Saturday, November 18, 2006

Happier, and More Generous, Too

Watch the libs try to jump on this one, too.

And it's not just Bono, either. John F-bomb Kerry has, as a Massachusetts resident, the opportunity to pay a higher rate of taxes than what the law requires--just check a box on the tax return. He does not do so.

17 comments:

John S. said...

As a mainly liberally oriented person, I am glad you brought this up because it seemingly underscores a huge hypocrisy. I applaud the richer conservatives who give tons of more money—Carnegie’s gospel of wealth in action at its finest. I frown on the fact liberals do not (especially rich liberals. AHH). I adore that these well-off conservatives pour their money into such good causes, and, please, no matter what, keep doing so. Still, as a liberally oriented person, I cannot believe that I am raising this point (not a statement or denial of belief): Republicanism, the ideological paradigm of conservatives, believes in representative government—a government that enacts the will of the public. Thus, when the electorate votes for certain taxes and for certain programs to be funded, should not those things be the priority over what the philanthropists want to give to (this does not mean I want them to stop). Nonetheless, it makes me feel empowered, as a voter, that my government sought to pay for the programs the voting electorate approved of. My ultimate point is this. The money to pay for these programs comes from some very unpopular taxes, including those on the rich who were so kind to be charitable, but with tax cuts, among other things (bad bureaucracy) programs are not funded. Thus, a richer, mainly male, mainly white, conservative group helps tremendously when they give so much while a mainly middle-class and poor liberal group of people seem so stingy (even if they cannot afford it) thus leaving the rich liberals looking rather hypocritical and representative of all liberals. I am sure there are many conservatives that embarrass you (e.g. Foley) as there are many liberals that embarrass me. Still, you raise a great question that has no easy answer! Perhaps, there are good things conservatives do and not all liberals disdain the virtues of Republicanism as a philosophy? Perhaps we all take from both paradigms, although obviously at different and various levels.

Darren said...

John S, thank you for your very thoughtful commentary.

My objection to having the government do so much is twofold. First, that people who grow dependent on government don't learn to take care of themselves anymore, and second, that the inner good that comes from demonstrating personal generosity and charity is perverted when people are compelled to do so. It's similar to my objection to mandating "community service" as a high school graduation requirement--you aren't really "serving" if you're compelled to do so.

allen said...

Too which I'll add two more objections.

1) It doesn't work. The percentage of people living in poverty in the U.S. hasn't budged in the 40+ years since the enactment of Lydon Johnson's Great Society yet in inflation-adjusted terms the amount of money spent in that time is somewhere in excess of $10 trillion. Even more when measured as a percentage of GDP. What's the value of a government program that doesn't do what it's enacted to do yet appropriates vast amounts of personal wealth?

In fact, a credible case can be made for mandatory generosity having exascerbated the problems of living in poverty while capitalism has offset both the classic problems of poverty and the new problems introduced by welfare.

From the cost of food to the cost of HD TVs, it's capitalism that's improved the lot of poor people by relentlessly driving down the cost of the necessities as well as the luxuries.

The various liberal/left social solutions have, one and all, proven to be disasters to whichever sector of society they've been applied. Government-supplied housing inevitably turns into a haven for criminals, honest residents having little reason to defend what isn't theirs, where they aren't actively discouraged from doing so. In Canada your dog can get an MRI this afternoon while you'll have to wait for six months. In England, the national health service is celebrated for doing so much with so little that it's generated a television program which lampoons the ever-present shortages of just about everything as well as the rule-bound government administrators that run the system. The socialized medical system here in the United States, that's the Veteran's Administration hospital system, shows the same qualities - continually rising costs matched with continually declining quality.

2) Welfare coarsens society by removing some of the constrants on selfishness; the appropriate authorities are seeing to the problem, I don't have to concern myself with it. At the same time welfare makes generosity, the genuine kind, more burdensome. The people who might give are taxed at exactly the same rate as the people who'd never consider giving at all.

