In defense of what politics is and is not.
Michael Lind writes: What is politics? The answer is not obvious. Most Americans on the left and the right either do not know or have forgotten what politics is. Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.
“The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture. Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.”
Politics is only possible in a society in which much, if not most, of social life is not politicized. In premodern communities in which every aspect of life was regulated by custom or religious law, there was no politics, in the modern sense. There was no public sphere because there was no private sphere. Tribal custom or divine law, as interpreted by tribal elders or religious authorities, governed every action, leaving no room for individual choice. There were power struggles, to be sure. But there was no political realm separate from the tribe or the religious congregation. And disagreement was heresy.
The separation of church and state — strictly speaking, the privatization of religious belief, beginning in early modern Europe and America — was the precondition for modern politics. The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture.
“Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.”
Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.
“As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies.”
Unfortunately, as Horace observed, “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.” The same might be said of religion. While some forms of religion have been expelled from politics, new forms keep trying to creep in, to recreate something like the pre-Enlightenment world in which a single moral code governs all of society and disagreement is intolerable heresy.
[Read the full text here, at The Smart Set]
Marxism can only be understood as a Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic spin-off — a faith militant, with its prophets, its holy scriptures, its providential theory of history, its evangelical universalism, its message of brotherhood and sisterhood transcending particular communities. Marxism was the fourth major Abrahamic religion. Nothing like Marxism could have evolved independently in traditional Confucian China or Hindu India, with their cyclical rather than progressive views of history.
“Other elements of religion, expelled from the public sphere, have crept back in via the left, thanks to environmentalism. As the great environmental scientist James Lovelock has pointed out, anthropogenic global warming is affected by the sources of energy for large-scale power generation and transportation. But refusing to fly on airplanes or reducing your personal “carbon footprint” is a meaningless exercise, explicable only in the context of religion, with its traditions of ritual fasts and sacrifices in the service of personal moral purity.”
As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies. A case can be made that militant environmentalism and militant identity politics are both by-products of the decomposition of Protestantism in the Anglophone nations and Germanic Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
The Free Brazil Movement (Movimento Brasil Livre) was instrumental in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Students for Liberty (Estudantes Pela Liberdade) is larger in Brazil than in any other country. Can Brazil’s surging libertarian movement defeat the left and save the country?
Written, shot, edited, and narrated by Jim Epstein. Post production help from Ian Keyser. Translation services provided by Matheus Pacini and Vanan Services.
Fantastic Dim Bar by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Ghost Processional by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Ignosi by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Over Time by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Industrial Music Box by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; “After The Week I’ve Had” by Dexter Britain (http://www.dexterbritain.com) Creative Commons. Read the rest of this entry »
A prominent liberal economist contends capitalism will inevitably increase inequality.
‘Karl Marx wasn’t wrong, just early. Pretty much. Sorry, capitalism. #inequalityforevah”
James Pethokoukis writes: When trying to condense a sweeping, 700-page analysis of the past, present, and possible future of capitalism into an 85-character tweet, you’re bound to miss a few things. But the above Twitter-fication of economist Thomas Piketty’s much-awaited Capital in the Twenty-First Century captures the gist of the author’s argument.
“Piketty, a left-wing Frenchman who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, is hardly the only economist arguing inequality is headed inexorably higher…”
Piketty thinks the German progenitor of Communism basically got it right. It’s only that his essential insight — private capital accumulation inevitably leads to the concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands — took a hiatus during the middle part of the last century thanks to depression and war hurting the fortunes of the well-to-do. But now Marxism’s fundamental truth is reasserting itself with a vengeance, a reality borne out in both Piketty’s own meticulously gathered data and in business pages replete with stories of skyrocketing wealth for the 0.001 percent and decades of flat wages for everyone else.
“John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek famously squared off in the 1930s, Left versus Right. But when Keynes published his revolutionary General Theory in 1936, Hayek went silent….Who will make the intellectual case for economic freedom today?”
