We All Feel Like Something is Going to Happen

This piece by Michelle Goldberg is the first I’ve seen to notice the Marxist renaissance among young intellectuals, and does a great job telling the story without an overly skeptical frame. I think the renaissance was already under way before 2008, but the combination of the crash and the failure of Obama was, as Goldberg and her subjects argue, crucial to the radicalization of a generation.

The thing that struck me most came at the end, in this quote by Benjamin Kunkel (co-founder of n+1 and now self-described “Marxist public intellectual”):

It might seem grandiose, but it also suggests a cultural optimism that’s otherwise in short supply these days. “It was easy to feel in the nineties that everyone knew what was going to happen,” says Kunkel. “Many people thought it already has happened, and now we just wait for McDonalds franchises and liberalized capital markets to spread across the globe.” Now, looking at the Marxist resurgence among young people, he says, “It’s very exciting to me. In a strange way, it also makes me want to live a long time, knock on wood, because I’d like to see what’s going to happen.”

It’s good to hear someone else express the optimism, however dark, that I feel. I think a lot of people feel this way: there’s a sense that the inability of a twice-resoundingly-elected liberal president to change anything, to fix even the smallest of our structural problems has to mark some kind of end of the fantasy of liberal reformism. Radicals have always accused liberalism of never being able to deliver on its promises of reform—of always insisting we accept the pain without ever delivering the payoff. The Obama years have excruciatingly illustrated that critique for a new generation of politically-engaged young people. It’s always compromise, capitulation, and cuts. When the president finally digs in and refuses to accept more cuts, the entire government comes to a screeching halt. The fact that the “safe,” establishment-endorsed political positions are delivering nothing but chaos and catastrophe means we all have less and less to lose to by embracing more radical ones.

Though the establishment political world goes on as usual following the play-by-play from the Hill, you can feel the futility seeping into even the best liberals. Ezra Klein on this Slate podcast is a great example: he hammers home the fact that there is no solution to this crisis—that none of the usual strategies from the liberal playbook will be able to fix it. His tone is heavy; he truly has no idea what to say about the future of this system, how to talk about it like it even has a future. True, maybe people like Klein and Chris Hayes just think a few structural fixes to American democracy would fix the chronic dysfunction, but neither one of them has any delusions that those structural fixes are possible. The pessimism about what liberalism is capable of has to be at its lowest point in my lifetime—despite, incredibly, two consecutive elections of the most liberal president the U.S. has had since Kennedy. The problem is obviously not just a few crazy right-wingers who put together a movement and took the perfectly-fine American system hostage; it’s something that’s always been there, pushed to its breaking point.

If there were any lessons the new radicals learned from 2008, it was that there will have to be a breaking point—that staging the break is a crucial part of any acceptable solution. It’s obvious in this crisis, as in previous ones, that some sort of traditional give-and-take deal to keep the status quo afloat would be almost as bad as a default, in much the same way that a solution like TARP papered over the abyss and saved the banks from any real reckoning. We’re at a point where government is in such a state of meltdown that crisis is the only way action happens—the only portal to a different future. There isn’t going to be any incremental fix here; it will either be barbarism or something else. The “something” that happens could always be worse, but there’s also the significant possibility it could be better.

That’s what I think Kunkel is getting at, and why I also feel optimistic. Of course, there is the possibility—even the likelihood—that temporary status-quo deals will keep the state hobbling along, the way the rest of us are hobbling along under catastrophic unemployment and wage stagnation. That’s what Klein and other liberals clearly feel—that crisis and misery are the “new normal.” But the ongoing discreditation of liberal governance is good news for socialism. If severe, intense pain is what it takes to finally wipe out all the accumulated platitudes of the Cold War and the Reagan years—well, we’re all increasingly aware that severe, intense pain is what we’re going to get anyway. And thanks to the crisis, a new generation of young intellectuals will be ready to meet the chaos with bigger ideas than have been allowed in American discourse in a long time. How can we not at least hope that something better will be on the other side?

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334 thoughts on “We All Feel Like Something is Going to Happen

      • North,
        oh, come now, if Russia can count as Anarchism in Action, surely Libertarianism has someplace to point to… Maybe Chile?

        Note: I reject the frame that if a country doesn’t have a “properly functioning” government, that it isn’t libertarianism. If there are bribes aplenty, it still counts,kaysie?

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      • North, please give Blaise some credit here.

        Libertarianism has been tried, and I am very happy to point to specific policy areas where (1) this is clearly the case and (2) if Blaise is serious, he would apparently like to change things back.

        So….

        1. Let’s undo all the gains from trade that have been realized in the GATT era. Free trade is the libertarian policy, and if we are the least bit skeptical about libertarianism, then we must be skeptical about this. So let’s enact high tariffs again and see how well those work out for the economy.

        2. Let’s re-enact state censorship. Again, the free press is a characteristically libertarian policy. If you are even a tiny bit skeptical of libertarianism, you ought to be overwhelmingly skeptical about letting this huge, critically important area of human life go without any state regulations. I suppose this is what Blaise means, too: press freedom hasn’t worked out well at all.

        3. Alcohol prohibition! The War on Drugs is working so, so well that we might as well press onward. Right?

        My point here is that libertarian policies have been enacted with success in many different areas. Never in all of them, but that sort of all-or-nothing radicalism isn’t my style anyway. Small changes, a few at a time, are almost always smarter. And they can be changes in a libertarian direction.

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      • ORLY? Ted Cruz is a hard-core Rand Libertarian. Forms the bulk of his philosophy.

        These guys are now in charge, insofar as they have the knife to the government’s throat at present. Anyone care to argue this point?

        As for Libertarianism never being enacted, I’ve heard that same simpering excusemaking from the Marxists, who think it was never given a fair shake.

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      • Kimmie, I’m no libertarian or anarchist myself but I think I understand the principles of both enough to say firmly that Russia has never been either Anarchist or Libertarian in nature for their entire history from the Mongols on.

        All Chile was an example of was of libertarianism (and frankly market liberalism) being applied to a military dictatorship to some good effect (with a nasty frosting of abominable crimes of state violence on top). That ain’t libertarian in the least and it’s absolutely not anarchist (in the political system sense of the word).

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      • North,
        Yes, I’m choosing nasty, awful examples. They still fit.

        (Capitalism and Anarchism in Russia go hand in hand. When the thieves run corporations that the government dares not punish…)

        I’ll take the Marxists or Libertarians “in practice” examples as well. (Jason’s making a decent case for America as “Libertarian in practice”).

        What I won’t stand for is untestable, untested theories for radical change.

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      • Jason, I guess you could say that but by that definition of libertarianism hasn’t Marxism also been enacted successfully and popularly?

        -National healthcare is relatively effective and popular as a program across the developed world.

        -Social safety nets are universal (to some degree or another) and popular across the developed world.

        I could go on. But Libertarianism hasn’t been tried as a primary governing/economic system the way Marxism was tried that way in the past. It’s always been used as a critique or razor to an existing muddled system rather than as a system in of itself.

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      • Blaise,
        Cato’s one of Koch’s little projects, ain’t it?
        Koch’s no libertarian, now is he?
        He is, if you’re willing to judge by deeds,
        a reactionary.

        Libertarianism is yet the new clothes that
        the priest wears, in justifying the corporeal
        ruler’s every whim.

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      • This saying that libertarianism (or perfect Marxism) hasn’t been tried is like mocking a mathematician because we have yet to create a perfect circle.

        What has been tried is a huge range of of institutional solutions, some which emphasize freedom, mutual consent and decentralized problem solving, some which emphasize imposed order and redistribution.

        If it is not clear which side of the spectrum won the battle of paradigms in the 20th C then you were not paying attention.

        Here is a reminder:

        http://www.freetheworld.com/2012/EFW2012-complete.pdf

        As a general rule of thumb, which did better…
        Property rights and free trade, or five year plans?

        I am a classical liberal and see value in the state and a role for redistribution, but all the evidence points to the need for more freedom and less imposed order. Consider the recipe directional though, not absolute.

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      • GATT is a simple acknowledgement of the fact the nation-state is losing relevance. That tends to put chalk on the Marxists’ side of the board, not the Libertarian. Marx was a fine capitalist. Of course, you’d have to actually read Marx’s Capital to know this. Most people haven’t. I am sure Jason has.

        State censorship, once again, the Marxists and Libertarians are not much different on this front. Both believe the state acts as a tool and agent of the moneyed classes.

        Libertarians can hardly claim to have authored and passed the 21st Amendment. They might now approve of such laws but Free Willers have been arguing theology with Determinists for a good long while now. Neither side seems to have made a dent in the other’s positions, though they go on, whanking and clanking on each other’s armour plating. It’s all very ridiculous.

        Marxists and Libertarians are simply photo negatives of each other. No practical difference.

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      • North, we can say with some assurance that Marx would not have approved of any form of social safety net. He never did while he was alive. He recommended the progressive income tax and the inheritance tax, yes, but only as transitional steps toward communism.

        Social democracy has been enacted and has proven relatively successful, particularly when compared to Marxism. Practical Marxism though is an illusion.

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      • The social safety net was created by Bismarck as a reaction to the rise of trade unionism and the nascent communist movement. In this way, the Bismarckian State could co-opt all tasty bits on offer, creating dependencies on the State, thus consolidating his own mandate. Bismarck did stop the rise of communism, too. Of course, his Welfare State set the stage for fascism, the incestuous union of the State and Industry.

        Were Karl Marx to return to the world today, he’d recognise everything. The bourgeoisie are still digging their own graves.

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      • 1. Let’s undo all the gains from trade that have been realized in the GATT era. Free trade is the libertarian policy, and if we are the least bit skeptical about libertarianism, then we must be skeptical about this. So let’s enact high tariffs again and see how well those work out for the economy.

        I dunno, Jason, I keep getting told that Free Trade Agreements are just preferential trade agreements and aren’t REALLY free trade, etc. etc.

        Can you get with the Koch Brothers and clear up whether GATT-WTO stuff and FTAs are actually libertarian or just statist interference in international trade?

        Thanks.

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      • Jason, that strikes me as an excellent point. I always have followed the route BP is sort of laying out in my mental political history in crediting Marxism with Social Democracy because Social Democracy was often adopted as a vaccine against communism. I’m charmed to discover I needn’t do so.

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      • … GATT-WTO stuff and FTAs are actually libertarian or just statist interference in international trade?

        Back when computer games were well and truly coming into their own, Microsoft was not willing to give the developers and video card manufacturers anything but what their pitiful operating systems had on offer. They went to Redmond, basically grabbed Microsoft by the throat and said “You and your wretched operating system will get the hell out of the way and we will write games directly to the hardware, versteh’sts Du?

        GATT and WTO are the corporations beginning to push the nation states out of the way of progress. Probably for the best, all things considered. The nation states have made a botch of it. Worked pretty well as a model, while national borders meant anything.

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      • Such was not my intention. Marx’s main fallacy arises from what he’d seen, the failure of brittle states. He couldn’t have anticipated the ruthlessness and brilliance of Bismarck, who kept his monarch in power by co-opting the form — but not the substance ! — of social reforms.

        Jason is right to say Marx wouldn’t have advocated for giving the state any such mandate. Here we really must go back to what was being said at the time. Marx had said the proles and bourgeois would be at each other’s throats in a sort of perpetual revolution. He did not foresee the rise of the Welfare State. Marx had an awful lot to say about Feudalism. But as I’ve said elsewhere around here, feudalism was a system of interlocking loyalty, going from high to low and low to high. That’s why feudalism lasted as long as it did.

        In a very real sense, Bismarck’s welfare state was a frank regression to feudalism and paternalism. It was not a reaction to Marx, but to the communist agitators then at work in Russia. Marxism only ever prospered in feudal states, where people owned nothing. It’s still true.

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      • I keep getting told that Free Trade Agreements are just preferential trade agreements and aren’t REALLY free trade, etc. etc.

        Those who say that are comparing these agreements to an ideal-type free trade; it’s essentially a nirvana fallacy based on the false assumption that “free” is a binary, rather than continuous, variable. The proper comparison is to the pre-GATT/WTO/NAFTA/EU world, in which trade was considerably more restricted than it is now.

        (Comparing it to possible freeer trade in the future is, of course, legitimate, but that’s not exactly what those folks are doing.)

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      • That’s tremendously apt, Jason. Marx never tried to tell anyone how to run a society. He outlined a few general principles he’d worked out from what evidence history had provided. It was those sorry-ass “Marxists” who decided they did know how to run a society, prompting Marx to say “I am not a Marxist.”

        Very few people understand Marx because they haven’t read him. In fairness, there’s a lot to read. It seems important to observe we ought to read Marx in the context of his times. Anyone who has a yen to read Marx really ought to read David Ricardo first: without Ricardo and Adam Smith, Marx’s work is a bit like JRR Tolkien’s references to prior ages, mountain ranges dim on the horizon.

        The Marxists, useless swine, are a very different species from Karl Marx. They’ve got Simple Answers for every Complex Question. And from the years I spent among them, very few of them have read Marx, as many so-called Classical Liberals have not read JS Mill or Hayek. They know naught of what they speak.

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      • Kibbutzim seem to work fairly well.
        (in all fairness, there’s a stronger argument for Russia Wasn’t Marxism, considering that Marx himself said that Russia was not in a position to become Marxist, being still mostly feudalist at the time. But you know all this)

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      • The kibbutzim faced a lot of economic problems during the 1980s and 1990s and had to undergo sufficient reform in how they operate. Things like communal raising of children were abandoned and kibbutzim started to allow members who worked outside the kibbutz to keep their own income. Kibbutzim worked better than other attempts at collective agriculture because they were voluntary, people were allowed to leave if they wanted to. In the communist countries, collectivization was basically a form of serfdom.

        Israel’s second form of socialist village, the moshav worked better. The moshav is different from the kibbutz in that it is cooperative rather than collective. Families work their own farm and the make their own consumption decisions but the purchasing of equipment and the selling of agricultural goods is made by the entire village.

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    • I’m in the liberal reformist camp and am firmly in agreement with Jason on this. I think that Marx was right in diagnosing many of the problems of capitalism but he got his policy perscriptions really wrong. Every attempt to implement Marxism in the real world created, at best a garden variety dictatorship, or at worst mass misery as unbending idealogues treated people as things to be used in their attempts to create utopia. The best results were achieved by those seeking to mitigate the worst aspects of capitalism with the workable parts of socialist theory. It might not be as sexy or rousing as Marxism or Randism but it produces functional results with less bloodshed and human rights violations.

      Its clear to me that a lot of the problems that Obama ran into are more of the result of the GOP’s willingness to exploit the structural faults in the American government in order to thrawt Obama rather than anything inherently wrong in liberal reformism.

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      • Agreed Lee though I’d assert that what the GOP is exploiting is a demographic fault rather than a structural one. When Bush Minor avalanched out of office the GOP had two options:
        Accept their place in the wilderness, play the role of constructive opposition, reestablish their credibility as a governing party and wait for the Democratic party to overreach.
        – or harness the rage and confusion of a declining age cohort and a new media phenomenom to gain short term money and power.

        They chose the latter and now their short term high is beginnign to wear off.

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      • North, its true that the GOP is acting as an agent of a demographic group in the United States but without the separation of powers and procedural tools like the filibuster, the GOP would be powerless to act on behalf of their constiuents. Its the counter-majoritarian set up of the American government that gives the minority GOP such power.

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      • Agreed Lee, but that minority power has limits. If you fall below 40% in the Senate or if you fall below 50% in the House then your ability to gum things up falls to mere limited delaying tactics. I have no doubt if the GOP continues to behave the way they are now they will fall to that level at which point their ability to make mischief declines precipitously. That mitigates most concerns I have with structural critiques of the existing system.

        My God(ess?)! I sound like Pollyanna!

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      • From the libertarian reformer side of things, I agree completely. Let us find places where the market has failed, and figure out how to fix it. But to throw out your economic system because of failures in your political system strikes me as supremely foolish.

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      • If there is agreement among all these people in this thread that Marx basically got the description/diagnosis right, that’s actually fairly remarkable. I generally wouldn’t go that far (I think economics as a field agrees he was wrong in a large number of his major claims), but what I tend to think is that Marx got much of the meta-economic and social aspects of economics in industrial capitalism quite right. I.e., historical materialism is wrong as a strictly accurate account of the economic development of the world, but many of the social dynamics described by Marx about the stage of development in which he found himself were right on the money.

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    • While I get the pithiness, can you not understand how people who graduated and suffered in the fiscal crisis with large loans and underemployment are going to be weary of capitalism?

      Most of these young people were not Emma Goldman radicals and would be commune-dwellers. They were kids who did as told: they worked hard, went to school (but not schools that get cushy Wall Street jobs), and were promised decent to good jobs because of this. Then the market crashed and no one told them about globalization and out sourcing.

      These is going to create a skepticism about the complete joys and wonders of Capitalism and I can see why people would look for alternatives rather than constant boom and bust cycles. The staggering unawareness of many Wall Street types to the suffering of others is also bad. They suffer just as much from epistimological closure as the Tea Party. If these are the smartest people, why do they get caught comparing their treatment to lynch mobs.

      Billionaires seem to be awfully sensitive people when it comes to how the public perceives them. They remind me of the Bourbons. People who learn nothing but remember everything.

      I think the Bail Outs were an unfortunate necessity to prevent more human misery but it should have also come with aid to the people and probably a consideration that too big to fail is a kind of failure itself. No company should be so big that their demise threatens the world economy.

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      • Newdealer,
        “schools that get cushy Wall Street jobs”
        the only cushy wall street job is that of CEO. Wall Street is an awful profession, made worse by the hoops they mandate you jump through, so that you will be unable to go look for a new job with a competitor. (yay office culture).

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  1. You honestly think that big ideas haven’t been allowed in American discourse????

    Stiglitz:
    “American inequality began its upswing 30 years ago, along with tax decreases for the rich and the easing of regulations on the financial sector. That’s no coincidence. It has worsened as we have under-invested in our infrastructure, education and health care systems, and social safety nets. Rising inequality reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance.”

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    • Perhaps he missed the whole expansion of free trade and collapse of Communism thingie.

      Between the lowering of impenetrable barriers and the enhancement of technology, we have seen the unprecedented freedom of over one billion relatively unskilled individuals to enter the market. This has dramatically increased the supply of lower skilled labor. The net effect is lower rates of income growth for lower skilled workers in previously “privileged” countries and humongous gains for the truly underprivileged.

      Net result is less worldwide inequality and Stiglitz knows it. But his narrative sells more books.

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      • The Mandarins must first convince us of the need to put them in charge…

        I found his arguments disingenuous though slick. Let me just point out three major concerns.

        First, he assumes that inequality arises from a particular zero sum dynamic. That those gaining did so at the expense of those not gaining. This is not true in voluntary markets between the skilled and unskilled. In general they do not compete, they cooperate. To the extent this is true, this means that absent the gains of the wealthy, that the unskilled workers here would probably have done even worse, not better! The zero sum dynamic (within a larger positive sum game) is actually between unskilled workers rising out of EXTREME POVERTY over there, and unskilled workers here. Of course anyone recommending we throw the worlds poor under the bus for middle class growth rates would be seen as a monster. So he spins.

        Second, his five percent number is extremely slick piece of propaganda. These are the people remaining in extreme poverty. These are the folks still earning the equivalent of less than a couple of dollars a day. Free markets allow people to rise out of self sufficient subsistence living and enjoy the gains of specialization and exchange. The trend over the past two hundred years has been for subsistence farmers to enter the economy and begin the climb to middle class standards of living. The five percent number is the number of people still left behind and denied access to markets as a billion were helped. He is, in other words, implying that the solution is the problem. This is wrong in so many ways. What do you call someone smart enough to know better but still willing to throw hundreds of millions of starving children under the bus for his personal aggrandizement?