David said...

John S--I'm not sure the discrepency can be put down to conservatives being richer. There are whole industries which have large numbers of wealthy liberals: entertainers are probably 90% liberal, advertising I would be is over 50%, and even finance has a fair number. Also, university professors are reliably liberal, and tenured professors are mostly upper middle class (though not usually upper-upper middle class)

This would seem like an easy thing to analyze; I wonder if anyone has done it.

rightwingprof said...

The "rich conservative" myth is just that. A myth. But this study is merely common sense, again validated by research: Those who believe that charity is the obligation of the individual and church -- conservatives -- are more likely to feel obliged to give; while those who believe that charity is the obligation of the state are not.

"My objection to having the government do so much is twofold. First, that people who grow dependent on government don't learn to take care of themselves anymore"

We saw that with Katrina, which did every bit as much damage in Mississippi as it did NO. Yet, in Mississippi, the people did for themselves, instead of sitting around waiting for the goverment to come save them. And the reason for the difference is people who do for themselves v. people who depend on the government.

John S. said...

Great point, I never thought about it in the terms various people have expressed. Still, I do not think that people who are dependent on the government cannot take care of themselves. The Katrina example, while evoking powerful images is not a very good example because it relies on an emotionally charged case sample that fails to address the larger issue (w/ problems of typicality and rarity). This does not help us understand either the crippling or the advantageous affect of government on human behavior because it alone cannot serve as an archetype for understanding the questions we have raised. Sure, on one hand, we all are dependent on the government. Bill Gates relies on the government for national security and for securing and aiding markets for him to conduct his business. If one takes capitalism to be the savior of our modern society then surely we all rely on government providing us access to its benefits. Still, I think you are alluding to people that rely on the government at a far deeper level. I think that government’s job is to take care of its people and fix social and economic problems. Yet, we obviously disagree on the role of government as well as our conception of human nature that highlights the fact we probably will not agree (but at least we stimulated thought). I do not think government intervention causes over dependence (in general) and stunts humans’ desire or ability to take care of themselves. I think people, in general, desire to do so, but cannot always, thus, they need help. I understand countless examples exist of people who abuse the system and are over dependent. I feel, however, a deeper problem is at work in our society that fostered this situation. What it is and how to fix it, I have no easy answer. Still, I hold steadfast next to the idea that government’s role in our society is to help take care of all its citizens because, selfishly, my best interest, both economically and socially, is served. Likewise, I do not believe that if you taxed a rich person it would pervert her generosity. I do not understand why taxation is seen as forced. It is the law of the land, the political economy we all live in, and a fact. Could not a rich person feel an inner good knowing that her taxes help pay for some programs that her fellow citizens voted in because they collectively thought they were important? In the end, while we disagree and my answer will no doubt leave you all unsatisfied, thank you for forcing me to think more clearly about why I thought the way I did and providing me with a forum for trying (poorly) to articulate it.

In addition, I cannot ignore some of the themes I noticed in these posts (which I am under no delusion I interpreted correctly). On one hand, we discover the theme of capitalism permeating society as a pervasive and positive force. Likewise, we have a notion of individualism and religion affecting people’s behavior in a positive light. Yet, on the other hand, the notion of government permeating society is cast in a negative mold. While it may be easy to organize thought on seemingly absolutes, it does not seemingly underscore the rather complexity of the situation. For example, the rightwingprof neatly assigned the difference between Mississippi and Louisiana in terms of those who are dependent on government versus those who do for themselves. This does not allow for a notion that people in Louisiana were trying to do for themselves. I do not think that is true. Likewise, the notion that capitalism is an all pervasive positive force negates the very real problems also found in the capitalist system, such as exploitation, alienation, widening gaps in class power, and the damage to our environment that many have done in the name of capitalist entrepreneurship. I am certainly no Marxist, however, because I can likewise argue for many of the benefits that capitalism brings. This is only to suggest that none of these forces are entirely good or bad, all pervasive or minimal. This leads me to the role of the government. The statistics and issues that Allen brought to light are glowing endorsements against a liberal leviathan government bent on a social welfare state. I’ll have to consider that.