And it’s only going to get worse, Piketty concludes. Sure, the productive and innovative capacity of market capitalism will generate enough income growth for the masses to prevent revolution. He concedes Marx got that bit of apocalypticism wrong. But an “endless inegalitarian spiral” will create such wealth bifurcation that “the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based” will be undermined. The political process will be hopelessly captured by a tiny elite of rent seekers and trust-fund kids. America (and then the other advanced economies) will become what Occupy Wall Street types and Elizabeth Warren think it already is.
“Cognitive dissonance or not, Das Kapital has so thoroughly permeated our understanding of capitalism that we’re seldom even aware that we are citing it. It’s become a kind of cultural white noise – always present, but rarely acknowledged.”
Considering that The Onion is post-college humor, it’s not surprising in the least, as universities inoculate students with Marxist dogma. It’s as natural to typical college students as term papers, speech codes, censorship, conformist ‘protests’ (of approved targets) spring break customs, cheating on tests, screwing, drinking beer, and nearly worthless degrees that lead to low-paying jobs and moving back in with their parents. The New Republic‘s admiring, fawning, pro-communist praise of the Onion is, for better or worse, fairly accurate.
William Bigelow writes:
Noting pieces such as “Man Briefly Forgets Hotel Staff Are Not Human” as a reminder of “capitalist commodification not just of goods, but of humans’ subjective agency in the form of labor,” “Laid Off Man Finally Achieves Perfect Work-Life Balance” as espousing “the contention that capitalism alienates the proletariat from their species-consciousness by making them participants without control in the economic relations of their culture,” “Majority of Office’s Supplies Used to Apply for Different Job” as a “clear indictment of false consciousness, arising inexorably from bourgeois dogma as it perverts our very understanding of fulfillment, family, and success…”
Communism is dead; long live Marx! The Soviet Union is gone. Das Kapital is little more than a punch line in academic economics. Dialectical materialism is barely even a thing. Yet Marxism continues to be essential for understanding modern political struggles, because Marxism continues to inform the thought-habits and inclinations of the modern Left.
Let me explain what I mean by thought-habits and inclinations. Do you think a person should be able to follow whatever faith he likes? You probably do. In fact, you probably answered, “Of course!” without even thinking about it. And you most likely answered this way, not because you are a student of John Locke, but because it’s just a habit of mind you’ve imbibed from our generally liberal culture. The farther left you go on the political spectrum, the more and more you find similar habits and instincts that are informed by Marxism. Of course, since we all live together and influence each other in this country, there’s no strict dividing line between American liberals and American Marxists. While Bryan Caplan is clearly a liberal and Cornel West is clearly a Marxist, most people are muddling around with a potpourri of ideas inherited from both sources.
It’s true enough that Marx and his intellectual heirs appropriated a liberal idea, equality (a word that is often used in mutually exclusive ways), but they rejected every single other intellectual and cultural principle of liberalism. For that reason, a Marxist’s egalitarianism is no more “liberal” than a Muslim’s monotheism makes him “Christian.” Marxism’s rejection of liberalism is so thorough that there is a dark, alternative-universe antecedent to each of the founding principles I outlined in my previous article.
- The class. The fundamental unit of Marxian loyalty is not the state! The chief object of a person’s loyalty, love, and allegiance is his or her class. A person with a conscience fully formed by Marxism feels the deep revulsion at the sight of class betrayers. When leftists openly fantasize about defecating in Sarah Palin’s mouth or publish racist cartoons about Condi Rice, they’re not merely engaging in double standards. They are naming and shaming class betrayers. When someone indoctrinated with Marxism sees a woman affirm the high value of her marriage, her husband, and motherhood and repudiate socialist government, he has the same visceral reaction that you or I do when we learn of a woman who murdered her two-year-old so she could have more time to get high, or a man who beats his wife and impregnates his masseuse. The class occupies the same emotional and moral space for the Marxist as the family does for a person civilized in liberalism. Indeed, Marx himself wrote that marriage is oppressive and to be done away with under communism.