        Third he is implying that inequality is a greater problem than poverty. This is actually simple math. The bottom income level possible is around two or three dollars per day. Below that you are dead. Due to Malthusian forces this has been the lower range of the historic average of the entire planet (actually the floor of a range oscillating up and down between this and a few dollars more). As long as some people still make subsistence levels of income, gains by the rest of the world will show up as inequality. In other words, this guy can spin improving worldwide standards of living as a problem. And he does so. The specific time frame he bemoans is the time frame when more humans rose out of extreme poverty than ever before since the Big Bang.

        Let me repeat. The era of unprecedented improvements in worldwide prosperity is being spun by Stiglitz as a problem. Furthermore he is implying that we need to fix this “problem” by killing off the solution.

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        • There’s an entire cottage industry of people like that these days. Heck, some build up their entire careers on it (see: Thomas Sowell), or have a decent career in their specialty and then branch out to political hackery later (Niall Ferguson, Victor Davis Hanson).

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      • Roger,
        your allies are not who you think they are. The same people who were for Reagan’s reforms are now for defaulting on our loans.

        “That those gaining did so at the expense of those not gaining. This is not true in voluntary markets between the skilled and unskilled. In general they do not compete, they cooperate. ”
        … i suppose you might say that America is not a voluntary market then? The financiers won in the global economic collapse, nobody else did. We still have immense unemployment, but NO RECESSION. Our economy is growing, but we have relatively few people in the jobs.

        I DENY your assertion that the financiers have enriched China or other places, in the past five years. There is no asset bubble in China or the other foreign markets.

        I think you misunderstand the Gini coefficient, which is applied on a country by country basis.

        Stiglitz is not saying that free trade cannot do what you say, simply that the numbers currently on the table aren’t showing it. They’re showing rentseekers and others being intelligent gamers of the system.

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      • James,
        I’d be interested to hear where you’d critique Stiglitz’ article.

        On a further reread, I did note the use of “children in poverty” versus “children going to college”, which just seems to be a poor argument.

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      • Just to be clear, Roger, you outright reject framing what you openly describe as a zero-sum scrabble among low-skilled people in different societies as a problem, even in an article that openly is treating a given society as the theater for defining problems? That’s fine, you can do that, but people are going to keep having conversations about what they, in their societies, experience as problems. Yours will always be a marginalized way of looking at this because of its contextual rigidity.

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      • , I refuse to waste my time reading Stiglitz anymore. If you want to read a good economic stig, read Stigler instead.

        , Sowell is a very mainstream economist, so when I read his articles about economics I find myself nodding along. But when he talks about politics, I’m aghast at both his lack of knowledge and his whole-hearted shucking of scholarly objectivity. I’m sure it helps pay the bills, though.

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      • “Just to be clear, Roger, you outright reject framing what you openly describe as a zero-sum scrabble among low-skilled people in different societies as a problem, even in an article that openly is treating a given society as the theater for defining problems? That’s fine, you can do that, but people are going to keep having conversations about what they, in their societies, experience as problems. Yours will always be a marginalized way of looking at this because of its contextual rigidity.”

        My second guest post on this forum was on this zero sum paradigm or framing. Conventional mercantilist “wisdom” is indeed that the world is zero sum and that gains from one must come from losses to another. I am absolutely sure that the arrangement between consumers, labor and capital in relatively free markets is primarily one of cooperation (though we do use supply and demand to set the terms). Unskilled labor competes (constructively) primarily with other unskilled labor and (unconstructively) with rent seekers seeking state privilege (which may include many crony corporations, unions and bankers).

        Nine out of ten people (non economists) are mercantilists. Mercantilism is our natural, innate bias. Thus a positive sum view will be marginalized until people become better educated.

        Average standards of living worldwide have never been higher or grown faster than in the last generation, an era of unprecedented growth in economic liberalism. A side effect of this is that first world unskilled labor is increasingly competing with third world unskilled labor. A billion of ’em.

        But you know what… you can’t gain a political campaign about trying to screw over the third world poor. Not honestly (though “Buy American” amounts to the same thing). It is better to blame the wealthy (those not rent seeking) and imply that they gained at the expense of the rest of us. As a rule it ain’t so and Stiglitz and Krugman know it. Krugman used to even write about it. Oddly he sold out right after his column in which he noted that only economic whores are popular.

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      • I think for the most part people are perfectly willing to openly defend their own societies protecting unskilled workers in their society who are better off and demand better wages in that society against competition that is much, much less well off and demand far lower wages. They don’t think it’s evil (it isn’t), and aren’t worried about it looking evil. It may on balance lead to less overall prosperity (it may not), but the dynamic they see in play does lead to lower prosperity where these wage disparities produce shifts in production away from places where it had sustained life before. Reactions to this aren’t evil, and generally speaking no one is worried about them looking like it either.

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      • Roger,

        It seems to me that your “zero-sum”/”not-zero-sum” refrain essentially amounts to a claim that any attention to localized losses within a dynamic that is leading to general (average) gain is 1) an ipso facto denial that there is a general zero-sum reality (it isn’t), and 2) either misguided or disingenuous or both.

        The reality, if I am not mistaken, is that trade economics, while it certainly holds that general wealth increases from free trade, recognizes that those gains are unevenly distributed (we don’t even out holdings after all the max-efficiency rearranging of production is done, or periodically as it happens) and that it produces real losers. It doesn’t hold that the losers should be expected not to notice they have lost; in fact many in the profession account for this by saying that redistribution by countries pursuing nonprotectionist trade policies should be employed to ease the losses that result.

        The reality of that piece is that Stiglitz nowhere implies that those who have gained have done so at the expense of those who have not. He merely presents the problem of the non-gains (and, indeed, losses) as concerning in light of the gains elsewhere. But his solutions clearly point to varieties of the kind of ameliorative assistance to people in the industrialized world who face challenging (if not zero- or negative-sum in a universal context) competition resulting from global trade liberalization that I indicate trade theory often points to: greater taxation of those who have gained from economic trends to pay for infrastructure investments, education, and generous social safety nets.

        So I would submit that you have substantially misrepresented Stiglitz here. He does not imply a zero-sum reality or that those who have gained have done so at the expense of those who have lost out (though, honestly, if a manufacturer realizes he can make much greater profit by moving his factory to a place where the prevailing wage is far lower and thereby profits, I will always have a hard time seeing how it’s a wrong description to say that the factory owner gains at the expense of people he used to pay more than those he currently foes to do the work he needs done… but that’s my view). He is describing a world of global economics in which there are winners and losers, suggesting ways to help the losers, and suggesting that the gains made among the global poor and struggling have been somewhat overhyped (certainly something that’s debatable).

        His main point is that, within societies “Inequality Is Choice.” We can work to help those in our society harmed (locally) by global economic trends through policy, or we can choose not to. The things you say he implies or assumes are just concoctions made to suit your preferred way to interpret his words. It’s telling that every single critique you advance revolves around a dubious claim you make about something he, in your telling, “implies” or “assumes,” not something he actually says: “he assumes that inequality arises from a particular zero sum dynamic” (he doesn’t); “He is, in other words, implying that the solution is the problem.” (no, he says that the gains aren’t as great among the poor as some have suggested); “he is implying that inequality is a greater problem than poverty” (no, he’s not); “era of unprecedented improvements in worldwide prosperity is being spun by Stiglitz as a problem” (no, he’s saying that highly unequal distribution of these improvements, as well as disimprovements that have coincided, remain problems in this era); “he is implying that we need to fix this “problem” by killing off the solution” (No. He isn’t. That’s just your imagination.)

        I would say that the best critique you have given of him is that he underplays the degree of advancement we have seen among the world’s poor. This is a matter of emphasis and can;t really be resolved in one direction or the other, though I tend to think yours is a valid critique here. But even if he underemphasizes the gains, his larger point stands: there remain many who are left behind, and not a few who have been harmed, by the processes that have led to these advancements. The inequality this has produced, he says, however, was not inevitable, because, at least outside the poorest countries, governments have had options available to them to counter it, which some have availed themselves of and others haven’t. Those measures don’t include a “killing off” of the processes that lead to average global increases in prosperity and greater prosperity for the poorest in the world; rather, they are the following: investment in “infrastructure, education and health care systems, and social safety nets,” and (and here I would suggest that drawing an inference to something he doesn’t specifically say is supported in the text) financial regulation that would combat the role of “excessive financialization” in exacerbating inequality through “weak corporate governance and eroding social cohesion [that] have led to increasing gaps between the pay of chief executives and that of ordinary workers” and through “corroding our political system and our democratic governance.”

        That’s what Stiglitz says: the era of liberalized global trade and finance has indeed led to significant gains among the world’s poor and struggling, though perhaps not decreasing global inequality as much as some suggest, and that, along with the reality of localized losses in the industrialized world that have resulted from this liberalization, this remaining excessive inequality is something that we do not have to accept and that we should work to order the global liberal economic regime to redress more than it has.

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      • It seems to me that your “zero-sum”/”not-zero-sum” refrain essentially amounts to a claim that any attention to localized losses within a dynamic that is leading to general (average) gain is 1) an ipso facto denial that there is a general zero-sum reality (it isn’t)

        I believe you mean a denial that there is a general positive-sum reality, and if so, yes! He, and some others who use the “zero-sum/positive-sum” dichotomy as a cudgel, do precisely this over and over. They always miss the possibility of drops in relative position, period, and drops in absolute position accompanied by larger absolute gains elsewhere in the system, in a positive-sum game. And it’s really annoying, particularly since those sorts of dynamics are exactly what we’ve seen just since ’08.

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      • Thank you, Chris, yes. A denial of a positive-sum reality on average in the world (and this for some localities and individuals), or an assertion of a zero-sum reality in the same context is what I meant.

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      • “drops in relative position”

        I have a perpetual problem in telling the difference between a drop in relative position that necessitates social redress and a drop in relative position that can be acknowledged as little more than a problem in perception.

        So long as the floor remains stable (or, heck, even keeps rising slowly), I don’t understand why the people above it being reshuffled is a moral issue.

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      • Jay,
        It’s the “unfairness” issue, and it provides a fucking huge disincentive for people to actually create wealth.

        Take two people: tell them that by working equally hard (with, say, two periods of extended unemployment), at the end of the day:
        The first person will have a house, enough savings to retire, and kids through college.
        The second person will be living in a slum, not have enough savings to retire, and be lucky to get a kid through college on financial aid.

        Just some basic statistics on what wealth does to folks.

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      • Roger,
        What percentage of the rich do you see as wealth generators, versus rent seekers? (both in terms of wealth, and in terms of actual people-numbers).

        From my fucking perspective, we’re $700 billion dollars in the hole because of political machinations by the rich.

        Why shouldn’t we tax them for it?

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      • Jay, we’re not even there, yet. There is a common tactic among certain commenters here and elsewhere — Roger is not alone in this — to accuse anyone who doesn’t agree that movement at one level of the distribution can’t possibly have a negative impact on people at other levels of “zero-sum thinking.” I was just glad to see Michael point it out, because it’s really annoying.

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      • What percentage of the rich do you see as wealth generators, versus rent seekers? (both in terms of wealth, and in terms of actual people-numbers).

        Look for the rents in the following places:

        1. Public employment (esp. unionized public employment)
        2. Government contracting
        3. The legal profession and lobbying (esp. Big Law).
        4. Casino banking.
        5. Real estate development
        6. Higher education.
        7. Intellectual property?

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      • Art,
        Contractors and government employees are one thing (in that, by and large, they’re generally not paid /that/ much, and don’t actively set our budget back by a few BILLION dollars. No I am NOT exaggerating, sources cited if needed.).

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      • Cool, a tag team…

        Chris, my second guest post on the League was on this very issue. The better educated folks on the left denied my accusation “we do not see the world as zero sum” as all the rest of the folks on the left argued vehemently for several hundred comments that the world really was zero sum. It was hilarious.

        Let me work up a response to Michael and your replies.

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      • as all the rest of the folks on the left argued vehemently for several hundred comments that the world really was zero sum. It was hilarious.

        I don’t recall anyone arguing that the world is zero sum. I recall you doing precisely what I described here: treating anything that deviates from a universally positive-sum game as a zero-sum game. Could you link to some comments that actually suggest the world is zero-sum?

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      • Roger,

        The problem is that you impute a zero-sum mentality to a variety of viewpoints that it doesn’t necessarily have to underlay. For example, a person can admit to a positive-sum overall dynamic in a broad context but note that people are in fact being harmed within that dynamic. A person can advocate for redistribution while not denying that, by and large, unrestricted voluntary transactions produce positive-sum results when all the results are taken into consideration (it’s actually only your counterclaim which says that the result of such redistribution is necessarily at best zero-sum, which it isn’t, which is why people advocate for it).

        I’m not saying that it’s not appropriate to identify some viewpoints as holding to a zero-sum mentality; what I’m saying is that the way you apply the identifier, the claim in your mouth doesn;t amount to anything but pointing out when someone is noting a localized harm within what might or might not be a positive-sum transaction or larger dynamic. You yell “zero-sum thinking!” as soon as anyone points out any harm to a party from voluntary decisions of others (the decision to remove one’s capital from a particular labor arena resulting in disemployment there being an entirely voluntary decision with a real localized harm). To point out that harm isn’t to deny that the voluntary decision may be part of a positive-sum dynamic when the welfare of many other parties are ultimately taken into account. To point to someone pointing out such local harms as an example of zero-sum thinking is really to dilute the actual meaning of that term. What there person would actually have to claim to be advancing a zero-sum mentality is not just that it’s true in that case that the harm won’t be more than offset by utility gains resulting from that event when all the consequences are tallied up, but that it’s axiomatically true that it never could!

        Surely, to believe it’s just possible that a change in the world resulting from voluntary decisions could, now and then, turn out to be zero-sum (or even negative-sum) from an overall utility standpoint, is not to hold a general view that the world is a zero-sum place in terms of economic utility, is it? In that case, obviously *not even denying that a given change might turn out to be positive sum from a universal standpoint* but just pointing out that the localized negative side of the ledger in a given change can be, locally, quite problematic depute the possibility of more-than-offsetting positive results elsewhere can’t be advancing a zero-sum mentality. It’s just paying attention to what’s going on (a harm here offset by a greater gain there is still a harm here; it’s not not a harm here).

        Your overuse and misapplication of your favorite analytical tool has drained it of all power in these discussions.

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      • “He, and some others who use the “zero-sum/positive-sum” dichotomy as a cudgel, do precisely this over and over. They always miss the possibility of drops in relative position, period, and drops in absolute position accompanied by larger absolute gains elsewhere in the system, in a positive-sum game. And it’s really annoying, particularly since those sorts of dynamics are exactly what we’ve seen just since ’08.”

        Chris (and Michael)

        Balderdash! My comment above clearly and specifically pointed out that there is a zero sum dimension between unskilled workers. You miss what I wrote and accuse me of missing it and cudgeling. I suggest a mirror is in order.

        The advancement of a billion unskilled poor has come at the cost of lower income growth rates of first world unskilled workers. I also specifically pointed it out between producers. I could add there is a zero sum dimension between teams on the football field, or scientists in search of a new theories.

        I did suggest that the primary relation between labor and capital, and producers and consumers is positive sum and cooperative. If you want to argue with me on this point, feel free.

        Let me spell out my beliefs: It is possible for us to build positive sum institutions with a constructive zero sum dimension.

        In football, teams compete constructively (within a narrow set of permissible moves) on a zero sum dimension within a positive sum game intended to entertain fans. There will be winners and losers on one dimension and positive sum results overall.

        In science, scientists compete constructively on a zero sum dimension to be first to publish significant findings or theories for the benefit of humanity. There again will be individual relative winners and losers, but we gain overall by the process.

        In markets, people compete constructively within the rules to cooperate better at solving consumer problems. It is another positive sum game with a zero sum dimension.

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      • “I think for the most part people are perfectly willing to openly defend their own societies protecting unskilled workers in their society who are better off and demand better wages in that society against competition that is much, much less well off and demand far lower wages. They don’t think it’s evil (it isn’t), and aren’t worried about it looking evil. It may on balance lead to less overall prosperity (it may not), but the dynamic they see in play does lead to lower prosperity where these wage disparities produce shifts in production away from places where it had sustained life before. Reactions to this aren’t evil, and generally speaking no one is worried about them looking like it either.”

        Every once in a while a person says something which just floors me. You are in effect arguing that it is permissible to use coercion (defend trade barriers by force) to protect our jobs from starving third world people. You are in effect saying that we should bugger our neighbors. Talk about having to live with skeletons in the closet. There are more than can be counted in the closet of a mercantilist.

        As for your skepticism of the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity, feel free to take on three hundred years of economics. I’d suggest starting with a defense of creationism or flat earth theory though.

        How is it that those on the left pretend to stake out the moral high ground when simultaneously arguing that if they are in a lifeboat with more than enough provisions that they will let billions drown just so they can maintain exclusive access to the best morsels. Letting people drown is wrong. No? If not please tell me what it is.

        What do you guys call someone refusing to letting drowning people onto your well provisioned lifeboat ( indeed those you save can be proven to add to the net stores once in the boat). Is it confused? Is it evil? You guys decide.

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      • roger,
        Allow me a radical a priori: All the positive sums (in the world) go to one person.
        [yes, I know, facts not in evidence. Still, I’ma take the assumption and play ball].

        Is it moral?
        Is it ethical?
        Is it better than the zero-sum game?

        Here we have dramatically increasing inequality, WITHOUT your (as yet uncited) assumption that the least are improving. (personally, I doubt it. The least are still suffering protein deficiency. Saving them is a remarkably stupid idea too.).

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      • No, I’m saying that people who think that’s a good and justifiable policy generally aren’t ashamed to say so because they think they’ll be thought of as monsters or evil for thinking that. They don’t think it’s wrong for governments to work to protect the interests of their citizens at the expense of people in other places.

        All I think on this is that it’s not in fact eviI for people to think that or that they’re monsters if they do. I don’t think it’s the right policy to follow generally because it does, when pursued widely, impede overall wealth creation significantly, though I’m somewhat agnostic about it in particular situations.

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      • I don’t recall anyone arguing that the world is zero sum.

        I you mean you don’t recall anyone arguing that the world is only zero sum, I agree with you. I think it may be that Roger hears liberals talk about zero sum arrangements and concludes that that’s the only way they look at the world, when a better criticism would be that they emphasize those arrangements in they’re value hierarchy in ways that aren’t particularly productive or descriptively accurate (from his pov). I think that criticism carries some weight, myself, but it reduces to value preferences which people can legitimately disagree about.

        What’s ironic, tho, is that I recall some recent threads where libertarians – and Roger in particular, but there were others – were arguing so strenuously against liberal’s and in favor of a positive-sum-ism that they denied perfectly valid descriptions of zero-sum arrangements which can be objectively verified: the privileges enjoyed by straight white males in US society. So it seems to me if the issue we’re talking about is how ideology determines an inaccurate description of the world – which appears to be one of the argument Roger is making here (the other being a normative and psychological claim about how we ought to view the world) – libertarians are guilty equally guilty.

        I think a lot of this goes back to something I repeat to the point of it being boring: people with strong political opinions tend to interpret the arguments and claims of their political opponents in terms of their theoriy or biases. It makes discussion impossible since the opponent cannot possibly say anything in response to an incorrect interpretation which itself doesn’t admit of interpretation.