I am sorry to have written so much—my lack of brevity and verbosity points to my ideas not having a good sound base and indicate they are wrong because they require so much discussion.

Darren said...

John S., are you kidding? You've written so much, obviously disagreeing with some of what's been written by me and by other commenters, and you haven't resorted to sound bytes or cliches or name-calling or any of the other trash that so often passes for "discourse" in blog comments.

I thank you for your thoughtful, if long, commentary! Don't feel the need to be brief if writing/speaking/thinking logically here.

rightwingprof said...

"Still, I do not think that people who are dependent on the government cannot take care of themselves."

It's not cannot; it's will not.

After all, why would I take care of myself like an adult if I felt that I were entitled to be cared for? And if I had been cared for all my life, why would I change?

Poverty had nothing to do with it, nor did race. Government dependency did.

John S. said...

You talk in absolutes and universal truths that do not allow for temporal or situational pressures or realities thus I do not think we will come to any of the same conclusions. Still, I do understand your point and think it has some type of merit worthy of consideration wherein dependency is a strangling pervasive force that limits people’s actions and thoughts. That people will not versus they cannot is a huge claim and I would like to hear more about how you arrived at such two seemingly polarized ends with no allowance for other forces at work? Certainly, a lofty claim and I am intrigued.

John S. said...

Allen had so many good points it is hard to address them all so I’ll take on one right now: “. . . it's capitalism that's improved the lot of poor people by relentlessly driving down the cost of the necessities as well as the luxuries.”

This is very interesting concept of capitalism you are proposing. I am not quite sure how you are defining the term capitalism and whether it does what you think. Namely, is capitalism defined as wage labor (Marxist), something in circularity/interaction with cultural norms (ambiguous; Weberian), or a more modern definition of production for market (which places capitalistic activity back thousands of years). Still, your result that poor people’s lot improves cannot result from capitalism as an economic model (as cause). Capitalism as an ideal type of economy, the one that Marx, Weber, and others analyzed, seeks profit, gain, and wealth and naturally exploits and causes a widening gap of rich and poor. Nevertheless, we find such critiques passé because we do not see such hard line exploitation, in their terms, evident in American society. So, what can we conclude? That America is not purely capitalistic and that the economic model of a society is not the only thing that drives, impacts, limits, expands, etc. the economy. We need to think of the term political economy. We see moral philosophy and public policy also at work influencing the economy and society. In the U.S., we have democracy (a multifarious term) and Protestantism (again multifarious and meant here in terms of the dominant moral philosophy) at work along with capitalism to determine the nature of our economy, not to mention various other forces. So that poor people’s lot is improved is actually antithetical to the spirit of capitalism we must recognize these other forces interacting with the economic model of capitalism to achieve your result here in the U.S. For example, what has been the result of capitalistic activity in other countries that do not have a similar public policy and moral philosophy like the U.S.? Exploitation and poor little kids working in sweat shops. That the plight of the poor has not improved is not surprising given the increase in markets, access to market, participants in markets, etc. That the U.S. has been able to keep exploitation and the poor increasing astronomically is something that is worth noting. I think this has been the legacy of both parties from the Republican Theodore Roosevelt to LBJs Great Society. Government has been crucial in addressing the plight of the poor through its public policies and capitalism alone is not the answer.

Off to go home for Thanksgiving! Hope everyone and theirs have a great holiday, thanks for putting up with my nonsense thus far and, hopefully, I can return to the “blogging” world another day in the near future.

allen said...

I've boiled down my concept of capitalism to what I think are it's bones: a voluntary exchange of value. That definition requires a little skin on it's bones to be practical so that voluntary exchange of value only becomes practical on a large scale within a framework of law which enforces legal agreements, protects property rights and reserves exclusively to the citizenry in agreggate, the threat/use of violence.

