The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

On populism, despair, hope, and science

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I’m currently reading William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  It’s brilliantly researched, and the author’s prejudices and idealism do little to reduce its value.  One of the things that strikes one very forcefully is the list of 25 demands in the program of the Nazi party, and the discussion of which ones were implemented and which ignored.  Many of these program points are reminiscent of American populism–both the left-wing variety and the right-wing.  If you look at some of the right-wing American populists (Father Coughlin, Huey Long, &c) you’ll see the same thing you see in the program of the Nazi party: proposals to break up financial oligarchy and to distribute the wealth more evenly–the same things you see in the program of left-wing populists.  Is the only difference between them that these program points are instantly dropped and forgotten when a Hilter or a Long comes to power?

Both left-wing and right-wing populism are distinguished by hostility to theory and to politics–by the belief that we don’t need an in-depth understanding of what we’re fighting against, it is sufficient that we’re angry at how the elite are abusing their privileges.  But privilege and power have a complex dialectical relationship to one another; it takes power to maintain privilege, and privilege in turn confers power.  Power in a society is what we call politics, and the argument over who has this power, who ought to have this power, and what ought to be done with it is the expression of the economic conflicts that drive society.  To take a stand on the economic conflicts but to ignore the political is to leave one’s self open to the influence of demagogues.  At best, you have the IWW, whose hostility to theory and politics led to their collapse; at worst you find yourself backing a Hitler, a Huey Long, a Ron Paul, and wondering how you got there.

Shirer’s book is frightening, because it shows what can happen when rage and despair have no productive outlet.  It is also encouraging, because a scientific understanding of how society works–and this book exactly a contribution to such an understanding–is our best hope.

corwin

Author: corwin

Site administrative account, so probably Corwin, Felix or DD-B.

0 Comments

  1. As a card-carrying Wob, I’d say it was more complex than mere hostility to theory and politics. The Wobs, by and large, saw parliamentary politics as a one-way path to compromise and whoredom; and theorists as (by and large) high-talking folks who never got their hands dirty with the day-to-day hassle of organizing, and never ran the risk of being beat up by company goons out on the picket line. I had my share of the same problem with a lot of the fine-sounding New Lefties with college degrees and college jobs who never missed a meal involuntarily.

    At least the Socialist Party elected tire vulcanizers and cigarmakers and painters and plumbers (and farm co-op leaders) to the Wisconsin legislature.

  2. I’m curious as to why you define Huey Long as a right-wing populist. I’m hardly an expert in the area, but I know he’s generally considered left-wing in the mainstream study of American history. That doesn’t make them right, but I’d love to know why you disagree.

  3. Dennis: I’ve never heard him described as left-wing before; that’s a new one on me. I suppose I’ve always thought of him as right-wing because of his alliance with the neo-Nazi’s (black-shirts, Father Coughlin, and so on) is part of the reason. And it seems to me he was great prop for reaction at a time when radicalism was growing in Louisiana. But I’m hardly an expert on the Kingfish; I might well be wrong.

  4. The problem with political labels is they don’t carry well from generation to generation. Long and Coughlin were both considered liberal in their day, partly because they were both against big business and wanted to take wealth away from the large companies and pass it to workers. That one aspect was enough for people at the time to think of them as ‘liberal’, just as these days a person’s stand on just one or two social questions can be used to justify the label ‘conservative’.

    Terms like ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ are even worse to use when discussing the past because they weren’t in use at the time and are simply ways of imposing our own values on the dead.

    Are you familiar with Thomas Frank’s book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas”? He examines the reasons millions of people could be convinced to work against their own economic interests by voting so consistently for people whose main job seems to be to squash the middle class. An earlier book by him, “One Market Under God”, is an examination of what he calls market populism and how happily people will give up their political rights in order to have what they perceive as economic freedom. His analyses of politics and economics are disheartening.

  5. and a happy birthday to you.

  6. Privilege is power? I think not.

    Privilege comes with the capacity to do things other people cannot. It can come from many sources. It isn’t just political power that conveys privilege. Privilege can come from skill, talent, knowledge, physical ability, capacity for violence, charisma, or anything else that people will respect and not oppose. (It’s a privilege to swim in the Olympics, but political power isn’t getting an American in that pool. And it’s not exactly Powerful.)

    And political power, while it has certain privileges, also comes with restrictions. Political power is the capacity to make decisions on what other people are permitted to do. Someone, fundamentally, must make those decisions. It is inherently a privilege to make that decision, because no one else is permitted to, so that is a restricted form of privilege. But their private lives are lost, they technically have all the privileges of walking the streets like a normal citizen, but functionally they are mobbed by media and so cannot. Sure, they can give sweet postings to friends, but that happens in your corner store, too. It’s called “networking”, and unless you’re prepared to kill it everywhere, singling out political positions is simply myopic. People hire those that they trust, and right now, in every business large and small, 90-95% of the time it is a friend or acquaintance of someone the manager trusts that gets the job, just as it has always been. And that will not change under a socialist system, because it’s a human trait, not a unique characteristic of our current system of management.

    Anyway, I would like to talk about redefinitions of right and left, which happens a lot more up here in Canada than in the US, but I’ve ranted too long already. Especially the recent redefinition of “neoconservative”.

  7. I do want to get around to reading Shirer.
    Eight or nine years ago I re-read Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism. It didn’t give me the tactical help I’d hoped for, but it did clarify what we’re up against. (I’m still distressed at how many “progressives” or “liberals” or whatever haven’t focused clearly on the pivotal role of sexual hysteria.)
    And lately I’m a fan of George Lakoff. Of course we need to know how society works. We also need to know how we work. I still put Freud as one of the inventors of the Twentieth Century. Not that his work holds up in detail, but in the Nineteenth Century, people could still talk about “the rational man” with a straight face, and in the Twentieth everyone takes some version of the Unconscious for granted.

  8. “Privilege comes with the capacity to do things other people cannot” Oh.

    Remember that Hitler was “against big business” as well; up until the point he took power. Left wing and right wing are still well-defined terms. If you think human rights are more important than property right, you’re left wing. If you think that is a silly distinction because property rights are part of human rights, you’re right wing.

    I’m prepared to be wrong about Huey Long; but anyone who considered Father Coughlin left wing was an idiot.

  9. I’m prepared to be wrong about Huey Long; but anyone who considered Father Coughlin left wing was an idiot.

    Perhaps you’re not familiar with all of Coughlin’s history. He was originally an ardent supporter of the New Deal and other progressive policies. To quote from one of his speeches (emphasis mine):

    Today the American people are the judge and jury who will support this Administration and accord it a sportman’s chance to make good. It has already subscribed to the principle that human rights must take precedence over financial rights. It recognizes that these rights far outweigh in the scales of justice either political rights or so-called constitutional rights. It appears to be an Administration determined to read into the Constitution the definition of social justice which is already expressed within its very preamble. There we are taught that the object of this Government is to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, to promote the general welfare and to provide the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our posterity….

    You industrialists, surrounded as you are by your economists are anxious to form organizations for the protection of your property rights and for the perpetuation of your profit system. But, may I ask you, of what value are property rights unless they are firmly established upon the sanctity of human rights?

    Are those of you who own and control wealth ignorant of the fact that labor owes no rights to capital unless capital performs its duty towards labor?
    [end quote]

    To call him left-wing or right-wing, though, is to impose today’s standards on events of almost 100 years ago. In fact, to try to use such black and white terms isn’t helpful in a real political dialogue concerning any period of history because they are too restrictive. To call him progressive isn’t necessarily accurate either, despite the sentiments he expressed here, simply because he seems to have chosen to pander to his audience. Once he discovered he received more donations for making his political speeches rather than religious sermons, his broadcasts began to reflect the dominant mood of the country, or at least of that part which donated to him. So rather than label him left or right, one should probably label him opportunistic. Still, given the speeches he made, it should be obvious why he was considered progressive (or left-wing, if you prefer) at the time.

  10. The link to Coughlin’s speech is http://www.ssa.gov/history/fcspeech.html

    I tried to post five or six times with it embedded, but for some reason it was rejected each time.

  11. “Left wing and right wing are still well-defined terms. If you think human rights are more important than property right, you’re left wing. If you think that is a silly distinction because property rights are part of human rights, you’re right wing.”

    Left-Wing and Right-Wing are conceptual pitfalls wherein people seek to categorize others so that they don’t have to think about what they say.