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      • As for your skepticism of the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity

        I wasn’t aware I expressed this in any pointed way. “Overall human prosperity” is a very problematic concept, but I in no way deny that there *are benefits*. That said, I suppose I would want to reserve the right to some skepticism about certain conceivable claims about “the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity.” I mean, a person could claim that free trade has made every single human a millionaire in 2013 USDs. I would want to be skeptical of such a claim, yes. So my position as to skepticism about “the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity” is somewhere between not having any skepticism about the claim that they exist and are, on average, positive, and thinking it’s appropriate to potentially have some skepticism about some possible claims about “the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity.” I don’t think I’ve said anything contrary to that. To flesh that admittedly wide range out a bit more, though, I will add that I will have some degree of skepticism about a meta-empirical approach to the question that I may be asked to take that takes approximately the form of, “Whatever Roger says about ‘the benefits of free trade to overall human prosperity’ is true.”

        So, for whatever that’s all worth…

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      • Contractors and government employees are one thing (in that, by and large, they’re generally not paid /that/ much, and don’t actively set our budget back by a few BILLION dollars. No I am NOT exaggerating, sources cited if needed.).

        I am not sure what you mean by this comment. Concerning contractors:

        Is it a no-bid contract? Are the specs on the contract written so as to steer it to one particular vendor?

        Concerning public employees:

        What is the discounted present value of Lois Lerner’s pension? To what extent are public employee pensions financed by clips from employees stated wages and salaries? How does total compensation compare to the private sector.

        Soldiers and uniformed police and firefighters retiring at 55 seems reasonable. Postal workers and school teachers, not so much.

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      • We are the product of all that’s happened to us, what we’ve seen and done. Our political viewpoints are inevitably a negative reaction, never a positive one, to the story of our lives. To make sense of the world around us, we form frameworks, establish philosophical warrants for our fundamental positions.

        If others don’t agree with our positions, their storylines are different. I’m sick of Roger’s endless harangues: he won’t accept the fundamental bankruptcy of his own zero sum propositions. Where is his proof for the notion that nine of ten people are mercantilists? It’s as if John Locke hadn’t existed, as if ordinary people don’t understand the nature of international commerce. People like nice things for cheap prices. For crissakes, everyone who shops at Walmart knows the score.

        Consider how he puts words in liberals’ mouths. Who among the liberals, here or elsewhere, has argued the world is a zero-sum proposition. Haven’t liberals always said they measure the world from the bottom up, considering the lot of the poor and dispossessed first? Haven’t liberals always said too much concentrated power in too few hands leads to tyranny? Money is power. And when we point out the growing disparities and historical precedent, we’re sneered at — “Somalia! Somalia!”

        Somalia really does exist, you know. So did John Locke. Mercantilism is dead. Nobody seriously accepts any of its fundamental principles these days. Give it up, Roger. You’re becoming a bore.

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      • Michael,

        I am not claiming that drawing attention to those harmed circumstantially due to economic competition are falling for the zero sum fallacy. I myself pointed this zero dimension out repeatedly and with emphasis.

        I AM saying that shifty salesman realize that people are innately zero sum mercantilists. Thus they can mention increasing market based inequality and leave the gullible with the impression that it came at the expense of the unskilled. They can mention those not yet saved by open markets, and imply to the economically illiterate reading the Times that this is a market failure and that the recipe is more benevolent master planning by mandarins such as himself. Thus he in effect leaves the impression that the cure was actually the disease and that poison which he happens to be peddling is really the cure.

        Let me really, really clear. Stiglitz is not a mercantilist. No genuine economist could be. However he is well aware that most of his readers are, and he is subtly playing to their gullibility. He cannot say these things directly because to do so would destroy his credibility with those in the know. So he pussyfoots around it. What we have here is not a good argument, but skilled rhetoric. Very skilled.

        This is not to argue against investment and social safety nets. It is an argument for economic liberalism and less meddlesome master planning. Granted there is a fine line between good regulation needed to ensure free markets and provide necessary safety nets, and between the master planning that itself causes poverty and rent seeking exploitation. Perhaps we should address these differences later.

        By the way, I am OK with viewing inequality as a choice. Markets require inequality to work. No inequality, means no markets by definition. No markets means economic catastrophe of an unimaginable extent. Markets also fund the prosperity to build safety nets, which we can CHOOSE to use to prevent people from falling through the gaps. I choose safety nets and inequality and free markets. Others apparently choose trade barriers and taking choice and money from the rich.

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      • As far as I could tell, Stiglitz nowhere says or implies that the advancement of the wealthy in the global liberal regime generally comes at the expense of the less well-off (though, reviewing the thread you’ve linked to here, you don’t deny that n some cases it does). As far as I could tell, the thing that came closest to a zero-sum viewpoint like that was Stiglitz’s talking about global competition forcing “wage concessions” (but for that matter, also in particular cases “having a job concessions”). But that’s just a fact we know about – and in the case of a lot of people, a real harm, not a just failure to advance relatively. As I say, and as I’m glad you now agree, noticing those localized harms doesn’t evince a “zero-sum mentality.” But that leaves me wondering what it was Stiglitz writes there that makes you think you can get away with attributing a zero-sum mentality to his viewpoint.

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      • I choose safety nets and inequality and free markets. Others apparently choose trade barriers and taking choice and money from the rich.

        Well, there’s nothing left to talk about, then, is there? Except to keep verbally pounding on your evil and irredeemably stoopid enemies, that is.

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      • Roger, there are 450-odd comments on that thread. I’m not going through them. You’ll have to pick one, if you want to demonstrate someone using zero-sum thinking.

        I have seen you accuse people, including myself, of misguided zero-sum thinking, and I’ve never seen you do so accurately. That is, you accuse people of treating the world as zero-sum when they are making points exactly like the one you make about unskilled workers. If there have been cases in which people have treated the entire world as zero sum, as you are accusing them of doing, just point ’em out. I haven’t seen ’em.

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      • Hey, folks, there are about 4 people ganging up on Roger right now. I get that you all object to what he’s saying, but do you have any idea how hard it is to try to respond thoughtfully and coherently to a whole crowd of folks arguing at you?

        I’ve been on his end of that kind of thing (and maybe on your end sometimes, too), and I can tell you it’s really really not cool. As in, stressful for the person trying to keep up with critiques from all sides, and pretty inconsiderate on the part of the multiple critics. May I suggest that a couple of you just accept that a couple others can handle the burden of criticism quite well, and resign yourself to spectator status? And it’s not like you’re going to change his mind anyway, any more than he’s going to change yours, no matter what arguments are presented by anyone here, right?

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      • And it’s not like you’re going to change his mind anyway, any more than he’s going to change yours, no matter what arguments are presented by anyone here, right?

        Exactly. Which makes me wonder why he’s continually hammering on liberals – or anyone that disagrees with him – as being evil and/or ignorant. I mean, we’ve all said quite clearly why we disagree with him. Those words don’t seem to penetrate, tho. We’re consistently criticized for something more than simply disagreeing.

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      • Exactly. Which makes me wonder why he’s continually hammering on liberals – or anyone that disagrees with him – as being evil and/or ignorant. I mean, we’ve all said quite clearly why we disagree with him. Those words don’t seem to penetrate, tho. We’re consistently criticized for something more than simply disagreeing.

        You. Are. Fishing. Priceless.

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      • James, I invite you to elaborate on that comment. I think you’d enjoy it, and I wouldn’t want to deprive you of value seeking behavior.

        To the point, tho: you think I’ve done something to libertarians and libertarianism that is mystifying to me. That I play a double standard, or won’t defend my views, or whatever. If you recall, there were many, many, times that you’ve called on liberals to defend their views and I was the one who stepped up to the challenge. Am I misremembering things, or do I need to go into the archives to pull up the evidence?

        The long and short of it is that I disagreewith you guys. At least, I disagree with the “this is the way the world should be” libertarian guys. I’ve said that enough times that I merely repeat myself in saying it again.

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      • Nob, it’s not the nature of the argument itself (although that is the reason I haven’t felt very tempted to make a substantive post myself), but the numbers. Anyone who’s been in the position of trying to respond to multiple people arguing with them simultaneously knows how sucky it is. So even though nobody’s actually going, “Hey, let’s gang up on that guy and go tag-team on his ass,” even though it’s quite inadvertent, it actually ends up being rather inconsiderate.

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      • The next time four folks want to have a go at someone, we really ought to split it into four message threads, as the conversations do rapidly diverge. Otherwise, it makes it really hard to follow.

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    • …Nor do I understand what makes you think you can decide he is advancing mercantilism by not advancing it, when the ameliorative measures he advances are basically the same ones you do: infrastructure & education investments (I think you’re okay with those), and safety nets, which I know okay with. Pity-charity liberalism, IOW, not neo-protectionism.

      Stiglitz isn’t a mercantilist, but he’s also really not a mercantilist, and he’s not telling-people-to-be-mercantilists-by-not-telling-them-to-be-mercantilists. Let me be really clear: you are living in a world of make-believe in this regard that exists only inside your own head.

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  2. This strikes me as overwrought and fabulist which (to my jaded centrist liberal [or dare I say neoliberal] eyes) makes it unsurprising that it’s coming from our young left idealist flank.

    I don’t see a catastrophic system failure (yet); I see an aging angry demographic cohort lashing out in incoherent rage as they feel their wrinkled fingers slowly slipping off of the levers of power and feel the cold bony fingers of mortality sliding slowly up their spines to rest on their aching shoulders. I see the a party that cynically attempted to harness the power of this rage now suddenly finding themselves astride the tiger and unable to find a way to get off as it careens towards a cliff. I see a future for that party of electoral defeats smacking them over their collective heads until they bite the bullet and get down to the hard business of reestablishing their credibility and fine tuning their message that they have been frantically trying to avoid ever since Bush Minor vacated the office.

    System failure? No, I see a system that can handle this. The GOP need lose only a few more seats in both houses to be utterly neutered. If they continue to behave as they are behaving now they will lose those necessary seats and will be reduced to a powerless rump. Is something going to happen? Yeah but to my radical compatriots great disappointment that something will most likely be some elections and the whole machine of the system stoically creaking on as it’s been doing for centuries.

    The radical left needs to have new ideas before they have any chance of ushering in a revolution. They have good reason to envy the radical right; the radical rights ideas have either never been enacted (libertarianism) or cannot fail [only be failed] (religiousness) in contrast Marxism is a dead letter as a governing system. As a critique of capitalism it has some salience but can it transform the system? No, it can just tug us a little to the left; some safety nets; some helpful regulation; a little this; a little that.

    We’ll get the PPACA, perhaps we’ll get immigration reform, maybe some other things but they’ll be center leftish policies; the markets will tick on; the government will trudge forward; people will get up and go to work; the revolution will remain a fever dream and you know what? I’m okay with that.

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    • Your problem is that you see a system at all.

      I see blind faith.

      Blind faith is what keeps people going to work every day.
      It has always been such, the peasants have their routines,
      and have been selected to do them regardless of who is in charge.

      But woe to the man who disrupts the routines! Put enough
      people off their routine, and you create the headless mob
      (and worse yet, give it plenty of time and boredom).
      History says that has never ended well.

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    • North,

      As usual, I’m pretty much on board, except that there’s a certain tautological element that most avowed Marxists I know adopt, where things getting worse supports their view, but things getting better also supports it. So it’s possible to stipulate to everything you said, and the Marxist will say, “exactly!”

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    • ,

      I don’t see a catastrophic system failure (yet); I see an aging angry demographic cohort lashing out in incoherent rage as they feel their wrinkled fingers slowly slipping off of the levers of power and feel the cold bony fingers of mortality sliding slowly up their spines to rest on their aching shoulders.

      Add in that the social norms with which they grew up are being radically transformed (which I think is more directly important than the loss of control over the levers of power–if the younger generation took over but little changed socially, I don’t think the aging demographic would notice much).

      But while I agree this is a tremendously large part of our problem right now, I think it’s nested in a systemic collapse, because young people, as well as old, are increasingly disaffected with the traditional political process. I think this disaffection has multiple sources:

      One is–forgive me, my liberal friends–the inability of liberalism to really produce–or at least demonstrate–the results it seeks. But in conjunction, the inability of conservatism’s counterproposals to produce–or at least demonstrate–that is results are any better.

      The second is globalization, which diminishes the effective policy range of government to solve problems people wish to solve (further exacerbating problem 1, although also incorporating other policy areas).

      Three is a growing generational impatience (I think) with political gridlock, which I don’t think will disappear as the aging and angry elderly die off because I don’t think it’s based just on frustration with them, but is grounded in a desire for good government performance/fulfillment. It’s not just the effect of policies that matter here (although there is a relationship with problem 1, but also with the problem of failed conservative policies), but also the sense of procedural effectiveness and propriety. An important factor in this is the electoral non-responsiveness of our system, due to the effects of staggered Senate terms and gerrymandered House districts. (Oddly, though, resistance to actually making a major structural change is limited because of our tendency to view the Constitution as divinely inspired.)

      A lot of this is grounded, I think, in an argument made by Anthony Giddens in Runaway World (which I just read this past weekend).

      In a world based upon active communication, hard power–power that comes only from the top down–loses its edge. …

      The communications revolution has produced more active, reflexive citizenries than existed before. It is these very developments that are at the same time producing disaffection in long-established democracies. In a detraditionalising world, politicians can’t rely upon the old forms of pomp and circumstance to justify what they do. Orthodox parliamentary politics becomes remote from the flood of change sweeping through people’s lives …

      [Western] [p]eople have lost a good deal of the trust they used to have in politicians and orthodox democratic procedures. They haven’t lost their faith in democracy. …

      What they are, or many of them are, is more cynical about the claims that politicians make for themselves and–crucially–concerned about political questions about which they feel politicians have little to say.

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      • Hmm maybe Prof, but I suspect that if you removed the GOP high on the heroin of the declining Boomers from the equation you’d have the normal youthful spirits and the understandable impatience with everything you’d expect for a group of people who’ve endured an economic calamity like the great recession.

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    • I don’t see a catastrophic system failure (yet); I see an aging angry demographic cohort lashing out in incoherent rage as they feel their wrinkled fingers slowly slipping off of the levers of power

      Or listening to the voices in your head.

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  3. I will flatter myself that I think in ways roughly similar to your average, middle-class liberal-ish person. Perhaps not, but it’s a pretty thing to tell myself.

    I do not blame the failures of the Obama administration on liberalism. I blame them on the revanchist and stupid intransigence of a losing political party unwilling to do the actual work of government.

    Oh, and I would never in a billion years embrace Marxism. Unless we decide to mothball democracy, I have a hard time believing America will be swayed by its promises.

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    • I’m not a big fan of marxism, but I’d distinguish between Marxist-Leninist Marxism (or pretty much any of Marxism’s revolutionary manifestations) and, say, a Marxist analysis of what ails society. The latter is not necessarily anti-democratic, although I still agree with it only in part.

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      • Oh, but this is a good question!
        At minimum, Obamacare without government shutdown.
        And no debt ceiling terrorism (again, not my wording).

        This is assuming Obama gets the same amount of backtalk from the reactionaries…
        and from the health insurance companies.

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      • Considering that I think Obamacare took a very bad system and made it much worse, and that I see much of the stimulus as absolutely ineffective crony pandering to special interest groups, I am obviously not persuaded.

        I would be more persuaded if the argument was that absent interference from the right, Obama could have crafted health reform that actually had a chance of working and didn’t discourage the hiring of unskilled labor. (Such as universal catastrophic health coverage and freed markets with subsidies for the poor below the cat level ).

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      • Roger,
        Obamacare does encourage the hiring of unskilled workers to electronicize paper health care records.

        I’d have been hopeful that Obama might have been able to use stimulus funds a little bit more… judiciously (in hindsight, the “shovels now!” requirement might have been stupid).

        Can you show me some statistics on the stimulus, and what you consider crony funding? (If that’s percentage that got no-bid contracts, thats’ good nuff fer me!).

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      • Roger, if you feel the ACA is a catastrophic disimprovement on the previously existing system then I don’t see how you can view the right’s role in it (total strategic opposition and obstruction instead of constructive bargaining and improvement in exchange for votes) as incidental to the final outcome.

        On the matter of stimulus the numbers don’t fit with your position. Europe by and large followed tight money, small government and reduced spending. They got virtually no recovery, spiraling deficits and a double dip recession. The US under Obama’s constricted actions produced a lukewarm recovery. I think Liberals and Krugman are on pretty solid ground when they assert that if Obama had been less encumbered the recovery would have been stronger (though definitely the debt would be much higher).

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      • North,

        I do not disagree in any way with your first paragraph.

        I disagree completely with the stimulus argument, both on the short and long term. However, let’s come back to this debate some other time. My iPad is out of battery and my wife is feeling ignored.

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      • Roger, European countries followed the rightist call for austerity and most of them have much higher rates of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and are worse off in terms of other issues as well. You can’t ignore the facts and the numbers.

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      • Basically, what said.

        If the GOP wanted to improve the ACA, a prospect I find utterly plausible, negotiating about improving it would have been much more effective than wholesale obstruction.

        And I’m not trying to convince you to change your mind about the stimulus. Just telling you my opinion on the matter.

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      • Russell,

        Your comment seems to assume I was defending the GOP. I am criticizing Obamacare as it was designed. If your argument is that in an alternate universe without the GOP that Obama would have created a health reform which I would have liked, then OK. I suspect you are just playing wishful politics though.

        I have no affection for either party. I see them both as cancerous.

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      • I have read studies on the stimulus and am also familiar with myriads of studies on the correlation between long term government spending and economic growth. Can we just agree to disagree on this one and that we should debate it as a stand alone thread later?

        Raincheck!

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      • I don’t know what healthcare policies you favor, so I can’t comment on whether or not cooperation with the GOP would have made you more inclined to support the law.

        For my part, I am deeply skeptical of the ACA because it lacks a public option. But that’s probably not a change you would have supported, either. If there’s one thing cooperation with the GOP might have accomplished that I would have been inclined to support, it would have been much more directed at cost containment.

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  4. All this irrational fear about Marxism would make me chuckle if not for the fear I have that the Teabaggers will try to find some way to legitimize their power the same way another minority party became rulers of Germany in the 1930s….

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  5. I’m working my way though a book of Catholic social teaching, and what strikes me is the long and deep roots of socialist thought contained within mainstream religious theory.
    Marxism, as evidenced by the very first comment here, still retains an aura of bogeyman epithet, and for some fairly good reasons.

    But there is this other, much more worthwhile history of how Marx’s criticism’s were interpreted and delivered, aside from the Bolsheviks and the Maoists.

    For example, in the papal encyclicals which form the basis of contemporary Catholic thought, Marx is refuted, but his criticisms are accepted. There is a natural fit between the teleological nature of society in Christian thought, and the notion of socializing certain aspects of society. While nominally Catholic, these ideas have been widely accepted and form the basis of the social contract under which we are living.

    What Goldberg was getting at in her article, is that now that the gulag and killing fields are history, there is plenty of room to examine this other history of Marxist thought in a new and fresh way.

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  6. So I didn’t read all the posts, but, in chatting with my co worker, I suggested a simple way to get democracy started again in the us.

    How about an angry mob that storms the capital with pitchforks and torches and tars and feathers the entire congress? Might get some progress that way… The liberals can tar and feather the tea partiers and the conservatives can do the same with the liberals in congress. Libertarians, anarchists and etcetrra can tar both. It’s win, win, win!