As for Marx, I put him in the same camp as Freud; a mid-ninteenth century psuedo-scientist with a flair for the dramatic. Marx's notions were popular not because they illuminated but because they put a patina of scientific respectibility on what may be charitably referred to as mumbo-jumbo. His ideas, being neither explantory nor predictive, can't be described as science. The great political utility of Marx' ideas is all that recommends them, their invocation being inevitably followed by economic disaster and vast human suffering.

The crimes Marx ascribed to capitalism occurred either in distinctly non-capitalist environments or were temporary departures from established trends. Marx' ideas of the value of labor are simply nonsense. Far from facilitating the sort of brutal exploitation of labor that Communists take as an article of faith, capitalism inevitably increases the value of labor. You can see this particularly well exemplified in China where factories are relocating from the high-cost labor areas of eastern China to the much lower labor cost areas of western China. If you were looking for a country with a Grand Canyon-like gulf between the rich and the poor and no middle class to speak of, China would've been right near the top of the list. It's capitalism that's filling that gulf and if some people are getting richer faster then other people - that's what your "widening gap between the rich and the poor" actually consists of - why is that a problem?

So that poor people's lot is improved is actually antithetical to the spirit of capitalism...

Hardly. Capitalism takes notice of poor people only to the extent that they can participate in voluntary exchanges of value. The wealth that capitalism generates makes generosity less burdensome, as can be seen by the extent of American generosity, while reducing the cost of goods, relieving the burden of poverty.

For example, what has been the result of capitalistic activity in other countries that do not have a similar public policy and moral philosophy like the U.S.?

Uniformly good if it's capitalism. How could it be otherwise? If it isn't a voluntary exchange of value it isn't capitalism. There may be capitalists involved at some point but by removing the voluntary component from the exchange the result is something other then capitalism.

If you take a close look at those other countries what you'll see is a reprise of what occurred in the U.S. from the late 1800's thru the 1940/50's: the migration off the farm.

For those not familiar with agricultural work, it's tough, it never ends and every planting is a roll of the dice. People born to the life may come to love it but there's no getting around the fact that it is a hard life. The hardest form of agriculture is subsistence agriculture. It never has much of a component of labor-saving machinery so there's a lot of labor. A lot of hard, endless, year-in, year-out, mind-numbing labor that will go on without respite till the day you're too old to work any longer. Taken together with the distinct chance of crop failure followed by starvation, it's a life many people choose to leave at the earliest opportunity. We did exactly that here in the U.S. and now that the opportunity is presenting itself in Thailand, China, Indonesia and India, they're doing it as well.

Thomas Paine's sentiment "that government is best that governs least" wasn't so much prescient as it was insightful. The dangers of too much government were obvious enough to the founders to be built into the foundation of the American government and I don't believe discarding those principles has served us well. I'm not an anarchist but I don't view government as a firehose of morality that can be turned onto any social conflagration. I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatic libertarian: someone who sees government as always the last, worst solution to any problem serious enough that ignoring it is not an option.

Merry Thanksgiving right back at you. I'm struggling with the disappointment of having my wife nix the idea of brining the turkey this T-day. I was pretty enthusiastic about the idea when my experiment with brining chicken turned our rather well.

John S. said...

Great points, however, your idea of capitalism being voluntary is interesting and perhaps very modern. Still, what do you mean by value? Sorry to be semantic, but voluntary exchange of value could be equated to redistributive economies and very representative of barter economies as well and not exclusive to capitalism by a mile. Indeed, a voluntary exchange of value occurred when a farmer went to market with his pig and exchanged it for clothes. In addition, your idea of voluntary needs a little more for me to understand. What is voluntary as opposed to necessity, function, or usefulness? That is, does someone exchange in the market because she needs to eat versus wanting a big screen TV?