    The first step in any rational argument (by that I mean discussion) is to define your terms. Failure to do so leads to confusion. What do you mean by Human Rights?

  12. Neil: “in the Nineteenth Century, people could still talk about “the rational man” with a straight face, and in the Twentieth everyone takes some version of the Unconscious for granted.”

    That seems very rational of us.

    Ethan: Do you really not think about what someone says after establishing his general category? Permit me to suggest that is as unscientific as imagining we can or ought to avoid categorizing.

    By Human Rights I refer to those things to which every human being ought to be entitled merely by being human. We can discuss details if you like. The Declaration of Independence suggests Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which seems like a good starting point.

  13. L. Raymond: That is, in fact, exactly the point I was making in the original post.

  14. “Ethan: Do you really not think about what someone says after establishing his general category?”

    Certainly not. Not categorizing is impossible as it’s how the human mind works. However I would say that I have met or heard many who stop at the initial categorization of people and ignore all that comes after. This is especially true in the discussion of politics, and other “hot” topics.

    “By Human Rights I refer to those things to which every human being ought to be entitled merely by being human. We can discuss details if you like. The Declaration of Independence suggests Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which seems like a good starting point.”

    I would love to discuss the details. I find good discussions to be good for me. I even like where you started, but again, there is much debate on these things. What do we mean by a Right To Life?

  15. skzb: “Remember that Hitler was “against big business” as well; up until the point he took power.”

    At no time in history was big business ever less capable of making its own decisions than under Nazi rule. Under the Nazi’s, there were large corporations, but did those corporations get to choose what to make, where to sell, what price to set? Could they even choose not to use slave labour?

    Hitler took over big business. You didn’t get contracts without a Nazi party card, so all businessmen became Nazis just to be able to get contracts, and then found themselves doing as their Party commanded. They became part of the system, under the vicious fist of the Reich.

    You definition of “big business” seems to be limited entirely to “number of employees” and “production capacity”. I contend that “big business” also requires your left’s demands of “corporate greed”, which was denied them under Nazi rule. Oh, they profited (business of any size must profit or go bankrupt), but they were slaves to the Nazi political agenda.

    Hitler destroyed “big business”. He didn’t destroy large corporations. There is a distinct difference.

  16. Ethan: ” However I would say that I have met or heard many who stop at the initial categorization of people and ignore all that comes after. ”

    Okay, no argument. I’ll only point out that because some people have a blind spot doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t look there.

    I hope we can discuss this without degenerating into sophistries. The right to life, it seems to me, means that the State ought not to kill without due process of law, and, moreover, that due process of law ought not to permit the killing of anyone except under unusual and drastic situations. More significantly, it seems to me that every human being is owed–merely by existing–everything necessary to life (food, housing, health care, &c). Now, as a socialist, I go significantly further than that; but that is my interpretation of what it means to have a right to life.

    Kriestor: I recommend reading the Shirer’s book, which is really good on exactly that subject; also, Facism and Big Business by Guerin
    (http://www.amazon.com/Fascism-Big-Business-Daniel-Guerin/dp/0873488784/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322096321&sr=8-1). Short version, however, is that I don’t think this discussion is going to move forward by a dispute over the definition of “big business” vs “large corporations.”

  17. “If you think human rights are more important than property right, you’re left wing. If you think that is a silly distinction because property rights are part of human rights, you’re right wing.”

    I forget where I read it, but including property rights into “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was a debate the Founding Fathers had. I think it came down to writing flair and Property Rights didn’t sound as good. Our Founding Fathers believed in Property Rights because they had lots of property.
    Personally, I see Hitler in the Left and Right wings of the US. The Liberty taken from us by both sides is akin to the Liberties taken away by Hitler.

  18. “The right to life, it seems to me, means that the State ought not to kill without due process of law, and, moreover, that due process of law ought not to permit the killing of anyone except under unusual and drastic situations.”

    Agreed. With a side note that the state seems to do a pretty rotten job of deciding who to kill in far too many cases.

    “More significantly, it seems to me that every human being is owed–merely by existing–everything necessary to life (food, housing, health care, &c). ”

    Okay, I don’t agree with that. But rather than simply say I don’t agree, I think it’s important to state why, and you should do the same as I’m interested to know. So here is why I have a problem (or maybe not!) with your idea, if by fact of my existence as a human being I’m entitled to food, housing, and health care, why do I need to work or do anything at all? In fact, not having to work would also help me in my pursuit of happiness. How does this right work in your view? What fact of being a human being gifts me with the right to these things, which clearly have to come from someone else? As you can see, I’m more of a negative rights type rather than positive, meaning I think rights are part of and required by our nature, but they make no demands on others. These things you see in the Right to Life surely need to be supplied by someone. If I’m unwilling to work is someone else forced to work to support me? If they are not, then how can I have a right to them?

  19. Kim: It was a lot more than flair, Kim. It was a long discussion, and it was concerned a vital principle. It was one of the (relatively few) things Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin agreed on, and insisted on.

    Ethan: Most of us work around the house and do other things that are useful to those around us because we know it is the right thing to do. Sometimes this feeling is encouraged by peer pressure–if you’ve ever worked on a group project in which one person was fucking off, you know what that is like. There are some fairly recent studies on this which I know of because Bruce Schneier let me read an early draft of his newest book. But the idea that if society provides for everyone, people won’t work, is a myth.

    One book I can recommend that isn’t about it, but does touch on it, is called Debt. It’s by David Graeber. Fascinating on a number of levels. http://www.amazon.com/Debt-First-5-000-Years/dp/1933633867/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322103888&sr=8-1

  20. “But the idea that if society provides for everyone, people won’t work, is a myth.”

    You should move to Maine where being “on disability” is a way of life for many. These people of course own snow mobiles, ATVs, and enjoy an active lifestyle. It is not a myth. I see this everyday so I know. Some people are immune to peer pressure, and why not if it’s a right?

  21. skzb: “Short version, however, is that I don’t think this discussion is going to move forward by a dispute over the definition of “big business” vs “large corporations.””

    Why not? If the baseline assumptions are incorrect, so will the conclusions be. If a large corporation can be run such that it doesn’t match your definition of big business, it isn’t vile simply for being large, is it?
    __

    As for a book called “Fascism and Big Business”, I’m simply going to say this: Fascism has never been particularly well defined. You can warp it to include both the left and right wing, the definition is so broad in scope. I have no doubt that the author is able to parallel many business practices with aspects of Fascism. Or at least his version of Fascism. There are so many, after all.

    Example:

    Fascism includes the concept of “survival of the fittest”, and in Capitalism, businesses that fail to compete are bought up by the stronger competition, or simply die. That meets the standard of Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

    But it was no different in the USSR. Oh, they took the names off the companies, but management still had to judged based on their productivity. (Replace profitability with productivity, and what’s the difference?) Failure to meet targets got you replaced. Survival of the fittest. No matter what the system, incompetence will get you replaced, and that’s all that has to be achieved to meet that Fascist trait. So is Communism Fascist because I can draw that parallel?

    It’s simply this: EVERYONE is Fascist, even you. The term has such a broad and vague definition, any adequately creative individual can prove anyone else is Fascist. That’s what makes that accusation so tiring and boring. It’s too easy to parallel.

    So if I run across it, sure I’ll give it a read, but I’m not going out of my way.

  22. “One book I can recommend that isn’t about it, but does touch on it, is called Debt. It’s by David Graeber. Fascinating on a number of levels.”

    Thanks, I’ll have to check this book out.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and I hope to hear your reply to my previous post soon.

  23. Kreistor: Fascism and Big Business, written in 1939, traces in detail the support by various industrial giants of Mussolini and Hitler. He explores which sorts of industries supported them, which did not, why they did so, and what the results were for those industries and for others.

    Fascism is, in fact, well defined: it is the form of capitalism in which the bourgeoisie rules openly under it’s own name, all the organizations of resistance by the working class are destroyed, and war, extreme nationalism, and anti-socialism become ideologies enforced by state power. It does not mean police state, or military dictatorship, or someone who is more authoritarian than I would like. Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Horthy’s Hungary, and possibly Metaxes’s Greece (I haven’t studied that one enough to make a decision) were fascist states.

  24. Written in 1939, before the full terror of living in Germany was revealed? Before we threw back the curtain of propaganda, to reveal what the suppressed media could not get past the border to other nations? Tis was an era where nothing anyone outside Germany could write had veracity, because they could not get uncorrupted source information. How many knew about the Nazi terror squads roaming the streets, the mass extortion, blackmail, and threats to family the Nazis used to coerce anyone opposed to their agenda? David Graeber culdn’t have had accurate information to source his writings from.