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  7. The biggest problem with Marxism and other highly ideological forms of government like anarchism, fascism, theocracy, etc., is that it can’t deal with people that have different thoughts and desires than those the ideology deems approrpriate. Thats why every attempt to implement a highly ideological form of government from the Far Left to the Far Right end of the spectrum ends up as nothing more than a massive tyranny. There are simply always going to be too many people who disagree and want something contradictory to what the ruling ideology deems fit and proper. In the case of Marxism, its a place and things to call their own and other trapings of middle class life and individualism. In the case of theocracy, its the desire to have fun and relax and not focus so much on sin.

    A working form of goverment is going to have be able to handle the fact that people are different, have contradictory ideas on whats good and proper, and like their pleasure and creature comforts.

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    • That’s odd. Marx said “No, we are for Free Trade, because by Free Trade all economical laws, with their most astounding contradictions, will act upon a larger scale, upon the territory of the whole earth; and because from the uniting of all these contradictions in a single group, where they will stand face to face, will result the struggle which will itself eventuate in the emancipation of the proletariat.”

      Marxism is the one political philosophy which frankly acknowledges all these Astounding Contradictions.

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  8. Before wading into the tall weeds, let me stipulate a few things:

    1. Free trade has been, on balance, a good thing for most people in the parts of the world that have benefited from it. If this sounds a bit like a tautology it is, but I do genuinely believe that in the first world, which is to say among the early adopters, free trade has been a net positive, and it’s been a net positive for most of the people who’ve adopted it later largely without it being forced upon them by colonial powers (think of Japan or even South Korea, as opposed to say much of the rest of Asia).
    2. Free trade has been a net positive where it’s been a net positive because it is fundamentally consistent with important aspects of basic human psychology.

    I think any alternative to the free market system has to address these two things. Free trade has given us remarkable achievements in medicine, transportation, communication, killing people (OK, that one may not be great, but humans will be humans, eh?), and many other domains, all of which has served to significantly improved the quality of life of billions of people.

    But these two things don’t mean that market capitalism, or free tradeism, or whatever version of free market philosophy you want to adhere to, should be without its detractors, does it? I always get the impression from free market proponents that even mild questioning of the wonderfulness of the free market is a sin. I assume, however, that even its most zealous proponents will admit that it is not perfect, and is in fact far from it. For one, at the same time it is using the basic psychology of incentives to produce innovation and improvement, it is also using less… felicitous aspects of our nature, our will to power, or less metaphorically, our drives for social status and domination, to produce inequality and exploitation, which turn out to be essential components of the success of the free market.

    That is, in order to be successful, the market needs a large underclass: those who do the basic work that keeps the market humming. Perhaps someday, maybe even someday soon, these tasks will be performed by machines, but until then, it requires people who are “willing” to do hard, generally menial work for not very much money. In fact, as the market continues to grow our appetite for consumption, which it clearly does, it demands more and more work for less and less money, to the point that many of the jobs have to be shipped outside of the economy in which the consumers are demanding more and more, and often outside of the world of free trade altogether and into economies that are mixtures of free-ish trade, protectionism, and outright economic feudalism (where capital basically operates like local barons).

    And speaking of the ever-increasing appetite for consumption, a direct consequence of the market system, look at what it’s doing to the planet. Forget the factory worker in Bangladesh who’s working 14 hour days in horrible conditions, in a building that might collapse at any moment, all for a few dollars a month, and consider how much plastic there is in the ocean, or how polluted our water and air are becoming, and how much land we’ve deforested and continue to deforest.

    So what if we start from these to broad points: the free market has done a great deal of good, but also at least some very real harm, and start thinking about how we might move forward from here. How might we continue to produce innovation, but with less exploitation of the working poor, and while reducing our appetite for consumption so that, on the one hand, we don’t mind spending a bit more for our clothes because we’re not trying to spend that extra money on 20 other essentially luxury goods, and on the other we’re not completely fucking the planet on which we have no choice but to live for the foreseeable future. Free trade alone is not going to get us there; we’re going to need, at the very least, some sort of addition to the system, if not a revision of it. What, to the zealous proponent of free trade, might the additions or revisions would you propose? And would you fault some of us if we look to classic but, at least in the abstract, still relevant critiques of your free trade for some answers?

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    • Part of the disconnect that comes from trade liberalization is that while the benefits of trade are distributed globally, the externalities are almost always localized. When you combine this with a lack of enforceable global governance structures, the local externalities to trade become concentrated on whoever can’t afford to force firms to pay them. Part of the reason so much trade liberalization requires intergovernmental agreements is partly to harmonize laws that help take care of things like externalities ranging from abusive labor practices to tax evasion and environmental degradation. The simple fact is, the thing that would improve free trade more than anything else would be one global government which enforced laws equally and fairly regardless of where something happens.

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    • And, to top it all off, it would appear that free trade is not “free”.

      When a country has a primary export, but doesn’t even get a seat at the table in negotations regarding “free trade”… there’s something really foul going on.

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    • Chris, I agree with everything in the first half of your comment.

      You then misdiagnose that markets require people do do hard, menial tasks. In reality LIFE requires hard, menial tasks. Life is and always has been a struggle. Four hundred years ago, we pretty much all struggled and lived a short, dirty, backbreaking existence. What markets have done is allowed people to begin climbing out of the struggle. In other words, your comment amounts to LIFE SUCKS. Markets have been the only solution ever found to this curse. Thus you are in effect mislabeling the imperfect cure as the poison.

      Similarly, you blame the market for pollution and a lack of leisure. Again, reality is the exact opposite. As people become more prosperous leisure increases dramatically. Daily leisure in the developed nations with free markets is double what it was a century ago, and is inversely correlated with income (the upper classes have significantly less leisure than the lower classes). On a lifetime basis leisure has actually quadrupled over the last two centuries in market economies. I have provided links to this data four or five times, but people keep ignoring it. Markets lead to unprecedented increases in leisure, especially in their more developed manifestations.

      On pollution and planetary harm, the reality is that environmentalism is a luxury afforded only by those prosperous enough to escape the Malthusian trap. Environmental damage follows an upside down U. More people create more pollution and negative externalities until they become prosperous enough to invest in their environment. Environmental quality is improving in almost every dimension in developed nations and has been for decades (partly due to regulation). The data is readily available on first world trends on air quality, water quality, acid rain, REforestation and so on.

      “So what if we start from these to broad points: the free market has done a great deal of good, but also at least some very real harm.”

      I hate to say it, but I don’t think you have yet made the case for harm caused. Indeed I read it as problems not yet fixed. The harms of markets is that they are by definition dynamic, and that change creates not just winners, but victims. A billion rise out of poverty over there and we get stagnant incomes over here. Coke prospers as Pepsi flounders. As such, safety nets are critical, and to date have not been filled well by markets alone.

      “What, to the zealous proponent of free trade, might the additions or revisions would you propose?”

      I propose better safety nets funded out of the prosperity created by markets. I propose continued efforts to ensure markets do not create negative externalities such as pollution. I propose education and dialogue.

      Oddly, I also propose continued experiments in non market solutions. I hate to ever see all our eggs in one basket. A worldwide market is one basket, and the thought is scary. I think it makes sense for second tier economies such as Sweden or Australia to experiment with new institutional forms. Most experiments fail of course, so good luck.

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      • Roger, this is pretty much what I expected from you. In fact, I pretty much threw in 1 and 2 to cut off the argument that you ultimately ended up giving anyway.

        A few things:

        Daily leisure in the developed nations with free markets is double what it was a century ago

        True, but not relevant to any criticisms I made of the market.

        and is inversely correlated with income (the upper classes have significantly less leisure than the lower classes).

        False, in that leisure , specifically, shows an inverted U-shaped curve when plotted against wealth, but also not relevant to any criticisms I made.

        As for the environment, I’m pretty sure the plastic bags in the oceans didn’t come primarily from non-market economies, with the possible exception of the Chinese, but there are so many people there that it creates an issue of scale. And the fact that the nations that have benefited the most from markets can afford to try to repair some of the massive amounts of damage they’ve done to the environment while getting to “benefitted the most from markets” doesn’t really address my point. See Nob’s comment to understand why, at least in part.

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      • Chris,

        While those plastic bags exist because of the market, they end up in oceans because of the lack of a market in used plastic bags. So the cause is both existence of and lack of markets.

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      • Can you please link to the leisure data which contradicts my claim and the links which I have provided in the past? Thanks! I will add it to my library.

        I am fine with adding baggies in the ocean as a negative externality of markets. I would add any harmful externalities of global warming to the list as well. One person’s CO2 is insignificant. 7 billion prosperous people and the cumulative effects start to add up. Again, only a prosperous humanity can solve whatever problem is created. Absent prosperity, environmental harm is too low down the list of most people’s priorities.

        By the way, thanks for the links on stateless socialism.

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      • Roger, I can’t, with a quick look, find the paper that I linked you to the last time we had this conversation. If you know where that conversation is (I can’t find that, either), it’s there. Otherwise, I’ll look for it in my files when I get home. I agree with you, however, that in the middle of the economic spectrum, that is above poor and working poor, leisure time is lower. It is higher at the high end, though (the wealthy, by American standards). The only claim I made about time was how long people work in factories in undeveloped nations, though, so I still don’t know why you commented on it.

        Also, you’re essentially telling us that in order to get to a point where we can fix the massive amount of damage we’ve done to the planet, we have to keep doing more damage so that we can accumulate the wealth to afford to do something about it. That’s not a very good solution.

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      • Is your data perhaps global and mine US? That might make sense. If you find it send it my way.

        Economics is about scarce resources. Some problems are so big that only an extremely wealthy and complex society can solve them. Oddly some of these problems are themselves “wakes” or negative externalities created by the engine of prosperity itself.

        Said another way. Markets are complex adaptive problem solving systems. However, solving problems often creates new and unexpected problems. Part of our solution set to address these negative externalities will itself come from this complex adaptive problem solving system (others will come from the similarly complex adaptive problem solving system known as science).

        Perhaps there should be a name or handle for “problem solving systems which themselves create problems which only they can solve.”

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        • My general problem with neoliberal market advocacy is, I think there’s never enough thought put into potential negative externalities. When the potential for negative externalities or institutional failures to ensure market fairness are brought up, the response is often a bludgeoning chorus of “You want to deny people prosperity!” and some other comparable reaction about how we want to keep people as trash scavengers or subsistence farmers.

          There’s always going to be a zero-sum result to any sort of transaction. It may not be thermodynamics, but the reality of environmental impacts and disparate impacts are not things that can simply be shrugged off for the sake of mankind or whatever other utopian dreams we want to talk about.

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    • I always get the impression from free market proponents that even mild questioning of the wonderfulness of the free market is a sin. I assume, however, that even its most zealous proponents will admit that it is not perfect, and is in fact far from it.

      It’s not the perfection argument that I tend to use as much as the question of whether I have limits when it comes to what I can tell you what to do and expect obedience.

      At its atomic level, the free market is two other people trading with each other.

      I don’t see where I have the right to tell them not to, making obvious exceptions for fraud, force, dumping of pure mercury into the Mississippi river, etc. But when it comes to two consenting adults making a trade? I find it difficult to say where I get the right to tell them to not and then I just take it from there.

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      • I feel you, I really do, and in an ideal world, I’d want it to be exactly so. In that ideal world, the distribution of wealth would be perfectly just, and mobility would be perfect as well, with the only limits to more wealth being fair and just competition and putting in the work. Labor would get an equitable share of the wealth, as would capital, initial external conditions would mean nothing for prospects and potential, and there would be a perfect system for dealing with what y’all commonly refer to as “externalities.” We don’t live in that world. We will never live in that world. We live in a very messy world where the limits on mobility are myriad, and mostly external, and so on. We have two choices, now: we can continue this system, despite its flaws, which are growing rather than retreating in many cases, or we can start talking about how we might change things, perhaps to get us at least closer to that ideal world.

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      • I worry that if we say something to the effect of “okay, we’ve figured out that some of us have the right to tell others how to live” then, suddenly, we’ll find out that not only have things not changed for the better, but we’ve also abandoned any pretense of grounds to complain about it.

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      • Well, no matter what we do, we’re telling people how to live. There is no way around that, short of finding some excluded woods somewhere and becoming a hermit. Once we recognize that we are, as you might say, starting the haggling. And I suspect that where you and I want to end up at the end of the haggling is pretty similar, we’re just going to think that different deals need to be made to get there.

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      • It’s not just two people making a trade. They can find some level ground in a clearing in the woods to make that trade.

        The whole world can’t be a level playing field, though. Money really is power. Those with more money have more power. When big guys can (and routinely do) squash little guys, don’t tell me about two guys making a trade. The problem is just a little bigger than that. Someone has to tell the powerful guy, “you can’t play the game just any way you’d like” and make it mean something.

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  9. Meh, since the Leftists also want to confiscate all the guns from the citizenry – before the revolution occurs – this sort of radicalism doesn’t bother me one whit. The State will abide.

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    • I know you’re joking a bit here, but I wonder how much exposure to leftists you have. I ask, because if you had more exposure to leftism than I suspect you do, you’d probably know that there’s been a pretty heated and, at times, downright nasty debate on the left, between that band on the spectrum’s more anarchical types and its, well, less anarchical types, about guns. The anarchical ones being for more of them, of course.

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    • I am going to agree with Chris about the debate. And I don’t want to confiscate all guns but I think visions about them being a way to protect from government tyranny are a bit quaint and wrong. Same with he-man fantasies that spread across the Internet whenever a mass shooting occurs. People who argue that have watched too many action movies in my mind. There is a difference between being an ace shot while hunting or at the target range than a chaotic situation.

      Some realism on the complications of the issue would be a step forward.

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      • I know people who have been in gunfights.
        In american cities, actually (I’m pretty certain it was mostly an accident).

        The most important rule is: hit the floor. Find cover. You don’t know how many people are shooting, can shoot, or have you in their line of sight.

        Good cop shows model this. Bad cop shows model what not to do: do not approach bodies until one has cleared the area of potential places for bad people to hide.

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      • Chris,

        I was more referring to right-wing types who make the argument. They love to talk about the teacher or patron who kept their gun in the car or something like that. They seem to live in an action movie to me and not reality.

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      • As long as a) borders cannot be perfectly secured, and b) we can all learn how to make explosives with a few household chemicals in the proper proportion, legal guns aren’t critical to effective resistance.

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      • Yes, you can disrupt the current system, even to point of failure, without guns. Iraq and Afghanistan shows that well enough.

        But you also can’t implement a new superseding system without guns. Libya today, Russia in the late 1910’s, America in the 1780’s, and scores of others demonstrate that.

        If the Leftists* are willing to literally stick by their guns, more power to them. Literally.

        *of whom, I agree, I have limited familiarily outside those who post here – e.g. Sessions, Gude, Isiquith, Gach(?) and once upon a time, Brown – and the links that go every so often from here to the Jacobin site)

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      • There’s a deeper problem in place: governments rely upon people to believe in them. For people to trust government, they must rely upon the mechanism of government to deal with problems affecting everyone.

        Where government won’t accept its role as the servant of the people, it quickly loses relevance in people’s lives. The surest yardstick of this relevance is voter statistics as a percentage of population. Doesn’t matter how people vote, what matters is that they do or don’t vote.

        It’s the Tinker Bell Problem: if the children don’t clap, Tink will die. If people don’t vote, democracy dies.

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  10. To change a bit from Daniel Bell, I consider myself a liberal in politics, socialist(istic) in economics. I am a firm believer in a craddle to grave social safety net and universal healthcare. I think that certain key industries need to be nationalized and not on a private or for-profit model. I am also a proud trade unionist. I seem to be the only person I know who supports the BART strikers. Jewish girls did not die in Triangle for me to be a sniveling little technocrat who dreams of automation and disruption.

    But like LeeEsq, I think that Marxism and other ideological extremes (on both the left and right) fail to realize that there are seven billion people in the world and these people can have radically different thoughts on their wants and desires. Stuff like false consciousness always struck me more as Marxist public intellectuals trying to feel good about themselves not having much support from some sectors of the working class. And I’m someone who is sympathetic to arguments against automation as destroying the working class or the upper-classes trying to find ways to not deal with the working class. Self-check out at the grocery store is very efficient and convenient but check-out is still a union job and therefore a good.

    But people like things and I am not as worried about consumerism as many other radicals seem to be. In my mind and I have said this before often hypocritically so. When people rant about materialism and consumerism, it often translates as “Wahhh! People are spending money on things that I don’t want them to.” There is nothing more annoying than the campus radical who makes snide comments about consumerism but also shows off his or her expensive video game system and/or tattoos.

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    • NewDealer,
      ” I think that certain key industries need to be nationalized and not on a private or for-profit model.”

      Oh, which ones, which ones!!!
      We’ve already lost significant amounts of our national security because of companies leaving america.

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    • My sister once had some vegan friends who wore leather jackets “but it was okay because they’d shoplifted them”. My eyebrows went so far up they circled my head and ended up hangign off my chin for dear life.

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      • That is a significant part of the freegan argument. I suppose I am sympathetic when it comes to dumpster diving because that is often good food that is going to waste and America wastes too much food.

        I’m not as sympathetic when it comes to shoplifting leather jackets though.*

        *There is another problem with the fashion industry in that they do tend to overproduce items because it is easy and fairly cheap to do so. However in order to keep exclusivity and make sure that only the “right-people” are wearing the clothing, the excess stock gets destroyed instead of donated. I’m not sure how I feel about this but it strikes me as somewhat wrong to troubling and I’m a clothes horse. Not for obvious brands like Prada or Gucci but higher-end stuff that is somewhat more obscure like Engineered Garments or 45rpm.

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      • NewDealer,
        how very bourgeoisie of you. ;-P
        The rich, naturally, don’t use brands at all.
        then again, they devote their lives to being able to recognize who is in a properly fitting suit, etc. (other class markers as well, like inability to create complex facial expressions).

        [by rich, i’m obvsly not talking about the quants.]

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    • False Consciousness just says the Idea never makes it off the written page intact. Sorta like no plan survives contact with the enemy. Every ideology suffers from False Consciousness.

      Human beings aren’t rational. That’s why Spock was such an interesting creature on Star Trek. Granted, not much of his Vulcan Logic was actually logical — but put that aside for the moment. Buddhist doctrine: shogyo mujo — all is transitory. But we’re constantly reliant on things not changing, the sun coming up tomorrow morning.

      People suffer from all sorts of delusions. Marx outlined quite a few of them. Brutally accurate, too, still are. The one great truth of Marxism, the one thing nobody can ever take away from him, no matter how stupid his disciples might be or the mountain of evils done in his name — is this: The working men have no country. We cannot take away from them what they have not got.

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      • The working men have no country. We cannot take away from them what they have not got.

        That quote raises many questions in me (and I truly mean questions — not a camouflaged opinion). Is it the “working man” who actually does have a country? Ranging perhaps from the stereotyped worker who intones “I love murrka” to another who speaks of the “dictatorship of the proletariate.” (The second type is more educated, perhaps, but still speaking of an organized state of some sort). The blue collar crowd seems to be those with the flags on the porch. If a country is a state of mind, a collected idea held by a somewhat like-minded group, then isn’t that more the province of the so-called working class? And conversely, does the “higher-minded” “higher class” (scare quotes intentional) crowd think more in terms of “the world” rather than “my country.” ???

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      • The question, it seems to me, is “What does it mean to be a country?” It’s a round world. Nations aren’t self-sufficient any more. They’re dependent upon networks of trade and flows of capital, which have no allegiance to any nation.

