassing. We are really not far from Hollywood Tarzan tropes here.

As a Marvel movie, it is of course expertly made, a technical marvel; and if, like me, you enjoy watching scantily clad bald black women kicking ass, you will find some thrills. Andy Serkis has a fun role as a mad Russian criminal mastermind.

I saw it in Astoria, Oregon, in a theater half-filled with white Americans … and no one else. (Astoria has a sizable Mexican population, but is otherwise lily-white.) I did not feel a whole lot of excitement coming from the audience — not like in the Iron Man and Captain America flicks — but no hatred, either. I have no idea how it fares elsewhere, but in this neck of the woods it does not appear to be a hit.

twv

N.B. The popular meme of Wakandan exceptionalism being “alt-right” is accurate, for the most part, insofar as the country is portrayed at the beginning of the movie. It is 4C6A88CB-B755-4E6B-815C-786D49F5BA10also not inaccurate to describe the country at the end of the movie, though the kingdom’s new “black man’s burden” policy would surely undermine the stalwart atavisms of its traditionalist nationalism. As with most comic-book world-building scenarios, it does not bear close examination — just as the amazon-warrior theme does not. And alt-right dreamers might note that American exceptionalism came from open borders and trade — not anything like Wakandan autarky. There is a disturbing cargo cult element to much current political fantasizing. The wealth redistributed by any real or fantasied State entity has to come from somewhere. In Black Panther, it came from outer space and lies in the ground in the form of a metal that the Wakandans mine.

I forget the name of the metal, but it is really just a McGuffin, as in the goofy, embarrassing “unobtainium” of the horrible science fiction film Atavism, I mean Avatar. I could look up the name of this fantasy material, but memory tells me that it starts with a “v,” so I just think of it as “virkkalanium.”