    I’m sorry, but that is simply not a reasonable timeframe for examining who was and wasn’t complicit in aiding the Nazis. We cannot know who in 1939 was assisting because of the gun pointed at the heads of their children.

    __

    Wikipedia:

    “Fascism opposes class-based identity and society, it is thus both anti-bourgeois and anti-proletarian; and individualist based identity and society.”

    Citation: Laqueur, Walter, Fascism – A Reader’s Guide: Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography

    ANTI-BOURGEOIS.

    That is in complete contention with your conviction it is “capitalism in which the bourgeoisie rules openly under it’s own name”.

    “It does not mean police state, or military dictatorship, or someone who is more authoritarian than I would like.”

    Wiki:
    “Fascism promotes political violence and war as actions that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality. It views conflict as a fact of life that is responsible for all human progress. It exalts militarism as providing positive transformation in society and providing spiritual renovation, education, instilling of a will to dominate in people’s character and creating national comradeship through military service. Fascists commonly utilize paramilitary organizations for violent attacks on opponents or to overthrow a political system.”

    Citing:
    Grčić, Joseph. Ethics and Political Theory
    Griffin, Roger and Matthew Feldman, eds., Fascism: Fascism and Culture
    Hawkins, Mike. Social Darwinism in European and American Thought, 1860–1945: Nature as Model and Nature as Threat
    Kallis, Aristotle, Fascist Ideology: Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945

    Your definition doesn’t match these other people either.
    ___

    And I think that demonstrates my point. Your idea of Fascism is completely different from other authors. That makes it a spectrum definition, and most heinously, has merely become something you call the other person to vilify someone that believes something you don’t.

  25. Kreistor: The edition I was reading was revised in, I believe, 1945. There was little to correct. You are also wrong about what was known in 1939; Shirer, who was a news correspondent from 1934, is clear about that as well. One thing I admire about both Shirer and Graeber is, whatever their ideologies, both did the work to dig out the details. Those who actually do the work are able to speak from knowledge, not prejudice; such works are invaluable.

  26. Yes, Stephen, German industry bought into Naziism the moment they saw it fixing a 20 year Depression. Of course they did. Of course they didn’t believe the German rhetoric about Jews etc. Vast numbers of Germans didn’t, and we blame all of them equally for that failure. Maybe you single out a few individuals for an endemic miindset, but I sure don’t. The plumber is as guilty as the CEO of that ignorance and participation in building the Nazi empire. But I’m not about to use those times as an example of the behavior of all plumbers. That’s simply absurd. Same for the CEO.

    Some of them figured it out, eventually. There were a lot of dead Germans that tried to be Oskar Schindler. Did they dig out that detail in your 1945 edition? Use him as an example of what was done to those that defied the regime to cast doubt on just how much power these CEO’s had to decide how they did business?

    Frankly, considering the desperation Germans had suffered for so very long, the entire world had created a breeding ground for immorality and hate there. That this is what came out of Germany doesn’t surprise me at all. What surprises me is that the choices of anyone in Nazi Germany is evidence of anything other than, “Make people desperate and they’re going to beat the crud out of you.” It certainly is not evidence that business today would act the same without that desperation.

  27. Kreistor: Okay, you’ve lost me; it sounds as if you are fervently answering an argument I never made, and I can’t figure out what that argument is. Enlightenment would be appreciated.

  28. Schindler is a counter-example to your contention the authors were fastidious in their details. His existence, and the documentation about others that did the same but died by being caught, shows that industrialists were enslaved to the Nazi’s. They couldn’t choose not to use slave labour, and couldn’t choose to make toys instead of tank shells. Since this evidence shows the level of enslavement of business to the Nazi’s, I was asking if it was added into your 1945 version. Because it’s a bit of an oversight, if not.

    It’s easy to draw conclusions when you don’t have the counter-evidence.

    Schindler also goes straight to your original statement that Hitler embraced big business. He demonstrates that Hitler enslaved big business, because he needed tanks and planes and bombs. Hitler embraced their industrial production capacity, not their management.

    My other statements present that it was not a sudden takeover. Shirer and Gueber were superficially right, because many businesses did embrace the Nazi’s in the early days when all of the evidence said that the Fascists had the solution to the Depression. It wasn’t until after the war that it became obvious that the solution was identical to Keynes’ theories, and had nothing to do with the specifics of Fascism. But at the time, there was no one that could puzzle that out. They saw the Depression being solved, and that was good for every person and corporation, from the plumber to the CEO. The enslavement came later, but had always been intended, because Hitler always intended to conquer Europe.

  29. It’s worthy to mention that people who run businesses are, well, people and thus some are good and some are bad. In a society where government is involved in regulating businesses (thus all societies that I can think of) that regulation must be dealt with by the business owners to some degree or another.

    Consider the mortgage crisis. This is a case where a government entity created a regulation designed to help people and it created a loop-hole that was exploited by bad businesses. Then the people are left holding the bag while the government bails out the bad businesses.

  30. Kreistor; I see. Uh, Schindler isn’t a counter-example to anything I actually said, or actually believe. Graeber points out that, under certain circumstances, certain industries will turn to fascism as a solution to the problems of capitalism, and they may succeed in establishing it (often to their own regret) depending on many factors, especially the strength of those capitalists compared to others. He then goes on to analyze, in detail, the circumstances that can cause it, and what sort of industries are inclined to seek that solution. You apparently, think he is wrong–without taking the trouble to read the book. Well done; I’m impressed.

    Schirer, a brilliant (if somewhat reactionary) journalist, describes the process of this takeover, and how the Nazi’s used the techniques of populism to sway large sections of the middle class. The importance is in the details. You, apparently, consider this worthless without having taken the trouble to read it. I’m impressed.

    How is Schindler a counter-example of any of that?

    My whole point in this post is that it is difficult, and important, to understand the political position of certain populists; that their rhetoric and stated program are not always reliable guides.

    Have you considered responding to what I say rather than to a caraicature of what you imagine I must believe?

  31. Okay, riddle me this:

    Have those circumstances ever existed and Capitalism *NOT* turned to Fascism?

    Because here’s the problem I have with that conclusion. At best, you have three cases where Fascism took power. (Hungary isn’t generally accepted because it was under coercion from Nazi Germany and abandoned it as soon as they could.) Three examples, that took place nearly simultaneously are demonstrable proof of nothing in general.

    And I’ll leave you with this:

    Germany: Capitalism in Germany wasn’t failing: it was under the bootheel of War Reparations. That wasn’t a problem in the Capitalist system, but the politics of Europe. No system would have been able to handle those payments.

    Spain: Fascism was implemented there only as a response to the ’31 Constitution that attacked industrialists, the Church, and the military. There were no Capitalist problems it was intended to solve, since the problem was being created by the elected Liberals and Socialists.

  32. “Have those circumstances ever existed and Capitalism *NOT* turned to Fascism?”

    Yes, several times. Or, well, your question isn’t precise. In all those occasions, fascist elements rose, but that doesn’t mean they were successful. in gaining state power.

    Admiral Horthy was in power in Hungary in 1919; usually considered the first fascist state (although the name wasn’t taken until several years later, after Mussolini).

  33. “Fascist elements rose”? That can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, including, “The right wing strengthened.” (The Left tends to view all Right Wing adherents as Fascist, after all, so you’ll have to forgive my skepticism.) And the important part for this discussion was, “Were those fascist elements supported by business as a solution to problems with Capitalism?” I suspect it was just a bunch of disillusioned youths shaving their heads and spouting Mein Kampf, but I’d be happy to hear the examples.

    The point here is that for Gaeber’s conclusions to be valid, the rise of Fascism (rather than the Right Wing) must always occur in the conditions that he identifies, and it must be honest Fascism, not Left Wing spin jobs to vilify the Right. If there are cases where Fascism did not rise, then his conclusion is invalid, because it is not an absolute, and Capitalism cannot be vilified for what was, truthfully, a tragic fad. If we’re watching a lake and we see a fish jump, we can draw the conclusion that there are fish in the lake, but not that all fish jump.

    Horthy didn’t make Hungary Fascist. He only made it Right Wing. Gombos tried to make it Fascist beginning ’32, but was never entirely successful, dying in ’36.