Lastly, how voluntary are poor people in what they have to exchange as compared to why they need to. In other words, what do they possibly have to voluntarily exchange? Obviously, they have their power of labor. Capitalism would seek to secure their power of labor in accordance with maximizing surplus value, correct—I think that is called a law of something? But, again, how voluntary is that? What you, seemingly, think is capitalism (I’m sure I interpreted it wrong), first, can seemingly be defined as true to other types of economies and, second, does not adequately account for other forces in society that impact the economy. Why would there be a big to-do about who served in government, i.e. Republican or Democrat, if public policy does not influence the health of the economy. I guess, I have as much of a problem with you discussing Capitalism in terms of an ideal type that is narrow and not real like you might point to my conception of the government bureaucracy as an ideal type to help the plight of its citizens. Oh, the result of Capitalistic activities in other countries, particularly third world countries, has not been undoubtedly good and has led to some vast human rights atrocities that even some conservatives here could probably cite for us (because they would want to celebrate American democracy and superiority of moral philosophy to differentiate America!).

Oh, for “mid-ninteenth century psuedo-scientist with a flair for the dramatic” reference to Marx you got some merit. I did not find Marx too dramatic though, verbose yes, but not dramatic. Perhaps the manifesto was, I’ll grant you that. Have you actually ever read him or anything other than the manifesto? Also, Freud? I have never really read Freud myself. Sorry, I know that sounds horrible, but I just read Marx in detail for the first time several months ago yet I have always talked about Marx and others before that because they have come so prepackaged. Also, while I agree they are passé, you point to their limitations but then praise Thomas Paine from the seventeenth century as insightful. Which I am taking that his disdain for religion as something you agree is insightful? Likewise, as a pragmatic libertarian then I am correct you are for state’s rights over a strong central authority? Actually, let me ask some ridiculous rhetorically fun questions: Would you agree Lincoln committed an illegal act by enacting a war with state’s that constitutionally seceded from the union? That California’s medicinal marijuana law should not be made illegal or hampered in any way by the national government? Gay marriages in any states that may legalize them are okay because we should not have too large of a national government. Libertarian, while conservative constitutionally means you must be, somewhat I guess, liberal when it comes to social action (as long as it does not hurt someone) as I am sure you are a champion of Locke’s natural rights (though he’s passé too, right?).

Hey, I’m bringing ham to Thanksgiving regardless of what anyone says. Best.

John S. said...

Oh, Paine was 18th century--sorry brain fart. Heck, I am currently in my old room at my mom's house, I think its the 1980s.

Also, have been rude to keep citing what I disagree with or am finding hard to understand in your comments. Let me say you are right on with your "psudeo-scientific" statement and I too find the chicken a far more tasty bird.

rightwingprof said...

"That people will not versus they cannot is a huge claim and I would like to hear more about how you arrived at such two seemingly polarized ends with no allowance for other forces at work?"

Because there is nothing complex or nuanced about the ridiculous idea that we are all mindless robots at the mercy of external forces. It's drivel. Those people in NO have just as much free will as the people in Mississippi. The hurricane warnings were out well in advance. The people in Mississippi left. The people in NO chose not to leave. The people in Mississippi who were caught helped themselves and their neighbors. The people in NO who were caught sat around and whined about where was the federal government.

The failure of a government institution was no surprise to conservatives. Of course, the FEMA response fell short; it's a government program. It was only a scandal to those who believe in the government fairy, and think that contrary to all history, some government program somewhere will be more efficient than the private sector.

And all that federal money that went for wine, crack, whores, and that family that accepted a house from a church then turned around and sold it for the money, well, we won't go there, other than there's the effect the "I'm entitled" mentality has on personal responsibility, morals, and ethics.

allen said...

what do you mean by value?

My opinion of value is whatever I and whoever I'm involved in an exchange with deem valueable. In the middle of the Irish potato famine it's something too eat and in a modern, American high school it's insert fad du jour here. The value comes from the mutual agreement that value exists. Those American high schoolers would stare blankly at a bushel of wheat that hungry Irish peasents would hurl themselves at. To my cousin they're season tickets to the Lions - may God have mercy on his soul - and to me it's a Clark PPC conversion (it's not important).

