#MAGA: Saved by Socialism

The great merit of the capitalist system, it has been said, is that it succeeds in using the nastiest motives of nasty people for the ultimate benefit of society.

E. A. G. Robinson via QI

In 2008, the greed of corporate bankers blinded them to the actual risks they were engaging in with derivatives, risks that they will be engaging in again now that Donald Trump (OHM) has pulled the teeth out of legislation keeping them from doing what they did before. They will shortly be wrecking the economy with their pursuit of the next billion dollars that they can’t spend but want anyway.

It isn’t capitalism or socialism that is committing these misdeeds, it is human nature. We will continue to fail to properly regulate industries so long as we fail to understand human nature. Continuing to argue about socialism vs. capitalism is to miss the proverbial forest for the trees. The vast majority of humanity is poorly served by the current economic systems of the world, and it will take an action by those unwashed masses to right the situation unless the wealthy figure out how to save their own necks first.

Take the image above as an illustration of the problem here. Socialism isn’t keeping everyone equally poor, and it certainly wasn’t socialism causing the bread lines in the 1930’s. The Great Depression was caused by the failure of the gold standard to live up to the dreams of the people who created it. America, with huge reserves of gold, had no money for the poor to buy things with. The rest of the world was in depression because of the austerity that was required by the gold standard to bolster the other nation’s reserves of gold, reserves the US government would not let go of because it had no mechanism with which to distribute its wealth of gold to the American people to buy goods and services with. There was no mechanism to get funds into the hands of people who needed them until Franklin Delano Roosevelt embarked on his dream of federal assistance. A dream that the gold bugs of the time thought was foolhardy. Capitalism caused the failure of the world markets in 1929, because capitalism doesn’t have a means for controlling the greed of participants in the system.

Suggested reading: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

It was socialism that ended the depression, not created it. It was capitalism’s ideologues, people who still support the gold standard today, who had no idea how to get money out among the people without them having to work for it. People who were in the meantime starving to death while crops rotted in the field. All of them wanting work and there was no money to pay them to do the work that needed doing.

All ideologues fail. They fail reliably and consistently because they cannot conceive of something outside their ideology. That is the nature of what it is to adhere to an ideology in the first place. The nature of belief in an ideal. You cannot improve on perfection, if you accept that what you believe in is perfection.

My family and I have been personally saved by socialism. When I say socialism, I mean the Social Security system set up by congress under FDR. My disability payments have kept us fed and housed for the last decade and more, and those payments have been the only thing coming in for the last few years. Now that president Trump has made it safe to discriminate against everyone who isn’t a straight, white, perfectly abled evangelical American male, there aren’t too many jobs out there for those of us who don’t fit the bill, even if we aren’t disabled.

Make no mistake here, this is by design. The way to make sure that the poor whites who voted for Trump have jobs is to take them from the other people who currently have them. Brown people. Women. Gays. This is what the phrase zero-sum game means, and Donald Trump believes wholeheartedly in the zero-sum game. There is only one pie, and any slice someone else gets is one less slice for him. His Stormtrumpers agree with him, which is why they are willing to do violence to people who speak against his policies.

Social programs are socialism. They are one of the facets of socialism that have been adopted widely; and they’ve been adopted widely because if you live like a king on wealth that you haven’t been seen working for, the people who do work all day resent that you live better than they do. When you get to eat while they starve. When you get a dry place to sleep while they huddle in misery exposed to the elements. Now, you can say that is a benefit taken from the wealthy at great expense, but if these benefits were not provided to the poor, the wealthy wouldn’t live long. There are quite a few more poor people in the world than wealthy people, and the poverty level is rising to the point where it gets pretty hard to find a family in which someone isn’t suffering from a lack of funds.

When your relatives start dying in the street for no good reason, you start to ask uncomfortable questions of the people who are supposed to run this country. That is what put Donald Trump into power in the first place, poor rural whites with friends and family addicted to opioids sold to them by profit-seeking companies that have so far walked away from their malfeasance scot-free. There will be a price to be paid for this malfeasance, and you can either be on the receiving end of the punishment now, or not. If not, you better get to helping make life livable for the people who are suffering right now.

This is where the Press fails in its duty to the Republic more than anywhere else: When Cheney says “Democratic colleagues who would like to impose socialism” she should be immediately stopped and required to define the terms and name the names.

This is where the Citizen fails in their duty to liberty, when they allow any politician to say these things without question, without challenge, without accountability.

Stonekettle Station

Technological Indigestion

“We think of capitalism as being locked in an ideological battle with socialism, but we never really saw that capitalism might be defeated by its own child — technology.”

Eric Weinstein via Andrew Yang & Vox
Stay Tuned: Mueller Speaks & The Underdog (With Andrew Yang) – May 30, 2019

There were several statements from Andrew Yang in the episode that were quoteworthy. The Vox article is quite quoteworthy as well.

“The greatest danger,” he told me, is that, “the truly rich are increasingly separated from the lives of the rest of us so that they become largely insensitive to the concerns of those who still earn by the hour.” If that happens, he warns, “they will probably not anticipate many of the changes, and we will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this insensitivity.”

Why capitalism won’t survive without socialism

Socialism and capitalism were never really in opposition anywhere aside from inside the minds of Marxists and robber barons.

The opposing force for Authoritarianism is deeper than socialism, which is why acceptance of socialism as the good is irrelevant in the long run. Authoritarianism is the godhead. The worship of absolute authority over all things living. What opposes it is just as strong, but largely unvoiced. It is an expression of the value of each human life. It is at its core humanism, the valuing of the human over the spiritual or supernatural. The movement that was spawned with the enlightenment and has been forgotten by most people today – Authoritarianism vs. Humanism.

Capitalism and socialism are not in opposition. Capitalism and socialism can be present in the same mixed system because they deal with different parts of human interaction. Profit is not evil. Profit, when properly managed, is the reward for the entrepreneurial spirit. Profit, when held as an inviolable sacrement, leads to worship of the wealthy, what Objectivism has turned into over the last half-century. The Trump administration is laboring under this delusion of money. This holy profit-taking. Trump has started beating the drum of red baiting. He is promoting the same old schtick that Nixon and McCarthy did so well with two generations ago. I’ve said this from the moment that he announced his candidacy and he’s proven it daily since the broken system we live in delivered him into office. Trump believes in the zero-sum game and is right now rigging it to favor the wealthy who currently own our country – Delusion of Money.

The Delusion of Money

This is an affliction that most people in the world suffer under. Anyone who says the phrase my money as if money is personal property. Anyone who thinks that working is how you earn money. Anyone who thinks that money has value beyond what it can buy at the moment you need to purchase something. Those people all live under the delusion of money. Anarcho-capitalists, libertarians and fiscal conservatives all suffer under this delusion. Their ideals of what money is precludes them from ever understanding what will solve the recurring economic crises we’ve suffered throughout history. Until we understand what money is, we cannot hope to fix the problem of the boom/bust cycle.