  34. The question as to whether those fascist elements were supported by business is at the heart of the question. In the cases I’m talking about, where fascistic elements rose but failed to achieve state power, they received some support from some business elements (notably heavy industry, and banks with heavy investments in heavy industry), but not sufficient support. Black shirts marched in England, France, and the US in the late 20’s and early 30’s, and had *some* backing from *some* corporate elements (Henry Ford and Charles Lindburgh were notable financial supports in the US); but not enough.

    That some Left Wingers like to call everything authoritarian “fascist” no more determines the scientific content of fascism than that Christian Fundamentalists call the effects of evolution “creation science” determines the scientific content of evolution.

    The point here is that you are attempting to discuss my opinions without listening to them, which is silly, and Gaeber’s conclusions without having read any of them, which is embarrassing.

  35. Okay, just going to drop it there. Dominated this for too long. Let other people get their comments in.

  36. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is not flair, nor is it simply something upon which the guys who wrote the Declaration (mostly Jefferson, as drafter — which is why they wrote the Constitution when he was out of the country) agree.

    The original phrase “Life Liberty and Property” comes from John Locke’s “Second Treatise on Government.” In it, we get the magic story of property. Once upon a time, there is none, and we all just live off the land. But, when I improve a piece of property by, say, trimming fruit tree or creating a pool to bring in more trout, that makes the property mine. At one time, anyone could have done this.

    Locke does not explain how the vast majority in the time of his writing have nothing. Having made clear that people who have property earned it through what we would call sweat equity (or their ancestors did), they are entitled to keep it against the grabs of those who(se ancestors) did not work. Makes it hard to explain how the common meadow or the Lord’s forest count as property, but…

    So we want this famous phrase from Locke who, even today, stands as a democratic prophet. But ain’t no way we’re gonna enshrine the notion that everyone is entitiled to property. Not when property means land. First, as landed men ourselves, we want what we have. Second, to those with a commercial bent, wealth can be had without property in the sense used at the time.

    In this context, “pursuit of happiness” works nicely, both to keep the propertied interested in the revolution and willing to fund it, and to sow the seeds for the very commercial nation we became.

    So yeah, rhetoric counts.

    Both left-wing and right-wing populism in this country fail to realize what a swindle those words are — empty of content unless you’re willing to just let the vague phrase stand. In a profoundly anti-intellectual country, we’re gonna get more than our share of that.

    Also, populism is not only intellectually lazy, it’s physically lazy. Being angry and protesting and rallying (and Occupying or Tea Partying) help unite a group, both with regard to itself and against the other side. In this bubble, one cannot imagine the need for the slow work to create alternative social frameworks, act on different assumptions, subvert the dominant paradigm in act, not in word alone.

    Because as anyone who has seriously stidued politics knows or rhetoric knows: he who sets the rules, wins the arguments.

  37. JP: I agree with most of that. But, to me, “pursuit of happiness” does, indeed, have content; it means the State must not unreasonably interfere with my activities. In my opinion, that is a great deal. And the proof, if you will, that the phrase has content is how vehemently the reactionaries hate it.

  38. Been following this debate with interest and some frustration. What has been said so far feels too abstract to me — it’s only this far in that JP is trying to relate it to modern groups in any way and only in passing.

    Steve, are you willing or able to connect your ideas here to the modern political scene? Though I wish we could do this over beers, it would be much more fun.

  39. beer makes everything better 🙂

  40. Hi Steve,

    You said “Ethan: Most of us work around the house and do other things that are useful to those around us because we know it is the right thing to do. Sometimes this feeling is encouraged by peer pressure–if you’ve ever worked on a group project in which one person was fucking off, you know what that is like. There are some fairly recent studies on this which I know of because Bruce Schneier let me read an early draft of his newest book. But the idea that if society provides for everyone, people won’t work, is a myth.”

    I pointed out that I personally know of people who are on disability in Maine who live a subsidized existence (food, housing, medical) yet, despite this disability they lead active lives and have many expensive items I myself do not. You didn’t comment on this, so we’ll leave it aside for the moment and work on your assertion that people will work if housing, food, and medical care are provided.

    Suppose I have my house, food, and medical care provided for me. I live alone and I do work. My work consists of keeping my free house neat and tidy, as well as it’s yard. I work 40 hours a week making clay figurines (poorly) that no one wants to buy but I do produce them regularly and it does take hours to do. Is this okay? I mean, I work, but it helps only myself in that I live alone so no one benefits from my clean and neat house, and the figures I make (or whatever) are things that no one wants. Technically I’m working hard at this, but it’s not a product that someone wants. Is this okay?

  41. Kit: You’re right, of course; it is too abstract. A failing of mine. To bring it home, I’ll say that I’ve been hearing populist-sounding rhetoric from many elements in the Occupy movement, and it worries me.

    You are over-supposing, methinks. Suppose we had a rational society in which everything that could be automated was, and in which profit was a non-issue. Suppose, then, that we call “work” that which is unpleasant. Just how much “work” would there have to be? Forty hours is absurd. I think 10 hours a week is more than would be called for. Maybe 5? Who wouldn’t do 5 hours of work a week in response to peer pressure when it allow us all to get what we need?

    I’m over-supposing as much as you are; but I think my suppositions are more in line with reality.

    None of this is really the point, anyway. I have no idea how a rational society would work it out. The point is that those who believe that when a society provides for its members, its members will not work have never studied history or anthropology. There are no shortage of counter-examples at your fingertips. When see people who are provided for not contributing, then you need start asking what special circumstances caused that, not assume it’s the norm.

  42. “The point is that those who believe that when a society provides for its members, its members will not work have never studied history or anthropology”

    A society is just people. Society provides nothing, people do. Arguments pretending this is otherwise tend to come from people who don’t want to work and hope that some technological innovation provided by this so called “society” will solve that problem for them. They want the benefit of that technology but don’t expect to reward the person or people who make it possible.

  43. ” Society provides nothing, people do”

    That statement is either meaningless or wrong. Man is a social animal; Man does *nothing* alone, but only in cooperation with others. The nature of that cooperation, in all of its changes and contradictions over history, is exactly what permits individuals to flourish. Those who deny that want to reap the benefits of that cooperation without providing their fair share of contributions. That injustice is what the Occupy Wall Street movement is outraged about, and that outrage is the most progressive thing about it.

  44. Of course we cooperate….and that is what money is for: Trading value for value. One may consume only the amount one creates. In your system, merely being born is an act of demand upon everyone who produces whether they produce or not. It’s a backwards way in which equal results are demanded for unequal effort.

  45. Oh, and lest you think I love those wall street banks that were bailed out, I do not. They produce nothing and the days of long term investment driving development are long gone. Nor do I agree with the majority of the Occupy protesters, as they really don’t have a message to agree with

  46. Ethan: Earlier I recommended the book Debt: The First 5000 Years. I recommend it again. Or, really, any decent anthropology text. The notion of “trading value for value” as the basis of how society provides for people is very recent. Don’t take my word for it; do a bit studying.

  47. Fine, I’ll read that. In the meantime, answer me this question; You say, human right includes food, housing, and medical care on the basis of merely being human. Why?

  48. Because sitting back and watching human beings starve, freeze, and rot is immoral.

  49. Kreistor: “Because sitting back and watching human beings starve, freeze, and rot is immoral.”

    Then you are immoral, spending time and money on the internet talking about things instead of using that money and time to feed people. If you disagree, tell me why. Also feel free to me the value that lies at the root of what you call moral. This is not sophistry…I am serious.

    Steve: I downloaded ” Debt” to my nook and am reading it now. Already interesting. I knew the IMF were bastards, but had never really dug too deep into their methods and collusion. The injustice of expecting the people of a country to pay back the ridiculous interest on a loan taken by a dictator is disgusting. Government and business in bed together is always bad. This is that on steroids of course. More to read.

  50. Actually, it is sophistry. You wanted to make that argument. It is, of course, entirely false and distracting, and does not go to the subject matter. We were talking about why certain things were Human Rights, not why one or another individual is immoral. Some want these things to be Human Rights because some people would not aid their neighbours under any circumstance. We try to make something a Human Right to ensure that people don’t die because of that attitude. You do not, however, force that immoral individual to perform any action, since that would be enslavement and a violation of his own Rights. The government acts in his stead, using his tax dollars. That way he can remain immoral, and still retain Human Rights for the unfortunate.