Sorry to be semantic, but voluntary exchange of value could be equated to redistributive economies and very representative of barter economies as well and not exclusive to capitalism by a mile.

Barter economies are capitalistic in nature as long as the exchanges of value are voluntary. Redistributive economies, I'm assuming you mean communist/socialist/monarchic, aren't.

Indeed, a voluntary exchange of value occurred when a farmer went to market with his pig and exchanged it for clothes.

Yup.


In addition, your idea of voluntary needs a little more for me to understand. What is voluntary as opposed to necessity, function, or usefulness? That is, does someone exchange in the market because she needs to eat versus wanting a big screen TV?

"Voluntary" means not having a gun to your head, actually or figuratively. A farmer who can haul his produce to market and sell it for whatever the market will bear is a capitalist despite the pig shit between his toes (cultural reference) and the same farmer who's required to sell his produce to the agricultural board to prevent him from gouging a hungry public isn't a capitalist. In the second instance the farmer's decisions consist of becoming a subsistance farmer, feeding only those near and dear, a commercial farmer who has to sell his produce at a price decided by someone else or somewhere in between, i.e. black market commerce. The difference between option two and option three is a function of the efficiency, honesty and comprehensiveness of the guys with guns, i.e. law enforcement. The better the cops are the higher the price the farmer can charge on the black market, reference the illegal drug trade.

If someone would rather watch their new big-screen TV then eat, who am I to argue? I think that's a bad choice so it's not a choice I would make but my good sense, or timidity, shouldn't circumscribe someone elses scope of action so long as their scope of action doesn't infringe someone elses choices. That's where a legal system that protects property, and various other rights, becomes important. If our hungry big screen buyer wants to celebrate their purchase by waving their fists around their right to do so ends where my nose begins.

Lastly, how voluntary are poor people in what they have to exchange as compared to why they need to. In other words, what do they possibly have to voluntarily exchange? Obviously, they have their power of labor.

You've answered your own question. Poor people don't have valueable skills to exchange so they can't charge a high price and I don't see anything remotely wrong with that. Should a gardener be compensated as well as a brain surgeon or an engineer? The sweet thing about capitalism is that you are free to put any value on your skills you wish and I'm free to accept that valuation or not. If you overvalue your gardening/surgical skills you get no takers. If I undervalue your skills I don't get my grass cut or my tumor removed.

Capitalism would seek to secure their power of labor in accordance with maximizing surplus value, correct—I think that is called a law of something?

What's "surplus value"?

But, again, how voluntary is that? What you, seemingly, think is capitalism (I’m sure I interpreted it wrong), first, can seemingly be defined as true to other types of economies and, second, does not adequately account for other forces in society that impact the economy.

Examples?

Why would there be a big to-do about who served in government, i.e. Republican or Democrat, if public policy does not influence the health of the economy.

Obviously, public policy has an important effect on the economy so who gets elected is similarly important. In a representative form of government one temptation that's always hanging in the air is the temptation to use the power of government, the figurative gun-to-the-head, to extract value without all that bothersome coming-to-an-agreement. Some rationale is manufactured and we the people get to cut ourselves off a well-deserved - just ask us - slice of someone elses wealth.

As has been proven repeatedly over the past hundred or so years, when there's enough appropriation of wealth the production of wealth stagnates. The wonder is that so many people are still puzzled by the phenomenon.

I guess, I have as much of a problem with you discussing Capitalism in terms of an ideal type that is narrow and not real like you might point to my conception of the government bureaucracy as an ideal type to help the plight of its citizens.

There's nothing narrow or idealized about my definition of capitalism. I'm just rejecting all the various self-serving and falacious objections to capitalism not just because they're self-serving and false but also because they aren't predictive. When the capitalist exploiter of the working class who runs a shoe factory refuses to equal the pay offered by the other capitalist exploiter of the working class whose shoe factory is down the street, my view will accurately predict the outcome, Marxism won't.