When I take the time to listen to conservatives and libertarians these days, to read their arguments, I’ve started posing this counter question. What is Libertarian Socialism? They generally short circuit like a drone android calling for Norman. You know, Libertarian Socialism, the political movement that dismisses notions of taxes as anything other than the monetary recapturing tool that taxes are, sees Guaranteed Minimum Income as a necessary function of living in large groups? If my antagonist of the moment can manage a reply, then it is generally a denial that Libertarian Socialism is a real thing. But Libertarian Socialism is real, and it is just one more movement afoot to bring economic freedom to the problem of worldwide poverty. A real solution to a real problem, not hidebound ideology and wishful thinking.

The process of discovering what money is and what its functions in human society are has lifted a veil from my eyes. The punishment of poverty that is meted out most vengefully by the middle class, egged on by the wealthy who know just how much of a delusion the middle class labors under, is unwarranted. People are not poor because of some failing of theirs. People are poor because the system forces them into poverty.

I have struggled with how to present the ideas that seem so clear to me, present them in a way that will be understood by others. Understood by others who have not dropped their preconceived notions about money. How to have the ideas understood by them, and not simply have the argument rejected out of hand.

RAnt(hony)-ings

Year after year, when I was a libertarian, I promoted the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ) as the way to illustrate, concretely, just how libertarians were different from liberals or conservatives. I wish I had spent that time studying economics rather than promoting fringe ideology now. The WSPQ is a variation on the Nolan chart, a political spectrum diagram created by American libertarian activist David Nolan. The WSPQ slims down the questions asked by Nolan to ten yes/maybe/no questions, and then places people in their political quadrants based on their answers. I never understood the pushback offered by people who suggested that financial freedom wasn’t what the diagram described while I was out stumping for it. Now I can see the problem more clearly.

The Nolan chart and all it’s minor variations don’t deal with the reality of economics; and consequently, these attempts to measure political beliefs do not measure economic freedom as they claim to do. This fact makes all libertarian ideas that deal with economics flawed at the precept level, shattering the entire structure of libertarian philosophy. The flaw shatters not just libertarianism, but any philosophy that includes the ideals of money as an individual possession. You cannot define libertarianism as different than the same flawed left/right and/or liberal/conservative political lines without a measuring stick that is separate from social freedom, and economic freedom enables social freedom more than any other kind of freedom one can imagine. The two go hand in hand (Four Freedoms) Understanding what money is, conceptually, is the first step to understanding how the systems we live in can be improved.

Money is not a thing; or rather, money isn’t just one thing. Money is not a possession, although physical representations of money can be possessed. Money is not a commodity even though it is currently traded like a commodity. If I had the last glass of water, you could have all the money in the world and you couldn’t buy that last glass of water from me. That is the difference between a commodity and a currency. Money isn’t even a set value as my previous writing on the subject of money skims over. So what is money?

I’ve been bashing my head against this wall and several others for the last decade and more. It’s part of the overall arc of EPHN, my languishing work on Emergent Principles of Human Nature. The work languishes because I lack the depth of knowledge to deal with the questions posed by writing the work, not by my ability to express the ideas contained within it. The accumulation of information takes time, and so the work languishes, in a general sense. At the same time, my understanding grows about certain subjects that interest me, and one of those subjects is the delusion of money.

Money = Lubricant

Any mechanical part that moves in relation to another part of a mechanical construct, like a motor or an engine, has to be protected from the friction present when any two parts come in contact. This protection can take several forms, and even several forms at the same time. Motor oil. Hydraulic fluid. Ball bearings. Grease. Money is like these things in many ways. It reduces the friction between one side of the economy, supply, and the other side of the economy, consumption.

If you provide sufficient funds to each household to allow them to meet needs you will see how much of each product needs to be produced based on the value assigned to the product by the consumer. Thusly, money eases the acquisition of goods and services for the people who need them. Without money we are forced to barter one good for anther one, and that system has never functioned in a way that the average human found acceptable, which is why we invented money in the first place.

Then you, the money issuing authority, sit back and wait. You wait to see where the money goes. When you notice that money is pooling in areas and not being spent, you tax those pools that don’t enhance the economy, the economic backwaters that don’t serve the purpose of lubricating the system generally. You tax them because money hoarding is a corruption of the intent of the system. Money is for spending not for hoarding. Property is what you keep. If you want to hang on to wealth, invest it.

Money=Contract

Money is a third-party contract that is carried along with every other financial contract that is agreed to. Money is the underlying agreement between the people who are giving over goods or services and the people receiving said goods or services, that the compensation will be in X currency at a particular value. Anyone who has read a financial contract should recognize this language. The value of money, that money will have value at all, is an agreement between every working and consuming person on the face of the planet. When that agreement breaks down, commerce breaks down. Goods rot in warehouses. Families starve.

Money=Narrative

On the Media – Full Faith & Credit – October 12, 2018

Ten autumns ago came two watershed moments in the history of money. In September 2008, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggered a financial meltdown from which the world has yet to fully recover. The following month, someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto introduced BitCoin, the first cryptocurrency. Before our eyes, the very architecture of money was evolving — potentially changing the world in the process. In this hour, On the Media looks at the story of money, from its uncertain origins to its digital reinvention in the form of cryptocurrency.

Money is a collective belief in the value of a thing, a story we tell ourselves about buying what we buy and what we buy it with. Bitcoin is the essence of this narrative. It only has value because calculating entries in the blockchain is currently rewarded with bitcoin, funding all of the Bitcoin mining centers all across the world. What happens when the last Bitcoin is minted? Where will the value in maintaining the blockchain ledgers come from then? No one who invests in Bitcoin wants to know what the answer to that question is. In the meantime the story of the value of Bitcoin continues. But any currency is only as valuable as the people who trade in it think it is. If you can’t buy anything with the currency, the value of the currency is zero.

Money=Debt Obligation.

How can you make money to spend if there is no debt to create money from? This was the problem that faced the world after the crash of 1929. There was insufficient money in circulation. No one had money, and the reasons for this defied explanation according to the rules of the time. Europe needed gold to create money. Europe did what the gold standard required of them and raised taxes on their poor citizenry to the brink of starvation in an attempt to create gold reserves, creating backing for government spending that they needed in order to dig out of the holes that World War One left them in. The hordes of gold that the US held in reserve profited the American people not one bit, even though the rules of the gold standard dictated that America should be swimming in cash. Why was there no cash? Because the rules of the gold standard did not accurately describe how economics works. (Lords of Finance) FDR had to create new, insane rules, by the standards of economists of the time, to justify creating money that did not already exist, so that he could hand it out to people who wanted to work but could not find work.