        Since this is about a newly-spotted Marxist renaissance and various folks running around like ornithologists spotting a rare bird thought to have been extinct for three or four decades, might as well name-drop Kenneth Waltz: Is it capitalism or states that must be destroyed in order to get peace, or must both be abolished?

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      • rex,
        those teapartiers ain’t the working class!!!
        they’re the overseers, the foremen, the bullies.
        They know something’s wrong,because they can’t boss people around no more.

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      • Kim: I agree about the TP’ers, but I really was referring to a rather generalized blue-collar working class, and not that movement.

        BP: Is it capitalism or states that must be destroyed in order to get peace, or must both be abolished?

        So what is our definition of “peace”? The last 40 years have been pretty peaceful, planet-wide, compared to the 60 years before that. Not to diminish the horrors and suffering extant today, but they are a level of magnitude less than the middle of the 20th Century. Are we achieving “peace” even though capitalism and states seem to be flourishing?

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      • Rex,

        I generally agree with Kim. Most of the Tea Party is not working class. They are the “local notables” Not necessarily doctors, lawyers, and other professionals but local business men who run businesses in a few states or counties. They own bigger farms or multiple car dealerships. Kim is also right that they see their world slipping away and do not like it one bit.

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      • Huh? With 46 million refugees on the move, I’d argue things are substantially worse than at any time since the Partition of India. These decrepit old nation states are coming apart at the seams, look at the Arab Spring — gone rotten on the vine. West Africa. East Africa. North Africa. Brazil going apeshit. USA, locked in catatonic rage. Mexico going bonkers.

        I’m not an alarmist. I see most of the trouble in the world arising from the collapse of the nation state. Nation states are just getting in the way of progress. They’re increasingly irrelevant. It’s not as if national governments aren’t necessary and proper, there’s a role for them. But not the roles they’re playing. A nameplate at the UN might make your regime into a nation-state. Doesn’t make your regime relevant.

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    • I actually think that having people working the check-out lanes is much more efficient than self-check out. Given the option, most people prefer to have somebody work the check-out lane and bag their food rather than having to do it themselves.

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      • I think half of this stuff is fad. In that we’re finding that stuff we CAN automate doesn’t necessarily follow into WANTING it to be automated. I wager that eventually we’ll come to a better balance and we’ll start appreciating the jobs we prefer having people perform that much more. (And perhaps even start paying more appropriately for them.)

        For example, check out and bagging might become worth more than say stocking and inventory, as the latter is mostly transparent to the consumer and can be more effectively automated without inconvenience.

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      • Always two sides to the automation debate. Rule One: machines handle rules better. Rule Two: people handle exceptions better.

        A good automation project takes the drudgery out of a task. It does not attempt to deal with all the exceptions. Those it passes off to a Living Breathing Human Being.

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      • Only because most people use the supermarket bags.
        I bag my own bookbag, both because I know what’s acceptable if it leaks,
        and I know what I want to cram in there.

        Disclaimer: Last week i carried home 50lbs of food for a bit under a mile. Mental note: next time, wear the boots. What I did was dangerous, and not recommended without proper equipment.

        I hate autocheckout because autocheckout automatically screws up. And then you have to wait. Also, autocheckout is rather embarrassing, when it must talk through everything you’re ordering.

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      • The interesting thing to me about self-checkout is: is it really much of technological innovation? I mean, cashiers have been swiping coded products for decades. It’s more like retailers suddenly realized, ‘Wait. Why aren’t we just having the customers do this?’

        I’m sure there were technical developments that were necessary, but it seems like they’ve been possible to knock out nearly all along. All that was really necessary was the decision to do it. This is unlike, say, much auto plant mechanization, which I get the sense has been being pursued and implemented right up to the limits of what the technology allowed day-by-day for decades and decades.

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      • The auto industry is one place where over-automation was quickly knocked off its perch. Henry Ford’s first large-scale plant was optimised for a single vehicle. Chevrolet’s plant could be quickly retooled for many different vehicles. Toyota took it one step farther, driving mechanisation from the shop floor up. Let the people with the problems arrive at the solutions.

        The self-checkout counter is badly implemented. It tries to handle all the exceptions. Done properly, we’d have a hybrid system, with two chutes. We’d put our purchases on the belt, the scanners would deal with the stuff they could handle, routing the exceptions to the human checkout artiste.

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      • MDrew, and we still don’t order fast food from kiosks. Jack in the Box tried that, but it didn’t take. I’m not sure why, since unlike checkout, I think I would prefer it. My guess is that if we wake up one day and we order from kiosks by default, it’ll be related to a labor shortage or wage hike (or both) or another providing a sudden economic incentive to develop and use what has been available all along.

        Blaise, good point about exceptions. The main reason I don’t like self-checkout is that there are too many exceptions.

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      • I like self checkout because it means I can avoid dealing with a live human when I only have a few items. And based on the lines at my local Meijer and WalMart, I suspect I’m far from an anomaly. I think full automation would be a bust, because it’s those times we have a large shopping list that bagging it ourselves becomes more onerous than dealing with a bored and non-amiable checker (not that they all are, but let’s face i t, wouldn’t most of us be bored an un-amiable if that was our job?). It’s the choice that allows us some ability to tailor the shopping experience to our needs of the moment that’s valuable to consumers.

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        • I like self checkout because it means I can avoid dealing with a live human when I only have a few items.

          I think that misanthropy is a trait required for political science. People who lack that trait go to policy school programs instead.

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      • like Aitch, I don’t like dealing with people.

        As my colleague says, there is nothing that requires working with other people that is worth doing. He may have a sex exception to that rule, but he’s not sure even about that.

        Or as Dr. Cox said, people are bastard coated bastards with bastard filling.

        It just seems like I always have exceptions in my cart.

        Too much liquor and produce, eh? Now we all know a bit more about the mysterious Mr. Truman.

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      • Will,

        I live near a two smallish produce markets and a large corporate supermarket. The corporate supermarket uses self-checkout with someone at hand for items like alcohol. The produce market have checkout staff. I find that the local produce markets often have better quality and cheaper produce than the big supermarket. The big supermarket is good for stuff like OJ and Coke Zero.

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      • I find that the local produce markets often have better quality and cheaper produce than the big supermarket.

        Different market niches. In general, niche marketing is the only thing I miss about urban life (in less populated areas there’s not enough consumers to support many niches).

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  11. There is also a bit of far-left rhetoric that I consider a bit weird especially when it comes to decolonization.

    A friend of mine from college posted something from a facebook group called Decolonize Your Diet.

    I don’t know what this even means for me. My ancestors were mainly Eastern European Jews who came to America from Minsk at the end of the 19th Century and early 20th century. The other quarter were Turkish Jews. They came largely to escape progroms.

    How responsible were my ancestors for imperalism and colonization? I would say not very. As a third-generation Jewish-American, what should my diet be like? Should I stick to 19th century Jewish fare from Russia and the Ottoman Empire? Why am I being a colonizer for enjoying a Thai Pumpkin Chicken Curry? Or Chinese Food? Or a Mission-style Burrito?

    Stuff like that is a bit silly to me and a distraction from larger issues on inequality and fairness. Yet stating as such often gets me labeled as being a non-true member of the left.

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    • ND, first there was no such thing as Turkey when our Great-Grandparents came over. It was still the Ottoman Empire. Second, they were Sephardic Jews from the Ottoman Empire. They didn’t even speak Turkish, they spoke Ladino. Nobody in the Ottoman Empire, including themselves, would view them as Turkish in anyway.

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    • Things like decolonize your diet are a type of fantasy politics, its the leftist equivalent of whatever the Tea Party is doing. In fantasy politics the goal isn’t to actually change policy or society but to do whats good for your soul. Its politics as psychotherapy and its disgusting because it only does more harm than good if it does anything at all.

      You should point out to these people that they are basically preaching a rightist creed when they argue that you should “decolonialize your diet” If you argue that a White person shouldn’t enjoy Latin American faire or that a Japanese person can’t eat Ethiopian cuisine than you are arguing for the rightist causes of xenophobia racial purity as opposed to leftist cosmopolitanism.

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      • On the subject of colonialism, a lot of people on my side of the political aisle think that the world would be a better, richer place without the European colonial empires of the 19th and first half of the 20th century.

        I’m not sure about this though. One problem with the argument is that it involves a lot of projection. People think that all the non-European countries would pull of an indigenous modernization like Japan or they project their own communalistic fantasies on non-European countries and see them as some sort of leftist paradises if left to their own devices. There isn’t evidence for either. Lots of countries besides Japan attempted indigenous modernization during the 19th century and failed to varying degrees. Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, Iran, China, and Korea all tried to do what Japan did but ended up with fewer positive results. Japan got lucky with a combination of talented leadership and a population that was well-educated by pre-modern standards with the basis of a thriving economy already existing. The futures market was first developed in Tokugawa Japan for one thing.

        Japan’s success also shows that non-European countries are just as willing to enter into imperial politics when they have the chance. Under the Muhammud Ali dynasty, Egypt was deeply involved in trying to dominate their part of Africa. A more successful Egypt would be one in a better position to engage on imperial adventures. So we could have an Africa where the coastal states modernize and go onto exploit the interior.

        As to the latter problem, seeing non-European societies and countries as some sort of communalistic fantasy, the evidence simply shows that its wrong. Many non-European societies were just as hierarchal if not more so than European societies and had private property. They also had many beliefs and values that are deeply illiberal. An Indian subcontinent that never experienced the Raj might end up as a series of Hindu and Muslim monarchies run by some rather reactionary social principles.

        There are simply too many variables to assume that the world would be a better place without the European empires of the 19th and 20th centuries. It probably wouldn’t be a worse place but it could easily be a poorer and more reactionary one.

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      • The Spanish and Belgians and Dutch and Portuguese saw slaves. The British saw savages. The French saw people. Can’t just put all of colonialism in one capacious bag. Colonies of trade, colonies of conquest, even within the same colonies, their horrors varied by the administrators and the subject peoples. Columbus was a cruel madman, Bartolomeo de las Casas was not.

        Colonialism conflates two problems. We see the same problems appear in every colony, going back to the Phoenicians. Can’t have colonies of trade without some measure of security. You might get investors to back your colony but they’d prefer to get the backing of a state, so they have a ready market for what’s produced. Nobody can just set out to form a nation, not without financial backers.

        The Vikings have the reputation for pillage and violence — and they were, when they could be. But where they encountered sufficient state power, they were merchants, trading goods over prodigious distances. They formed their own states, after a fashion, no-nonsense fiefdoms. Normandy, carved out of the mouth of the Seine. William the Conqueror, another Norman, got his allies to disperse by sending them out to carve out their own domains within his, thus keeping them from plotting against him.

        But other sorts of colonies, the Belgian colonies, the Japanese conquests in Korea and China, routinely horrible.

        I’m not sure the world would have been better off without the colonialists. They did what state powers do, they sent out their merchants to make them wealthy. The legacy of colonialism is how imperfectly it was abolished. The borders of these wretched nation-states were created by the colonialists — most ignominiously in the division of India and Pakistan, two groups of native idiots who allowed a colonial power to draw the line of separation. In a very real sense, all the nations thus created were rendered instantly irrelevant upon their creation.

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        • The French saw people and decided they needed to be treated horribly. I mean it’s not a coincidence that a lot of the huge messes in the former colonial world come from French engineered colonial borders. The British saw savages and therefore decided they needed to impose a hierarchical structure and their entire governing institutions. The French saw people and therefore felt they needed to create structures which would divide and repress them.

          Colonialism is a mixed bag, but we’re better off without it TODAY.

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      • The French did just fine. In Canada and Africa, especially in Canada, they were respected and respectful. In North Africa, they were a decided improvement on the Ottomans. The various independence movements were respected, right up to the point where the Islamists and Communists starting murdering the colonists. Then the French got extremely nasty.

        But to say the French treated people horribly, Nob, the French are still respected all through their previous colonies.

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      • As for colonial borders, the only observed borders anywhere in the French-controlled areas of Africa were where they met up with British colonies. The French dealt with the local power structures. They administered their own forts, which grew into trading towns. The French were constantly resetting borders. The creation of what’s now Burkina Faso arose from just such a jiggering.

        No, what we have now in Francophone West Africa are the Realpolitik borders of the 1950s. The rest is the creation of the local people themselves.

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        • The French had a very clear division of regions within the AOF, and subdivided the governor-generalships down to relatively small cercles all answering to the ministry of colonialism. I mean the chef de cantons were local African chiefs, but on the whole the French were more of the direct rule variety than British indirect rule, particularly in colonial Africa. The importance of evoules in African colonial administration is pretty hard to dispute.

          There’s also substantial documentary evidence in the post-Ottoman Near East that French colonial planners wanted to divide and conquer. Robert de Caix is the most notorious, in that he strenuously opposed a unified Arab Syria and convinced Gourand of his wisdom. (Albeit the federated Syrian mandate later in the 20s).

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      • The French did see people. I contend they didn’t treat the people horribly. The French stamped out slavery where they found it. They were capable administrators. The local people came to them to settle their endless feuds. I can’t speak to how the French administered the Middle East but I sure can speak to Francophone West Africa.

        I’ve said on numerous occasions the Sykes-Picot Treaty is the basis for most of the problems of the Middle East today. There’s no Kurdistan and should have been one. All the colonialists left messes behind them, I’m not disputing that fact, quite the opposite. My contention is that the French, unlike the Belgians and Spanish and Portuguese, did see people and not savages or slaves.

        Horrible is as horrible does. The French are still involved in Africa. They are respected where other colonialists were not. The great exception to that rule was Indochina, where all they could make of Vietnam was a gigantic rubber plantation for Michelin.

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        • Certainly compared to the Belgians, Spaniards and Portuguese, both British and French imperialism were more about integrating and unifying their colonial holdings into a common market rather than simply stripping most of those lands of useful resources. Their consequence attitude toward rule was also generally more humane, but that speaks, I think more to the brutality of the former than the goodness of the latter. The literature on effects of colonialism are mixed, but British former colonies do better than French ones which in turn have done better than Belgian or Portuguese ones. What that says about people, I’m not sure.

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      • As for les evoulés, if giving talented people a French education instead of rote-learning the Qu’ran in some filthy madrasa, bringing them into the modern world, we might well ask what the Meiji were doing when they set up Tokyo University, creating a completely Westernised form of education. Same thing. The French, at least, had the good sense to realise they needed local talent. The British just created Sepoy armies.

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      • … the brutality of which former? In the context of West Africa, the colonial powers entered a political dead zone. The slave trade had reduced West Africa to the most godawful anarchy you can possibly imagine. And it was the French, my friend, who set about subduing the Tuareg slavers who had been terrorising everything between the Sahara and the Slave Coast for centuries.

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      • Oh, okay… yeah. The Belgians were by far the worst. As for the French, they came late to Africa and ended up with the poorest bits: the British had already gotten all the nicer parts.

        I sure wish the UN had set about forming coalitions of the recently-emancipated colonies, letting them sort themselves out along more natural lines, doing things the African way. Problem was, it had been many centuries since Africans had ever ruled themselves on any large scale.

        We understand the lasting impact of the evils of slavery here in the USA. But in West Africa, it was a fishing holocaust.

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      • Before the French Revolution, the French colonies were appalling, especially in the Caribbean. Code Noir. I contend the French revulsion against slavery arose from what Le Roi allowed in his domains. After the Revolution, slavery had been abolished. Napoleon reinstated sugar slavery, it’s re-abolished in 1848.

        France was waist deep in the worst of the crimes of colonialism. No denying it. But there was a practical difference in how the French governed their subjects. Lafayette, who fought for the American Revolution, writes angrily of the US Constitution “If I had known I was fighting for the establishment of slavery in America, I would never have raised my sword.”

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      • Re: colonialism

        I suppose it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that at least some, perhaps even most, European colonialism made the world better eventually. My problem is with the whole subjugating people without their consent. Maybe the Congo is a better place now than it would have been without Belgium. But Belgium was sure nasty while it was there.

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  12. Medium-sized quibble: twice in the OP, Barack Obama’s liberal bona fides are extolled: “…a twice-resoundingly-elected liberal president…” and “…two consecutive elections of the most liberal president the U.S. has had since Kennedy.”

    Barack Obama is not a liberal. He is a centrist, like most mainstream Democrats are these days. He is not the most liberal president the U.S. has had since Kennedy. Jimmy Carter was. He just looks really liberal because you’re comparing him to his immediate predecessor. A liberal president would have fought for single-payer healthcare coverage in 2009. A liberal president would have pushed for relaxation of the bankruptcy “reform” act during the financial crisis, and not pumped half a trillion dollars into the pockets of insurance companies. A liberal president would have pushed aggressively for tax hikes to resolve the deficit and not made mealy-mouthed apologies for a 2% marginal increase during his re-election campaign. Janet Yellin would not have been a liberal’s choice to run the Federal Reserve — I confess that I don’t know what other person a truly liberal President might have nominated, but it does seem clear that Ms. Yellin is as close to “more of the same” as it can get to the Bush-nominated Ben Bernanke.

    That’s not to say that I think a liberal President is necessarily what America needs right now. I have a gravitational affinity for centrism. But if you’re looking for a liberal, Barack Obama isn’t it. If you’re frustrated with the inability of the President to implement sweeping change to the political dynamic or the structures of our governmental institutions, it’s no wonder you’re disappointed because he hasn’t really tried. Barack Obama is about marginal, incremental tweaks to the status quo. For all the rhetoric and panic about Obamacare, it’s ultimately a subsidy (a complex one, to be sure) for private health insurance — a nationalization of a plan conceived of by Republicans during the Clinton Admnistration, and initially implemented at the state level by a Republican governor who at the time would have been well-described as a “corporatist centrist.”

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      • You should. Political labels are conventional short-hand. You communicate with them. You do not alter reality with them.

        The term ‘center’ or ‘centrist’ according to European convention would describe Christian democratic or agrarian parties or the descendants of the liberal parties operating prior to 1914. It does not make much sense in an American context bar to describe temporizers or the small corps who stand at the midpoint of a unidimensional spectrum. Since there are not many cross-cutting cleavages of demographic importance, a unidimensional spectrum will do here. It really only makes sense describing a New England Republican or a Democrat from the upland South. Obama is neither. George W. Bush entered office with two ambitions: cuts in marginal tax rates and an expansion of Medicare coverage. He would be a better candidate for the label, if anyone cares to capture that particular flag. (He didn’t).

        Obama’s views are derivative and reflect the default settings within the Democratic Party. It would be incoherent to describe that as ‘centrist’ unless that other party had no place at all on the political spectrum. Of course, Obama has the attitudes of the representative rank-and-file Democrat as well, at least those who appear in comment fora.

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      • Seems likely that you’d find substitution of the word “moderate” similarly devoid of meaning. Well, I can’t help you then. Suffice to say, in light of the OP’s discussion of a rise of Marxist political thought, that Obama is no Marxist.

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      • I do not need your help. It’s no good.

        No. Obama is not a Marxist. American political tribes are distinguished by attitudes and tastes and imagery and communal loyalties and occupational interests and sundry cues, not by subscription to any formulated social theory of everything. The closest you get to a purveyor of a systemic conception of well ordered social life with any kind of non-academic audience would be Milton Friedman. Friedman was not trading in much of anything that did not have ample precedent.

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    • I read an interview with the Weather Underground guy that Palin tried to link Obama too the other day. He said he was not disappointed with Obama because Obama always said he was a moderate. He thought the Left was under the impression that Obama was winking at them.