Oh, the result of Capitalistic activities in other countries, particularly third world countries, has not been undoubtedly good and has led to some vast human rights atrocities that even some conservatives here could probably cite for us (because they would want to celebrate American democracy and superiority of moral philosophy to differentiate America!).

Nope. The human rights abuses predate the introduction of the small enclaves of capitalism and getting people who've gotten used to the option of violence as a way of achieving their ends to relinquish the practice is pretty obviously a difficult job. If anything, capitalism is erosive of the power of thugocrats since the necessity of a legal system that protects property rights is anathema to the thugs and where such a legal system doesn't exist the expansion of capitalism is slow and uncertain.

Oh, for “mid-ninteenth century psuedo-scientist with a flair for the dramatic” reference to Marx you got some merit. I did not find Marx too dramatic though, verbose yes, but not dramatic. Perhaps the manifesto was, I’ll grant you that. Have you actually ever read him or anything other than the manifesto? Also, Freud? I have never really read Freud myself. Sorry, I know that sounds horrible, but I just read Marx in detail for the first time several months ago yet I have always talked about Marx and others before that because they have come so prepackaged.

My beef with both of 'em, Marx and Freud, is that they're both presented, and presented themselves, as being "scientific" in some obscure sense. But neither man sought to measure his ideas against observed reality or to construct experiments to test his ideas. That omission alone should have been enough to consign the both of them to an obscure reference in some historical studies but that's not what happened. In the case of Freud, the tribal medicine man was reconstituted wearing a white lab coat, sporting a Viennese accent and a new mystery vocabulary. Marx provided a rationale which justified violent, but morally upright, appropriation of private property. How can you find fault with that?

Also, while I agree they are passé, you point to their limitations but then praise Thomas Paine from the seventeenth century as insightful.

Apples and oranges. Paine's catch phrase was a philosophical observation. Accurate, in my estimation but inadequate to the construction of a nation. If too much government is bad how do structure a government which governs as little as necessary but no less? Especially given human predelictions? Marx and Freud both, as I wrote above, presented themselves as scientists and their ideas as explanatory. The standard of proof's a little higher when you announce this is how something works.

Which I am taking that his disdain for religion as something you agree is insightful?

Nope. Religion, provided it isn't an excuse to create arbitrary classifications between people, is entirely a private matter. If someone chooses to believe the world resides on the backs of seven elephants which stand on a fish that swims on an infinite sea or that a virgin birth resulted in the son of the creator of the universe, who am I to disagree? There are certainly more ludicrous beliefs to challenge and mock like, for instance, the belief in the perfectability of the human being if only sufficiently brutal methods are employed. Talk about goofy ideas!

Likewise, as a pragmatic libertarian then I am correct you are for state’s rights over a strong central authority? Actually, let me ask some ridiculous rhetorically fun questions: Would you agree Lincoln committed an illegal act by enacting a war with state’s that constitutionally seceded from the union?

Sure. Even a cursory reading of the Constitution makes it clear that secession from the union is a legal option and then, by definition, abrogating that option is illegal.

I'm a Sci-Fi fan and one of the genres I particularly enjoyed were the so-called "alternate universe" stories. I've never read any that positted a peaceful, or even a successful, secession but an honest treatment would be interesting. The south, as the Civil War proved, was not economically viable on its own. It was an agricultural region dependent on cheap, human labor at a time when the rest of the country was transitioning away from human/animal power to mechanical power. I wonder sometimes whether part of the impetus for the Civil War was the realization of the South's waning political fortunes that acompanied the shift away from agriculture.

That California’s medicinal marijuana law should not be made illegal or hampered in any way by the national government?

This is getting a bit far afield so I'll just point out that the illegal drug trade is another example of capitalism albeit a sellers idea of capitalism in which the buyers options are circumscribed by the illegal nature of the product and addiction to the drug.