Making sure that everyone has money to spend simply shortcuts the requirement that incomes will start at zero. Work is not required to generate debt, to create money. Work is how you pay off debt, and government generates money to make these transactions possible. But money is more than that, too. It is more than a lubricant that makes nearly frictionless exchange of goods possible. More than a contractual obligation that we all agree to every day when we buy or sell anything. More than a story we tell ourselves and more than a debt obligation that we must dig out from under.

T-shirt political humor. What different governments would do with your cows.
Amusing, but not true.

The disconnect over the subject of money really isn’t the fault of libertarians, they are nothing more than my target of opportunity because of their culpability in promoting the ideas that have come to dominate most thinking about money and economics in the US these days. Classical economics itself deals with the individual rational actor the homo economicus as he is occasionally referred to. Economics was set up at the outset to create the delusion of the supreme individual modifying the market with his rational demands. This has proven not to be the case, but most economists who come from the Chicago school are still caught up in the delusion. Capitalism, as classically taught, was at war with a socialism that eschewed profit. The Marxist utopia of communism. Like most utopias, Marxist communism is a dystopia that we would be better off not pursuing. However, in a general ideological sense, capitalism and socialism aren’t even in conflict. Authoritarianism and democracy are in conflict, and authoritarianism is in ascendency.

Authoritarianism has been in ascendancy since Vladimir Putin started trying to dismantle the democratic West, and China decided to help him. When there is one party, and you control that party, knowing who your enemies are makes controlling that government child’s play. Consequently these rising authoritarian regimes (including the United States under Trump) have a lot of political prisoners. Removing them into the slavery of the prison system is the best way to clear your path. This is one of those facts that should have been obvious to us in the US for a very long time. We’ve been growing the prison population since Nixon was in office, and we now have the largest prison population per capita. Most of those people are there because of crimes that were invented in order to criminalize Nixon’s political opposition, and it has proven prudent for each president since Nixon to leave those people there.

Capitalism and socialism are not in opposition. Capitalism and socialism can be present in the same mixed system because they deal with different parts of human interaction. Profit is not evil. Profit, when properly managed, is the reward for the entrepreneurial spirit. Profit, when held as an inviolable sacrement, leads to worship of the wealthy, what Objectivism has turned into over the last half-century. The Trump administration is laboring under this delusion of money. This holy profit-taking. Trump has started beating the drum of red baiting. He is promoting the same old schtick that Nixon and McCarthy did so well with two generations ago. I’ve said this from the moment that he announced his candidacy and he’s proven it daily since the broken system we live in delivered him into office. Trump believes in the zero-sum game and is right now rigging it to favor the wealthy who currently own our country.

Subscribing to the delusion of money as Trump and the average American thinks of it today is to go back in time to the days of the robber barons, when monopolies ran roughshod over Americans and the the world at large, when the simple fact that you had money meant that you had the right to rule. We don’t want to go back to those days. This is why Make America Great Again is the chant of mouth-breathing idiots. The America that they think was greater than it currently is was an America where they would have died young of a preventable disease, probably at the hands of someone like Don Jr.

To paraphrase what I said to Trump Jr: Never too earlier to teach her about conservative capitalism either.

Put her in an orphanage that sells her out to work in a coal mine. Kid that size can get into spaces an adult can’t, business can find all sorts of uses for them. You don’t have to pay them. They don’t need safety equipment. You hardly have to feed them. And if they die, fuck it, you can always get more.

Meanwhile, the Robber Baron she works for gets 99% of all the candy in the world and she and all the other kids get to split 1%.

Oh, and while you’re teaching lessons, Junior, make sure she knows her lady parts belong to you.

Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

The reason why those of us who live in the great post-WWII dollar hegemony can be so secure in our delusion of the value of our money is explained in this episode of Planet Money.

Planet Money – Episode 553: The Dollar At The Center Of The World


If you combine the dollar being the world currency with the results of moving off of the gold standard as detailed in Lords of Finance you can create a money background for yourself to muse about the current perilous status of the dollar against. Or you can be like the libertarian that I was trying to enlighten today who called out for Norman before locking up in the illogic of money being a social construct. Pick one.


If you need further examples of just how confused the problem of money is, here is another one. TED Radio Hour, The Money Paradox. I did get one response from a libertarian after writing this piece. He informed me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously on the subject of money unless I looked like a rich man. People who are wealthy don’t bother with trying to look wealthy. They don’t need to convince anyone of their wealth because they are reassured that they have wealth in simply living their lives.

Frugality is how you establish wealth. The richest woman in America ate cold porridge every morning because she was too cheap to heat it. Doing well with less is how you illustrate monetary wisdom. Not paying too much for clothing is bedrock for doing well with less. Fooling stupid people with nice clothing that you pay too much for is nothing more than a confidence game. Red ties are a dead giveaway for a schyster. Never take a man in a red tie seriously. Words to live by.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

Gene Roddenberry

This article was posted when it was because of a conversation that was evolving on a Facebook group I’m part of. A conversation between people convinced that their personal beliefs are somehow manifested in a show they love, Star Trek in this instance, and then argue that their political beliefs somehow are justified in the show. Star Trek represents a post-scarcity economy, as several people went to great pains to explain during that evolving conversation. As expected, the notion that there could be a society where everyone gets enough to eat and has a place to sleep that protects them at night from predation, that notion is conceptually beyond the thought processes of your average Stormtrumper. This fact doesn’t change what the show’s creator set out to do.

Evidence of Society

Does society exist? Most anarchists and conservatives would say it doesn’t. I present a counter-argument.

When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That’s not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I’ll skip over asking if you’ve crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not done this and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.

Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.

TED, Thomas Thwaites, How I Built a Toaster from Scratch

I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I’m sure, but the number of people who could do it are a fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population. That is a pretty steep hill to drop off of, if the lights just go off one night and never come back on.

Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven’t seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I’m sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they’d make it through the next day.

The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he’s had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.

All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group’s agreement, you’d still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn’t injure you before you killed it.

While I was recently watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn’t visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren’t spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you’re lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it’s been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They’d be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can’t be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.

That’s television, you say? Of course it is. It’s fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society’s existence. You don’t question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.


I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,

Stitcher – Freakonomics – How Can This Possibly Be True? – February 18, 2016

I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word pencil. This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,

YoutubeTED Ed: Small Thing Big Ideas – Why the Pencil is Perfect – Facebook

Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook’s baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself (as witnessed by the fact that it took two years to get the above video from anywhere other than Facebook –ed.) are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?

The triumphs of the free market are actually nothing like triumphs of the free market. They are products of society, government and business working together. This is the part of the human equation that most individualists simply cannot wrap their minds around. None of us get exactly what we want. Not even the wealthiest of wealthy men gets exactly what they want out of life. To the extent that anyone’s needs are met it is done through cooperative effort. Like-minded people working together for a common goal. The most that any individual can do by himself is survive, and that only for the brief instant that their life contains. If that’s all you want out of life, survival, then you really are a pathetic creature. I grieve for you.