    Whether I am immoral for sitting and typing at my computer does not in any way affect my argument.

  51. Using his tax dollars against his will and desire IS enslavement. You take his effort and use it against his will.

    Morality IS about you and me, not someone else.

  52. Opinion is not a defense against reason.

  53. ?????

    What do you think is merely an opinion. I’ll provide a clear reality based reason to anything you ask. Of course, I expect the same in return. So, what are you referring to?

  54. I assume you are referring to my comment that
    “Using his tax dollars against his will and desire IS enslavement. You take his effort and use it against his will.”

    Enslavement is the opposite of freedom. You claim that the government doesn’t force the person to take an action to help these people and then say they use his taxes to do it. If he doesn’t pay his taxes the government will show up and force him to, literally. Calling something a tax does not launder the money from the fact that it is taken by force and used to do something this person has no control over.

  55. Enslavement is forcing someone to do what you want, when you want them. Your tax protestor is not in that situation. He can work at whatever he wants, in the shift that he wants, so long as someone is willing to hire him. Taxation is the enforced payment for infrastructure and programs that are of interest to society as a whole that would not be paid for without organized forced donations. At worst, you could call it theft. But it is in no way shape or form even approaching the definition of enslavement.

    What is reasonable is not determined by the individual, when it comes to the benefits of society. A cyclist doesn’t get to not pay taxes for public roads for vehicles. The vehicles that use those roads may be vile to him, but they deliver his food to the grocer, his next bicycle to the store, the Fire trucks to his house, and the police to capture the escaped criminal in his backyard. His opinion that he shouldn’t pay is irrelevant, because society has use for that road. Taxes are a form of insurance, used to ensure that while a person’s current situation may not require the services Society provides through taxation, that when the situation changes, they are there to help all people, regardless of previous shortsightedness.

  56. Opinion is not a defense against reason.

    If the roads and what not are a benefit then they will be paid for willingly.

    Taxation is theft as you note, when it is done by the government it is more so, not less so. Your concept is that of all people being enslaved to one another rather than acting with goodwill.

    When individuals act to support a large project or even help a neighbor or stranger they act with their own judgement. The judgement of government is abstract and full of waste.

    The greater good otherwise may be used to justify any sort of awful violation of rights…..as has been seen in socialist regimes and quasi-capitalist regimes as well.

  57. All of your statements are false on their face, and only rhetoric. Make a real point: I’m not here to teach you basic civics.

  58. Really?

    I asked you why Human Right includes house, food, and medical care. You said because it was immoral not to supply these. I ask you why? It seems your “why” is a floating abstraction. If you cannot explain your view of civics and tie it to a “why” in reality then it is not I who is making the false statements. Wishing does not make things so. Solve your moral equation for me.

  59. I don’t need a review. You have retreated to questioning the existence of taxation. That is basic civics, and if you don’t accept the need for taxes, you are either a troll trying to avoid the ego hit for losing an argument or a fool that should stop paying his taxes and have a judge explain taxes to you with his sentencing.

    I don’t feed trolls, and I don’t coddle fools.

  60. Projection is a terrible mental crutch.

    You have built a house on assertions and appeals to “civics” and “judges rulings”….not once have you answered the questions of why your assertion should stand in regards to reality and from where you derive your morality and therfore your law and rights.

    Troll? Fool? Who is stooping to insults and lacking patience? Not me.

    If you can’t explain your ideas without appeals to things you can’t or won’t explain, then it is you who are lazy or unable to explain that which you don’t tuly understand.

    I am not that way at all.

    What defines a human being, what is our essential nature?

    Reason!

    Our basic means of survival is reason. It is essential to our nature as a human being. It is not automatic and requires action, specifically focus on reality.

    We face one basic choice that precedes all other choices we make, that is the choice of life or death.

    If we choose to live we can only live properly as our nature and the world around us requires. We must act in accordance with reality.

    That is, we must exist as rational beings in a modern society.

    Morality is a guide to life. It acts as a framework for choices we make. A correct morality is based on our nature and on the fact that we have chosen to live. The good, therefore is

    that which sustains and enhances your life, the evil is that which threatens or destroys your life. That means your life as a rational human in a modern society.

    To be effective the mind must not be forced, you must be able to choose freely the directions and goals you will make based on your rationality and your perceptions of reality.

    Rights arise from this nature and need. You must be free to choose your path. You must own your life. You must be responsible for your life. Your rights free you from the control of

    others BUT ALSO free them from your control. You must deal with others unless you are a hermit. Your life will be immeasurably better from dealing with others for food, shelter,

    medical care, or anything else that others may supply for you. You must NOT compel others but deal with them in a way that recognizes their rights to be independent. That is, without

    compulsion. Value must be traded for value in some form whether money, goods, or something that both parties can agree upon.

    The proper function of government is limited to prtecting your rights in three ways:

    Protection from attacks and threat from outside your society (defense forces)

    Protection from fellow citizens who attempt to violate your rights (police)

    Handling disputes between citizens (courts)

    How hard was that? Let me help you with your assertion!

    In your assetion you create rights that require the compulsion of others. Everyone must be forced to support everyone else.

    ME: Why?

    YOU: Because people can’t be trusted to support them otherwise.

    ME No, Why do they have the right to be supported?

    YOU: Because it immoral not to!

    ME: Why?

    YOU: You don’t understand civics! You are a troll or a fool!

    You assert a system of laws, taxes, and controls that are designed to enforce your asserted rights.

    Your rights are not based in reality or the nature of humans therefore your reasoning when questioned on it is circular.

    That is false on it’s face. Please feel free to explain your assertion of morality and rights if you think I have not captured your argument in it’s fully round way.

  61. Your caricature of my argument is amusing. Obviously you aren’t smart enough to understand what I said, if that’s what you got out of it. I don’t think anyone else here missed my points, though I’d love if someone else said that they think I missed something.

    Disingenuous spin jobs only embarrass the author, when the original text is available as source. They work in verbal confrontations because the past comments dissipate into the ether, but not online. Everything I said is available to be read, and others can tell how you intentionally misinterpreted me. So I don’t need to explain a single word to feed your ego.

    Another reason to call you troll and fool.

  62. Considering your misrepresentation and straw manning with Steve, I think I’m not the only one who has had enough of dealing with your powerful mind. No more time to waste on you, and yes, it’s right there for everyone to read. I hope someone points out how I did or did not misrepresent you.

    Off to read more of “Debt” now. Hope the words aren’t too big for me 🙂

  63. Girls, girls. You’re both pretty.

    Seriously, I think everyone has had his say on this aspect of this discussion. Let’s either drop it or give it a sharp turn (I, of course, would prefer a left turn, but, you know).

    I’ll try to say something else provocative soon.

  64. Going to continue Das Kapital ever?

  65. My two cents (this was written in haste so forgive the lack of rigour and thought in some areas).

    Going back to the original post, this seems to relate to how the Roman Republic turned into an Empire.

    From my understanding there were a few things such as
    – an increasing significant wealth divide due to many things such as slavery from conquests displacing paid labour.
    – the lack of effectiveness and relevancy of the Dual Consulship to handle the more larger and complex territory
    – the increase of wealth of the upper middle and ruling classes due to the conquests (turning point was probably Carthage) leading to personal fame and ambition over traditional Republican virtues

    These and other circumstances lead to the rapid evolution of concentration of power into a single individual, who was Monarch in all but name. This came about from factors such as:
    – The individual of higher nobility “relating to the masses” and the common soldier in combination of very smart politics and military adeptness (think Julias Caeser)
    – The definition of the role the head of state (Princeps) which is a container title for a number of the official senior republican offices, in combination of cult of personality. And in the meantime, keeping the illusion of the republic (think Octavian)

    A number of internal and external traumas with the Empire (oops I mean Republic) over next couple of centuries lead to further solidification of Emperor’s power (some of this came back to bite) such as:
    – over compensation and focus of the soldiers at the expensive of the masses, so they are always on your side (think the Severen emperors)
    – the eventual blow-away of the illusion of the republican forms and functions, leading the emperor to semi-divinity (think Diocletian)
    – reading the trends of religion (Christianity) in the non-ruling classes and embracing it for yourself by way of formalising it into the state and integrating some of the pagan aspects into it (think Constantine and Theodosius)

    Why did the majority let this happen? In part due to a shit roman education system which did not allow the majority to think and act for themselves for the good of society.