Gay marriages in any states that may legalize them are okay because we should not have too large of a national government. Libertarian, while conservative constitutionally means you must be, somewhat I guess, liberal when it comes to social action (as long as it does not hurt someone) as I am sure you are a champion of Locke’s natural rights (though he’s passé too, right?).

Haven't given all that much thought to the gay marriage debate although I am put off by the attempt to draw a parallel to the Civil Rights issue.

Hey, I’m bringing ham to Thanksgiving regardless of what anyone says. Best.

Mmmmm, ham.

John S. said...

Allen,

Wow, I greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness, kindness, and extent behind your comments. Still, I feel rather like an idiot because I just do not get it. I am sorry I am so dense but I cannot understand your definition of capitalism (voluntary exchange of value). It seems, to me, your definition is more akin to a definition of economy in general rather than capitalism in particular as evidenced by your notion that barter economies have a capitalistic nature. At one point, you talk about human rights abuses predating capitalism (can human rights abuses occur in a capitalistic society, i.e. what do you make of civil rights in the U.S.). Here, you give capitalism a notion of having a beginning. Elsewhere I find that you see capitalism as having an ontological perpetual nature through your very definition itself as well as your inclination that barter economies are capitalistic. I never heard that before (I do not get out much). I always understood them to be distinct systems that, while certainly having similarities, were separate. The farmer going to market fits your definition because your definition of capitalism more correctly defines the economy. Yet, I find nothing capitalistic about what they did (I am dense I know)—it seems more of a subsistence-plus existence. (Likewise, your definition of value seems logical. Yet, it too seems like an umbrella term. Can something have value if only one person finds value in it? You favor, seemingly, exchange value and not personal use value). My definition of capitalism, which will have hundreds of holes, is a system that includes all of the following: wage-labor, production for market, and the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake. My definition most certainly excludes my poor example of the farmer with his pigs. Bartering does not seek wealth for wealth’s sake (even if it does occur). A capitalist would come to the market, buy the pig, and then sell the pig, hopefully, for profit. That is, M-C-M+/- (money for commodity for money) versus C-C (exchange of commodity for commodity) or even C-M-C (exchange of commodity for money to buy another commodity). Consequently, most of what you discuss is hard for me to get because I do not understand your definition of capitalism and how it thus differs from other systems (thus I cannot comment in full on every quality point you made). We both agree other forces influence the economy, which was one of my original points, but we disagree about which force does what. Ultimately, I surmise neither of us can prove satisfactorily that one force is more positive or negative than the other (we would have to be omnipotent). Still, for clarification, I think you see capitalism as a positive force while I see it as a neutral force with both positive and negative outcomes. You cast capitalism (which, again, I do not understand your definition) in the mold of a positive force in regards to our discussion of the plight of the poor while I see it as antithetical to the plight of the poor and that other forces (such as Democracy and Protestantism) have interacted with capitalism to produce the current state of affairs in the United States. I guess we will have to employ the old axiom to agree to disagree.

John S. said...

Rightwingprof,

Huh? You have government dependency as the force for explaining why people failed to act in New Orleans while you then proclaim that “there is nothing complex or nuanced about the ridiculous idea that we are all mindless robots at the mercy of external forces. It's drivel.” Which is it? You cannot have it both ways. Either the people have free will or they were dependent on the government. Likewise, how much free will does a person have when they have no control of those social forces of culture, biological forces, or those mute forces of nature? I am no structuralist, but I am no existentialist either. Rather, I think it is far more “complex and nuanced” and that individual human agency, independent of forces, interacts with the very real forces that affect people’s behavior. Race did play a part. Government dependency did play a part. The social milieu did play a part. Many forces, external and internal, played a part. Autonomous human decisions also played a part seemingly to a fault in New Orleans compared to elsewhere. Still, some in New Orleans did act and were not dependent on government. That all in New Orleans supposedly did the same thing points more accuratley to your belief in forces affecting people's actions than people having free will.

Actully, I probably just don't understand what you are getting at.