Stitcher – Freakonomics – Is the Government More Entrepreneurial Than You Think? (Ep. 348)

Here’s some evidence of the government funding that Mazzucato’s talking about. DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, created during the Cold War to keep American technology ahead of the Soviets, has over the years produced several kinds of missiles and airplanes as well as the first computer mouse, miniature GPS receivers, HD displays, and a digital personal assistant. ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, founded under George W. Bush, has funded a variety of energy projects, including battery-storage tech; the Department of Energy, starting in 1978, invested more than $130 million studying the extraction techniques that have come to be known as fracking. And the National Institutes of Health has helped fund the vast majority of all new drugs approved by the FDA.

Stephen J. Dubner

Editor’s note: January, 2020 – I updated links for the content that is hosted off-site. TED added their Facebook only content onto Youtube and their own website. Freakonomics now forces me to link to their content on Stitcher to embed it. It would have been nice if they had done some of this work for themselves, giving me links to the Stitcher locations for each episode. Instead I had to search, find, and then rebuild the embed for both episodes I link here. Such is the life of a blogger who is his own editor and website manager.

Atheism Kills

What’s a common misconception about history that you wish more people didn’t state as fact? Obviously, the myth that is being told by religious apologists, that the Third Reich and Stalinist SU were supposedly atheist dictatorships.

Hardcore History Group

Of course, the first response he got to this assertion was that the Soviet Union was atheist and that Hitler was an atheist. I’m not going to talk about Hitler here. His religious views are well documented. Here is the wiki article devoted just to that topic. Hitler was not an atheist. But Stalin did toe the Marxist line and adopt a pretense of atheism. There is room for argument on this subject.

The original poster (OP, in this instance. It could also mean original post. Both are condensed in my unattributed discussion quote) offered a Christopher Hitchens clip that I had to track down in order to use because of the quality of the clip that he had selected.

It turns out to have come from the Hitchens vs. Hitchens: Faith, Politics & War debate. This video is queued up to the beginning of the question that Christopher Hitchens is in the middle of answering in the video offered by the OP:

Hauenstein CenterBrothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens debated the Iraq War and religion at an event organized by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies with support from the Center for Inquiry and the Interfaith Dialogue Association – April 3, 2008
 

I love Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be Christopher Hitchens, if it didn’t mean I had to give up being me in order to be him. Therein lies the problem with that personal dream of mine. I soldier on trying to live up to my ideal of the man anyway, knowing I will fail at my goal with every literary outing that I attempt. Failure is how you learn.

The OP’s detractor continued to insist that the Soviet Union practiced religious repression and so couldn’t possibly be considered to be religious in its goals, in much the same vein that the other Hitchens also tries to do if you listen on in the debate. In answering his brother I see Christopher Hitchens come as close to being nervous in his arguments as I have ever seen. I know now watching the whole debate why these debates between the two of them were popular. Sibling rivalry begins in the womb and doesn’t end until the grave. It is visible on Christopher’s face, and it is what gives his overmatched brother the verve to continue the fight for as long as the two of them held breath. It is quite the dance they engage in. Watch the whole thing if you have the time.

Religious repression is not in same ballpark as what Christopher Hitchens is pointing out in his answer. You take a nation of millions of penniless serfs who had been the property of various leaders prior to the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, serfs who believed the king of Russia, whom they call czar, which is literally caesar, the leader in Rome, head of the catholic church, except in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where he is head of the Russian Orthodox church, and the king of that country is anointed by god to lead their religion. Their king is the direct representative of their god and their king, their leader, is their only hope of ever seeing a day that isn’t filled with unrelenting misery. You expect those people to turn on a dime and stop believing because you suddenly declare atheism is the law of the land? That is a knee-slapper right there. A good joke, in Southern parlance.

They believed alright. They weren’t atheists and neither was Stalin an atheist. He thought he was god, just like so many dictators before and after him did, and his followers thought he was god, too. They may have called what they were atheist, but it wasn’t. What they believed was a religion in everything but name, including a bizarre personality cult around its leader and a communist sect trying to push their very own sense of ideological purity. The similarity to religion is uncanny.

This observation also applies to Mussolini, to Robespierre in France, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Cults of personality are by definitions a flavor of religion. That people who have a religion think theirs is the only thing that can be called a religion is a part of the basic misunderstanding present here.

Mussolini was famously an athiest and anti-clerical while Franco fought the Republcans, in part, because of their anti clerical acrivities. Hilter used a eviscerated state christianity as a political tool. It was non christian on most of the important stuff. So Fascists came in all stripes independent of religion. The Soviets also revived some orthodox practices as a morale builder during the war….. many regimes of all politcal stripe have used religion just as they have used many social insitutions for control. Nothing new, not religion’s fault

Steve Andersen

It is religion’s fault that these fascists were successful to exactly the extent that religion represents false belief that originates within authority that is then hijacked by populists and con artists bent on their own pursuits. The pulpit. The presidency. False belief that can be manipulated by authority, like the Prosperity Gospel is a manipulation by the wealthy to control the ignorant who think they work for the dollars the wealthy give them. They don’t work for dollars, they trade their time and effort for dollars. If you love your work you do it for free, it is just hard to feed your family with love and devotion. It takes dollars to do that, ergo trading time for dollars. Dollars that the government makes and could give to anyone. Or take away from anyone.

Attempting to suggest that belief can be separated from human action is where these arguments leave the rails. People kill for belief, do evil for belief. They don’t do these things if they don’t believe, and not believing in god (being an atheist) is not a reason to kill, QED.

So you’re assuming it is false and you have difficulty with authority. Wouldn’t someone who had no belief, and thus assume that moral decisions have no repercussions beyond the here and now also (as any human) be capable of evil? If authority uses food as a weapon (as Stalin did) or the police or the courts o the army (as they all do) does that mean there is something inherantly wrong with food or cops? People do evil things. Whether they have stone knives or nuclear bombs, churches or sewing circles, doesn’t matter. (How to define evil without moral absolutes or authority is another discussion)

Steve Andersen 

Belief does not equal religion. Belief can be many things and take many forms. Belief that originates in authority and cannot be questioned is automatically suspect no matter the origin. As an atheist I believe many things, it just so happens none of those things relate to gods or their commandments as related by authority. Ergo atheism is not the cause of the problem as the people who make these kinds of arguments are attempting to suggest, because atheism doesn’t mean lack of belief but a lack of belief in gods. It is a specific kind of belief. Can atheists kill? Yes. Do they kill because they are atheists? No. They kill because they are human and are fallible. Or they kill because they are human and they feel threatened. Or any of a myriad of reasons, none of which are likely to be because they don’t believe in gods.