      Of course to people like Palin, anything that is one step to the left of the Kaiser is an unacceptable radical.

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    • A small-sized quibble to your medium-sized quibble:

      “[Obama] is not the most liberal president the U.S. has had since Kennedy. Jimmy Carter was”

      I’m not so sure. LBJ might at least be in the running for more liberal than Carter, depending on how you define it.

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        • I don’t think it’s debatable at all. LBJ was an FDR New Deal guy through and through.

          I mean everything that’s basically sacred to modern liberalism from the CRA, VRA, medicaid, medicare, Immigration Act of 1965 (it really is hard to overstate just how horribly xenophobic the 1924 act was), the first bits of major environmental legislation that would culminate with Nixon’s Clean Air Act… all of it was put into action by LBJ, who had a more expansive liberal agenda than JFK. More than that, LBJ also knew how to get this shit through Congress.

          His only major flaw was his insecurity on foreign affairs leading him into making horrible decisions in Vietnam. Which, granted, were horrible, horrible blunders.

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      • I’m of the school that you can’t get LBJ’s great liberal domestic accomplishments without his tremendous foreign policy blunders. It was pretty much bread and butter poltiics. If LBJ didn’t wage war in Vietnam, the right would attack him on being soft on communism and no American President, especially a liberal, could afford that at the time. I think its unclear whether or not LBJ could have advanced his domestic adgenda and allow Vietnam to go Communist.

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      • From what I saw, LBJ took a look at JFK’s foreign policy, scratched his head and thought to himself “Shee-it, John must have seen something here I don’t. And those shitweasels McNamara and Bundy know more about this crap than I do — what do I know except the domestic agenda? Guess I’ll go on propping up South Vietnam for a while, see where it goes.”

        LBJ didn’t have a clue. Kennedy had sent Johnson on some goodwill tours here and there, had never tasked him with any of the strategy. LBJ blundered into SE Asia, sure there was a pony in there somewhere.

        And when the whole thing went sideways and started spurting piss, there were Bundy and McNamara, grinning and sinning — they told LBJ to his face he owned the problem.

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      • How do you come by the idea that Kennedy knew much? He was a man of ordinary intelligence compared to most professional managerial types. He had had military service and put in some time as a wire service reporter; he sat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee. However, Johnson was no fool and sat on the Armed Services committee.

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      • Rusk as authoritative?

        Years ago, Anwar Sadat said that Henry Kissinger was the one American Secretary of State he had dealt with who had not damaged the standing of the United States Government. He mentioned by name four of the five who occupied the position between 1953 and 1977. His judgment of Rusk: “weak”. Here is an interview with Rusk:

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      • Deco, you asked how I knew. I said Rusk said so. Rusk was the fishing Secretary of State. Yeah, I think his account is authoritative. Rusk was all for gettin’ in there and giving Ho Chi Minh a beating in Vietnam, having learned nothing from Korea.

        LBJ cordially despised and feared Dean Rusk. Kennedy hadn’t much liked Rusk either. But with JFK’s murder, what was LBJ to do? He kept JFK’s cabinet out of a sense of continuity, including Bobby Kennedy, whom Johnson loathed. That was LBJ’s way, try to hew to Kennedy’s policies until he had some of his own. Didn’t get any help from Kennedy’s ship of fools.

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  13. the Marxist renaissance among young intellectuals, and does a great job telling the story without an overly skeptical frame. I think the renaissance was already under way before 2008, but the combination of the crash and the failure of Obama was, as Goldberg and her subjects argue, crucial to the radicalization of a generation.

    You realize the Communist Party had 100,000 members in 1947? Were it to attain an equivalent position today, it would have to acquire north of 200,000 members. Their preferred presidential candidate won all of 2% of the vote in national elections in 1948. The red haze never counted more than three members of Congress. They were able to worm there way into gatekeeper positions on union boards, in publishing houses, and in the federal bureaucracy. Is that something you had in mind? Perhaps making the distortion and disfigurement of academic discourse more variegated (leavening the race-class-gender hustlers with Howard Zinn wannabes) is to your liking.

    Years ago, the writer Cathy Siepp had a conversation with an elderly teacher about problems in pedagogy at her daughter’s elementary school. She reported it thus:

    Later, my daughter’s teacher, who’s about to retire and so is willing to say anything, sighs and tells me it’s all part of a dumbed-down lesson plan designed to build up student self-esteem. “That’s where we are in the cycle right now,” she says. “I’ve been doing this so long I can see the same wheel just keep turning round and round.”

    Yep.

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  14. Yup, if you seperate ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign policy’ LBJ into seperate POTUSes, ‘domestic’ LBJ is a top 5 President.

    1. Escalating inflation. Check.
    2. Poorly structured public medical insurance scheme (sold with bogus cost estimates). Check.
    3. Office of Economic Opportunity and the hash of community action programs. Check.
    4. Promotion of public housing? Check.
    5. FHA disasters. Check.
    6. Distending the definition of ‘inter-state commerce’ beyond recognition. Check.
    7. Advent of racial preference schemes. Check.
    8. “Creative federalism”, rendering state and local governments permanent clients and mendicants. Check.
    9. Ineffectual (but immortal) compensatory education schemes. Check.
    10. More more more subsidized higher education and dog-chasing-its-tail subsidy programs. Check.
    11. Crony on the Supreme Court. Check.
    12. Triumph of the taxidermists’ art on the Supreme Court. Check.
    13. Legacy crony and incipient loon in the Attorney-General’s office. Check.

    Not to mention abiding foolishness (e.g. chronic deficit spending without regard to macroeconomic conditions, production controls and cartels in agriculture; cartels in civil aviation; strange mercantile controls in trucking) and the miasma of the times (rapidly escalating street crime, hundreds of riots a year, Jimmy Hoffa as emperor-king of American labor).

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  15. Stillwater,

    Moving this subthread to the bottom for clarity and ease….

    “What’s ironic, tho, is that I recall some recent threads where libertarians – and Roger in particular, but there were others – were arguing so strenuously against liberal’s and in favor of a positive-sum-ism that they denied perfectly valid descriptions of zero-sum arrangements which can be objectively verified: the privileges enjoyed by straight white males in US society.”

    The PRIVILEGE conversation was long and multifaceted. However, I would offer that the core of the discussion was DEFINITIONAL.

    One acceptable definition per the dictionary is that privilege is “any advantage in life.” Another definition is that it is a situation where the rules of the game have been specifically manipulated, usually by those above, for the advantage of certain players in the game.

    Thus people can use the word privilege to refer to advantages and imply zero sum privilege. Other confusing multi definitional terms are “freedom” and “subjective.” Indeed some of the definitions are actually contradictory.

    My main argument, which a few liberals agreed with, was that privilege is best used in the latter sense of a biased set of institutional constraints with a Zero sum dimension. For example, a rule in football that said the Cowboys always got to play offense with the wind to their backs would be a privilege. Having a better coach is an advantage.

    That said, I believe I use the term privilege as much or more than any person on this site. I certainly do not deny privilege, I oppose it and find it common in recommendations from the left. They find people with disadvantages in life, mislabel it as underprivileged and then recommend actual privileges to even the playing field by biasing the playing field to compensate for disadvantage.

    For the record, I do not always disagree with building privilege into the rules as long as it is done upfront and openly and the players agree to it in advance. For example, in football, the draft is biased to privilege those with worse records. This is fair as the teams agree to it before the play begins.

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    • Roger, in that thread I supplied a standard definition of the term (from the first link at Google!) – which was different than than the two you offered in this comment. I’ll grant that there is a LEGAL definition of the term. I mean, I aint sntirely stoopid. But my argument in that thread – which neither you nor Vik nor BB nor Jaybird responded – was that based on the STANDARD definition of the term, I made an argument about certain outcomes based on privilege that neither you nor any other person directly responded to, but which you rejected, not because the evidence didn’t support that argument, but because you challenged the STANDARD definition. I really don’t think there’s anything more to discuss between us on the topic if you continue to deny evidence because it presupposes a STANDARD definition of the term.

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      • I agree there are multiple valid definitions. My issue with the word is when someone uses the term “advantage in life” to imply “unfair rules handed down from above that tend to harm others.” This can be intentional or accidental.

        I am sure you would never do that though because you are a stand up guy.

        I do use the word privilege. I use it specifically in the latter zero sum way. I use advantage for the other usage.

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  16. Chris,

    “Roger, there are 450-odd comments on that thread. I’m not going through them. You’ll have to pick one, if you want to demonstrate someone using zero-sum thinking.”

    I am trying to answer three of you at the same time, with at least two of you beginning the conversation by attributing the exact opposite of what I actually wrote to me. You asked for examples, there are dozens in there, including ones where others point out the issue. I do not have time to pull them out for you.

    “… you accuse people of treating the world as zero-sum when they are making points exactly like the one you make about unskilled workers.”

    I disagree. Where I point it out is where people reference inequality, or reference rising productivity benefitting capital and not labor, and then either explicitly state, or imply, that those gaining did so at the expense of those not gaining without providing any evidence of any transgressions. Would you like me to point it out the next five times I see it on this site? I will.

    The less pithy explanation:
    Expanding markets have lifted a billion out of poverty at the cost of increased competition with unskilled labor in the first world. Worldwide GDP is up significantly, with the gains going to capital, skilled labor and the new entrants from the third world. The pie has gotten bigger. More have gained. However the increased supply of competing alternatives has caused lower skilled wages in the first world to stagnate. This contributes to inequality within the first world.

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    • I grow tired of pointing out blackmail, rampant theft, and the engineering of fake crisises to steal government (public) goods.

      I know that you disapprove of all of these. You DRAMATICALLY underestimate the extent of all of them.

      I repeat, we’re 700 billion dollars down, right now, because of the “GOP Tax”

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      • Art,
        Are you in the Illuminati, by any chance?
        How about the Order of the Knights Templar?

        Certain people ought to be left out of the disputes entirely.

        “Stop the world, i wanna get off” is a stupid, reactionary slogan.

        If you’re truly on their side, I’ll plonk you right now.
        You aren’t, are you?

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      • Art,

        And this is the point where YOU get to shut the fish up and walk away. You should have gotten the hint earlier, but I get it. You’re the kind of jackass that needs the last word.

        Next time, pull your head out of your ass before you post a comment like that. I’ll be less patient than I am now.

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      • And this is the point where YOU get to shut the fish up and walk away. You should have gotten the hint earlier, but I get it. You’re the kind of jackass that needs the last word.

        Next time, pull your head out of your ass before you post a comment like that. I’ll be less patient than I am now.

        And you are planning to do what? Hunt me down and break my nose? And the offense being what?

        I’m sorry Dave. I realize that telling people to put down the bong is not civil and therefore a violation of the commenting policy. In the future, I will refrain from engaging in such hideous behavior. Thank you for helping me see the folly of my ways.

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      • Art,

        Break your nose? Please. You have me all wrong. You’re getting a makeover. Come hell or high water, we’re going to turn your frown upside down and make you the nicest guy commenting at the League.

        After a couple of comment edits, you look presentable to the general public. It’s a good look for you. Try to maintain it.

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    • Roger, I challenge you to find one instance in there. It looks to me like every accusation of zero-sum thinking in that thread that was levied against a specific claim made by a commenter in that thread was mistaken. That is, the people who were called zero-sum thinkers were talking about rising inequality, and that was called zero-sum thinking. So one instance. Otherwise, I suggest you stop accusing people of it altogether.

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  17. If all utility went to one person, everyone else would be dead. Life is a moving stream and we need to row constantly against it to just survive, let alone thrive.

    I suggest each of us row freely against the stream. Nobody is allowed to interfere directly with others’ rowing, or to force them to row for them. However, people can reasonably agree to row for each other cooperatively as they can do more together than alone for myriad reasons. People can also agree to row voluntarily for each other out of compassion. I find this admirable and wise, but have no tight moral argument of why they should do so. I can only hope to persuade them.

    Your question reminds me of the challenge against property rights. What if one person freely acquired all property in the universe. Would you still support property rights? My answer is hell no. Property rights are a heuristic — a damn good rule of thumb. I can certainly imagine situations which would make them a catastrophically bad idea and where the rule is best violated.

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    • I am not a person who does not believe in positive sum games, simply because in my opinion, we may be sliding into a zerosum (or negative sum) game as of the moment.

      What I suggest to fix this may not be what you’d like, nor think effective. (I favor progressive taxation, with a strong (high) estate tax and strong progressive taxes on capital gains that do about what our income tax currently does. no free lunch. there should be NO way I can make a dollar and not lose a single penny to the gov’t! Likewise, probably at something like 50% taxation, we’ve probably gone overboard.)

      But that doesn’t mean I deny positive sum games.

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  18. At bottom!

    The fact that you read this sermon from Stiglitz and fail to see it for propaganda is startling to me.

    First paragraph he starts by talking about inequality. Then he does a switcheroo and shifts the discussion from inequality to unfairness and unjustness. Inequality does not prove unfairness or lack of justness. Indeed free enterprise requires inequality of outcome. He hopes we are too drunk on the Kool Aid to notice.

    Next he actually admits that inequality has decreased over recent time and that inequality between nations swamps inequality within. He also admits that inequality within has increased in most developed nations — it is not a US thing– but in an act of desperation he does find four exceptions including those stalwarts of freedom and prosperity Mexico and Greece. Yeah, good examples. Basically he could have stopped here. Pretty clearly the problem is aimed at globalization as most honest economists now admit. But this would cut into the lucrative book sales of his latest propaganda.

    He mentions that China and India have “lifted” their poor. Wrong. They got out of their way and allowed peaceful production and trade to lift them. Indeed the change is that they quit trying to lift them and let them lift themselves. He then mentions some poor people lost out on income growth. They are of course the countries and continents most severely disconnected from the rule of law and free trade — the ones that did not get out of the way. But rather than focus on this he does another switcheroo. He now posits that the real problem is people following America’s evil example. Huh?

    He then does zero sum sneak number one (this is for you Chris)…

    “The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top”

    AAAH!!! OMG!!! The bloodsuckers! He talks about how the wealthy TOOK (funny choice of words, didn’t he really mean created?)

    The next few paragraphs are darts thrown at what Creon recently called fat-cats. The usual suspects. CEOs, guys in finance and either Apple, Walmart or McDonald’s (choose one of the above, for extra credit mention the Kochs).

    Next we have a sleight of hand that even the blind could see. He mentions austerity and then suggests with no proof that austerity is to blame for all the unemployment in Europe. Seriously. All 27 million of it. No issues with having to compete with one billion able bodied workers in the China. No mention of the barriers to free enterprise concocted by the semi socialist states. No mention of their declines in global freedom index. No mention of the overwhelmingly strong correlation between higher government spending and lower growth.

    Nope, with no proof at all, the problem is following the US’ example, austerity (aka not collecting more in taxes and spending more), and greedy Fat cats getting — no taking — more than their share.

    Zero sum alert number two (Chris):

    “American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.”

    Well there is an interesting example of logic. He bemoans CEO pay, and then projects it as the underlying cause of worldwide inequality.

    This next paragraph needs special emphasis:

    “Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.”

    By asymmetrical globalism he does not mean some countries failed to globalize. Nope. He means the problem is that corporations “take” and “demanded” and that they do not “give back.” Zero sum alert number three!!! No mention that in economics mutually agreed to interactions are positive sum. No mention that it is not the workers at Apple who are not gaining, in fact he already clarified above they are the ones gaining, he simply hopes readers of the times are too stupid to catch this.

    Oh and the advances in technology are really financed by government, so Apple’s profits are really ours to take anyways. Yeah baby!!! Project zero sumness on your enemies so you can zero sum them back!

    Then he lays out some line that we have one in four kids in poverty, conveniently (or disingenuously?) leaving out that that is BEFORE income redistribution. Propaganda alert!

    The comedy continues….

    “For these reasons, I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok.”

    So, he is saying that the solution is to follow Greece and Mexico’s model. More taxes. More regulation. More spending by government. Less freedom of big business. More harping on the wealthy (after all in the next article he will try to leverage the fury toward raising their taxes, after all they “took” it in the first place). Yes, that is right, the problem is free enterprise and the solution is to buy his new book.

    Great arguments Stiglitz!

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    • First paragraph he starts by talking about inequality. Then he does a switcheroo and shifts the discussion from inequality to unfairness and unjustness. Inequality does not prove unfairness or lack of justness. Indeed free enterprise requires inequality of outcome. He hopes we are too drunk on the Kool Aid to notice.

      I don’t think the gap between inequality and injustice are as far apart as you claim. There are different levels of inequality, certainly those that range from simply the playing out of market dynamics and those skewed by power differentials and asymmetry.

      Next he actually admits that inequality has decreased over recent time and that inequality between nations swamps inequality within. He also admits that inequality within has increased in most developed nations — it is not a US thing– but in an act of desperation he does find four exceptions including those stalwarts of freedom and prosperity Mexico and Greece.

      Greece aside, Mexico’s actually done rather well under NAFTA and the past decade or so has been pretty kind to its economy. IP protection harmonization has followed up with better rates of entrepreneurship and technology commercialization in ways that the US would do well to emulate. They’ve also tried (and not entirely succeeded) in alleviating some of the externalities involved in expanded liberalization. So I’m not sure why you’re so blithely dismissing that.

      He mentions that China and India have “lifted” their poor. Wrong. They got out of their way and allowed peaceful production and trade to lift them. Indeed the change is that they quit trying to lift them and let them lift themselves. He then mentions some poor people lost out on income growth. They are of course the countries and continents most severely disconnected from the rule of law and free trade — the ones that did not get out of the way.

      China (to a lesser extent India) have had substantial government intervention in their economic liberalization. In particular, China’s regional governments have been doing a lot of what amounts to crony-capitalism and land confiscation to make their business practices more lucrative. Further it’s basically active government control of property rights and party based preferential economics that lets China do things like rapidly tear down cities and rebuild them with giant high-rises. China in general isn’t a monolithic entity, and the biggest part of its growth comes simply from the fact that it’s an authoritarian country that is now willing to put its substantial power behind favoring business interests rather than populism.

      “The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top”

      AAAH!!! OMG!!! The bloodsuckers! He talks about how the wealthy TOOK (funny choice of words, didn’t he really mean created?)

      “Created” is also a loaded term. There’s a fair amount of data that shows how the income growth shares in the US have shifted rather dramatically in the past 40 years. We know that median wage growth has largely been decoupled by productivity growth, as well as the fact that capital income shares have increased substantially over wage income shares. Total economic productivity growth (ie GDP growth) is a relatively fixed sum equation. The question then becomes is that then divided in order of productivity increases or based on other factors like increase in capital based compensation? Almost all the metrics show us the latter. Essentially the US worker’s been screwed relative to the amount of economic activity they’ve individually been doing.

      Next we have a sleight of hand that even the blind could see. He mentions austerity and then suggests with no proof that austerity is to blame for all the unemployment in Europe. Seriously. All 27 million of it. No issues with having to compete with one billion able bodied workers in the China. No mention of the barriers to free enterprise concocted by the semi socialist states. No mention of their declines in global freedom index. No mention of the overwhelmingly strong correlation between higher government spending and lower growth.

      You’re seeing what you want to see. The entirety of the EU ranks substantially higher in economic freedom, even by the measures of the Heritage Foundation. In most of the “semi socialist states” as you put it, there’s been significant economic liberalization since the creation of the European Common Market. In terms of business opportunities the EU is where it’s at, really. What hobbles them is their inability to have a flexible monetary policy and the lack of control over fiscal policy in counter-cyclical economics. Let’s not forget that China spent a truly staggering sum of money in 2009 for infrastructure projects. (Note too they’re barely keeping their heads above water with 7% growth)

      “Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.”