- Equalism. The reverse of capitalism is not simply socialism. It is equalism. For example, fascism was a kind of socialism, but it was not equalist at all. Equalism teaches that neither the entrepreneur, the investor, nor the engineer are in any sense better than the line worker, the barista, or the unemployed beach bum, and therefore do not deserve more social respect, more income, or a better livelihood. Equalism is more dogma than theory, as it is easily disproved by even a cursory familiarity with biology or economics. But because of this, obtaining equalist result requires ever-increasing applications of violence, as there is simply no way for Lebron James and yours truly to end up with the same income, the same number of championship rings, the same public accolades, and the same number of interested women without a gun pointed at someone’s head. The killing fields were not an accident of Communism; they were the point.
- Revolutionary justice. Marxists tend to completely reject the rule of law, as it does not produce equal outcomes or serve the interests of “oppressed” classes. Marxists conceive of justice not as the consistent application of comprehensible, moral laws, but as the promotion of oppressed classes and the toppling of the oppressor classes. Whether or not someone is guilty or innocent of a crime is not just irrelevant, it is that Marxists deny the concepts of guilt, innocence, and law. In The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn related numerous chilling stories of innocent men who were told by the court, “Your guilt or innocence is irrelevant. What matters is whether your conviction will advance the revolution Read the rest of this entry »
The Left is Trying to Rehabilitate Karl Marx. Let’s Remind Them of The Millions Who Died in His NamePosted: November 3, 2013
Where it all ends – the Killing Fields of Cambodia
Tim Stanley writes: I can’t quite believe that I’ve just sat through ten minutes of BBC television in which British journalists Owen Jones and Zoe Williams have defended Karl Marx as the prophet of the End of Capitalism. Unbelievable because I had thought Marxism was over with the fall of the Berlin Wall – when we discovered that socialism was one part bloodshed, one part farce. But unbelievable also because you’d have to be a pretty lacking in moral sensitivity to defend a thinker whose work sent millions of people to an early grave.
I don’t want to have to rehearse the numbers but, apparently, they’re not being taught in schools anymore – so here goes. Sixty-five million were murdered in China – starved, hounded to suicide, shot as class traitors. Twenty million in the USSR, 2 million in North Korea, 1.7 million in Africa. The nightmare of Cambodia (2 million dead) is especially vivid. “Reactionaries” were sorted out from the base population on the grounds of being supporters of the old regime, having gone to school or just for wearing glasses. They were taken to the side of paddy fields and hacked to death by teenagers.
Obama supporters sign a fake petition supporting Karl Marx for President in 2016 as the candidate for the Democrat Party after being told “Obama Has Endorsed Him.”
If you think of yourself as a Marxist or a progressive, you need to read this. (Tea Partiers may want to steer clear.)
Marxist theory can be summarized in two distinct ways.
The first view (held mostly by its detractors) is that Marxism is little more than the politics of resentment — a philosophical justification for the hatred of success by those who failed to achieve it. The politics of resentment offers three different methods for bringing its program of economic jealousy to fruition: Under socialism, the unsuccessful use the power of government to forcibly extract wealth and possessions from the successful, bit by bit until there is nothing left; under the more extreme communism, the very notion of wealth or success is eliminated entirely, and anyone who seeks individual achievement is punished or eliminated; and finally under anarchy, freelance predators would be allowed to steal or destroy any existing wealth or possessions with no interference from the state. Marx himself saw pure communism as the ultimate goal, with socialism as a necessary precursor, and perhaps just an occasional dash of anarchy to ignite the revolutionary fires.
But there is another, more intriguing and less noxious, view of Marxist thought that gets less attention these days because its anachronistic roots in the Industrial Revolution seemingly render it somewhat irrelevant to modern economics. Marx posited that factory workers should own the factory themselves and profit from its output, since they’e the ones actually doing the work — and the wealthy fat cat “capitalists” should be booted out of the director’s office since they don’t really do anything except profit from other people’s labor. Marx generalized this notion to “The workers should control the means of production,” and then extended it further to a national scale by declaring that the overall government itself should be “a dictatorship of the proletariat,” with “proletariat” defined in this context as “someone who actually works for a living.” The problem with this theory in the 21st century is that very few people actually work in factories anymore due to exponential improvements in automation and efficiency, and fewer still produce handicrafts, and the vast majority of American “workers” these days don’t actually create anything tangible. Even so, there is an attractive populist rationality to this aspect of Marxism that appeals to everyone’s sense of fairness — even to those who staunchly reject the rest of communist theory. Those who do the work should reap the benefits and control the system; hard to argue with that.