This is the much broader point Christopher Hitchens is actually making in the video clip. Blind obedience encouraged by religion and harnessed by leaders intent on doing evil leads to the kinds of outcomes that religious apologists then turn on their ear and blame on an unrelated part of Marxist dogma (and something entirely missing from fascism) atheism. Because it suits their broader argument of apologizing for religion. I’ll have none of that, thank you.

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Postscript

It is worth noting, as I add this article to the blog some four years after I wrote most of the text in this piece, that I actually agree with the first point that Peter Hitchens advances in the debate. I always have. Invading Iraq was always a bad idea and it was executed under bad intentions and it was Christopher Hitchens’ belief in the threat that he saw in Iraqi muslims and the person of the dictator Saddam Hussein that lead him to support the invasion in the first place.

The proof of the stupidity of invading Iraq only becomes clearer as we get further down this road in history. We have no idea what Saddam Hussein could have been had he been allowed to continue in power. What we do know is that he would never have had access to nuclear weapons of his own construction because we had destroyed his ability to make those weapons with the first war lead by George H. W. Bush. We figured out the lie that lead us into Iraq long after the deed had been done, too late to fix the error (it is still not too late to punish the criminals) Not invading Iraq would have made the emergence of ISIS from out of the disaffected former military leadership of Iraq an improbability. They might have emerged as the next leadership from within Iraq, but there is no way to know that now. We can’t know that, because that road through history isn’t the road we took.

On the road we took we ended up with another President trying to disengage us from the longest war in United States history, dealing with the revolutions that emerged across the region that our invasion had destabilized. The destruction of blood and treasure engaged in by George W. Bush in invading Iraq and Afghanistan lead to a collapse in the global economy and resulted in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States some 15 years later on a mandate to do to America and the world what Stalin and Mao and Hitler and Mussolini etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum, did to their countries previously. To make the United States Christian and to then make the rest of the world a direct possession of the United States through economic terrorism, wielding the common world currency, the dollar, as a weapon.

That is what the Evangelicals that backed Donald Trump demanded, and I have little doubt that Christopher Hitchens would have seen through that charlatan in a heartbeat. He would have reneged on his original stance as to the greatness of invading Iraq in much the same way that he changed his position on the subject of waterboarding as torture once he understood what waterboarding was and underwent the torture in order to understand it.

He died of cancer on December 15, 2011, and so we will never know what he would have thought of the rise of Donald Trump from the vestiges of the Moral Majority and Reaganism, and Donald Trump’s further attempts to prosecute wars against the Muslim threat that Evangelical America is still certain is out there waiting for them. Of course they are convinced of this. They have the same designs on those people’s hearth and home as they accuse the other of having. The standard playbook, something Hitch would have also recognized.

In writing out Atheism is Not a Belief System, I purposefully sidestepped the issue of “who kills more, atheists or christians?” because the exercise is a senseless mirror act of finger pointing. Humans kill, and they kill because they believe things. Some of those things that lead them to kill are orders from a higher power that those humans believe is their god. You can then say “ah, so you are engaging in a no true Scotsman fallacy by saying atheists are not mass murders.” and you would be right if I was saying that atheists don’t kill at all. Which is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that if you kill because someone told you to kill, and you think that person is your god, then you are killing for your religion and that is a reason to kill. I’ve said it several times now. Christopher Hitchens said the same thing with more words, and he said it repeatedly in just that one answer to that one question, and none of the people who disagreed with him would accept his answer as valid. If you still disagree then all I can suggest is that you become an atheist and try to kill in the name of the thing you don’t believe in and see if you can do it. Otherwise you will just have to take my word for it.

The Suicide of the GOP

Robert Reich

This behavior is part and parcel with the dismissive way that Republican pundits speak of Democrats and their policies:

we don’t want any of that socialism ’round here.

They think, just like they always have, that they will retain power. They never think that they won’t win (see the ham loaf’s reaction to Romney losing in 2012) they can’t even imagine that losing is possible. This is why they were brave enough to touch the third rail of American politics in the form of the AHCA and try to defund Medicare. We must defeat all of them now. All of them must go.

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The recent unanswered letters include: a request from senators asking for details on Jared Kushner’s conflicts of interest; another asking how agencies will implement Trump-ordered changes to Obamacare; and a third asking for details on officials the administration has quietly installed in so-called beachhead teams across the government.

Propublica

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from the OHM himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything the OHM can be heard saying with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of the OHM’s voice.

The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,

CBS Sunday MorningA polarized America – Mar 26, 2017

There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.”

In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:

President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”

Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:

“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 

CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, the OHM signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time the OHM is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump, his core base of stormtrumpers. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on, running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are the OHM’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gatekeeper and the top-down administrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and are left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

Several facebook status posts lead to this post. Here was one.

Authoritarianism vs. Humanism

What you’re reading now is a multiple-concept piece amalgamated from several other pieces, reworked and re-edited so many times I’ve lost count. The fact that several of my Facebook friends are now openly endorsing an unapologetic authoritarian, that I have severed my long-time association with the Liberty Dollar over their new commemorative coin, pushes me to complete this piece even though I remain dissatisfied with the way that it firms up.


I am troubled by undercurrents in politics that are presenting themselves these days. I have been troubled since I wrote the article Obama Best President Since Eisenhower and my tepid acceptance of who the next president should be, titled Hillary for President? What troubles me is elusive. It is hard to give it a label. It is even harder to find people discussing the perturbations that aren’t actually trying to cover them up in some way. This tendency to hide true motivations has made the process of expressing my concerns even harder to elucidate, to solidify into words, than they normally are.

I’ve written and rewritten this article more than a few times now with various titles and themes. It started out as Feudalism vs. Socialism, but I couldn’t get a handle on what precisely feudalism was based on the judgement of historians. None of them agree on what it was, when it started and when it ended. The death blow was that The Wife hated the original piece. She essentially forbade me to publish it because it was beneath me. I almost did publish it, but I knew I could do better.

While contemplating what it was I was trying to say with this piece, I ran across the concept of kyriachy; specifically it was this article on DailyKOS The Battle Over the Meaning of America: We Have to Fight It, and We Have to Win that got my attention, made me start reworking the article the first time around.

Colin Woodard’s American Nations

To imagine that our times are defined primarily by the struggle between “liberalism” and “conservatism” or between the Democratic and Republican parties is to be dangerously distracted and misled. There is a struggle that defines our times, all right, but it’s a struggle over what the United States of America is all about—what “America” means. And we have to be aware of this struggle and recognize it for what it is.

Here’s our task: We have to begin framing the debate not as liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican, but as equality or neo-Confederacy. We have to do this every time we speak, every time we write.

We have to do this because we have to push the Democratic Party to stand for equality, not for equality-except-in-politics-and-economics.