      By asymmetrical globalism he does not mean some countries failed to globalize. Nope. He means the problem is that corporations “take” and “demanded” and that they do not “give back.” Zero sum alert number three!!! No mention that in economics mutually agreed to interactions are positive sum. No mention that it is not the workers at Apple who are not gaining, in fact he already clarified above they are the ones gaining, he simply hopes readers of the times are too stupid to catch this.

      By “asymmetrical globalism”, Stiglitz very specifically means the fact that the globalization of capital is much further along than the globalization of labor. This is particularly true when it comes to protections and legal redress. Apple, if it gets screwed over by a subcontractor in China, has substantially more methods of redress than if subcontractor in question screws over an employee. The asymmetry gulf is pretty damned big between labor and capital, perhaps the widest it’s ever been. The gaping asymmetry between the two allows capital to gain significant concessions from labor, and even from smaller capital owners because they both have near monopsony buying power for the particular supply chain dynamics, but also because they can move much more quickly than you can move capital expenditure based equipment and facilities.

      This isn’t rocket science, it’s not even complex economics. It’s simple reality.

      I’m not a big fan of Stiglitz, I think he does tend to over sensationalize and underprescribe, not to mention has political hackery written into his arguments, but I still think you’re being unfair and frankly, reading what you want to read into both his arguments and into your own counter arguments.

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      • In terms of business opportunities the EU is where it’s at, really.

        The table of contents of the French labor code runs to eighty pages in length. There is a reason they have chronically elevated unemployment rates over there.

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      • Nob,

        Let me skip the side alleys on international affairs on Mexico, Europe and a China and get to the choice cuts….

        “I don’t think the gap between inequality and injustice are as far apart as you claim.”

        They are as far apart as are “winning” and “cheating.” Yes you can win by cheating, but winning does not in any way prove cheating.

        “Created” is also a loaded term.”

        No it isn’t. Value pretty much has to be produced or created unless you assume grapes fall into our mouths as we sleep. It is in no way a loaded term.

        “The asymmetry gulf is pretty damned big between labor and capital, perhaps the widest it’s ever been. The gaping asymmetry between the two allows capital to gain significant concessions from labor, and even from smaller capital owners because they both have near monopsony buying power for the particular supply chain dynamics, but also because they can move much more quickly than you can move capital expenditure based equipment and facilities.”

        In other words capital is able to offer employment to those able to do the best job for the lowest cost. Basic economic efficiency. In relatively free markets this implies profits will increase for capital. This attracts more capital. This introduces more competition and economic growth until such a time as profits re-equalize. I do assume you are not mounting a defense for less efficiency in capital markets, right?

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        • The contention here is that structural elements of unequal globalization substantially favor capital in ways that labor can’t take advantage of. That’s rigging the game, and rigging the rules.

          A freeer, fairer market would have more avenues for labor to relocate, more ways for laborers and employees to file grievances against breaches of contract, and ways for local people to obtain redress for local externalities.

          Given that none of those things exist in any appreciable quantity, and worse are shouted down by so-called proponents of free trade, I’m fine with stating that capital is, in fact, exploiting systemic problems in globalization in a way that’s unjust.

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        • No it isn’t. Value pretty much has to be produced or created unless you assume grapes fall into our mouths as we sleep. It is in no way a loaded term

          Also you completely glossed over WHY I said it was a loaded term. Specifically the value creation through improved productivity isn’t in any sense attributable to capital, yet the benefits of those productivity increases (in the way of income share) have accrued principally to capital.

          Now, you can argue that capital deserves that share due to x-y-z, but attributing productivity growth solely to “creation” by capital over labor is an attrocious oversimplification that you consistently accuse your opponents of doing.

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      • Nob,

        If I glossed over why you said it was a loaded term it is because you reframed the question from how economic value is created to some net change in productivity. Value is not taken in free markets. Taking is not allowed. It must be created. The wealthy did not take more, they created more or they got a larger share of that which was created. I guess it is correct to say they “took” a larger share of that which they cooperatively created.

        “Specifically the value creation through improved productivity isn’t in any sense attributable to capital,”

        I find this statement to be pretty amazing. Could you please clarify… Are you suggesting that capital has no role in increasing productivity?

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      • Nob,

        “The contention here is that structural elements of unequal globalization substantially favor capital in ways that labor can’t take advantage of. That’s rigging the game, and rigging the rules.”

        “Structural elements” does not imply rigging the game any more than winning implies cheating. Rigging the game implies intentional activities by the part of capital. To the extent capital paid off local politicians to get special privileges or interfere with contract law as you mention below, I totally accept your term and share your disdain. Though a caveat is that capital should be allowed to participate in the political process. Fairly.

        “A freeer, fairer market would have more avenues for labor to relocate, more ways for laborers and employees to file grievances against breaches of contract, and ways for local people to obtain redress for local externalities.”

        I support all these. An advocate of free markets by definition should accept the free relocation of labor, even across borders, and certainly would lobby for employment and consumer contract sovereignty. Your argument here is not against free trade, it is for freer trade.

        “Given that none of those things exist in any appreciable quantity, and worse are shouted down by so-called proponents of free trade, I’m fine with stating that capital is, in fact, exploiting systemic problems in globalization in a way that’s unjust.”

        This is a HUGE leap. First you seem to imply that labor freedom (exit rights), control of local externalities (pollution?) and contract rights are rare worldwide. It is more accurate to say they are missing in some places. My guess is that the longer range trend is that all are becoming increasingly common, even as globalization makes it easier to reach the spots where it has not yet occurred.

        The tricky thing is that capital can and will go to the remaining places where the game is rigged. This puts pressure on wages in the non rigged areas. The solution here is indeed to put moral pressure on states to not exploit their people. Rule of law, controls of externalities etc.

        I do not consider this exploitation by capital. It misdiagnoses the problem. The problem is an absence of the rule of law, not capital.

        Furthermore, it would be easy to recommend the wrong solution. Not moving factories to these areas would harm those most in need of opportunities.

        Third, this line of creates a smokescreen on the issue of income growth. The people that ARE gaining in income are the ones touched by capital. The five percent lost in extreme poverty are the ones NOT getting the factory, not the ones we think should get better shop stewards.

        Fourth, I worry about the risk of forcing our standards, values and tradeoffs on others. It is a local decision, and should be, and we should be very wary of forcing our values on people who disagree. Very wary. My assumption is that many of the things you call exploitation, they would call a life saving job.

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      • Specifically the value creation through improved productivity isn’t in any sense attributable to capital,

        Nob, that’s really incorrect. While an individual’s productivitu can be increased somewhat through education and training, big increases in productivity come from the use of technology, machines, from the simple to the sophisticated. And that requires capital. This is why we find substantial productivity increases in capital intensive industries, and not so much in labor intensive industries.

        I’m also going to say that your statement on China is out of date. While China’s authoritarianism did allow it an initial jump forward via forced labor mobilization, it’s resl growth now is not really from its control of property rights but from its loosening of control and willingness to let private property and markets develop. The World Bank says so. As have the Chinese I’ve talked to at conferences.

        You’re not entirely wrong in your arguments against Roger, but you’re incomplete on China, and fundamentally wrong about productivity.

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        • I’m going to issue a mea culpa on the statement regarding capital and labor inputs to productivity. That was both factually inaccurate and sloppy arguing. If I had to do it again, I’d state that the way the allocation of income increases from productivity growth in the past several decades has been uneven and slanted toward capital in a way that overstates their importance.

          Re: China
          I think we might be talking about slightly different things. Specifically you seem to be referring primarily to the change off between state-owned enterprises to private firms. My contention is that China operates a substantially more developmental model of political economy, using strategic inducements to create private industry that it wants. Further rather than simply getting out of the way, it’s done a lot to stand behind business interests, and worked to enforce laws in a way most favorable for economic liberalization. It’s a bit of hairsplitting, but I think the distinction is important. They haven’t been really laissez-fair about it as much as they’ve been backing the private sector. (And in a way this is also starting to create frictions between them and the rural Chinese) Part of this is because they have more control in stimulating rather than controlling market trends. Some good work on this is done by Ran Tao and Fubing Su. Andrew Wedeman’s done some interesting work on examining what he calls “Local Protectionism” and how local state-private partnerships tend to work in regional politics.

          Re: Asymmetric Globalization and the Rest.
          My general contention remains that I think capital has a substantial structural advantage in globalization because the institutions and rule of law aren’t catching up to how quickly it can move. Substantial power differentials both between capital actors and state institutions, and capital actors and firms/individuals they negotiate with provide them with a built-in edge that’s a result of the structure of the system rather than a part of market based economics as a whole.

          Fair participation by capital in the political and market systems are fine. It’s when they have a leg up at every conceivable level that it becomes a problem. Avoiding rules you don’t like while forcing other participants to play by rules that don’t apply to you is by definition a slanted playing field. I don’t think anyone would think it fair if say you had line refs in a football game that could only call and enforce penalties against one team, or a main ref who only hears coach’s challenges from one side. That in essence is what a lot of globalization is about when we think about the influence of capital.

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      • James and Roger,
        Unlike Nob, I’m not concerned for one red minute about where the gains from productivity increases are going. You build a machine, you reap the rewards. Fine by me. Awesome really, I like it.

        I’m concerned about the OTHER way of making money. By stealing it, either from other corporations or from your employees. I do not believe that most of the people who are rich these days got rich from productivity increases.

        But, you know what? We do NOT hurt the Wealth Creators by increasing their taxes.
        You see, they have a competitive advantage over their competitors (the lazy sods!).
        They’ll come up with ten new products in the time it takes their competitors to stop bitching and start hiring someone smart enough to make the products.

        Besides, true wealth creators are often after “just having fun”. It’s the OTHER dudes who use money as a proxy for “how well am i doing” and who squeal like a stuck pig when you increase their taxes.

        Most Wealth Creators are democrats, these days. That’s a bit of a sad Commentary on the Republicans, but mostly it’s a commentary on their competition.

        An even playing field, no matter how high (in terms of taxes) is all most wealth creators crave.

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    • “The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top”

      Not necessarily zero-sum thinking. Again, I don’t think you know what that means.

      “American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.”

      Also not zero-sum thinking. And again, I don’t think you know what that means.

      It is possible for the top to benefit more, even entirely, from a process, without exacting an equal cost from the bottom. It’s possible for the top to benefit greatly, and the bottom to benefit only a little. None of this is zero-sum thinking. These are precisely what you label zero-sum thinking though. I’d recommend even a Wikipedia level article on it. Or better still, just stop throwing around terms you don’t know the meaning of, particularly as a way of dismissing those who disagree with you.

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      • Chris,

        For the sake of brevity and clarity I will just go to the latter quote. Clearly this is a zero sum statement. It accuses the rich of getting richer not by enlarging the pie, but by getting a larger share. Indeed, this is pretty much the textbook, zero sum example. If I write a Wikipedia entry I will include it.

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      • It is not. It could be, but not without a further explanation. For example, see Nob’s point about capital vs labor and the enlarging of the pie.

        Your problem, and I’ve said it about a million times in a million different ways, is that you read these things the way you want to read them, not the way they are intended. I doubt anyone who has any sense of what is going on in the world doesn’t recognize, for example, the overall pie is getting bigger and bigger. Hell, what would they think a “recession” was?

        Anyway, I won’t say anymore on it. Having read your old thread, and your use of the term here, I think it’s clear that you and pretty much everyone who uses that term as a cudgel is misusing it. I don’t need to say any more.

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    • Roger,

      Maybe we can agree on this: on global inequality, his point is less than clear. (Maybe we can’t, but I think it’s so.) He admits to a lot of lessening of inequality, as you point out. You have this strange habit of reading things people you want to disagree with say that you actually agree with, and not being able to accept that they’ve actually said it. This is Joseph Stiglitz, he can’t be admitting that inequality has decreased a lot by some measures – that he appears to do so must be a mirage or slick propaganda! Having admitted what he admitted, as you say, he then goes on to offer a “but.” You can think he should have stopped there, but there’s no reason he has to – there’s always a “but.” *But* (natch) his “but” on the facts of global inequality is muddled. I don’t really know what he’s saying there. But that doesn’t make his piece propaganda.

      You say he “admits” that inequality within advanced countries has increased, and this means it;s really all about globalization, and this, then is game, set, and match against him? I have no idea how to process this.

      You say this:

      “The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone [my emphasis] to the top”

      AAAH!!! OMG!!! The bloodsuckers! He talks about how the wealthy TOOK (funny choice of words, didn’t he really mean created?)

      …and you just baldly act like the offending word you capitalize actually appears in the statement you quote, when it doesn’t.

      You say he switches from talking about inequality to talking about unfairness or justice: where is that? It looks to me like he talks about inequality throughout, until the end when he does switch to looking at child poverty in the developed world.

      I agree with you on the last sentence he wrote on Apple – that was just sensationalized rhetoric. The operative sentence is the on that comes before (and kudos to you for being willing to quote it in full): “Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes.” So here “take” means “make use of government-financed basic research” and “give back” means “pay all the taxes that would be assessed absent concerted efforts to avoid them.” Here I would concede one potential example of a zero-sum mistake on Stiglitz’s part, to the extent that “take” here has to mean “take and exclude others from use.” Obviously, making profitable use of public research is the clearest case of a positive-sum action, and there’s no exclusion, so there’s no question that it’s positive-sum. However, a person could also “take” from any resource that’s so highly plentiful so as to be for all intents and purposes non-excludable (you can take a drink from a public water fountain. Just because someone says that someone “took” water from a water fountain doesn’t mean they “took” water from someone else who now doesn’t have it and wants for water. So in the same sense, the use of the word “take” here doesn’t necessarily imply an assertion that something was “taken” in a utility-decreasing way for someone who had something taken from them. It means “accept.” He’s saying Apple is willing to accept (non-excludable) benefits that have come in part from public investments, but that they want to pay as little in taxes as possible. Which just means they’re rational, and, as I say, his comment on that is pretty pointless.

      The bottom line here, Roger, is that, while there are certainly valid critiques to make about this article, my point is really not about Stiglitz or this article at all. It’s about you. When you decide you don;t like someone or some part of what they have to say, you suddenly become the most stilted sort of reader, bringing this huge slate of preconceived ideas to what you’re critiquing, most of which don’t appear there. And you have this rhetorical crutch, which, as Chris pointed out, you use as a cudgel, and it’s basically impossible to know when or why you’re going to start swinging it. Well, the when is pretty clear – right away and all the time – but the why is totally opaque.

      As I’ve said before, I find you to be a valuable contributor here, and, though I find your way of expressing yourself to be a little, to use a loaded term, glib, generally when you’re simply laying out your own views you’re an impressive communicator. When you’ve decided that someone deserves your criticism, though, I have to say that you become (or at least have recently given into becoming) almost a parody of a wildly flailing ideologue who doesn’t even take a second to figure out if what he says is accurate at even the most superficial level.

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      • Michael,

        I just skimmed your comment and will try to reply later. James is right.

        When three or four people jump on me at once, two of which accuse me of saying A when I wrote NOT A, and two of which have a long history of saying very nasty things about me and to me, then the conversation begins to escalate. Mud starts flying everywhere. I will get some sleep and try again later.

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      • Roger,

        Don’t trouble yourself. I responded mostly to acknowledge that you’d taken the time to do so at length. I ended up being less polite than I like to be. I don’t have a lot of regard for the way you’re going about this discussion because, frankly, you’ve repeatedly simply said false things, put words in people’s mouths (mostly Joseph Stiglitz’s), and generally gone on and on in a way that almost suggests you’re living more inside your own head when you get a critical head of steam going than paying attention to what’s actually happening and being said. Oops, there I go again. I’m going to disengage here before I let my manners slip more than I already have.

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      • You and three or four others use a discussion to pivot onto what a “dickish” person I am. Or to paraphrase your buddy, “a person we should pity as he pathetically goes through life oblivious to his own dickishness.” And no Chris would not apologize.

        This pattern is getting old. Attack me with names and clearly false accusations and if I strike back you can all jump into the “Roger is a flailing ideologue” defense. That you do it as a mob is even less pleasant.

        Let me recap this thread…

        Everything was professional between everyone until you jumped in at 11:37 two days ago with the initial rude comment. “Yours will always be a marginalized way of looking at this because of its contextual rigidity.”

        Chris then accuses me falsely of using NOT A as an “annoying cudgel” when I was clearly arguing A. He mocked me for making an argument that was 180 degrees from my position.

        Two hours later he repeats and emphasizes the misrepresentation, now promoting me to “really annoying.”

        About two hours later I strike my first return blow. I suggest that your opinion is mercantilism and that this questions either your intelligence or morality. I offer a lifeboat analogy, which you back peddle on. If anyone wants to present a defense of mercantilism they should feel free to do so. Nobody can, so the line of attack shifted to one focused on either me or stiglitz’ comments.

        Now SW and Blaise jump in. Blaise calls me an endlessly haranguing bore. Stillwater psychoanalyzes anyone daring to disagree with him, and suggests I am pounding on my “evil and stoopid enemies”. Still no defense of mercantilism, instead the topic shifts to how I have no idea what “zero sum” even means. Chris manages to highlight a textbook example of zero sum and present it as an example that I don’t even know what the term means.

        You start to mount a defense of Stiglitz whom I then attack and mock.

        Then by this morning it is again all about what an ideologue I am.

        By the way, the transition from inequality to unfairness was in the first paragraph of Stiglitz article. But you must be right, I am the one who can’t even take a second to “figure out if what I say is accurate on even the most superficial level.”

        Let me be frank. It is bad form for you guys to start fights and then accuse me of being a jerk. My “bad” was in the meanness of my attack on mercantilism. I suggest they first try to mount a defense of mercantilism though before they aim their darts at me.

        I am out on this discussion with you four.

        Peace out.

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      • Roger, either be an honest dick or don’t be. Your call. I’m a dick. I also don’t care who thinks I’m a dick. But if you’re going to be a dick, and you manifestly are a dick, stop your everlasting whining about it.

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      • Roger, questioning the intelligence of those agree with you is something you’ve done since the first discussion I had with you in this forum. It’s part of why I take the attitude I do towards you.

        And yes, you do use “zero-sum” thinking as a cudgel. Read your own thread, which you linked here. Read your comments here about people whom you accuse of using it. It’s a cudgel, a way of dismissing the views of someone who disagrees with you as so misguided as to not warrant further reply. It’s a way to avoid engaging them. And the irony is, you repeatedly accuse me of misrepresenting you, when I pointed out to you the first time you made that accusation in this thread that you are accusing people of “zero-sum thinking” for basically saying exactly what you say yourself here, only in different contexts.

        I don’t think you are an “ideologue,” but I do think that in economics, on the issue of markets in particular, you can’t see past your own nose, so that every argument you hear from those who disagree with you gets distorted into something that fits with the misguided representation of the “left” or “progressives” or whatever that you have in your head. Nob showed this in his complete takedown of your readign of Stiglitz, and you yourself show it every time you label something “zero-sum thinking.”

        I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: I think you’re probably a really nice guy, but when people disagree with your strict market advocacy, you don’t hear what they say, you hear what you want them to say, and you condescend to them, so you come off like an ass. If I’m being an ass in return, so be it. Your views aren’t that different from James’, and I have no problem conversing with him about economics. Why do you think that is? Anyway, I suppose I should just stop engaging you altogether on politics and economics. I can’t imagine you’re ever going to actually hear anything I say, and neither of us is likely to get anything out of it. So, see ya in the non-political/economic threads.