    Lesson here? Society needs to invest in quality education of its people to ensure that individuals do not outsmart and/or dupe the masses in times of crisis. Otherwise our kids and grandkids could end up as Orwellian proles.

  66. Kriestor: Yes, if I ever get unpacked enough to find my copy,

    schmwarf: Education is pretty huge, isn’t it? Your point is only one reason I can’t see educational issues as isolated from other problems.

  67. Would I be correct to say that education is not important in the Maosit doctrine, which relys on the manpower of the uneducated peasant? (Pol Pot called the educated “New People” and didn’t he activily move to exterminate them?)

    And wasn’t education of “the way things should be” a contributing factor in throwing tea in the Boston water over 200 years ago?

    People say that facebook and twitter were keys in overthrowing personalities in North Africa an the current unrest in parts of the Middle East. It will be interesting how the spreading of ideas through the social network will play in the stability of the current world order. This backdrop will challenge the existing education frameworks and this generation is on a sugar high of unstructured, untested information at their fingertips.

    I that bet that wasn’t on Tim Berners-Lee’s agenda in 1980.

  68. @67 Mao put a huge emphasis on education, but the content had to be first, last and always geared towards making a better communist. He would berate party members for not applying themselves to a thorough study of history, but only because it prevented them from properly applying the “universal truth” of Marxism-Leninism to everyday life. He put great emphasis on direct experience and practical application of specialized knowledge and said, “…considered as a whole, knowledge is inseparable from direct experience.” He thought the peasants were wise because they had direct hands-on experience with all aspects of their lives; he actually loved intellectuals in theory but since in reality a lot were “skeptical” about socialism, they clearly needed more education. In other words, education was first and foremost propaganda designed to produce a populace unable to consider their social position in any terms other than communist. Yes, we can draw parallels between him and the current US school system.

    Your more interesting point is about social media. Right now, it’s not being used constructively at all. People are using it to tell each other they’re angry, and they’re going to do something about it, but such calls to action are all it’s good for. The OWS people haven’t accomplished anything – they just dribbled into camps and sat around, waiting for someone to lead them. The mass protests in Tunisia may have been fueled by tweets and blogs, but it was the already organized Ennahda that won the elections. The tea party start out equally nebulous, but it became a political force not because it was more coherent than the OWS, but because the people were older and wealthier, making them attractive targets for establish political organizations to step in and take control.

    Leaderless mass movements may introduce new ideas into a society, but I don’t believe they will ever produce stable change. That requires an experienced organizer to get involved and take charge.

  69. ” properly applying the “universal truth” of Marxism-Leninism ”

    You gotta love it. The universal truth of a theory whose essence is the belief that there are no universal truths.

  70. That quote came from a May 1941 report called “Reform Our Study” which Mao submitted to a party meeting: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_02.htm

    The thing about Mao is he was huge on talking about Marxism-Leninism as the greatest thing in the world, but he discarded any aspect of it he didn’t like. For instance, Marxism called for a revolution of the industrial proletariat, but Mao decided that in China, that class was too small and complacent, which is one reason he focused so strongly on the peasants.

    To tie this back into the populist movement topic, he had excellent skills in the matters of practical leadership (read his “On Guerilla Warfare” for a look at this side) but basically made up the political bits as he went along, using the idea of “Marxism-Leninism” as his starting point in order to lend greater credence to his own philosophy. This is what one saw in the tea party movement almost immediately, the claim that
    there’s too much government followed by their supporting creating a greater government involvment in everyday life. By repeatedly insisting that they’re were all basically Goldwater or Reaganesque conservatives, they primed themselves to be led by anyone who played into that fantasy. This ability for a large group to deceive itself is one reason I’m concerned by such movements, including the current OWS bunch.

  71. Quite right. He used “Marxism-Leninism” in the same way contemporary Christianists use the Bible–something to point to while ranting. My only nitpick is: my understanding of the Chinese industrial proletariat, up to the Shanghai massacre of 1927, was that they were small, but not complacent.

  72. I have to confess that observation was paraphrased from the intro to my copy of “On Guerrilla Warfare”, which was translated by Gen. Sam. Griffith of the USMC (he actually wrote that Mao thought they were “apathetic”, so perhaps they simply didn’t support hm avidly enough).

  73. “He used “Marxism-Leninism” in the same way contemporary Christianists use the Bible–something to point to while ranting.”

    That is wretchedly prejudicial, Stephen, and completely beneath you. TV personalities are not the majority of Christians, and most Christians don’t watch them. 30% of every workplace are practicing Christian, but most people couldn’t even state who they work with that is and isn’t.

  74. Kreistor@73 (speaking of wretched…):

    “Christianist” is NOT interchangeable with “Christian,” and –unlike you– “Steven” (NOT “Stephen”) *is* using his term correctly.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianist

    And skzb @ 63: with all those daughters and grands, I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but right now I’m feeling like the wimmenfolk among your readers have been royally dissed by association. Heh, welcome back, though.

  75. Even creating a term like “Christianist” is prejudicial. Using it is ignorant and lazy.

    But I suppose it’s typical of Left Wing characterizations of those they hate. Pigeonhole other peoples’ minds with terms like Bankster, NeoCon, and other things that ignore the spectrum of human thought.

    Not like we weren’t talking about another guy that did that with the term “Jew.” Nothing like him at all.

  76. @75 How do you justify saying “typical of left wing characterizations” and comparing him to Hitler in light of your criticism of those who “pigeonhole other peoples’ minds” and use terms you don’t like?

    In #73, your jump straight to TV evangelists is a non-sequitur. Every single follower of the biblical religions cherry picks what to believe in the book. If they all accepted everything, there wouldn’t be a thousands sects, there would be one church.

  77. Kriestor: Actually, “Christianism” is a precise term, and is, if anything, pro-Christian. It is how one avoids conflating those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ with those who use those teachings to support a particular right-wing agenda. Do you believe that all Christians ought to be lumped in with Jerry Falwell? I do not.

  78. Would it be okay to use Jesus’ teachings to support a Left Wing agenda?

    And after my rant, how could you think I could lump any identifiable group with anyone or thing? I don’t even like using the terms Right and Left wing, but those cover huge spectra and are pretty unavoidable. Politics isn’t a single axis concept, so Right and Left really are absurd concepts.

    I think what cranked me was your comment about quoting scripture. You see, when you throw books at people, you do the same thing as those that quote scripture. You make the conversation from that point exclusionary and elitist. You can’t make a valid point until you read a particular book or know enough scipture to offer a counter-quote? Both are dismissive.

    (Oh, and your efforts on Das Kapital? Exactly like a Bible Study.)

  79. “You see, when you throw books at people, you do the same thing as those that quote scripture. You make the conversation from that point exclusionary and elitist. You can’t make a valid point until you read a particular book or know enough scipture to offer a counter-quote? Both are dismissive.”

    It’s not exclusionary if he provides the book and you read it and come back to the debate. If you merely wish to argue from authority and make points then you expect others to concede the whole thing right then.

    It never hurts to put off a discussion until you have done some research.

  80. “Oh, and your efforts on Das Kapital? Exactly like a Bible Study.”

    Not really, the Bible is worth studying but it rests entirely upon faith and is therefore not within the realm of evidence and proof. Das Capital is a political and philosophical treatise that, while right or wrong rests within the realm of the arguable. You can’t argue or reason with faith, that is it’s nature. You can debate things like Das Capital that don’t rely on it.

  81. @Kreistor: “And after my rant, how could you think I could lump any identifiable group with anyone or thing? ”

    Easy. In comment 75, you lumped an identifiable group together to make an observably false statement.

    I think a quote from our estimable host’s most famous character is in order:

    “Most people seem to take pleasure in feeling superior to someone. I’m not like that, which pleases me because it makes me feel superior.”
    –Vlad in Jhegaala

  82. “(Oh, and your efforts on Das Kapital? Exactly like a Bible Study.)” What about my earlier close reading of The Wealth of Nations? Was that also like Bible study? Just curious.

  83. I never read the comments on Wealth of Nations, so can’t exactly say. In a Bible study, you take a section of text, examine each part and explain and examine the text to recognize the validity of the conclusion, or to explain the historical basis for the statements, if that has been lost. That seems pretty close to what you’re doing with Das Kapital. Is that what you did before?

    @Ethan: “Not really, the Bible is worth studying but it rests entirely upon faith and is therefore not within the realm of evidence and proof.”