We have to know what a progressive, pro-equality position is and what a neo-Confederate position is on every issue—which position promotes freedom for all, and which promotes only the “liberties” of a lucky, privileged class. We have to present those positions to every Democratic candidate and ask her to choose one, and if she chooses the patrician position, we have to ask her why she’s favoring inequality over equality. We have to make her see equality as sensible and popular and inequality as radical and unthinkable.

Because unless we have a Democratic Party that unequivocally stands for equality and rejects inequality—social, political and economic—we can’t have an America that stands for equality.

The Republicans have gone all in for neo-Confederate authoritarianism. We have to go all in, too, for liberty, equality, justice and dignity for all—or the long arc of the moral universe will bend away from us, away from justice, and back into the darkness of rule by force and fear.

DailyKOS, The Battle Over the Meaning of America

Equality is the founding principle of socialism, of humanism, no matter how poorly attempts to bring the notions of socialism into the world have failed, equality remains its basis. I tossed the idea out to see if it floated at a BBS I’ve been known to frequent with the title Egalitarianism vs. Kyriarchy, and got some interesting (and not so interesting) feedback. I just couldn’t get it to gel the way I wanted, so I disgustedly shelved the piece again.

Continuing my exploration of concepts, I ran across this Vox article The Rise of American Authoritarianism. That was when it hit me, the label for at least one of the forces at play in the world:

The political phenomenon we identify as right-wing populism seems to line up, with almost astonishing precision, with the research on how authoritarianism is both caused and expressed

After an early period of junk science in the mid-20th century, a more serious group of scholars has addressed this question, specifically studying how it plays out in American politics: researchers like Hetherington and Weiler, Stanley Feldman, Karen Stenner, and Elizabeth Suhay, to name just a few.

The field, after a breakthrough in the early 1990s, has come to develop the contours of a grand theory of authoritarianism, culminating quite recently, in 2005, with Stenner’s seminal The Authoritarian Dynamic — just in time for that theory to seemingly come true, more rapidly and in greater force than any of them had imagined, in the personage of one Donald Trump and his norm-shattering rise.

Vox, The Rise of American Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is old, as old as humanity. Everyone in some corner of their mind can find some kinship with the notions of the great man, someone we can turn to in order to fix the problems that trouble us. If we can hand it all to him, he will make it alright. That is authoritarianism, in a nutshell. It manifests in the current election in the two counter-culture Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the dream of the great man predates all of us.

What is the other force though? The other codifying idea that people coalesce around. It really isn’t socialism per se. Those with authority want you to believe that capitalism vs. socialism is the fight that continues. The holders of old money, the inheritors of new money, the powerful who want to retain power. They raise the specter of socialism like a bogeyman to scare those of us who remember when socialism was the masque worn by dictators across Europe and Asia.

The mind reels at trying to communicate the fear that the word socialism engenders in the minds of people who remember the Berlin wall as a real barrier people were shot crossing. How to communicate the history? Twenty-eight years before 9/11/2001, back in the time when 2001 was a symbol of a bright future in a film yet to be made, I was born. Born in the same year that JFK’s Camelot came to an end. My mother escaped from Europe on the heels of what she figured was the beginning of WWIII, the general suspicion of the time being that the USSR had a hand in the death of our president. The end of an age, the beginning of another one.

What were those years like, what was the feeling during that time? It’s hard even for me to say. From 1963 to 1969 there was assassination after assassination in the political sphere. JFK. MLK. RFK. The riots. The marches. Vietnam. Then the 70’s. Nixon and Watergate. The fall of Saigon. Carter and the oil embargo. The Iran hostage crisis. The return of Ronald Reagan.

I graduated high school out in flyover country and Red Dawn was seen as prophetic when it premiered in 1984. I mean really prophetic, not some kind of hokey, campy the Russkies are coming to get us kind of joke you hear so often these days. We knew the commies were coming to get us, it was just a matter of time. The feds in DC were the real joke because they had no idea what was going on in the world.

How could there be a bright future in 2001 while Red Dawn was a real prophecy of the failure of capitalism, both at the same time? That was/is the kind of discord present in every mind that thinks there is a grand conspiracy out there somewhere running things. There is the world that is, and the world as it really is, and you have to decode the one to find the secret other world. Besides, 2001 was nearly 20 years away. Who can see 20 years into the future?

It was all a lie. All of it. While the USSR and the KGB did plant spies in the US in an attempt to sway US politics, they were never effective. The red scare was and is a chimera, a boogeyman that was and is still used to keep the American people in line. The USSR which had survived on graft for generations finally collapsed under its own weight not long after Red Dawn premiered. I got a job and started working for a living, and the authorities of the world redrew all the maps I memorized in school, and life went on as if we hadn’t spent the last 40 years afraid of our own shadows, afraid of the communists among us.

The war machine though, it went on without stopping. With no enemies to fight, the machine still wanted us to act like we were at war. Reagan was mentally AWOL virtually from the day he took office. His VP barely squeaked out a win on Reagan’s coattails and had to raise taxes to pay for the killing machines conservatives wanted him to build. Bush the first lost to Bill Clinton because of the fiscal reality of who pays for the war machines, the wars, but Slick Willy still had to appease the conservatives who held power and the majority, scared in their own beds at night of the commies waiting to get them. Bill fought every battle he found an excuse for just to keep them quiet and still couldn’t justify the military budget, which he had to cut.

Then came the surprise that created the world we know now; created it out of silicon and electricity. PC’s became widely available. Suddenly everyone had the ability to wax verbose across the entire US, the ability to read the craziest rantings of the most marginalized among us as if they were some kind of representative sample of American thought. Not too long after the US was wired, the whole world was wired. We went from having to do research that took months and years to complete in dusty libraries across differing regions to being able to access virtually all of human knowledge with the click of a mouse.

Not all of that knowledge is real though. Very little of it is, when you start sifting the contents of the internet. Bloggers proliferated in the early years, including yours truly, spreading rumor as if it was fact, furthering the reach of questionable thinking, of non-rational thought.

It became possible to find news on your own, invent news on your own. No longer force-fed nightly at 6 and 10, you could binge on news 24/7. News that you wanted to read/watch/listen to, not the things that the media determined were things an educated public should know. The doors started to come off the media machine, the carefully crafted machine that fed the US and the world the news it wanted us to hear. Out of that chaos was born the conservative echo-chamber as we know it today.

The conservative echo-chamber elected Bush the second. Conservatives fed off other conservatives, on channels they created to coordinate what it was they wanted done, how they wanted their arguments to proceed. What they wanted the grass roots to believe. Small government. Low taxes on the wealthy so they would spend more. Low taxes on everybody so that they had more to spend. A war machine to rival all others. Jobs for everybody. All of it born out of the half-baked plans that came to power with Reagan, that influenced Reagan. Neoconservatism. Libertarian economics. A perversion of Goldwater conservatism that even Barry Goldwater would be hard pressed to back.

