Sunday, June 10, 2007

The great tug-of-war

An EXCERPT below from Arnold Kling -- who tries to make sense out of what Leftists appear to believe. That they are motivated by a wish to destroy rather than anything rational, he is courteous enough not to consider. In the full article, however, he heads his essay with a quote that shows that it is hatred that really motivates Leftists

Franklin D. Roosevelt's economic policies during the 1930's were a terrible failure. Why, then, is he so revered in history? I believe that Roosevelt's restrospective halo is derived in part from the fact that he catered to the anti-capitalist trend among intellectuals. This trend long preceded Roosevelt, and it persists to this day. Historians are predominantly anti-capitalist, which inclines them to favor Roosevelt. And if historians do nothing else, they do influence our view of history.

This essay is about the history of polarized intellectual views of capitalism. I make no claims that my thesis is original. On the contrary, it is a central theme in a number of recent books, including Jerry Z. Muller's difficult but highly rewarding treatise The Mind and the Market, Deirdre McCloskey's erudite and offbeat The Bourgeois Virtues, and Brink Lindsey's just-published perspective on capitalists, beatniks and hippies The Age of Abundance.

McCloskey talks about the anti-capitalist "clerisy," as she describes the academics and others who hold the bourgeoisie in contempt. Lindsey describes the way that post-WWII affluence in the United States helped foster widespread cultural experimentation and criticism, with protestors attacking the very capitalist institutions that enabled such experimentation and criticism. Muller offers an intellectual history of the controversy about capitalism. He shows, for example, how Joseph Schumpeter predicted exactly the sort of critical rebellion against capitalism that Lindsey chronicles.

GMU economist Robin Hanson notes that ideological positions tend to come in "clumps." He writes: "The policy world can thought of as consisting of a few Tug-O-War "ropes" set up in this high dimensional policy space. If you want to find a comfortable place in this world, where the people around you are reassured that you are "one of them," you need to continually and clearly telegraph your loyalty by treating each policy issue as another opportunity to find more supporting arguments for your side of the key dimensions. That is, pick a rope and pull on it."......

Jerry Muller points out that anti-capitalism can be traced as far back as the Greeks and to ancient religious tradition. Throughout much of human history, it was natural to see wealth as fixed, so that if one person were particularly wealthy then others would be correspondingly poor. This zero-sum perspective naturally leads merchants and profitable market activity to be viewed with suspicion and hostility.

Modern P's see market activity as positive-sum. In a voluntary trade, both sides are better off. Widespread trade makes many people better off. Competitive innovation is an extreme example of a positive-sum game, leading to very large cumulative improvements in the living standards. Nonetheless, A's still see wealth in zero-sum terms. They see the rich as having too much wealth, and they see a need for redistribution.

For the P's, business success is a good thing. For any one individual, it may represent luck, but overall business success is correlated with the introduction of innovations that improve our lives. For A's business success comes from exploitation. P's look at Wal-Mart and see efficiency and lower prices. A's look at Wal-Mart and see a large, profitable firm hiring employees at low wages and benefits. For the P's, business failure is also a good thing. In order for productivity to improve, obsolete products and inefficient processes need to disappear. A's focus on the adverse consequences of firms going out of business.

Robin Hanson is pessimistic that differences such as those that exist between P's and A's will be resolved through reasoned argument. People have their identities wrapped up in their particular sides of the tug-of-war. See my essay on trust cues. Jerry Muller reminds us that over one hundred years ago, Vilfredo Pareto was equally pessimistic. In his chapter on Joseph Schumpeter, Muller writes:

Pareto's 1901 essay "The Rise and Fall of Elites," conveys two themes to which Schumpeter would return time and time again: the inevitability of elites, and the importance of nonrational and nonlogical drives in explaining social action. Pareto suggested that the victory of socialism was "most probable and almost inevitable." Yet, he predicted...the reality of elites would not change. It was almost impossible to convince socialists of the fallacy of their doctrine, Pareto asserted, since they were enthusiasts of a substitute religion. In such circumstances, arguments are invented to justify actions that were arrived at before the facts were examined, motivated by nonrational drives

Part of the A's outlook is that the economy can no longer improve. As Amity Shlaes and Jerry Muller point out, there was a widespread belief in the 1930's that capitalism had run its course. As Muller puts it:

Analysts of very diverse political hues concluded that the era of dynamic capitalism was over and that the United States and other "mature economies" had entered into a period of long-term economic stagnation. Some argued that there were no new technologies in sight for consumers to buy. Others feared that natural resources were nearing exhaustion, or that slowing population growth translated into a lack of consumer demand. Such assumptions lay behind Roosevelt's 1932 campaign address...

For pro-capitalists, capitalism offers an endless wellspring of renewal. For anti-capitalists, there seems to be an endless wellspring of reasons for capitalism's doom. The tug-of-war between the two sides is likely to be endless.



California: Homosexual Prison Visits Provide State Supported Sodomy: "The very idea of "Gay Conjugal Visits" for prisoners sounds like a bad joke, but officials of the California penal system are to worried to laugh. Because of the state's new "civil unions" law, the gay convicts who linked themselves to partners before incarceration are now entitled to scheduled sessions of intimacy, just like their married counterparts. This means that prison staffers who spend their time in desperate efforts to prevent behind-bars gay conduct, including rape, must now assist selected prisoners with trysts involving their "domestic partners." This absurd innovation exposes the true nature of the so-called gay rights agenda: it's not about equality, it's about governmental promotion of behavior that many Americans still consider disgusting and immoral.

Left Very, Very Upset Fred Thompson Finds His Wife Sexually Attractive (Deviating from the Bill/Hillary! model they favor): "Dr. Helen wants to know: "When I look at my husband with affection, am I leering? I guess not since I'm a woman and can do no wrong except for being a right-leaning libertarian. However, if you're a man, particularly a Republican man, who looks at his wife with affection, you are now accused of "leering"--especially if you are Fred Thompson. ... This is yet another example of a woman who deep down believes that men have no right to leer at women, lest it be considered a sex offense. And she is not alone, there are many other women who feel that unless one is Bill Clinton or the object of their own lecherous desires (of course, for these women, their own desire is called empowerment--not lechery!), a regular joe has no right to look at a woman--not even in pictures--with desire in his heart."

The security bureaucracy is itself insecure: "Those recently foiled terrorist attacks aimed at Fort Dix and JFK Airport underscore the critical importance of monitoring homegrown "sleeper cells" within the United States. But they're not the only internal threats to America's homeland security. Judging by the headlines, it appears the federal government is itself a security problem. In response to criticism that it failed to "connect the dots" prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI unveiled a massive database last summer that contains information culled from its own files and those of other federal agencies, including the Treasury and Homeland Security departments. The bureau's 12,000 agents can now scan hundreds of millions of records stored in the Investigative Data Warehouse and get linked, cross-matched information within minutes. That's a major improvement over the archaic system in place before Sept. 11, 2001. However, a review of the FBI's internal network conducted by the Government Accountability Office found that, much like the nation it protects, the bureau itself remains "vulnerable to insider threats." Specifically, the GAO said there were insufficient controls to prevent the same kind of "unauthorized insider access" that allowed former FBI agent Robert Hanssen to sell secrets to the Soviets undetected for years. Thus, the possible disclosure, modification or even destruction of sensitive national security or law enforcement data clearly remains a serious problem today."


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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


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