    Everything is, at some level, based on Faith. Math has its Axioms — unproven statements at its foundations. Science has unproven Laws. (The Law of Conservation of Energy cannot be proven, but has never been violated, so we accept it as true… on Faith. General Relativity is based on the assumption that all observers measure the speed of light to be the same value.) Stephen’s examination of Das Kapital has at its source an assumption that Trades are of equal value for both participants. There is absolutely nothing in this world that does not have some Faith in its foundation. And yes, I just called Science a Religion.

    @Dennis: You missed, “I don’t even like using the terms Right and Left wing, but those cover huge spectra and are pretty unavoidable.” But you’re right: I should have said, “Some of those in the Left Wing” rather than the shorter “Left Wing”, because I am perfectly aware that not everyone in the Left uses NeoCon as an epithet. My apologies, that was wrong of me.

  84. Science rests on things that can be proven, thus some things eventually prove true or don’t.
    Faith resists evidence that refutes it’s claims. Period. One seek verification, the other denies the possibility of it. The end.

  85. “I never read the comments on Wealth of Nations, so can’t exactly say. In a Bible study, you take a section of text, examine each part and explain and examine the text to recognize the validity of the conclusion, or to explain the historical basis for the statements, if that has been lost. That seems pretty close to what you’re doing with Das Kapital. Is that what you did before?”

    Pretty much. Although I call that “studying.”

  86. @84 And yes, I just called Science a Religion.

    This is a typical comment made by those unable to differentiate betwen faith, confidence and knowledge. Math & science are in no way based on faith; the axioms you mention are purely observational and don’t need to be described (why does 2+2=4? Put two sticks here, two there, and clearly you have four). The term “law” is not used in science in any more, partially because of how people misunderstand it, not that most of them do well with the word “theory”, which has replaced it.

    Thermodynamics is not taken on faith, it’s accepted because it hasn’t been demonstrated to be wrong, but it will be revised as soon as concrete observation requires it, just as Einstein’s work is undergoing revision right now because a faster-then-light particle has been detected. Religion is not susceptible to revision, because to do so would be to admit it was wrong before. That’s why sects break off and pick fights with each other – faith lacks the strength to survive a challenge, while intellectual curiosity thrives on it.

    In short, if science were a religion, we’d still be banging skins with rocks in a stream by the cave to clean them, because anyone who suggested there’s a better way to live would be killed as a heretic.

  87. @L.Raymond:

    “This is a typical comment made by those unable to differentiate betwen faith, confidence and knowledge. Math & science are in no way based on faith; the axioms you mention are purely observational and don’t need to be described”

    A Christian would say that he sees God everywhere, and feels Christ in his heart, which makes that purely observational, too. That you can’t observe it means only that you haven’t tried to observe it.

    “it’s accepted because it hasn’t been demonstrated to be wrong”

    God hasn’t been demonstrated as wrong, either.

    “Einstein’s work is undergoing revision right now because a faster-then-light particle has been detected”

    A lot of people are unaware that this is the second kick at this can. In 1988, in response to neutrinos’ from the 1987 Supernova being detected before the light emissions by several hours, astronomers were trying to deal with faster-than-light neutrinos. An explanation was eventually found to explain the phenomenon (specifically, neutrinos are not slowed by the atoms in a star, while light is, so neutrinos escape from the center where they were created faster than the light which bounces from atom to atom). Relativity isn’t on the chopping block, yet, especially with the GPS system ensuring that it exists in some form. (Without correction for Relativity due to satellite speed, GPS would drift by 30 meters every day. There are at least three other astronomical experiments that have proven Relativity.)

    “Religion is not susceptible to revision”

    Jesus Christ. Council of Nicaea. Martin Luther. Yeah, it is.

    “faith lacks the strength to survive a challenge”

    Salvation Army and AA. Faith is the foundation for recovery from the worst challenge – addiction. Many Christians claim their Faith gets them through trials other people fall to.

    “intellectual curiosity thrives on”

    Curiosity is only a trait in Science? Hardly. Please review the Pentacostal attempts to recover the capacity to create miracles of the type described in the Bible. That one denomination or another is against development does not mean all religion is.

    “if science were a religion”

    You are aware that Buddhism is a religion, right? And all of the invention that came from China — gunpowder, trebuchet, china porcelain, the list is too long to include here — and was not suppressed by religion? It was the Muslims that retained the works of Aristotle and the classical Greeks that were used to recover the knowledge lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.

    You are extending what happened during a small period of Christian history to all religions over all time frames, and that is clearly just prejudicial. The suppression of invention in China came from the Emperor, not the Buddhists, so suppression of creative thought is not a distinct feature of religion, but of anyone whose power is threatened by change, not just from science but from competing philosophical thoughts.

  88. The person who asserts a thing has the burden of proof, not the one who denies it for lack of proof.

    Otherwise anyone’s arbitrary assertion would have to be viewed as equally valid. Arguments of faith and god(s) occur because their is no evidence to refute or argue about. They are all arbitrary. They cannot be tested or measured in any way. Pretending they can be does not make it so.

    The argument that people haven’t looked to see god is laughable.

  89. Also the success rate of AA would be more of a proof of the weakness of faith rather than it’s strength.

    In the end though, the fact that you say no one can disprove God points directly to what I say about arbitrary assertions and the burden of proof. Wishful thinking is just that.

    As for revision of faith that you point out. No. They are just further arbitrary assertions and splits because they are arguing about assertions that have no proof. It’s easy to split off when your claim of truth is equally as valid (actually invalid) as the next guys.

    Scientists don’t claim to know everything. They hypothesize based on reality and then test. If evidence comes up that invalidates the theory, a new theory that FITS THE FACTS is chosen and tested.

    Faith does not do this. It falls back on the unknowable and immeasurable. It is irrational. Period.

  90. Facts, selectively chosen by you. As examined by a mutually selected group that decides that they are the sole source of intelligent thought.

    Right, nothing like a religion at all.

  91. All I have to say is a quote from the movie Jaws:

    Quint: Well it proves one thing, that you city folk don’t know when to admit you’re wrong.

  92. Yes, not like quoting scripture at all.

  93. LOL! I’m glad everyone can read all of the posts here. It makes me happy. 🙂

  94. @89 That you can’t observe it means only that you haven’t tried to observe it.

    Scientists observe objective fact. Whether you are Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Hindu or atheist, if you step off of a cliff, you will fall. Reality does not bend to your dogma, and if you claim to have experienced something that cannot be demonstrated to have happened outside of your imagination, then for all intents and purposes it did not happen.

    God hasn’t been demonstrated as wrong, either.

    Nonsense. The Moslems prove the Christians are wrong, and they in turn prove the Jews are wrong. The Chinese and Hindus prove all of them wrong. Staying in the family, the Mormons prove the Methodists are wrong, the Episcopalians counter the Calvinists, and the Catholics have condemned all the other wrong-thinking heretics to hell.

    The point being, of course, that even those who claim to believe in gods, and to be clear about it I am not one of them, can’t agree on which god is the One, True God, or even if there is in fact one god, or three of them, or dozens or more, whether the god is good, bad or indifferent, male, female or both and so on ad nauseum. That alone is acceptable proof there is no omnipotent, omnipresent god; if there were, its followers would at least agree on the important points.

    “Religion is not susceptible to revision”

    Jesus Christ. Council of Nicaea. Martin Luther. Yeah, it is.

    Roman Catholic, Gnostics, Lutheran, Calvinist, Church of England, Mormon – religions don’t permit major points to be revised, they simply split off. When there is a scientific controversy, you don’t end up losing the adarkmatterists to a new theory, you get raucous debate and analysis of objective data which is subjected to experimentation over and over. The new data are published, more debate ensues. It may take years, even decades, but because the evidence is objective all results can be confirmed, and finally a new consensus is reached. No heretics will have been burned in the process.

    Curiosity is only a trait in Science? Hardly.

    Before it is worthwhile to review what any Pentacostal is doing, you must demonstrate the god they’re trying to emulate and the magic they want to recreate exist. Otherwise, they’re showing as much intellectual curiosity as someone trying to build a full scale Death Star.

    You are extending what happened during a small period of Christian history to all religions over all time frames, and that is clearly just prejudicial.

    I hadn’t even mentioned Christianity; that’s entirely your doing. Why you feel the need to defend a faith that’s so strong it can heal the blind, cause the lame to walk and make those annoying bells ring all month at the grocery store is between you and your deity. Me, I’m just concerned that people who believe in magic without any evidence whatsoever are in a position to destroy society. I refer you to the Bergen Evans quote under “Quotables” above for an eloquent phrasing of that sentiment.