With Jesus and the prosperity gospel, they brought their selected candidate to office. It’s just too bad he didn’t know what it was he was doing.

I never did credit W with a wealth of brains. Familiarity breeds contempt, and as a Texan I knew what kind of lackluster thinker the Junior Bush was. He did know at least one thing, because it wasn’t that hard to figure out. Any human group works better together with an enemy to fight, and he started off his term in office with every intention of dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, even before that fateful day in September of 2001.

A relative of his Saudi business partners, Osama Bin Laden, had similar if opposing goals. Having been betrayed by the US at the end of the Cold War when we abandoned the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, outraged by the stationing of infidel troops in the holy land, OBL hatched a plan to start a war with the US by destroying the icons of US capitalism and dominance in the world, the trade center in NYC. The towers fell and the wars started, and the jobs never came and the debts mounted.

That is what it has been like, from then to now. Conservatives afraid of commies, of socialism, suspicious of even their countrymen, especially their liberal countrymen who didn’t see the threat they saw, backing whatever horse showed up claiming to be able to hold the commies at bay, because they prayed to their god to send them a savior. Faith in the supernatural, reliance on the unknowable, fear and betrayal and more betrayal. That is why conservatives back the demagogue, Donald Trump. They are tired of being betrayed by complex people with complex arguments, and they want a war to destroy their enemy (whoever that is) before they are themselves destroyed. Before they are dissolved into history.

Socialism?

Returning to the narrative, that is why socialism is a non-starter in fly-over country, the vast angry red areas of the United States. They still think socialism is a thing to be afraid of. They have no idea that socialism is their insurance coverage. Their police force. Their fire fighters. Their hospitals. Any effort that benefits us all and doesn’t have a clear profit motivation to push it forward, that is socialism at work.

Socialism means no more and no less than control of social systems being held by the many rather than the wealthy few. The corporations. The elites. That the costs of maintaining and running the system are spread across the social groups the system serves rather than paid directly by the person who receives the benefit.

When you get a check from your insurance company, you have benefited from a socializing system. The cost to reimburse you for your loss is borne by the group who pays premiums to that insurance company. When you are injured and rushed to a hospital, the existence of those systems being there to keep you from dying is due to socialism’s influence. When you log on to your computer to check Facebook or whatever social site is popular right now, the existence of that system is due to the socializing influence of government investment in technology.

The internet was not conceived of by a single corporation, was not the brainchild of a single mind. It was conceived of by many people working separately with funds infused by government for the purpose of stimulating research. It was the product of many people working towards the goal of making knowledge available to a larger and larger group of people, for the betterment of humanity as a whole. The internet is the most social of social structures ever invented by man. More social than the grandest ideals of socialism, more liberating than millions of dollars handed to each and every poor person.

Socialism spread without the USSR. Socialism spread without communist China, too. Socialism is greater than Karl Marx. Socialism is less duplicitous than Lenin. Socialism is the antithetical to feudalism, to fascism, but not to capitalism, because socialism isn’t limited to economics. Right or wrong, absolute equality is the basis for socialist theory, and socialist theory is here to stay, just like all the other ideas that have been conceived by the human mind since we first formed words to describe the world around us.

Humanism

The opposing force for Authoritarianism is deeper than socialism, which is why acceptance of socialism as the good is irrelevant in the long run. Authoritarianism is the godhead. The worship of absolute authority over all things living. What opposes it is just as strong, but largely unvoiced. It is an expression of the value of each human life. It is at its core humanism, the valuing of the human over the spiritual or supernatural. Humanism is a movement that was spawned with the enlightenment and has been forgotten by most people today.

Those of us who do remember a time before 9/11 remember Hillary Clinton’s first entrance on the world stage as First Lady to William Jefferson Clinton’s Presidency. Sadly it is against the backdrop of his presidency that her suitability for office is judged, rightly or wrongly. Her first book It Takes a Village was routinely derided by conservatives who knew the harsh cruel world for what it was, never actually asking if that was the world they wanted to live in or not. Whether it might be in our power to change the nature of the world. Change the nature of existence, at least among us humans.

But the humanist notions of It Takes a Village have proven to be true over time. We do need to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. Capitalism needs updating now, so as to bring the floor of our social structure up to a tolerable level, to bring all of the people into the fold reserved for the privileged few in previous human generations. However, it is the basis of capitalism that authoritarians want us to talk about the least. They don’t want to talk about it because the system set up by the privileged is the one that keeps them fat and happy today.

Capitalism is nothing more or less than an outgrowth of the creation of money for trading goods and services. An outgrowth of the common notion that one should profit from transactions with others. Capitalism and money are themselves tools, part of the bigger picture of human interactions. Money cannot exist without others who accept that it is a fair trade for real or imagined value, making capitalism versus socialism a false dichotomy easily destroyed by authoritarians bent on altering the system to suit their goals.

Historical feudalism was an expression of authoritarianism, and facets of feudalism persist into the modern age long past the time when historians have credited it as dead. The notion that one can be granted title to people as well as property by a King or other warlord who controls a region seems outmoded or medieval; however the actual governing of areas, the ownership of lands and systems in the modern age seems hardly different in practice. Holding title to lands was first introduced as a feudal practice. Inheriting that title and associated wealth was also introduced then.

Obviously a family will and should be allowed to continue to use what was held by the head of the household before death. That seems like common sense. But the idea that it belonged to his/her heirs, the notion of heirs itself is feudalism. Is it justice for inheritors to possess gains which were ill-gotten? Gains handed to the original owner on the basis of skin color or where they called home previously? Where is the justice in that, where is the room to be merely human in a world of rigid structure like that?

One can argue that people are no longer property, held with the lands. That is probably the one big difference between the modern world and the ancient world. People are no longer legally property in most places around the world. But if you are poor and cannot afford to leave the lands you were born into (Greece in perspective) the functional difference between the two states blurs. The poor and unfortunate are the pawns of today’s systems just as they were in feudal systems. They are entirely at the mercy of those who control them and the lands they can’t afford to leave. There is little improvement through the ages for the poor among us aside from modern plumbing and the spreading of the knowledge of science.

Capitalism is not a social structure. It is an economic philosophy of a value for value trade, a good solid basis for dealing fairly with those around you. A basis for labor having a value of its own which can be traded for goods and other labor at a later time. Capitalism has nothing at all to say about the content of society, what the minimum standards of living should be, what humane treatment of the sick and injured should be, how the elderly are cared for. In fact it has little of merit to say about most things human.