Although the “factory” is no longer the basic building block of the American economy, Marx’s notion that “The workers should control the means of production” can be rescued and made freshly relevant if it is re-interpreted in a contemporary American context.
Visualize the entire United States as one vast “company,” with citizens as employees and politicians and bureaucrats as managers. Everybody, in theory, works together to make the company successful. But there are two realities which shatter this idealized theory: first, only about half the employees actually ever do any work, while the rest seem to be on permanent vacation or sick leave; and second, our bureaucratic “managers” — just like the wealthy fat cats in Marx’s vision — simply benefit from the labor of others without ever producing anything of value themselves.
Now, this “company” known as the USA doesn’t operate in the way traditional companies operate. In our system, we create only a single product every year, a gigantic pile of money we call the “Federal Budget.” Each “employee” is free to engage in any profitable activity or profession of his choice, just so long as at the end of the year he (or she, obviously) adds his earnings to the collective pile, setting aside a certain amount for living expenses. The “managers” then decide how this gigantic pile of money is spent, presumably to keep the company healthy and strong.
The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so
David Mamet writes: Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.
In announcing his gun control proposals, President Obama said that he was not restricting Second Amendment rights, but allowing other constitutional rights to flourish.’ For the saying implies but does not name the effective agency of its supposed utopia. The agency is called “The State,” and the motto, fleshed out, for the benefit of the easily confused must read “The State will take from each according to his ability: the State will give to each according to his needs.” “Needs and abilities” are, of course, subjective. So the operative statement may be reduced to “the State shall take, the State shall give.”
All of us have had dealings with the State, and have found, to our chagrin, or, indeed, terror, that we were not dealing with well-meaning public servants or even with ideologues but with overworked, harried bureaucrats. These, as all bureaucrats, obtain and hold their jobs by complying with directions and suppressing the desire to employ initiative, compassion, or indeed, common sense. They are paid to follow orders.
Rule by bureaucrats and functionaries is an example of the first part of the Marxist equation: that the Government shall determine the individual’s abilities.
As rules by the Government are one-size-fits-all, any governmental determination of an individual’s abilities must be based on a bureaucratic assessment of the lowest possible denominator. The government, for example, has determined that black people somehow have fewer abilities than white people, and, so, must be given certain preferences. Anyone acquainted with both black and white people knows this assessment is not only absurd but monstrous. And yet it is the law.
President Obama, in his reelection campaign, referred frequently to the “needs” of himself and his opponent, alleging that each has more money than he “needs.”
But where in the Constitution is it written that the Government is in charge of determining “needs”? And note that the president did not say “I have more money than I need,” but “You and I have more than we need.” Who elected him to speak for another citizen?
It is not the constitutional prerogative of the Government to determine needs. One person may need or want more leisure, another more work; one more adventure, another more security, and so on. It is this diversity that makes a country, indeed a state, a city, a church, or a family, healthy. “One-size-fits-all,” and that size determined by the State has a name, and that name is “slavery.”
The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians. They were an assortment of businessmen, writers, teachers, planters; men, in short, who knew something of the world, which is to say, of Human Nature.
Their struggle to draft a set of rules acceptable to each other was based on the assumption that we human beings, in the mass, are no damned good—that we are biddable, easily confused, and that we may easily be motivated by a Politician, which is to say, a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions.
The Constitution’s drafters did not require a wag to teach them that power corrupts: they had experienced it in the person of King George. The American secession was announced by reference to his abuses of power: “He has obstructed the administration of Justice … he has made Judges dependant on his will alone … He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws … He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass out people and to eat out their substance … imposed taxes upon us without our consent… [He has] fundamentally altered the forms of our government.”