    [S]uppression of creative thought is not a distinct feature of religion

    No, it’s a feature of ideology, of which religion is the only one taught to infants in the cradle, nurtured and protected by society, and held up for praise just for existing, no matter how ugly, pernicious or detrimental to civilization it may be.

  95. Raymond, you say yourself that religion creates sects with a variety of beliefs. That science has a slightly different belief structure does not mean it is different from religion, which you demonstrate has a broad spectrum definition. That you can find a unique difference to judeo-christian values does not mean there is a difference with Buddhism, Hinduism, or other religions. That detail of belief (that only observalbe fact is a foundation for the belief system) does not exclude Science from the definition of a religion, and only differentiates it from other religions. Science still bases its beliefs on unprovable assumptions that must be taken on Faith. It still has an unproven creation myth and unobservable facts (graviton, Higgs Boson, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, string theory, aspects of Quantum Mechanics, etc., etc.).

    But over and over in that statement it is clear that you have never studied religion. Muslims most certainly do not “prove” Christianity and Judaism wrong. They call them “of the Book” and the Koran demands that those two religions are to be respected. And in the same way Fascists used Science to excuse the enslavement of Europe and create the most horrible conflagration in History, there are those that pervert scripture to their purposes, too, and make it appear otherwise.

    “I hadn’t even mentioned Christianity; that’s entirely your doing.”

    You did:

    “In short, if science were a religion, we’d still be banging skins with rocks in a stream by the cave to clean them, because anyone who suggested there’s a better way to live would be killed as a heretic.”

    Only Christianity has a history of killing “heretics”. It is not a feature of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism.

    And I’m going to throw your own words back in your face.

    “Before it is worthwhile to review what any Pentacostal is doing, you must demonstrate the god they’re trying to emulate and the magic they want to recreate exist.”

    You must prove that all religion will kill heretics in order to make the blanket claim about religion you did above. And that’s going to be pretty dang tough with pacifist Buddhism.

    Oh, and as for that quote itself: I was demonstrating curiosity. If I said what you did about the Pentacostals above, it would be:

    “You aren’t allowed to search for the Higgs Boson until you have proven the Higgs Boson exists.”

    Curiosity is about investigating the unknown, not the known. demanding the Pentacostals prove the miracles of the New Testament occured before trying to make them occur is, bluntly, absurd, and completely counter to scientific curiosity.

  96. Raymond

    Just a note: that’s my last name, not my given.

    Science still bases its beliefs on unprovable assumptions that must be taken on Faith.

    Dark matter is not taken on faith. An anomaly was observed in galactic rotation that needed to be explained, and Rubin had an idea to explain it. She checked her math, made predictions concerning the observed movements of other galaxies, presented her work, was utterly trounced for stupidity, but the simple fact is, her idea worked. It held up to the combined scrutiny of the world’s cosmologists, and they eventually accepted the fact this bizarre idea explains much that was unclear, and it is now the current best theory to explain observed phenomena. Note that: “current best”. It will be replaced if someone demonstrates it is wrong. At no point in this process will they take up pitchforks and torches in order to destroy the opposing theorists.

    But over and over in that statement it is clear that you have never studied religion. Muslims most certainly do not “prove” Christianity and Judaism wrong.

    Christianity makes clams which, if true, mean that Islam cannot be true. Islam makes similar claims which, if true, mean Christianity cannot be true. In other words, the monotheistic religions are all mutually exclusive – if one is true, the others cannot be. And all of them must be considered false if any polytheistic religion is true. So yes, they do cancel each other out.

    Only Christianity has a history of killing “heretics”. It is not a feature of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism.

    You are very, very wrong. Every major religion currently in vogue has killed those who think differently, whether they called them infidels, unbelievers, Jews or heretics, the last being a convenient catch-all. It’s mainly Christianity and Islam that’s killing these days, but Hindus, Jews and yes, Buddhists, have all swept down from the mountain and wiped out the occasional enemy of the faith as needed.

    Demanding the Pentacostals prove the miracles of the New Testament occured before trying to make them occur is, bluntly, absurd…

    There is no basis for accepting miracles can occur, or that magic exists, or that gods exist. The mere fooling around with an idea does not make someone a scientist. Until at least one of these three things has been established via the scientific method, they’re just playing games.

    So how will it work, anyway? They replicate the loaves and fishes event. After demonstrating it is not necessary to have a god to perform that bit of magic, will they become atheist or just move to a different religion, maybe going on to prove a bunch of monkeys really can build a bridge? Will they just keep trying to replicate miracles until they get to one they can’t copy, and that will be proof of god? “We don’t need a god to feed a multitude, but we can’t bring Dr. Jones back to life. It’s a miracle! God exists!”

    …and completely counter to scientific curiosity.

    Investigating magic makes you a scientist like playing “Chopsticks” makes you a concert pianist. Science isn’t another word for curiosity, just as faith isn’t another word for knowledge. Science is a method, one that requires education and discipline as much as imagination. Its life blood is the peer review process. The intense public debate aroused by new findings and interpretations of existing data are how untenable ideas are discarded and good ideas are pounded into shape. Science also requires both explanations and predictions.

    You don’t know what science is. You conflate the meanings of words in order to borrow the dignity of science for your religion. If you want to quit being embarrassed by what you believe, show there is a god. Any god, it doesn’t matter which. Prove that, and the rest will follow.

  97. Wikipedia: “Heresy (from Greek αἵρεσις, which originally meant “choice”) is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma.”

    To a Christian, a Muslim is not a Heretic. He is not attempting to change Christianity: he is professing a completely unique set of beliefs. Heresy tries to change Christianity.

    So, I say again, Muslims do not kill Heretics: they kill unbelievers. Sunni kill Shia, but neither calls the other Heretics. Buddhists most certainly do not kill heretics.

    “There is no basis for accepting miracles can occur, or that magic exists, or that gods exist.”

    There is no basis for the Law of Conservation of Energy.

    See? I can say it too! All it takes to kick the foundation out of something unprovable is to deny it to be true.

    Don’t you get it yet? I can parallel anything you say. Belief is belief, and only prejudice tells you Scientific Beliefs are superior to Religious Beliefs. An assumption is an assumption is an assumption, and Science is based on assumption just as Religion is.

    “The mere fooling around with an idea does not make someone a scientist. Until at least one of these three things has been established via the scientific method, they’re just playing games.”

    Do you even know what the scientific method is?

    Wikipedia:
    1. Use your experience: Consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations. If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.
    2. Form a conjecture: When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.
    3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?
    4. Test: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. It is a logical error to seek 3 directly as proof of 2. This error is called affirming the consequent.

    So 1. use your experience. We have descriptions of miracles in history — fishes and loaves feeding thousands, water turned to wine, casting out of demons. They aren’t happening anymore.

    2. Form an explanation. Under Roman Catholic rule, access to God was shifted to the Priesthood and away from the individual as God promised through Christ. Strengthening individual Faith in God will restore the capacity to perform miracles.

    3. Assuming 2 is true, we would need to meditate, pray, and gather together to teach each other as small miracles are taught and strengthened until the powerful miracles once performed are retored.

    4. Test. I don’t have to go into the testing. You wouldn’t believe that many miracles have been reproduced. And the discovery that performing them is very dangerous also would be disbelieved.

    All I need to demonstrate is that the scientific method matches the attempts. What I did above is the thought process teh Pentacostals went through.

    You see, your mistake is that the Method requires Science. The Scientific Method is far more applicable.

    “Investigating magic makes you a scientist like playing “Chopsticks” makes you a concert pianist.”

    All science was once “magic”. Science takes the unknown (magic), explains it, defines it, and makes it known (science). Alchemy became Chemistry. You assume that the Pentacostals reproducing the miracle of loaves and fishes would violate the Law of Conservation of energy, but a smart scientific Christian would simply say, “You simply haven’t discovered the source of energy that we draw upon yet. It wasn’t violated: you merely need to seek out the source.”

    And I find it highly amusing that you think I don’t know science. My Engineering degree would disagree. I am able to tear it apart because I DO know it, and know it far better than many scientists that forget its foundations in their arrogance and self-righteousness. I can tear it apart because I do not treat it like a religious untouchable, the way you do.

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