During the course of the First World War the old establishments of feudalism/authoritarianism started to give way to the new ideas of democracy and self-rule. If you aren’t a student of history, you might not know that WWI saw the end of one of the longest running governments in human history, the Ottoman Empire. It was itself the inheritor of much of the wealth and knowledge of the Byzantine Empire which marked time all the way back through the Roman Empire almost to the beginning of recorded history. So the belief that feudalism was a practice limited to the middle ages is not much more than a quaint notion for scholars to debate. The practices of feudalism were encoded into law, and some of them continue to this day.

The United States, an early precursor of the modern age of democracy (one man one vote) wisely adopted many of the mechanisms established by the successful feudal societies that founded the colonies it sprang from. Mechanisms like corporations to shield business owners from direct personal liability for business losses. Mechanisms like a sound money system which established a commodity as the base measure of value. But the US has always been a mixed economy. Mixed as in respecting the feudal/capitalist nature of the systems that were inherited from the English and the Dutch.

Corporations are feudal creations, originally charters granted by emperors and kings, and their structures are feudal in execution. Yes, a group requires a leader, that is a given of all human systems. But the value of that leadership in today’s world is highly over-rated. The pay for corporate executives far out-weighs the contributions they make to the process of creating the goods and services a corporation produces (Saving Capitalism) the average person on the street cannot name the current head of a single corporation.

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton

This is the intersection which we are currently attempting to navigate. Donald Trump represents exactly what economic conservatives have wanted for a generation. He is a businessman willing to take on the job of running the country, running the country like a business. Unfortunately for them he exhibits even less control than the previous businessmen conservatives have flirted with nominating. He launched his candidacy by laying this turd in full view of the watching world:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Or as I like to refer to him, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Fake tanned, he has embraced the conservative tropes of yesteryear, flinging the hatred of other like a monkey flings shit at gawkers at the zoo. His supporters hear only that they will be saved, if they follow him. That is all they want to hear.

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the poster boy for feudal privilege. Far from being a hero of the common man, an example of bootstrapping, Trump inherited his wealth and businesses from his father. He has bankrupted those businesses not once, but four times. His claim to authority is based entirely on his birth to a position of wealth and influence, the modern equivalent to nobility. The Dukes & Earls of previous societies are now referred to as CEO or CFO. Positions on the boards of large corporations mark your power within modern feudal society. Governments bow to your whims, write laws to benefit your finances, cater to your desires to the detriment of the poor forced to work for a living within the societies you rule.

I love the poorly educated

Donald Trump

Many, many people look at Hillary Clinton, look at her with the backdrop of 40 years of increasingly more conservative dominated politics, as well as the Presidency of her husband, and can’t see how she is an improvement on the President we currently have. There are independents who look at the two major party candidates and inexplicably cannot see a difference between the two of them because they can’t separate the woman from the men she has been required to serve with, the real estate developer who has lied to himself for so long he doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.

Maybe I’m just weird.

I’m struck today with the same sense of surrealism that I’ve had since the day I first heard the term Birther, long before there was such a thing as Birther-in-Chief, another apt Trump label. When I heard the accusation that Barack Obama wasn’t an American, I recognized it immediately as racism and dismissed it. When the conspiracy fantasy wouldn’t go away, when the Birther-in-Chief picked up this obvious dog whistle and wouldn’t stop blowing it, I realized that the conservative echo-chamber was a thing, not just a possibility.

These people don’t know reality from fantasy. Their fantasies about what goes on in the world mean more to them than the facts that govern it. They dismiss those facts when convenient, when the facts get in the way of their fantasies. And since the echo-chamber reflects back to them what they want to hear, they never get the corrective feedback that reality attempts to deliver.

In much the same way, it is painfully clear to me that misogyny governs most of the reporting that goes on in relation to Hillary Clinton. The media desperately attempt to echo the narrative that the long-dominant political forces in the US seem to want to hear. But there are voices out there sending the feedback that we need to be listening for, if only we are paying attention.

However, even if the worst of the worst of the beliefs about Hillary Clinton are true (and they aren’t) There is no way, NO WAY POSSIBLE that she could be as bad, much less worse than Trump. The beast that he has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. That is what happens when you found your campaign on creating an enemy in our midst. When your every other pronouncement decries the barbarian at the door.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on

The old adage runs like this: “American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. However, there is no one person to fear that enters dragging fascism in their wake. The threat is not the figurehead, the Trump or the Hitler. The people to fear are those willing to vote for wrong, to back wrong with force, in the mistaken belief they are right. And that is scarier than the mere presence of Donald Trump on the political scene.

These people desire the destruction of the system itself, in their mad desire to be free of their fears, to the potential destruction of us all. How is that, you ask?

The delivery of modern technology and modern medicine are such complex ventures that their continuation virtually requires the existence of government, government which is now threatened by corporate greed and corporate malfeasance. It is corporations who benefit from the loss of governmental power, not the individual. Corporations who stand ready to reap larger and larger profits at the cost of the lives of the poor and the sacrifice of the rest of the middle class in the US and across the face of the world. Corporations which must be brought to heel by government if we are ever to see the dawn of a new age. The age of the individual as expressed through humanism, the leveling of the playing field with the more equal distribution of information through technology.

Legalize DemocracyMove to Amend

Humanism is the vehicle which will bring the corporations to heel. Its time has finally arrived, let us not waste this opportunity to grasp the future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Trust in our ability to make the systems work to our benefit, using modern technology as our tool. It matters little what Hillary Clinton wants to do so long as she keeps the systems running long enough for us to realize the potential present in the technology we now have at our disposal. Let us not fear the future, but embrace it.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Postscript

I have gone through and re-edited the text of this article to genericize it away from the events that inspired its publication. While they are still present in the text, I have added some detail to anchor them in time. I have also engaged in some generic wordsmithing to clean up the text and make it more understandable from a narrative perspective. Even I lost track of what it was I was trying to say about halfway through the history of the American love affair with authoritarians.

I’ve added headings at the rough points where I switch topics later in the piece, so that it is clear what it is I’m talking about. This was one of my first longer writing pieces, and the narrative I have constructed for it shows that this is an early work. I will do my best to leave the majority of it alone. Here is the Archive.org link to the original article when it was front page on the blog.

MAGA: The Fallacy of “Free Stuff”

Everything that gets done by humans as a group requires humans as a group to do it. There will always be free-ridership and people who get more out than they put in. Should we then say “fuck it” and climb back up in the trees? Go back to the caves because the trees were a bad idea? Where does this regression end?

Surveys and studies have been conducted that show that investment in education yields benefits far beyond the dollars invested. Studies have also shown that barrier-free healthcare yields better outcomes for the vast majority of people living in a system. That these benefits translate to better productivity for more years for more people.

Only stupid people argue against investments that profit everyone including themselves. Even those people who object to lazy people getting free stuff.

Facebook.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008,

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked in a program as complex as Social Security is and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint. The program could be made solvent, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.

The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Postscript

Don’t be that guy. The conservative described below. Just don’t:

Be a liberal instead. Embrace the future.