This is a chillingly familiar set of grievances; and its recrudescence was foreseen by the Founders. They realized that King George was not an individual case, but the inevitable outcome of unfettered power; that any person or group with the power to tax, to form laws, and to enforce them by arms will default to dictatorship, absent the constant unflagging scrutiny of the governed, and their severe untempered insistence upon compliance with law.
The Founders recognized that Government is quite literally a necessary evil, that there must be opposition, between its various branches, and between political parties, for these are the only ways to temper the individual’s greed for power and the electorates’ desires for peace by submission to coercion or blandishment.
Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervor, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, willful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties. It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government.
Many are opposed to private ownership of firearms, and their opposition comes under several heads. Their specific objections are answerable retail, but a wholesale response is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. On a lower level of abstraction, there are more than 2 million instances a year of the armed citizen deterring or stopping armed criminals; a number four times that of all crimes involving firearms.
The Left loves a phantom statistic that a firearm in the hands of a citizen is X times more likely to cause accidental damage than to be used in the prevention of crime, but what is there about criminals that ensures that their gun use is accident-free? If, indeed, a firearm were more dangerous to its possessors than to potential aggressors, would it not make sense for the government to arm all criminals, and let them accidentally shoot themselves? Is this absurd? Yes, and yet the government, of course, is arming criminals.
Violence by firearms is most prevalent in big cities with the strictest gun laws. In Chicago and Washington, D.C., for example, it is only the criminals who have guns, the law-abiding populace having been disarmed, and so crime runs riot.
Cities of similar size in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and elsewhere, which leave the citizen the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in the Constitution, typically are much safer. More legal guns equal less crime. What criminal would be foolish enough to rob a gun store? But the government alleges that the citizen does not need this or that gun, number of guns, or amount of ammunition.
He has just passed a bill that extends to him and his family protection, around the clock and for life, by the Secret Service. He, evidently, feels that he is best qualified to determine his needs, and, of course, he is. As I am best qualified to determine mine.
French President François Hollande is said to be introducing a series of sweeping education reforms, including: an initiative to install tobacco-dispensing vending machines in boys and girls bathrooms, to provide free cigarettes, a weekly airdrop of candy baskets to schools in Paris, and the institution of “casual Friday”, where students are encouraged to wear bathrobes, pajamas, and lingerie to school…
Also under consideration: nationwide ban on Dental visits, a proposal to replace unpopular mathematics and history courses with free pony rides, and erecting a 300-foot-tall statue of Karl Marx, made entirely of dark chocolate.
With these initiatives, François Hollande will endear himself, not just to French school children, but to millions of
unemployable future state dependents and welfare recipients children, all over Europe.
This item, from TIME:
Last week, Hollande reaffirmed his pledge to make education one of his main domestic priorities by outlining key strategic changes to revitalize France’s school system. It’s a sweeping package of changes meant to reform a system critics claim is outdated and inefficient, but for headline writers it boils down to one concept: the French President wants to outlaw homework.
“Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” Hollande emphasized on Wednesday. He also proposes reducing the average amount of time a student spends in class in each day, while stretching the school week from four days to four and a half. It’s a bid to bring the country more in line with international standards and to acknowledge some of the current system’s shortcomings. Even the homework isn’t just an empty populist gesture — it’s meant to reflect the fact that many of the lowest-performing students lack a positive support environment at home…
- French President François Hollande Promises to Ban Homework as Part of Educational Initiatives (newsfeed.time.com)
- French President Francois Hollande promises to ban homework (coffeewithkath.wordpress.com)
- French President François Hollande Promises to Abolish Homework | NewsFeed | TIME.com (jcsenglish.com)
- EDUCATION REFORM, PROGRESSIVE STYLE: Ban homework. I kid you not. Progressive French President F… (pjmedia.com)
- French President pledges comprehensive education reforms (panarmenian.net)
- French president actually considering a ban on homework (hotair.com)
- French President Pushes Ban On Homework… (washingtonpost.com)