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      • Fair enough on fairness and justness, Roger. I didn’t see what you were referring to. As Nob says, though, they are not unrelated to inequality. It’s not a bait and switch to inquire into inequality and to inquire into fairness alongside each other. He also goes on to focus almost exclusively on inequality (and a little bit on poverty at the end), so it was ultimately of little consequence to the piece.

        As I say, I mounted a defense of Stiglitz largely in order to demonstrate your repeated distortions and outright fabrications about what he says in the article, and the way your rhetoric around positive sum/zero sum has become fatally unfocused. I have no strong desire to defend Stiglitz on the merits here. I was initially interested in your view about how responses to the local effects of globalization play out in discourse, with some of Stiglitz’s points as the jump-off for that. But thereafter, I was largely focussed on the liberties you took with his words. My longest comment wasn’t a defense, but a more accurate statement of the piece than the one you offered.

        Did someone call you dickish? I didn’t. If “starting a fight” is something that then leads to a narrowing of my later options that are in the bounds of civility here, I wasn’t aware of it, and I’m not concerned about it. For that matter, I didn’t realize that we regarded expressing opposing opinions around here starting a fight. Yes, I ultimately said some very critical things about your rhetorical practices, because you’ve earned them. That’s how it goes sometimes.

        And I regard the fact that a few people chose to engage you at once as among the least consequential things that has ever been brought up in comments here. It’s just not something I’m concerned about. You are free to leave any comments you want to leave unanswered unanswered any time you want. I engaged you; Chris was kind enough to offer a correction on a mis-stated phrase; I accepted it. I referenced one or two other of Chris’ points along the way (since I;d already been accused of a tag-team at that point, why not?); beyond that the fact that others also involved themselves is of zero interest to me. This is just special pleading that you started with your ‘tag-team’ comment, and that James indulged. People have things to say; they say them. We get our breath and needed respite from too many people engaging us at OT by stepping away from the keyboard, not complaining that too many people have taken issue with what we’ve said in my opinion. Complaints that, sigh, it’s not as easy as you’d like it to be to craft all of the satisfying rejoinders that you’d like to craft fall on deaf ears with me.

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      • Roger, I haven’t read all the back and forth in this flame war, but I did want to correct you when you wrote

        Stillwater psychoanalyzes anyone daring to disagree with him, and suggests I am pounding on my “evil and stoopid enemies”.

        I’m not using any type of analysis when I attribute that view to you, let alone psychoanalysis. I’m merely repeating what you said about me. I can look for the comment in the archives, but a good paraphrase is that you said I was on the side of villany but not intentionally but out of ignorance.

        Do you remember writing that and the ensuing discussion? I can track it down if I have to.

        As for the other stuff about people disagreeing with me: I’m perfectly fine with people disagreeing with me. What I’m not fine with is people disagreeing with a view I don’t hold which they attribute to me because they haven’t read the words I actually write.

        And to make it even clearer, I don’t have a problem with you being a libertarian and advocating for libertarian principles and beliefs. What I do have a problem with is the way you attribute views to me that I do not hold, create a reductio or some other argument based on those incorrect attributions, and then not only challenge me to defend those views but view my failure to respond as a concession that you’ve made a decisive point in the debate.

        I mean, look, you said it yourself: in your view liberals are on the side of villany due to their own ignorance. Now I ask you a question: how can I overcome a burden of justification which presupposes that I’m either evil or ignorant? I can’t! It’s impossible. Given your framing of the issues, you’ve won the argumentative war before the first premise has even been launched.

        And notable, it wasn’t always that way. We used to have more congenial discussions about some of the subtleties of liberalism and libertarianism, and those were informative and productive. But increasingly the dynamic tilts in a direction where the words I write aren’t what you respond to in your comments to me. Others too, I’ve noticed.

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  19. The other thing I would point out about this ‘numbers’ business is that it ballooned when Roger responded first to Chris’ response to me, which response was really only an agreement with what I’d written. In my view, the proper thing to have done there not to encourage a free-for-all would have been to respond to me given that Chris’ response was nothing more really than a slightly wordy +1. Roger instead responded to Chris, which meant he brought in two interlocutors when, to address the point, he really only need have engaged one. He still had Kim to deal with, but that’s his problem, since the whole thread is product of his voluntary trashing of the Stiglitz article at her link. In my opinion, the subsequent joiners would have been less likely to jump in if Roger had simply responded directly to my point and addressed the response to me, rather than to Chris, who had simply agreed with the point. That could be wrong, perhaps they’d have jumped in anyway, and perhaps the later interlocutors would have done better to refrain, but, as I say, I also don’t care. I’ve been on the other end of that kind of situation: it is exhausting, but I would never in a million years have thought to complain about it. I’d respond where I want to, and where not, not. That’s it. Maybe I’d issue an acknowledgment that I won’t be able to reply to everyone because many people are participating, but honestly, if I don’t, then that seems kind of implied anyway. The guiding principle is you’ve no right to an expectation that it’s going to be easy or even doable to beat down every single comer in debate here. Perhaps a few people should have laid off, but it really shouldn’t be seen as a “thing.” People were interested; they engaged. That’s what we do here. And, as I say, Roger didn’t direct his comments in a way that suggested he was looking to minimize how many people engaged him, or even to avoid having the number balloon. He engaged Kim, then I engaged him, then Chris engaged me, then he engaged Chris’ engagement of me leaving little doubt that he also planned to engage me; then others engaged him. This is just not a thing IMO, but in any case, if it’s a thing, it’s certainly not a thing he wasn’t a primary contributor to (not least just in maintaining the feeling that he’s simultaneously obligated to respond to everyone who engages him (when really just wants to meet and beat them on the field of debate), but also that he’s entitled to feel put-upon if that obligation, which doesn’t exist, becomes too burdensome. Or maybe I’m letting James speak for him too much here.).

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    • Oh, for fish’s’ sake. Everyone’s a perfect innocent except for the other guy.

      Forget I said anything. I actually had a silly fantasy that reasonable folk would just say, “yeah, maybe it is a bit of overkill,” instead of ganging up to put the blame on the guy they ganged up on.

      [By the way, your book should arrive soon. Sorry for the delay in sending it.]

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      • Well, *I’m* certainly not among the guilty in this case;-) (I mean, I really can’t be, right?) Yet now I had to deal with his trotting it out as something I did. It is something worth considering – perhaps my rejection of your was too severe. That was my initial reaction: I thought about it before I decided if that’s what I really thought, but I decided, yeah, lets put on our big boy pants a little on this one. But perhaps I should have modulated the actual thoughts had about the concern a bit more.

        No problem on the book. I actually thought of it this morning for the first time since the emails for whatever reason.

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      • I said I was an ass to Roger. He and I have a history. He brought up the “dickish” thing is from something I said months ago about something he was doing in another thread entirely. And I’m basing my opinion of what he’s doing here in part on the fact that he’s basically done this in every interaction I’ve had with him: say “I just want to learn,” and then misinterpret any dissenting opinions, mislabel them as something he sees as a product of ignorance or lack of intelligence (he doesn’t do it as much anymore, but his canned response used to be something to the effect of, ‘If you knew as much about economics as I do,” which, given how he uses “zero-sum thinking,” is pretty rich), and ultimately dismiss them. Nob’s pretty measured critique of his absolutely unmeasured misreading of Stiglitz, of whom I am not a fan, is a perfect illustration of the way Roger approaches everyone he disagrees with. If multiple people see that, and are fed up with it, I don’t see how it’s our fault. Like I said, though, I’m done with him in economics and politics. I’ll be happy to talk with him about music or boats or something, though.

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      • Chris,

        So a guy is standing on a street corner ranting about ZOG. You stop to challenge him. Then somebody else stops to challenge him. Then that somebody else says something to you, and the ranter picks up on it. Then somebody else stops to challenge him. Then somebody else stops to challenge him.

        The guy is now besieged and stressed by the number of people challenging him. But according to everyone in the group challenging him, “I don’t see how it’s our fault” that we’re ganging up on him.

        Set aside your dislike of the ranter, and view the situation objectively. The ranter may fairly be said to bring this on himself, but nobody in the group ganging up on him bears any fault?

        Seriously? If that’s really your view, then, fuck, I’m really not impressed.

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      • That’s a bad analogy in all kinds of ways, James. It’s precisely because I don’t see anyone here in anything like that kind of position that I tend toward wanting everyone to put on their big bo pants on this issue. If Roger were as vulnerable as a metaphysically discombobulated street preacher physically surrounded and being heckled by a gang of aggressive empiricists, I would absolutely say people should lay off, but it’s really not like that at all. The imperative that distresses us when we’re in Roger’s position is that we think people are wrong on the internet and we want to WIN by demonstrating that to each and every one of them. It’s entirely in our power to just relieve ourselves from having the desire to issue a (in our view) persuasive response to everyone who disagree with us- we just have to decide that’s how we feel. The imperative that distresses a preacher of the power of Zog on the street who is surrounded by nonbelievers is, first, disorientation at being surrounded by people who, for whatever strange reason, cannot feel the presence of Zog around them in the world the way he can, and second, the fact of being physically surrounded by aggressive people and having therefore a nonzero degree of doubt that things are certain not to become physical in some way, and some degree of uncertainty as to an escape route if they do. These are really very significant differences between these situations (or at least in what I see as the salient reasons why I feel differently about them).

        Also, Chris didn’t exactly say it wasn’t “our” fault that multiple people expressed disagreement with (ganged up on) Roger. He said it’s not our fault multiple people disagree with certain things he says and are fed up with the way he says them. I’ll let him say whether he thinks it’s not our fault that so many of us expressed those feelings when others already had (or whether it’s a thing to fault at all); you should too.

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      • Michael,

        I’ll just say this. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of one of these tag-team discussions, you have no idea how frustrating it is. And I’m not sure any liberals on this blog have ever received that treatment. It seems to be reserved for conservatives and libertarians, so saying “put your big boy pants on” is a lovely example of the joint’s liberal privilege.

        You know, I never said nobody should argue with Roger. I never critiqued arguing with him. So the critique of him to justify arguing with him is wholly irrelevant; non-responsive to my point.
        All I said was that 4 on 1 ain’t exactly cricket, that surely a couple of people could handle the argumentative burden by themselves, and suddenly there’s this mad rush to self-defense. Big boy pants, indeed.

        I don’t think it’s valuable to carry this discussion out any further in public. If you want to argue with me further, let’s take it off-blog.

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        • I think in the blog’s early days there was a fair amount of gang banging on liberal commentators. I recall being subjected to it a fair amount when I first started commenting here, and our first generation of liberal front pagers had it pretty rough for a while.

          I do think it’s simple etiquette though, not to get too aggressive on pile-ons. Which can be pretty difficult.

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      • James, I’ll repeat myself: I was an ass to him. That’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been, but like I said, he and I have a history. I’m not sure I’m capable of interacting with him cordially at this point, so I’m pledging not to anymore.

        That said, I don’t think it’s my fault, or Nob’s, or Michael’s, or Still’s, that we all took similar views of his behavior, or that we expressed doing so. Nob’s critique, which was much more thorough and measured than mine, wasn’t a problem because Michael, Still, and I were also criticizing him, was it? I blame myself for being a jerk. I blame Roger for being a jerk. I don’t blame anyone else for my being a jerk or for Roger being one.

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      • I do think it’s simple etiquette though, not to get too aggressive on pile-ons

        Precisely.

        But I suppose now we’ll get another long argument about what constitutes “too” aggressive. ;)

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      • ,

        As I said, I’ll only continue our discussion off- blog, not here.

        I’m not asking to continue it, just expressing willingness to, if you would like to. But I won’t argue with you further here. Meta’s gotta be kept within limits, no?

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      • …I also appreciate that you’ve made explicit that, as an operative matter, this is, in your view, something that happens to libertarians and conservatives here and not (as a matter of practice) to liberals, meaning that you don’t have to take seriously any claims either that it has gone both ways, or that anyone not currently complaining about it happening to them who isn’t also a libertarian or conservative can understand what is happening and assess the situation with enough understanding to have their views really count (for you). It saves me having to sit here just suspecting that you think that, but not really knowing.

        And now, I will accede to your request for further discussion to be done privately. (Though I don’t actually feel the need to pursue it further myself.) The preceding comments, however, were public by intent.

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      • Why? Because you said you’re “not sure” it’s happened to liberals rather than that it hasn’t, and “it seems” to be reserved for conservatives and libertarians rather than that it is?

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      • Because I never implied, much less made “explicit,” that I would not take such a claim seriously. You not only misrepresented what I said, but you took it upon yourself to declare my state of mind about considering to evidence. Noticeably, you didn’t even present any evidence of liberals being ganged up on*–an unnecessary step, I suppose, since you had pre-determined that I wouldn’t consider it.

        My respect for you and my willingness to engage in civil discussion with you has diminished markedly as a consequence.
        _____________________________
        * Amazingly, I generally admit of the possibility that I could be wrong on factual claims of this sort. Also, the principle I proclaimed is a general one: 4 libertarians and/or conservatives ganging up on one liberal wouldn’t be gentlemanlike, either. Or 4 libertarians and/or liberals ganging up on one conservative, of which I most likely have been guilty.

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      • All right. You’ll consider it if and when it actually becomes worth someone’s time to troll back through threads to produce examples, but until then, that’s just your operating belief based on that’s just what you think – it’s been reserved for libertarians and conservatives: prove me wrong. Mea culpa.

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      • …What I meant was, you wouldn’t take a claim either that someone who isn’t a libertarian or conservatve has had this happen to them or (hence) that they understand it well enough to have an opinion about how it should be regarded that is worth not dismissing as privileged without proof. That, with I think literally thousands of threads under our belt at this point, we can’t operate with an assumption that generally, we all know what its like to be on either side of this. No, until proven otherwise, liberals don’t know: it hasn’t happened to them (you don’t think). That was what I was saying you were saying. I wasn’t saying you’d never consider it even once proof had been offered. I was saying that, as far you are concerned, you don’t think liberals know what it’s like to be in Roger’s position here, and hence, unless someone is willing to do the legwork to dislodge that belief of yours – to prove it’s not true in a particular case – you will dismiss their opinion of how this should be regarded as without the perspective to be respected.

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      • …I was assuming we were both assuming no one is actually going to spend their time looking for examples of this in the archives… it’s plainly not worth it. Which would mean, if you think you’re entitled to this presumption, and if the presumption is valid (meaning you can proceed as if it reflects reality), and we all understand no one is actually going to allow your self-granted presumption to have put upon them the burden of trolling through archives to be granted the same presumption you would grant to others of a different “team” jersey (i.e., that if they say it’s happened to them, then it probably has), then in practice (which I stressed was my operating framework) you can, in effect, by the way your observation operates, dismiss my attitude about situations like this in exactly the way you did.

        Now, apparently you didn’t regard the idea that we would spend time trolling the archives in order to to disabuse you of your presumption as being as absurd as I assumed you and I both must have thought it was. That mistaken assumption of mine was the basis for my misrepresentation of your words and my misapprehension of your state of mind (I would observe that all communication involves the attempted construction of others’ states of mind; I’ve always found your revulsion at this in others to be confounding in that way). If that leads to a lowering of your esteem for me, so be it. I was assuming that a drop in your esteem for me of the magnitude you suggest must have already occurred somewhere along the line in my discussion with Roger, so I consider myself to be breaking even now (or maybe this was a second drop of similar magnitude in a day).

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      • What I meant was, you wouldn’t take a claim either that someone who isn’t a libertarian or conservatve has had this happen to them

        You’re wrong, and you’re a dick, and you’re dropping ever lower in my estimation. Now please go perform anatomically improbable acts upon yourself.

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      • By the way, I didn’t read past the first sentence of your second comment there. As long as you persist in that inaccuracy, I’ll read no further. In a nutshell, I made an empirical claim. Empirical claims by their nature can be falsified by evidence. You took that empirical claim as a claim about my reaction to evidence. But it had nothing at all to do with how I would treat evidence, and I made absolutely no hint, implication, or suggestion, that I would not consider evidence rebutting my claim. You made that up out of whole cloth, and there is no textual support for your belief that I would not consider evidence. That is why you are not just wrong, but a dick.

        And yet you persist in arguing it, despite my assertions to the contrary, as though you know my mind better than I. That is why you are not just a dick, but an asshole.

        And as I regret having reneged on my vow not to continue this further here, and as I cannot see that any further conversation in which you persist in trying to define my position in direct contradiction to my own claims could have any value, I am exiting this thread.

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      • I failed to say so, but I never meant to suggest you wouldn’t accept evidence. I was assuming we were assuming no one would spend the time trying to produce it in this case. I meant that I was glad you made it explicit that, absent evidence that a given liberal has experienced it, your assumption was basically that he hadn’t, and so his opinion on it is an example of liberal privilege. My assumption is that we’ve been at this so damn long, everyone here who has been around here for most of the site’s existence has more or less experienced most of what goes on here. Di I really know whether that’s true or not? Not for sure, but I’m not going to spend any energy trying to prove that, but in my opinion that view has the advantage of giving everyone the equal benefit of the doubt, whereas your statements suggest you;re inclined to put a special burden of proof on one group of commenters here. I did badly mangle that message, but I want to be clear: I never intended to assert that you would reject evidence that disproved your empirical claim. All I was intending to say is that I was glad you were making your inclination, and the fact that it meant you’re not inclined to take liberals’ claims to have experienced this just on mutual trust, and are, absent contrary evidence, in a position to declare their views on the matter the product of a special privilege they enjoy here, explicit.

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  20. …without proof.

    So you’ll accept if someone says they’ve had it happen to them but declines to offer proof? Because I did. So what’s the basis of your saying “saying “put your big boy pants on” is a lovely example of the joint’s liberal privilege” in my case?

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    • For the record, because this is so freaking unbelievable, Michael Drew here is quoting himself, and responding to that quote as though I said it. Search the page, folks. Nowhere have I even used the word “proof” until this very comment.

      That is how unbelievably bizarre this thread has gotten.

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      • You earlier said I was wrong in saying that you wouldn’t take seriously certain claims at all, even if proof were offered, which I completely accept and which did erroneously suggest you wouldn’t do, not because I thought you wouldn’t, but because I erroneously assumed we were assuming no one would take the time to search out the proof on this, so I omitted the condition “without proof,” which was absolutely a real mistake on my part.

        But in the comment I was responding to here, you quote a phrase that again suggests the same thing, except later in that sentence, I did include the “without proof” condition. So what I was asking is if you;re saying I’m *even* wrong in thinking you wouldn’t take seriously these claims *without proof*. In other words, that you would accept them without proof. If I am wrong about that, great, then we can agree on my say-so I’ve been on the short end of a gang-up here before, and hence, my view that we should all put on our bigboy pants about this crap is not an example of liberal privilege, but of someone who has a valid right to an opinion you don’t like about the question.

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      • Eh, that was overstated, and maybe a misinterpretation. Let me revise that to:

        Show me any place where I indicated I would not dispute or reject a personal claim of having experienced this. Any place. And I’ll write you a check for $100.

        If you can’t find that place, I ask neither for a check nor an apology, only that you admit I never indicated any such intellectually dishonest stance.

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      • Guys, I think you all know how much I respect each of you, so it kills me to see you all talking past each other so badly. I don’t think anything productive is going to come out of this, so I think it’s probably best that we just close this thread down. In all honesty, I wish I had seen this earlier, as I probably should have shut it down a day or two ago.

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